Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Winter of the Wolf by Christina Ochs

Winter of the Wolf CoverWinter of the Wolf by Christina Ochs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Winter of the Wolf is the fourth book in Christina Ochs’ Desolate Empire series. To be blunt, I have a lot of wonderful things to say about this book — only I can’t say any of them, for risk of spoiling the novel (and the entire series) for you.

What I can reveal is that it falls beautifully in line with the rest of the series. Winter of the Wolf is full of action, political drama, and jaw-dropping twists that literally made me shriek (and sometimes cry). Despite being a long novel (595 pages), it read incredibly quickly and left me wanting more.

And that’s all I will risk telling you.

That being said, I’m going to break from my usual, detailed review style and simply list the top five reasons you should be reading the entire Desolate Empire series.

  1. It’s “clean” Game of Thrones. An epic fantasy world, inspired by a real-world war. Multiple kingdoms fighting for control of one empire. Political intrigue, bloody battles, dark magic, and a little romance. All in a family friendly, no cursing, fade-to-black package.
  2. There’s a character for everyone. From the beautiful and savvy Princess Gwynneth to the brooding warrior Braedon Terris to the evil and manipulative Empress Teodora, you’ll find characters to love and love-to-hate. (Psst — sound familiar?)
  3. You won’t be able to breathe. Between the tense political situations and the life-or-death action, the Desolate Empire series will leave you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think you can breathe again, Ochs will give you another unexpected twist or a gripping cliffhanger. (For that reason, you’ll love to hate her, too. But mostly love!)
  4. Each book gets better. Thus far, this is not one of those series with a weak link or two hiding in the middle. Every single book has been better than the last.
  5. You can’t tell it’s self-published. As an independent author myself, I loathe to even make this point because it shouldn’t matter. However, for some readers it does. So, trust me — the writing is great, the plots are solid, and it far surpasses many traditionally published books I’ve read.

If this all sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. Do yourself a favor and buy these books today.


Winter of the Wolf CoverAs always, the links throughout this review are Amazon Associate links. This means, if you buy the book, I receive a small percentage of the sale. However, you pay no more and the author receives no less. The author has not paid or incentivized me for this review — I do so purely to spread the word about a book I love.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Sons of Brabant by Michael Bolan

sons-of-brabantThe Sons of Brabant (Book I of the Devil’s Bible Series) by Michael Bolan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sons of Brabant is the first novel in the Devil’s Bible Series by Michael Bolan (it’s also FREE on Amazon at the time of writing). After the Duke of Brabant dies, his family falls apart. The eldest son, Reinald, inherits the Duchy after manipulating the Duke on his death bed. The younger sons, Willem and Leo, and their sister, Isabella, leave the Duchy in a rage. They establish a mercenary band and vow to one day return to Brabant and liberate the people from Reinald’s tyrannical rule. Meanwhile, Duke Reinald has teamed up with some of the most powerful people in Europe in an attempt to bring about the biblical End of Days and Second Coming of Christ.

The Sons of Brabant takes place in 17th-century Europe, during the Thirty Years War. I should preface this review by saying that, while I enjoy history, I’m not well-versed in this particular time period. The novel seemed well-researched and historically accurate but, to be honest, I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t. However, from the little nods throughout the text, I get the feeling that there are a lot of historical “cameos” and references that history buffs will appreciate.

Where The Sons of Brabant deviates from history is in the fantasy elements — and as a fantasy author, these were my favorite parts of the book. I loved the mythology behind Conor’s Irish homeland, and I hope to see more it in the later novels. Also, it’s no secret that I adore apocalypses, and I found myself enraptured (pun intended) with the plot to bring about the Rapture. The “Four Horsemen” have woven an intricate plan, and the political, economic, scientific, and militaristic scheming were fascinating.

From a writing standpoint, The Sons of Brabant is solid. The characters are developed and have clear motivations, and while this novel didn’t provide enough time for them to grow too much, I can see how they might evolve over the course of the series. The narrative style fits with the formality of the time period, and the plot, though complex, is clearly explained. In fact, it may have been too explained. At times, the action would stall when the exposition or the characters (in dialog) would repeat a detail already given or summarize action that had already been shown. For the most part, though, the story moves along at a steady pace.

The Sons of Brabant strikes a nice balance between history and fantasy, battle and political intrigue. It serves as an intriguing introduction to the characters and the larger plot to bring about the Rapture, while also providing hints at the action to come. Recommended for those who like historical military fiction, mythology, and religious thrillers.

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You can find out more about Michael Bolan on his website. He also discusses the theme of fear and his favorite literary villains (including Duke Reinald) in this guest post.


sons-of-brabantIf you are interested in reading The Sons of Brabant and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: A Thousand Rooms by Helen Jones

a-thousand-roomsA Thousand Rooms by Helen Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Katie didn’t wake up expecting to die. And yet, that’s exactly how A Thousand Rooms begins. As Katie stands on the street, watching emergency responders attend to her body, she waits for whatever comes next. Nothing comes, and Katie is forced to drift about the earth alone in search of her individual heaven, the meaning of her life, and any other souls who can help her.

I’ve long been a fan of Helen Jones’s Ambeth series, and I really enjoyed seeing her take on a different genre and world in A Thousand Rooms. The novel reads like contemporary fiction but has a lovely touch of fantasy and a good helping of romance (which came as a pleasant surprise after all of Katie’s struggles!). As usual, Jones’s writing is descriptive and detailed, and she beautifully brings to life the various settings (real and imagined) throughout the novel.

As a protagonist, Katie is a strong character. She has a deep love for her family, a clever set of problem-solving skills, and a bit of a potty mouth (which I really love, but some may find offensive). I appreciated how Katie remained headstrong and steadfast in her search for heaven, even after several obstacles sent her crashing (sometimes literally) back down to Earth. At times, she did get a little whiney for me … but hey, if I were dead and left to wander Earth alone, I know I’d bitch, too.

The novel has a steady pace, with a good balance of action and introspection. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a little less reflection on Katie’s life and more of the various heavens, but I understand why Jones chose to portion the novel as she did, and it works well. If I had to describe A Thousand Rooms in one word, it would be bittersweet. Katie’s emotions are raw and realistic, and as someone who deeply empathizes with others (and is a bit homesick herself), I found myself tearing up at several points throughout the novel. Sometimes, I grieved with Katie for her lost life, while at other times, I happy-cried for her moments of joy. Maybe I’m just a sucker … or maybe Jones has written a fantastic, emotionally resonant novel. (You can let me know after you read it!)

Overall, A Thousand Rooms is a beautiful journey that reminds the reader to appreciate every moment and focus on the “blessed” things in their life. While at times sad and introspective, it is also unfailingly hopeful and full of joy and love. Jones has crafted an endearing heroine, an uplifting love story, and a captivating vision of the afterlife (I wouldn’t mind if this novel were right!). Highly recommended for those who like strong female characters, coming-of-age narratives, and true love — just keep the tissues nearby!

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a-thousand-roomsIf you are interested in reading A Thousand Rooms and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Dead Magic by Kara Jorgensen

dead-magicDead Magic (IMD #4) by Kara Jorgensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Magic is the fourth novel in Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Since many of you may not have read the complete series, I will keep this review vague to avoid spoilers. If you would like to read my reviews of the other books in the series, I’ve included links to them at the bottom of this post.

Continuing the pattern established in previous books, Dead Magic leaves behind Eilian and Hadley Sorrell to once again focus on the lives of Immanuel Winter and Emmeline Jardine. Dead Magic marks the series’ grand entrance into the world of (you guessed it) magic. Though hints of magic have occurred throughout the other books, this novel dives deep into the rules of magic and its practitioners. Both Immanuel and Emmeline must learn to harness the magic within themselves as well as prevent a darker magic from consuming them… and the rest of London.

As always, Jorgensen’s characters are complex and well-crafted. Though I’d already spent much time with Immanuel and Emmeline in previous novels, Jorgensen still manages to reveal more about them through the obstacles they face in Dead Magic. It was deeply gratifying to see Immanuel start to heal and watch his relationship with Adam Fenice grow. Likewise, I appreciated that Emmeline remained her headstrong self, even when her stubbornness lead her astray.

Despite being separated by Immanuel and Emmeline’s perspectives, the plot of Dead Magic masterfully weaves together. The story contains a perfect balance of physical action, magical action, romance, and introspection. While I can’t say any of the events were huge surprises, the story held my interest from the start, and I enjoyed every page. With each novel, Jorgensen’s deft skill with words deepens. She has a great ability to write in a way that is both clear and lyrical.

Overall, Dead Magic is a wonderful addition to the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. I feel like every time I read one of these novels, I pronounce the latest installation my favorite, but I have to do it again here — the series just keeps getting better and better! Highly recommended for readers who enjoy steampunk, Victorian era London, historical/dark fantasy and a dash of steamy romance.

Ingenious Mechanical Devices reviews: The Earl of Brass (IMD #1), The Winter Garden (IMD #2), The Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3)

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dead-magicIf you are interested in reading Dead Magic and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Book Review: The Art of Breathing by Kate Evans

art-of-breathing-coverThe Art of Breathing (Scarborough Mysteries #3) by Kate Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The Art of Breathing by Kate Evans is a crime fiction novel and the third installment in the Scarborough Mysteries series. It follows the lives of Hannah Poole, Detective Sargent Theo Akande, and Aurora Harris as they navigate mental health and family issues, as well as investigate crimes in their small town. Because this is the third book in a series, I’ll keep some aspects of my review vague to avoid spoiling details from the first two novels. You can read my review of The Art of the Imperfect (Scarborough Mysteries #1) here.

When I read The Art of the Imperfect, I remember thinking that the novel read more like literary fiction (or even an extended prose poem) than a typical crime novel. While I enjoyed the gorgeous language, I found it difficult to keep track of the details at times. In The Art of Breathing, Evans has struck the perfect balance between poetic language and crime fiction. The novel includes the time-honored tropes of the crime genre, but the writing itself retains that beautiful, lilting character that sets Evans’s work apart. As someone who doesn’t always like the gritty/punchy feel of crime novels, Evans’ style is perfect for me.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that the plot is complete, intriguing, and comes with a few little twists (one of them is just … brilliant). However, even with a strong plot, I believe that the characters are the true jewel of The Art of Breathing. They are well-crafted and complex, and (as I’ll discuss below) serve as fantastic vehicles for Evans to explore important social themes. Where Evans’ character creation is particularly strong is their versatility – at times, they can be difficult to like (especially Hannah, with her self-destructive thoughts and behaviors), but they also elicit waves of empathy from the reader. A difficult task for a writer to accomplish.

In my own writing, I place a great deal of importance on examining social issues, so I really enjoy novels with strong thematic weight. The Art of Breathing, Evans manages to display both sides of several dark themes (sexual assault, adultery, murder, etc.) in a way that makes the reader question previously held assumptions. Her characters provide riveting case studies of mental health and social concerns (depression, PTSD, homophobia, racism, etc.), and after spending the novel with them, I truly felt like I came away with a better understanding of how people facing these issues live. That’s the power of great fiction – it deepens your perspective on reality and allows you to live other lives.

The Art of Breathing (and the rest of the Scarborough Mysteries series) isn’t your cookie-cutter crime fiction. It’s a study of human character, an examination of Western society, and a beautiful tribute to language … all wrapped up in a murder mystery. Strongly recommended for literary fiction readers who want a gentle entrance into crime fiction, and crime readers who are looking for a refreshing take on the genre.

Want to know more? Kate Evans was kind enough to drop by my website to describe how she uses her crime fiction to search for truth and delve into dark themes. You can read her insightful guest post here.

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art-of-breathing-coverIf you are interested in reading The Art of Breathing and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.