'Writing for me is not about speeling, grammar or punctuation – that’s why we have editors.... No, writing for me is the ability to capture a story and put it in words.' - Fantasy Muse

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Review of 2016

Hopefully your 2016 had been a great year, if not then you got 2017 to look forward to, but in the meantime I'd like to review the year in terms of the books I've read and mention the top three standouts. 

So, coming in third...

Lost Soul (Harbinger P.I. Book 1) by Adam J Wright.




Bit of a surprise for me actually to pick this book as my top 3 but I really enjoyed the simple and effective writing style, and a main character who you can actually like without the endless eye rolls.

Now second place goes to....

The Russian Assassin: A Max Austin Thriller, Book #1 by Jack Arbor. 



I know this blog is called Fantasy Muse but I enjoy reading other genres, especially action thrillers, and I thought this book was thoroughly entertaining and reminded me a lot of the Bourne series, not in terms of the storyline but relatable in regard to action, suspense and a protagonist you can root for. 

And lastly my favourite book of 2016 goes to....

Hell Divers (The Hell Divers Trilogy Book 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith



When I thought back to the books I've read this year, the one that flashed immediately to my mind was Hell Diver. From the beautiful front cover to the last page, I loved how unique this book was. The story captured my imagination and even after finishing the book, my mind kept drifting back to the novel and I can't wait to find out what the sequel will be like. 


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I wan't to finish my last post of 2016 by wishing you a successful and fulfilling 2017 and for me, I'm looking forward to reading books that will continue to inspire me to dream new adventures.

I'm ending on a few words I put together...hopefully they might have some meaning for you for the new year to come...

I am fighting for my belief, my purpose. I have conviction and will as strong as an oak against the mightiest of winds, as strong as the rock against the pounding of the waves. You will not break me. You can snap every bone in my body, tear flesh out of by body, but you will not break me. This I promise. This I vow.
Fantasy Muse

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Lost Soul

Lost Soul (Harbinger P.I. Book 1) by Adam J Wright.


Front Cover







Synopsis

Alec Harbinger, Preternatural Investigator 
I’m the guy you come to when your spouse gets bitten by a werewolf, or your honey is kidnapped by a demon. I’m the guy who knows how to save your ass when an evil sorcerer casts a curse on it. 
At least, I was that guy until the Society of Shadows sent me to Dearmont, Maine, a sleepy town that had a zero rating on the supernatural occurrences scale.  
My plan was to spend my days sitting in the office with nothing to do except drink coffee and eat apple bakes made by Felicity, my new assistant. 
But when a woman hires me to find out if her son has been possessed by a demon at a rich kids’ party, and a young man comes to the office insisting he’s been bitten by a werewolf, Dearmont goes from zero to hero. 
Oh, and did I mention that someone in the Society wants me dead?
Time to sharpen the swords and go to work…

My Review


Before I begin, I have to admit that I didn't have any great expectations before reading this book. There seems to be a lot of urban fantasy books nowadays based on a P.I and I have to say most of them are pretty forgettable. It just seems the genre is swamped with a lot of sameness, but the book was going for free on Amazon and I thought I'd give it a go.

So here's my review...


The story centres on Alec Harbinger, Preternatural Investigator, who works for a secret magical society, but he finds himself in their bad graces and as a result has been shunted out to Dearmont, Maine.


The book does follow the same cookie cutter formular as most other urban fantasy novels but honestly I enjoyed it.


And there's a couple of reasons why;

  1. The main one being the main character, Alec. He wasn't the brash, overconfident type that you often find in this genre, nor was he the bumbling idiot that invariably sends you into a fit of groaning due to the stupid decisions they make. Instead Alec, was a strong dependable guy who had some common sense about him. He actually approached problems like someone who's competent because he does it for a living (strange concept I know).
  2. The second reason I liked the book was the simple writing style. If you're looking for elaborate, descriptive passages of text then this book is probably not going to appease you, but I liked how simple the prose was and it read easy. You know sometimes I don't want to think too much when I'm reading and just want to enjoy the story.

Conclusion


If you want a quick, entertaining story based on a likeable character, then you can't go too far wrong with this book. I enjoyed it and now I'm on to the sequel.

Out of 10 Stars:


8 Stars


Buy it here:


Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Russian Assassin

The Russian Assassin: A Max Austin Thriller, Book #1 by Jack Arbor.


Front Cover







Synopsis



You can't go home again... 

Former KGB assassin Max Austin's peaceful life in Paris is shattered when his mother's imminent death brings him back to a world he only wants to forget. Before he's even unpacked his bags, a brutal act of terrorism sends Max running for his life and forces him to uncover secrets about his father's past to save his family's lives.

Max's sister and nephew become pawns in a game that started a generation ago. As Max races from the alleyways of Minsk to the tony neighborhood of Zurich, and finally to the gritty streets of Prague, he must confront his past and come to terms with his future to preserve his family name.

If you like intrigue, twists, and high-octane excitement, you'll love this tight, fast-paced adventure, starring Jack Arbor's stoic hero, ex-KGB assassin-for-hire Max Austin.


My Review


This thriller is based on an ex-KGB assassin, Max, who on the behest of his sister, is coming home from Paris to see his dying mother but just as he arrives a bomb goes off, killing his whole family save for his sister and child.

The remainder of the novel focuses on Max as he pursues those responsible for his families tragedy whilst trying to uncover the reason why they were targeted.

I've read a few hitmen/assassin type books and I have to say this is one of the better ones. I enjoyed the quick, efficient style of Jack Arbor's writing and the story flowed easily from one plot to the next. The action scenes were well described and Arbor kept it simple, which I appreciated. 

As for the main character, Max, I thought he was a superb protagonist. He was good at his job, but he wasn't infallible, and whilst I obviously didn't expect to see him killed off, I got some suspense on whether or not he'd be able to rescue/protect those he cared about. 
Another point I liked about Max was that he wasn't narcissistic or egotistical - I've read my share of books where authors portray their main character's as the next coming of James Bond, which invariably involves nothing more than endless skirt chasing and posing.

Conclusion


If you're into your fast paced action novels with a healthy dose of mystery then this book will be perfect for you.

Jack Arbor's a talented author who I'll be keeping an eye on.

Out of 10 Stars


8 Stars


Buy it here:


Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Wolves of War

The Wolves of War by Greg Curtis.


Front Cover






Synopsis

Briagh has a secret. He's a morph. One born with the gift of changing shape. He has another secret too. He's also a thief. A genuine cat burglar. 
Meanwhile Elan has her own secret. Despite pretending to be a bardic warrior she's actually the Princess of Abylon. And she too has a second secret. Her entire family is mad. 
Her father and brothers are unfit to rule. Her mother is not dead as people believe. Instead she's become the psychotic wolf mother, whose pack has been killing and devouring the people of the city for a decade.
And then there's the Court and their little secret. They rule the Kingdom of Abylon even though they do not have the right.
Secrets are useful things. They allow people like Elan and Briagh to live normal, even comfortable lives. They allow a kingdom to be governed by those who do not have the authority. They make life for the people of Abylon possible. 
But when their secrets are revealed, none of those things may hold. And when the wolf mother is the reason for that revelation – it may be war.

My Review


For those of you who who follow my blog will probably know that I am a huge fan of Greg Curtis. If you didn't, then you do now. I've read most of his books, and I enjoy the formular he uses in his stories - the quite, reclusive main character, shunned by society, who has talents that requires him to become a hero to his people. I guess I'm a sucker for those types of storylines.

Moving on to this book, the main character is Briagh who is a Morph, born with the ability to change shapes. He is also a thief that has a tendency to run when the going gets tough.

The other main character is Elan, Princess of Abylon. She is a fierce, strong willed woman who wants to kill all Morphs due to the tragedy that befell her family.

The storyline follows both Briagh and Elan who become involved when a crazed woman leading a pack of wolves begins to attack the city of Absynth. 

I guess I had high expectations before reading this and I certainly wouldn't say I was let down but I have to admit it's not one of Curtis's best works. The storyline for me felt a little bit fanciful and did not flow as well as his other books. 

I did however like the main character Briagh, he had a bit more backbone than what you usually get and was enjoyable to read. As for Elan, she had a remarkable personality (basically a psychopath) and one I won't be forgetting in a long while. It was nice to get that contrast between Briagh and Elan.

Conclusion


If you're fan of Greg Curtis then you know what you're getting into, and this book naturally follows his previous novels, and whilst not his best, you still get that satisfying feel.

If you haven't read his books before then I would suggest trying his other novels first like 'The Godlost Land', 'Banshee Hunt' or 'The Lady's Man'.

Out of 10 Stars


6 Stars


Buy it here:


Saturday, 10 December 2016

Ren: The Man Behind the Monster

Ren: The Man Behind the Monster by Sarah Noffke.

Front Cover




Synopsis


Born with the power to control minds, hypnotize others, and read thoughts, Ren Lewis, is certain of one thing: God made a mistake. No one should be born with so much power. A monster awoke in him the same year he received his gifts. At ten years old. A prepubescent boy with the ability to control others might merely abuse his powers, but Ren allowed it to corrupt him. And since he can have and do anything he wants, Ren should be happy. However, his journey teaches him that harboring so much power doesn't bring happiness, it steals it. Once this realization sets in, Ren makes up his mind to do the one thing that can bring his tortured soul some peace. He must kill the monster.

My Review


The novel is based on Ren, who is part of a special race of human beings called Dream Travellers and has certain abilities, such as reading thoughts, hypnosis, and controlling minds.
The story follows Ren from when he's a school kid adjusting to his powers to adulthood. Let's just say life is not smooth sailing for Ren as he tries to overcome a few mighty hurdles and in the process finds himself being recruited by an organisation dedicated to battling evil.

Now I want to talk about the main character, Ren. I've finished the book and I still don't know what to make of him. I wouldn't say I like him as he's not really the likeable type. The author has made him very cynical, arrogant, and narcissistic, so to sum him up - a complete a** h***. 
Yet I've gone on and read the 2nd and 3rd book in the series, which suggests that despite how much I dislike Ren, I still want to read more about him.

A point I found confusing was how much Ren hated himself and thought himself a monster. Yes, Ren does a lot of dubious things, but stuff I would hardly call monstrous, and yet he acts like he's the 2nd coming of Hitler (or maybe I've just got a different psycopath-ometer to everyone else).
Aslo another point I found odd was how Ren thought his powers were too godly for mankind and that it was too much for anyone to bear, which left me scratching my head thinking, yes, he can read thoughts and do some hypnosis, but I'd hardly call it Superman worthy stuff.

Conclusion


Like I've said in my review, I've gone on and read the 2nd and 3rd books in the series because the story is actually quite interesting. The characters are a bit weird but the good kind of weird (I think). So, if you're looking for something more quirky than your average urban fantasy, then this will be perfect for you.

Out of 10 Stars:


7 Stars


Buy it here:


Saturday, 26 November 2016

As the Ash Fell

As the Ash Fell by AJ Powers.

Front Cover




Synopsis


Life in the frozen wastelands of Texas is anything but easy, but for Clay Whitaker there is always more at stake than mere survival.

Yellowstone, along with two other Super Volcanoes, exploded with a tremendous fury following months of heightened seismic activity worldwide. The devastating eruptions released unmeasurable quantities of ash into the atmosphere. Coastlines were changed. New canyons were formed. Temperatures plummeted, dragging economies down, too. With no real way to sustain order, governments around the world began to fold, societies collapsed.

It’s been seven years since the ash rained down from the sky. Populations are thinning. Food is scarce. Despair overwhelming. Clay and his sister Megan have taken a handful of orphaned children into their home—a home soaring 16 stories into the sky. Providing for his adopted family is a 24/7 job for Clay. And with roughly six short months a year to gather enough food and supplies to last the long, brutal winter, Clay is forced to spend much of his time away from home—scavenging, hunting, and bartering.

Despite the vicious, unforgiving world he lives in, Clay has grown accustomed to his new life. That is, until he meets Kelsey Lambert.

Now, with winter rolling in earlier than ever, Clay must swiftly adapt to the changes in his life to ensure the safety of those he cares about.

My Review 


I always like a good post-apocalyptic novel, I don't know why, it's not like I want the world to come to an end but I enjoy reading about the creativity, the bravery and hardship that follow these types of novels. Sometimes I can't help but picture what I'd do if faced with a horde of zombies coming my way...... I'd probably trip my family up and use them as bait while I escape.
Fantasy Muse 

As the Ash Fell is based on Clay as he and his sister struggle to provide for their family of 10 orphans, yes that's right 10 orphans!

The story follows Clay's day-to-day involvement as he interacts with various groups of people some friendly, others not so much, as well as how fights to protect his family. Another dimension's added when Clay stumbles upon Kelsey and her daughter as they are about to be attacked by murderous thugs and of course or hero can't let that happen.

You know what, I rather enjoyed the book and I liked the characterisation of Clay and Kelsey. They both grew as the book progressed. Yes, Clay was a bit too saintly for my preference but it was never eye rolling stuff. I thought the story was well written and the author made things simple, he didn't try to overelaborate when describing action scenes which made it flow more easily.

I did also appreciate that Clay was not disguised as Rambo, he was vulnerable and (to my slight frustration) got his share of beatings, but his courage and sense of virtue proved to be his strength.

The only negative I would say, and it is only a slight one, is that I thought there was too much emphasis on the romantic side of things and at times it felt more like a romance novel, but hey in a world where someone will kill you over a can of tuna, you need some love.

Conclusion


A very good dystopian novel about hope, survival, and the importance of family in such a desolate world.

It's not your typical macho-alpha male book that describes in endless pages about this gun or that one, so if you're pasionately into your guns and action then you proably won't enjoy this book as much, if however you want to read about a tale of human endevours and the values people hold in times of bleak despair, then give this book a try.

Out of 10 Stars:


8 Stars


Buy it here:


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Hell Divers

Hell Divers (The Hell Divers Trilogy Book 1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith. 


Front Cover






Synopsis



More than two centuries after World War III poisoned the planet, the final bastion of humanity lives on massive airships circling the globe in search for a habitable area to call home. Aging and outdated, most of the ships plummeted back to earth long ago. The only thing keeping the two surviving lifeboats in the sky are Hell Divers: men and women who risk their lives by diving to the surface to scavenge for parts the ships desperately need.


When one of the remaining airships is damaged in an electrical storm, a Hell Diver team is deployed to a hostile zone called Hades. But there’s something down there that’s far worse than the mutated creatures discovered on dives in the past—something that threatens the fragile future of humanity.


My Review



From just looking at the cover and reading the title I knew this book was going to be special, and my gut feeling did not let me down.

The book is set in a post-apocalyptic world where earth having been ravaged by nuclear attacks have left it in a permanent state of toxic radiation and electrical storms. Humanity are on the very brink of extinction and all who remain reside inside two airships that hover above the storm clouds. 
But the problem is that the airships need fuel to run and the only the way to get it is by going back to ground and so in order for depleting resources to be replenished it requires brave individuals willing to venture beyond the electric storm clouds and descend upon a toxic earth, and these individuals are better known as - Hell Divers.

In terms of the beginning chapters, I'm struggling to think of a book that instantly packed such adrenalin filled action and excitement than this book. I don't think I had time to breath during the 1st chapter because I was so hooked on the suspense and anticipation of the Hell Divers as they jumped down to Earth. 

The story focused on the main protagonist, Xavier, or X for short, who performed more dives than any other person. The average lifespan for a Hell Diver is about 15 dives and X has completed 95 jumps. He is a tough, resilient character but at the same time showed tremendous loyalty to his people. In a nutshell he's my kind of main character.

I thought the premise of the book was unique (for me at least) and I really enjoyed the world that the author created. Smith writes in simple but effective words that easily paints what's happening. I really enjoyed the tension he imbued when describing the mutated creatures that live on the ground.

Conclusion


If you want to enjoy an action packed post-apocalyptic novel with a unique/interesting concept then this book is a must. One of the best opening intros that I've read for a long, long time. Just read the books sample to understand what I mean.

Out of 10 Stars:


8 Stars



Buy it here: