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review 2020-06-26 16:12
Contrasting Fortunes
Kinnara - Kevin Ansbro

One of the things I adore about Kevin Ansbro’s writing is the assured way in which he reconciles the seemingly incompatible. Few authors can so effortlessly weave together the incongruity of a European serial killer with a SE Asian mythical being, trapped in a two thousand year purgatory at the bottom of the Andaman Sea. Yet, the remarkable journey on which the author takes the reader also enmeshes very familiar human themes of attachment and loss, romantic love and platonic friendship, alongside Buddhist notions of karma. It makes for a heady mix!

 

This blending of perceived contrasts, the exotic and mundane, is exemplified perhaps in the main locations for the tale. With all due respect to the inhabitants of East Anglia, Norwich (UK) and Phuket (Thailand) are, on the face of it, very different! Still, through the travails of the main characters, the author suggests that human experience is not entirely shaped by location, or culture. If not ‘fate’, sometimes things are just ‘meant to be’.

 

Take the British couple, Calum and Hannah, they are close friends at school, but then are separated by the vagaries of family moves, but it is Calum’s solo visit to Thailand that proves the catalyst for a potential reunion with his ‘true love’. As well as developing an immediate affinity for this unfamiliar territory, Calum befriends a young local man, Sawat Leelapun, with a shared interest in martial arts, but a very different trajectory in life. As a boy, Sawat has survived the 2004 tsunami, but experienced the attendant tragedy and challenges that followed. He too has a significant other (‘Nok’), but more central is the bond formed between the two men and the influence of Sawat’s humble nature on his hot-headed British friend. As well as helping Calum reflect on his own approach to life, like the knock-on effect of dominoes, Sawat also confides in his friend an incredible secret he has harboured since childhood and introduces the reader to the mythical Kinnara.

 

This diversion into supernatural elements is not new for the author, but offers a very helpful vehicle for expressing the clear affection with which Mr Ansbro regards the people and culture of Thailand. ‘Klahan Kinnara’ is a prince among the mythical swan people, cast into the sea, spellbound and destined to be alone for eternity. Klahan is also separated from his beloved and like his human counterparts shares a profound sense of loss. The question posed by the story is whether the three couples can all rely on fate/karma/good fortune, or perhaps the invincible nature of their collective love, to generate similarly happy outcomes?

 

The fly in the ointment, of course, is the serial murderer I mentioned, but whilst the author has a penchant for a dash of the macabre, it is never arbitrary. Rather the latent threat is a further development of the contrast between good and evil. Just as the reader might hope for good things to happen to good people, the reverse can also be quite satisfying. With 'Kinnara' , the author has skilfully delivered another exhilarating and emotional ride for the reader and has secured another spot on my favourites shelf.

 

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review 2020-06-24 15:39
Bastard Rebellion
Shadowless - Randall McNally

One of the benefits of building a world unfamiliar to the reader and characters that can live for hundreds of years, is the size of canvas, on which the author can construct his story. Certainly, in ‘Shadowless’, Randall McNally has developed a book exploiting those epic proportions, ranging across the ‘Northern Realms’, with a large cast of characters that perhaps befits such an ambitious undertaking. The fact that this is also a debut novel merely emphasises the congratulations due to the author, for such an absorbing read.

 

Amid echoes of Greek and Roman mythology, the Northern Realms is a world that cultivates curiosity and discomfort, wonder and horror in equal measure. The book also rather morphs into a novel, as the first half comprises a series of chapters, which read almost like short stories, or vignettes, introducing the respective ‘heroes’, with their inherited power and explaining how their differing local environments are formulated.

 

The malevolent ‘villains’ in the region are undoubtedly the cohort of powerful gods, who have survived a civil war among themselves, but in the process killed all of the goddesses. As a consequence, this exclusively macho group, using their ability to assume any form, satisfy their carnal desires among mortal women, the resulting offspring being born with supernatural traits, but without shadows. The ‘shadowless’ are thus born with innate advantage and yet are destined to be marked out and damned, neither mortal, nor god. The power bequeathed by their respective fathers may grow, if they can survive, but it can also be ‘harvested’ by the relevant god, in a cynical cull of their illegitimate children. Moreover, the Northern Realms are in the thrall of temples and mortal worshippers, who seek to enthusiastically appease the gods, by deploying a militia of ‘Shadow Watchers’, to identify and sacrifice the shadowless. Survival depends often on staying hidden from public view, in aristocratic isolation, forest, dungeon, or underground community. Only the mysterious Brother Amrodan, priest within a sole religious order committed to finding and helping the shadowless, appears to be on their side. Moreover, Amrodan is the lynchpin, mapping the whereabouts of the disparate individuals over centuries and devising the plan by which the gods might eventually be challenged. For me, he was a fleeting reminder of Nick Fury, meticulously assembling the ‘Avengers’, only Amrodan’s use of the dark arts involved a primeval pool and his kickass firepower came in the shape of a black dragon!

 

In a sense, the fact that these fascinating shadowless individuals seemed to struggle to gel as a group was hardly surprising. However, as prophesied, within the group is an especially powerful ‘shadowmancer’ who didn’t really fulfil his potential in this first outing. Coming up against a 25 feet tall monster with destruction on his mind may test the mettle of any leader, but it has left me with the impression that this book is the foundation of an ongoing story, the opening battle in a war, which I hope the author will continue. Interesting as they are, I did wonder at the sheer number of characters and the juggling required to keep them all in play, but if this does indeed culminate in further volumes, then returning to the canvas analogy, the author has acres of material to work with. Certainly the polish in some of those discrete early chapters bore the hallmarks of a talented wordsmith and I hope to return for Mr McNally’s next instalment soon. Incidentally, whilst the reader should rarely judge a book by its cover, the cover art, which did well in an online competition, on this occasion, is rather a good guide to the quality within.

 

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text 2020-06-04 02:27
Wanted for Pleasure, Trained for Sin - Giveaway!

So I've got my brand new kinky erotic novelette up for giveaway here on Booklikes for the first 30 people who enter. The giveaway is running until the 9th of June. 

 

Wanted for Pleasure, Trained for Sin cover

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the 54 page BDSM menage story.

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review 2020-06-02 08:59
Glad I read the lot!
What Tomorrow May Bring - Deborah Rix,Shelbi Wescott,Joseph A. Turkot,David J. Normoyle,Cary Caffrey,Samantha Durante,Megan Thomason,Jenni Merritt,David Estes,Susan Kaye Quinn,Tony Bertauski

So, I've been reading this book for over 3 years... but that's because it contains 10 novels within its covers. Each of the stories are laid out below with their individual ratings and links to their reviews.

Overall, however I felt the book contains some very good books, and some not so good books, but the collection left me feeling mostly glad to have read the whole lot.

My favourite of the collection would definitely have to be The Narrowing Path closely followed by Stitch. This appears to no longer be available to buy from Amazon so if you're interested in any of these books you'll likely need to purchase them separately.

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn ★★★★ https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

The Moon Dwellers, by David Estes ★★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Prison Nation, by Jenni Merritt★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Daynight, by Megan Thomason★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Stitch, by Samantha Durante ★★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

The Annihilation of Foreverland, by Tony Bertauski ★★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

The Girls from Alcyone, by Cary Caffrey ★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

The Narrowing Path, by David Normoyle ★★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

The Rain, by Joseph Turkot ★★★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Virulent: The Release, by Shelbi Wescott ★★
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

**Note: I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review**

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text 2020-05-02 17:49
Author Interview with Beatrice Ballentine
Taming the Captain by Beatrice Ballentine

Today’s interview is with certified truck driver and indie writer Beatrice Ballentine.

LQ: Tell me a little bit about yourself. 

BB: I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. Still, I  spent a fair amount of my adult years raising a very young family, while supporting my husband in our small family businesses. (Fun fact: I was a certified tow truck driver when our daughter and her twin brother and sister were all under the age of four). We live in a pretty rural area, so we always joke you better be willing to do whatever is legally possible to provide for your family.

While I wrote during these years, I never really grasped the possibility of self-publishing, and I was too impatient (and probably too controlling), to entertain the notion of going the traditional route. As the years passed, and we paid off our home, etc., I felt it was my turn to focus not only on my passion of writing but to figure out the beast of self-publishing and marketing. It has been an incredible journey, and now that our youngest children are in their teens, I have large chunks of time to devote to this endeavor consistently.

LQ: What does your writing process look like?

BB: I am a pantser. I have a vague notion of the beginning, middle, and end when I begin writing, and a grasp of who I want my protagonist and who or what I want the antagonist to be. Other than that, I love seeing the story and character depth unfold late at night, or the wee hours of the morning. This method does, at times, lead me down dead ends, …but not usually.  

LQ: What was your favorite book to write so far?

BB: I have a lot of unpublished works, mostly comedy, surprisingly. I do enjoy sharing a lot of that with family. Sometimes I will look back on material I wrote and, having forgotten I wrote it at all in the first place, get a little tickle from re-reading. I get a lot more enjoyment from writing romance. I would have to say my favorite, so far, is my WIP, which is book 2, behind Taming the Captain.

LQ: Who is your favorite character to write about? 

BB: I like the strong leading man. I like testing him, watching him grow as a person, and I love writing in little details that remove him from the typical “alphahole.” Leading men are enjoyable to write if they have a bit of a soft side.

LQ: Who are your favorite authors? Have any of them influenced your work?

BB: My favorites as an adult are Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters, Winsten Graham, James F. Cooper, to name a few.

During the early 80’s, when I was a teen/pre-teen,  a lot of what was available to me at home, came in the form of jacking my aunt and mother’s bodice rippers. Looking back on some of the titles as an adult, I shudder to think now, of my 13ish something daughter, (or any age) reading book after book of forced sex, slave sex, etc., wrapped in the packaging of romance. To be fair to my mother, she did not know I was stealing and reading her books.

Basically, all I recall from those editions was the “fight like hell and then have hot sex, or a young, beautiful virgin is forced to have sex by the “hero,” and then falls in love with him and vice versa and later they get married.

Regardless, I was young, and the seed for romance novels, the beautiful covers, etc. was planted. Taming the Captain is ironically being reviewed positively as a “modern-day bodice ripper,” (Melissa, Probably at the Library, 2020), The storyline is based on a strong female who is not into taking shit from the charismatic captain. Still, there is also a lot of tenderness, depth of character, adventure, and a good, passionate burn that leads to steamy, consensual sex. Nothing will turn me off faster to a romance novel than a storyline where all the hero and heroine do is bicker and fight, and then have hot sex. So perhaps, inadvertently, my writing is partially influenced by all these authors? You would have to ask my readers. ; ) 

LQ: How are you doing during the current pandemic? 

BB: I am an introvert by nature. I love being at home with my family, cooking, hiking, writing. I love people, but social situations can be a bit of a struggle for me, especially if there are a lot of people involved. I do have a few worries about some of our community members, family members, etc. who would struggle greatly if they caught COVID-19, but the social distancing aspect of the virus has not changed my life much.

LQ: What are you currently working on?

BB: I am putting the finishing touches on Even Captains Cry. It is the follow-up book to Taming the Captain which was released in February. “Even Captains Cry” has been a lot of fun to write. Without giving away any spoilers, we see the ever hot and ready Anthony completely out of his element and struggling in ways he never knew possible, but I promise a happy ending. ; ) The book is due for release mid to late June of this year.

LQ: Anything else you would like to share? 

BB: I love interacting with readers, writers, book bloggers, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @BeatriceBallen3.

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