Catch-Up Quickies 28

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, despite a somewhat disturbing number of hospitalisations so far this year, I am soldiering on with it!

Title:  Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria
Author:  J.M. Bergen
Publisher:  Elandrian Press

Blurb:  A boy discovering his destiny. An ancient object of unspeakable power. An impenetrable web of deception.

It’s been three months since Thomas and his friends faced off against the enigmatic Arius Strong in an epic fight for the future of humanity. They thought the battle was over. It was only just beginning.

Now, with a mysterious message from an unknown hacker, the action starts again. This time an ancient talisman with legendary powers is at stake, and Arius will stop at nothing to make it his own. Dark witches and wizards are rallying to his cause, and behind it all, a mysterious figure with inexplicable abilities. The forces of light are gathering as well, but the web of deception is thick. Will Thomas and his friends see through the lies in time to stop the forces of evil and prevent a catastrophe of historic proportions?

If you enjoy stories steeped in mystery, magic, friendship, and adventure, you’ll love the second installment of J.M. Bergen’s Thomas Wildus franchise, a multi-award winning series that is “perfect for fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson” and “a book series middle schoolers will LOVE.”

Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria is the second book in a series of urban fantasy novels for children and teens.

Pick up your copy and join the adventure today!

Review: I really loved the first book in this series, Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows, and so was excited to catch up with Thomas and Enrique again in this sequel for more ‘wizarding world’ adventures.

This is another ‘race quest’ story, in which the main characters have to try to find the magical artefact before the baddies get to it, and there is some clever twisting between villains and allies that kept me guessing as to whose side anyone was on. And, as usual in these types of adventure story, I found it really hard to fathom how the adults in the story could happily (or reluctantly, but still…!) risk children in a front-line war against powerful enemies. Surely there must be other already-trained adults that would be better equipped to handle these sorts of situations?!

I have to admit, I found it slightly harder to engage with the plot and characters in this second outing, despite still enjoying the worldbuilding and ideas (such as how magic use is treated very much like weapons- or martial arts training). It felt like there was plenty of action and intrigue, and the boys’ characters were slowly growing and maturing, but the ‘girlfriends’ remained quite 2D and the adults felt more implausible in terms of their actions and motivations.

While an enjoyable read, this book didn’t leave me wanting more like its predecessor, but I still think that younger readers than myself would enjoy reading the further adventures of Thomas Wildus and friends.

Purchase Link: Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria on Amazon

Title:  The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen
Author:  Ray Smith
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  “You’ve seen the woman in the photo. The woman screaming . . .”

So begins the story of Molly Valle, who at forty-eight thinks she knows all that life has to offer a single, middle-aged woman—namely, men’s dismissal and disrespect. But when handsome activist John Pressman arrives in her Mississippi hometown, he challenges her self-doubt along with nearly everything else in her world. Soon, Molly discovers a strength and beauty she never knew she had—and a love so powerful, it can overcome the most tragic of consequences.

The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen is a love story, an adventure novel, and a self-realization journey. It reignites the truth that many women—and men—have unconsciously extinguished: you are special and worthy of love, and it’s never too late to make your dreams come true.

Review: This is a touching historical fiction; a retrospectively-told love story about a middle-aged man and woman, John and Molly, meeting in the south of the USA in the 60s and challenging the Jim Crow laws with passive resistance techniques while falling deeply in love with each other.

The sense of time and place in the story is tangible and evocative – you really feel like you are there experiencing the music and social scene, the political tension and passion for change.

And this is also a love story to life, reminding readers that however far our paths may stray from our original plans and dreams, there is magic to be found in the everyday things and people around us, and that our purpose is to make the world a little better, a little brighter, a little fairer, a little kinder than when we first arrived in it.

The author doesn’t shy away from showing the hatred, ignorance and apathy present during the course of the story and I was left with a greater understanding of the events and attitudes of the not-so-distant past, and a burning desire to do better in my own lifetime.

Encompassing the big historical events of the protests against racism and segregation and the more personal story of intimate connection and individual relationships, this is an incredibly powerful and moving story about love and loss and doing the right thing.

Purchase Link: The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen on Amazon

Title:  The Gentleman Thief
Author:  Kate Gragg
Publisher:  Distant Shores

Blurb:  Enigmatic and somewhat haphazard Joe Thorne is a wannabe thief, struggling to prise himself out of his job as an overgrown chimneysweep. After taking work in the large furnaces of the alchemy district, he developed a distinctive cough with magical qualities. Ever the opportunist, when the moment comes to break into the realm of thieves and vagabonds, he leaps on it, but his chances are scuppered by one almighty sneeze. From this expulsion comes a journey to a mystical island, shrouded in ancient tradition. Valleys of crystalline rivers, arching forests deeper than the eye can fathom, and not a tavern in sight. Joe is devastated.

Swept up by a lost love, a frog-man (or is it a man-frog?) with amnesia, and a sentient handkerchief, they embark (Joe, somewhat reluctantly) on a quest to solve a mysterious disappearance which still shrouds the island.

Review: I’m a bit gutted that by the time I got around to writing this review, this novella appears to have been removed from sale, as I absolutely loved it and would happily read more from Kate Gragg generally, and this world in particular.

Brilliant, sarcastic fun from beginning to end, the story and characters reminded me of a light-hearted version of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files or Josh Erikson’s Ethereal Earth series. There is a witty mixture of fantasy, comedy and some mystery, magic, monsters and ‘narrativium’-style quests that also gave me late, great Terry Pratchett’s Discworld vibes (one of the highest accolades in my reviewing arsenal!).

Joe Thorne makes an engaging main character, but the side characters are well-drawn here too, especially for such a short read.

The minute I finished reading I immediately went looking for more of the same and was disappointed to find that this appeared to be all there was available. And, as I said, I’m even more distraught now. Please come back and write more, Kate Gragg!

Purchase Link: The Gentleman Thief is not currently available for purchase 😦

Title:  The Man in Room 423
Author:  Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead
Publisher:  Totally Bound Publishing

Blurb:  In a heady cocktail of passion and poison, who can you really trust?

When Lizzie Aspinall and her sister meet for cocktails in a high-rise bar, the last thing she’s expecting is to spend the night in the arms of the nameless man in room 423. As a one-night stand with a stranger turns into a steamy affair with a dedicated detective, Lizzie finds herself in the sights of a stalker.

Ben Finneran has spent ten years pursuing a ruthless serial killer who poisons victims at random before disappearing into the shadows. He wants to believe that the attraction he and Lizzie share is just physical, but when they find themselves falling for each other, is Ben unwittingly leading a murderer straight to her door?

Pursued by the past and threatened by the present, who can Lizzie and Ben really trust?

Review: This is a straightforward M/F erotic romance story with an intriguing mystery subplot that kept me guessing throughout.

As always with this author pairing, the sex scenes are well-written and it is great to find out that they write mystery well too – I LOVE how the murder/stalker storyline plays out and couldn’t stop reading until I knew what was going on.

Ben Finneran and Lizzie Aspinall are very engaging main characters and the chemistry between them is palpable from first sight – they practically sizzle on the page – so it is lovely to watch as they gradually get to know each other as well and build up a deeper bond alongside building their case.

Sexy, romantic and intriguing, this story is an entertaining, easy read and my favourite Curzon/Harkstead collaboration to date.

Purchase Link: The Man in Room 423 on Amazon

Title:  The Little Book of Big Enlightenment
Author:  JP Mac
Publisher:  Cornerstone Media


Watch the barbs fly as a vain guru and a hard-sell marketer collaborate to promote a hot new spiritual discipline that can elevate your consciousness faster than texting for pizza. But something unexpected happens to the antagonistic pair, throwing their sales pitch and beliefs into chaos. This light-hearted, self-help satire takes the wood to New Thought spirituality and mass market copy writing. Hold onto your chakras for a short humorous hop into metaphysical madness!

Review: This little book is a short and silly satire of the wellbeing industry and Big Pharma conspiracies, featuring a three-way dispute between author J.P. Mac, his publisher, and the creator of ‘Condensed Enlightenment’, Lompoc Tollhaus.

Don’t expect to find any genuine enlightenment in these pages – “Shanti Times Ten!” – but to instead be entertained by a rollicking riot of flim-flam, shicanery and bickery in-fighting that effectively and amusingly skewers the business of spiritual enlightenment and anyone who thinks they can attain such a state of being by reading a short novelty book on the subject.

Great fun and very clever!

Purchase Link: The Little Book of Big Enlightenment on Amazon

This was a good quality batch of books – all very different from each other, but I enjoyed them all!

What are you all reading currently? Fantasy? Romance? Satire? Historical fiction? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading, until I bring you the next batch of ‘quickies’! 🙂


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