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Books we've read through our Indie Author Review System. If you're looking to give an independent author a chance, look no further.
The Vanity of Humanity is an entertaining look at anthropology and our perception of ourselves as different and special in comparison to the other creatures that inhabit the earth. I found this book to be very interesting and enjoyable. Throughout the author refers to his experience as a prison officer as well as wider reading that impacted his studies and worldview. Although you don’t have to read or be familiar with any of the other titles he mentions to enjoy this book, they and the bibliography serve as a list of recommendations for further reading. The Vanity of Humanity flowed quite seamlessly from topic to topic, handling evolution, communities, prison and the justice system, celebrity, death, money and God to name just a few. The author’s arguments are written in a clear and concise way, with humour and anecdotes throughout that help to make the abstract subject matter more enjoyable to read and easier to understand and digest. I enjoy reading books that focus on human nature and behaviour and I enjoy them even more when I’m not left struggling to concentrate on the language. This book uses understandable references and avoids jargon in order to make The Vanity of Humanity a really accessible book. I particularly liked the comparison of the creation of humanity to Frankenstien. The handling of more scientific concepts by equating them to simpler scenarios such as lego blocks was skilfully done. Part autobiographical, part popular science, this book calls into question humanity’s place in the world and the concept that we are any less animalistic than our primate relatives. This is a book that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Blood Ties is a nuanced story that addresses issues of power, corruption and modern slavery. Ritchie Morlan is an experienced advertising executive. His children work as activists against people-trafficking and modern slavery. Ritchie’s aim to use his knowledge to support his children’s cause massively backfire, leading him to make modern slavery not only more widespread but acceptable to the general public. This book manages to intertwine a lot of different themes. There’s family drama as you watch Ritchie work to become closer to his children and find out more about their relationship and past. The storyline also covers corruption and money in politics, protest, anti-immigration policies and advertising and the media. I think that this was an interesting and well-written story that seemed to take a lot of inspiration from modern current affairs and twisted them into a convincing political, almost dystopian thriller. This book manages to deal with the microcosm of Ritchie’s well-meaning efforts to help amplify his children’s work, while also dealing with the bigger picture view of a dark outcome to anti-immigration feeling and political messages that is visible online and in the news today. Blood Ties had me intrigued from the early pages and my interest was held throughout. A worryingly believable plot that I would recommend it for readers who enjoy political thrillers.
Size Zero is a crime thriller set in the high fashion world. Covering everything from the fashion trends to sex trafficking this is an intense plot that you might not be able to predict. Although this book follows Cecil as he seeks to find out what happened to Annabelle and who her murderer was, this story delves into an all too believable world where the elite can hide the most perverse activities because of who they are. The characters throughout are eccentric but well-crafted and the description was vivid, brutally so at times. Handling issues such as rape, sex trafficking, paedophilia, self-harm and eating disorders this isn’t one for the faint-hearted. The author manages to integrate the plot of Size Zero into the modern world, with references to names and events everyone will be aware of. For me, this helped to make the story more believable and emphasised the critique of the high-fashion industry (Which I think this book ultimately is). About halfway through, everything seemed quite straight forward for Cecil, and I wondered at that point how, and perhaps why, there were so many pages left. There were a few more twists and lots of events that I think benefited from the author’s detailed descriptions, and I flipped through the rest of the pages easily. With black humour and a dark narrative, I don’t expect that this will be for everyone, but if you’re wanting something hard-hitting this could be the book for you.
Available in all ebook formats here. Pre-school children will delight in the sounds and rhythm of the alliterative phrases that accompany the whimsical drawings in An Amusing ALPHABET. Several of the drawings contain unstated objects or animals that start with the subject letter. Children will enjoy the challenge of finding them.
Shadow Selves starts in the midst of the action, after a visit to Dr J. Jones a hypnotherapist ends in a suicide. As a reader you have many questions about this book from the start, which helps to throw you off balance and create a sense of unease and as the plot twists and turns. There’s a lot of good plot points throughout the book and I found it interesting that most of the story was written from the perspective of Callum, a fake therapist who has a lot to lose if he is exposed and I think that this perspective adds to the tension in the story. The events of the book come to a fairly dramatic conclusion and I liked that Shadow Selves doesn’t necessarily end “happily”. There are more questions raised by the final page which I also think puts the reader off balance and lets the uneasy feeling linger with the reader after the story concludes. Playing on the fear of manipulation by medical professionals, I think that as a thriller Shadow Selves works. I personally wasn’t hooked as I read, but it was an easy thriller to read and may be good for fans of the genre.
Unlikely Return is an effortlessly stirring expression of the complexities of human relationships. It is told against the backdrop of an unlikely, yet equally damning tragedy that befalls five men, whilst aboard a sport-fishing vessel. Captain Jack, his petulant assistant Tony and three other passengers; Paul, Ben and Stuart all board the Princess Rose, for a weekend away of fishing and as a means of escape from the woes of their everyday lives. Each of these men carry the burdens of estranged relationships and emotional trauma, which a shared life-altering experience at sea, will force them to confront and forever change them. This book is extremely cognizant of human emotion and how one's sense of self is deeply influenced by one's formative years. It stirs empathy within the reader and explores a wealth of different perspectives that make for fantastic characterisation. Unlikely Return is an insightful slow-burner of a book which I relished sinking my teeth into! Lois Cudjoe, A LoveReading Ambassador
The Eighth Titan is a highly descriptive fantasy epic telling the story of one boy destined to save the realm. A prophecy foretold that Jack would be the one to seal the Eighth, a powerful being that was trapped centuries ago by seven titans. But magic has been made illegal, and when Jack has grown up he must travel to each realm, trying to unite them and learning what no one else has been allowed to, magical skill so that he can trap the Eighth once more. This is a very detailed fantasy story with aspects of modern and older time periods merged into one. Each chapter starts with an excerpt of other books within this world, telling the stories of the titans and their struggles, as well as the other beings Jack, Ewen and Gwenevere meet along the way. I think these were a nice touch as it expands the reader's understanding of their environment. While the main plotline mostly follows Jack’s quest, The narration style used gave an opportunity for the reader to learn more about the other characters and see the perils ahead through their eyes too. I think this gives the book an added depth, it rounded out all of the characters nicely and allowed me to become more interested in the side characters throughout the book. It also raised questions and suspicions that you just have to keep reading to find answers to. In all, I found The Eighth Titan to be an intricate story and would recommend it to fans of fantasy epics.
I think that Game of Gnomes: The Necrognomicon is a cheeky, fun, irreverent fantasy adventure. It is a bit sweary in parts and there is dark and adult humour throughout, I did chuckle aloud as I read. Gassy’s life of crime has rewarded him with a quiet dream home in which he can retire. Until he is roped into traveling to the revived criminal convention to compete in the Crimicompetion, the ultimate test of criminal ability by his friend Borty. I liked the fourth wall breaks and the wordplay between the three gnomes as they head to Crimicon and participate in the Crimicompetition to find and steal the Necrognomicon (try saying that six times fast!). This entertaining fantasy adventure sees everything go wrong, it’s like Despicable Me crossed with Deadpool, and would be good for fans of the latter. This book is not for children but did seem to me to be a mischief-making adventure story adapted with adult language. In the early chapters, I found that there could be a slight rebalancing with the erotica jokes (for my personal preference there was maybe one too many). However, I did enjoy the reaction to the garden gnomes as well as the inclusion of other fantasy creatures throughout the story. I think this book is a bit of daft fun, it feels like a children’s adventure rewritten for adults and is lighthearted, harmless and entertaining.
The Severed Hands of Oliver Olivovich is a satirical take on a crime fiction story with the addition of fantasy creatures and parallel worlds. The author has done very well to pack all of these different elements in and I can’t fault his world building. I found the mystery aspect of this book and the hunt for Oliver Olivovich’s killer twisty and interesting. I liked how the author takes the reader down a number of seemingly unconnected paths. I didn’t know how all of the different leads were connected as I read and I think that the author did well to pull everything together at the end. This book is irreverent, a bit sweary, and although some of the jokes didn’t quite hit well and got a bit repetitive by the end for me personally (I didn’t like the “Frenchie” jokes and comments at all if I’m honest), it’s a generally amusing book. I did like the imaginary dog and found Nigel the seagull funny.I think the tone of the humour is akin to something like Family Guy, as a comparison. If that is the style of humour you like, then this might be a good book recommendation for you. In all, I think that The Severed Hands of Oliver Olivovich is a decent attempt at combining the fantasy and mystery genres together while adding in a satirical twist and adult humour. It wasn’t really my type of humour but for those who like “on the nose” comedy, this could be a good recommendation.
John Cranston is a simple gardener, he isn’t interested in things like global domination but a simple meeting with a friend turns his world upside down. Pandora’s Gardener is a funny adventure story with a piece of computer hardware at the heart of a secret battle for technological domination. Based on the myth of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and Zeus’ revenge with Pandora’s box. Democracy itself is under threat and this humble data card could lead to a technological Dark Age. This book is set in a typical, modern criminal society and as you meet the characters you aren’t sure who the good guys are or who should be trusted. There’s some witty chapter heading that made me smile and plenty of twists and turns throughout the narrative as both sides fight to find the data card and a trail of death is left behind. The narrative is engaging and easy to follow, with easy character development and wry humour. The third-person narration allows the book to jump perspective and provides the reader with an in-depth knowledge of each storyline as they meet and diverge. This is a book that will keep you interested and amused right through to the final page. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
I know Jesus Christ is Real, as you can tell by the title places a lot of emphasis on the author’s religious beliefs. A personal memoir covering a difficult childhood in Jamaica and an adult life spent in America, it is clear that the author’s faith has provided support and strength throughout her life and the challenges she has faced. It was interesting to me to step into the shoes of a deeply spiritual person and see their perception of the world. I read this book as a learning experience, the author’s views didn’t and still don’t match my own, but I admire the strength of her conviction. I was interested in the author’s story, growing up in Jamaica, in extreme poverty and alone at times and this book offers insight into life and education in Jamaica, it is a country I haven’t visited and know very little about. It made me happy that she managed to build a life of happiness with her family in America, especially one that is in such direct contrast to her upbringing. I would recommend this book to readers who want to learn about other people. I think that this is a good book to find out more about spirituality from a personal perspective, and ultimately I think that viewpoints aside, this is a book about hope and faith.
A multi-perspective narrative following Aiyanna and a number of other characters. This book also spans time, jumping from Aiyanna in the modern-day and back through history. This book seems to be part sci-fi, part literary fiction. Aiyanna is seeking treatment for a deep depression when she discovers a secret about herself which leads her deep into her family history. Each character we encounter throughout the book teaches us about family, love, understanding and the human condition. These lessons are also imparted on Aiyanna, an insight I’m sure anyone who believes in reincarnation would love, to be able to look into their past lives and experiences to impact the decisions or mistakes they make. The book is separated well, with the name of the character in focus at the top of each chapter. This is an interesting story about time, belief in reincarnation and in some cases the butterfly effect, the idea that one small action or decision can have a knock-on effect, sometimes throughout history.
Available in Paperback and Kindle format. A new take on the battle between good and evil, throughout space and time. For God’s Sake contains three narratives that run simultaneously depicting slightly different spiritual struggles. Len is a banker who is quite selfish and intimidating but needs to discover who is trying to kill him before they succeed. Joyce is a teenager living through the 1960s but doesn’t seem to experience it in the way you’d expect due to her devoutly Christian family and beliefs. All that may be changing when she starts to get to know the new reverend. And on a planet called Heviant, Saul has to defend his people and be a leader in a way he’s never experienced before when Idriss chooses his planet as his next target for plunder. These three narratives do link together, but there’ll be no spoilers here as to how. As I said at the start, this is a battle between good and evil that you’ve never seen before. Imagine if Tarantino decided to create a film where the main purpose is to save the human race from Evil. If you like the sound of that, this may be the book for you. Quite graphic in places but the unique storyline kept me intrigued until the end. The plot is simple to follow, each chapter states at the top which narrative we're about to hear from next and I found this a fairly quick read. I like how the three very distinct storylines merged together at the end, I wasn't really expecting it so that was a nice surprise.