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.

 View all my reviews

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: Checkmate by A.M. Offenwanger

checkmateCheckmate 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.

Checkmate is the third novel in A.M. Offenwanger’s Septimus series. You can read my reviews of the previous books, Seventh Son (Book 1) and Cat and Mouse (Book 2) by clicking on their titles.

While this review does not contain spoilers for Checkmate, it does contain spoilers for the first two novels. I should also note that Seventh Son is FREE at the time of this writing, so if you haven’t read it yet, download your copy from Amazon today!

Thus far, Checkmate is my favorite novel in the Septimus series. It takes place several years after Cat and Mouse, and shows Guy and Cat’s growing family fully settled in the Ruph community. The main action revolves around the return of Bina’s (formerly Bibby’s) cousin Rhitha and her family to Ruph, as well as the two girls’ growing friendship.

As with the other books in the series, Checkmate was well-written in what I have come to recognize as Offenwanger’s distinctive narrative voice: a balance of playfulness and poetry. My only criticism is that some of the chapters would start in present time, then jump back to the past-perfect tense for a scene or two. I would have liked to be “in the moment” with the characters (especially Rhitha) as some of that action unfolded.

Since I don’t want to risk spoiling anything about the plot of Checkmate (it’s that intricately tied and well-developed), I’ll touch quickly on the aspects that made this novel my favorite in the series so far:

– Meeting new characters to love (or love to hate), who fit into the story as if they were always a part of it.
– Reading from the perspective of new characters.
– The complex and realistic relationships between the characters (both loving and hate-filled).
– The development of Bina’s powers and how she learns to control them.
– Seeing Andy and Ben advance in their prospective fields.
– The themes of family and friendship, with the moral message that family can be chosen and friendship should be steadfast and loyal.
– Learning about new traditions in the world (such as trade/economics, other countries, and Ruph’s Solstice festival).

The ending of Checkmate? Perhaps one of the most fun and cleverly executed magical climaxes I’ve ever read. I adored it.

Overall, Checkmate is a heartwarming addition to the Septimus series that comments beautifully on family, friendship, and the importance of both. A fun and magical tale, it will delight readers of fantasy and young adult fiction.

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


checkmateIf you are interested in reading Checkmate. 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.

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips, Writing Updates

What Can You Do in A Year?

cork popSo often, we gauge the passing of a year by the calendar, a birthday, or a wedding anniversary. Today, I want to mark a different kind of anniversary. One year ago today, I wrote a reflection post on my recent move to New Haven, Connecticut (I’d lived there eight days at the time). In it, I shared my initial impressions of the city, my concerns about living in a new place, and my hopes for the year to come. Now, I’d like to look back and share what wisdom I’ve gleaned for others.

When it comes to New Haven itself, I’ll be brief. My first post talked about the beautiful architecture, the (seemingly) tasty restaurants, and the various tourist attractions. They’re all still there, and all still great. I also mentioned the potential new friendships Daniel (my husband) and I had started growing, and I’m happy to report that they are strong and thriving. The drivers are still idiots. And most importantly, Thomas still loves his life as Supreme Ruler of the Apartment (see below).

A few new things? The divide between the Yale elite and the homeless is shocking and heartbreaking. The amount of street harassment I’ve faced is alarming (my formal apologies to any urban women I ever doubted on the issue). But there’s also a new ice cream shop that has the best farm-made ice cream I’ve ever tasted. So, you win some, you lose some, I guess. No city is perfect.

My biggest concern moving to New Haven was that I would lose my sense of self, that my identity would be pared down to “Daniel’s wife” and nothing else. Hey, Past Kate: We’re so much more than that. Yes, to some Yale acquaintances I’m just “Daniel’s wife.” But, to those same people, I’m very often “Daniel’s wife, the wine expert” (because expert is easier to grasp than copywriter). What else? I’m Thomas’s mother, a loyal friend to many new people, a budding wine enthusiast, a small business owner, and yes, an independent author.

thomas 2A year ago, I was putting the finishing touches on The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1). I was thrilled about (and terrified of) what my indie publishing journey might bring. Now, I’m pretty much in the exact same place with The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2). Only this time, I’m thrilled for a new reason (the first novel I wrote wasn’t a fluke!) and scared for new reasons too (what if everyone who liked book one hates the sequel?!).

I want to take a minute to reach out to all the aspiring or small-time authors out there. While I hope beyond hope that you get the coveted “lucky break” and reach instant bestsellerdom, chances are, you won’t. And that’s okay. Everyone’s journey is different, and you can only do the best you have with the resources available to you. But, if you’re sitting at your computer, considering hitting PUBLISH on that first novel, here are just a few things that could happen to you in one small year, based on my experiences:

  • Meet dozens of new author friends and readers
  • Earn your first (of many!) five-star review
  • Earn your first (hopefully not of many) one-star review
  • Sign a book for a new fan
  • Have your book nominated for an award (more info to come)
  • Have your book selected for a monthly subscription box (more info to come)
  • Earn a few hundred dollars from book sales
  • See your book in a library or bookstore
  • Participate in online events
  • Have someone say, “Oh, right. You’re the author!”
  • Have your book taught in a university class
  • See your book proudly displayed on your parents’ coffee table
  • Write your next book

Maybe some of these will happen to you. Maybe you’ll reach even greater heights. But if one year ago you’d told me all this (and more!) would happen to me, I would have laughed in your face. It just goes to show, you never know what can happen in a year.

Stay focused on your goals. Work those extra hours. And most importantly, keep writing.


Aspiring authors: what is one goal you have for your first year of publication? Published authors: what is one awesome thing that happened within your first year of publication? Share your experiences in the comments.

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: The Earl and the Artificer by Kara Jorgensen

eata-final-coverThe Earl and the Artificer (IMD #3) by Kara Jorgensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

SPOILER ALERT: While this review does not contain major spoilers for The Earl and the Artificer, it does contain spoilers for The Earl of Brass, the first novel in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series (you can read my review of The Earl of Brass HERE).

The Earl and the Artificer by Kara Jorgensen follows Eilian and Hadley Sorrell to Brasshurst Hall (Eilian’s family home) in Folkesbury following their marriage. Both characters are struggling with their newfound roles as Lord and Lady Dorset. Eilian fears that he will never live up to his noble role, nor be a proper husband for Hadley, and Hadley is concerned that she will never succeed as a proper society lady and always be viewed as an opportunistic upstart.

Jorgensen’s character development with Eilian and Hadley is logical and all-too-relatable. Their fears and concerns tap into the deeper fears of rejection and desire for acceptance that all humans feel in one realm or another. Yet, despite their insecurities and a few incompatibilities, they manage to stay supportive of and caring toward one another. Their relationship is not perfect, but through their dedication and devotion, it remains a relationship the reader will admire.

While at Brasshurst Hall, Eilian and Hadley do their best to fit in with the wider genteel society. Through these efforts, the reader is introduced to a new cast of characters. Most notably, Jorgensen provides us with a new antagonist, Randall Nash (Eilian’s second cousin) and a few new friends in Nadir Talbot (a romance author) and his cousin, Mrs. Rhodes.

What I liked most about these secondary characters is that they are exceedingly complex. Jorgensen explores their personalities from various perspectives, and the reader can find relatable and despicable qualities in each one. Personally, Nadir was my favorite. Through his character, Jorgensen commented on several social themes (including gender, race, and imperialism), and it delighted my inner sociologist.

Overall, the plot of the novel moved at a steady pace, though I did not find it quite as captivating as the story lines of The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden. To me, the other novels had higher stakes and more action throughout, which made them more gripping. However, The Earl and the Artificer has a nice elevation to it. The drama, and the danger, grows as the novel progresses, and moments that seemed insignificant before become key parts of the plot toward the end. While I saw some of the twists coming, there were a few that surprised and delighted me.

In sum, The Earl and the Artificer is a fitting addition to the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Fans of Eilian and Hadley will enjoy watching their characters and relationship grow. Fans of the steampunk genre will be entranced by the ominous Brasshurst Hall, eccentric Nadir Talbot, and dangerous turn of events. Highly recommend for anyone with a love of steampunk, historical fiction, and mystery novels.

View all my reviews

You can find out more about Kara Jorgensen on her website, and you can read more about her inspiration for The Earl and the Artificer here.


eata-final-coverIf you are interested in reading The Earl and the Artificer 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.