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!

View all my reviews

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.

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.

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series

Book Review: The Cogsmith’s Daughter

A thoughtful, detailed, and downright stunning review of The Cogsmith’s Daughter from my friend and fellow writer, Amrita. She really “got” what I was going for with the characters and the themes of the novel, and people like her are exactly why writing is my life’s calling!

Of Opinions


I am usually not drawn to books by their cover (at least, that is what I like to believe), but the cover image of The Cogsmith’s Daughter, the debut novel of author Kate M. Colby, aroused my curiosity from the first time she revealed it

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Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Vlog/Video

Desertera Book Club: Welcome & Name Meanings

For those of you who have read and enjoyed The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), I’ve started a new playlist over on my YouTube channel called ‘Desertera Book Club.’ I hope this channel can be a forum for you to ask me questions, discuss the series as it progresses, and learn some fun tidbits and behind-the-scenes facts about the book.

The first video is spoiler FREE. It covers the pronunciation of some of the main characters’ names, as well as which names in the novel hold personal significance for me (and now will for those of you in certain geeky fandoms!).

I’m not sure how often I will post these videos on my website, so if you want to make sure you see them all, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Thanks for watching!

*Note: The Brisbane Lions is the team that rivals Collingwood. Thought I’d clear that up, lest my Aussie peeps shame me!

Do you have any questions about the Desertera series, or about my process as an indie author? Leave them in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Thoughts from the Train (and the Magic of Books)

people-new-york-train-crowdSince moving to New Haven, I have become one of the faceless masses on the public transport system. For those of you who have only ever commuted by car (or vice versa), let me describe the differences to you (at least, for introverted me).

In the Car

I come from a long line of mechanics, racers, and car enthusiasts. As much as I love to say I’m helping the environment by taking the train, the truth is: I’m saving the mileage on my 16-year-old baby. (But two birds, right?)

In the car, it’s you and the machine versus the other anonymous automobiles. While you have to jostle for position on the interstate, you get to enjoy your isolated, little bubble, filled with your music or audiobooks, or delicious silence. No one sits next to you uninvited. No one’s obnoxious phone conversations intrude. No strange bodily odors invade (and if they do, that’s on you).

On the Train

Your hands are free and the stress of traffic is but a distant memory. If you can snag a seat or a pole to hang on to, the ride is relatively smooth. When listening to music, daydreaming out the window, or reading, the time flies. But…you have to deal with the people. The flirty train conductor. The fast-talking business man. The snoring college student.

While prolonged, close contact with strangers isn’t my favorite experience, I’ve learned to deal. But there’s one aspect of ‘train culture’ that continues to get under my skin. It’s an attitude most Americans (and I daresay, most people) share, but I’ve never felt it quite as strongly as when I am immersed in a crowd of disgruntled souls.

It’s like ‘the Mondays,’ only everyday.

People on the train are freaking miserable. While talking on their phones, they complain to their loved ones about their jobs. While waiting for the doors to open, they grumble with fellow commuters. While getting their tickets stamp, they bemoan another day at the office.

And I sit there, with my computer on my lap, and I grow smug. After all, I’m going to escape the day job grind – one day – and until then, I actually enjoy my job. But the smugness never lasts. It is quickly replaced by empathy. Not everyone has the shiny dream of entrepreneurship to keep them going. Some people have failed in their goals and given up. Others never dare to imagine a more fulfilling career for themselves. I had those days, too.

book magicThis is why, among a thousand other reasons, I write books.

The happiest people on the train? From their wide, absorbed eyes and the faint smiles playing on their lips, my guess is the readers. And I know, I’m one. Books make the commute fly by. They provide temporary relief from stress (seriously – science backs this up), and offer an escape from our reality.

As women’s fiction author Fia Essen said in her review of The Cogsmith’s Daughter:

“Fiction, at its best, should take you away from your own reality. It should make you forget about your daily grind. It should keep you thinking about it, making you want to go back for more, as you stand in line at the supermarket, bank, or the post office.”

Or on the train. Knowing that I could offer Fia a temporary retreat, even for a few hours, is one of my proudest accomplishments as an author. And I hope I can do that with my life.

But it’s selfish, too.

My books don’t just provide my readers with escape. They allow me to escape, too. How can I possibly worry about the catalog spreads I have to crank out when I’ve got to help Aya avoid King Archon’s clutches? Or Dellwyn chase down a mysterious stalker?

Whether writing or reading, books are magic. In a single page, they allow us to fall in love, solve a murder, or swim in the ocean. They are movies playing out in our minds, and while the words we read are all the same, the images and emotions they conjure are completely our own.

If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

The catch? As wonderful as books are, they are only ever a temporary escape. I’ll say to you what my introverted personality would never let me say to the strangers on the train – reading is great, happiness is better, and together they are sublime.

Figure out your passion. Write down goals that will fulfill you. Then work your ass off until you meet them.

It may take days. It may take years. It may never happen. But take it from someone who is there every morning…

Working for your dreams is a thousand times more fulfilling than giving up on them.

And achieving them? Well, I’ll let you know.

What books have rescued you from the daily grind? What dreams are you working toward? Share below!