Catch-Up Quickies 5

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I plan to scrunch some of my (overdue) reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway; let’s see how it goes…!

Title: Of Welter and Whim
Author:  Mike Mac

Blurb:  “Of Welter and Whim” is a book of poetry and prose made up of two sections – “The Welter” (turmoil) and “The Whim” (humor). Both brooding and jocular, this collection is laced with aphorisms while substantiating an unflinching call for reason.

Review: This poetry collection is split into two sections: ‘The Welter’, full of emotional turmoil, pain and upset; and ‘The Whim’, comprising lighter, more humorous verses.

Mike Mac experiments with different styles in his poetry – some rhyming, some blank verse; some deeply personal, some esoteric in content – and also explores different forms in the layout of his text on the page, with poems shaped like steps, or baubles.

Quite a lot of the language used is archaic or stylised, with corresponding lofty rhetoric, which may make the poems (especially in the ‘Welter’ section) less accessible to readers new to poetry, so I would be more inclined to recommend this book for readers already familiar with the poetic form, or suggest that new readers ease themselves in with ‘Whim’ first!

Purchase Link: Of Welter and Whim on Amazon

Title: A Slip of the Tongue
Author:  Stefania Hartley

Blurb:  Will Melina regret faking to be ill to avoid doing her chores? Can Don Pericle organise a wedding for a groom who doesn’t know? Who has stolen the marble pisces from the cathedral’s floor?
Twelve humorous short stories dripping with the Sicilian sunshine, ringing with not-so-well-kept secrets, fragrant with freshly fried arancine rice balls, ideal for your coffee break or as a bedtime read. Written by Stefania Hartley, The Sicilian Mama.

Review: A lovely, gentle collection of short stories set in Sicily, this book is perfect for some light and sunny beach reading.

Each story features ‘ordinary’ people living the ups and downs of their everyday familial and romantic relationships. There are no huge dramas here. Just quiet normal problems, realistic people and a soft humour tinged with fondness for the setting and people.

This is ideal to dip in and out of when you’re in the mood for a wry chuckle about the vagaries of married life, parenthood or dating, with the warmth of a small community and the Mediterranean sunshine to relax you, and the taste of Italian homecooking to welcome you in.

Purchase Link: A Slip of the Tongue on Amazon

Title: Death By Midnight: The Secret Life of Anna Goode series
Author:  Nicole Nadeau

Blurb:  When her inventions put her loved ones in danger, can this brilliant teen rescue them from hostile international agents?

Anna Goode feels her gift is more of a curse. Bullied at school for her high IQ, the sixteen-year-old genius can’t even tell her parents about her clever contraptions for fear they’ll treat her differently. But when a Russian madman kidnaps her family and demands she build him a doomsday device, her sharp mind is the only thing that can save them.

Teaming up with her best friend, Anna races against the clock to gather the materials to meet the villain’s deadline. And now struggling to stay off the CIA’s radar, the daring high schoolers could be the only people between a maniac and millions of lives.

Can these fearless spy kids free Anna’s parents and protect the rest of humanity?

Death by Midnight is the suspenseful first book in the Secret Life of Anna Goode YA spy thriller series. If you like quick-witted heroes, courageous underdogs, and surprising twists and turns, then you’ll adore Nicole Nadeau’s action-packed tale.

Review: This spy thriller feels like it is aimed at somewhat of a younger audience than YA, as the author doesn’t really give any explanation or backstory for how Anna (and to a lesser extent, her friend, Jake) acquire all of the many skills she uses during the story – urban climbing, stunt driving, fighting grown men with police/CIA/FBI/security training.

All we really know about Anna is that she has a very high IQ, likes inventing things, and wants to live a ‘normal’ teenage girl’s life. Instead, she finds herself forced into the spy life to save her family, friend and everyone from a Russian terrorist mob who are threatening biological warfare. The result is a fast-paced, well-written story that reminded me of 24, if you crossed it with Spy Kids and a bit of Hannah Montana.

While I found it hard to suspend my disbelief, due to the lack of corroborating detail, I can easily see how younger readers would be thrilled, as this whole story is action-based wish-fulfilment, in which a pair of smart teenagers can Jack-Bauer the place up and beat all the grown-ups (sometimes literally!).

Good, clean fun here for teen readers who love a spy story with child/teen heroes.

Purchase Link: Death By Midnight on Amazon

Title: Stranger Still
Author:  Michaelbrent Collings
Publisher:  Written Insomnia Press

Blurb:  Your sins are Legion…
… and now you belong to him.

Legion is a teacher. An avenging angel. A murderer.

A madman.

Born in the blood of a dying mother, raised in the underground lair of an insane father, he travels the world looking for those who keep secrets and sins. He finds those who have fallen short, and teaches them the lessons they need to leave their mistakes behind.

Even if he has to kill them to do it. Because sometimes murder is the only way to teach a proper lesson.

So when he sees a man kidnap two people on the side of the road, Legion knows it is time to teach again.

Soon he finds himself caught in the crossfire of a coup in a Russian crime syndicate. He is captured, beaten, bleeding, in chains; cut off and alone.

It’s just the way he likes it.

Legion has found his students. And for them, life is about to become frightening and so much… stranger.

Review: This is a psychological thriller/horror story that is so packed with vicious, visceral violence and gore that you will have to beg your brain to stop replaying the images!

The book is a sequel to Strangers, but I haven’t read that previous book and can confirm that this story stand alone perfectly well without it. That said, I believe that Strangers does give more insight and backstory into Legion, one of the main characters here.

It is important to know that nearly every character in this book is apparently psychopathic or sociopathic (or both) and the ones that aren’t are childhood victims of them – this book is the perfect illustration of Philip Larkin’s ‘This Be the Verse’!)

I was mesmerised by Legion, who is One and many, and VERY confused, except in his conviction that the wicked must be taught a lesson – and there are plenty of unwilling students for him to choose from here. Happily married couple, Danielle and Alex, have been abducted by a torturer-for-hire, Sheldon Steward, to be delivered to a Russian mob boss. But why? And are the innocent victims all they seem?

I won’t bother listing trigger warnings – just assume all of them apply – but will say that if you are a fan of human monster stories and the atrocities they commit in the name of power and pride, then this is an enthralling shocker that should be right down your twisted alley!

Purchase Link: Stranger Still on Amazon

Title: Cynetic Wolf
Author:  Matt Ward
Publisher:  Myrmani Press

Blurb:  It’s 2096, sixty years after ninety percent died from a man-made Bioplague. Humanity has splintered into four unequal subspecies: immortals, cyborgs, enhancers, and subservient half-human, half-animal hybrids.

The world is anything but equal. Hybrids everywhere are suffering, but sixteen-year-old Raek Mekorian, a wolfish with a nose for trouble, doesn’t see an alternative. Except the Resistance, who don’t stand a chance against the world government. His mom always said, “Keep your head down.”

And he does, until his sister is murdered by a pair of cyborgs. Overnight, his simple life is shattered, fracturing the rigid governmental caste as he is thrust into the dangerous world of superhuman hit squads, Resistance uprisings, and secrets better left unsaid.

With only built-in blasters and the advice of a mysterious professor, Raek must navigate crushing betrayal, self-doubt, and a limitless enemy whose evil knows no bounds.

The fate of mankind may rest in his hands.

Cynetic Wolf is best selling author Matt Ward’s YA dystopian sci-fi debut and features bloody immortality, post-apocalyptic progress, and gene editing that splinters the very fabric of society. If you like dark technothrillers, fast-paced adventure, and surprising sci-fi, are a fan of Divergent, Red Rising, or the Hunger Games, or love dystopia classics like the Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World and Ender’s Game, you’ll love this speculative fiction thriller.

Review: This is a fast-paced YA dystopian sci-fi adventure, in which Raek – a wolf-human hybrid – and the other animal hybrids are treated like scum by society and the underground resistance are boiling to revolution point. So when Raek loses everything he loves, and finds out he has hidden abilities which shouldn’t be possible, which are only available to those humans with technological enhancements rather than the lowly ‘animals’, he quickly finds himself at the very centre of a class/race war.

The story is full of action, action and more action, with lots of guns, bombs, knives and heroic diving around, that would all look fantastic on the big screen. I was a little unconvinced by just how quickly Raek went from rural innocent to a superhero able to master every martial skill within a matter of minutes, but the story moves so quickly that I guess he had to speed up to keep up with it!

I really enjoyed the worldbuilding, with the distinctions between the animotes, cynetics and emulates, and was fascinated to know more about the different societal groups and how their status affects their everyday lives, as we mainly saw the animal-ish viewpoint in this story. And this story ends with the revolution only just beginning, so there is plenty more story to tell.

I will definitely check out the sequel – Wolfish – and let you know my thoughts!

Purchase Link: Cynetic Wolf on Amazon

A pretty eclectic mixture here! Poetry, cosy short stories, teen espionage, action-horror and YA dystopian sci-fi… when I say I read everything, I really mean it!

I’m really enjoying revisiting these books, which I mostly read last year or even earlier, and reminding myself of the wide variety of fiction out there – something for everyone. I can’t wait to dig out the next batch and see what I’ve got for you!


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