The Book Review
a space for reviews of self published, paranormal books available in Kindle Unlimited
The Cracklock Saga book 1 Fae or Foe
‘Faery, where the monsters are not only from make believe.’
Fifteen-year-old Jack has grown up as a lovely lad who goes to school, delivering papers and washing dishes to bring in money to supplement his mum’s hard-earned income. As far as Jack knows, he’s just an ordinary lad who’s had a bit of a rough time since his father died.
All that changes rapidly. He starts to hear things others can’t, see things that no one else can. A non-human beast disguised as a harmless old man tries to kill him. (We find out never to trust appearances – they can definitely be deceiving.) Along comes Aunt Elsie and her ferret and they introduce Jack to the world of faery.
Not the cute pretty world of fairy tales, but one of a multitude of outlandish beings, and by no means all of them are nice. It is a divided world with both good and downright evil. A bit like the human world actually. There is plenty of evil there as well, from the bullies at school to Jack’s own family – the part he’s never met before.
The author takes us on a wild ride full of action as he introduces us to an intricate magical world where not even the way folk travel is the same. Draw a symbol on a door and step into another time and place. The details are well thought out and workable – once you as a reader are ready to step into faery.
Different types of beings who populate faery have defined characteristics; Brownies are loyal and will fight to the end to defend the people they care for, care which is shown by looking after them, feeding them, cleaning up after them, nursing them when they are sick. Boggarts like to hang around pubs, thriving on other people’s evilness.
It was interesting how the evilness in the school bullies is shown to have developed from poor parenting from a mother who couldn’t be bothered and a father who was probably a bully himself, and allowed to continue as no one is brave enough to stand up to them, including teachers. Until Jack.
The division in Jack’s family is cleverly explained, tracing the problems back to the time of the Witchfinder General, when to be a witch, or at least to be accused of it, to see or hear anything strange that others couldn’t, was to be at risk of losing your life. Part of the family gave in to prevailing thought and religious beliefs and decried those that didn’t, leading to the breakdown in family relationships as one side couldn’t trust the other.
When I first looked at this book, it was described on Amazon as being fiction for teens and young adult. I can confirm that I am nowhere near this category so I wondered what I would find. What I found was a highly readable and enjoyable book. Imagine my dismay at finding that it ended on a cliff-hanger. What happens next? The answer is to read the next book in the series.
I asked the author to tell me a bit about themself and their publishing journey.
Hi everyone! I live in the East Midlands, right in the centre of the UK, and when I’m not writing or working, I’m with the family or walking the dog in the local woodlands seeking those ever-elusive Fae. Or sitting, pint in hand with the good friends I grew up with. Some of them are hidden in the books themselves; quite a few characters are based on the people I know and love.
I am self-published. I confess that I did try and look for an agent initially; it was the marketing side of the business that scared me. After doing a lot of research I decided that I didn’t want to wait a long time and then lose overall control of my stories, just to be saddled with marketing anyway. That’s when I started looking seriously at self-publishing. And I am glad that I did.
Marketing – I have tried pretty much all of it and I’m lucky enough to be doing alright. One thingI have yet to try is TikTok. Something to look at for the future.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org - always happy to answer questions!
Website: https://www.thecracklocksaga.com [check this out for all things Cracklock!]
Book 1, Fae or Foe?: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09G9RNMMS
Book 2, The Lost and the Departed: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09KNDM9YZ
Book 3, Alice and the Mirror Glass: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09QJ2TV9S
Book 4, Dire Sorrows will release Quarter 4 2022. A standalone story which precludes book 4, “The Tale of Nathaniel Cracklock”, will release Summer 2022.
book 1 Discovery
The war we all fear has happened. Much of the world is devastated by the weaponry used – nuclear, chemical and biological. Survivors are leaving these areas in droves seeking safe refuge. New America doesn’t want them. It closed the borders and refuses to acknowledge those that remain as legitimate citizens.
Refugees are treated as a class of their own. They are denied access to basic amenities like running water, electricity and the digital world. No cars, no phones, no banking. Everything for them is cash only – they are ‘cashers.’
Although set in the future, this is a future not too far removed from reality. We can easily extrapolate from current day events to what could be, without much difficulty. It is unsettling and makes us think deeply about the direction we are heading in. As I read, I cringed. The attitudes and abuse in this future have their seeds in the world around us.
The poor suffer while the rich thrive, aided and abetted by a controlling government with cameras on every street corner. This government needs new weapons to keep them safe – enter experimental genetically modified humans who are stronger than humans, learn quicker than humans, and kill without an iota of human compassion.
Some escape, including Edel, a female version who has never had a name before, only a number, and the scene is set.
The prologue is a masterpiece. It’s a rapid introduction to this new world. We know straight away that it’s bad, horrific. Human workers are expected to follow instructions without question, no matter how insanely against any ideals; failure to comply puts them at risk. One woman takes a chance and rescues a baby. We know that the compassion that makes us human still lingers at least somewhere in this world. I was hooked.
The author skilfully takes us into Edel’s mindset. She now has her freedom, but what is freedom if you don’t know what it means or what to do with it. She has only been outside the building she was raised in twice. She has never been allowed to think for herself, to make a choice. To question instructions, to think anything she wasn’t allowed, to do anything she wasn’t told, was to experience excruciating pain.
Her fear is crippling, her lack of ability to overcome what has been instilled into her is frustrating; the ease with which she kills is chilling. Yet we meet Jay, her patient, reluctant saviour, and despite her problems we are on Edel’s side. We fear for Jay’s safety and cheer him on for being a wonderful human being.
Then along comes Danny and we enter his traumatised mind, genetically created the same as Edel but raised in a human family, without ever having learned how to control the genetic traits that were bred into him.
The story is told at a rapid pace and as a reader, I was raring to go with it. I wanted, no -needed, to know what was going to happen next. I almost skipped ahead to see what was coming but couldn’t bring myself to leave anything out. I reached the end fearing that this would be a sad ending, in keeping with the miserableness of the world it’s set in, but there was a glimmer of hope that all might turn out well. And yes, we will get to meet these extraordinary characters again in the next book.
I asked the author to tell me a bit about herself.
Hi, I’m Ashleigh Reverie, self-published author of the series, Almost Human. My publishing journey probably looks different to most. For one thing, I never wanted to be an author. The thought honestly had never entered my head. To my mind, writing was one of those things that clever people did. You know… the ones who had degrees in literature and such.
So how did I end up here? Well, I’ve always had an active imagination. The characters in my books have been with me for a very long time. I would share snippets of storylines I had going on in my head. Everyone I told said I should write it down. I just decided one day to begin writing, and before I knew it, I had a first draft.
From that point, I threw myself into learning as much as I could about writing. It’s become more than a hobby now; I would consider it a full-blown obsession! I still never intended to publish anything, but I just wanted to see if what I had was any good.
I sent my manuscript to some friends. Their responses were really positive, but that wasn’t enough for me. They were my friends and I didn’t believe that they would tell me if it was awful, so I searched out some beta readers that I didn’t know. For the most part, their responses were positive, but they also gave valuable critiques that helped me to tighten up my story in places.
I went through all the steps before I published. I edited, I got feedback from beta readers and edited again. I sent it to a developmental editor and then edited again based on her feedback. I then had it copy edited before I published. I really took my time, because I care so much about my characters, that I wouldn’t want to let them down with poor writing.
Editing was expensive, but I believe it was worth it. When I sent my manuscript, I was under the impression that it was pretty much perfect. After all, my friends and beta readers had all told me so… But my Editor found entire passages that needed changing, removing, or rewording. With her help, my story was elevated into something better and more polished.
The cover of my books, I designed myself. This is something I wish I had done differently, because I believe a professional could produce something much better than what I have managed to come up with, but I had spent my budget on editing, and I didn’t expect to sell any copies of my book, because this was just a fun project.
I formatted the book myself using KDP. It’s very simple and the guide is easy to use. Once you have formatted the manuscript, you can set it to paperback and hardcover copies as well as eBook.
Marketing a book is a totally different skill to writing one! I haven’t really got much of a marketing strategy, I’m just floating along, but I’m loving the ride. I’m mostly relying on word of mouth and positive reviews to get me noticed. My reviews have been very positive so far. When I published, I expected I would sell about five copies and they would all go to my friends and family. Well, even though I’m not going to be reaching bestseller status anytime soon, I’m happy to report that I have sold many, many more copies than I ever expected and the response to Almost Human has been amazing.
Instagram: Ashleigh Reverie
Facebook: Ashleigh Reverie
Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/pg/reverieashleigh
Goodreads: Ashleigh Reverie
And amazon author, Ashleigh Reverie.
NO BONES ABOUT IT
B Williams and J J White
Charlie is timid. Yes, she’s a psychic, and ‘a dang good one’, but we get the impression she suffers anxiety through her otherworldly encounters and she is nervous around people. Then we discover she is made of much sterner stuff as we understand why a werewolf hangs out in her office. We learn – briefly – that she had saved his life.
The wonderfully tender relationship between Charlie and Wolf is delightful, and watching it slowly unfold till it gains momentum is a joy. Understandably it is difficult with one so timid and the other so reserved, and the human/not human element only adds to the issues. The reader is rooting for them to get together, yet there is a tinge of sadness as we realise the full implications for Wolf.
Wolf is big and tough as you would expect a werewolf to be, yet underneath his taciturn exterior his emotions run deep though he keeps them well controlled, and seldom lets them out on show.
The budding detective business has a strange mix of cases, from dishing the dirt on cheating husbands to saving the world from pure evil. Their help is sought to retrieve a Magical grimoire from the 1500s which has been stolen in strange circumstances. The supernatural is suspected.
Charlie’s strength and dogged determination come to the fore. ‘Your path of action after almost dying is to do it again?’ She can’t let this one go – there is too much at stake. People’s lives are at risk. The evil now stalking this world is the stuff dreamed of in nightmares.
Our unlikely duo work well together, and we meet an interesting array of people who help them along their way. The ending is satisfying and leaves you wanting to meet Charlie and Wolf again if only to see how their relationship develops.
The relationship between Charlie and Wolf is carefully managed, especially given that Wolf seldom speaks. The development is shown in Wolf’s actions, his selfless dedication to protecting her speaking louder than any words.
Although there isn’t much in the way of dialogue between them - certainly Wolf says very little - their thoughts are shared with the reader so we have a deeper understanding of what lies behind their actions.
We are gradually fed enough of a thought to make us think there is more to it than we’ve heard, and sure enough, the answer comes along to satisfy the intrigue. As a technique, it works well.
Description is brief but enables you to see the setting, and more importantly the atmosphere. Clothes are described in a way that tells you more about the wearer and their personality than simply what they are wearing.
The back and forth style works, walking the reader alongside these unlikely detectives as they fathom out the clues.
I asked Williams and White to tell us a little about their self-publishing journey.
They decided not to go for traditional publishing, partly due to the time and effort involved and the need for an agent, neither of which they were interested in doing.
They hired an editor and a cover designer, but later changed the cover to better suit the genre.
They are finding marketing difficult as is the case for many writers. They feel that you have to find things that work in your genre, make sure your cover is on point, and look at marketing materials. They’ve tried Facebook marketing and Instagram. They have a mailing list on their website.
What has brought most success? Just joining writing groups and being personable in Facebook groups, and making suggestions.
This writing team of B Williams and J J White tell us that this project took a long time to come to life, starting with a friendship and moving on to being co-writers. I hope that this will be a long and fruitful coupling.
Vampire The Begotten
"If you loved the Twilight Saga, you will hate my books." This is what Dayna Ward says of Vampire The Begotten, the first book in her Begotten Vampire series. I confess I loved the Twilight Saga, and yes, Dayna’s book is as far away from the glamour of Twilight as you can get, but I also love Vampire The Begotten.
The cover is eye-catching, a black background tinged with red. The stark image shows someone in distress, long white hair falling over her shoulders, her hand obscuring her face. Then under the word VAMPIRE, in red is The Begotten, underlining the picture as if in blood.
The prologue is chilling. If you didn’t know what to expect before you started to read the book, you do now. Someone has kidnapped a woman and her little brother. In what appears to be a ritual setting, we find that the boy is dead, the woman is bound, gagged and scared that she will be next.
We quickly fall in love with our main character Erica, also known as Eiko, the name given to her by her not-so-loving mother. Erica is loving and giving; she is a ‘baby cuddler’, volunteering to cuddle premature babies while they receive treatment to keep them alive. We gradually understand that she has difficulties in life – her vision is poor, she cannot drive. People tease her because of her appearance. We feel her love and concern for people; we wince at her harsh treatment by others.
We meet Isaac, a child she works with, to whom she is very attached She works in play therapy – a children’s occupational therapist. We meet her friend Henry, an older man who works at the hospital where she volunteers. Romance books are her guilty pleasure. Her lovely little world is perfectly built, as long as you don’t look too deep. Erica has nightmares, so bad that she had to warn her neighbours in case her screams disturbed them.
Then the bottom falls out of Erica’s world. Something bad has happened to Isaac. He’s not dead – yet.
We hear of a serial killer on the news. Ritual murders. Erica’s life spirals as she finds that vampires aren’t glamourous. Not all vampires are beautiful nor sexy; some are hideous – the stuff of nightmares. Not all vampires like their new improved version – for some it is not. For some survival is hard. Not all of them make it.
Erica’s struggle with her conscience is real. She hates the man who turned her into this monster, yet she needs to stay with him to find her way through this new life that was not of her making. She is more than she ever believed she could be.
The author skilfully uses foreshadowing to involve the reader, giving hints of what is to come if the reader cares to pick up on these.
When Erica is first attacked – by a human - in her struggle to get free she bites her attacker’s hand and tastes blood.
Her rescuer when she is first at risk is not what he seems. Erica shouldn’t have trusted him. She has been betrayed. I found myself talking to Erica, warning her not to be so trusting, not again.
Dayna uses the environment to set the scene. ‘The sky’s red flow eventually faded to darkness, making stars visible.’ And yet that description in itself is a foreshadowing of what is to come.
Plot points are carefully crafted. Nothing is left to the last minute leaving the reader asking where did that come from? The items Erica takes with her at the beginning when she leaves her life behind become a focal point much later in the story. This attention to detail is good and makes sure the story flows well.
The vampires are many and various, each with their tale to tell. This story held my attention as I read late into the night. I began to understand these wayward, often unlovable, vampires, as one sums up his frustration – ‘I can only tell you how it is, Erica, but I can’t tell you why, because I don’t know why. It’s just how I’ve existed and how all our kind have existed.’
I found this a compelling read, and I am waiting perhaps not so patiently for the next book in the series.
I asked Dayna to tell us a little about her self-publishing journey.
Dayna chose to self-publish this book, following a bad experience with a ‘traditional’ publisher who turned out to be a vanity/hybrid press. It didn’t work well for her so she decided to self-publish to keep control of her work.
Many people will say that a professional editor is essential. For many new writers just starting out, the cost is prohibitive. Dayna edited her manuscript herself using aids such as Grammarly, Hemingway, ProWriting Aid, and AutoCrit. She went over the manuscript at least six times before she was ready to publish. She says that the article in the link below made some good points.
I asked Dayna how she found publishing with Amazon’s KDP. ‘I like it so far,’ she says. ‘It’s given me a chance to publish my work before I die of old age. (Don’t laugh. I’m working on a series. I’ve probably committed myself to this project for the next 10 years.)’
Of marketing, Dayna admits that it’s difficult ‘but isn’t that the usual story?’ She is hoping for greater success once she has more than one book in the series.
I wish Dayna every success for the future.