Review of ‘Song of Serenity’ by Brey Willows

What’s a Muse to do when her much-anticipated peaceful break is under threat? Calliope Ardalides is the eldest of the nine Muses, and is responsible for arbitrating arguments between the gods and answering for their failures to the humans who complain. Her haven of serenity is a small Scottish village, where the Temple of the Muses is situated. But when an American businesswoman lodges plans for an adventure park right next door, Calliope’s hopes of relaxation and calm are shattered. Despite a powerful attraction neither women appear ready to yield. Can they each get what they want? And will they be able to resist the pull of something more?

I’ve been looking forward to this, the first in a new series set in the Afterlife Inc world. The first trilogy was excellent and my favourite series of the past five years. This time we are with the Muses, and they are just as compelling. Calliope is a talented musician and singer, but has been so caught up in the other aspects of her job, that her artistic side has taken a back seat. Being in Scotland lets her enjoy music again, but the threat to her peace from Jordan James and her plans is worrying. Although she’s used to seeing an issue from both sides at work, it’s more difficult in this case. She’s a kind, thoughtful and sensitive soul and I really liked her. 

Jordan wasn’t the big, bad wolf, even though she wanted to build next to the Temple. I could see her point of view, and it would certainly help the local community. But she had to see the whole picture, and Calliope was the person to help her do that. Their attraction was intense and powerful, but it was also healing for both of them. 

Brey Willows describes the Scottish countryside perfectly and makes me feel as if I’m there. She sees past the surface and allows the reader a peek of that too. I love the marrying of old and new, the mythology and the present. The story shows wonderful imagination, and I never tire of reading what she has come up with . She knows her characters inside out and allows the reader to become part of their lives. 

‘Song of Serenity’ is a stunning story. I highly recommend it.

I was given this Arc for review. 

Review of ‘Footprints’ by Ali Spooner

I must admit to being a huge fan of the Strong Southern Women Series by Ali Spooner. ‘Footprints’ is book 4 and follows the story of Sandy, the youngest of the family. She has looked up to her older sister Cam, and hopes to be as good as her some day in helping run the family businesses. When floods endanger the people of Baton Rouge, Sandy and Cam volunteer with the Cajun Navy and help save those affected. 

I loved reading more about Sandy, and seeing her as a grown woman. The whole family come together to keep their way of life going in the Bayou. I felt a part of their lives for a while, as the writing flows so well. The descriptions are wonderfully vivid and the emotional and romantic lives of the sisters so true. A great story.

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘Nero’ by Valden Bush

I love sci-fi, so getting the chance to read a new voice in the genre thrilled me. And I was not disappointed. Valden Bush has imagined a fascinating universe of worlds and peoples, with a brilliant twist, in her debut novel, ‘Nero’. Stele Hosun is an outcast on account of her black eyes. In her culture on Nero those with this characteristic are banished, as are those women who love other women. Stele is angry and volatile, but who can blame her? When Colonel Kian Ray offers her an outlet where her skills may be useful, she has to decide whether to let go of her anger and take a chance. She also has to find a way to live without her love, Ariane. But when pirates invade Nero, Stele has to use everything she’s got to find a way to save the woman she loves and the society than shunned her.

‘Nero’ is a beautifully written story, with exquisite world-building, an intriguing mystery and a passionate love story. The connection between Stele and Ariane was powerful, enduring and intense. The mystery of the coloured shards in Neroan culture made for an engrossing tale, captivating my attention until the very last page. I loved this book and hope there will be more of these characters and their stories in the future. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Elemental Attraction’ by K Aten

‘Elemental Attraction’ by K Aten is the first in her new MythWorld Series. It’s a beautifully crafted tale of shapeshifters, mythical creatures and destiny. Ellys is a half-elven swordsman and a great one at that. She hires out her skills to help keep body and soul together for herself and her companion steed, Roccotari. When dragon shapeshifter, Aderri offers her more than the usual rate to help her get home for an important family ceremony she agrees. But the journey is fraught with danger and the threesome find themselves dealing with more than they bargained for. Add in the beginnings of an attraction that grows hotter as they near Aderri’s homeland. As each grapple with their own and others expectations, life becomes a whole lot more interesting. 

The world-building is superb in ‘Elemental Attraction’ and K Aten has once again hooked me with her imaginative storytelling. The mixture of different creatures is fantastic and seeing how they interact with each other made me laugh and sometimes shed a tear. Ellys is strong and fearless and loyal. She strives to achieve balance in everything she does. Her relationship with Roccotari is funny, sarcastic and joyful. They have an amazing bond and it is the most significant relationship for both of them. As they travel with Aderri we begin to see that love does not have to be static, and change can be embraced. I loved the banter between the three, but also the traditions, mythology and history that made them who they were. A great story.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Island Between Us’ by Wendy Hudson

‘The Island Between Us’ by Wendy Hudson is an atmospheric and wonderfully descriptive story set on a Hebridean Island off the coast of Scotland. Adventurer Georgia runs survivalist courses using the skills she has gained over many years travelling in the most remote areas of the world. When famous actress Kelsey signs up for one of her courses, Georgia initially has no idea who she is, or that they have a long-lost connection. The fierce Scottish weather leaves the group stranded and faced with using their newly acquired survival skills for real. How will they cope? And what will it mean for Georgia and Kelsey as they become reacquainted? 

Wendy Hudson has surpassed herself with this novel. The writing is excellent, with exquisite descriptions of the island and the dire situations the group face. She slowly ramps up the tension, making the adventure real and dangerous. The distinct personalities within the group add to the drama, and it is only by working together they can overcome the situation they are in. It’s about teamwork and camaraderie and realising what is important. The story is compelling, with characters I could believe in. Georgia was strong, and a born leader. She brought out the best in people – especially Kelsey. I loved seeing how they became a unit and encouraged the others to believe in themselves too. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Others’ by Annette Mori

‘The Others’ is a thought-provoking dystopian story, full of tension and adventure. Em is a scientist, and along with her wife Lise, has been hiding in a bomb shelter for ten months. The world, and specifically the United States, went crazy after the last election, and the other superpowers took advantage. Now that the cities are presumably destroyed, groups of survivors try their best to live with what is left. Once on the outside again Em and Lise become aware of other people who managed to keep going. But who can they trust? And what will life mean after the war?

Annette Mori uses truth and imagination and mixes them to make a compelling story that kept me up into the wee hours reading. There are some tense and disturbing moments – some of them not too far off the mark from our reality. And that makes the story all the more powerful. The main characters were appealing, strong women, and it is through their interactions with the people they meet, that we see just what it takes to survive. I was hooked from page one and couldn’t put it down.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Guin The Emerald’ by Louisa Kelley

‘Guin The Emerald’ is the second in the Shift Series by Louisa Kelley, and is even better than the first. Guin leads a team cleaning up the mess left behind when the world, and specifically Portland, became aware of the existence of dragons. Miriam is back as the only human who knows the real story. But can she be trusted? And why is Cellie compelled to seek out the answer to a very strange mystery?

I loved finding it more about the Draca and their magic.  Their world opened up more and I couldn’t get enough. The developing attraction between Guin and Miriam was especially welcome. It was surprisingly tender and passionate . The story had adventure and mystery and fascinating insights into the lives of the Draca and their connection to Earth. There was a little ‘Easter Egg’ for fans of sapphic fiction too. You’ll know it when you see it. 

The book had a lovely family feeling and made me wish for more in the future.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘A Woman To Treasure’ by Ali Vali

‘A Woman to Treasure’ is a cracker of a story. It’s an adventure, a mystery and a love story all rolled into one. Levi Montbard has loved history her whole life, and goes all over the world in search of antiquities. Her fascination with the Templars is particularly important, and when some writings come into her possession, the adventure really begins. Yasmine Hassani is a university professor, with a special interest in women’s studies. She’s an unusual woman in her culture, as she has so far resisted the expected marriage and children route. When she becomes aware of Levi’s quest she has to decide to take a leap, in more ways than one. 

Ali Vali has written a wonderful mystery, with well-researched historical detail and a heart-warming romance at its core. It has beautiful settings  in various parts of the world, with a fantastic group of characters. I particularly loved Louisiana and Morocco, and getting to know Levi and Yasmine’s families there. The story was brilliantly plotted, with stories and revelations that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. The romance was sweet and endearing and gave me such feelings of joy when they as much as held hands. It was lovely to see the characters grow and change as they got to know each other, becoming who they were meant to be. An excellent book and one I can highly recommend. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Golden Trinity’ by Robyn Nyx

Chase Stinsen is a principled archaeologist who ends up in some yucky, mucky situations, always hoping to discover and save treasures for the benefit of all humanity. Rayne Marcellus tends towards the less lawful path. She keeps beating Chase to finds that she sells to unscrupulous rich men, instead of giving to the museums Chase favours. The women worked together in the past and have a difficult relationship due to Rayne screwing Chase over. When Rayne asks her to help find the fabled Golden Trinity, to prevent it from falling into the hands of a man who would stop at nothing to possess it, can Chase trust her?

The story has an exciting and atmospheric start and the the adventure continues in the same vein. The archaeological and historical details are fascinating and give another layer of interest that hooked me from the beginning. Add to that the interpersonal dynamics between the two main characters and Robyn Nyx has a winner on her hands. But it was about so much more than adventure and mystery, although those were expertly done. The personal discoveries for Chase and Rayne and the realisations they came to – those were definitely stand out elements for me. There were powerful emotions, not just about the growing feelings the women had for each other, but for the peoples of the Amazon. The danger from incursions by treasure hunters and loggers made me want to weep for them. The setting was exquisitely described, so much so that I could almost feel the heat and humidity as I read. The creepy fear that could never leave them as they traversed through thick, lush jungle, with snakes and worse just ready to pounce. The denouement was thrilling, heart-stopping and full of wonder. I wait in eager anticipation for the next great adventure from this pair.

And for lovers of lesfic, there are a few wonderful Easter Eggs in this book. I almost cried out in delight at the mention of some names and places from another favourite author of mine. I’ll leave you to find them for yourself – but suffice to say, the three I found made me a very happy reader.

I loved this story and highly recommend it.

Review of ‘The Castaways’ by Lucy Clarke

‘The Castaways’ by Lucy Clarke is the story of two sisters; one lost after her plane to a small Fijian island disappears, the other on a quest to find her. Erin cannot let it go. When everyone else wants to move on, she becomes obsessed and makes it her goal in life to find out what happened. The chapters move between then and now, between each sister, giving us insight into their relationship as well as how they function as individuals. 

You will not be able to put it down. There’s a sense of foreboding, tension and suspense that never lets up. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, and takes the reader inside the minds of the characters and to far off places. The twists in the tale were astounding and did not come out as I expected. I was gripped from start to finish. 

I was given this ARC to review.