Lorna's Book Blog

Writer, reader, and surreptitious book-sniffer.

"Leave your audience wanting more"

The Darkness Within Saga Prologue: Sins of the Past - J.D. Franx

That's the old adage, isn’t it? Well JD Franx certainly delivers in this epic tale of magic, betrayal, and intrigue. So much so, in fact, that I’m actually quite frustrated just now, because I honestly felt like I could have kept reading for days. People all the way down on the South Coast probably heard my indignant cry of where’s the rest of it? It’s always a good sign when a story grips a reader so much that they shout aloud in dismay when it’s over, after all!

The important thing to remember with “Sins of The Past” is that it’s a prologue. A novella, written as a teaser for the soon-to-be-released “The Legacy”, and boy did it ever tease. It has everything I look for in a fantasy book. Assassins, cults, witches, magic, politics, beautiful world building, lyrical prose, and as if all that wasn’t enough, a whole score of strong, diverse, and highly interesting female characters. The ladies often get brushed aside in the fantasy genre, as we know, so I absolutely loved the fact that the cast was so heavily populated by such a vast array of them in this, particularly as they are so very well written.

The writing itself was wonderful. I felt like I was absorbed into the scenery as the story progressed, and unlike so many fantasy authors I was so happy and satisfied to see that there wasn’t reams and reams of description. JD Franx is a master of “show don’t tell” and it made the reading just that much more enjoyable. The plot didn’t hang around either, another trope I was happy to see the back of, and the entire effect of the writing was that it flowed easily into my mind, each chapter unfolding like the petals of a waterlily. It was just beautiful.

I am dying for the follow up, and I really think that everyone should go and read this fantastic book immediately. The follow up, which I’m reliably informed will be quite significantly larger, will be out in Spring of 2016, all being well, and trust me when I say you don’t want to miss that. If you’re interested in finding out more about JD Franx, you can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

My Review of "Flight Plan" by K.M. Herkes

Flight Plan - K.M. Herkes

Once again I find myself recommending another book by K.M. Herkes, and I don’t feel even the slightest bit sorry for it. Flight Plan is the sequel to Controlled Descent, which I really enjoyed reading some months back, and this follow up did not disappoint.


As I’ve said previously, K.M. Herkes has such a magnificent way with words, it makes me long for poetry written by her as well. There isn’t an inch of fat on anything she writes, but it is still so lyrical and emotive, it’s a striking style of writing that contrasts beautifully with the subject matter and genre, making her incredibly unique to read. Everything has purpose, every movement leads somewhere, and her language choices are always perfection. I always find her work a great pleasure to read; the writing itself never fails to speak to me.


She has a keen understanding of the human condition too, and as such her characters are always believable and interesting. Every action causes a reaction, and those in turn are always a fantastic way of showing us just what sort of characters we’re dealing with. Technically speaking the writing is flawless, but romantically speaking I sincerely doubt there will ever be a book written by this author that I won’t enjoy and find great pleasure in reading.


I do have to admit that I did struggle about a third of the way through this one, compared to its predecessor, but after a few chapters I was back in the story once again. This wasn’t any real fault in the writing at all, but rather my own expectations, I think. In book one the main three characters were Justin, Alison, and Tyler. Alison in particular was a favourite of mine, and I was a little disappointed to see her shunted off to the sidelines, along with Tyler. In Controlled Descent she was a force to be reckoned with, whilst still retaining a very human uncertainty and emotional vulnerability. In Flight Plan she was reduced to little more than “playing mother”, which was a shame.


That said, I did enjoy the new characters too, and after my initial realisation that Alison was not playing anything like a key role this time, I was settled back into the story once again. The new characters are all as unique and cleverly written as the original cast, and it was lovely to see Carl and Parker with much more prominent story arcs than in Controlled Descent. Of the new cast members I really enjoyed reading Serena. It’s not very often you get to read a female character quite like her without falling into old, boring tropes about mental health, and for that I think K.M. Herkes deserves further kudos.


All in all, I really enjoyed it. The story was fast-paced, and the setting different and smartly put together. I look forward to reading the next instalment!

Another Triumph!

Silver Shackles: Revelations Trilogy: Book Two - Fiona Skye

In some ways I’ve been very lucky with the Revelations series. I stumbled across book one only a few months ago, and after falling utterly in love with the characters, I didn’t have long to wait for this, the sequel. In another way I’ve not been lucky at all, because as impatient as I was for book two over those few short months, I now have to wait an unforeseeable amount of time for book three, and at this point I’m feeling very sorry for myself.


Fiona Skye has very quickly become one of my absolute favourite authors, and not just on the indie scene, but overall. Her stories are clever, intricate, well-paced, and beautifully written. As if that wasn’t enough, her characters are just golden. I have a weakness for clever, resourceful, and fierce female characters, personally, and no one delivers quite like Riley O’Rourke. She is, to me, the standard for every well written woman of fiction, and trust me when I say I can give no higher praise than that.


It’s no secret that there’s a sad lack of three-dimensional women in literature, most writers falling back quite lazily on the “she’s-a-strong-female-character-because-she-punches-stuff-and-so-she-doesn’t-need-any-actual-depth-or-developement” trope, which honestly died a death way back in the early 90’s as far as I’m concerned. Readers want more than that now, and Fiona Skye delivers where so many others lack.


As much as I love Riley – who is complex, caring, career-driven, and makes as many mistakes as she fixes – there is also a huge, diverse cast of other women, too. Both faerie queens are ferocious in very different ways, Penny is a kind-hearted human gauntlet, Orla the straight-speaking good witch, and even conniving Jenny, are all side characters that light up an already brilliant story.


And those are just the women! David, in particular, deserves honourable mention. His role in this book was crucial, and while I don’t want to give away any spoilers, it wouldn’t have been the same story without him. There aren’t many books that reduce me to squealing fangirl these days, but this has to be said: TEAM RIVID FOREVER!!


If you’re interested in finding out more about Fiona Skye and her work, here is a link to her website (Here: http://fiona-skye.com/ ) and her facebook page (Here: https://www.facebook.com/fionaskyewriter )

Review for "Dry Land"

Dry Land - Jennifer Anne Seidler

I really enjoyed this book. It was clever and well executed, and the length was just right. I generally don’t read a lot of SciFi so this was a bit of a gamble for me, and one I’m glad to report has paid off. I’ve read some Asimov, and of course the Star Wars books, but otherwise I prefer to watch SciFi, simply because I’m not scientifically minded and some authors of this genre can get pretty heavy with jargon which makes it awkward to read for the laymen amongst us. Thankfully Jennifer Anne Seidler isn’t one of them, and everything was explained in a concise and easy to follow style that didn’t have me stopping every few paragraphs to look something up. This left me blissfully to enjoy the story and characters as they should be, so that alone deserves a big kudos in my humble opinion.


The story revolves around astronaut Ted “Shakespeare” Hardison, who is part of a team going up to the moon indefinitely for a terraforming project. It’s hinted at pretty early on that the Earth is in bad shape, almost post-apocalyptic, particularly in America. We find out that Ted has played a very large role in the project, specifically designing the technology needed, and that his work is one of the two great loves of his life.


His other great paramour is his wife, Colby. She’s an intriguing character, and from the get-go you realise there’s something different about her, which is soon revealed to be that she isn’t entirely human – she’s an android. Because Ted doesn’t know when or even if he will be returning to Earth, the opening scene is the two of them saying goodbye and signing their divorce papers. Even with the relatively short appearance Colby makes at the beginning of the book, their relationship is a powerful one. As a reader I felt an immediate sense of how hard it was for them to part from one another, which in turn gave me an instantaneous connection to Ted, and an insight to his character and motivations.


I always enjoy a story where I feel sympathy for the protagonist, and more so when I don’t have to wait around for that. I was invested in Ted by the end of the prologue, and despite her brief appearance, Colby too. Despite that Dry Land isn’t exactly a romance, I found myself hoping they would be reunited again soon, a wish that was granted in a squiffy sort of way by the end of chapter one.


It has everything you could hope for from a SciFi book, I think. Space travel, adventure, conspiracies, romance, creative science, and a dash of Shakespeare. Okay, so perhaps the classic English playwright isn’t a necessary requirement of Science Fiction, but if you ask me, everything is better with Shakespeare. The writing was clean and easy to follow, the characters were deep, and the plot was unique and interesting. I would highly recommend it to anyone, even if, like me, you aren’t sure about the genre. It’s definitely worth taking a chance over.

Review for "Controlled Descent"

Controlled Descent - K.M. Herkes

Controlled Descent was a fantastic read, and one I’m glad I already own the sequel to so that I can dive right back in again soon. This isn’t the first book I’ve read by the excellent KM Herkes –a few months ago I picked up her novella, “Extraordinary”- so I already knew that this was going to be good. Needless to say I wasn’t at all disappointed.


Her prose is always so beautifully written, with a lingering darkness that adds a weight you don’t often get to read these days. It flows so easily, and with such a fantastic pace that you genuinely won’t want to stop until you’re done. It makes me want to pack nothing but her books and go off on a reading holiday for a few weeks, because being brought back to reality while reading her work isn’t dissimilar from a hard kick in the chops. Her writing never fails to draw me in, to sweep me up and deposit me right in the middle of the story as though I were really there. It doesn’t feel forced or contrived in any way, and you don’t even realise that you’ve been dragged in so deep until you have to come back out again. It’s truly masterful.


The world-building is fantastic, too. It’s an almost dystopian society, but still very closely aligned with the “real world” that sometimes the line between blurs and you feel like it’s all very possible. I think that’s very clever, myself. So many writers try so hard to distance themselves from current society, probably to make things seem scarier, but the world created by the KM Herkes’ Restoration is probably more frightening precisely because you can see such a close resemblance between our world and the fictional one depicted.


For all this praise, however, the highlight of the whole book is definitely the characters. The life that has been breathed into each and every one of them, their distinctive voices, their quirks and flaws, and their motivations are all so spot on. Even the side characters, the ones who don’t get very much page time all seem so very alive. You can tell that a great deal of effort went into constructing these characters, and I really think it was this aspect of the story that made it so very easy to become part of the story as a reader, too. Everyone seemed so very human, so very alive that you can easily get lost in the web of their lives and become incredibly invested in them emotionally.


All in all the book is one I think everyone should read. It’s got everything you could ever want from a story and it’s beautifully crafted, too. Trust me: Read it.


Book Review: "Hard Luck" by M.A. Ray

Saga of Menyoral: Hard Luck - M.A. Ray

It’s been a while since I last sat down to read a high fantasy book, and Hard Luck doesn’t disappoint. It has everything I look for in this genre: Magic, colourful characters, first rate world-building, and a nice gritty undertone that adds a sense of realness despite, well… the elves, if you see what I mean.


The story is set in Rothganar, a place that you are pulled into immediately as the opening scene unfolds in mysticism and a spell gone horribly wrong. The consequences of this short prelude mean very little at first, but you still feel a sense of loss despite that, something I think points to some very skilled writing. Four pages into the book, and I was already emotionally invested.


It stands to reason that in eliciting this sort of response in a new reader, the protagonist is also someone you find yourself immediately attached to. My sympathy for Dingus began from the moment I read his rather unfortunate name, and only swelled further as the full horror of his life became clear. The way the author deals with the prejudice Dingus faces is unapologetic and with such integrity that it brought a lump to my throat, and immediately had me firmly backing her protagonist to the hilt. In a show of yet more skilful writing, the fact that the situation makes you want to jump into the pages of the book and beat the living daylights out of Dingus’ antagonists also makes you immediately cheer for the first appearance of Vandis, a travelling knight who does just that.


Their relationship is one the best I’ve read in a long time, and as Vandis takes Dingus under his proverbial wing, the progression of both characters as the story moves along is masterful. When they are later joined by Kessa, yet another stray with a horrific backstory, the three of them bounce so well against one another that they all come to life in a way I haven’t been privileged to read in quite some time. Their dialogue is spot on, each with a very clear voice and tone, and not ever forced throughout.


On that note, I wanted to address something I’ve seen criticised quite seriously in other reviews, and that is the swearing. Yes, there is a fair amount of cussing throughout, and mostly from Vandis. Vandis is a crusty old knight who quite happily drops the f-bomb, and personally I think it adds to his character that he does so. It would be bizarre for someone of his background and disposition to say “good heavens” or “whoopsie daisy” or whatever, and I don’t really understand why in this day and age, with writers like George Martin sprinkling the dreaded “C U Next Tuesday” like glitter, (So disgust. Much rude. Wow.) that anyone would be offended by such a thing. No one seems bothered by any of the quite vivid violence in the book, or the allusions the paedophilia for that matter, which is surely far more disturbing? These things mentioned, I also don’t understand why anyone would think the swearing is the only reason this book isn’t suitable for children, but apparently that’s just me.


This is not a children’s book. That much is evident before you even finish the prologue to be honest, but as to the parents looking down their noses at this excellent book because of the swearing, I’m afraid I have bad news: If you think your teenager doesn’t swear, you’re living in a fantasy world even more expansive than Rathganar, and that’s truly a grand feat of imagination.


That said, what I do think is important to point out is aside from Vandis’ characterisation, the swearing is there for another quite excellent reason. At the beginning of the book, Dingus is seriously downtrodden, and quite literally at that. He is understandably afraid and nervous, and very meek around others. By the end of the book, however, he is cussing right along with Vandis, and actually at him at one point, laughing and speaking his mind with an ease and comfort that shows the outward signs of his mental healing. If cussing offends you, that’s just fine. We’re all different – personally I’m very offended by beetroot, and I’ve yet to find anyone else who shares my deep revulsion for it – and that’s just fine. What isn’t fine is trash talking an excellent author for your own quirks, and implying that their differing use of language to yours shows some kind of want of skill or talent.


The book is far and away one of my favourite reads in the genre for quite some time now, and I can’t wait to jump back into the story for more of these fantastically written and intricate characters. The Saga of Menyoral has another three books currently available for consumption, and I would very strongly encourage anyone who enjoys bold, brassy fantasy to go and check them out

Source: http://lornageorge.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/book-review-hard-luck-by-m-a-ray

Brilliant read!

Taming Shadows (Revelations Trilogy) (Volume 1) - Fiona Skye

Taming Shadows was such an excellent read, I pretty much devoured it over the course of one day because I simply couldn’t put it down.

The story follows the progress of Riley O’Rourke, a reporter from fairly humble beginnings, who is thrust into the spotlight when the human world is made forcibly aware of the existence the supernatural beings they have unknowingly been living alongside throughout history. Her role in the story initially is as the face of the transition (referred to as “the Night of Revelations” throughout) and as a well-known “Critter” – someone with the ability to shift into that of an animal. Her own form, and shared sub-conscience, is a large jungle cat who is very cleverly always present and integrated into Riley’s character, and in the few instances we read from her perspective I could see Riley was just as much present in Jaguar’s own mind. The symbiotic relationship between them is well written and clever, and while complex in its entirely, not at all difficult for me to understand as a reader.

Riley becomes quickly embroiled in sidhe politics after she is visited by both faery queens and forced to pick a side in the impending war for her own self-preservation. I was incredibly thrilled by the use of old and lesser used magical beings, and the insight to the Winter Court and Summer Court of the faeries. You don’t see it all that often, so it was refreshing. There’s also a brilliant spectrum of other supernatural creatures, including vampires, witches and more besides, and a clever and succinct social structure for how they all manage to co-exist, something that a lot of writers can waffle on about and still not manage to make believable.

I’m always pleased when a book manages to pass the Bechdel Test, but Taming Shadows does it within the first chapter, and repeatedly throughout. Riley herself is a fantastic character, a strong, clever, and easy to like career woman, who is made all the more believable by her flaws and uncertainties, as much as her witty humour and irreverence. I found myself cheering her on as the story progressed, and sympathising with her easily as she faced off against both fairy queens and her own insecurities. There is a strong female presence within the story, something I always love in any book I read, and even the side-characters are a littering and diverse array of personalities that I found myself eager to learn more about as I went.

The writing itself was beautifully crafted, with a great pace and tone, the descriptions lending themselves easily to the story so that I could see everything and everyone clearly in my mind as I progressed through the story. The world Fiona has created is a believable one, despite the supernatural elements, which is something I find impressive by itself. Sometimes urban fantasy can be a little heavy handed in the merging of the two worlds –reality and fantasy- but not so here. At no point did I find myself questioning any of the logic in the situations the characters found themselves in, or wondering how certain things worked out, which is a treat for me as I tend to pick things like that apart as I read.

All in all, it’s a pretty fantastic read and well deserving of the full five stars. I found nothing about it I didn’t like, and I really think that anyone who enjoys fantasy and bad-ass ladies should definitely go and read it. I also think it’s worth mentioning that if you are a fan of “The Hollows” series by Kim Harrison, you would definitely like this. I genuinely can’t recommend it highly enough.

Currently reading

The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, Holly Baxter