Category Archives: review

STALKING THE DEMON ~ Advance Review EBOOKS by @CiaraBallintyne #HighFantasy #FREEBIE

Available for a limited time
FREE Advance Review ebooks (Review Copies only)

(Book 2 in the Seven Circles of Hell)
by Ciara Ballintyne

Date of Publication – 31 October 2014

Genre:  High Fantasy (Adult)
Add it to your Goodreads TBR here.

eARCs may not be identical to the final published version and therefore may contain some minor editing and typographical errors prior to the final proofread. eARCs are expected to be available 2 weeks prior to the publication date. Interested? Sign-up now!


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Confronting the Demon Reviewed by Pinky’s Favourite Reads

Another review tour stop as the Confronting the Demon book tour enters its second week. 

Pinky had lots to say but my favourite line (and it was hard to choose!) is this one, I think: “We are drawn into the story of Alloran right from the start. His story is painted on a beautifully described landscape that sets the imagination ablaze with a bombardment of the senses.”

We are drawn into the story of Alloran right from the start. 

His story is painted on a beautifully described landscape that sets the imagination ablaze with a bombardment of the senses. 
– See more at:
We are drawn into the story of Alloran right from the start. 

His story is painted on a beautifully described landscape that sets the imagination ablaze with a bombardment of the senses. 
– See more at:
We are drawn into the story of Alloran right from the start. 

His story is painted on a beautifully described landscape that sets the imagination ablaze with a bombardment of the senses. 
– See more at:

You can read the full review at Pinky’s Favourite Reads. If you’d like to pick up your own copy of Confronting the Demon, check out the buy links here – at $1.99, it’s a steal! Buy direct from my Books page and it’s even cheaper. 

If you’re an author, you might also like to check out my post A Quick Reference Guide to Copyright and Cover Art. You might not be able to do with your own book cover all the things you think you can!

Ciara Ballintyne Reviews the Daedalus Incident By Michael J Martinez

A refreshingly original sci-fi/historical fantasy mash-up, with an incredible premise. The Daedalus Incident combines sci-fi set on Mars in the 22nd century with historical fantasy set in the 18thcentury of an alternative reality.

The story contains two major threads. The sci-fi thread, as I thought of it, featured Lieutenant Shaila Jain, a member of the Royal British Navy (and the JSCwhich I took to be some joint cooperative between the UK and USA) posted on Mars as part of a small military operation supervising a mining operation. When they begin experiencing earthquakes where there should be none, she discovers a subterranean cave in which rocks move of their own accord. There she discovers a journal that is writing itself.
The historical fantasy thread features Lieutenant Thomas Weatherby, a member of the Royal British Navy in the 18th century on board the HMS Daedalusas it sails through space between planets. I was initially confused by this, but quickly decided this wasn’t our past, but had to be the past in an alternate reality, one where alchemy really can turn lead into gold and allow ships to sail through space on the solar winds. Of course, in our reality, the solar wind is something that would tear apart an 18th century frigate, but placing us in an alternate reality allowed me to suspend belief and accept that this might be possible in a world with working alchemy.

The journal Lt. Jain has found is, of course, that of Lt Weatherby and she and her team watch in disbelief as words literally appear on the paper, describing what to them seems a work of fiction. Only when they run out of other possible explanations do they begin to think this might be real.

Lt. Weatherby, in his world, is on the trail of an evil alchemist, Cagliostro, who is in the process of collecting the various alchemical essences of the solar system so that he might perform some great alchemical working to achieve his nefarious purposes. It is unclear what his intentions are to start, but it was at least apparent to me that whatever he was doing was what was causing the blurring between universes.

The story threads and the universes do eventually merge so that Lts. Jain and Weatherby meet each other, but I won’t say more than that so I don’t ruin the ending.

Apart from the spectacular story, the thing that struck me most was the ‘voice’ of Lts. Jain and Weatherby. You could open this story anywhere and know immediately which thread you were in by the ‘sound’ of the narrator. It was so incredibly distinctive I think I’ve even learnt something from it.

That said, having established these distinct voices, it frustrated me that later the story fell more into an omniscient style POV. I didn’t find this as obvious at the beginning of the book, where we seemed well-entrenched in either the head of Weatherby or Jain, and the first time I found myself in the perspective of Dr Finch, alchemist to the Daedalus, I was badly jarred, and even more so when we switched back to Weatherby when Finch wandered away. This same issue then began to crop up in the other story thread, and became even more jarring when the threads merged, as I could find myself in the thoughts of either Jain or Weatherby without warning, and my brain evidently wanted to settle into one or the other unless very clearly signalled to switch.

While I am not a fan of omniscient, I usually find it distances me more than jars me, where in this case I found it particularly disorienting, perhaps because often I did feel I was inside the character’s head. I think this was largely because of the distinctive ‘voices’ of the two main characters, so the sudden switch between characters was about as pleasant as a bucket of cold water. Additionally, each Weatherby segment opened with his journal entry, written in the first person, so there was a tendency to want to stay with Weatherby and inside his head. While the genre mash-up was effective, I found this ‘POV mash-up’ less desirable.

I enjoyed the characters, particular Weatherby who had a very strong sense of ‘British stiff upper lip’. The story had a romance sub-plot, with French planetologist Stephane as Jain’s love interest, and budding alchemist Anne Baker as Weatherby’s. Stephane’s character was the more compelling of the two for me, funny and flirtatious but sincere, and I wanted Lt. Jain to be happy with him.

By contrast, Anne Baker fell flat. She seemed a woman out of her time, and while Weatherby chided Jain for her behaviour being unseemly for a woman, Anne seemed accepted even though she behaved almost completely contrary to the expectations of a woman in her era, and this felt odd to me. Her backstory never rang true to me, or the romantic conflict with Weatherby – I don’t feel the significance of her past was explored deeply enough. But mostly, I just didn’t find her likeable, and so didn’t particularly want the romance to blossom. Perhaps this was deliberate and this will develop further later.

This is a superb story, and my gripes are only minor. With a sequel (The Enceladus Crisis) due out next year, I’ll be waiting to scoop it up for sure.

If You Don’t Know What Professional Means…

Look it up!

If you are a writer putting a book out there, or an editor offering editing services to writers, then you are purporting to be a professional. I say ‘purporting’, because that’s the expectation, but not always the reality.

If you are putting yourself out there as a professional, then you should be holding yourself to a professional standard. There are some obvious issues that always get bandied around in these discussions, including:

  • Having a book cover that doesn’t look like it fell off the back of a truck;
  • Ensuring the book has been edited to within an inch of its life;
  • Making sure the book has been thoroughly proofread;
  • Ensuring the book is properly formatted, particularly ebooks, where all sorts of formatting pitfalls await; and
  • Having a professional website (for writers and editors).

There are, however, two issues that are less discussed:

  • The way you comport yourself – this means behaving with a certain level of dignity in the public sphere. It doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with someone, but for god’s sake, don’t get into flame wars with trolls; and
  • Conflicts of interest.

Public Behaviour
This means don’t engage with someone regarding a review they wrote of your book, or a book that you edited. Don’t attack them. Don’tmass your fans to attack them. Don’tcall them a troll. And if any of this happens completely independently of you, demand that your fans stop. If it’s your editor who attacks a reviewer, then rein them in!

Part of being professional means that you accept that the work you wrote, or edited, is out there in the public eye. You can’t stop people reviewing it. You can’t stop people giving it bad reviews. Just accept them with good grace, learn from any valid criticism that may be contained therein, and move on. Your book should have been through so many beta readers, editors and proofreaders that your skin should be thicker than dragonhide. If it hasn’t, then there’s every chance you deserved those bad reviews. 

There may be rare occasions where it is appropriate to address someone’s concern but do it in private, and with due courtesy and grace. Never engage in a shit-throwing contest in a public forum.

Conflicts of Interest
What are they, and what should you do about them?

A conflict of interest is where you have some personal stake that influences your judgement or assessment of something in a way that is contrary to the making of a proper assessment or judgement.  In the writing arena, this usually relates to reviews. If you write a review, and something influences the way you review that book other than the actual merits of the book, then you probably have a conflict. 

 Some conflicts should be avoided all together, and others need to be managed. 

Here are some examples of conflicts of interest:

  • Writing a review on a book you were paid to edit – because you’ve been paid, you are predisposed to give it a good review. Impartiality is difficult (or impossible). I would suggest that you never do this;
  • Writing a review for money – even if you aren’t guaranteeing a particular outcome (which is just dishonest, misleading, and potentially fraudulent) again the fact of payment may influence you to write a more favourable review than you would have if you weren’t paid. This one can usually be managed by disclosing the payment (prominently) so then the reader can assess the review in light of knowing that a payment has been made. Legally speaking, this practice may not be allowed at all in some jurisdictions. If you are posting the review on a site other than your own, you should check the allowable practices;
  • Review for review arrangements – as bad or worse than being paid for a review. Writers have been known to hold reviews hostage until they get a good review for their own book, and even honest writers may be motivated to write a good review for someone else to avoid receiving an undeserved bad review of their own book. Should be handled with care;
  • Sponsored blog posts – if someone pays you to write a blog, you may be inclined to say nice things about them just because they are paying you. Like a paid review, the fact of payment should be disclosed. Check any applicable legal requirements in your jurisdiction;
  • Reviewing the book of a friend or family member – you are unlikely to be completely honest for fear of hurting the writer’s feelings;

You might look at these and think there’s not necessarily a conflict. For example, an editor might be capable of being honest about a book they edited. This is true, but:

  • Even if the editor can be honest, there is still a perception of a conflict. A perceived conflict is just as bad as an actual conflict – remember, perception is reality.
  • An editor might not give a 5 star review, but they might give 3 stars, instead of the 2 they really think it deserves, because they don’t want to upset their client, or because they hope to get repeat business from that client.

If you aspire to be a professional, then you have to think about conflicts. 

What sorts of unprofessional behaviour have you seen from writers? Can you think of more examples of conflicts?

Book Review: Wizard Squared by K. E. Mills

In this, the third installment of the Rogue Agent series, in another Ottosland, in a parallel dimension, the events of The Accidental Sorcerer didn’t play out quite as we know them. There, Gerald didn’t make a dragon to battle Lional. Instead, he turned to Lional’s grimoires of dark magics, and combined with his powers as a rogue wizard, became unspeakably dangerous… and unspeakably evil.

Not satisfied with corrupting Bibbie, shadbolting Monk, imprisoning Melissande and Reg, and committing atrocities against various government officials and others who crossed him, not satisfied with conquering Ottosland, or his plans for world domination, the other Gerald turns his mind to all conquering all the other alternate realities.

The first our Gerald and his friends know of it is when Monk answers the door… and finds himself. Frightened by the events described by the other Monk, and with Gerald off on secret government business, Monk and the girls of Witches Incorporated turn to Gerald’s boss, Sir Alec.
It is agreed that only Gerald can face Gerald… but our Gerald is missing. He stepped into a portal bound for Grand Splotze – and didn’t step out the other end.

The concept of this story is good, with the potential for crackling tension, but in my opinion the execution missed the mark. The first quarter of the book is a recounting of the final events of The Accidental Sorcerer, but from the perspective of the other Gerald. I found this boring, since I knew much of these events already, barring the parts where events deviated, but I also found it confusing. I quickly suspected that perhaps these were events in an alternate reality, but I wasn’t sure, and so I was confused. Also, if I was right, then I was completely uninterested, because I couldn’t see what possible relevance this had to my Gerald. I was too busy wanting to get back to my Gerald to care much about this other Gerald.

The next quarter of the book skipped back to Monk and the girls, where I, the reader, listened in boredom as the other Monk explained the state of events in the alternate reality – events I already more or less knew because of the backstory infodump at the beginning. In my opinion, there would have been a lot more conflict and tension if the reader didn’t know anything about the alternate reality when the second Monk turned up. Even his arrival wasn’t interesting because I already knew who and what he was.

While the back half of the book picked up, it wasn’t enough to make up for the incredibly slow start. Definitely the weakest of the three books in the series to this point. I really only stuck with reading it because I mistakenly started Wizard Undercover first. It became quickly apparent I was reading out of order, and I stepped back to Wizard Squared to fill in the blanks. If I hadn’t known there were events in Wizard Squared that I needed to know in order to make sense of Wizard Undercover, I probably would have given up on this book early on. 

Disappointing given how much I enjoyed the first two books in the series.