Featured Post

How I came to writing

Like most authors, I've been fascinated by books since an early age. Because my parents were working (yes, I had a very modern mummy, ...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Prophesy Revealed (Ron Hartman)*****

When I received another manuscript to proofread, my first thought was: no, not another fantasy novel! I really am not fond of fantasy books. I remember starting in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - a long time ago - and closing the book after having struggled through the first three pages. Nothing for me.

So I began with dread into this book. But hey, I managed to get through the first pages and before I knew it, I was drawn into the story.

This is the second novel in a series. I did not read the first one, but it was the story was easy to follow even when you hadn't read the first installment. It's the story of Daniel Marten who believes himself to be the Prophesied One and tries to keep his beloved Naphthali from danger. Naturally it's filled with fantasy elements but they are quite believable. Having crossed the Burning Sea, Daniell now meets the Tene'breon, a people very close to nature and its forces, like the Weave. He is looking for their help in going back to Naphthali, where a new governor brought a reign of terror.

I quickly read through the book, wanting to find out how Daniel fared and if he would succeed in his task. I am now more than eager to read the first book as well, and of course I'm looking out for the next one.

This book gets a five star rating!

Here's an excerpt:

The four burst into the room. Bastion let Daniel go and he stumbled several feet forward before catching himself. He sensed Broken Bow and Meadow Song move off in opposite directions, and heard the door snick quietly closed behind them. Waves of agony rolled up Daniel's arm. He bent over at the waist, trying to control a grunt of pain. He saw stars and had time to think, I'm going to pass out, before the voice, filled with power, spoke. "Who are you?"

Daniel gasped and pulled in a lungful of air, forcing down the agony. Still bent over at the waist, he snapped his eyes forward, to where another man just entered the room from the opposite side. He was at least six and a half feet tall, his head wreathed in wavy brown hair. He wore silk robes, beneath which muscles bulged and tensed as he studied Daniel, his bright eyes narrowing. It had to be Bertolli.

Daniel forced himself to stand upright. "I…" was all he got out before everyone reacted on reflexes alone.

The man cut him off, bellowing, "Guards!" He started to take a step forward, but then sensed movement to his right. He spun to his left just before Broken Bow's great sword made a low whistle as it sailed through the air where he'd been standing. Without even realizing he was doing it, Daniel pulled his throwing knife and let fly. The large man was too fast, though, prancing back the other way before the blade reached him. He reached around his waist and launched all three throwing daggers in rapid succession, but the man merely knocked the small blades away with the backs of his hands.

Behind him, Daniel heard guards slam into the door, but Bastion was able to push it back and hold them out, at least momentarily. Bertolli spun away from another unseen attack by Broken Bow and froze, reversing course at the last moment. He ripped a dagger from his belt as he did so and whipped around again, aiming low. He led with the blade until it stopped, seemingly in midair. What Daniel heard next made his blood run cold.

Meadow Song cried out and the air shimmered before the big man. In seconds, she was visible, impaled through the stomach. "No," Daniel cried as he darted forward, reaching for the A-blade. Meadow Song's eyes were wide in surprise as her robes stained scarlet around the dagger. Bertolli's face was transformed into a savage grimace of triumph, until he saw his victim. The beauty there made him pause, but only for a moment.

Daniel and his friends froze when Meadow Song cried out. Before anyone could react, Bertolli spun behind her. He pulled the dagger free as he went, wrapping his left arm around her bosom. Meadow Song whimpered when the slow stain on her robes became a torrent as the cloth soaked through. He pulled the bloody blade up to her throat and roared, "Halt! Show yourselves or she dies."

Daniel's suddenly nerveless fingers fell from the A-blade. "No, don't! We'll stop."

The air shimmered right beside the big man as Broken Bow came into view, holding his great sword at the ready. Behind Daniel, he heard the door give way and soldiers rush in. In seconds he felt a sharp blade poking him in the back, and knew Bastion stood down as well. He couldn't take his eyes off Meadow Song's pain-filled face as he heard the heavy thud of a club hitting flesh, then Bastion was shoved off to the side, a large welt forming above his left eye.

"Drop your weapons," Bertolli growled, poking the tip of his dagger under Meadow Song's chin.

With leaden fingers Daniel pulled the A-blade from its sheath and dropped it to the stone floor with a clang. A distant part of his mind registered the dagger Bertolli held had a broad short blade and wide pommel, not the Blade of Endar. Well, at least there was that. He raised his left hand in a placating gesture as Broken Bow's sword hit the floor as well. "Okay. We've done it, please just let her go."

Bertolli didn't move the dagger from Meadow Song's chin. Daniel could see beads of sweat forming on her brow, and a small line of blood trickled down her neck. She was shaking, her eyes rolling back in her head. His eyes bore into Daniel's as he growled, "Remove your hood."

Daniel's attention was on Meadow Song, so he didn't immediately obey Bertolli's command. Fire burned in the governor's eyes as he glared at Daniel. He jabbed the dagger up slightly and at the same time the guard behind Daniel pressed forward with his sword, splitting Daniel's robes and skin. He barked in pain and stumbled forward. "Alright." Blood trickled down his back as he reached up and pulled back the hood.

Bertolli's hard glare softened in momentary surprise when he saw Daniel's scars. His eyes shot down to Daniel's right arm, which was still sheathed within his robes. Even though Bertolli couldn't see it, Daniel saw the recognition in his eyes, the knowledge Daniel had been maimed like so many of his victims. 

On sale from Rogue Phoenix Press and online booksellers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Love reading: Song of the Sound (Adam Armstrong)

In the older days, when I still picked up books whenever I was travelling, I found this jewel of a book named Song of the Sound. It was by an author quite unknown by me, but the cover looked promising.

And what a great read this book made! I just loved all of it - and have re-read the book often by now. 

Song of the Sound tells the story of Libby and her daughter Bree and of John-Cody. Libby is a marina biologist who is specialized in whale observation, and she is offered a job in New Zealand, in an area known as the Fiordlands. Therefore she has to leave France, where she is currently working, much to the distaste of her daughter Bree who finds herself once more without friends.

Mother and daughter arrive in New Zealand, where they meet their landlord, John-Cody Gibbs. He is a widower, who is still in mourning for the death of his wife Mahina. He made her a promise though, to protect the Fiorlands area and the whales who make it their home.

But Ned Pole and his wife have other plans. They want to make the Fiordlands into a tourist attraction, which will generate much more money...

There was a lot of conflict in the book (among which nature protection against profits) and of course there is also a love story between Libby and John-Cody. What's more, John-Cody has a secret he doesn't want found out.

I can certainly advise this book, it makes a good read. I finished it in one session the first time I read it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Sapphire Angel *****

I must admit I'm not too fond of vampire stories. I once read Anne Rice's but they got pretty boring to me. Always the same: vampire needs blood to survive and you guess what's happening next.

But to my surprise Aussie author Khloe Wren manages to write a vampire story with flair. You're instantly into the narration, when you meet Darcy. She is a young woman, who's out of work and has quit her relationship with a guy who turns out to be a real loser.

While out drinking in a bar, she meet Angelo. What she doesn't know is that Angelo is a real vampire! And what's more, he's looking for his Eternal Bride. Because vampire can love a single woman, and once they are united with her, they remain faithful all of their life.

Darcy slowly falls for Angelo, but when things are getting cosy between them, she is kidnapped by his enemies. They are a race that hunts vampires and takes away their brides. From now on it's open war between Angelo and the rest.

Khloe Wren writes with panache and the story moves fast forward. Some scenes are pretty spicy but never too much. I really loved reading this book and I think this will be a novel that can attract lots of readers.

My evaluation: 5 stars

A sample of the novel

“Who do we have here?

Angelo quietly muttered in his native Italian under his breath. He'd been sitting at this di moda bar called Frost Bites for a couple of hours now, trying to drown his sorrows. He'd spent the last seventy-five years travelling the globe, searching for the one thing missing from his life. A vampire would never be able to settle or find any peace until he found his Sposa Eterna, his Eternal Bride. Angelo had been beginning to think he was destined to not find his, until his travels had led him to South Yarra in Victoria, Australia.

He'd carefully selected a table in a back corner where it was dark enough he could watch everyone coming and going in peace. He had a drink in front of him, a fancy icy beverage. As a vampire, the alcohol had little effect on him, but he could appreciate the sweetness of the novelty drink. Behind the bar they had a series of slushy machines - dozens of frozen cocktails ready to go. The bar was busy tonight, it had been a hot day in Melbourne and no doubt, everyone was now searching for a way to cool down before heading home.

He continued to watch the bella piccola cosa that had just walked up to the bar. He hadn't been able to see her eyes yet but her naturally blond straight hair casually hung down to the small of her back. From the side he could see her high cheekbone and her perfectly straight nose. She was smiling, her naturally light pink lips curled up at the side. His body came to life as he watched her but he needed to be sure before he made his move. Once their eyes connected, he’d be sure it was her, in addition he also needed to check her age. The fact Australian laws allowed alcohol to be drunk at the age of eighteen didn’t help him in guessing her age. She didn't look like she was much over twenty. An Eternal Bride could not be claimed until her twenty-third birthday.

She chatted happily with one of the staff behind the bar. He focused his hearing, tuning out all the other voices until he only heard hers and the female bar tender.

"So which one will it be tonight?"

"Love Potion Number Nine. It's my twenty-first birthday tomorrow and I want someone to help me celebrate it!"

"Generally speaking, you try to give the other person the love potion, you know?"

The bar tender chuckled as she turned around to get the drink.

Dannazione. If she was his, he would have to stand back and guard her for the next two years before he could claim her. She couldn't meet him until after her twenty-third birthday, if she did, his enemies would be alerted to her presence. If the Nobles were to find her, they would try to ‘save’ her from him. Holding her hostage then using her as bait. There was no way a vampire would leave his Eternal Bride to be held captive, and in his effort to rescue her, he would surely be killed like so many before him had been.

He watched as she spun around to survey the bar while she sipped at her red drink. The flavored liquid wasn't quite as red as blood but still, the sight of her drinking the red beverage left him sweating with need for her. He forced his gaze from her mouth up to her eyes and froze. He'd finally found her. La sua Sposa Eterna. Her clear sapphire blue irises shone brightly under the bar's lights.

Angelo settled back into his seat and watched his Bride move around the bar, chatting to various people. She obviously came here often as she knew a lot of the patrons. He sat up straighter as a man approached her and wrapped an arm around her waist. She leaned back into him and giggled. Angelo’s nostrils flared as he fought the urge to bear his fangs. Using every ounce of his self-control, he white knuckled the table in an attempt to contain his rage - it was that or he’d fly across the room and kill the human who dared touch his Bride. He took deep breathes to help calm himself and caught the male’s scent. Filled with lust and greed, he had no real feelings for her. He was not a threat. Angelo relaxed a little and continued to watch.

As she prepared to leave at the end of the night, that lustful male made another pass at her. Angelo's entire being was tense with fury as she agreed to go on a date with him. After she left the bar, he discreetly followed her. He needed to know where she lived so he could find her again and guard her. It would take time to find someone he could trust to handle the duty during the day, but at night, he would make sure she was always safe.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Love reading: Angélique

When I was a girl of about fourteen, my most favorite series of books where those of the French author couple Anne and Serge Golon, who created Angélique.

A young noblewoman born in 17th century France, Angélique goes through about anything a woman could suffer in those days. A love that could not be, being covetted by a king, forced into another marriage she doesn't like, the destruction of her castle, becoming an outlaw - you name it.

But still she endures and remains strong. She's the kind of woman I admire and try to mirror myself on. My own grandmother was like Angélique. She also suffered a lot but nothing could break her. She remained strong and independent and shared her insights with me. I flatter myself I take after her in a lot of ways.

I  never read the Angélique novels in French - probably should have done that. I always read them in Dutch translation. Now I now translations are not the best most of the time. I prefer to read in the language the book was written. That's ok for English and German, but I struggle more with French. But one of these days I'm certain to make the effort.

The novels were also put to film, and I remember how the whole of our class was waiting in anticipation when the first of the films was broadcasted on our national TV. That was Angélique, Marquis des Anges.

And of course I must admit I 'borrowed' the scar of her first husband to fit my hero in The Medici Diamonds. I always thought it made a nice touch. Marguerite also takes to the French underworld when she is in trouble, just like Angélique does. But hey, we all adapt these general themes.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Love reading: Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Eloise McGraw)

When I grew up, one of my favorite books in the lending library was Mara, Daughter of the Nile. I don't know how many times I read this book, because I loved the story so much. But then one day, the book disappeared. Probably some lend it and never returned it.

The years went by and I never saw the book again. In those days, it was nearly impossible to get English books in Belgium.  My local bookseller also could not help me.

I had nearly forgotten about Mara, when the internet came in the early 1990's. And then I discovered Amazon. Did you know, they had the book for sale! I remember I had to pay rather a lot to get it (it had to be imported from the States) but right now I have my own copy of this book I loved so much.

Mara is a young slave girl. She works for a master who doesn't care much about his slaves. Being clever, she has hopes of finding a new life soon. When her mistress sends her to the market to buy some items, she steals some fruit out of hunger. The shopkeeper doesn't notice it, but someone else does.

This mysterious man is a spy for Queen Hatshepsut. He needs someone to get close to the princess who is to marry Prince Thutmosis, who is the heir to thone. Some nobles want him to be Pharao instead of Hatshepsut and so he needs to be spied on.

Mara agrees to become a spy, because she is promised freedom afterwards. But soon after her meeting with Nahere, she meets young Sheftu, who claims to be a simple laborer. She knows better. Also he wants her to work for him.

From then on, Mara needs to be very careful balancing what she says to each master. It doesn't help when she falls in love with Sheftu, even knowing he doesn't trust her. The only one who believes in her sincerity is Captain Nekonkh, who ferries them across the Nile.

But this is a story with a happy ending - just as I love it. In the end, everything come to right and Mara is at last a free woman - and a loved one.