Murtairean: An Assassin’s Tale (Dal Cruinne Series Book One) by Jenn Lees is a fantasy story set in a medieval society with lords at war for power. Vygeas, a former assassin with the gift of heightened senses and perception, is locked in a cell in Lord Ciaran’s dungeon. Charged with desertion when he refused to kill innocents, Vygeas now faces hanging. But he is offered a stay of execution and a chance to win his freedom if he completes one final task–to kill a corrupt merchant on the Isle of Eilean. On the road to Eilean, Vygeas meets Leyna, a woman searching for the assassin who killed her parents. She is intent on exacting revenge. But when their convictions are tested, will either Vygeas or Leyna succeed in their aims?
Murtairean: An Assassin’s Tale is filled with intrigue and treachery, drawing me in from the very first page. The author’s descriptions of the setting and people painted a vivid picture of the story in my mind. I suspected early on in the story that Vygeas was the assassin who had killed Leyna’s parents, and I was interested to find out how she would react when she finally learned the truth. I don’t want to give away too much, but things are not what you expect. Leyna’s feelings are understandably confused, especially since she has come to like Vygeas and he has shown himself to be a good man deceived by lies.
Both Leyna and Vygeas are likable and sympathetic characters even though they have done bad things in their pasts and continue to walk a dark path. I enjoyed reading the interactions between Vygeas and Aiden, and the touches of humor that it added to the story.
But there were a few places where I would have liked more detail in order to fully understand the characters’ motivations. When Vygeas killed Elyse he did so because of Drostan’s threat to make her suffer a life worse than death. But I didn’t think there was enough details given to make it feel as though such a drastic action by Vygeas was truly justified. Why was he convinced that Drostan would follow through? I felt that it should have been elaborated on so that it was clear why Vygeas felt that he had no other choice. And it was never really explained why Drostan seemed to bear a personal grudge against Vygeas. Also, why would Lord Cairan bother with such as elaborate ruse to eliminate Vygeas when he could have just killed Vygeas outright? Needless to say, I was invested in the story.
The story ends on a happy-ish note, but Lord Ciaran is still a threat who must be stopped. The mention of dragons in the epilogue intrigued me. The series is definitely one I’m interested on continuing because of the intriguing characters and enthralling world.
Pages: 139 | ASIN: B07ZWQMZ4W
The Lost Signal by J.S. Fernandez is a science fiction novel that explores the reality of our planet and the myth of creation. Aeons ago, the Creators had arrived on Earth and established two races: the humans and the Urukulu. The humans were to be kept subservient under the Urukulu so that the Creators could tend to their commercial mining needs on Earth. Naturally, this greedy scheme was banned by the intergalactic Federation. However, the Creators have found nefarious ways to infiltrate and exploit Earth again. Fiona is the lady in charge who has taken it upon herself to keep these creatures away for good. She enlists the help of her close friends and allies, fighting her personal demons on an already uphill battle.
The Lost Signal is fast paced without being rushed. Right from the beginning we are thrown into the middle of action. The characters are introduced in an almost Whack-a-Mole fashion, displaying flashes of their personality and the place they occupy in this world. I loved Fiona’s character fight from the introduction. She is teased about her supposed tomboyishness while she struggles with her attraction towards her close friend, Ralph. While her life isn’t particularly easy, it was admirable the way she buckled down on her principles in order to do what was right. Despite the dark and depressing premise, the lead characters were kept respectable without seeming to be on a pedestal.
Similarly, the antagonists were kept interesting without losing their believability. In this era, it’s hardly difficult to imagine a corporation doing their absolute best to achieve profit maximization. Hence, the menace of the Creators was real without seeming preachy. The physicality and characterization of the aliens also left a chill down my spine.
In certain places, the novel reminded me of a Jeffrey Archer novel. I think this was because the amount of real world-like politics involved combined with its fast pace. All of the perspectives were totally human, without verging on too scientific or political. The Lost Signal is a thrilling ride from start to finish. It is a great choice for anyone looking for a creative depiction of today’s world, offering just the right amount of escapism but remaining grounded in reality.
Pages: 454 | ASIN: B07X9147K1
In Social Work author Thomas Duffy, follows his characters through their everyday lives as they work toward their respective goals. Marc attends counseling sessions with his social worker, Lauren. Marc has a rocky past to work through as Lauren has a budding relationship with her boyfriend, Ahmad, that she is building simultaneously.
Both main characters are so relatable. Duffy doesn’t shy away from Marc’s struggles or the struggles of those in his counseling group. Marc had taken some less than savory paths and ended up in a very dark place, eventually attempting to take his own life. Lauren shows him that there is hope and that life is worth living. Readers will identify with Marc’s lows and many will also identify with stepping into the shoes of those who help to lift others out of the abyss.
Lauren is an excellent social worker, and seems to really follow the rule book. She keeps counselor/patient boundaries very clear, at first anyway, but does seem to struggle with letting Marc go once she decides to leave her job. The two had developed a close but appropriate working relationship. She feels guilty when she decides to leave, and struggles with being another person in a list of those who have deserted Marc. Handing Marc over to another social worker felt like giving up on him or throwing him away to both parties involved.
Duffy also delves into relationship complications that both main characters experience. Both Marc and Lauren have their own problems in love. Marc falls for a series of girls who are never quite fitting for what he needs. Lauren hints that her now fiance, Ahmad, isn’t her type but provides her with stability and prospects for the future. Admittedly, Marc is her type, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.
Thomas Duffy also examines a predicament that many of us find ourselves in. Marc is ambitious. He has big dreams, but not a big bank account. Instead of following his dreams, he is forced at times to settle. He wants to get into the entertainment industry, but isn’t independently wealthy. This means he can’t afford to put his job to start up any projects. This leaves him to work in a job that is unfulfilling.
This is the second Duffy book I have read. His style is simple, including lots of back and forth conversation between characters that gives readers a fly-on-the-wall sort of feeling. We hear what the characters say to one another, but we are also privy to their internal dialogue. This gives a unique perspective into how people feel verses what they show to the world. He gives a glimpse into humanity’s dynamic that we are all familiar with but don’t often talk about.
Social Work flows well and is easy to understand. The characters are endearing and relatable which got me invested in the characters.
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 1694404684
I follows the story of Mark as he struggles with depression, addiction, and homelessness. Events inspired by true events, but what inspired you to write this story?
I have worked in the downtown core of my hometown for nearly twenty years. As these streets have become crowded with people in desperate situations over the last few years, I tried to make a positive impact by donating any change I had to whoever asked, every time I was asked and, participating in and facilitating a donation campaigns at work. The compassion and empathy I felt towards these people who struggle, whom are seemingly ignored by the general public, began to enter all facets of my mind. Inspired, my new poems and songs were significantly more politically themed than previous compositions (as an example). It was at this time when I read the article of an unidentified man who had died on the street across from where I work. The article stated he was mid 30-40s, just like me. I immediately wondered what other similarities we might have had, what differences could there have been for me to be alive on this street, with a job, a house and a wife; while he was alone, unknown and dead. Possible parallels were too numerous to overlook.
How much of Marks character is based on reality and how much is fictionalized?
That’s very difficult to quantify. I can say, it is a modestly fictionalized version of reality.
This novel gets to the heart of the issues people face with drug abuse and depression. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I want… not just for readers to be aware of the astounding number of people in these situations but to CARE. To be emotionally invested. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how little effect I alone have on the whole of society but, hopefully this story touches its readers and inspires them to help wherever possible. Someone recently told me the book brought them to tears and how certain moments felt like a punch in the belly. Another told me he has begun giving change when he can and not only that but, treating people on the streets with more dignity and respect than before, keeping eye contact when speaking with them. That is what I want.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
As yet untitled, I’ve begun work on the story of a middle to lower class neighborhood, on the day of a possible suicide. The story is told through a series of vignettes in the Rashomon style. Otherwise, i’m always working on poetry and writing music reviews.
Inspired by true events, Foul Play Is Not Suspected is the tragic tale of Mark Fuller. He’s homeless, depressed and addicted to drugs as he has been for a number of years. Author Steve Murphy sympathetically details the journey Mark has endured from birth through to today. An important story that speaks to several major overlapping social and political issues. Foul Play Is Not Suspected packs a careful, emotional wallop. 20 years of lived experience downtown where he lives and works, has provided Murphy with in depth knowledge of the streets. A lifetime of storytelling through song has sharpened his use of language into a penetrating tool.
Amulet’s Rapture finds Catrin, a princess of Britannia, a warrior, and a druidess ending up a slave to a Roman. How did the initial idea for this novel develop and change as you were writing?
The overall story idea is based on the legacy of Mark Antony and Cleopatra but with a Celtic twist. The inspiration for the primary character, Catrin, is Boudicca, a warrior queen who united the British tribal kingdoms in a rebellion against Rome in 61 AD and almost succeeded in kicking them out. Originally, Amulet’s Rapture was intended to be the first book in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. However, after receiving feedback from critique groups, editors, and agents, I decided to start the story earlier in ancient Britannia so readers could better understand what Catrin lost when she is enslaved. Fantastical elements were also added to give the story a flavor of the Celtic and Roman cultures through their mythology and legends.
I always enjoy your character development in your books. What were some obstacles you felt were important to Catrin’s development in this story?
The key as to what obstacles Catrin must overcome in the story is highlighted in Chapter 4: Roman Training. In a scene, Catrin has a vision of her dead father who tells her what she must do to become a warrior queen to take back her kingdom from her treacherous half-brother, Marrock. She must summon stamina from nature (her own inner essence) to endure hardships of slavery and rigors of training with Roman soldiers. She must learn how to deal with both enemies and friends. She reluctantly embraces her corrupt and cruel Roman master like a stern father from whom she learns how to maneuver through changing political winds, transforming her weakness into strength. Most of all, she must understand how her utmost trust in those she loves is a double-edged sword that can be used against her. Though she deeply loves Marcellus, her Roman husband and ally, she must ultimately face and overcome obstacles by herself. She can only rise above unfortunate circumstances by understanding herself and by harnessing her inner darker forces to survive and to seek vengeance on those who have maltreated her.
In Amulet’s Rapture, Catrin transforms from a naïve fifteen-year-old girl into a worldly young woman who must forge her own destiny. This book sets the stage for the next book when she must ally with former enemies and friends to confront Marrock.
What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer when starting this book?
My goal was to write a quality book within a year of the last released book, Dagger’s Destiny. I strove to write the best story I could by having the manuscript thoroughly critiqued and professionally edited and formatted. The story must have a unique theme and character development that resonates with readers. I was open to revising the original plot whenever it was inconsistent with the characters or was headed in the wrong direction. For example, I changed the last chapter in Amulet’s Rapture because the original ending was not in keeping with Catrin’s transformation. The revised ending threw a wrench in the plot of my next book, Skull’s Vengeance, but I consider this a challenge to add new twists in the overall tale.
Although Catrin is the rightful heir to the Celtic throne in Britannia, she is lucky to be alive. After witnessing the slaughter of her family at the hands of her half-brother, who was aided by the Romans, she is enslaved by a Roman commander. He disguises her as a boy in the Roman Legion with the belief that she is an oracle of Apollo and can foretell his future. The sole bright spot in her miserable new life is her forbidden lover Marcellus, the great-grandson of the famed Roman General Mark Antony.
But Marcellus has been wounded and his memories of Catrin and their secret marriage were erased by a dark Druidess. Though Marcellus reunites with Catrin in Gaul and becomes her ally as she struggles to survive the brutality of her Roman master, he questions the legitimacy of their marriage and hesitates to help her escape and retake her kingdom. If their forbidden love and alliance are discovered, her dreams of returning to her Celtic home with Marcellus will be shattered.
Charley Brindley’s Hannibal’s Elephant Girl takes place in 229 BCE in North Africa. We’re treated to a thoughtful account of life in a river camp near Carthage. The delivery of the story is exceptional as the reader can effortlessly follow the various story lines in the book. There are more than one major character but the main focus is on a girl called Liada. We accompany this 12-year-old girl as she goes about her business and the adventures in the camp. The narration is simple but still managed to keep my attention. Different literary and stylistic devices are used to spice up the plot and every character is developed uniquely. The reader falls in love with some characters and loathes some due to how the author represents them. This connection brought me the most joy because the characters I was rooting for almost always won.
Liada gets rescued from a river by an elephant named Obolus. The savior elephant is among the many that are being trained for war at the camp. There is a war looming and every party needs to prepare for any situation. Despite getting rescued, Liada’s life is not all smooth as her memory seems to have faded. Liada is assigned some tasks, among them feeding soldiers in the camp. Yzebel, the woman who took Liada runs a cafeteria where soldiers go to eat. Yzebel is patient and understanding. She is one of the characters the I greatly enjoyed from the beginning. Yzebel, however, has a disgraceful son, but despite this, Liada continues to be the hardworking girl who keeps it together.
I appreciated Liada’s character as she is accountable for anything she does and treats everyone with courtesy. Liada’s daily tasks make her interact with different people in the camp. I appreciate how the author describes events in the book. Everything is detailed. The camp, soldiers, city of Carthage and the activities the characters engage in are well illustrated and one can easily visualize the happenings. Hannibal is one of the members Liada interacts with. Hannibal is in charge of the elephant army. Tin Tin Ban Sunia is another character that Liada befriended. Liada and Tin Tin Ban Sunia became friends despite the latter being mute.
The kind Liada and Yzebel, however, plan to save the poor girl from slavery. This was a bold but risky move as the two put themselves in danger. Their arrangement also revealed another side of the characters that I got to love. Charley Brindley makes a simple story more exciting with twists in the plot. The suspense and action the characters take make the reading thrilling. Hannibal’s Elephant Girl is engaging, with a balance of detail that allows your imagination to run. The characters are well developed and addictive to follow. This is a fantastic book with plenty of lessons for young readers.
Pages: 425 | ASIN: B07P9WJFWP
Passage of Time finds Elara struggling with letting go of her past while fighting a dictator that will destroy the planet. What inspired the setup to this thrilling novel?
Life inspired this novel. I want my readers to experience challenging situations through my characters eyes, and my hope is that they come away with tools on how to cope with life’s hardships. I want my readers to get more than just a great escape from reality.
Elara continues to be an engaging character. What were some obstacles you felt were important to her character development in this book?
Elara’s growth is something I wanted the reader to witness. She needed to experience “real life” challenges, and she needed to hit rock bottom to grow into a powerful young woman. Sometimes we feel as though we are stumbling through life, when in reality we are constantly evolving. The obstacles she faces in Passage of Time were essential to her growth.
The writing in this book was exceptional. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer before writing this book?
My goal was to publish a book with zero regrets. Each book you publish should be better than your last. I wanted to challenge myself with Passage of Time by approaching topics I once feared. Domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide, and war are tough to explore. This involved intense research and deep breaths. A plethora of emotions surfaced while writing this book because I wanted my readers to explore various reactions between characters. I wanted them to explore Elara’s mind. Passage of Time is the largest book in my series, and it took the longest to publish because I refused to rush the process. I spent countless hours doing revisions and edits. When I wasn’t writing I was reading. Reading is the most valuable tool for improving your craft.
Where do you see the Seeker of Time series going in the future?
I have BIG plans for the Seeker of Time series. I can’t give away all of my secrets but I will say this: books 4-6 are scheduled for publication.
Abandoned and betrayed, Elara struggles to let go of the man she loves while her fearless mentor encourages her to stand against the evil dictator who rules her home planet. To succeed, she must rise above the darkness and trust the voice near her heart.
The twins experience a setback after a deadly standoff with the Inner Circle. An act of love transforms Elara’s destiny, and an act of hate pushes Cyrus to his breaking point.
Zenith makes a bold move that disrupts the lives of everyone on Aroonyx. Samson gathers the citizens to prepare for war. An alliance is formed, and a traitor seeks revenge.
A tragic event in the West Village sends Elara tumbling further into the darkness, leaving her to face the masked dealer alone. Outnumbered and out of luck, the twins must rally the recruits to end Zenith’s reign.
As the epic battle approaches, the hands of time pause during a life-changing event, and a visitor from the past alters the future.
Passage of Time is the third installment in the award-winning Seeker of Time series. Meaningful lessons challenge the reader, sending their hearts on an emotional marathon that leaves them sprinting toward the finish line.
Tellus finds Queen Natylia on lock down and betrayal around every corner while every decision affects the fate of her kingdom. What were some ideas you wanted to carry over into book two and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?
Natylia started off as a pretty naive character. A bit pampered. But she’s always been courageous, and her moral compass has always directed her in the right direction; which was why, despite her fears, she left the palace in Imber. I really wanted to expand on that. Character growth is astronomically important to me. A person doesn’t have experiences without evolving, so why should a character? I think in Tellus, I wanted Natylia to figure out a little bit more what it meant to be a leader, but also to sacrifice for the people she loves . . . as well as those she’s destined to protect. And while her mental health is taking a beating, I really want to make sure my readers know that just because she’s struggling, doesn’t mean she’s any less of a strong person; something she definitely shares with Camion.
In a more physical regard, the end of Imber is kind of a dungeon crawler. While I love the idea of continuing that, I really wanted to open up the world a bit and show off a bit more of what Araenna has to offer—and I think the cover does a pretty good job of showing what’s in store! 😉 But Imber was very stationary to Natylia’s lands, and the world is so much bigger . . . which, I think also helped give her some perspective.
Natylia continues to be a captivating character. What were some obstacles you felt were important to her character development in this book?
So, Natylia has a bit of a selfish streak. It’s part of her having this life where she never wanted for anything. The problems she faced growing up felt, to her, astronomical to her at the time, but now she’s facing much realer things. I wanted her to grow from that. While I think she started that journey in Imber, I thought it was really important that she realize in Tellus how her actions and choices can affect the people around her, and I’m really excited to show off what she’s learned overall in Ventus. She’s become a much stronger woman, and even though no one ever stops growing, I think the lessons she’s learned have not only made her a better queen, but a better friend and partner as well.
You’ve previously mentioned that you played the Elder Scrolls games. What race from that game do you find yourself always choosing when creating a character?
I love this question! I gravitate toward Elves in almost any fantasy games that I play. And I tend to stay far from humans. But that’s not always true, because the character I’m playing in Skyrim currently is I think a Nord?
Tellus is book two in the Thanatos Trilogy. Where does the final story go and how far along are you in writing it?
The final story will deal with cleaning up the mess that has been created in the first two books. Natylia still has a lot of work ahead of her, not only dealing with with betrayals and revealed secrets from Tellus, but also the new the situation she found herself in at the end of book two! I’m already 35,000 words into the first draft, and I’m currently aiming for a July release.
After a disappointing venture into Emberlyn Forest, Queen Natylia of Thrais is feeling anything but confident. To make matters worse, the Council is now involved, placing her on lockdown to ensure she rules her kingdom as appointed.
But she knows the Scepters are out there. At any moment those magical keys could be used to release four dangerous Titans from their prison far beneath Saphir Lake. If Natylia fails to find the Scepters before they fall into the wrong hands, her kingdom won’t be the only one to suffer.
With the support of Jyn, Camion, and Meryn, Natylia sets out to hunt these ancient relics before war and death can destroy Araenna. And when a former love gets tangled into the mix, Natylia is forced to learn the true meaning of forgiveness.
Betrayal haunts her every step, but the fate of Araenna depends on her every decision—and a test of power may cost her everything she holds dear.
Including her own life.
The Adventures of Jules Khan – A Teenage Muslim Superhero, introduces the world to a fictional project that is shifting the narrative on how teenagers and adults consume faith, fiction and entertainment in mainstream media. This unique and creative story is a narrative on North America’s newest Superhero Jules Khan…
An enormous responsibility is bestowed upon Jules Khan. He is basically still a child and could not possibly fathom the true meaning of this responsibility. The whole of humanity is depending on him for survival. He must keep the book safe. Most importantly, he must keep the book away from the National Weapons Association. He will use his natural superpowers while relying on prayer and friends to remain grounded. He is about to uncover many secrets and find information that will rock him to the core. Will mankind be saved from the evil association?
Karim K Devji has crafted a thrilling and action filled tale of human triumph. He has masterfully woven a tale of a brave young man who is not expected to fulfill his role quite so efficiently but does so anyway with gusto and wisdom. He has told a story the only way it deserves to be told; with great energy. This story pulls in the reader right from the beginning. You get to meet fascinating characters and wander in the mind of Jules Khan freely. The author is a very vivid storyteller, using descriptions that are breathtaking.
As the story takes us through Jules’ journey of bravery, I was inspired by the lengths this young man goes to to bring peace to the world and his determination to instill the idea of respect for all regardless of their life choices or situations.
The book touches on numerous sensitive topics from religion to politics. In this era of over-sensitivity and overreactions, these are very difficult topics to converse about. However, the author navigates that particularly muddy puddle with expert ease. Everyone is represented in this book and does not focus on any one religion. The Adventures of Jules Khan – A Teenage Muslim Superhero is a wonderful adventure book that delivers a message of peace and respect to whoever reads it.
The story takes place in WWII era and captures the feel of the time and place well. The author’s commitment to the story and the intended message are announced in no uncertain terms by the simple brilliance with which the book is presented. It is rare to find a action packed book that would be suitable for both children and adults but The Adventures of Jules Khan- A Teenage Muslim Superhero is able to entertain and inspire.
Jules Khan should be a welcome addition to the MARVEL or DC Superhero Franchise as their newest Avenger or hero that uses his tremendous earth based superpowers and pluralism to easily handle the bad guys.
Pages: 169 | ASIN: B07F1GYLN4
Tags: A Teenage Muslim Superhero, action, adventure, author, book, book review, bookblogger, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, Karim Kassamali Devji, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, read, reader, reading, story, The Adventures of Jules Khan, writer, writing, young adult
Marley and Richard have only just met, but the spark is there, and it is real. Things begin to move quickly when Richard comes to work in the same business as Marley. In addition, he is strangely close to their new manager, Ross Gilmore. The buzz in Marley’s office is all about Ross and the wealth that he has accumulated. However, Marley’s sights are set on Richard, and she is much less concerned about his association with the new man in charge. With dreams of marriage, a family, and a horse farm of their own, Marley and Richard set out to make a life together. Something… just a little hint of something… isn’t as simple as it seems.
Marley Faces Reality, by Lesley J. Mooney, is the story of Marley Bollane, a young woman working hard and waiting patiently for her turn at love and a family. Unlike many in her peer group, Marley has chosen to remain a virgin until marriage. She doesn’t realize how quickly that marriage will arrive when she meets Richard. Their relationship moves quickly and all seems well. There remains something quite unsettling about Richard’s friend and business associate, Ross. Marley can’t shake the feeling, but she also can’t put a name to it.
The underlying and brewing drama is drawn out well throughout the book. Mooney keeps readers guessing and makes it interesting to watch Marley try to piece together the clues she begins to pick up along the way. Marley’s life with Richard moves along at a rapid pace, and the reader becomes easily absorbed in all of their triumphs.
Though the main characters’ lives move along quickly in the first few chapters, it takes a while to get to the meat of the story. When it finally happens, the author brings readers in headfirst. The drama is well-planned, multiple characters are impacted, and Marley is still clueless enough to keep readers yearning for more. When she fails to notice the changes in her children and the impact her brother-in-law has on their lives, readers become irate for her.
Ross, who begins the book as a mystery, becomes quite the villain, and does so fairly abruptly. He returns in one way or another throughout the plot. Whether he is in a face-to-face confrontation or whether previous dealings with him come back to haunt Marley and Richard’s little family, Ross is always there. His presence helps make the book much more than the romance it seemed at the outset.
There are some points in the beginning of the book where the dialogue feels a bit wordy. Some of the exchanges between characters feel much more like narration than genuine exchanges between two characters.
Readers who enjoy an element of romance in their thrillers will find Mooney’s work satisfying. Mooney has created relatable characters, a dramatic story-line with multiple twists and turns, and a heroine to be remembered.
Pages: 276 | ASIN: B07ZNC36XG