Catch-Up Quickies 34

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:  The Inner Lands: Dark Tidings
Author:  A. J. Austin
Publisher:  A. J. Austin

Blurb:  The epic saga continues.

Five years have passed and tensions are mounting as the people of the Inner Lands grow tired of the claustrophobic caves of Rydan Fort. As pressure builds and new threats rise, the people closest to Sill become increasingly concerned about her use of power.

Kallem has stayed away, choosing to spend his time on the mountainside above the Fort. Struggling to overcome his injuries, new conflicts soon force him back into a world of violence he’d hoped to have left behind.

Meanwhile, Artell sets off across the Big Water, hoping to find a new life for them all, but her old life proves difficult to escape, and the journey brings dangers of its own.

With the Grinth gone, they should have felt safe, but in their hearts and the old granite of the Fort, are rumblings of dark tidings.

Review: ‘Dark’ is definitely the right word to describe this sequel to The Inner Lands: Something Stirs – this story is rife with betrayal, loss and despair.

I recommend reading the series in order, as this book continues on from the previous and picks up the characters from where we left them.

There are lots of mistakes made as Sill, Raffin, Venth, Artell and Kallem face the return of the Grinth (with new Queen/s and new powers) and have to battle as much against themselves and each other as they do against the enemies without. Throughout it all, there is an overarching theme of whether or when to sacrifice one for many or for the greater good, and what result the outcome might have for one’s humanity.

Be warned that you will find yourself emotionally invested in this story (personally I am thinking of Tamarellin and Little Brollo at this point!), and the cliffhanger ending seems to be a particularly hopeless one, so I really hope that book 3 is on its way very soon. This is a fantasy series that you will want to binge read to find out what happens next!

Purchase Link: The Inner Lands: Dark Tidings on Amazon

Title:  The Captain and the Baker
Author:  Eleanor Harkstead & Catherine Curzon
Publisher:  Pride Publishing

Blurb:  When a hot-tempered TV chef and a mild-mannered baker meet on the rugged Cornish coast, they’ve got the perfect ingredients for a red-hot snack.

Sweary and stressed celebrity chef Jake Brantham is the captain of several floating restaurants. When he’s sent to the idyllic village of Porthavel to turn a pirate ship into the next gastronomic sensation, it’s the last place on earth he wants to be.

Locryn Trevorrow is the bakery king of Cornwall. From the humble pasty to a wedding cake fit for a mermaid queen, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the art of baking. He lives in a cosy world of gingham and ganache, but at night he goes home to his smugglers’ cottage alone.

When he’s adopted by a lost kitten, Jake soon discovers that there’s more to Portavel than cream teas, lobster pots, and the annoyingly fastidious Locryn. As the village prepares for the wedding of its favourite young couple, Jake and Locryn find themselves as unlikely matchmakers for two locals who’d given up on love.

Torn between the call of Hollywood and the kisses of Locryn, will Jake choose a mansion in Beverly Hills or a cottage on the Cornish coast?

Review: The best description I can give you here is ‘Gordon Ramsey meets the Great British Bake-Off’!

Set in a Cornish fishing village, this clash of master chef and pastry chef is one of opposites attracting: prim vs. passion; stress vs. serenity; fuck vs. fiddlesticks.

Full of the gentle, saucy humour I have come to expect from these authors, this book features a sweet true-love romance with some spicy sex on the side. The scene on the kitchen table with all the flour is particularly hot, if somewhat unhygienic!

This is the seventh book in the Captivating Captains series, which do not need to be read in order as they all standalone with fresh characters and different scenarios. The only link is that each features a captain of some description or other, in need of a first mate or the cooking equivalent in this case (a sous chef?).

MM romance readers will enjoy this one – it is warm, tasty and full of flavour… not a soggy bottom in sight!

Purchase Link: The Captain and the Baker on Amazon

Title:  Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree
Author:  Simi K. Rao
Publisher:  Written Dreams Publishing

Blurb:  Life is not about achieving perfection, it’s about reconciling with your imperfections.

Poems are fragments of life. In Simi K. Rao’s unique poetry collection for women, there are blissful moments; deep, invisible wounds; cries for help; declarations of defiance and philosophical observations. The poems and prose pieces compiling the collection are fragments of life elucidating the different phases of the human condition. Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree will leave readers wanting for more and have a deep impact on women of all ages.

Review: Poetry, perhaps more than any other form of writing, is a very subjective experience, and this short collection of poetry and prose really resonated with me on a personal level.

Each piece is beautifully written and laid out on the page in a way that is artistic and undulating – soothing to the eye as well as the mind.

Some of the experiences explored within are quite mundane or everyday, and some contain more deep and philosophical musings. Some felt as familiar to me as my own thoughts and feelings, yet breathtakingly fresh, like glimpsing your face in an unexpected mirror or hearing your voice played back to you. And some opened my mind to different experiences, different cultures, different ways of feeling.

I particularly enjoyed the following poems ‘Unbelievable’; ‘Windmills of my Mind’; ‘White Room’; ‘Liberty’; ‘Smile’; ‘Red’; ‘A Cup of Tea’, and the following short stories: ‘Changes’; ‘The Witching Hour’ and ‘A Cup of Chai’. I don’t want to say too much about any of them, as they are best experienced without preconceptions.

None of the stories or poems appear to be connected, and there is no overarching theme, so this is ideal for dipping in and out of at your leisure, just to enjoy a thoughtful moment with another’s words.

Purchase Link: Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree on Amazon

Title:  Where Hope is Found
Author:  Rebecca Marsh
Publisher:  Purple Angel Press

Blurb:  One tiny moment in time can shatter your whole world.

A family beach vacation turns to tragedy and Marissa must find a way for her and her traumatized eight-year-old daughter, Maisy, to move forward and heal. But memories of what she lost surround her, threatening to take her to a dark place; a place she can never go again.

When her brother extends an invitation for her and Maisy to move in with him on Princess Island, Marissa thinks it might just be the fresh start she needs. But can she really find hope and healing on an island surrounded by the same ocean that broke her heart?

Where Hope is Found is a powerful, emotional story that will break your heart and then put it back together. Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, Kristin Hannah, and Nicholas Sparks.

Review:  This is my fourth Rebecca L. Marsh novel (they all stand alone, rather than as a series), and like the others this is a wholesome, family drama featuring serious issues and Christian values.

The story deals with loss and love, grief and despair, and eventually, healing and hope, so readers triggered by child/parent deaths and/or suicidal thoughts should proceed with caution. However, all of these difficult themes are handled sensitively and the focus of the story is on dealing with life’s hardships positively, so some may find the main plotline both helpful and cathartic.

I felt a little unsure about the romance element of the story, which felt like it happened quite quickly, before Marissa had properly begun to process her feelings, and the ending felt a little abrupt – a sudden burst of surprise action then done, when I was expecting a little more drawn-out closure… perhaps a final family visit? What I did really like was the exploration of parenting through a loss, which felt painfully honest as Marissa and Maisy struggle to communicate effectively as they grieve in their different ways.

Where Hope is Found is a heart-rending look at family life after loss and a useful depiction of the healing process, and how different people may need different approaches to get through it. This author has a talent for telling emotionally stirring stories about real life struggles, and this is another great addition to her oeuvre.

Purchase Link: Where Hope is Found on Amazon

Title:  Sunset at SkyTyme and Other Unexpected Tales
Author:  Brad Ashmore
Publisher:  Unexpected Books

Blurb:  This science fiction collection will take you to geosynchronous orbit, the Moon, Venus’ cloud tops, Io, Titan, and beyond!

What happens when Mr. Foodster cannot synthesize inverse guacamole? What’s found under the lunar south pole? When should Q-alpha contact Q-omega? Will dusk fall too soon at SkyTyme? Buckle up and find out! 
Plus, several illustrations add to the fun!

The 33,000-word book contains 2 novelettes and 4 short stories.

Review: All six of the stories in this collection are well-written and entertaining, containing a mixture of sci-fi content and styles. There is some surreal reality-hopping; some humorous Black-Mirror-esque satire; some moonscape romance; a destructive family showdown and a couple of moral/ethical dilemmas explored.

My personal favourite story was ‘Take the Plunge!’ which satirises device addiction and brainwashing in a way that was light and funny, but also all too chillingly believable.

Each story is quick and easy to read, making for a really enjoyable sci-fi read with a little something for everyone, and a really good introduction to Brad Ashmore’s writing talents.

Purchase Link: Sunset at Skytyme on Amazon

What a start to 2023!

Here we had book 2 in a fantasy series, an MM romance, an eclectic poetry collection, a family drama and a sci-fi short story collection and I enjoyed all of them.

Did anything take your fancy?

Whatever your book choice, I would like to wish you a happy new year and happy reading! 🙂


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