*Declaration of Interest – I am personal friends with the authors in question and proofread their drafts before publication (no money involved)*
I wouldn’t even be writing this blog if it wasn’t for the encouragement of my good friend J. J. Barnes.
I was thrilled when J. J. and Jonathan McKinney contacted me to ask whether I would be interested in reading drafts of their novels and giving my thoughts, and am delighted that they decided to make it a regular thing, as I love their work and get to read it fresh from their heads!
So when J. J. suggested that I turn my reviewing habit into something a bit more sociable I jumped at the chance.
Below are my original short reviews (originally published on Goodreads/Amazon), of Siren Stories’ releases so far (and a little bit further!):
Lilly Prospero and the Magic Rabbit, by J. J. Barnes
Blurb: Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit is a young adult urban fantasy exploring the corrupting effects of absolute power on a teenage girl.
When the unpopular and lonely Lilly Prospero is given a talking pet rabbit, her life begins to change. She is thrust into a world of magic, mystery, and danger, and has to get control of a power she doesn’t understand fast to make the difference between life and death.
Bookshine short review 07/02/2016: I have just reread this book for the second time and found it as gripping as I did on first reading it!
J. J. Barnes has a knack for creating engaging characters and an immersive plot that provides action, suspense and a few surprises.
I can’t wait to read more from this new author and am especially hoping for a Lilly sequel…what happens next?!
Alana, by Jonathan McKinney
Blurb: Alana is a ghost. She is sick of being a ghost. She wants one of her friends, a fellow ghost called Mal, to show her how to move on. And when a medium arrives in the building she’s haunting, she gets an unpleasant surprise, which turns her world upside down … but does the medium hold the secret to her getting not only what she wanted, but more?
Bookshine short review 31/06/16: An excellent and entertaining short story. The characters and dialogue are witty and well-rendered. I look forward to reading more from the same characters/universe!
Emily the Master Enchantress, by Jonathan McKinney
Blurb: Emily, a talented enchantress harbouring a latent ancient power, is recruited to the Schildmaids, a New York team of female underground crime fighters. Thrust into an ongoing war with a faceless human trafficking organisation, she finds love, and her own strength, while being pursued by a psychopathic billionaire relentlessly intent on harvesting her mysterious power for himself.
Bookshine short review 31/07/17: Exciting first novel in what I hope will be a very long series.
Set in the same universe as the Lilly Prospero series by J. J. Barnes, but aimed at an older audience, Emily has a gripping storyline, snappy dialogue and some memorable characters.
I especially can’t wait to see more from Isaac…can’t wait for the next installment!
Lilly Prospero and the Mermaid’s Curse, by J. J. Barnes
Blurb: Lilly Prospero And The Mermaid’s Curse is a young adult, urban fantasy following the Lilly Prospero and her friend Saffron Jones on a magical adventure to Whitstable.
Whilst on a family holiday, Lilly and Saffron meet mermaids under attack from a mysterious and violent stranger, work with a powerful coven of witches, and fight to save not only the lives of the mermaids, but their own lives as well.
Bookshine short review 08/08/16: This is the second book in the Lilly Prospero series (Lilly Prospero and the Magic Rabbit is first) and is even better!
Lilly and Saffron are back and putting their friendship to the test again as they face themselves, each other, and a new Big Bad…the Harvester.
One of the reasons J.J.Barnes’ series is so compelling is that in addition to adventurous perils the girls also grapple with serious moral issues (in an exciting context) and therefore we see them grow and develop.
The supporting characters are good here too. I would like to see more of Hogarth and Bentley personally!
After the Mad Dog in the Fog: an erotic Schildmaids novelette, by Jonathan McKinney & J. J. Barnes
Blurb: Emily wants to get through a night out, introducing her new boyfriend Teo to her friends, so she can get him home and have sex with him for the very first time. But when an obnoxious admirer and old flame shows up, she begins to fear that her plans are going awry.
Bookshine short review 05/09/16: Great little framing story about an erotic encounter between two of the main characters in Emily the Master Enchantress. I particularly liked the dialogue ‘trick’ that formed the plot climax prior to the er, other climax.
The erotic section of the story was some good, steamy, sensual, loving sex. And that’s all I intend to say about that, being British!
I was conscious reading the story that it had two authors, both of whose books I’ve read, and who have different writing styles, but honestly I couldn’t spot the seam here. the writing, plot, characters flowed smoothly throughout.
Good addition to the Schildmaids saga. Makes me hope that we eventually get a full book of short vignettes that add to our experience of the AU characters!
The Fundamental Miri Mnene, by Jonathan McKinney
Blurb: She’s angry. She’s trying not to be, but Miri Mnene is an angry woman. As a member of the Schildmaids, a New York team of female underground crime fighters, she is sent to South Dakota to investigate a mystical brothel that’s been kidnapping women, kidnapping girls, and forcing them to work. But when she gets there, she is confronted by the darkness that lives within her when her past and present collide.
Bookshine short review 18/12/16: This, the second of the Schildmaid saga books, was darker and harder-hitting than the first (Emily The Master Enchantress). We get more development of the characters and their relationships with each other, but as usual the main pull is the plot and (again, as usual) the story and the action are gripping! Unputdownable is a cliché, but in this case a very true one.
The Relief of Aurelia Kite, by Jonathan McKinney
Blurb: Aurelia Kite is a young New Yorker at Christmas, trapped in an abusive relationship, dreaming of escape. When her controlling boyfriend Trafford takes on a new job, her path crosses with two highly serious female crime fighters, causing her to make a big decision about what she will and will not tolerate..
Bookshine short review 31/12/16: Another great addition to the Schildmaid universe, this one filling in what happened to the remaining members of the team whilst the majority were off in Fundament (see The Fundamental Miri Mnene for THAT story).
This story focuses on the plight of the titular character, a victim of domestic abuse; ties up the mermaid-trading loose ends from Miri’s tale; fleshes out Alice and Rakesha’s characters a bit more; introduces us to the Virilicae and an interesting new character in Mr Baum; and foreshadows dark happenings in the rest of the saga…which is a whole lot to fit in under 100 pages!
And it’s done with the usual humour, pop culture allusions and snappy dialogue that you come to expect from this author.
Eagerly anticipating the next novel…!
Not Even Stars, by Jonathan McKinney
Blurb: There isn’t one yet, as I’ve only just finished proofing the draft last week! I don’t want to spoil anything but I can confirm that it is the third full-length Schildmaids novel and a regular character gets their turn to sparkle. Watch this space for the official review on release, but here is a sneak peek at a quote…!
Emerald Wren and the Coven of Seven, by J.J. Barnes
Blurb: Even I haven’t read this one yet, so even the title is an exclusive! As you can see, it is the first book in a brand new series from this author. I’ll let you know when I can reveal more, but for now I’ll finish on yet another exclusive quote from the work in progress:
“The world always needs changing,” he said. “And this time it is you who is tasked with the job of doing it.” – Emerald Wren and the Coven of Seven, by J.J. Barnes
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