Tag Archives: 5/5

‘Hope’ – by Terry Tyler

I’m a voracious reader so there are times when the pickings are lean. And then there are times when I discover one stunning, brilliant book after the other. This is one of those times and the first book I want to talk about is ‘Hope’.

This is the review I just left on amazon.com:

‘Most of us just want to live our lives, right? The world can be harsh but so long as we can kick back and relax with friends, get paid enough to put a roof over our heads and feel safe, we’ll be okay. Right?

That’s how ‘Hope’ begins. Three ordinary people – Lita, Kendall and Nick -sharing a flat and pretty much living the life most of us would recognize today. All three have jobs, but none of the jobs pay enough for them to live alone. Kendall works for Zest, a subsidiary of one of the largest corporations in the world. Lita and Nick are online influencers who earn enough from advertising to pay their way.
And then Kendall loses her job because she’s a size 16 and being too plump is not a good look for a company that sells health food.

The downward spiral that begins with Kendal quickly accelerates until suddenly the three flatmates can no longer afford the rent. Losing their little home is traumatic, but worse is to come – couch surfing followed by homeless shelters followed by a night in a church. And suddenly, the only option left to move to one of the Hope Villages set up by the state, and run by the same corporation that seems to run everything else in the UK.

I’ll be honest, at about this point, my sense of impending doom was so visceral I almost put the Kindle down. This is horror of a very plausible kind as the author weaves the story in such a realistic way that we can all see ourselves, or someone we know, in the plight of the characters. I’m ‘safe’, but someone I went to school with is now living in a boarding house, an older woman on her own with few resources – a statistic.

I can’t tell you what happens to Lita, Kendall and Nick, but I will say that there is some real hope as they begin to fight back against the system.

Would I recommend ‘Hope’ to other readers? You bet. With bells on. Terry Tyler’s ‘Hope’ may be one of the scariest books I’ve ever read, but it’s also one of the BEST books I’ve ever read. It challenges my mind and my emotions, stripping away the comfortable complacency that cocoons me from the real world. I may just want to live my life, but sometimes that life has to be earned. Sometimes we have to say ‘no’ to a system that treats people like animals that can be…culled.

Our world has not yet devolved into the nightmare of Terry Tyler’s Hope, but it’s heading in that direction. That is what’s so scary. ‘Hope’ is a story that should be read by every person who wants to keep kicking back with friends and feeling safe.’

‘Hope’ costs a ridiculous 70c. It was the best 70c I’ve ever spent. My thanks to D.Wallace Peach for introducing me to this fabulous story.

cheers,
Meeks


Oh my god….’Don’t Look Up’

The Offspring gave me a month’s subscription to Netflix for my birthday. [Don’t ask] The first thing I watched was a MAGNIFICENT movie called ‘Don’t Look Up’. It’s a movie about the end of the world, and I wish I could make everyone watch it.

If you get the chance, please watch this movie. It’s a mirror that shows how grotesque our world has become.

cheers,
Meeks


The Princess of Shadow – a review

Quite by accident, I’ve discovered a new favourite author – Colin Alexander. The Princess of Shadow is the second book of his that I’ve read, and this one really hit the spot. Most definitely 5 stars. 🙂

My Amazon review won’t hit for a while, but this is what I wrote:

I prefer scifi to fantasy but ‘The Princess of Shadows’ left me gobsmacked at the depth and richness of the story. It literally has everything – medieval style politics and warfare, subtle social commentary, a nod to Queen Elizabeth the 1st, the so-called Virgin Queen, a nuanced perspective on human nature, characters that make you want to see what they do next, a fabulous plot and, last but not least, an intriguing world that’s like nothing I’ve come across before.

I suspect there’s a strong scifi element in the creation myths of this world that is yet to be revealed, and I can hardly wait to discover what it is.

In a nutshell, The Princess of Shadows has that something ‘more’ that I look for in every work of fiction. Much of the time, I’m disappointed. This time, I was gifted with much, much more than I expected.

Very highly recommended.

It’s New Year’s Eve morning here so I feel justified in wishing you all a very Happy New Year. 20 and 21 were pure shyte, but 22 may usher in a new beginning for us all.

cheers
Meeks


Salt – a review

Apologies for the cryptic title but the fantasy novel I just reviewed is called just that – salt. Much like Dune and Wool, Salt [the mineral] is the backbone of its world:

Salt (The Barbarians Book 1) by [E.J. Lowell, Nathan Lowell]

I gave Salt 5/5 stars, and this is the review I left for it on Amazon.com:

I stumbled onto Salt and fell in love.

The story alternates between two, very different protagonists – Tanan, the second son of the King, and Sukhetai, the first son of the Warchief of a powerful nomadic tribe.

Tanan is thoughtful and smart. Sukhetai is impulsive and quick to anger. They could not be any more different, yet right from the start, their destinies slowly intertwine, helped along by a couple of old women who speak to the grass.

One of the most interesting fantasy elements in the story is the idea of the Change, and that some women who have gone through the Change come into an earth-based kind of power. This power allows them to ‘ride the wind’ on the wings of their special bird-familiars, or to get a feel for things far away by listening to the grass. This special power gives women a stronger position in society than is normally the case in many fantasy settings.

Another thing that really impressed me was the authors’ courage in giving the characters names that are hard to pronounce. Some roll off the tongue while others make you stumble, yet the very otherness reinforces the fact that ‘we’re not in Kanvas any more’. I love that.

On a technical level the story is well-written and well edited. Quite frankly, it was a joy to read. Very highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Barbarians-Book-J-Lowell-ebook/dp/B09C6PZS3J/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Salt&qid=1638758411&s=digital-text&sr=1-3

I’d never heard of the authors; I just liked the look of the cover and the blurb so I thought I’d take a chance. Sometimes you really do get lucky. 🙂

Have a great day everyone and stay well.
Meeks


Boychik – a review

I’ve loved Laurie Boris’ work since I read her novel – Drawing Breath – back in Indies Unlimited days. That book has remained my favourite until now. Boychik has the same immediacy, the same heart as Drawing Breath, and I absolutely loved it. This is the review I just left on amazon.com:

It’s hard to define what makes Boychik so wonderful because the story has it all – great characters, a great narrative and a sense of time and place like no other. For a couple of delightful days, It transported me to Prohibition New York and beguiled me with the sights and sounds and /smells/ of that era.

I don’t actually know what ‘lox’ is, but I love pickles so I could almost taste the food being made, and eaten, in the Deli. Most of all though, I experienced all of these almost alien sensations through the eyes of two young people on the cusp of growing up. And falling in love.

Yes, there is a thread of romance running through the story, but mostly it’s about love and tradition and old expectations clashing with the culture of a new country. In a strange sort of way, Boychik made me nostalgic for a time and place I’ve never known. It made me /care/.

In my not so humble opinion, Boychik really does have it all, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Read it. You’re welcome. 🙂

The only thing that makes me sad is that the story is over. But it’s a good sad. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


The Ferryman & the Sea Witch – a review

I just submitted this review on Amazon:

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by [D. Wallace Peach]

The Merrow are creatures of the sea – sirens or mermaids if you will – but like humans, they like making bargains. Unlike humans, they believe in keeping them.

At the start of the story, it seems as if the Sea Witch, the ruler of the Merrow, is the villain of the piece. She struck a bargain with the Ferryman, and the two countries on either side of the ocean trench that is home to the Merrow. According to that bargain, she will allow the Ferryman to sail his ship across the trench safely, but only if he sacrifices a human life before each crossing.

Monstrous and cruel. There is no other way of looking at that bargain, yet the machinations of the two rulers on either side of the trench are just as monstrous and cruel. But they only keep their promises under duress. And they test the boundaries to see how much they can get away with.

Honestly, by the climax of the story you can’t help wondering who are the real monsters – the merrow or the humans.

Cast against this dark background are three and a half very likeable characters – Callum the Ferryman, Daylin his estranged wife, Airlee their daughter, and Grier, a bit of a rogue who kind of steals your heart even though he’s only the half character. I can’t say more without giving the story away, but I can say that it is extremely well written, fast paced yet quite beautiful, and the characters literally jump off the page at you.

From start to finish, ‘The Ferryman and the Sea Witch’ is a compelling read that will stay with you long after The End. A fantasy for the thinking woman, or man. Very highly recommended.

I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say I gave The Ferryman 5/5 stars. If you love rich, finely woven fantasy then you really must give the Ferryman a read. I promise you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ferryman-Sea-Witch-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B095J5X8DW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Ferryman+and+the+Sea+Witch&qid=1624100413&sr=8-1

Oh, and in case anyone wonders, I provide the entire link so you can be sure of where you’re being sent before you get there. I know I’m paranoid, but with billions of passwords hacked recently, you really can’t be too careful.

Have a wonderful weekend,

-hugs-
Meeks


And then there were two…

This has never happened to me before: two reviews in the one day, the first in the US, the second in the UK. I’m a little stunned, but also incredibly happy. 🙂

Nabatea 5/5

This last book in the series has more unexpected plot twists, turns and surprises than an aristocrat’s hedge maze / labyrinth.
Whatever you thought you knew from the first two books, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…

I think the thing that has given me the greatest joy is that both reviews ‘got it’ in different ways.

As a Resident of Innerscape, Miira is like a digital ghost; she can communicate with the real world, but she can no longer touch it. Yet in Nabatea she has to step up and become the hero, despite her fears and lack of power. So I gave her the courage and persistence to use what she did have. I guess I wanted to show that we don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzneger in order to be heroic. 🙂

And the series as a whole? I didn’t decide to make each book different. It just happened that way, possibly because I need to explore new challenges with each new book. But boy am I thrilled that the reviewer noticed!

This truly has been a red letter day, and I haven’t even had breakfast yet!

To all those who downloaded my books. Thank you.
To all those who read my books. I love you.
To those who made the time to leave a review, you are my heroes.

much love,
Meeks


A flurry of reviews

I don’t write a lot of reviews, but every now and then, a cluster of books come along that have something about them that really appeals to me. This next lot cleaned out my TBR list and triggered my desperate plea for more reading material. 🙂

Reviews on Amazon

The first review is for ‘Allies and Spies‘, book 2 of the Unravelling the Veil series, by D. Wallace Peach :

5/5 No middle book sag here!

After falling in love with the first book of the series, Liars and Thieves, I was a little apprehensive about whether the second book could live up to the first. Second books are a bit like the ‘middle child’ of a family. You get all the surprises with the first one so what’s left for the second?

I needn’t have worried. 😀 Allies and Spies sees the story grow up and out, both in terms of the plot and the characters.

I really didn’t like Alue very much in Liars and Thieves, but she really comes into her own in book 2. I can’t tell you what she does, but she saves both Naj and Tallin from a very nasty death. More importantly, she does so by coming into her strength. She’s always been brave, but there’s a difference between physical courage and the courage needed to overcome your own shortcomings. Or even to recognize them. Yet that is precisely what all three of the main characters must do if they are ever to solve the mystery of the disappearances that have claimed so many lives.

That said, I have a secret fondness for tortured characters and in book 2, Naj suffers. That suffering serves to catapult him into a greater understanding of his world and himself, but that’s not much consolation on a personal level. I truly feel for Naj. 😦

And finally, Tallin. In many ways, Tallin the Changeling was my favourite right from the start. There’s something about his easy going nature that is very appealing. His alter ego Slick seems to encapsulate his personality perfectly – cute, cuddly, cunning, and naughty. But Tallin has demons of his own, and in book 2 he faces at least some of them.

I wish I could tell you about the plot, but if I do I’ll spoil it for everyone. Let’s just say that some things become clearer, but the forces behind the disappearances are still shrouded in impossibilities.

I can tell you about the writing though. Peach makes writing on multiple levels look easy. The prose is lyrical, the dialogue is always just right and the pace is perfect. No typos, no plot holes, no ‘what the?’ moments. Definitely no saggy middles! The story. Just. Flows. And takes us with it.

This series is character driven fantasy of the highest quality, and I recommend it to everyone, even those who don’t normally read fantasy. I’d give it 6 stars if I could.

The second review is for Tales from the Annexe, by Audrey Driscoll.

5/5 Dipping a toe into the world of Herbert West

I absolutely adored the Herbert West series and really enjoyed revisiting the world in which the series is set. Of the new stories, the one that will probably stick in my mind the longest, and give me nightmares, is The Ice Cream Truck from Hell. I will never think of Mr Whippy the same way again. lol

Beautifully written horror-ish short stories that all lovers of good writing will enjoy.

Review no. 3 is for ‘Serang‘, by C.S. Boyack.

5/5 Coming of Age in a time of chaos

Serang bears a slight similarity to the Karate Kid story, but only because the main character is young and learns martial arts. Beyond that, Serang is a lovely, unique story about a young girl who is given to the Temple to be raised by monks. These monks are both male and female, and there is no qualitative difference between them. All monks learn martial arts. Which style of martial art they learn depends upon their individual personalities – i.e. what suits each monk the best.

When the temple is destroyed, Serang is saved by one of the wandering monks who also survived the carnage. He continues Serang’s education in martial arts and living off the land. There are exciting fight scenes, but they are not the main focus of the story. Serang’s development and growth are the drivers, and I have to say that I loved the story from start to finish.

I would recommend Serang to anyone who loves reading about ‘becoming’ and the triumph of the human spirit.

And there you have it, three very different authors, genres and stories, but I enjoyed every single one.

Have a great Sunday [in Australia] or Saturday [everywhere else]!

cheers
Meeks


“Liars and Thieves” by D.Wallace Peach

I had a feeling this book would ruin my sleep…and it did. “Just one more chapter” kept me awake until 3am, but it was worth every minute. My Amazon review is going to start with a great big 5/5 stars, but you guys will get a sneak peek, followed by some information from the author herself. Let’s begin!

Liars and Thieves, by D.Wallace Peach

‘Liars and Thieves’, the first book in the Unravelling the Veil trilogy introduces us to the three main characters: a female Elf named Alue, a male Changeling named Tallin, and a half-cast Goblin-Elf known as Naj. But this is no cookie cutter ‘quest’ story. The three start as enemies and continue as enemies for most of the book because their races dislike and distrust each other.

We learn about those races, as we learn about the three main characters, and I have to tell you that the world building is deep. Each of the three races have unique magical talents, but the one thing they all have in common is their dependence on Savan crystals to power their societies. And guess who controls the mining of the crystals?

The Savan crystals can only be found in the Goblin’s territory, and comprises a large part of their trade along with mechanical devices that are powered by the crystals. In theory, this gives the Goblins a great deal of power, but these Goblins are not your stereotypical villains. Far from it.

In Liars and Thieves, the Goblins are the cool, calm rational ones who revere reason and logic above all else. They trade the crystals to the other races but keep supply to a minimum because they don’t trust the other races not to abuse the power the crystals provide.

As the story progresses, you realise that the Goblins are right. Alue the Elf is not a bad person but she is arrogant and impulsive, especially when she’s angry, which is a lot of the time. In many ways, she is a fitting representative of her people who seem to believe that they have the right to take what they want simply by virtue of being Elves.

The third race is represented by Tallin, a Changeling who can transform himself into any animal, or insect, for which he has learned the ‘pattern’. He uses his ability to spy on the Elves for the Changeling Queen. The Changelings believe that it’s okay to subtly spy on and manipulate the Elves because the Elves have proved that they want the natural resources that belong to the Changelings – and are prepared to cheat to get them.

Like three countries in our own world, the three Races in ‘Liars and Thieves’ have an accord that defines boundaries and lays down rules to help balance the needs of the three Races. But this is no dry historical treatise. We learn all of this world building through the characters and their interactions with each other. As we learn about them, we learn about their world, and the process is seamless.

That process is also utterly compelling. As I said in the beginning, I lost sleep because of it, and now I’m itching to find out what happens next. I’ve enjoyed all of D. Wallace Peach’s work, but this one has really, really hit the spot for me.

And now for some info about D. Wallace Peach [Diana to her friends], and the answer to a question I asked her about her writing process.

Author Bio

D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill.

Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked.

Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

And now for that question. I asked Diana whether she created the plot to suit her characters or created the characters to drive the plot, or a bit of both. This is what she said:

Great question! Thanks for asking. I think there are three parts to the creation process for me. I start with the concept—a spark of inspiration bursts into my brain. In this case, a story about how untruths and biases start an avalanche of blaming and retaliation that spirals out of control and nearly destroys the world. The end of the world based on nothing real.

Seconds after the concept, the characters scramble in. Some are gung-ho. Some are wary. And some, like my goblin, would rather not participate. All of a sudden, their personalities are showing and taking over.

The plot is a work in progress as the concept turns into action and the characters tell me who they are. My outline of the plot lays out all three books, but it changes continually as the characters make choices and become who they are. I love that creative part of writing.

Thanks for indulging my curiosity, Diana. I think that balance between the characters and the world and the plot is part of what makes ‘Liars and Thieves’ such a joy to read. Oh, and…Diana’s writing is beautiful. At times it almost flows like music. At other times it’s as sharp as a shiny new pin.

If you want to see what else Diana’s up, you can find her on her blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com

You can also find her at:

And last, but most certainly not least, you can find ‘Liars and Thieves’ via this universal book link:
http://a-fwd.com/asin=B08FGQ2W3Q
Or click on the picture of the book. It will take you to the same web address.

I’m recommending ‘Liars and Thieves’ to anyone who loves to read, irrespective of genre. A good story is a good story is a good story! Enjoy. 🙂

Meeks


Red Tea and Profiteroles

Red Seal Blood Orange Tea with homemade Profiteroles

I’ve loved profiteroles – also known as cream puffs – for decades but never tried my hand at making them because I thought they’d be ‘too hard’, ‘too fiddly’, and probably wouldn’t work anyway.

Part of that negativity stemmed from the fact that I ordered a Croque-en-bouche [Croquembouche in English] for my wedding cake, and it really was a gastronomic delight. Mine didn’t have strawberries, otherwise it looked a lot like this:

By Eric Baker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4120063

No way in the wide world I could make something like that…right?

Wrong. In fact, as the profiteroles at the top prove, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Making them was probably one of the easiest things the Offspring and I have ever done. And we owe it all to my good friend Marian Allen, author extraordinaire, and a damn fine cook!

If anyone’s interested, I first met Marian via her book ‘Sideshow in the Centre Ring’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve since read just about everything she’s published and…I’ve fallen in love with her cats. Waves to Tipper and Chickie. And now back to dessert…

The only thing I messed up that didn’t quite work was the chocolate ganache on top of the profiteroles. I was getting a bit tired by the time it came to putting the profiteroles together and the ganache [the chocolate on top] turned into a delicious, but runny sauce instead.

Oh, and if I’m being honest, I made one more mistake: I made seven profiteroles. Not six, or four, or any other number that is easily divisible by two. No, in my infinite wisdom I made seven…

Have you ever tried to cut a profiterole in half so both of you could share equally? Don’t. Just don’t. 🙂

Anyway…the Offspring and I were so impressed with the profiteroles I decided to do this post and give you guys the chance to try them as well. Without further ado, here is Marian Allen’s recipe for profiteroles/cream puffs with my comments in brackets!

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup unsalted butter
    [or 30 gms or 1 oz]
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
    [plain flour to us Aussies]
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • cream for whipping
    [however much you want or have on hand]
  • chocolate and extra cream for the ganache
    [we used about 3 oz of each but the ratio wasn’t right. Maybe 3 oz of chocolate to 1 of cream?]

This makes about four biggish puffs. I doubled this and made them smaller and got 10.
[I compromised and made 7. Next time I’m making it an even number!]

Directions

Bring water, salt and butter to a boil. Add the flour and stir it until it forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan. If you’re not making a large batch, you may need to take it off the heat immediately.
[The Offspring did this part and the dough came together very quickly so don’t wander off!]

The dough coming together in the saucepan

Let this rest for 5 minutes while you crack and mix up your egg(s). Add the egg(s) to the flour ball. It will look alarming, but keep mixing: It WILL combine.
[So glad Marian made that comment because we looked at the dough plus egg and might have given up otherwise. The Offspring used a wooden spoon to start with but then I had a go with a whisk and it mixed beautifully, exactly as Marian said it would]

The dough after the egg has been mixed in

Pipe into the shape you want using a pastry bag, or plop it in spoonfuls (the MomGoth method onto an ungreased baking pan.
[We used the MomGoth method too but placed some baking paper on the baking tray first. Easier clean up. 🙂 ]

Piles of profiterole dough on a baking sheet prior to baking

Bake at 375F
[180 C for us, a tiny bit less if using the fanbake setting of the oven]
for about 1/2 hour, or until there is not one glint or bubble of moisture on the surface of any of the puffs. Don’t check very often. I got a stove with a glass front just so I could make creme puffs. Crazy.

When they’re done, cool them on a rack.

Meanwhile, make ganache for the top. Dead easy.

Ganache

Measure equal amounts of chopped semi-sweet chocolate or good chocolate chips and cream.
[This was where I messed up. I weighed the chocolate and the cream. I think I should have used a cup measurement instead.]

Put the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream until it just begins to simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until it’s all mixed together and dark and glossy.
[This really was as simple as it sounds!]

Assemble

Put the cream into a piping bag. I don’t have one (have one on order), so I put the cream into a plastic sandwich bag and cut off the tip.
[We didn’t have a piping bag either and decided to use the cookie machine instead. It worked but made a mess as the cream was wetter than cookie dough. Oh well. Piping bag placed on order too].

Using a cookie machine to pipe whipped cream into profiteroles

Poke a hole in the side of a puff, stick the pointy end of the bag into the hole, and squeeze the cream in.
[We whipped the cream with about two teaspoons of icing sugar, so sweetish but not gaggingly sweet. Adjust to suit your own tastes].

You can feel the puff inflate with it. When the puffs are all filled, dip the tops into the ganache or spoon it over them.

And then see how fast they disappear! Honestly, we could have eaten another whole batch, they were so delicious. I can see us baking these scrumptious goodies on a regular basis because the process really was easy.

Thank you, Marian!


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