Catch-Up Quickies 40

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, so let’s spring (groan!) into that TBR…

Title:  The Cat That Changed America
Author:  Tony Lee Moral
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  What would you say if you saw a mountain lion in your local park?

This imaginative tale is based on the true story of P22 mountain lion who lives in Griffith Park in Los Angeles

Leaving Home
P22 mountain lion is born in the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains outside Los Angeles, California. He has a playful childhood, learning how to hunt with his Mama and his brother, and making friends with the local wildlife.. Pen and ink drawings begin each chapter giving readers the chance to visualise each of the characters and the world they inhabit. But there isn’t enough space for a young mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains and there is the ever present threat of Prime, the dominant lion in the area, who wants P22 dead.

After a close tussle with Prime, P22 decides that his only option is to head east to stake out a new territory of his own in the bright lights of the big city. Along the way, he makes friends as well as enemies, and crosses two dangerous freeways, the 405 and 101, that’s ten lanes of traffic each.

The book has an underlying conservation message which will appeal to readers and want them to find out more. As well as crossing two major freeways, P22 has to avoid humans some of whom aren’t friendly, and there’s the ever present threat of rat poison which works its way up the food chain and casts a shadow on the welfare of all wildlife. At the end of the book there are links for further reading, including the building of a wildlife crossing over the 101 freeway this year, as well as a social diary of P22’s exploits based on his real life events.

Each of the animals have their own quirky personalities which readers will fall in love with. There’s a Possum who is P22’s childhood friend who won’t play dead; and a rough and ready Raccoon who shows P22 the way to Griffith Park and how to find dinner from trash cans. They pass through the City of Stars at night, and stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all the while trying to avoid those bothersome humans. After more adventures, P22 reaches the edges of Griffith Park. Can he make it his new home?

Review: This is the based-on-truth story of P22, the mountain lion who lived out his real life in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, and inspired a project to create wildlife crossings to link natural areas that have been split by urban development and also helped to inspire the Poison-free Malibu project.

The author assumes that readers of this short story/novella are already aware of P22 and his stardom, so the story mostly focuses on imagining his early life as a cub and how he came to make his dangerous journey to Griffith Park. I did not know about P22 (I do now!) and so was a little surprised when the story cut off before it reached the part that explained the title, merely adding his fame years in a bullet-point timeline in the appendix.

I was reminded of Colin Dann’s The Siege of White Deer Park while I was reading, but told from the point of view of the big cat rather than that of it’s prey! There is a similar charm to the characters and their adventures that will appeal to fans of similar fictional animal adventure tales.

The writing is simple and direct, and therefore accessible to children from early-reader stage upwards and the information presented inspired me to research more about P22 and his legacy.

Sadly P22 died in 2022, but his story lives on in this book for more children to discover, and in the real life changes to humankind’s interactions with urban wildlife that his adventure prompted.

Purchase Link: The Cat That Changed America on Amazon

Title:  Dust on the Crystal
Author:  Jamie Brindle
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  The plague is coming. Devoniare only lives because of his blood.

A towering half-giant, Devoniare had never been accepted by anyone…until he was taken in by a wise woman with mysterious powers. Now an evil sickness has come to her village, making walking corpses of everyone it touches. Devoniare must find the cause before it destroys the only place he could ever call home.

But how can he hope to find a cure when he has to protect a strange, damaged child? And why hasn’t the girl fallen prey to the sickness, anyway?

If you like Robin Hobb and Patrick Rothfuss then this is for you.

Review: This is a collection of three short novellas or longish short stories: Dust on the Crystal; Black Jack Gaunt and Big Deal.

‘Dust on the Crystal’ is a fantasy take on zombies and post-apocalyptic survival, featuring a young girl and her giant protector wandering the aftermath of a plague that leaves sufferers as the living dead. Along with a mystery to solve, the story is about feeling different and outcast and about the bonds that tie us to our friends and family, and to the wider community.

I read ‘Black Jack Gaunt’ previously as a giveaway in the author’s newsletter and will be reading it again in future, as it remains one of my favourite short stories ever. It plays on the tropes of mysterious, monstrous men spiriting innocent young girls away and has haunted me since that first encounter. It is a deceptively simple story; extremely compelling and thoroughly memorable.

Finally, ‘Big Deal’ revisits a favourite character from the author’s Storystream series – Quince, whose job is to assign lives to the Poor Souls queueing at his desk. This tale explains how he came to his role, in typical, cyclical and recursive Storystream-style. Expect to be a little bit confused, quite intrigued and very entertained.

Jamie Brindle really is a master at all kinds of fantasy short story and this little collection proves it once again.

Purchase Link: Dust on the Crystal on Amazon

Title:  Storm’s Gate
Author:  J.W. Golan
Publisher:  Independently published

Blurb:  A world descending into war; a fabled healer who might be their last, best hope; and a princess imprisoned in a dragon-guarded keep.

Lynette sets out with Baxter and Eirlon in search of a healer: the fabled Medicine Man of Horru. It is a desperate gamble to revive the fae king and avert a larger war.

But the route they take will prove perilous. They risk losing everything, even each other, in a world gone mad with the stirrings of war. Armies have gathered on the borders of the Feyfell – lured by legends of fae wealth. With King Elyan poisoned and unconscious, the kingdom is visible, and vulnerable to outside invaders for the first time in centuries. And while the fae nobles debate rules of succession, Princess Elise remains missing.

For in a tower a world away, the fae princess is held captive, surrounded by armies and a dragon chained to the will of vengeful sorceress. Drained of her magic, Elise must plot her own escape – while a new breed of assassins hunts the mage-turned-swordsman named Garth. Werewolves prowl the land again, as all alike seek to strike their bargains before the oncoming war.

Will it be too much for Lynette to bear? Can she survive the loss of so much she holds dear? And if she does, will she ever be the same? For who among them would dare ascend, to retrieve hope from a dragon-guarded keep.

Review: Having read this book WAY after reading books 1 and 2 in the series – through no fault of the author, definitely mea culpa – I can definitely state that not only do you need to read this series in order, but you should also read the books fairly close together.

This is a complicated plot with a lot of characters and a lot going on, and this third book is bringing it all together towards an eventual climax (not in this story – there is more to come!). There is a princess and a dragon, scholars and healers, soldiers, vampires (moroi), fae, gnomes and goblins, zombies (kehereth, werewolves and more.

As well of plenty of magic, intrigue, battle and betrayal, there is also a blossoming romance between main characters Lynette and Baxter, who have both come a long way since we first met them in Storm’s Herald.

J.W. Golan has built an epic fantasy world in this series, and each instalment ramps up the tension and raises the stakes, making this story epic not only in genre but also in length, complexity and content.

The main plot remains unresolved at the end of this book and I can assure you that when the fourth book is released, I will definitely be re-reading books 1-3 before diving straight in… I need that running start to keep up!

Purchase Link: Storm’s Gate on Amazon

Title:  The Twisted Christmas Trilogy
Author:  Daniel Parsons
Publisher:  AmWriting Ltd


A dark Victorian fantasy adventure you won’t be able to put down.

Fate has never been kind to twelve-year-old Toby. Not when he was abandoned on the steps of a workhouse as a baby. Nor when he escaped into the magical underworld that hides in London’s shadows. But when the futures of thousands of lives come to rest in his hands, Toby quickly realises that perhaps fate had a good reason. Perhaps it was preparing him.

As the peacekeeper between both worlds, human and magic, can he find the inner strength to become a hero or does fate have darker intentions?

This complete set contains all three books in The Twisted Christmas Trilogy about a young boy, an old man and a spellbinding troupe of magical performers, written by bestselling author Daniel Parsons. Over 700 pages of magic, mischief and cinematic creatures. Now, for a limited time, save over 50% by grabbing the entire series in this special bundle deal!

Review: I previously reviewed books 1 and 2 of this trilogy here, so will focus on the third book in the set in this review.

The Wrath of Oberon is the darkest story in the series so far – an action-packed, full-on war against a team of seemingly-unbeatable, evil foes. There is Oberon, of course, but also Krampus and Trapp, Grimm, Jack, Gryla and the Yule Lads, plus some horrible surprises. And in the good guys corner, we have Toby (and family), Nicko and Harry, the rather vague Ghost of Christmas Maybes.

There is lots of death and monsters, and some very disturbing nightmares and the previous air of Dickensian middle-grade whimsy has been slightly overshadowed by the series of horrors merrily ripping people apart. Fans of fantasy adventures like Harry Potter or Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles will love these books though – as adults we tend to forget the level of peril children can manage, I think!

This is still a Christmas trilogy, however twisted it gets, so the eventual ending will be unsurprising to most experienced adventure readers, but even they will find a few fun shocks along the way.

Obviously, this trilogy makes great festive reading and a superb Christmas present for young (and older) readers, but I can happily recommend it as an excellent read all-year-round too.

Purchase Link: The Twisted Christmas Trilogy on Amazon

Title:  Your Children Are Boring
Author:  Tom James
Publisher:  Sauce Materials

Blurb:  Are you sick of a society that seems obsessed with children? Do you find modern parents insufferable?

Your Children Are Boring is a uniquely humorous look at our culture’s obsession with children, a world where virtually every advert has a squawking child in it, where pubs are full of wailing infants, and where every other Facebook post is tagged #ProudDad.

Why do parents themselves behave like infants? Why having a child doesn’t make you less selfish, why it’s extremely unlikely that your child is in fact, ‘special’, and why modern parenting is ruining everything, not least the kids themselves.

All the answers lie within, and it’s your duty to read it.

Yes, Your Children Are Boring will make you laugh, but it’s much more than that. Once consumed you must take its teachings into the world and fix society. Or something. Oh and if you put ‘Dad’ or ‘Mum’ in your social media bios, this book is aimed at you.

Review: I thought this book would be a bit of light-hearted, piss-takey fun at the expense of parents and, despite (or because of?) being a parent myself, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good old laugh at my own expense. (Honestly, if you can’t laugh at yourself then having kids might not be for you, as they provide so many golden opportunities to look like a complete idiot on a daily basis.)

And for the most part, that is what it is. There are plenty of funny moments and some clever bits of satire, peppered with occasional facts and figures related to parenting in the modern world, but for the most part this consists of a long-form rant about parents and children, cyclists, adults who enjoy children’s books, video games and comic book films, along with many other seemingly random targets of the author’s tongue-in-cheek ire.

The tone is mostly playful and edgy, but in a couple of places I felt like it spilled over into bitter and resentful – a spiteful lashing out at being left out of some imaginary club that you ‘totally didn’t want to be part of anyway because you’re all stupid, so there!’ Which is, ironically, the sort of thing the author is castigating members of the ‘parent club’ for.

Part of my antipathy there might be that I appear to be many things that this author ridicules. I am a leftie liberal parent, who reads children’s books and plays video games, and is very fat. It would have been pretty easy to read the author’s opinions of such things and take them as a personal insult. But this book isn’t about me at all, nor is it aimed at ALL parents and children. The targets of Tom James’ amused irritation are the sorts of parents (and children) who MAKE everything all about them and forget that the world revolved perfectly well before they spawned and will continue to do so long after their DNA has left the building. People who barge you off the pavement while on their phones, or interrupt your restaurant meal with their noise. Entitled people. My main point of difference from the author is that I would tentatively observe that none of these traits arise from or are restricted to childbearing – people who do this just do it in other ways when they don’t have kids!

So, clearly this isn’t a book for those who take themselves too seriously or who see imagined insults in the words of a stranger, but for anyone interested in some of the ways parenting and child-raising are currently perceived from the outside of the Netmums/Babycentre bubble, this is a fun little jab at the whole Baby Club business.

And having just listened to a twenty minute lecture touching on everything from Roblox and Minecraft to the kinds of YouTube videos where adults play with toys in silly voices, I can’t say I always disagree with this book’s title either! 😉

Purchase Link: Your Children Are Boring on Amazon

Three fantasy fiction books, two children’s books and one non-fiction no-children’s book – a typical mixed bag of reads from my to-be-read tower!

I hope you see something that sparks your interest as it looks like we might be in for a bit of a cold snap. What better time than to curl up under a blanket with a book or two?!

Stay warm and happy reading 🙂


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