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Roderick Donald

Welcome to the News & Reviews section here at Doctor Who Online! This is where you will find all the latest Doctor Who related news and reviews split up into easy to use sections - each section is colour coded for your convenience. The latest items can be found at the top, and older items follow down the page.

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7 June 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Razi Imam

RRP: £10.37 / $12.95 (Paperback) | £FREE / $4.01 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Razi Imam's 'Masters Of The Broken Watches' is an exciting new entrant to the science fiction genre.

This is a story that focuses on two groups of protagonists; a Vietnamese fisherman Pham Kai and his wife Minh, and the other on Sebastian Miles and his team of fellow scientists. The juxtaposition of these two worlds is stark and acts as a refreshing change in tone.

It is clear just how much research the author has put into the book; from the cultures we encounter to the locations we visit - all are written so richly and vibrantly, and in doing so Imam brings so much from the page to life. Some of the exposition at the start may seem a little slow at first, but its totally necessary in fleshing out the characters and places and making them feel that bit more real.

As the title suggests, time plays a part in the story, but in a totally brilliant way. Fans of Douglas Adams' work may feel at home here, although there are no cheap gags and everything is played straight-up with sincerity. Some of the more 'out there' elements of Masters Of The Broken Watches end up making you suspend your disbelief and it is these shining moments that make the story truly magical.

We mentioned about this being a Science Fiction novel, but it is so much more than that; it's a thriller, a scientific quest, a heart-breaking story of love (and the lengths a person will go because of that love). In many ways this is a genre-bending adventure that very much carves its own unique path.

Keep your eyes on this author as we expect more great things from his fantastic mind!

**This book is FREE to download for DWO visitors TODAY! 

+  Masters Of The Broken Watches is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
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16 May 2021

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Written By: Kimberly Baer

RRP: £12.98 / $16.43 (Paperback) | £3.60 / $5.06 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

What's not to like in Kimberly Baer's captivating story, The Haunted Purse? The premise is brilliant:

"That old denim purse Libby Dawson bought at the thrift store isn't your run-of-the-mill teenage tote. It's a bag of secrets, imbued with supernatural powers. Strange items keep turning up inside, clues to a decades-old mystery only Libby can solve."

One could be forgiven for thinking that Libby (our central character) has found an old item belonging to a time lord; a seemingly transcendental bag where mysterious objects turn up, sounds like something straight out of an episode of Doctor Who, but The Haunted Purse is very much its own thing. In fact, as a plot device, the concept of a mere purse that can help drive the plot forward is simply genius!

If you read the Acknowledgments section at the start of the book, you discover how the author conceived the concept for the purse, and who it was that gave her the inspiration. Needless to say it's a wonderfully apt and perfect little bit of detail.

In this Young Adult story, Libby is a teen who has had a relatively hard life, having been abandoned by her contemptible mother, and now living alone. The titular purse paves the way for a good old fashioned mystery - almost Nancy Drew meets Doctor Who.

There's a fun cast of characters too, Libby and her friends are all layered with their own quirks and there's some great inter-character development and discourse that evolves throughout the book.

This was a surprisingly gripping story, the likes of which, I must confess, I've never really experienced in a book of this genre. Baer's pacing and peppering of mystery was that of a seasoned author let alone a debut novel.

The ending, for us at least, was one of the most satisfying conclusions to a young adult novel that we've read in a long time. It was bittersweet, and whilst we won't draw on the detail, its nice (for a change) to know that a book can just 'be' without the promise of a sequel. The Haunted Purse is a beautiful standalone story that teens and adult alike will enjoy. Recommended!

+  The Haunted Purse is Out Now!
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15 May 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Roderick Donald

RRP: £12.50 / $14.99 (Paperback) | £3.99 / $5.53 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

The Mind Controller, by Roderick Donald, it the first book in the author's Cait Lennox: Femme Fatale series; an urban fiction that straddles the thriller, paranormal and fantasy genres.

*It's worth noting that there is actually a prequel to Book One called 'The Awakening'. Whilst you do not necessarily have to read it, there is a handy 'The Story So Far...' section at the beginning of book one, which fills in some gaps.

We follow our protagonist, Cait Lennox - a strong female lead, who slowly discovers her paranormal abilities. At first glance, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly exciting about Cait, but as the story progresses, we watch her transform into a multi-layered force of nature.

There's a particularly harrowing scene a few pages in that merits some slight caution for those of a sensitive disposition, but it's an important and poignant one that gives us our first taste of 'The Gift' that binds itself through Cait's journey.

Donald's use of description is simply wonderful; his almost poetic scenic descriptions bring the reader within a hair's breadth of the setting in such clarity that you genuinely feel you are there. Here's a perfect example from the very first chapter:

"In a glance, she [Cait] took in the heavy, steely clouds casting a sad spell over everything; clouds pumped so full of moisture and hanging so low in the air she felt she could eat their contents. A damp mist, cold and lingering as surely as if it had been sent by the devil himself had settled on all things mortal, leaving evidence of its passing with waterdrops clinging to leaves and umbrellas and clothing and hair, with seemingly no discretion or choice."

Donald, Roderick. The Mind Controller: Action-packed Contemporary Urban Fiction (Cait Lennox: femme fatale series Book 1) (p. 3). Kindle Edition. 

For a story that is bathed in the paranormal - a genre that traditionally looks to the past, there are some rather refreshing nods to modern-day life; Wi-Fi, WhatsApp and Facebook all get name-checked. That's not to say that the past isn't referenced... there's plenty here and even a few pop culture classics from yesteryear, thrown in for good measure. Heck, "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" is Cait's ringtone. How's that for some time-spanning juxtaposition?!

By the time we reach the end of the book, (and not wanting to spoil too much) we realise that Cait is merely at the start of her journey of self-discovery and the powers she is just learning to harness. There is a strong sense of her new purpose to help those in need and defeat evil, and all of this together bodes for an exciting follow-up in Book Two: The Assassin's Apprentice.

This is truly a well thought out series that paces well and leaves you wanting more. We're in it for the long haul and strongly recommend you come along for the ride!

+  The Mind Controller is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
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+  Visit Roderick Donald's official website

23 April 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jim Hamilton

RRP: £9.25 / $17.68 (Paperback) | £1.64 / $2.29 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

The Chaos Machine is the first book in The Chaos Trilogy by Jim Hamilton; a SciFi adventure spanning 7000 years that's light and easy going on the reader.

"When the crew of a Shoomaran freighter find themselves stranded on Earth in 5342 BC, they learn that the native inhabitants are destined to die out in only a thousand years. Aided by a machine that can foretell the future, they are able to make minor changes from time-to-time in order to keep mankind on the path to survival. However, in spite of all of their efforts, the clock will finally run out for everyone in less than a year from now. Unable to find a solution on their own, they turn to those that they have watched over for more than seven millennia. But will the humans be able to find a way to save the solar system from annihilation?"

First off, the use of timelines is genius; from 5342 BC to present day and then darting around the 15th, 19th and 20th centuries, the reader genuinely feels like they have been on an actual adventure, and because of the regular changes in time, you never once feel bored or that the storyline becomes stagnant. Often when multiple locations are used over and over again in a story, the reader can quickly become tangled in a web of confusion of the author's making, but Hamilton guides you clearly though his journey through time and space.

Kudos to the author for his use of location, too; San Francisco, the Persian Gulf Delta (and sea floor), Turkey, New Jersey, Germany, Las Vegas, London, Tennessee and the alien home world of Shoomar are all brought to life in crisp detail, and agin add to that sense of adventure.

If you like first contact stories, The Chaos Machine will tick a lot of boxes for you. Forget the likes of Independence Day, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Alien, though - this is very much seated in a more plausible scenario; aliens coming to Earth to essentially help us. Sure, on paper having aliens target Earth for an attack may look better, but it's far more interesting in the long run to actually see how friendships can be formed and what we can learn from one another; something that is at the heart of this particular story.

It is clear that the author has a big plan in mind for the series, and the breadcrumbs laid out in this first tome - whilst maybe not evident right away - actually  set things up for the bigger picture to come in books 2 and 3. That being said, everything ties up nicely in The Chaos Machine, so you're not left hanging uncomfortably when you reach the final page.

This was Hamilton's first book, and you really wouldn't know - it's incredibly well put together and the skill shown in the world-building and character development is that of an author with many books under their belt. A truly fantastic read!

+  The Chaos Machine is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
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+  Follow @Chaosity9 (Jim Hamilton) on Twitter.

8 April 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Simon J. Walker

RRP: £7.99 / $10.44 (Paperback) | £0.99 / $1.30 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 8th April 2021

We take a sideways trip in the Dark Fantasy genre for Simon J. Walker's Battlebridge novel - a thrilling alt-universe saga (or sequence, as the author puts it) that feels like a genius mash-up of Nineteen Eighty-Four meets His Dark Materials.

The events surround a 1977, authoritarian government controlled London (called Lund, here) - instantly, we love all the subtle changes between our own world, and Walker's. Located to the north of the River Tames (again, nice little change) is the dark and dingy district called Battlebridge. The author describes Battlebridge in darkly poetic detail:

The filthy back street warrens were easy to get lost in and unwary travellers finding themselves in those streets would undoubtedly be robbed, if not dispatched with a certain degree of bloodthirsty enthusiasm. For those not in the know, the Battlebridge canals, flowing through the manor like veins in an arm, were simply a no-go area for outsiders.

Walker, Simon J.. Battlebridge (p. 41). Kindle Edition. 

For those in Battlebridge, it's a real struggle for survival and our protagonists find themselves at the heart of this struggle. Dripping in mystery, and peppered with memorable characters and beautifully described locations, it's a deep, yet surprisingly straight-forward read. Normally where alternate universes or multiverses are concerned, the reader can easily get lost in the detail, but this particular author holds your hand throughout, and the best part is you don't even know it's there.

There's something incredibly fresh in the overall feel for a book of this genre; it doesn't ever seem cliche or that it's treading old ground. There's a gradual build in the pacing that culminates in a surprising and ultimately memorable ending (which we won't spoil here) that has you desperate to find out what happens next for our characters.

Final point of note is the wonderful prologue and epilogue which have a warm, almost campfire quality to them that reminded us a little of Peter Falk's character in The Princes Bride. Whilst the main bulk of the story leaves you hanging, so does the epilogue in its own brilliant way.

This book is the first in a trilogy called the Battlebridge Sequence, and all three titles are available now via Amazon.

+  Battlebridge is Out Now!
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+  Follow @JDiarist (Simon J. Walker) on Twitter.

16 March 2021

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers

Written By: J.L. Haynes

RRP: £6.07 / $9.74 (Paperback) | £2.80 / $4.86 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 16th March 2021

We love a good space fantasy and J.L. Haynes' 'Zara Hanson And The Mystery Of The Painted Symbol' ticks all the right boxes.

The story centres on the titular Zara Hanson - kind of an interstellar Scully from The X Files with a dash of James Bond and Indiana Jones - but with superhuman powers. There's actually a scene in the story that will have fans of 'Moonraker' smiling and punching the air!

We live in a time where we are finally getting to see more and more strong female characters (we've seen it happen in Doctor Who, with a female lead for the first time in the show's 58-year history), and it's great to see it here in a space fantasy adventure. She has purpose, drive and strength, but balanced with the vulnerability of her own sense of self.

Zara Hanson And The Mystery Of The Painted Symbol is very much a story with mystery at its heart; not just for the mission our protagonist goes on, but for her own journey of self-discovery. One of our favourite parts involves the pyramid in Alaska - the whole section just grabs you as a reader before catapulting you into other worlds, dangers and mysteries. It's fantastically fresh and diverse, and with every turn your attention is held throughout.

This is a very different beast to similar titles we've reviewed recently; at times the narrative almost feels like an academic observation of our universe, and you'd be forgiven for being swept away believing what you are reading as fact. Such is the skill of the author, that the level of detail and language used, thrusts you head first into this galactic yarn.

At just 244 pages in length, it's relatively short and perfectly manageable for a weekend read, but despite this length, it's a story that will stay with you for some time. It is heavily layered with philosophical, comical, and, at times, religious brush strokes, and the reader will come away with their own questions about the world and indeed universe around us. 

It definitely feels like the beginning of a much wider saga, and look forward to where Haynes will take the story next. Read it - you'll feel surprisingly smarter by the final page turn!

+  Zara Hanson And The Mystery Of The Painted Symbol is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
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+  Follow @JLHaynes4 (J.L. Hayneson Twitter.

9 March 2021

Publisher: Gate Key Publishing

Written By: J.G. Blodgett

RRP: £7.17 / $9.99 (Paperback) | £2.16 / $2.99 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 9th March 2021

For fans of epic fantasy, J.G. Blodgett's 'The Dark Light' (Book 1 in The Gate Key Chronicles) delivers a gripping, well-thought-out saga, that will have kids, teens and adults alike captivated.

It focuses on Jimmy Mankins and Amelia Miller; childhood friends who share a mysterious secret that opens the way to a dark threat from another world.

The book begins with the prologue and a mystery; Jimmy (simply known as 'Boy'), wakes up at the edge of a field with a hazy memory of who and where he is. He quickly discovers Amelia, and with the help of both their Father's, they return to a place of warmth and safety. As the prologue draws to a close, however, questions are left unanswered - tantalising the reader by wanting to know more.

We are then properly introduced to Jimmy and Amelia, and the next few chapters beautifully captures the beginning of their special friendship, as well as, despite some differences, touching on the many parallels between their lives.

There is a wonderful scene in Chapter Three that juxtaposes Jimmy and Amelia's home environment - but, like with most of their relationship, there's something that connects them. Rather perfectly, (and sure this may sound odd), it's reflected in broccoli; Jimmy's dinner is a humble one with sausages, mashed potato (out of a packet) and broccoli - whereas Amelia is tucking into a steak dinner, with broccoli as her accompaniment. It was so poetically written, and I don't think I've ever seen a vegetable used in such a meaningful way!

As the story unfolds, Amelia entrusts her own secret to Jimmy, and we discover how everything is connected and why their world's are fatefully thrown together. The author uses time to dip back and forth in the narrative to fill in some gaps along the way. It acts as a nice break in the story-telling, whilst fleshing out our protagonist's backstories.

There is, of course, a lingering threat throughout The Dark Light (as the title suggest). Something that you know is coming, but not entirely sure of what form it will take. Be it school bullies, dark creatures, or an oncoming storm, you feel protective of our protagonists and want nothing bad to happen to them.

The relatively small cast of characters are incredibly well-rounded and layered. Jimmy's father (Donald), for example, is someone you don't necessarily like, but one simple line a few chapters in: "time in the Vietnam War" - instantly gives you a small sense of sympathy and understanding for him. Amelia also sees Donald's redeemable qualities; "he was capable of being the father he once was".

As a reader, I was unaware of just how much emotion there could be in the story. The rich relationships between the characters, between father and son, father and daughter. The way in which loss is dealt with (or not), and how faith is something that can drive you through even the toughest situations. Yes it's a fantasy, but it's one with a surprisingly grounded heart that makes you simply feel every word on the page.

If there was a comparison, I'd say it was Stranger Things meets The Neverending Story. It's simply screaming out to be made into a Netflix series.! You can almost feel the natural cliffhangers to each episode and with more books to come, there's a lot of mileage, here. 

I am so pleased and feel privileged to have read The Dark Light. It was so much more than I had hoped for (hence the length of this review), and whilst I have no idea what form Book 2 will take, believe me when I say that I will be hounding the author for it's release, as it can't come soon enough!

+  The Gate Key Chronicles: The Dark Light is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JGBlodgett on Twitter.

22 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Nathan Burton

RRP: £4.00 / $5.25 (Paperback) | £2.00 / $2.51 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 22nd February 2021

From the stunning cover, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Tales Of The Starmen: Volume 1, by Nathan Burton was a graphic novel, but this is in fact a short but punchy space saga.

The story focuses on two brothers; Helion and Eckron, who, despite their disparity, must fulfil their royal duties.

There is a great variety of pacing here; we go from a vicious space fight to a street race in Kingson, Jamaica. Both these scenes act as stark metaphors for the differences between the two brothers. One just wants to win a race (Helion) and the other wants to ascend the Nova Throne (Eckron). That being said, there are more to the characters than their differences - particularly Eckron. Sure, he is unlikeable and power hungry, but, rather geniusly, there's a redeemable side to him that you discover near the end of the book. One particular line we loved from Eckron near the end, was as follows:

‘He said he wanted to be like me. Perhaps I should make some effort to be more like him.’

For a story so short, there's actually some decent character development, and whilst the cast of characters are relatively small, each have purpose and place within the narrative. We also love the diversity; this is very much a black-centric royal family and outside of the likes of Black Panther or Coming To America, its fantastic to have a black royal family represented in literary form for us Science Fiction fans.

It is clear that the author is a SciFi fan - and a well-seasoned one at that. There are hints of Star Wars and even The Fifth Element here, but Burton makes Tales Of The Starmen very much his own.

Whilst this is Volume 1 of a proposed series, it also acts as a satisfying conclusion. For those who hate cliffhangers, you can rest assured of a stress-free ending. Whenever Volume 2 does come out, it will mark a new chapter in this fun, gripping, pleasantly manageable saga.

+  Tales Of The Starmen: Volume 1 is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Nattybe96 (Nathan Burton) on Twitter.

19 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jodi Bowersox

RRP: £10.13 / $7.14 (Paperback) | £3.05 / $4.26 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 19th February 2021

Mars Madness is book 1 in a 3 book series by author, Jodi Bowersox. It's self-titled as an 'out of this world romantic adventure' and boy does it deliver on that promise! What was left out of that headliner, however, is just how funny it is, too. 

We follow divorced mum of one, Katrina McKenna as she reluctantly buys a lottery ticket (on her daughter's insistence) for a luxury, two-year Mars adventure. The chances of wining are astronomical  to say the least (if you pardon the pun), but chance finds its way to Kat and before she knows it, she finds herself, begrudgingly on her way to Mars.

Thing is... her ex husband, who works for the company sending her to Mars, is also going to Mars, and he will be bringing their daughter along for the ride. All isn't as straightforward as one would think, though, and half of the fun we have is just getting to Mars. Hell, even leaving Earth has its fair share of setbacks with errant robotic maids, stowaway daughters and... an Israeli terrorist?!

We love the dialogue between Kat and her husband Doug; they really do reflect a real life ex-couple - complete with all the fallout (bad and good) that comes with it. Their daughter, Francesca is the magnet that has kept them in each others lives, and whilst you can see why they have gone their separate ways, there's this underlying feeling of wishing they could work things out.

Bowersox is a wizard in the way she sets up the situations our characters find themselves in. They present themselves as quietly comic (and not so quietly in some places) playlets, and whilst there are undoubtedly predictable outcomes that you relish as a reader, the author also takes you in unexpected directions.

It's tricky not to spoil things, but we will say that the ending wasn't at all what we were expecting, and it is absolutely a better story as a result. It sets up book 2 perfectly, and there's even a little sneak peek at the prologue for the sequel (Beware The Eyes Of Mars) at the very end.

There is a wonderful phrase that states; "The fun is in the journey", and nowhere is this more present than in Mars Madness. A fun read that has heart and soul!

+  Mars Madness is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JodiBowersox on Twitter.

9 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Xavier Marcé

RRP: £14.47 / $19.99 (Paperback) | £FREE / $FREE (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 9th February 2021

Modern Warfare meets SciFi in Mark Of Odin: The Awakening - a gripping story from the pen of Xavier Marcé.

The events of the story are set in 2012, where Luis (our main character) is set to graduate in Aerospace Engineering. Everything is going his way until Luis begins to have recurring nightmares from mythical beasts from Norse mythology.

We want to start by drawing particular attention to the prologue (set in Norway, 60,000 years ago), which instantly submerses the reader into the author's fantastic use of descriptive exposition;

"The city resembled a marble ocean in shades of blue and green; it was formed by palaces and large buildings that were dotted all over with the lush greenery of trees and cleaved through by wide stone avenues. The port area thronged with the city’s inhabitants who were heading to the ships with their most prized possessions. One vast building with a dome of titanic proportions stood out above the rest, dominating the centre of the city."

After being introduced to Luis and one of his nightmarish dreams, the story then switches tone, pace and location completely as we are introduced to Lieutenant Colonel Jack Preston of the United States Air Force, who is working on a prototype which ties in with what Luis is working on, half a world away. Soon their worlds collide, and, without giving too much away, their world's are not the only ones to collide...

The tying in of Norse mythology with that of a modern day setting is incredibly well thought out and successfully executed, and the final four chapters will have you gripped as there are flavours of Independence Day with a dash of Thor. That being said, there's no emulation here - Mark Of Odin is very much its own beast and with a conclusion that guarantees more to come, you'll be counting down the weeks, days and minutes until the next instalment.

It's worth mentioning that Mark Of Odin was originally published in the author's native Spanish, and having seen this with other books in the past, it normally comes at a cost in descriptions and sense of character. We were very pleased to say that nothing is lost in translation, and it stands shoulder to shoulder with its native version. The book is steeped in the flavour of Spain; from touching on its society to its history, you really get a rich sense of identity in the novel.

Rather ingeniously, once you are done reading Mark Of Odin, you can continue the reading experience  via an online pass which unlocks a digital edition with bonus chapters and stories. This really boosts your whole experience of the story and also gives you direct access to the author himself, via the online forum. It it because of this exciting way of creating and distributing additional content, that it really does feel bigger than the sum of its parts and, as such, we look forward to delving further into Marcé's world!

+  Mark Of Odin: The Awakening is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @MarkOfOdin (Xavier Marcé) on Twitter.

7 February 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Duane Simolke

RRP: £5.65 / $8.00 (Paperback) | £2.31 / $3.15 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 7th February 2021

Alternate realities and parallel timelines are the hot topic of the moment in both the cinematic and televisual worlds, and whilst one could argue that the concept has been around for years in the hallowed halls of written fiction, there have been slim pickings on the spread of titles we have read that feel refreshingly different.

Sons Of Taldra by Duane Simolke is exactly that - refreshingly different, and at its beating heart is some much needed diversity that slots in effortlessly and with purpose. And why shouldn't it?! When we think of the future and interactions with alien species, one can only accept diversity in all its many, beautiful colours. Colours that Simolke captures perfectly within the pages of this story.

Surfing the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, as the title suggests, Sons of Taldra follows Taldra (Leader of Valchondria - an alternate Earth), and her twin, gay, 19-year-old sons; Argen and Telius. Together they fight off an alien attack, but what quickly becomes apparent, and what is rather poignantly paralleled by the author, are the battles closer to home.

There are most definitely flavours of Star Trek: Discovery, which is particularly interesting as the book was published in 2016 - a full year before the first series of the aforementioned show. Just like Discovery, there is a broad spectrum of diverse characters - each with purpose and prominence, and despite being a short read, everyone fits in perfectly without any overcrowding. 

It is a short book, coming in at just 106 pages, but don't let that fool you into thinking this is a throw-away "short story". This is hands-down one of the most rounded books of this length that we have ever read. It's engaging and thought-provoking and whilst it may be a work of fiction, you cannot help but see the seeds of a future we could be heading towards.

As far as conclusions go, it's one of celebration, and one that ties back into the diversity we mentioned earlier. It's a beautiful end, and the last sentence in particular is one that we wish would be even more prevalent in our own time. Top marks to the author on this incredibly well-accomplished pocket SciFi.

+  Sons Of Taldra is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @DuaneSimolke on Twitter.

4 February 2021

Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.

Written By: Bella Rayne

RRP: £14.95 / $16.43 (Paperback) | £3.19 / $4.35 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 4th February 2021

Bella Rayne's The Fate Of Magick centres around Dabney West; a befreckled, red-headed, self-reliant, loner, and, in her own words, "a force to be reckoned with". Dabney (great, unusual name by the way) is hugely affected by a horrific incident involving her parents, which changes her life forever.

If that wasn't enough, Dabney and her husband have drifted apart, and the company she works for is responsible for dumping toxic waste into her treasured forest. Having been caught taking photos and video of the incident, Dabney is later found out and sacked from her job.

Desperate for a fresh start, she moves to a new city to start her new life. It is in this new life that she begins having vivid dreams with strange messages. There's also a rather shocking predator (the details of which we won't spoil here), but it makes for some uncomfortable reading. That being said, it is this point in the story that you really feel a change in stakes.

With newfound powers and a true sense of empowerment, we see our central character change before our eyes and it is one of the most beautiful yet shocking changes we have ever seen to a character on the page...ever! Speaking of which, Dabney is surrounded by a fantastically diverse set of characters - not all of which she can trust...

We love the way in which Dabney is telling her story to us; at times it feels like a conversation with an old friend, and there are certain moments or subjects she talks about that the reader can totally align with. There's a whole section about Twitter, of which there are some elements many of us can relate to!

There are some racy moments, some downright scary moments, and best of all, moments that will have you punching the air for our heroine, in this darkly beautiful story from Bella Rayne.

One cannot help feeling there may be similarities to our protagonist and the author; Dabney comes across so clearly on the page and the details of her life are so rich and fleshed out that it almost feels like elements of a life that has actually been lived. She is even an author of the paranormal!

The wonderful ending sets things up for a sequel, and promises of adventures new. We will be there for the ride and recommend this book for anyone who loves the fantasy / romance genres.

+  The Fate Of Magick is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @BellaRayne10 (Bella Rayne) on Twitter.

1 February 2021

Publisher: Self-Published

Written By: Barbara J. Gilbert

RRP: £8.04 / $10.99 (Paperback) | £2.19 / $2.99 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 2nd February 2021

Future Apocalypse: Beginnings is the first in a thrilling new time travel series from Barbara J. Gilbert.

We follow Paulette Brown, a young woman who, after dealing with a personal tragedy in her hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, moves with her Mother to Washington.

Due to the events of her life in Wilmington, Paulette cannot shake her wish to change the past, which leads to her eventual elopement of a time pod, with her best friend, Greg.

With a relatively small pool of characters, one feels more intimacy with the plot and in turn, really hones in on Paulette's journey. You know that the people she meets are rich and rounded, and not just thrown in as padding. We particularly liked what the author does with Greg - whilst he supports his best friend, you feel the real-life conflict between them as he doesn't always agree with Paulette.

One of the things that we really loved, which, on paper, may not seem necessarily ground-breaking, was the fact that we follow 10 years of Paulette's life (and half the book) before we get our first taste of any time travel. As a reader you follow Paulette's struggles to get her project to conclusion, and you are chomping at the bit to see her dream realised. Hats off to the author for the slow build as it gives us time to get to know our protagonist, before she's thrust into the action.

Needles to say, time travel has its own rules and pitfalls, and it's not long before Paulette is thrown into a world-changing dilemma that picks up the pace and hurtles the reader in a fantastic, exciting new direction. It's this gear change that almost makes you feel you are reading two different stories - nay, genres. It's a delightful pace breaker and it comes at exactly the right moment.

The ending is far from what you think it will be, with all predictability thrown out the window, and with two more titles in the series now available, we are looking forward to seeing where Paulette's adventure takes her! Highly Recommended!

+  Future Apocalypse: Beginnings is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
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+  Follow @BarbaraJGilber2 (Barbara J. Gilbert) on Twitter.

31 January 2021

Publisher: Modern Mystic Media LLC

Written By: Grace Blair & Laren Bright

RRP: £11.98 / $14.99 (Paperback) | £2.20 / $3.01 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 31st January 2021

Albert Einstein has appeared in Doctor Who a couple of times during the show's long history; most recently in the mini episode 'Death Is The Only Answer', but what has been sadly lacking is a full-on, Einstein-centric, time travel adventure.

While we wait for that day to come, our attention was drawn to Einstein's Compass; a Young Adult time travel adventure from the joint pens of Grace Blair and Laren Bright.

Focusing on a young Einstein, the story sees our famed mathematician given a special compass from his Father - a compass which opens the doorway to an adventure that spans millennia. From mythical Atlantis to ancient Egypt, through biblical times to mystical beasts; it's a non-stop whirlwind of time travel fantasy, with a good old dash of good vs evil that will have you gripped throughout. 

Einstein's Compass has a real vibrancy, thanks in part to the way in which the many locations are brought to life in broad technicolor strokes, juxtaposed with the authors' rounded characters - some of which you will know, and get a kick out of their interactions.

Whilst the content is almost wholly a work of fiction, there are factual elements peppered within that add a wonderful balance, keeping the reader's mind open to the possibilities; something that Einstein was renowned for and also something that this book ultimately pays tribute to.

This is a book that is written by two authors, but yet it reads absolutely and unequivocally as one. You sense no conflict in tone or direction, nor do you feel like the narrative is pulling in any jarring direction. Clearly this is a work of genuine passion from Blair and Bright and it shines in every drip of ink on the page.

+  Einstein's Compass is Out Now!
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+  Follow @GraceBAuthor (Grace Blair) on Twitter.

27 January 2021

Publisher: Author's Reach

Written By: Francesca Tyer

RRP: £9.19 / $6.96 (Paperback) | £1.99 / $2.72 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Review Posted: 27th January 2021

The Firestone is the debut novel from Francesca Tyer - book 1 in a proposed series.

The story focuses on James; a fourteen year-old boy who, after witnessing a strange event at an airport, finds his way to an old clock shop that helps open the door to a new, exciting world.

One cannot help but feel some kindred similarities with Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, but rather than feeling like emulation, The Firestone very much treads its own path. We only mention this as fans of those books will feel very much at home here.

Terrific pacing sees James and his newfound friends bounding forwards in this wonderful, magical adventure, that has time quite literally at its heart. There is a quest within the story (and what a quest it is!) that will soon make it clear to the reader where the following books in the series may go. Needless to say, it powers you through, and whilst the phrase is horrendously overused in reviews, this really is a page turner, in the truest sense.

The author's use of descriptions are just wonderful; the way she paints misty, night-time London is so evocative and really sets the standard early on. With cavernous cities, fire, ice, wolves and dragons, The Firestone is simply brimming with excitement at every turn and the conclusion will have you both satisfied and desperate for more.

With the promise of a return trip to Arrisel, Francesca Tyer has set up the series perfectly in this first book. To think this is Tyer's first novel is mind-blowing - for this is the work of a seasoned writer whose attention to detail, character development and world building, galvanises her as a most accomplished author.

The Firestone, in our opinion, could very well be the next big thing since Harry Potter and it is simply screaming out to be made into a movie series! Most definitely recommended!

+  The Firestone is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @FTyer_ (Francesca Tyer) on Twitter.

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