Catch-Up Quickies 32

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:  A History of Madness
Author:  Rebecca Crunden
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  The four remaining fugitives are now spread across the Kingdom. And with the fate of the others unknown to him, Nate Anteros prays for a fast execution.

Yet execution does not come. After a meeting with the King which leaves Nate questioning his sanity, he’s sent to a workcamp in Argon Basin for five years of hard labour. It’s there that Nate learns what became of his friends upon their arrest.

And as his strength returns to him, and he’s plagued by dreams which are much too real to be ignored, Nate decides five years is far too long to wait …

Review: A History of Madness is the second book in the Outlands Pentalogy, the sequel to A Touch of Death, and not only do I recommend reading them in order but I strongly recommend reading them quite closely together! I had quite a gap between reading books one and two, and it took me a little while to get back into the flow of the action and characters. Once I did, though, I was hooked right in again!

This book begins where the previous one left off, with Nate in a prison camp and Kitty bonded to an abusive letch. It is quite a slow-paced instalment of the story, with more delving into the history and mythology of the world and more background about Radiants/mutants and demons/humans.

There are a few content warnings here, with miscarriage and rape referenced (not shown on the page) and a DIY abortion attempt which forms part of the main plotline. These issues are handled sensitively in context and the reader understands the emotional weight of the issues on the characters – there is some important character development involved in this book.

I did feel that it would have been nice to get some of the chapters from Kitty’s point of view – despite the difficulties of showing us some of what she was going through – as I felt that the way her side of the story was presented left me feeling a little disconnected from what was happening with her up until she met back up with Nate.

The twist ending wasn’t really the surprise to the reader that it was to the characters, as we had been building up to this particular cliffhanger since the beginning of book one, but now we have reached this climactic plot point I can’t wait to see what happens next!

This series is ideal for anyone looking for a thoughtful and immersive dystopian fantasy adventure with a little romance and a lot of fascinating worldbuilding.

Purchase Link: A History of Madness on Amazon

Title:  The Curious Touch of Cupid’s Son
Author:  Dave Diotalevi
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  Orgasms. Women. Having orgasms. Shocking & unexpected. The mind-melting, hip-quivering kind–all just because they accidentally touched Karl. Karl, the human erotic taser.

Karl Sparks knows everything about love except how to fall in it.

He also doesn’t know who his mother is, doesn’t know who his father is, doesn’t know why he has an obsession to define love, and doesn’t know why he can’t get an erection–nope, never had one.

What he does know it that his touch–however slight or incidental–rockets any woman into the most intense and dizzying orgasm or her life, whenever and wherever it launches (a Midas-touch curse he would do anything to be rid of).

Happens 100% of the time–that is until he literally bumps into Aurora (Rory) Sky, who does know who her mother is (she thinks). Karl’s touch has no effect on her, and to her surprise, the unnatural ability she’s always owned of infallibly controlling men through her verbal commands fails to faze Karl.

Her presence does give Karl his first erection.

She, unable to trust any of the men she mystically dominates, and he who can’t touch women–shouldn’t these two misfits who only fit each other find romance? Fall in love? Get intimate? Become lovers?

They discover secrets about themselves and each other in a series of laughably lusty adventures to find the three pieces of The God Prism, a mythic relic capable of lifting their cursed abilities.

The unwitting lovers’ passion deepens until it’s ultimately tested by a selfless choice of sacrifice and devotion.

Intended for Mature (?) & Fun-loving Consenting Adults (18+).

Review: Definitely not for the prudish, this is a comedic romp of an adventure with more orgasms (erotic and decidedly UN-erotic) than I ever could have imagined between the covers of one book!

There is a little mythology here and some ‘find the MacGuffin’ (or God Prism, in this case) adventure, buried beneath lots of sex and silliness, and with the underpinning of more serious moral issues (and practical inconveniences) related to the ‘gifts’ of verbal compulsion and forced-orgasm-by-touch respectively.

Given said themes, the humour is crude and lewd, and definitely meant for an adult audience, but the story was such good fun that I couldn’t put it down and was all set to award it full marks for sheer entertainment when the ending came out of the blue and completely ruined me!

If you have an open mind and are interested in reading a mythology-based fantasy adventure packed with sex and slapstick comedy, then you should definitely give this book a try. Dave Diotalevi has a unique writing style and has turned a surreal idea into a very enjoyable read here. Just watch out for that non-HEA devastator in the (non-erotic) climax!

Purchase Link: The Curious Touch of Cupid’s Son on Amazon

Title:  Deadheading
Author:  Paul Cristo
Publisher:  PaJe Press

Blurb:  Lewis’s life changes forever after waking up one morning to find the world’s population just gone. Stranded without food or water, he’s forced to use ingenuity to survive, foraging resources from the desolate city around him.

Until he discovers he’s not alone.

Lewis is threatened by a violent gang of gun-wielding scavengers led by a deranged madman. He learns these men are harvesting survivors, inflicting slavery and torture for a horrifying purpose. Outmanned and outgunned, Lewis and some newfound friends must band together, employing their collective wit and cunning against a deadly foe to avoid being killed. Or worse… captured.

DEADHEADING is a post-apocalyptic journey of survival, ingenuity, and a dollop of vengeance.

Review: I’ve read plenty of post-apocalyptic survival fiction and this ticks all the boxes, whilst managing to be different from any I have read before!

I was fascinated by Lewis who, rather than being interested in heroism of any kind, deals with the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-via-plague by bunkering down with snacks and TV until both run out. Then we get to follow him in his new past-time of loner-gardening for a while until circumstances and other characters force action upon him.

Once Lewis begins to interact with others, the action gets going and we get an action-packed blend of torture and murder, gardening and foraging. The ‘good’ characters plant, grow, make and create new things from old materials, learn new skills from books and practice, and generally go ‘back to basics’ in a way that made me crave self-sufficiency and a simpler lifestyle. The ‘bad’ characters attempt to maintain the status quo of power pyramids and enforced labour (slavery) by the many for the benefit of the elite few.

It isn’t exactly a subtle moralistic distinction, as the bad guys eat salt-and-sugar laden rotten long-life or processed foods, watch TV and rely on guns they don’t know how to use or maintain, while the good guys eat fresh homegrown produce, work in harmony with nature, read books and fire bows and arrows. Think Animal Farm but without the animal allegory… it wasn’t difficult to know which side I was on.

My only real criticism is that I didn’t feel any romantic chemistry between Lewis and Frankie, just a solid friendship, and while I was utterly hooked on the good vs. evil struggle and on getting the ‘right’ result at the end, I did find some of the middle stretch of the story a little repetitive.

An interesting side effect of this read was that, on finishing it, I switched to ordering my fruit and veg fresh from a farm shop, planted out some strawberry and courgette seeds, and drank a lot more plain water. I don’t think I have ever read a post-apocalyptic survival thriller that has had such a positive effect on my real world lifestyle! I would say it is worth reading for that alone, but you’ll find it entertaining too – winning all round.

Purchase Link: Deadheading on Amazon

Title:  Alexandra Forever 2291 — Book One: The Strange Matter of the Red Dwarf
Author:  D.W. Richards
Publisher:  A4E Project

Blurb:  A red dwarf system bursts into our universe. Is it merely a star system or is it something else entirely?

This frequently humorous space opera adventure opens on the crest of a gravity tsunami, when a red dwarf star system punches through the fabric of space-time and barrels toward the Milky Way Galaxy. The Early Warning Centre can only watch helplessly as colonized space braces for impact.

The dire situation takes an unforeseen twist in this science fantasy when an SOS transmission from a long-lost experimental starship, The Invictus, is traced to the sole planet orbiting the red dwarf.

Alexandra, Post Office Marshal and living goddess, is in an action-packed race against time when she is conscripted to retrieve either The Invictus itself or, failing that, its top-secret data, before the ship is lost to imminent galactic collision, or worse, falls into the wrong hands.

Review: This novella forms part one of an eight-part story series, designed to be read in sequence, so you can expect this to end on a cliffhanger leading directly into the next instalment of the story.

The story is sci-fi action and while I struggled to follow the plot at points – it is quite science-dense in places – I loved the characters and dialogue and found them strong enough to carry me through the more technical moments. The living goddess, Alexandra, and Fiddlehead particularly stood out here, along with Dr Rising [shudders]. Alexandra is a wonderful character and I would happily read more just for more of her!

I waited until the end of the book to read the footnotes from the Priestess narrator that were sprinkled throughout and I wish I hadn’t, as they were brilliant… full of humour reminiscent of Terry Pratchett in his early days. And, just like Terry Pratchett’s novels, the footnotes are not necessary to the plot at all but do add character- and world-building details that enrichen the background of the plot.

This is a witty, clever introduction to this new sci-fi series and books 2-7 are already out so you can have a bit of a binge-read instead of having to wonder what happens next. Remember to read them in order, and with the footnotes as inserted, for best effect!

Purchase Link: Alexandra Forever: 2291, Book 1 on Amazon

Title:  Neanderthal King
Author:  Matt Ward
Publisher:  Myrmani Press

Blurb:  Imagine Game of Thrones, but with Neanderthals too!

It’s 1107, and the once-great Neanderthal empire is no more, laid waste by the dark Sapien king, Isaac, the same bastard who slaughtered the Thal queen’s young heirs. A brutal reversal of medieval power forged in blood and fueled by Sap ingenuity.

But one babe escaped the mad king’s wrath.

Raised the son of a simple Thal herder, Maralek’s a rough lad with the ferocious pride and temper of his ruined people, a scorn for rules and rulers, and less than a little creativity in his thick skull. In a word, your average Neanderthal.

And life’s livable, until King Isaac resumes his bloodthirsty crusade, and Maralek’s forced into slaving shackles. Then, a rowdy caravan, a mysterious gypsy, a whispered prophecy… A whirlwind of devastation and war as his master is murdered, his fate unwoven, and his world ripped asunder in an epic battle to end all.

Neanderthal King is a historic epic YA fantasy by renowned science fiction and fantasy author, Matt Ward, that features savage twists and darker secrets, raging kings and enslaved heirs, and an audaciously ambitious coming of age quest set in an alternative medieval Europe. If you love Brandon Sanderson, Ursula le Guin, or Robin Hobb, or explosive high and low fantasy classics like Lord of the Rings, the Kingkiller Chronicles, and the Earthsea Cycle, you’ll love this heroic historical tale.

Buy Neanderthal King today for a bold new take on a daring fantastic adventure… right up to its shocking conclusion.

Review: I am not sure I would really call this historical fiction, as it imagines a world in which neanderthals and ‘sapiens’ co-exist in a similar power relationship to that of blacks and whites in the days of apartheid, racial segregation, slavery and colonialism. I read it as more of an alternate reality/’Trousers of Time‘ style fantasy.

It was a little difficult to get to grips with the story at times, as part of the world-building technique here involved the renaming of familiar things, like ‘whinnie’ for horse. None of the terms were particularly obscure, but they did occasionally interrupt the smooth flow of the narrative as I had to pause to let my brain translate some of the terms used for very everyday objects.

There were also times I found the main plotline became a little repetitive as Maralek is sold into slavery, escapes, hides and fights, only to be sold into slavery again, escape… There are some interesting and engaging side characters along his journey, but I would advise not to get too attached to anyone in the story, as the most historically realistic aspect of the story is that things are not going to end well for the Neanderthal race!

My favourite aspect of the novel was Maralek’s character, as the author has avoided all of the ‘long-lost heir’ fantasy tropes by making his main character contradictory and realistically inept. He veers between noble and empathetic, if a bit dim, and casually bloodthirsty; his plans rarely work; his skills remain erratic and underdeveloped, and he is dogged by persistent bad luck. I really loved this, as the fantasy main characters who suddenly become skilled at everything they turn their hand to, without training or experience, are incredibly unrealistic and quite annoying to read. I think it’s great that we got a main character whose abilities more authentically reflect his upbringing and (lack of) opportunities in life – I really found myself rooting for him to succeed against the odds.

This feels like a really great story concept, with some good action and character development, that just needed a little more work on some of the pacing and world-building.

Purchase Link: Neanderthal King on Amazon

Long-time readers of my blog will already know that I believe in supporting indie authors and reading as much new indie fiction as I can, so that I can tell you all about it and help their books reach a wider audience.

Here is another of my eclectic selections for you to sample – dystopian fantasy; erotic comedy; post-apocalyptic survival; sci-fi action and alternate-history fantasy – they couldn’t be more different from each other in content and style!

I hope you all find something to enjoy. Happy reading and keep shining! 🙂


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