29 August 2013

Giveaway: Dragon Boy and the Witches of Galza by A.A. Bukhatir

One for all you Fantasy fans out there! Dragon Boy and the Witches of Galza is a fantasy adventure for all ages that is getting great reviews around the blogosphere and I have one copy to giveaway to one lucky Tomes of the Soul reader (thanks to Jane Wesman PR).

All you have to do is comment on this post and say which you like more - dragons or fairies - then submit your entry via the Rafflecopter widget. That's right - no liking numerous pages and twitter feeds, just one comment. This giveaway is open to readers in the UK and US - for more T&Cs see the link on Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Below is a summary of Dragon Boy and the Witches of Galza: In a tiny village nestled between a haunted forest and a  magic mountain, lives an old woodcutter named Aijou.  Shunned by the other villagers, he mourns the death of  his cherished wife and spends his lonely days going  about his work in nearly total isolation. He never dreams  that in a flash his life will change completely, and that  his courage and strength will be profoundly tested.

 It all begins innocently enough when Aijou loses his  way  in the enchanted forest. Desperately seeking the  path  back home, he suddenly encounters two tiny  fairies  engaged in battle with fire-breathing she-dragon. Against all odds, the fairies prevail and with its last breath, the dying dragon assumes her human form. She begs Aijou to adopt her baby boy. Aijou agrees not knowing that the infant is actually a dragon. From that moment on, Aijou¹s life will never be the same. Filled with determination, he tries to escape the haunted forest.

But in order to return home, Aijou must obtain permission from the evil Witches of Galza.  With two fairy guides, Aijou and the dragon baby set off to find the wicked sisters. When they finally meet, the Witches offer Aijou a terrible bargain and he must decide whether he will accept.

If you can't wait for the giveaway, you can find out more and purchase the book from the following retailers: 

If you've read it, why not share your thoughts in the comments. 

25 August 2013

Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Viral Nation is young adult dystopian adventure set in a world where a virus has wiped out the majority of the population. Now people live in walled cities run by the company who invented the suppressant, a drug that prevents people falling ill with the virus. The cities are calm and orderly on the surface but is there something lurking beneath?

The plot of Viral Nation was not unique but it was interesting and well written. The addition of time travel made the plot less generic, and whilst I personally am not a big fan of time travel/alternate universes, here it was well done but the author did leave many questions about how it worked unanswered. The story was a page turner and I couldn’t wait to carry on reading every time I put it down.

The characterisation of the main characters was well done, particularly the relationship between Clover and West, and Clover and her dog. A big part of Clover's character was her autism, which did have a purpose in the plot but I felt it was unrealistic, for example in low stress situations she relies on her service dog but a few chapters later in a high stress situation she leaves the dog behind and has no problems. I feel this was a weakness in her characterisation, and is hopefully something that will be refined in the future.

The reason Viral Nation didn’t get 5 stars from me was the abrupt ending. This is clearly the first book in a series, and I understand the author wanting to have a ‘hook’ to get readers to read the second book but I felt ripped off after spending hours enjoying it to have the book just end with no real conclusion. This is a massive weakness for Viral Nation, particularly as the sequel has not yet been published, and I feel readers will forget the 95% of the novel which is excellent and just go away with an unsatisfied feeling, never to read book two.

Overall a fantastic dystopian adventure for both teens and adults, with hints of mystery and romance. This is really a book you should read, perhaps just wait until book two is available first.
Viral Nation is available in deadtree format only for £6.53 from Amazon.co.uk (and Amazon.com ).
[An ARC was provided by NetGalley]

23 August 2013

Review: First Activation by D.A. and M.P. Wearmouth

First Activation is a post-apocalyptic thriller in which nearly the entire global population is turned into brainwashed puppets with one single purpose – to kill someone then kill themselves. Only a few people are unaffected, having been on airplanes when the phenomenon hit. Four of these, two of them soldiers, set off in a group to try to figure out what is going on and to survive. What they find is more horrifying than anything they can imagine.

First Activation had me torn, I felt at the end like I had read two different books in one. The first half of the book is gripping, powerful and terrifying. It seems at every turn our survivors are faced with yet another threatening situation; and the behaviour of the ‘killers’ is highly disturbing. It took a lot of effort for me to put the book down and go to bed, and I was ready to give it five-stars as soon as I finished it.

The second half of the book was less satisfying, mainly due to the pace and the lack of credibility of the plot. I found the story was rushed, and lacked the detail of the first half of the book. It was like the authors were determined to get to the end as quickly as possible, whereas I much prefer a more drawn out journey, especially when it comes to travelling in a post-apocalyptic world. This was not helped by the sudden lack of tension (for reasons I can’t go into without spoiling the plot), and the ‘threat’ in the second half of the book just never really seemed like a real threat. The actions of the main characters also start to unravel - two men who have refused to kill without great provocation just a few chapters before, suddenly turn into ruthless torturers, which is a tad unbelievable despite their military background.

Prior to the end of the book the cause of the phenomenon is exposed, although the reasons behind it are not fully explained, perhaps this will be in the obvious sequel. I didn't really like the cause as it felt a bit clichéd; I felt an opportunity for a more interesting explanation was missed. Maybe when a fuller explanation is given in the sequel my opinion might change.

Rating First Activation is very hard. As I've said, half of it was OMG and half of it was meh. In the end I have settled for a three and a half star rating (rounded to a four for rating on sites that don’t allow half stars). This is because I did enjoy it, and there were some great bits so I would recommend reading it, but the second half let it down, but not so much that it wasn't enjoyable or something I wouldn't recommend; it is also excellent value at 99p. Fans of sci-fi thrillers will want to ad this to their to-read lists.

On a side note, it was good to see some decent post-apocalyptic fiction coming out of the UK as most authors in this genre are US based, and I really hope the sequel is more like the first half of the book and slows down a bit.

First Activation is available from Amazon.co.uk for 99p and from Amazon.com for $1.55.

[Review copy provided by BookRooster] 

22 August 2013

Promo: Jack Cannon's American Destiny by Greg Sandora (Orangeberry Book Tours)

Take a Journey for the Greater Good in this intensely gripping, loving thriller. Join Jack Canon and his insanely loyal team of friends and family as they make their all-or-nothing run for the presidency. You’ll laugh out loud and have your heart ripped in two; all while holding your breath, sitting on the edge of your chair. You’ll become emotionally committed as you find yourself standing behind your new courageous – unstoppable heroes – forced to take unimaginable steps to reach their goal. You’ll be shocked at the heart-wrenching cost.


Meghan’s Review. this reader captured the essence of the Story of Jack Canon. Both men and woman will enjoy the book.
“‘Jack Canon’s American Destiny’ is one of those intense political thrillers that simply deserve to be made into a movie for full, complete enjoyment. This is especially true right in the wake of the recent Academy Awards and movies like ‘Argo’ and ‘Lincoln’ bringing home the bacon. But on its own, this book is immersive—you can live and breathe in the world of Jack Canon—his full range of concerns, from picayune to grandiose, consists of things that are close to every American’s heart.
Jack Canon is an everyman—you can relate to his positive traits, even his minor character flaws, and mostly you can relate to his will get the presidency. Cleverly written, sprinkled with the right amount of “spice” to keep the level of interest high, ‘American Destiny’ is a tale that grips your heart and squeeze it—Jack Canon’s mission to redistribute wealth and give everybody cheap energy is not exactly acceptable in the eyes (and pockets) of those whose businesses will be affected. And from there, the plot thickens.
Finishing the book, your heart aches because you know Jack Canon isn’t real—he’s an ideal, made magically alive by the sheer talent of Greg Sandora. But that doesn’t mean we cannot aspire. As in the book’s timeline, 2016, maybe the book is telling us to be really, really wise in our choices. Meanwhile, download a copy of this book and sink your teeth in the kind of literary entertainment I’ve never seen since Alex Cross.”

Joanna’s Review. “Jack Canon is an idealist. He’s on the road to fight the good fight and the only road that will allow him to do that is the one leading to the White House. Great plan, but plans don’t always end up going the way we want. This Senior Democratic Senator from Kentucky is a kind, smart, charismatic family man. He is a man of superior intelligence who isn’t afraid to admit to a mistake. He has always been faithful, but he has a very intimate, hands off relationship with Sandy his assistant. Hopefully this won’t derail his campaign…
“Jack Canon’s American Destiny” is a sly ride on a slippery slope. This fast paced thriller is packed with political issues that mirror what we have going on today. If you notice, the villains are a conglomerate of who we have deadly problems with right now, so it echoes what we deal with on the global level at this time.
The author, Greg Sandora, manages to introduce all this well written madness in a way that will keep you glued to this book. Sandora has used well flushed out characters, timely villains, an image of our present president therefore the actions are very relatable to the reader.
Want to have some fun? Want to read something that will have you dangling over the edge of a cliff in that good way that starts your heart pumping and your adrenaline kicking in?”

Diane’s review .“I rarely choose a book about politics, but since becoming addicted to the hit show Scandal, I thought Jack Canon`s American Destiny might be an interesting read. To my amazement, I totally enjoyed this political thriller.
Allow me to congratulate the author on his impressive debut. As a writer, he has a talent that allows an immediate connection with his characters, especially Jack.
The book moves at a relaxing pace. But I must admit, I became extremely absorbed when the author reveals an unexpected twist making it a suspenseful page turner!
I can’t wait to read the highly anticipated sequel.”

Jackie’s review. “Get ready to take a ride. The suspense, the loyalty, the inside world of politics all wrapped into a thriller you will not want to put down. I am recommending this to my book club and any book club who wants a good read for a change.” 

Terry’s Review. I have read this book in it’s infancy stage and was amazed. The final product riveting. Ben Affleck, you are the perfect Director, Producer and Actor to be Jack Canon. It is ready for the big screen. Read it now and you will want more of Jack. This book will inspire your next election choice. We need a real life Jack Canon for President. Move over Alex Cross, here comes a new generation hero. This is a story that can take many turns and always keep you waiting for the next chapter. It is written from the heart with passion, but with some hope for all Americans that fiction can be real if you only want it bad enough. So for you politicians out there that want to be the next President, read this book.

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords
Genre – Political Thriller
Rating – PG
More details about the author
 Connect with Greg Sandora on Facebook & Twitter

18 August 2013

Review: Ingredients of Outliers by John Shufeldt

Ingredients of Outliers is part biography, part self-help guide. The author John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA is a doctor/attorney/entrepreneur who, using his own experiences as well as those of others, takes the reader through the traits he believes every successful person needs.

Each trait is given its own chapter which usually contains John’s thoughts and experiences with the trait in question, a few examples of successful people who have had the trait and how it is been demonstrated by them, a summary of the key points in John’s own words and then quotes about the trait from other successful individuals. This formulaic set up, as well as the author’s conversational and humorous writing style makes for a quick and easy read.

While many readers will want to read the whole book in one go, the book's set up allows a reader to dip in and out, as and when without any problems. Some chapters will appeal more to some readers than others, the chapter on humility spoke to me more than the rest, whereas someone who is going through a serious illness might want to read the chapter on being indefatigable.

Overall, Ingredients of Outliers was an easy interesting read, that will not only appeal to those looking for ways to improve themselves but also those generally interested in the background and traits of highly successful individuals. 

Ingredients of Outliers is available from Amazon UK for £6.91 and from Amazon US for $10.44

[A review copy was provided by the author]

9 August 2013

Review: The Axeman of New Orleans by Hoffmann Books

As you might have noticed I'm a bit of a true crime buff and I couldn't pass up the chance of reviewing a new book in a new 'True Crime Collection' from Hoffmann Books. The Axeman of New Orleans is currently one of three offerings in the collection and tells the events of 1918-1919 in New Orleans that left residents in a state of panic.

The city was gripped by a series of horrific attacks and murders, where an unknown man or men broke into people's houses while they slept and bludgeoned them with an axe. Whilst several suspects were arrested, the true identity of the Axeman was never discovered and the crimes stopped as suddenly as they started.

The book covers the key points in the case, and has a very professional and easy to read narrative. It goes through the murders 'as they happened' and discusses possible suspects and briefly covers how the police and justice system handled the investigation. However perhaps due to a lack of solid case material (as the murders happened nearly one hundred years ago), the book is incredibly short and lacks the kind of insights these books usually have, either from victim accounts or from speaking to detectives involved. There are also quite a few instances where events are not clear, for example, there is uncertainty over whether one of the victims survived the attack. Not necessarily the fault of the authors, but detracts from the book's credibility and overall reading experience. The book also fails to include a key suspect included in many other accounts of the case. I can see no reason for this, as the name and details of this suspect can be clearly found in earlier accounts of this case, but is absent from Hoffmann's offering.

Unfortunately for The Axeman of New Orleans, it suffers because of the age of the material it is addressing. Whilst the material Hoffmann books has got is presented very well and makes an interesting read, it is lacking in the real detail needed to make a true crime book a success. As with most true crime accounts the same material can be found in numerous places on the web, although The Axeman of New Orleans does provide it in a much more accessible format and is arguably better written. This book would be perfect for someone wanting a quick overview of the case, or as part of a bigger collection should Hoffmann Books extend their offering.

The Axeman of New Orleans is available from Amazon for £1.96, but can be borrowed free if you have Prime.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

6 August 2013

Review: Winter Chill by Joanne Fluke

In Winter Chill the Larsens are your typical American family until their world is ripped apart by a snowmobile accident in which their young daughter is killed and Dan Larsen is paralysed. Whilst to their friends and neighbours the Larsens adjust to their daughter Laura’s death; behind closed doors it is a different story, both are struggling to cope. As the Larsens begin to self-destruct, the town has to cope with a series of tragic accidents that claim more lives in the rural winter idyll. 

Knowing nothing about the author or her previous works I requested this book to review solely based on the blurb, and the blurb makes Winter Chill sound like a fast paced mystery. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Very little action happens in the first half of the book, the early chapters are dedicated to the humdrum of the Larsens life – from shopping to cooking (after some research, I found out that Joanne Fluke is famous for a series of culinary mysteries, which explains the heavy presence of food). There are glimmers of what is to come, such as Dan’s sleepwalking and Marian’s mood swings, but these only really add to the story much later on, when they build into something more significant. The pace improves towards the end of the book, as does the action as we start getting ‘accidents’ happening to those close to the Larsen family, but the really good stuff is not until the final chapter.

Whilst slow, the story generally flows well, moving seamlessly between perspectives. There are two exceptions, both in the form of unneeded and out of place sex scenes. The adultery between Marian and Drew would be more fitting in a Mills and Boon story than in Winter Chill. It made uncomfortable reading (no, I’m not a prude), and what’s worse is that is simply swept under the rug after a few pages, despite Marian having confessed to Dan. The second scene between Cliff and Connie makes more sense, but doesn’t really advance the plot apart from providing a simple excuse to allow the killer access to them at the same time. Plot wise, there are some sticking points for me such as the lack of forensics and the seeming disinterest of the local sheriff in doing any investigation, despite clues pointing squarely at one family. The biggest let down was the fact that at the end of the book we don’t actually get told who the killer is, there are some strong indications but it could be one of two people depending on your interpretation. Some readers may like this, but for me personally it was frustrating and felt like a waste of several hours of reading.

There is a heavy emphasis on the psychological states of the two lead characters, and this provides an interesting dimension to the plot, but I feel it could have been used differently in order to maximise the effect. Also interesting were the notes back and forth between ‘Laura’ and Marian, particularly the last note.

Overall Winter Chill is a cosy mystery (if you overlook the sex) with an interesting psychological aspect. It’s not a book I enjoyed or would recommend, mainly due to the lack of pace and plot issues, but it should appeal to those who enjoy a slower, more character driven read (and must have done previously as this is a re-release of a 80s paperback). If you are not sure if Winter Chill is for you then you can try it yourself by reading the available pages on GoogleBooks.

Winter Chill will be available as an e-book from today on Amazon UK for £4.31 and from Amazon US for $6.63.

[A review copy was received through NetGalley]

1 August 2013

Review and Giveaway: Snow Day by Dan Maurer

Snow Day reads like an old campfire story, and that is what the author intended. Billy, our narrator, tells the story of how, as a child, he stumbled into a horror story which left another boy dead and gave him nightmares every snow day since.

Snow Day is a novella, only 100 pages long, but that is the perfect size for this story, as any longer and it would loose the thrill with too much detail. If anything, it could have been a little shorter, as I felt the first section dragged and, whilst building the background of the characters, wasn't needed in a story so short. The first few pages also revealed a bit too much for me, as horrifying as they were. These two small points were the reason I didn't award it the full 5 stars - but they should not put off a potential reader, as they are soon forgotten as the rest of the book unfolds.

Although short, the story is substantial, and leaves the reader with a satisfied feeling when you finish the book, rather than feeling like there could have been more. The writing is elegant in its simplicity, and the innocent but slightly cocky voice of the narrator takes you back to a much simpler time, and also makes the story that much creepier. There is even a surprise twist at the end.

A great read when you want to finish a story in one go. I very much enjoyed it, even though I usually steer clear of novellas.

Snow Day is available from Amazon for £1.32 as a Kindle e-book. There is also an audio book version available. A sample chapter can be found here.

Giveaway: The author is currently running a giveaway (ends Sep. 28th 2013) to win a Kindle Fire HD and copies of the audio book. Details can be found on his website here. Note: Tomes of the Soul is in no way associated with the giveaway.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

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