Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Cat and Mouse by A.M. Offenwanger

cat and mouseCat and Mouse by A.M. Offenwanger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Cat and Mouse is the second book in A.M. Offenwanger’s Septimus series and the sequel to Seventh Son. (Click here to read my review of Seventh Son.) Please note that this review does contain spoilers for Seventh Son, so if you haven’t read it yet, go download your FREE copy today. Seriously, do it now. It’s only free for a limited time. (Sorry future readers!)

The plot of Cat and Mouse picks up after Catriona (Cat) and Guy’s wedding. At first, all seems to be well for the newlyweds and the land of Ruph. Cat and Guy learn how they operate as a married couple, Bibby is her regular adorable self, and Guy even takes on an apprentice, a mute boy who Bibby names “Andy.” However, their peaceful life is disrupted by a plague of mice…and the appearance of a mysterious rat-faced man.

Back in the regular world, Cat’s best friend Nikky is dealing with her own drama. Sepp (Guy’s brother) has stuck around, and she finds herself slowly falling for him. Likewise, Nikky ends up with guardianship of her step-nephew Ben…who is also plagued by the presence of a mysterious rat-faced man.

I really enjoyed reading Cat and MouseAs in the first novel, the characters and the world of Ruph stood out as my favorite parts. Offenwanger has crafted realistic, complex characters, with profound and believable relationships in a relatively quick space. As a reader, I got to know the characters from the first novel even better, while still meeting a few new friends. My favorite character arc was Nikky’s, as she moved from being “Cat’s best friend” to taking on an important role in the story. Reading as Nikky played the protective aunt, discovered truths about herself, and braved her fears was incredibly satisfying.

Another great aspect of Cat and Mouse was learning more about the world of Ruph. This happens through Cat, as she explores new parts of the village and takes on an active role in the community. Ruph remains a beautiful mixture between a Renaissance Fair and a fantasy land, with an ever-expanding palate of magical abilities and intricate mythology to inspire the reader. I cannot wait to see what layers Offenwanger peels back in the next book.

As for the plot itself, it moves along at a steady pace. Pieces of the mice mystery, Andy’s quietness, and Ben’s panic attacks slip neatly into place. For the most part, I guessed the respective outcomes. (However, regular readers of my reviews will know that I don’t mind this in a novel.) Although, I will admit that there was one piece of the puzzle that I did not foresee, but very much enjoyed.

Overall, Cat and Mouse is a fitting second book for the Septimus series and continues much of what readers will have loved about the first novel. If you like medieval stylings, family relationships, a dash of magic, and folk tales, you’ll love Cat and Mouse.

QUICK REMINDER: As I said at the beginning of this review, the first novel in the Septimus series, Seventh Son, is FREE for a limited time. Download your copy now, then leave your own review for Ms. Offenwanger!

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cat and mouseIf you are interested in reading Cat and Mouse. 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.

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

SPECIAL Month-End Update: June 2016

To mark the halfway point of 2016, I’ve got a special month-end update today. In the first part, I’ll do the usual June recap. Some highlights? Desertera #2 is finally with the line editor, and 100 Action & Adventure Writing Prompts (Fiction Ideas Vol. 6) is published AND FREE through tomorrow.

In the second part, I’ll be catching you (and myself!) up with my New Year’s Resolutions. My biggest accomplishment? *knock on wood* I’ve only had ONE major migraine attack this year! I never thought I’d hit that goal, and I’m incredibly thankful they’ve mostly subsided.

Before you dive into all the bullet points, I want to highlight three exciting July activities.

Brain to Books Generic Posts (1)First, today is Indie Pride Day! Check out this Book Blast hosted by Angela B. Chrysler to find some awesome independent authors and books (myself, included!).

Second, tomorrow I’ll be hosting the Fire & Lies Goodreads takeover. Head over at 3 P.M. Eastern U.S. time to chat science fiction and fantasy and enter to win a FREE ebook copy of The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) – OR Desertera #2, if you’ve already read TCD.

Last, this month I’ll be unveiling the title of Desertera #2. Since I’ve put it off so long, I’ve decided to make an even bigger deal out of it and run a contest! Stay tuned for details (and chances to win advance review or signed copies of Desertera #2)!

June Update


  • Blog Posts Written — 7 (and one reblog)
  • Fiction Words Written — 0
  • # of Days I Wrote Fiction — 0
  • Nonfiction Prompts Written — 100 prompts (plus front/back matter material)
  • # of Days I Wrote Nonfiction — 7
  • Outlines Written — 0
  • Days Without Writing and/or Editing — 13


  • Drafts Revised — Content Edit of Desertera #2 (plus a quick second pass)
  • # of Days I Revised — 10


*Remember, I review every book I read on my Goodreads page.

Author Business Activities

Goals for July

I’ve got a few exciting things planned for July — I’d stay close if I were you!

  • Announce Desertera #2‘s title with a contest!
  • Complete all line editing for Desertera #2 (pending editor’s schedule)
  • Cover design for Desertera #2
  • Write and publish my next creative writing prompts booklet
  • An author interview on Kate Evans’s website
  • Participate in Camp NaNoWriMo
  • Participate in the Indie Pride Day Book Blast (today!)
  • Participate in the Fire & Lies Goodreads takeover (tomorrow!)

New Year’s Resolutions

So far, I’m on track to hit my goal of 50% of my resolutions. As a quick refresher — our family tradition is to make one resolution for each year of your age. Therefore, I try to shoot for the stars and at least hit the moon!

My difficult code: E (easy), C (challenging), DD (damn difficult), LOL (…yeah…)


1. Write five days a week (C, but based on past experience, LOL) – If by “write,” I mean draft OR edit, then I think I’m on track.

2. Finish Desertera #2 (E)

3. Publish Desertera #2 (C) – On track!

4. Write Desertera #3 (DD) – On track!

5. Publish Desertera #3 (DD) – Not happening

6. Write a book for fun (LOL) – I repeat: LOL.

7. Write all nonfiction booklets (E) – On track!

8. Publish all nonfiction booklets (E) – On track!

9. Publish nonfiction compilation (C) – On track!


10. Publish two blog posts per week (C) – On track!

11. Read 50 books (C) – Way ahead!!!

12. Make $1,000 from my author business (C, maybe DD) – Still possible with the upcoming book launch

13. Adhere to my marketing plan (C) – More or less, need to re-evaluate

14. Send two email newsletters per month (C) – Doing it!

15. Update my author website/platform (revise each quarter) (E) – Check!


16. Keep Daniel and myself student loan free (DD) – WOOT!

17. Keep migraines to one per month (or less!) (DD) – DOUBLE WOOT!

18. Exercise for 30 minutes, 3 days a week (LOL) – Hahahaha.

19. Record my three daily gratitudes (C) – Yup!

20. Visit a new state (E) Rhode Island & Massachusetts

21. Go to the 9/11 Memorial in NYC (E) – Hopefully this fall

22. Visit home (summer) (C) – Tickets booked!

23. Visit home (Christmas) (E) – Tickets booked!

Who else has accomplishments to share from June? How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along? What are your plans for the rest of 2016?

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: Hills and Valleys by Helen Jones

hills and valleys helen jonesHills and Valleys (The Ambeth Chronicles Book 3) by Helen Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Hills and Valleys is the third novel in Helen Jones’s Ambeth Chronicles. You can read my review of the first two books, Oak and Mist and No Quarter by clicking on their titles. To avoid major spoilers for all three novels, I will focus this review more on my personal reaction to the text and the writing itself, and will refer to the content in broad terms. That being said, some mild spoilage will occur. You’ve been warned.

As with No QuarterHills and Valleys picks up right where the previous book left off. The reader is launched right back into England and Ambeth, as Alma and the members of the Light grieve the tragedy that befell them at the end of No Quarter. Right away, it is clear that Hills and Valleys will have a more serious tone than the previous two novels, signalling both a maturing in Alma as a character and the growing threat in the quest to return the Regalia (whether Alma chooses to continue helping or not).

For me, this grieving period lasted a little longer than I would have liked. While I understand and respect Jones’s choice to spend a decent portion of the book working through the character’s emotional distress, I would have preferred for the action to move along at the same time. Chess pieces were slowly put into place, but some of the conversations and debates between the Light and Dark in Ambeth seemed repetitive, and I wish more space would have been allowed to show the development of Alma’s powers (which, though fantastic, seemed to emerge a bit out of nowhere for me).

Speaking of Alma, I believe she really comes into her own as a character in Hills and Valleys. She shows strength and independence in situations where I feel she might have faltered in previous books (especially with her support of her mother and her interaction with Deryck), and toward the end of the book, she accepts rather dramatic revelations with admirable calmness. Likewise, the supporting characters reveal new layers to their personalities as well. Deryck and Ellery both face complex moral and emotional conundrums, Lord Denoris unveils new levels of delicious evil, and King Thorion gives us more insight into his personal struggles.

As with the entire series, the settings in Hills and Valleys are beautifully described. The jewel of the Ambeth Chronicles remains Ambeth itself, and seeing it from a new character’s perspective made me fall in love with it all over again. Moreover, the introduction of Wales made for a gorgeous (and symbolic!) backdrop, and I’m pleased that it will feature in the next novel, too.

If you’ve been a fan of the Ambeth Chronicles thus far, everything you love is still there: the wonder of Ambeth, the twisting turns of the quest for the Regalia, and the enchanting sparks of magic. If you’re a fantasy lover who has not explored this series yet, I highly recommend you jump on board. Between developed, emotive characters, dazzling magic, stunning scenery, and dashes of romance Ambeth has something for everyone.

As for this novel itself, Hills and Valleys is a brilliant continuation of the series that will leave readers hungry for the next step in the journey. I know I can’t wait.

View all my reviews

hills and valleys helen jonesIf you are interested in reading Hills and Valleys 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: Hammer of the Gods by Christina Ochs

hammer of the godsHammer of the Gods (The Desolate Empire Book 3) by Christina Ochs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was given a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Hammer of the Gods by Christina Ochs is the third novel in the Desolate Empire series. You can read my reviews of the first two books, Rise of the Storm and Valley of the Shadow by clicking their titles. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll be focusing on the quality of Hammer of the Gods itself and my personal reactions to it.

I’ve said it once with these books, and I’ll say it again now: the Desolate Empire series is all-ages Game of Thrones. Ochs has crafted a vivid and complex world, with a large cast of engaging characters who are constantly locked in political maneuvers, fierce battles and other life-and-death struggles.

And Hammer of the Gods is the most intense yet. The story picks up right where Valley of the Shadows left off, and the reader is thrown straight into the action. The only thing I struggled with in the beginning was remembering some of the supporting characters and the world’s geography. If you’re in the same boat: don’t worry. Ochs provides maps at the beginning of the text and a glossary of persons and locations in the back to help you out.

As with the other two novels in this series, Hammer of the Gods rotates from multiple perspectives, with short chapters that allow you to breeze through the book despite its length. Ochs manages to cover years’ worth of action without making you feel like you’re missing anything. While sometimes this does result in more “summary” than I personally like, the fast pace and the detail of the main scenes make up for it.

Whether from Och’s writing talent, the intensity of the plot, or my now three-book relationship with the characters, I found myself having uncharacteristically strong emotional reactions to Hammer of the Gods. At different stages during my reading, I found myself fist-pumping, biting my knuckles, grinning from ear-to-ear, and holding back tears — all while on the train, of course.

If you’re a fan of “soft” cliffhangers, you’ll adore the ending. Like the other two novels, the main battles of Hammer of the Gods come to a close, but the individual characters leave us with some burning questions as to their fates and/or next moves. I found each character’s journey and growth profoundly satisfying, and I’m pleased with where each one is left at the end of the novel. There were a few twists that I did not expect throughout the story, and I’m very excited to see how they affect the next novel.

Fans of epic fantasy, historical fantasy, and/or military fiction need to read this series. Between bloody battles, political collusion, romances, religious zealotry, and even a dash of magic, Hammer of the Gods has something for everyone. Do yourself a favor and buy the entire Desolate Empire series NOW. And hell, at the time of this writing, Rise of the Storm (The Desolate Empire Book 1) is FREE on Amazon — there’s literally nothing stopping you from making your reading life 100x better today.

View all my reviews

You can find out more about Christina Ochs on her website, and you can read an interview with her on The 2016 2K Indie Books Tour here.

hammer of the godsIf you are interested in reading Hammer of the Gods 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.

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series

Book Review: The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1) by Kate M. Colby

“A magical read that will leave you craving for more.” Can’t ask for better praise than that!

Head on over to The Reading Bud for Heena’s 5-star review of The Cogsmith’s Daughter (and dozens of other insightful book reviews).

The Reading Bud


Author: Kate M. Colby 
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Series: Desertera
Genre: Dystopian | Steampunk | Fantasy
Edition: Ebook (mobi)
Pages: 306
Publisher: Boxthorn Press
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon

Rating: ★★★★★


In a desert wasteland, one king rules with absolute power and unquenchable lust, until the cogsmith’s daughter risks everything for vengeance.

Two-hundred years ago, the steam-powered world experienced an apocalyptic flood. When the waters dried up, the survivors settled around their moored steamship in a wasteland they named Desertera. Believing the flood and drought were caused by a scorned goddess, the monarchs demanded execution for anyone who commits the unforgivable sin—adultery.

Today, King Archon entraps his wives in the crime of adultery, executing each boring bride to pursue his next infatuation. Most nobles overlook King Archon’s behavior, but when Lord Varick’s daughter falls victim to the king’s schemes, he vows revenge.

When Aya…

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