Catch-Up Quickies 22

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 have been scrunching 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 and so far, so good…!

Title:  Wild Horses on the Salt
Author:  Anne Montgomery
Publisher:  Next Chapter

Blurb:  Can Rebecca find hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert?

Escaping her abusive husband, Rebecca hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor of the Sonoran Desert. Soon, she meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and the blacksmith, Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

After Becca’s husband tracks her down, she has to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Review: Wild Horses on the Salt is an immersive story, that does for the Arizona setting and wildlife what Elyne Mitchell’s books did for Australia – richly vivid nature writing that comes to life around you as you read.

There are two main themes to the plot. Firstly, the potentially-triggering issue of domestic violence and the lasting effects inflicted on its victims. Rebecca’s struggles to leave her old life behind and try to heal from her PTSD with the help of a kind community and the beauty of nature are movingly and realistically explored.

The second theme, running throughout, is that of the effects that humanity have on nature and the environment, both positive and negative. The story touches on everything from hunting, wildlife preservations and animal welfare, to more complex issues of wild and feral animals, natural vs. invasive species and other ecologically-based debates. The author takes care to show the different sides of these issues, and that it isn’t always a simple case of ‘man bad, nature good’ but that we have to take responsibility for our actions in relation to our environment.

And all of this plays out under a slow-paced story about the healing journey of the main character, and her finding a second chance at romance, art and life amid the sheep, skunk and, of course, wild horses.

I found myself invested in the fates of all of the characters – animal as well as human. Well, almost all of them… the abusive ex-husband is the stuff of nightmares or horror films and I couldn’t bring myself to care about what happened to him!

This is a moving story about abuse, recovery and the healing power of nature, and it is a love story to the deserts, forests, rivers and wildlife of Arizona.

Purchase Link: Wild Horses on the Salt on Amazon

Title:  Where Shadows Lie
Author:  Allegra Pescatore
Publisher:  Ao Collective Publishing

Blurb:  The Chosen One is Dead. 

Disabled since childhood, his little sister never expected the weight of a crown. Now, she might lose it before ever sitting on the throne. Beset by rebels, scheming politicians, and cutthroat bankers, Elenor must choose between accepting her father’s despotic rule or risking everything for her late brother’s lofty ideals. 

Meanwhile, from the rainy streets of Lirin to the scorching dunes of the Mondaer Desert, the ripples of her actions have inadvertently broken a chain of events five centuries in the making. Ancient forces move in the shadows, calling in debts and striking deals. A monster with a thousand faces fingers his knife, ready to kill, and a pair of fugitives run for their lives, unaware of the danger they carry with them.  

Where Shadows Lie is a non-stop epic fantasy ride, featuring an lgbtq+ and disabled protagonist and filled with court intrigue, sizzling romance, and adorable baby dragons. Dive in and get swept away!

Review: Opening explosively with an attempted royal assassination, I was hooked from the very beginning and remained so right through the the final pages… and beyond!

Allegra Pescatore’s fantasy worldbuilding is richly immersive and her character development is superb, from the main characters like Wil and Elenor Lirion, Fay and Gabriel, to the side characters, all complex and relatable, all with their own moralities and motivations.

The blurb notes that LGBTQIA and disability are represented in the story, and I was really impressed at how the author included these diverse aspects authentically and with full integration to the characters and story – exactly as they should be.

The plot has it all – rebellion, gods, torture, sex, sacrifice, friendship, betrayal – and the pacing is sharp and fast, carrying the reader through the action and intrigue smoothly without losing us in the melee.

I was reminded of some of my favourite fantasy authors, like Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Richard Parry, and immediately on finishing this book I rushed out to buy a copy of the paperback and set myself a reminder to order the sequel immediately on release. It is just THAT GOOD!

In fact, I have just one warning before you dive in to this book, but it is a serious one. This book caused me a severe book-hangover! I read the whole story in one (long) sitting, but it was whole DAYS before I was able to even think about starting a new book… I was still living in this one.

Purchase Link: Where Shadows Lie on Amazon

Title:  The Beast of Wheeler Ridge
Author:  Chris H. Stevenson
Publisher:  Winged Publications

Blurb:  Wolf girl gone feral…

A DNA experiment gone horribly wrong…

A beast who will stop at nothing.

Seth Anson, a lovelorn forest ranger, never thought that he would shoot the first eligible woman he met after his divorce. Nor did he think that he would fall in love with her after nursing her back to health. But he certainly isn’t prepared to find out that she is the result of a DNA cloning experiment gone horribly wrong and, is in fact, a hybrid human/wolf.

It all comes to a head atop Devils Tower Wyoming.

The Beast of Wheeler Ridge examines the lurid morality issues that are dealt with in The Island of Doctor Moreau, while exploring the theme of forbidden love as can be found in Beauty and the Beast, only with the gender roles reversed.

Review: This is a really ambitious book, melding sci-fi thriller (genetic engineering) with fantasy horror (werewolves) and adding some gender-reversed Beauty-and-the-Beast romance.

I felt the sci-fi thriller and fantasy horror aspects worked really well in the story, and the concept of werewolves as a genetically engineered wolf-human hybrid was intriguing and well-thought out. Similarly, the roles of scientist and forest ranger respectively felt well-researched and the detail the author brought to his setting and male characters felt authentic.

Unfortunately, it was the romance side of the story which didn’t work for me. I’m not going to go into the issue I had with the ages of the main characters, as I understand that the copy I read is an old one and the author has addressed this problem after readers raised it.

Even taking Melina’s age out of the equation, her innocence and naivety are stressed and the romance between her and Seth feels more like the ownership of a pet or guardianship of a child being passed from one adult male to another, unwillingly. It just didn’t feel like a relationship between adult equals – there is a power imbalance in Seth’s favour, regardless of Melina’s physical strength and prowess.

Plus, his insistence that she be shaved, groomed and made-up, that this maintenance is necessary and her ‘human right’ was off-putting for me. There is an implication that unless she conforms to Seth’s (somewhat old-fashioned) image of ‘normal’ femininity, she isn’t good enough. I didn’t find that particularly romantic! I understand that the author might not want to suggest Seth is attracted to bestiality, but I think there is a line between that and constantly expecting his girlfriend to ‘pretty herself up’ for him.

And the other ‘romance’ option interested in Melina is just downright incestuous!

I just wanted Melina to get a flat of her own, a job of her own, and get some simple life experiences away from the domineering men who are all trying to ‘protect’ her, but actually all using her for their own ends.

With the romance aspects removed, or toned right down, I think this book would be a really good cross-genre thriller, but as it stands I found it quite an uncomfortable read.

Purchase Link: The Beast of Wheeler Ridge on Amazon

Title:  The Quill Method
Author:  Sylvester Quill
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  On one eventful day, Mr Quill decided to give himself a shot at a better life. And he never regretted his decision. Now he is confident about himself, spectacularly productive and spends less time worrying about things that don’t matter.

The Quill Method to conquer depression in 10 steps is an unconventional approach to a very conventional problem – Depression. It is a malady that affects men, women, kids, teens, and older adults alike.

The author, Sylvester Quill, battled depression for a good part of his life. Overcoming and conquering depression was one of his toughest personal challenges. The Quill Method has its roots in his struggles.

The book is to help those with depression to develop better awareness, create a positive mindset and form productive, healthy lifestyle habits. The quill Method is a 10-step plan articulated through various author quotes at the beginning of the relevant chapters. The book is meant to be a comprehensive, actionable and structured approach towards healing from depression.

Review: This is an incredibly thorough resource for anyone who wishes to know all about depression: symptoms, causes and treatments, the lot. So, less of a 10-step plan and more of an information mine!

The first six chapters goes into lots of detail about what depression is – symptoms, types and severity levels, psychological models and root causes. There is a lot of medical information here which is extremely useful for background knowledge of the condition.

In chapter seven, the author talks about using logic to combat negative thoughts, which worked for him (and me incidentally!) but perhaps might not be applicable to everyone. We all ‘brain differently’, after all.

Then chapter eight covers almost every single aspect of human improvement and/or distraction ever conceived. Hobbies, creativity, mindfulness, socialising, travel, sleep hygiene, diet, social media, etc etc etc. And again, some of this might work for you, some probably won’t. Travel and socialising, for example, are far more likely to increase my mental stress levels than reduce them! But there are so many ideas here that there is bound to be something for everyone.

It was the last few chapters that I really found the most useful for someone suffering with depression, as the author honestly and compassionately explores suicidal thoughts, including a shocking, but very effective litmus test, and covers medical interventions (both therapeutic and pharmaceutical).

The final pages are packed full of really useful references and links, which are an invaluable resource for anyone needing further help or information. Although, really, the author has covered the subject so comprehensively that I am not sure what further information one might need!

This book is ideal for anyone looking for a one-stop read that covers everything you need to know about depression, but less useful for someone looking for step-by-step instructions on what to do to ‘conquer’ their depression. And I would always suggest that anyone who thinks they might be struggling with depression should contact their GP as soon as possible – self-help books are brilliant tools/resources, but should be used as a supplement to professional, medical help… not a replacement for it.

Purchase Link: The Quill Method on Amazon

Title:  The Archer’s Diary
Author:  Liam Cadoc
Publisher:  Liam Cadoc


Since the 14th century, Robin Hood has proven to be one of the most enduring and versatile folk heroes. Medieval historians believed Robin lived during the 12th or 13th century but despite decades of intense research by contemporary scholars, solid evidence has never been found.

Until now.

Logan Daggett, son of Donald Daggett, well known CEO of one of Australia’s largest international corporations, has his 21st birthday celebrations disrupted by a family tragedy, the revelation of his mother’s decades-old secret—and a birthday gift of a collection of centuries-old family heirlooms. This series of events contrive to change the course of his life forever.

Accompanied by his two closest friends, the young Aussie sets out to uncover the truth behind the accident that irrevocably changed his life, and to research the authenticity of the priceless heirlooms, completely unaware of the adventure and dangers lurking around every corner.

During the course of their journey they uncover irrefutable evidence that causes further turmoil among the family, spark controversy among medieval scholars worldwide, and the potential of sparking upheaval to a country’s history and creating conflict between two nations.

Review: This is historical fiction but told from a modern perspective – think Dan Brown covering the Robin Hood legend.

The story is well-written and full of historical information and details, which sounds like it could slow the pace, but the main character Logan and his brother, Gavin, keep things on the action-packed, James Bond side by driving around in fast cars, fighting increasingly dangerous bad guys and flirting with beautiful women.

All of the women are beautiful and talented, and all of them show interest in either Logan or Gav, because there is a huge wish-fulfilment element to this book. Logan starts out rich and handsome already (with amazing green eyes, with gold flecks in them), then his mysterious inheritance elevates his status (and wealth) significantly. Women want him, men want to be him… you know the drill!

Alternating between Logan’s point of view and the perspectives of his various pursuers (who seem more at risk from each other than the heroes!), this is a treasure-hunting adventure story with a twist on the famous outlaw legend. Packed with swathes of information about the historical background, the settings and the character backgrounds, but kept moving by the less credible, more thrilling modern action story.

Taken with a large pinch of salt, this is some fun easy reading for fans of contemporary-based historical fiction.

Purchase Link: The Archer’s Diary on Amazon

Have you spotted anything you like the look of today?

I’m sure you guessed that my own personal favourite in this batch was Allegra Pescatore’s Where Shadows Lie. I rushed out to pick up a hard copy of it as soon as I finished reading, and plan to also review Whispers of Stone and These Gossamer Strings for you in future, so watch this space!

What are you reading at the moment, and would you recommend it?

2 thoughts on “Catch-Up Quickies 22

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s