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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.

Archived news and reviews can be accessed by clicking on the relevant area on the News / Reviews Key panels to the right.

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16 September 2021

Publisher: There Is No Design LLC

Written By: K. Leigh

RRP: £8.44 / $12.06 (Paperback) | £4.31 / $5.97 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

If Space Opera with an LGBTQ+ twist is your thing, you would go far to find a more satisfying story than that of K. Leigh's Constelis Voss Vol.1: Colour Theory.

Our story centres on Alex, a human who has been reincarnated as a robot on board the titular Constelis Voss - a planet-sized spaceship. We follow Alex' struggle for self-understanding and acceptance in his new form, as he ventures into a much wider mystery with good and evil in the balance. We flip-flop between the far future and 90's New York with both settings brought to life in meticulous detail.

Never before have we seen colour used in a story in such a beautiful way. First and foremost they are used as descriptors, but much more than that they almost act as a poetic canvas that highlights the LGBTQ+ beating heart of the book. At the beginning of Colour Theory, the author states:

"I aim to let my readers know I see them in all their complicated inner paintings"

It is this statement that constantly hits home throughout the story. No matter who you are, inside or out, you can't help but find some form of recognition and representation within the pages of this truly unique novel.

It's a given that there is diversity in the story, but nothing prepares you for just how vivid, real and almost tactile that these characters feel. There is an intimacy in Leigh's writing that makes you feel you are inches away from them and that you are more than just an observer.

There are some strong themes and scenes explored within (as outlined in the author's content warning at the start), as well as a fair few choice words, but nothing fans of Torchwood wouldn't be accustomed to. At no point, however, do they distract or feel out of place. In fact, nothing in Colour Theory feels like a happy accident; there is immense artistry in the broad strokes of Leigh's work, and it shines through every character, scene and page in the book.

Volume 1 ends on both a high note and a cliffhanger which very neatly leads us into Volume 2: Pattern Recognition. Whilst Colour Theory isn't necessarily a large book per se, you feel like you've been on a hell of an adventure with a lot to unpack. You would almost certainly benefit from a second reading, which is no bad thing, and just like a piece of art, it almost requires it so you can appreciate it from all of its wonderful angles.

Incredibly surprised and impressed with how much I enjoyed this book. Even if you don't hit one of those important letters or symbols in the LGBTQ+ acronym, you will find familiarity and relevance in Leigh's multi-layered work, as well as a much deeper love for the world and fellow humans around us.


+  Constelis Voss Vol.1: Colour Theory is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @KiraLeigh (K. Leigh) on Twitter.
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28 August 2021

Publisher: Silverback Books

Written By: A.T. Duguay

RRP: £11.61 / $16.17 (Paperback) | £1.71 / $2.33 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Beginning a new fantasy novel is always exciting; especially if the front cover is as striking as A.T. Duguay's 'The Guardian' - book 1 in his 'Soulstone' series. Somehow it ramps up the anticipation as you pick out elements from the cover and wonder how they will play out in the story.

Right from the off, our protagonist Gauthak, and his Night Jay (of which we discover, he has the ability to 'enter' to scan the path ahead), are hurled into the action, having just jumped off a waterfall to escape his giant pursuers. There is a sense of urgency and danger that is palpable to the reader, and you cannot help feeling it lurks around every corner. We then follow Gauthak on his journey to the city of New Alannah, where he soon lands himself in a spot of trouble...

As we delve further, we learn more about Gauthak's history and abilities, as well as discovering more about his own kind - the Northmen. For those who like magic in their fantasy stories, Duguay has you covered, but it's in a way more believable way. There's even a bit of romance thrown in for good measure too, and, again, it's done in such a realistic, meaningful way.

There's a great turning point in the plot, too - one you won't see coming, and it gives fresh focus to our character and the direction of the story. Kudos to the author for his skill here as everything in The Guardian seems to have such purpose and meaning. You don't feel like there's any padding and there is no character that feels like dead weight.

There is a mastery of description in Duguay's work; an almost poetic blend of rich detail through landscapes, colours, sights and sounds. This breathes life into his Medieval-esque world, which jumps off the pages of the book in the most vivid way.

The third-person style, together with the setting was almost reminiscent of the old school Fighting Fantasy books, and that sense of danger we mentioned earlier, further lends itself to this comparison. As such, there's a wonderful sense of familiarity, whilst obviously on a completely fresh and uncharted path.

As this is part of a trilogy, we hope it's not spoiling things by saying the story ends on a cliffhanger, of sorts. Whilst the reader feels content with the ending, there's a great springboard for the next book, and we know personally that we won't be content until we've read it :)

A final note we wanting to pick up on was in the book's acknowledgments at the end; in it, the author bravely explains his process in writing the book and the stress, depression and anxiety he suffered from. He cites his fears of change, risk, desires and for being himself. Having read the book, we genuinely believe he has triumphed in the very act of producing The Guardian. It is a testament to his hard work and persistence, in spite of those fears.


+  The Guardian is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
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+  Follow @ATDuguay (A.T. Duguay) on Twitter.
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+  Follow @DrWhoOnline (Doctor Who Online) on Twitter.  

23 August 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Terry Geo

RRP: £9.49 / $9.38 (Paperback) | £3.99 / $5.48 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

When we think of Science Fiction, our first thought is almost always that of a futuristic plot, but Refraction by British author, Terry Geo, is a very different beast, set in our present, but still with all the bells and whistles you could hope for in a book of this genre.

At its heart, this is a story about dreams and how they can be harnessed, but, in fact, this only scratches the surface of what Geo explores, and the ramifications for our characters. Speaking of characters, there’s a wonderfully diverse mix, with rich backstories given for each of them. We're also given different aspects of dreams which are attributed to these characters - a fascinating way to explore the lucidity and yet complex nature of our dream world.

Despite being a science fiction story, there's so much reality in Geo's writing; not just the familiar around us, but the way in which characters interact with one another. Right off in Chapter One we go from San Francisco to Bedford in just a couple of pages - the first time we've ever seen Bedford in a SciFi novel :) It's then onto Yorkshire with a very real situation that a lot of family-owned farmers find themselves in; giving up their dreams to follow the family business. Without wanting to digress, the author hails from Derbyshire and the few people we do know from that part of the UK are as down-to-earth and 'keep it real' as you can get. Despite the SciFi nature of the book, that very same 'keep it real' approach, grounds Refraction at even its most 'out there' moments - and it's to the credit of the story (and Derbyshire)!

It's also in these mundane moments that the genius of Geo's writing blooms; the juxtaposition of these ordinary moments against the exciting world of dreams creates a richer story - just as lucid as the worlds we explore when we're sleeping.

It's clear the author enjoyed the process of writing Refraction; there are so many nods and winks to  TV programmes and Movies from yesteryear - even computer games we played as kids. Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Super Mario, Donkey Kong - heck, even Flight Of The Navigator all get a namecheck here, and every mention peppered throughout gives you a warm, Mr Kipling-esque feeling as you reconnect with moments from yesteryear.

There's a big rug-pull moment, which we won't spoil, but it's testament to the journey the author takes us on in Refraction. The skill in its execution and the journey it takes to get there in the set piece, is utter brilliance. This is Geo's first novel, and we were blown away by this fact due to the level of literary mastery and detail in the world-building. We highly recommend this book and eagerly await the author’s next release.


+  Refraction is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @TerryJGeo (Terry Geo) on Twitter.
+  Follow @SebastianJBrook (Sebastian J. Brook) on Twitter.
+  Follow @DrWhoOnline (Doctor Who Online) on Twitter.  

21 August 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Michael A. Gordon

RRP: £7.95 / $9.99 (Paperback) | £0.99p / $1.37 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Barnaby Brown And The Time Machine is the first instalment in Michael A. Gordon's thrilling time travel series. The story follows the titular Barnaby Brown - a 15-year-old boy from England - now living in New York (and very much missing his favourite brand of bread). As well as the bread, Barnaby is missing his old life; he lives with his Mother and mad scientist Uncle Finch, who spends most of his time in the basement.

It is in this basement that Barnaby discovers the doorway to a new, exciting life, and Gordon's way of introducing it is classically magical. Whether it's Lucy Pevensie discovering the wardrobe to Narnia or Kay Harker discovering the magic of the box of delights, you feel that same warmth and familiarity when Barnaby and his friends make their way down to his uncle's basement in Chapter Three.

Kudos to the author for his incredible detail behind the time travel elements; there's lots of science and common sense behind how the time machine actually works and the ramifications of altering history, and as the story progresses, you'd be forgiven for believing that time travel could actually be possible (who knows...perhaps it could be?!). 


There's such a wonderful balance of drama, humour and suspense; as for the humour in particular, there are several laugh out lout moments that spring to mind, namely the absolute corker of a line; "There’s no point turning up for the birth of Christ in jeans.".

With thrills, shocks, scares, rescues and a decidedly perfect villain to round things off, Barnaby Brown And The Time Machine is the time-hopping adventure tonic we could all do with right now.

At the time of writing there are five books in the series, with Barnaby Brown And The Dark Star being the most recent. After this first instalment, we cannot wait to see where Barnaby's adventures take him next!


+  Barnaby Brown And The Time Machine is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @MAGauthor (Michael A. Gordon) on Twitter.
+  Follow @SebastianJBrook (Sebastian J. Brook) on Twitter.
+  Follow @DrWhoOnline (Doctor Who Online) on Twitter.  

20 August 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Giorgio Garofalo

RRP: £12.66 / $17.50 (Paperback) | £2.25 / $3.09 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Nathan Jones

Giorgio Garofalo’s Korian: The Manian’s Spear - the first book in his Korian Epic Fantasy Adventure Series - is nothing short of a truly epic fantasy tale. 

An evil force approaches, casting darkness over the humans and ruids of Endura, thereby bringing an end to centuries of peace and stability. Although he remains entrapped in solitude, Adam Hades still wields considerable power. Through his envoy, Aaron, a hulking, deadly creature with burning eyes, and his army of stragoy (for want of a better word, zombies) and skines, Hades once again intends to take control of the planet Endura, and he seems intent on burning everything to the ground on his journey towards dominance.

In the face of such evil, humans and ruids are forced to retreat and hide into remote and isolated communities, their only real hope for salvation the legendary Azura, a saviour foretold to restore balance to the world. Otherwise, all will be lost, as Hades’ armies are sure to overwhelm the remaining pockets of humans and ruids eventually.

So, who might this Azura be? Three young boys named Doric, Will, and Korian are the most likely candidates. We follow these three boys on their decades-long, challenging, often tortuous journeys to adulthood. One of them, we hope, will pass through the mystical portal constructed by Crogan, a magical warrior or “manian”, to retrieve the legendary manian’s spear. 

Korian: The Mainan’s Spear is truly Homeric in its scope. Garofalo clearly worked hard to build a rich, convincing environment, full of detail, history, and complex, distinct characters. Readers are taken on a brief journey through time, from the days of Endura’s greatest leader, Zoren Ro (who defeated Adam Hades the first time), to “modern times” and even hints towards technology and civilised planets beyond “medieval” Endura. The story will keep you on your feet with unexpected plot twists, and some very dark, emotional moments sure to keep you invested in the complex story.

This is not just another standard, formulaic fantasy tale but an intense, intelligent, quite individual saga that sets the scene for a thrilling series. It’s a real page-turner, full of heartless villains, legendary battles, inventive flora and fauna, impressive scenery, and heroes that must undergo challenges so cruel and arduous they will make you wince in sympathy. Garofalo’s fluid, descriptive writing, entertaining from the first to last page, will transport you to a world you’ll swear you’ve walked on yourself.  

+  Korian: The Manian's Spear is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @GiorgioGarofa17 (Giorgio Garofalo) on Twitter.
+  Follow @NathanJonesBook (Nathan Jones) on Twitter

18 July 2021

Publisher: Inklings Publishing

Written By: Fern Brady

RRP: £12.04 / $14.95 (Paperback) | £3.92 / $5.43 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Nathan Jones

Fern Brady's United Vidden - the first book in her Thyreins’s Galactic Wall series - is a highly creative, compelling Science Fantasy / Space Opera story set in an imagined future of our universe, with a unique romance theme at its core.

The story revolves around Princess Verena, daughter of the widowed King Dekkyle, ruler of Dravidia—the northern half of the Vidden continent on planet Jorn, one of fifty-one major populated planets in Thyrien’s Galactic Wall (wall, we believe, meaning galaxy). The second major player is Prince Amiel, ruler of the southern half of the Vidden continent—Aulden. Amiel seems set on ruling over the whole continent and winning the heart of the fair and courageous Princess Verena. His motivations, however, are questionable.

Across the eastern Black Ocean, or western Green Ocean, the Gortive people of the Parthia continent seem to be preparing for war, so perhaps a United Vidden would be in favour its people, who usurped the aboriginal Gortive from “their” lands eons earlier.

More than anything else, United Vidden is a wonderful combination of royal court drama (reminiscent of Elizabethan times) and adventure. The changing allegiances of the aristocracy as the story progresses are captivating and led by the intriguing twists and turns of the masterful plot. The main characters are truly unforgettable and far from static, changing and developing as the gripping story unfolds. Their tempestuous journeys make this a real page-turner.

The machinations of the Wall’s magical religious sects (Rajin, Nijar, The Elamin Order, and more) overlay the plotting and romances of the book’s “ordinary” folk. And on a higher level than this, we get hints at The Wall’s interplanetary politics, between members of the Intergalactic Council such as planets Schol, Drulin, Fratern, and Fridgia. The various levels of power and influence give the read a true sense of being a space opera, along the lines of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

This book would make an amazing movie, it very much plays out like a blockbuster in the reader’s head. One that would appeal to both Sci-fi and Fantasy fans. Understandably, as this is the first book in a series, many of the plot lines remain open at the climax, but the ending of the novel is very satisfying regardless.

As this was released in June, 2020, we’re very much hoping the sequel will be released sometime soon.

+  United Vidden is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Fbrady03 (Fern Brady) on Twitter.
+  Follow @NathanJonesBook (Nathan Jones) on Twitter

14 July 2021

Publisher: Journey Fiction

Written By: Grimly Darkwood

RRP: £9.99 / $9.99 (Paperback) | £1.46 / $2.01 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Grimly Darkwood's 'The Shop On Peculiar Hill' (book 1 in his 'The Vale Of Strange' series), is a captivating children's fantasy that equally and wonderfully captures the imaginations of adults alike.

The story focuses on Peter - an orphan who has been sent to live with his Uncle Bob and Aunt Maggie, who are shop owners in (the awesomely named) Peculiarshire. Lurking within Peculiarshire is the mysterious Vale Of Strange - a foreboding place where tourists go missing and are never heard of again. A young boy goes missing and Peter, together with new-found friend, Amanda, begin a truly thrilling journey to discover what is really going on...

The author has peppered the mystery, intrigue and suspense perfectly throughout the book, and despite being aimed at kids, even as an adult I have to admit that it had me on the edge of my seat on several occasions. There are shocks and scares and Heeble-Greebs and...ahem...Bogeys (no, not those kind), and at every turn, there’s a genius new plot twist or device that propels the reader into the adventure further.

Whilst there is darkness, Darkwood gives us a much needed dose of humour throughout. Actual laugh-out-loud moments, that make you question whether the author had a previous life as a comedian! This balance of dark and light sews together a truly charming adventure that feels so much larger than the sum of its parts.

Everything is so vivid and visual - even in the darker places, and you cannot help but hope that this gets turned into a tv series or movie. Its practically begging for the big screen!

The reader can be forgiven for drawing parallels to Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events, as there is definitely a similar vibe here, also flavours of Harry Potter with the in-depth, in-world characters and ecology, but Darkwood very much cuts his own creepy path here. 

Book 2 ('Stranger Days On Peculiar Hill') is already out, and you better believe we're going to be along for the ride to find out what happens next in this brilliantly bonkers fantasy for all!

+  The Shop On Peculiar Hill is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @DarkwoodGrimly (Grimly Darkwood) on Twitter.

5 July 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Jim Hamilton

RRP: £8.09 / $9.95 (Paperback) | £1.64 / $2.27 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

Back in April we had the pleasure of reviewing Jim Hamilton's first entry in his Chaos Trilogy; The Chaos Machine - an epic Science Fiction adventure that spans 7000 years. For book 2; Second Contact, Hamilton brings down the timeframe from 7000 years (in the first book) to a much smaller one here, but don't think that you get short-changed on any of the action... It's all here in spades, and we'd actually argue that this is an ever better story than the first.

"When aliens from different parts of the Universe encounter each other in 5342 AB, old friendships are renewed and new friendships begin as 19-year-old Cassiopeia upends the ancient Shoomaran Empire. And when she's done, nothing in the Universe will ever be the same again."

Set mainly in the year 5342AB, we follow our protagonist, Cassiopeia (and by god what a great, strong female lead she is) who is at the centre of a multi-faceted fight for Human / Shoomaran acceptance and harmony. This is moreso a political tale that its precursor (akin to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), where you can almost foresee the foreboding ramifications if our heroine isn't successful in her mission.

Ultimately, this is a story of hope - something that in a year of viruses and restrictions and lockdowns, we can all sympathise with. That hope resonates with the reader - not just because of the events in the story, but for the parallels of our own world.

Once again we have clear-cut characters who are believable and naturalistic in the way they're described as well as their inter-species dialogue. Sure there are aliens, but Hamilton paints them in such a real way that suspends your disbelief without question.

As with The Chaos Machine, the author's use of timelines is genius; whilst on the outside it may look complex with all the many strands, Hamilton's peripheral hand-holding (without patronising) really makes you feel like you are present in the action, and it somehow all somehow feels transpicuous.

This is an author who is clearly full of great ideas and knows exactly how to execute them. He also knows how to hold onto ideas and put them in his back pocket for use later. Little things from book 1 come back here for book 2, and its not hard to see how the events in Second Contact are going to play out in the third part of the trilogy (Mankind 2.0). Another palpable hit here from Hamilton!

+  Second Contact is Out Now!
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+  Follow @Chaosity8 (Jim Hamilton) on Twitter.

25 June 2021

Publisher: Self Published

Written By: Spaulding Taylor

RRP: £9.34 / $19.67 (Paperback) | £0.99p / $1.37 (Kindle)

Reviewed by: Sebastian J. Brook

For a first SciFi novel, Spaulding Taylor has hit the ground running with 'Last Star Standing' - a truly well-thought-out, dystopian thriller with bags of adventure, suspense and well-placed humour.

The story focuses on our protagonist, Aiden Tenten, and is told in a first-person narrative, which makes you feel that much closer to the action. It's a post World War Three setting, where Earth is all but decimated by aliens, and we're in it for the long haul as Aiden tries to complete his mission against all odds.

There are tremendous action scenes which Spaulding brings to life in such a way that it feels like it has all the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster movie, and due to the narrative style it's close, real, and perfectly epic. 

'Last Star Standing', whilst obviously a work of fiction, has a lot of echoes into our world, and you can almost forsee some of the events within coming to fruition. It somehow feels like a warning to the reader and you'll notice many parallels that make you stop and think.

With flavours of Star Wars, 1984 and a tiny dash of Starship Troopers thrown in for good measure, this is a Science Fiction yarn that will offer much needed escapism in a time where, let's face it, we all need to escape for a bit. 

Without spoiling things, there isn't a cliffhanger as such, and a lot does get wrapped up whilst also  offering a springboard for a sequel. Looking forward to seeing what's next from this talented author!

+  Last Star Standing is Out Now!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

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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+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!

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!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  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!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @Chaosity8 (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!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  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!
+  Buy this book from Amazon.com!
+  Follow @JLHaynes4 (J.L. Hayneson Twitter.

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