‘Clear and Convincing Evidence’ by H.C. Helfand – Review

A beautifully written continuation of a fantastic story about life and opportunity…

H.C. Helfand has delivered another fantastic and beautifully written story that see’s the continuation of Abigail Fischer’s journey and this second volume of the Arcadia Chronicles takes the reader on another wonderful ride and experience.

From the start, Abby and David have a lot on their plate, from unexpected plans to career aspirations while also maintaining their own farm not to mention the emergence of a long lost relative; straight away that familiar feeling from the first story began to creep in and remind me how likeable the two main characters are in this book – their love, their history and everything about them gives readers an urge to cheer for them. The title which I’ve now leaned from this book has a deep meaning that carries the theme which intertwines with family, drama, law, purpose and career aspirations while being wrapped up in that unique togetherness expressed between our two main characters. There is also a very important subject of mental health that highlights the importance of everyone having a right to freedom, no matter their health situation.

There is of course, some wonderful description in this book, and there are many quotes that struck me as poignant, meaningful and beautifully put. This story is about the drama of life and not necessarily where you are from, but where you are trying to go.

Some of my favourite quotes:

‘The mossy hills in the distance carpeted the barely clouded sky. A chickadee hovered over the cherry trees. Crickets in a choir rubbed their wings in song.’

‘Make the leap, Abby. You’ve done it before…’

‘Sometimes life gives opportunity at the most unexpected of times…’

‘I took my time walking toward the entrance. Rows of windows lined with shades stared at me. Some lowered; some rose. Were they winking? I shook the thought out of my mind…’

5 Stars – A book and series I’d highly recommend!

‘The Memory Wood’ by Sam Lloyd – Review

Immersive, descriptive, addictive and full of mysterious intrigue

Point of view plays a huge part in this immersive, addictive and sometimes frustrating kidnap story that unfolds spectacularly as it progresses. For a debut book, its an incredibly strong arrival for Sam Lloyd in so many aspects but the style is both good for the genre and perhaps just a little confusing in some places.

We see this story told through a few different points of view, which is deliberate to immerse the reader into feeling what ‘Elissa’ is experiencing first-hand and that is a disorientating and harrowing trauma. We meet ‘Elijah’ and see things through his eyes but with a lot of details deliberately omitted for the twisting reveal later. His story and ‘Elissa’s’ kind of run point for a while but later on it feels as if she is second to what is effectively her story. Part of the fun here is trying to guess what is happening in the surroundings and for some parts I got right, others I was surprised by.

There is also a police procedural element which see’s a detective with her own personal issues that kind of enhance the situation a little creating some high stakes and urgency. Most of this concept was quite well done although dark in some parts. There are many details that are kept from the reader until revelations unfold and by then I was invested and addicted. That addiction along with immersion came in waves as it rose then fell in parts. I will say the use of description and keeping his cards close to his chest are two brilliant talents Lloyd has in storytelling and suited this genre perfectly because it kept me reading.

By the end I did find myself with a fair amount of questions left unanswered as explanations were a little on the thin side along with a kind of abrupt ending but my experience was enjoyable and immersive.

4 Stars

‘Eileen’s Promise’ by Matthew Villeneuve – Review

A space sci-fi tale of one salvager and his thoughts which are uniquely alive…

After a journey through the depths of space ‘Salvor Gupta’ returns to homestead for his day to get a lot longer and he isn’t alone with his thoughts. Through plenty of description and atmosphere we are introduced to a world beyond our own planet and much like Earth there are those who cannot be trusted while others are trying to make an honest buck.

From the very start we are introduced to ‘Merv’; an AI implant providing heads up display, navigation and personality beside Gupta’s thoughts giving this space sci-fi tale a unique spin. From what could have been quite a solitary one dimensional affair is instead the complete opposite. With shades of ‘2001: Space Odyssey’ this computer for the most part means well but also has a conflicting history that is discovered providing an interesting dynamic for the main character and his AI counterpart who also feels much like a real person. He can sometimes be funny and literal while also being a saving grace in the long run.

After a brief stay on homestead, revelation and then discovery take us on the path of deception, the unexpected and a kind of race against time – throughout Matthew Villeneuve brings his world to life through practical explanation and first person narration which is the strength of this story.

Eileen’s Promise is a fun, original space romp of one salvager and the ever so alive voice in his head as they work together in hunting down a lost resource that may be vital to those in need. If placed in the wrong hands the implications would certainly be disastrous and so the moral dilemma of responsibility sits at the heart of everything. From what has been introduced here could easily make for a wider universe I’d love to see more from.

4 Stars – This Review First Premiered via Reedsy Discovery

‘Sex, Violence, Mars: The Ballad of Left and Right’ by Walrus – Review

Sex, Violence, Mars is back and just as entertaining as the first encounter…

The Walrus collective are back yet again tell a short but entertaining tale of Sex, Violence, Mars and much more. This time around we see ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ in this kind of buddy story as they try their best to navigate the dangerous but always interesting Mars of the future. Of course there’s a range of themes here and they are all aligned with the title.

Armed with atmosphere suits and a stack of cash they soon realise the desired tender on the planet is ‘electro’ leaving them with a struggle to pay for pretty much anything and that includes the dilemma to charge their suits. While they try to survive on the fringes of Mars and it’s complex society, they find others enduring their own struggle, or perhaps just looking to earn a fast buck from two desperados down on their luck.

“You’re never gonna get that money back unless you do exactly what I want. And now you’re in the hole to me for charge and supplies…”

Their journey takes them on an adventure of action and chasing along with some revelations as we find out more about this planet. Sometimes its them doing the chasing and vice-versa as they target the aptly named ‘Death Corp’ and their mysterious but powerful leader ‘Keiser’. Every so often the lore and backstory of this rich universe is mentioned giving this short but entertaining read depth and range.

Just like the previous encounter the style is delivered with heavy detail on description and chapters/sections move with pace. Our two main protagonists carry a fun chemistry with one another as they do their best to survive, swindle and try not to be swindled themselves. Just how does this link up with the first book? Well, you’ll find out and importantly so, its left open for yet more shenanigans on Mars.

4 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery

‘They Lie Here’ by N.S. Ford – Review

Thrilling and unputdownable with unique themes…

N.S. Ford has masterfully merged the genres of thriller and mystery with the themes of obsession, secrets and music to deliver a layered story I could not put down. There were twists, revelations and even after, there were more unexpected moments in this original and addictive read.

In my first two sittings of reading this I’d already reached the 50% mark and by then I was just as obsessed as main character ‘Kat Green’ who is on a mission to find missing 80’s musician ‘Roskoe Darke’. His band, the aptly named ‘Scorpio Hearts’ have a kind of cult following and through some unique flashbacks/snippets we learn of their history along with the backstory that all has a sinister feel. ‘Kat’ is clever, obsessed and willing to go to extreme lengths for her investigation, even if she does refer to herself in third person often, there’s reasoning behind it and that also reflects the whole story which is cleverly plotted.

During the earlier stages, there is a lot of build as everything is laid out and then the revelations begin. Just like N.S. Ford’s last release, the well-executed twists are becoming a theme or even sub-genre of the author’s work and its definitely something that will keep me coming back. Music is also a key theme that runs throughout the story which serves as a study of how fans and those in the industry are effected by success while also merging with the mystery/thriller elements which makes for a unique unpredictable reading experience.

5 Stars

‘Love’s Ragged Claws’ by Gary Gautier – Review

A short read with plenty of literary depth…

It has been fifty years since ‘Gabriel’ last confessed and so when he does there comes a story of confession through literary depth. For a short read, Gary Gautier packs in so much to construct a tale of reflection, feeling and memories.

I’ll admit, I’m not sure if I did grasp everything within the layers of this book as there is plenty of metaphoric or even symbolic moments interwoven with stylistic description, sentences and the overall flow. For only fifty or so pages, I’m definitely urged to maybe go back a few times a read it just to capture everything which is just one of the unique values this book has.

Like many great reading experiences, our individual interpretation and the relationship it has with what the author has laid out makes it and here they work very well together. The reader’s imagination is given room to breathe while also being taken along the path by the author .With some heavier themes and emotion mixed with lighter funnier moments, the journey this book took me on was interesting from the get go. The existential and moral dilemma ‘Gabriel’ explores through his relationships gives this shorter read a great amount of depth with some great writing.

‘Moral knowledge is easy. Moral action is hard.’

4 Stars

‘Of Swans and Stars; Finding my own North Star, one poem at a time’ by E.M. McConnell – Review

A uniquely emotive and descriptive collection of poetry…

E.M. McConnell delivers a fantastic array of poetry that touches on so many subjects and across the four parts there is something that will resonate with anyone who takes on these words.

From the subject of being hopeful to even myth and magic which made for a great way to finish the collection, McConnel’s brand of poetry is strong, brave and consistent throughout. In particular ‘O, My Muse’ spoke to me along with ‘Music’ where the description really shines from the very start.

‘The beat skips and slithers down the cord Dodging errant quavers with amusing grace…’

This collection took me on a unique journey of language, rhyme and magic encapsulated by a British charm. There’s modern references and a power in these words along with the occasional mention of dragons all framed by an excellent looking cover and brilliant formatting.

For anyone looking to take on immersive poetry, I’d highly recommend this one!

5 Stars

“Darke Awakening” by Lee Hall

A huge thank you to fellow author Ellen Khodakivska for this wonderful review of Darke Awakening….

Ellen Khodakivska

If you want to ’embrace the true darkness’ and have a ride on a ‘ghost horse’ through crowded night creatures, this book is what you need.

“Most people in this world have some good in them. especially when someone needs a little help”, Lee Hall, “Darke Awakening”

The Plot:  Blake Malone comes back to Darke Heath to confront the evil that starts awakening. ‘The sleepy town, surrounded by pines’ hides more and more dark and dangerous secrets. Those that are supposed to be buried appear to be alive and perilous more than ever. The life paths of Blake Malone and Twister are destined to cross, and together with the rest of the crew, they have to be pretty innovative to gain victory over the night creatures. The demons, shadows, vampires, and many other night creatures can’t wait to break into a fight, the outcome of which is sometimes impossible to…

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‘The Watchmaker: A clock can talk’ by Ellen Khodakivska – Review

An enchanting tale of life, destiny and time…

Ellen Khodakivska tells a unique and enchanting story that follows five generations of watch makers who reside in Campobasso Italy. Their lives much like all of ours is ruled by time and how we manage it – there are a lot of fantastic messages and even some great symbolism throughout that really captures the concept of time. Even though there are many wonderful characters, it feels as if time is a character itself in this wonderful story.

Written with a style that reads like a sophisticated fairy tale, there’s a certain charm this book contains throughout as we meet the different generations of the ‘Donelli’ family and follow their lives. From heart warming moments to some that are sombre or even tragic, all of it is defined by the power of time and as watchmakers, they all follow the footsteps of their previous generation but that is after being told that there may be darkness if certain chains are broken.

On the fringes and always watching are the ‘Gift’ and the ‘Curse’ who are seemingly playing a game against one another and the pawns are those who have the initials ‘DD’. Told with heart and plenty of emotion this original tale has something for everyone and how you see time, may differ from others but the wise message within is universal.

‘Time always shares its wisdom with you if you are a good listener; Time can become your merciless enemy if you neglect it; Time can be your best friend if you manage it smartly; If you respect time, it respects you back…’

5 Stars

“Cemetery House” by Lee Hall

Happy Halloween

To celebrate today’s spooky date I am sharing a recent and wonderful review of Cemetery House by Ellen Khodakivska which is a read perfect for the season…

Ellen Khodakivska

If you want to find yourself in the middle of shadows, monsters and foreseers, fire and dictionaries of dreams, creepy creatures, and a rain of ash, this one is what you are looking for.

“In this life you can either love or die; or you can just live…” Lee Hall, “Cemetery House”

The Plot: After an epic survival in “Open Evening,” Luke Hartford opens a new chapter of his life. It appears that “survival is just a beginning,” and pure evil keeps spreading its tentacles to get it done. Together with a new crew led by a man named Twister, they go to their hometown to face creepy creatures hiding in the shadows. “Cemetery House” meets them with mortal danger, demons of the past, and lots of riddles needed to be resolved to survive and see a sunrise again. The only way to get out of the hell is to…

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