Jane of Manchester by J.G. Dow

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Jane has to be the loneliest and most bored woman in existence. She is thirty and pretty, but it has been a year since her last boyfriend. She works for a florist who doesn’t particularly like her and she goes out for drinks with her friends several times a week for ‘Is this all there is?’ drinking. When she dines with her friends there is a lot of discussion about what to eat, what they like to eat, and agreement that they have never had such amazing food before. Every meal, except breakfast, inevitably has a delicious wine to discuss.

No wonder Jane is such a boring person. She hangs out with the most boring people imaginable. Even when one friend has a bridal party, interestingly called a hen-do, the women travel out-of-town and proceed to drink themselves silly for a weekend, expressing joy over the approaching wedding. One friend, Natasha, gets so drunk that she invites a young man to accompany her to the ladies’ room. Her friends are horrified, but somehow this action doesn’t appear to be the first time and won’t be the last.

Jane’s friends, and even her mother, begin mentioning how long it has been since Jane had a boyfriend, so she starts to give it serious consideration. After all, she needs a date for the wedding. Her mother’s neighbor, Dan, has recently broken up with his girlfriend, and according to her mother, Jane should give him the chance to prove himself boyfriend material.

The following week, pondering the attractiveness of Dan, she sees him on the sidewalk near her work. She stares. Then she notices Dan with a bunch of coworkers at her favorite drinking hole. He doesn’t see her and she decides not to call attention to herself by speaking to him. What if he doesn’t know who she is? Her friends egg her on, but Jane figures she needs to think about this for a while more. As she thinks on what to do, she does nothing.

This book was slow. The only reason I kept reading is that I found the British expressions fascinating. Some of the phrases are definitely different: totally cheesed off, feeling a bit knackered, wardrobe full of natty dresses, make a pot noodle for lunch, hen-do, etc. These make Americanisms sound down-right dull. I think the hardest part was slogging through all the drinking and the hangover headaches. They were in abundance. So, I find myself wanting to read more of these fun and interesting expressions, but in a different subject matter.

The grading:

  • Genre and general reading age – Contemporary. The reading age is difficult. I don’t think it would hold a teen’s attention.
  • Level of sexuality – Very little.
  • Is there graphic language? Yes, but it has to be read in context, otherwise you may wonder what the gist of ‘that!’ was.
  • Did I cry? No.
  • Did I laugh? No, but occasionally I smiled internally.
  • Is this part of a series? I haven’t heard of a sequel, but it has the best cliffhanger ever!
  • Level of character development – What you see is what you get.

Due to the incredible cliffhanger, I give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.

Available here on Amazon

Featured

Featured Author: Rob Shackleford

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An English-born Australian, Rob Shackleford has lived in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with a varied career that has included Customs Officer, Scuba Instructor, College Teacher, and management roles in too many places.

With degrees in the Arts and Business, he is mad keen on travel, scuba diving, family history, martial arts, astronomy, and playing Djembe and Congas.

Rob is a father of two and lives on Australia’s Gold Coast.

  1. When did you start writing? I started writing about six years ago and took me about four years to write.The book was originally known as “Traveller”, a title that was too common. Since then it has been test-marketed, edited, retitled, added to, and finally emerged as “Traveller Inceptio”. It has been a long road.

  2. What is your inspiration? This is difficult to define clearly, as I became aware that I had stories that needed to be told. While I have been an avid reader for most of my life, writing was probably delayed by my being too busy with the mechanics of life rather than in living. I could quote authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, or others who were inspiring. My inspiration can be described to have been garnered from the terrific stories by the many sci-fi, history, and adventure writers, both fiction or factual, whose moments I have shared.


  3. How did you come up with your stories? I am most fortunate to live reasonably close to beaches in sunny Queensland, Australia. One day I was sitting on a beach and, as I looked at some nearby hi-rise apartments, I had the thought, “What was this location be like 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, or let’s go the whole hog and imagine what it was like 1000 years ago.” Then it was – “How would I survive if I was to travel back to that time?” Extrapolate that out and Traveller Inceptio became, um, incepted.


  4. Where is your favorite place to write? I have a desk in our apartment. Recently I moved to the Gold Coast and have the good fortune to live even closer to the beaches. My desk is a bright, airy place where I have views of the sea. It is not distracting enough to take my mind off the task at hand, but bright enough to be inspiring and it has a positive vibe.

    My desk, with Internet availability, is my favorite place to do some serious writing. It’s really about having information at my fingertips.

  5. Do you plan your stories before starting? “Traveller Inceptio” began organically. I knew roughly how it could end, but the story soon developed as I wanted to portray how real people would react. In all, I do try to be as realistic as possible, how humans can react when placed into challenging circumstances. Naturally, Traveller Inceptio has suffered numerous axe-attacks by editors and I have learned a lot about story formation, removing guff, and writing in something close to the English language.

    A few times I experienced where I felt someone else was writing the story, where I was typing away and would go “Wow, I didn’t know that was going to happen!” I’m not sure if I am possessed, but the experience seemed to be a productive one.
    I have just completed a draft of Traveller 2 – Traveller Probo, which is a natural continuation of the story in Traveller Inceptio. There, I had had a better idea as to where I was going. In fact, the final chapter was one of the first that I wrote.
    “Traveller Inceptio” began organically. I knew roughly how it could end, but the story soon developed as I wanted to portray how real people would react. In all, I do try to be as realistic as possible, how humans can react when placed into challenging circumstances. Naturally, Traveller Inceptio has suffered numerous axe-attacks by editors and I have learned a lot about story formation, removing guff, and writing in something close to the English language.

  6. When did you first consider yourself an author? I see myself as a writer and a storyteller. When I get the big break – then I feel I can call myself an author. I still stumble over the “a” word as I have it tied to unrealistic expectations such as money, celebrity, and a mini-series, but I’m getting there.


  7. Do you see writing as a career? Yes, I do. If one is to complete a book and then go through the onerous task of publishing and being noticed, it becomes inevitable that you have to take this seriously. So, yes, my writing is a career at which I aim to eventually make a living.

    I might add on a personal note that I have had the good fortune to have sold my house, moved in with my lady love, and have the cash to do what I need for some time as yet. I don’t have the burden of a crappy job, a mortgage, or debt, so I am in the enviable position of making the choice to become a paid author and have the time to maintain the unending motivation to achieve that goal. I did, however, begin my writing path when I had all three of the aforementioned.

  8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? I think writing is a major learning experience. I aim for my writing to entertain, where readers can invest the time to digest my story and come out of the experience happy to have made that investment. I hope to make my stories unique, even a little bit, and hope someone isn’t writing something along the same lines.

    My most challenging task is in the mechanics of writing; to remove excessive waffle, improve my language, be creative in an appealing manner, and learn to be a better wordsmith. In the end, writing is about using the tools of trade to create an entertaining outcome that readers will pay for.

    However, I enjoy writing and especially love having someone say they enjoyed reading my work.

  9. What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing “Traveller Inceptio” was in accessing accurate information regarding the people about whom I was writing. I had to know about the Saxons, a people of 1000 years in the past about which a surprising amount is not known. I had to learn in detail about how they dressed, what they ate, attitudes to sex, etc etc.

    The second hardest part was in learning to write in a more engaging style than the business manner to which I was most familiar.

  10. Can you share a little of your current work with us? I originally self-published “Traveller Inceptio” – then it was just called “Traveller”. I had the book printed and received a lot of positive feedback. The question I was asked most was if there was to be a sequel.

    I hadn’t really planned to write a sequel, but the first book lends itself to a continuation of the story. So, I have just completed a draft of the second of the trilogy – called “Traveller Probo” (Latin for investigate or prove). In “Traveller Probo”, we follow on from the success of Saxon Traveller, where governments compete to initiate their own Traveller projects. No spoilers, but politics and fame make for a heady mix when selecting which nations conduct their own projects to send their mission specialists 1000 years into the past. Some locations will surprise.

    While writing “Traveller Probo”, I submitted myself to having “Traveller Inceptio” professionally edited. There was a lot of blood, but I survived and the work was retitled, tightened, and rewritten to the version now in existence. I am again submitting the book for a final professional proofread and edit prior to “Traveller Inceptio” being printed.

    While I hope to improve my writing and composition skills and make “Traveller Probo” a technically better book, readers can be assured that their favourite characters will not be forgotten.

    I have just begun drafting “Traveller Manifesto”, the third in the Traveller series.


  11. Do you have advice for other writers? Yes. As a fellow traveller (no pun intended) I can advise the following:

    1. Writing is like acting, dancing, and music. There are a lot out there hoping to win. All I can suggest is don’t be daunted. Live the dream, write your story and don’t give up. Understand it will take a lot more effort and time than you can ever imagine. The process will change you.

    2. Writing for publication is a hard slog and a tough gig. Learn the publication process, how the traditional process is no longer valid, that agents and publishers won’t even respond to you. This is a lonely path, but if it is your dream, then you must be true to yourself and give it your best shot. Who knows where it can end up. Maybe you are the next J K Rolling. I love her story.

  12. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers? I hope you enjoy “Traveller Inceptio”. It might be a little longer than most, but the story is as had to be told.

    I most welcome your comments.

 

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Traveller

Read our review of Traveller Inceptio by Rob Shackleford

Shine with Me by S.J. Pierce

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Some reviews are easy to write. Some are a joy. Then there are the ones that feel impossible. That is the case here. Bear with me as I try to put my thoughts down in such a way that you feel less lost than I am.

This is book three in the series. Many books have clues that tie back to the previous ones; that way a new reader can still jump in and enjoy the last book. This is not one of those. It begins with a journal and a character, whose name I didn’t even learn for several chapters, but there is absolutely no back story. What is this super-important journal? How did they come to possess this journal of evil? This is the way of the entire book. My face held a perpetually confused expression. These magical teenagers were tied to trees in another book, which is highly intriguing, but why? There is no explanation, but the memory is called upon more than once. Some of them were sacrificed for someone else to have immortality. Were these baddies originally human? Were they devil worshippers or just witches? It seems that everyone else is demon or angel or the most-common-type-of-being, hybrid of something with something else. There are numerous evil sisters, but I don’t even know how many or what happened to them. The entire story supposedly revolves around Kat and this evil woman’s, Lilliana’s, need to do something to her, but I don’t know what or why. Kat is very powerful, though I didn’t see it here, so is the villain going to use that or just torture and kill her? There are a lot of buts. This is a series that must be read in order or you will be utterly lost and frustrated.

Usually I like to discuss the characters, but since there was no history they felt empty. They were not described physically or personality-wise. Not even Gabe, her soul mate, is given any detail. The only sense I got from this first-person narrative is that she cannot live without him and that he is a healer. Kat herself is a mystery. If I was forced to describe her, which I guess I kind of am, I couldn’t. My thought is that all of that information is given in the first book and, therefore, it all relies on what was previously read and what those readers bring with them.

War is coming. I don’t know why, but there is a lot of hatred and fear. The first sixty percent is basically internal musings about this impending battle and how much Lilliana has tortured them and now she’s coming back to finish the job in this description-less dimension. I had no clue where they were or how they got there or why they were there. The only details given were that one of the elders could control the weather, there were trees, and they lived in cabins. Later it is stated that they are permanent residents, but this is a magical place. Who knows what can happen when the supernatural is involved, including The Creator and possibly Lucifer himself.

Warning: Some might find this paragraph a spoiler, but it really isn’t at all. Finally, some action! It was exciting and I was more than ready for it. Then it was cut in half. It’s a very popular writing tool. The actual action is not lived. The main character is knocked out or killed or goes somewhere else or what-have-you, but the reader doesn’t get to experience it. It is all relayed to the reader via other characters explaining how it all went down. With this tactic, not only does our main character miss it, but so do we. The battle was off to a great start, after I’d flipped through pages of teenage lust for vengeance, only to leave me hanging. The ending was long and drawn-out, perhaps to make up for the extensive build-up that led to a few pages of excitement. The so-called return to “normal” was exceptionally long. The overall balance of the book was off, especially considering the many confusing references to thrilling moments from the previous ones. They sounded like non-stop action, so I kept waiting for that here, only to finish empty-handed.

My review is based on what I read, which is only the final book, and my personal experience. Keep that in mind, as I highly suggest everyone read the first book. The premise sounds interesting and I wish I’d been able to start with Captivate Me. That being said, for a new reader it was anticlimactic and a whole lot of “Huh?” Nothing is explained, because it was all done beforehand, so it was a long haul, reading in the dark. There were brief moments of emotion, sadness or anger, but they were miniscule, since I didn’t know the characters. There were a lot of them, too. Due to the dozens of characters in the story or those that were referenced to, it is not surprising that I couldn’t get a good feel for anyone.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy for teens.
  • Level of sexuality – They do the deed several times, but it’s blissfully glossed over. That was a major plus.
  • Is there graphic language? Surprisingly, yes. It is very obvious that the story is YA, but they swore more than once and right off the bat. Even an angel cursed proudly and Kat thought that was pretty cool.
  • Did I cry? Nope. Not even when people died. The mourning period was frighteningly brief and the characters continually mentioned life returning to normal. For the people who survived, and they’re all immortal so the memories will stay with them forever, there is no return to normal. It’s called accepting and moving on and scars you for life. Only they have far more than seventy or eighty years, which sucks for them. So, the term “return to normal” didn’t really fit. Although, it was quoted as such after several weeks of healing and the reader is led to believe that most of the people are fine. If only real life were that sweet. In actuality, a new norm is what happens.
  • Did I laugh? Not once, but I believe there were a few moments that were supposed to be funny. The book is very serious, though, so it struck me as out-of-place.
  • Level of character development – I just didn’t see any. The characters are barely touched upon. They are in the story, or at least mentioned, but there is no hint of their past behaviors and emotions. There was nothing for a new reader to build upon and they never changed. I couldn’t come up with a decent way to describe our heroine and even her lover remained simple and perfect, not really a part of the story until the end. The dozens of others were a mish-mash of super hero abilities.

This book was hollow for me, but I went into it completely unprepared. Many times I can pick up in the middle of a series and quickly figure things out. Not here. My review is based solely on my experience. It is obvious that the author put a lot of effort into the book and there were hardly any typos. The repetitive thoughts about Lilliana and how much Kat wanted to kill her could have been cut in half and made it flow smoother, but for someone who has read the first two I’m sure it’s a decent ride. Normally, I would rate my experience a two, but since I was at a severe disadvantage I’ll give this ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. My suggestion is that all readers of fantasy and those who love characters with numerous and fantastical magic powers should grab book one and dive right in.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

NEW RELEASE: City Boy, Southern Girl by H.C. Bentley

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AUTHOR BIO

There’s just something about a small town that makes relationships interesting, whether they are romances, long-running feuds, or life-long friendships. These are the relationships H.C. Bentley enjoys discovering and exploring. Well that, and the fact she just loves a good happily ever after or second chance story.
When she’s not writing, H.C. works as a cataloging librarian at her county library. In her spare time, you can find her playing pool, traveling with her family, or curled up watching movies (romantic comedies are a favorite!). She’s also an avid reader, leaning towards various authors of romance and chick lit, but her favorite is Nora Roberts.
A southern girl at heart, H.C. calls Kentucky her home. After opting to join the military to pay for college, she spent three years stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany before returning to her hometown in rural western Kentucky, where she and her husband live with their two daughters.
H.C. loves chatting with readers. You can contact her through her website, or any of her social media.
BUY LINK (Signed paperbacks & eBooks):

12 copy

City Boy, Southern Girl

Growing up in a small town, Sarah Wright knew city boy Jake Ryland was going to be trouble the minute she saw him.
In order to help a friend, Jake moved from his home in the city – with its vast amounts of entertainment options and women – to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Accustomed to the fast paced life he loved, life now seemed to move as slow as the molasses the South was known for. Until he met Sarah.
Sarah knew Jake’s stay in town was temporary, and did her best not to be
drawn in by his charm and good looks. And after a disastrous first date, she thought she was safe. Little did she know…
As their relationship builds, so does their chemistry…and their feelings for one another. Do they try to find a way to make it work, even though they come from different worlds? Or do they walk away now and wonder what might have been?

Blood Dragons by Rosemary A. Johns

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I’m not a fan of vampire novels. Twilight created an influx of vampire stories and, while each is special in its own way, I’ve grown tired of blood-suckers. This book is completely different. It stands next to Anne Rice, all-time writer of vampire fiction, and holds its own.

The story is written as a letter to the woman he loves, talking about the present and the past. After decades together, Light has watched the all-too-human love of his life wither and grow old. Her dementia adds a devastating aspect to the story, but is far from the only soul wrenching part of the book.

A large portion of the story is dedicated to his life with his Author, in other words maker, Ruby, the red-haired devil. She introduces him to Blood Life when he is on the way out from his First Life. Immediately drawn in by the connection of creator and creation, he cannot separate himself from her and they spend over a hundred years together, wreaking havoc and killing indiscriminately. It isn’t until the late 1960’s that he sees another side to Ruby. She is controlling and punishing, then she forces him to live with their “family”, brothers from the same vampire lineage. This change alters everything about their lives. No longer is she his angel and savior; she becomes the one who holds him back.

In walks the incredible Kathy. From the get-go she is a strong, hard-headed character who is easy to love. She’s a perfect counterpoint to Light, our hero who continually comments on his lack of hero status, all the while performing acts that require bravery. By the time the story begins, he is a man looking to live a life in harmony with humans, not as a selfish vampire who believes he is worthy of worship. I fell in love with him right away. He’s entertaining and brutally honest. His insight into human nature is astounding and forced me to open my eyes and honestly look at our ideas and behaviors. Overall, the book is a tremendous observation of humanity. This is why Kathy is so important to Light. She stands for all that is good with humans: honesty, loyalty, independence, strength, and the basic need for love. She accepts and loves Light for all that he is, even though he has committed atrocious acts. That is why they were able to make a happy life together, even though she grew old while he remained eternally young.

The story has a vocabulary all its own. The novel originates from the UK and has a thick accent, but the unique vernacular creates a fantastic setting that is unlike anything else I have ever read. It took a few chapters to fall into the groove, but before I knew it I was reading it with the accent flowing smoothly in my imagination. For the majority, I do not care for stories that fluctuate constantly in time, but this book handled it flawlessly. At times I could not wait to return to the era that I had just been diving into, but it was so fast-paced that I was back to the 1960’s before I knew it, a hundred years passing in less than half an hour. This is the first story in a very long time that strikes me as perfect. At no point did I find myself floundering or distracted.

For the rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – Fantasy for adults and possibly older teens.
  • Level of sexuality – There are references to it, in some new and exciting verbage, but it is light and the deed is never spoken of in detail.
  • Is there graphic language? Not that I noticed.
  • Did I cry? I didn’t, but there were many moments that made my heart hurt.
  • Did I laugh? Not really, but Light is extremely entertaining and a joy to read.
  • Is this part of a series? Yes, it is book one of the Rebel Vampire Series.
  • Level of character development – The characters are amazingly well-written. It is easy to fall into the arms of Light with his open and endearing storytelling. Ruby is an evil being that you love to hate. Kathy is the heart-warming bridge to the human world for Light. Even the other vampires are so well-done that they are easily envisioned and each forms a tight emotional tie to the reader.

This is one of the finest vampire novels I have ever read. The pages flew by and I cannot wait until I can delve into book two. I suggest this to readers of all genres; this is not just a vampire tale. This is a real look at human nature and the first-person view of a man’s honest introspection into his life as a vampire and his desire to be part of the human world. I am thrilled to give this book ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ shiny stars.

Available here on Amazon