Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Book Review – (UN)Bury Your Gays: and Other Queer Tales by Clinton W. Waters

(UN)Bury Your Gays: and Other Queer Tales
By Clinton W. Waters

A new collection of short stories, compiling the novella (Un)Bury Your Gays and six other pieces of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror fiction. Reanimated best friends, monsters beneath the kitchen sink, desires made manifest, creek creatures, 80s cyberpunk, ghosts, and crashed alien ships all find homes between the pages of this anthology.

(UN)Bury Your Gays:

It's the late 2000's. Humphrey West and his best friend Danny are just trying to survive their senior year. Unfortunately, Danny falls short of that goal after a risky rendezvous. But Humphrey has just the thing: a concoction borne of magic and science that is able to bring the dead back to life (at least it's worked on a bee so far). Against all odds, Danny comes back from the clutches of death.

The Danny that returns is...different. And it's not just the missing memories. Soon, Humphrey is doing everything in his power to keep his friend alive, but none the wiser to what is happening.

A queering of the Lovecraft classic "Herbert West - Reanimator", (UN)Bury Your Gays is about blurring the boundaries between life and death, love and obsession, and secrets and lies.

Grab a copy HERE!

This book is, in itself, a collection of a few different stories. Let us have a look at each in detail, for to think about the book as a whole, we must first look at each story that makes up a component of the completed book.

(UN)Bury Your Gays

There is a difference between surviving your senior year at high school and being brought back to life during your senior year. Namely in the second one, you clearly didn’t survive the year. Humphrey has been obsessed with finding the answer to the colony collapse bees are suffering from, but when his best friend, Danny, is killed, Humphrey must turn his immediate attention away from the bees, and use his research to reanimate his friend.

The Danny that comes back, however, is not the Danny that died. He now doesn’t look well and doesn’t act right. Humphrey must figure out how to keep his friend alive, while also trying to get his old friend back. Once I started reading this book, I was immediately drawn in and couldn’t stop reading. This story is utterly captivating, I found it next to impossible to put it down and walk away. The mystery as to what Danny has become is more than enough to keep you reading. I also loved that, while the two were both gay, there was no romantic relationship between Humphrey and Danny. This is not a horror story with a romantic sub-genre, it is simply who the characters are. The story does not push them towards each other but simply lets them exist as two individuals who are very good friends. The book itself is well crafted, there are small hints throughout the book revealing what effect Humphrey’s actions have had on everything around him, making the story incredibly realistic in the telling.

You & Me and the Devil Makes Three

Alan Jr has started to grow concerned about his mother. She seems to spend a lot of the time in the kitchen and often talking to… something. She isn’t mumbling to herself, she is definitely having a conversation with someone. But there is no one there. When Alan starts investigating, though, things start to go rapidly downhill. This is a very short story, easily readable in under 20 minutes, but it is not lacking in anything. It is an incredibly creepy story, one that can, and will, easily send chills down your spine.

The Wanting

A man would rarely have made it so far in life without getting their Wanting, but so far, Walter has avoided it. But, it seems to have finally reached him, and he might not be able to hold it off any longer. This story is a little more on the slightly strange side, and definitely more on the sexual side of things. This story is not my usual kind of read, and while I wasn’t too much of a fan of the sexual storyline, it is very original, I don’t think I have come across anything like it before, and, like the rest of this book, it is very well written.


The wisdom of a grandmother is not always accepted at first, even though everyone knows she is probably right, and should be listened to. Although there was a warning not to go down to the crick, what better way to escape the stifling heat of the summer than with a nice, cool, swim? Of course, making sure to keep an eye out for snakes… This story is fast-paced and keeps you reading with everything happening quite quickly. It doesn’t have time for suspense, it is simply action-packed from beginning to end. It is undoubtedly an exciting read, and another excellent addition to this book. 


Nessie has just started a new job, one that comes with a large paycheck, but a few things are a little on the strange side. To start the job, Nessie had to have surgery, to implant ports into her brain, and so when she arrives for her first day, she is not entirely sure what to expect. The strangeness of the job, as well as the uncertainness as to what she has let herself in for builds to suspense and concern, keeping you reading to find out what will happen to Nessie. I think this was one of my favourite stories in the book. It has just the right level of unease and intrigue to make you want the story to keep going on and on. I would love an extended version of this story, as I think it has so much to offer.

Double Exposure

Seeing Kyle in the prom pictures was a shock, especially since he had been dead for nearly a year. Yet, here he was, posing for the picture, and digging up feelings that had never truly gone away. The pain of losing one you love so much, mixed with the morbid curiosity of trying to find out if that loved one is still lingering in the land of the living, makes this story a very emotional one. There are some darker emotional levels to this story, which have been handled by the author with care, and I truly felt for the main character as I read about their despair.

Out There

The human race has always wondered about aliens, whether they are out there or not, and what they might be like. So when proof arrives, the world comes together to try and find out as much as they possibly could. But what they find isn’t necessarily what they want to find. This story shows that, sometimes, what we don’t know can’t hurt us. I loved the whole premise of this story, and think that this one would also make a wonderful full-length novel. 

There are plenty of absolutely amazing stories within this book, and with so many different themes, there is something for everyone. The first story is much longer than the others, and is certainly the main attraction for the book, but the stories that come with it are a wonderful addition, and with them all quick enough to read during a short break, they make the book perfect to put down and come back to when you have a few minutes. The author has clearly explored several threads of creativity and genres within this book, and has been successful in the creation of a book full of wonderful stories.

If you like a good supernatural suspense story, a bit of gore, a touch of space-travel, and a little bit of the weird and wacky, you are bound to love this collection of stories! 

Born and raised in Bowling Green, KY, Clinton W. Waters holds a degree in Creative Writing from W.K.U. Their work has been featured in university publications from W.K.U. and the University of Regensburg. They are the lead writer/co-founder of Sundog Comics and their webcomic Variants.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Check out The Husband Criteria by Catherine Kullmann

The Husband Criteria
By Catherine Kullmann

Publication Date: 24th August 2023
Publisher: Willow Books
Page Length: 297 Pages
Genre: Historical Romance / Regency Romance

London 1817

The primary aim of every young lady embarking on the Spring frenzy that is the Season must be to make a good match. Or must it? And what is a good match? For cousins Cynthia, Chloe and Ann, well aware that the society preux chevalier may prove to be a domestic tyrant, these are vital questions. How can they discover their suitors’ true character when all their encounters must be confined to the highly ritualised round of balls, parties and drives in the park?

As they define and refine their Husband Criteria, Cynthia finds herself unwillingly attracted to aloof Rafe Marfield, heir to an earldom, while Chloe is pleased to find that Thomas Musgrave, the vicar’s son from home, is also in London. And Ann must decide what is more important to her, music or marriage.

And what of the gentlemen who consider the marriage mart to be their hunting grounds? How will they react if they realise how rigorously they are being assessed?

A light-hearted, entertaining look behind the scenes of a Season that takes a different course with unexpected consequences for all concerned.

Catherine Kullmann 

Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. Widowed, she has three adult sons and two grandchildren.

Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society.

She is the author of The Murmur of Masks, Perception & Illusion, A Suggestion of Scandal, The Duke’s Regret, The Potential for Love, A Comfortable Alliance and Lady Loring’s Dilemma. 

Catherine also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era. You can find out more about her books and read her blog (My Scrap Album) at her website. You can contact her via her Facebook page or on Twitter.

Connect with Catherine:

Monday, 18 September 2023

Look who is in the Spotlight - The London Forgery (A Fabiola Bennett Mystery) by Heidi Eljarbo

The London Forgery
(A Fabiola Bennett Mystery)
By Heidi Eljarbo

Publication Date: 29th August 2023
Publisher: Self-Published
Page Length: 252 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery / Dual Timeline Historical Fiction


Art historian Fabiola Bennett sees herself as a prudently observant deer who becomes a daring and even mischievous lioness if the situation calls for it. And that’s exactly what’s required when greedy criminals steal, forge, and tamper with treasured artwork. When the crooks add murder to their list of crimes, the chaos is complete.
A mysterious note is delivered anonymously at the door of the National Gallery in London, and the director immediately calls Fabiola’s office in Oslo and pleads with her to come without delay. The message is confusing, but it seems one of her favorite eighteenth-century portraits is in trouble.

Fabiola hops on the first plane and meets up with her vibrant side-kick Pippa Yates and the ever-loyal Detective Inspector Cary Green from New Scotland Yard. But she is not naïve enough to think untangling the purpose and meaning of the mysterious note will be as simple as a walk in Hyde Park. These things never are.


Newly married Robert and Frances Andrews, members of the landed gentry of Suffolk, England, hire young and talented Thomas Gainsborough to paint their wedding portrait. Their desire is a lovely conversation piece showing their wealth and class, an artwork to remember them by for generations to come.

Little do they know the gifted artist portrays their personalities exactly how he perceives them, and the artistic symbolism is not as flattering as they’d hoped for. Even the looming clouds in the distance promise a troublesome future.

This is the first book in a new dual timeline series by Heidi Eljarbo—an intriguing spin-off from the much-loved Soli Hansen Mysteries.

Heidi Eljarbo

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don't want to go near.
Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter. 
After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have fifteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.
Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.
Heidi’s favorites are family, God's beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

Connect with Heidi: 
Website • Twitter •  Facebook • Instagram • Pinterest  • BookBub • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads 

Tuesday, 13 June 2023

Book Review – Light in the Shadows by Georgia C. Leigh

Light in the Shadows
By Georgia C. Leigh

Sheltered from the world since birth, eighteen-year-old Haven arrives at the Academy eager to learn what it means to be seraphim. Her excitement quickly fades as she struggles to master her gifts, to befriend and trust others, and above all, to understand herself.

But when she discovers an ancient magic within, she loses the glimpse of friendship she longs for and is thrown back into isolation. Her magic unknowingly awakens a dark shadow in her world and catalyzes those who seek to control her, to bind her and use her for her power. And if she can’t be bound, they will ensure she is dead.

Ryker, a world walker and a demon hunter, is the only one powerful enough to contain her magic and knows what it is like to be wanted for someone else’s gains. Ryker’s brutal methods may give her the chance to understand her gift and control it, but they are running out of time. Haven must fight for a life she desperately wants, one where she can follow her own path, and her heart. And, maybe, finally find love before her life is chosen for her.

Amazon UK • Amazon US

Haven is excited to finally arrive at the Academy and learn the ins and outs of being a seraphim. But she has spent her whole life hidden away, and the world of socialising and getting to know others isn’t something she is overly familiar with. As Haven finds herself thrown into an entirely new world, it is not just learning to control her gifts that she must focus on, but also figuring out who to trust. 

Ryker is an incredibly powerful seraphim, with a unique gift. When an ancient magic is discovered within Haven, Ryker finds himself working with her to try and gain her control over them before they are used to control her. Many people would use her for the powers she holds, and Ryker has little time to try and teach her. 

Haven is an incredibly strong character, although she is not without her limits. She struggles a lot in this book, as she makes friends, but pushes them away when things get hard, even though she really needs them. Haven is not used to relying on others to help her, but rather withdraws into herself when she doesn’t know how to keep going. I absolutely loved reading about Haven, and watching her grow as a person. Nearer the start of the book, she is incredibly naive, although she has never had proper friends, so she is unlearned in the workings of other people. She does gain an understanding of the world as she spends more time at the Academy, and I found myself liking her more the further into the book I read.

I found the Academy itself rather interesting. It reminded me a little of the training in the Divergent series, as all the young adults work to grow their physical and mental skills, but with a fantasy twist on it, with wings, and magical powers. There are plenty of people who work outside of the Academy who come in to teach their own specialised skills, and these people are mainly the ones who change Haven’s life. In particular, Ryker and his twin brother, River. I could go on and on about how much I hate River, although I feel I would begin to spoil the story, so I don’t want to get onto the topic of him. Ryker, however, is absolutely lovely. He finds himself doing things he doesn’t want to do for Haven’s benefit, and puts himself through things that affect him, just to ensure she is safe. Their training together is not always pleasant to read about, but just knowing the sacrifices he makes for her, when he doesn’t even know her, is proof that he is a fabulous person, and a wonderful character to read about. 

This book did take a while to get started. There is little explanation about the world itself, and I found it difficult to figure out what was happening, and why. There are also a lot of characters to keep up with, and the relationships are a little tricky to figure out at first, when you don’t know what’s going on with the setting. I do wish there was a little more explanation about the setting, for I think it would help the reader understand what was happening immediately, although if you stick with it, things slowly sort themselves out, and it gets easier to follow all the individual characters as their paths intertwine.

I wasn’t aware, going into this, quite how long the book itself was. Only when I came to write this review did I realise that this book is 546 pages long, and is book 1 of 4 in the series. There is not necessarily a lot of romance in this book, but it follows Haven’s time at the Academy in great detail, clearly building up necessary relationships and information for books yet to come. It did take me quite a while to read this book, which I was not expecting, but I did enjoy how in-depth the book is. There are plenty of books, I will use the example of Divergent again, where there are time skips, and I wished to follow the characters thorough their entire journey. This book allowed me to do that, and I felt I connected to Haven more by following her so closely.

Fantasy itself is a very broad genre, but if you are a fan of fantasy that follows young adults in a school, that includes learning to control dangerous magical abilities, and has a few steamy moments here and there, this is certainly the book for you! I can’t wait to continue reading this series. Book two can’t come soon enough!

Georgia C Leigh lives in California with her husband, two grown children, her cat and two horses. When not working, Georgia is an avid competitive equestrian. The Shadows and Light series are Georgia's first published books.

Book 1, Light in the Shadows, and book 2, Light Lost, will be followed by book 3, Shadow Rising, in early 2024.

Friday, 2 June 2023

Book Review – The Daddy Chronicles by Jayne Martin

The Daddy Chronicles
By Jayne Martin

One out of three women in the U.S. identify as fatherless. An absent father who occasionally appears to bestow his affections only to disappear again leads a daughter to seek out others like him – men who are charismatic, but emotionally unavailable – throughout her lifetime.

In this emotionally-charged memoir written in cinematic vignettes, Jayne Martin fearlessly bares the parts of her that were broken when her father left the family upon her birth and, in doing so, leads readers on their own journey toward wholeness and healing. Whether you are a fatherless daughter or someone who loves one, The Daddy Chronicles will tear at your heart and open a world of understanding.

Grab a copy HERE!

Delving deep into her own memories, and exploring the ins and outs of her childhood, and the emotional trauma she grew up with, Jayne Martin invites you to learn her story, to join her and to relate your life to her own. 

I find writing a review for such a deep book, wherein Jayne opens up her mind and allows you to step inside and have a look around, difficult. To give this book the credit it deserves, I find it tricky to review it as I would review any other book. Talking about fictional characters, and discussing their traumas is almost easy, but delving into words that speak of the past, that follow a real person – I find myself conflicted as to whether to go into things in quite so much detail. 

I will start by saying, this is not the kind of book I would normally read. I am not generally a fan of memoirs, although I have never been entirely sure why. It is, perhaps, the way they are laid out, following a life from start to a finishing point, and the writing style of memoirs is always so much different than the writing style of fiction novels. This book, however, was different. Jayne has a truly unique writing style. The voice she uses to write in changes as she writes about herself at different ages, not going into subjects and reasons her younger self wouldn’t have understood, while making such things painfully clear to the reader. The layout and short chapters almost reminds me of a poetry book, which in itself is a very smart stylistic choice. When I think of reading poetry, I think of digging deeper, trying to find a meaning behind everything, and with this book, Jayne reminds that there isn’t always a meaning, there isn’t always a reason – sometimes, even though you feel otherwise, there isn’t anything that you could’ve done to change the outcome. I also particularly loved the way Jayne shows her attachment to different people by whether or not she reveals their names. While her childhood best friend may be named, the-girl-who-is-not-my-sister whom Jayne never grew close to remains simply that in Jayne’s mind. It gives a layer of distance between the person and the reader, for the reader can never really get to know them, as Jayne never did.

I cannot easily relate to Jayne, for I am lucky that my parents have been together and happy my whole life, although Jayne paints a very vivid picture of how, no matter what happens around her, not having her father around is something she is always painfully aware of. Like a stone in her shoe, Jayne constantly feels her father’s absence, although there is little she can do about it, and has to simply deal with the pain and keep on walking. I can feel Jayne’s pain and sadness through the words, as she desperately searches for a feeling of love and security that only her father can give her, but she isn’t going to receive from him. Throughout her life, she was lost, jumping around both mentally and physically, struggling through different traumas and an immense feeling of loneliness while moving from place to place through her mother’s relationships, and then her own. 

This book itself is very short and easy to read, I read it within about twenty minutes, although I am a fast reader. It is a simple book if you are just consuming words and moving on. But, when you look even just slightly deeper than what is on the surface, you find a pool of emotion, and it is all too easy to fall forwards and start to drown. I fear losing my father, but to never have known him? To go my whole life without the love and support I feel is almost a given in life? Jayne’s words bring a perspective that I’ve never been able to properly observe before, and needless to say, this is a book that truly moved me.

Jayne Martin is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her debut collection of flash fiction, “Tender Cuts,” from Vine Leaves Press is available now. She lives in California where she rides horses and drinks copious amounts of fine wines, though not at the same time.

Prior to turning her attention to essay and fiction, Jayne Martin was a TV-movie writer whose credits include “Big Spender” for Animal Planet, and “A Child Too Many,” “Cradle of Conspiracy,” and “Deceived by Trust” for Lifetime. Her book of humor essays, “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry,” is available in paperback and digital formats.

Find her at

Thursday, 18 May 2023

Book Review – The Fourth Charm (Dramsmit Childrens Mysteries Book 2) by Robert Howell

The Fourth Charm
(Dramsmit Childrens Mysteries Book 2)
By Robert Howell

It has been a few months since Sharron, Wally and Chip found their true home at Bellevue Manor, and their place in the witch community. They continue to learn their craft, and their powers grow. Yet their true destiny lies in their love of mystery solving. Using their unique abilities, they take on the challenge of solving supernatural mysteries. Their success in this though may become their undoing. For now, the Witch Council itself has come to them to help solve a mystery that is threatening the Witch community.

Some entity is stealing the familiars from witches, including the familiar of their good friend Ronnie. They put on their sleuthing caps, using all the research tools at their disposal, to find the answer.

Then comes the prophecy from Saleena. The only chance they can survive this, is if they use the Fourth Charm. But what is The Fourth Charm? Not a single book in the extensive Dramsmit library mentions anything about it. Nor do any of the witches they have spoken with, including Saleena. They race to find the answer to this question, yet mysterious and powerful forces oppose them every step of the way. Can they find the Fourth Charm, and the ability to use it, before all is lost?

Grab a copy HERE!

Sharron, Wally, and Chip may still be fairly new to the magical world, but they have not been negatively impacted by their late start to their studies. They have a unique ability, the power of three, that allows them to join their magic together into a singular force, and they have a knack at coming up with new spells that help them along their adventures.

The three take up the role of detectives, combining their powers and problem solving abilities together, to solve the mysteries that the magical world throws at them. When a mystery arises that even the Witch's Council cannot solve, Sharron, Wally, and Chip find themselves facing possibly the most difficult mystery they’ve ever solved before. 

There is a lot of information in this book that you must understand for it to make sense, but once you have the general gist of the magical world this book contains, you are in for a wild ride! Having not read book 1, I do feel like I missed some important aspects of the story, but that is a problem that can easily be remedied. I would definitely recommend reading this series in order, as I’m sure it is easier to understand the magical world if you learn about it as the main characters do, rather than starting halfway through the story.

The magical world itself in this book is one I have not come across elsewhere. It is a very original world of potions, spells, and creatures that captures your attention. The language used, and the mystery itself in this book, is perfectly suited to the age group this book is targeted towards. If I had read this book at age 12, I know I would’ve loved it. Having said that, I actually read this book as an adult, and I still greatly enjoyed reading it! It is not over simplified for children, so while it is suitable for a younger audience to read, it is also perfect for those outside of the targeted age range. 

I loved the way Sharron, Wally, and Chip are portrayed. They are powerful, and incredibly smart, but they are still children. Chip, as the youngest, often comes out with new words that he has just learnt, and although they know what they are doing, they are often held back by their age. The adults around them take measures to ensure they are safe, but this often comes across as the grown ups trying to hold them back. This can be seen from both perspectives when reading, and I’m sure different aged readers would see things differently. While reading, as a ‘grown up’ myself, I saw three children trying to take on an adult’s role, but not having the necessary tools to actually move forwards themselves. It does portray an important message, that even though you might know how to do something, needing a little help is not something to be afraid of. 

The mystery in this book is one that definitely keeps you guessing as you read. With mythical creatures, and the infusion of myths and legends into the story, the twists and turns the story takes are plenty to keep your attention hooked. I read this book in one sitting, and I can see plenty of avid young readers absolutely adoring this series. This book really reminded me of The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence, but with the added sparkle of a magical world and mythical creatures that the three must combat or befriend.

There are several mentions of the children having suffered violence in the past, as they went through different social systems after the deaths of their parents, and the children do face danger during the book, but the violence in the scenes is mild, and none of the children themselves are hurt at any point.

This is a wonderful book for children, or young teens, who enjoy mystery books, or have a love for magical stories. It also makes a great quick read for those adults who like to sit back with a simpler story. If magic and mysteries are your thing, this is the series for you!

Saturday, 13 May 2023

Book Review — Stalin's Door by John St. Clair

Stalin's Door
By John St. Clair

In the dangerous time of Russia’s Great Terror, a knock on the door late at night could mean only one thing!

Moscow, 1937. 

As mortal fear engulfs the capital city, a singular man cements his lethal grip of absolute power over an entire nation. Accusations, mass arrests, executions, and deportations become de rigueur. Stalin’s cult of personality is so fearsome, that even a simple question could get you killed—or worse. Stalin’s dreaded secret police, the NKVD, would pit neighbor against neighbor in the insatiable hunt for the spies and saboteurs which threaten the supreme leader’s tyranny. The crisis will irrecoverably overwhelm the body politic—just on the eve of World War II!

Stalin’s Door is the unforgettable story of three extraordinary individuals who lived during the time of Russia’s Great Terror. They share a terrible fate which will forever intertwine their lives. Zhenya is the strong young daughter of an important government official, who is growing up fast in a privileged government enclave. Sava is a devoted husband, unceremoniously dismissed from the Soviet Navy, who considers a new opportunity. Lera is a wise grandmother who bears a crucial responsibility, while forced into exile in the outland of Siberia.

All will discover the heinous secret of Stalin’s Door!

Zhenya is a young girl when her father receives a promotion and her family moves to an apartment in the House on the Embankment. There are some strange things about the place, like the fact that the furniture is nailed to the floor, but Zhenya doesn’t care about things like that. Instead, she focuses on her friendship with Zina and working at being the best Young Pioneer she possibly could. 

Sara’s career came to an abrupt end when he was dismissed from the Soviet Navy, but another option presented itself. To join the NKVD would be a big change, but it was an opportunity that had been presented to him, and his choices seemed limited. With his wife, Lera, he finds himself moving to the House on the Embankment, and his duties are something he could not have foreseen.

Lera is a supporting wife to Sara, following where his career change takes him. When circumstances change, she is the one to step up and take control, and she excels at it. Thinking quickly under pressure is a skill that proves useful, but there are some things you simply could not think your way out of. 

Three different people, all tied together in one way or another. This book tells all three stories, and slowly, brings the characters together. It does not, however, flip back and forth between the characters. We begin with Zhenya, until Sara takes over the story. At a point, Lera then takes it over. The change in characters is prevalent, for Zhenya is very young for the majority of this novel, and there are things that would not have made sense, or been explained, without the perspective of an older generation, one who understood the workings of the world, and who had knowledge Zhenya did not.

I was unaware of what the title, Stalin’s Door, actually referred to when I picked up this book. While I studied this time period for a history exam, my studies were of vague details, spanning a wide time period, and I did not go in-depth to certain subjects or years. I had never heard of the House on the Embankment before, and I only had a vague sense of knowledge about some of the parts of this novel. This did not hinder my reading at all. You do not have to know Russian history to enjoy this novel, for the author explains everything wonderfully. You can easily read this book and come away with more knowledge than you had before. 

I adored Zhenya and Lera, for they were both wonderful characters. Sara’s perspective is, unfortunately, not as long as Zhenya’s or Lera’s, so we did not get as much time to properly get to know him in this book. Both Zhenya and Lera are incredibly brave, especially considering everything that happens to them both. The House on the Embankment seems to be the beginning for all the characters, and once they have lived there, their story really begins. I do not want to talk too much about some of the aspects of this novel, as I would be giving away too much of the story to even bring some things up, but the author has made this time period come back to life. You feel like you are in Russia yourself, alongside these characters. Another thing is that the events that occur in this novel actually happened, and people went through these things. To think about it, about people suffering as some do in this book, is enough to bring tears to your eyes, and make you feel incredibly thankful for even just the basic necessities of life.

Something I really liked was that things such as Russian names were written as they would actually be used. People did not simply have their first name and then their surname, they were addressed differently in different circumstances, and by different people. While I do not wholly understand it (there is an author’s note at the beginning explaining it, but I was too excited to start reading to actually study it properly) it wasn’t too difficult to keep up, and I always knew who was being addressed, even if I didn’t properly know the intricacies of the names. This is a detail that I am happy was included, as it immerses you in the story even more.

If you have any interest in Russian history at all, this is a book you should read! It puts you in the story, so you can watch the events happen, rather than simply reading about it. I read this book two weeks after buying it, but I wish I had started reading it straight away, because then I would have had two extra weeks of having read this fabulous book!

Review by Ellie Yarde

John St. Clair 

John St. Clair started his career as a novelist after spending 25 years battling fraud and abuse in the cyber realm.

John St. Clair lives with his wife in the northern Virginia suburbs. Stalin's Door is his debut novel.

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Book Review – Do You Ship Us by Claire Rosalind

Do You Ship Us
By Claire Rosalind

Jasper Reid is everything his fans of The Obsolete want him to be. Whether it's for the dance-y pop songs he writes, his flirty and mischievous onstage persona, or the masterful way he plays along with the fans' ships, he's the perfect performer. On the verge of turning twenty-one, in what's expected to be the next boy band phenomenon, his life could not get any better.

Until he meets Ryan, an irresistibly attractive dancer, who is added out of the blue to their vocal band. Jasper is quick to call bullshit on the manager's reason for this addition, but even quicker to accidentally flirt with their new member.

This close to the band's success, Jasper's pissed to be the one vocally training this dancing liability. Between Jasper's outspoken nature and Ryan's anxiety, tensions rise. When a plan to improve Ryan's confidence backfires, putting the spotlight on something Jasper's been ignoring all his life, truths come to light.

Can Jasper let himself get swept up in his own real-life, convoluted, fanfic love story while protecting Ryan from the negatives of fame, uncovering the real reason their manager added him, and saving the band? Or will a photo scandal throw everything out in favor of some satisfyingly petty revenge?

CW: this book features an on page suicidal panic attack, discussions of previous suicide attempt, discussions of emotional manipulation, and instances of sexual coercion. 

Grab a copy HERE!

Jasper is one of the main reasons The Obsolete has so many fans shipping the band members. He flirts just to rile up the fans, and they love him for it. But, when a new band member is dropped on them without any prior warning, Jasper is quick to question their manager’s true motives, especially since the new member, Ryan, is a dancer, not a singer.

Ryan doesn’t fit into the band immediately, especially since the rest of the band members have already formed friendships, and he finds it difficult to get any of them, in particular Jasper, to accept him as a member. But when Jasper is forced to help train him, and get his singing up to scratch, Jasper and Ryan find themselves spending more and more time around each other, and the fans are quick to come up with a new favourite ship – but what if, this time, it wasn’t fictional?

I absolutely loved both Jasper and Ryan, and following their growing relationship. In particular, I enjoyed following Jasper as he slowly came to the realisation of what exactly he felt. Jasper had been brought up in a very religious household, and pushed towards a relationship with a woman he feels absolutely nothing for. But when Ryan comes along, something changes, and he starts to wonder whether he might’ve been gay all along. Jasper really struggles coming to terms with his sexuality, mostly because he is scared that the other band members won’t accept him, and that he will lose his friends. Fear such as this is certainly saddening to read about, but Ryan is next to Jasper every step of the way, to support him, and to, slowly, fall in love with him.

There is plenty of depth to this story outside of just Jasper and Ryan’s relationship. The band find themselves facing legal issues with their contracts, as their manager scrounges every last penny he can out of the band without giving them any of it. This thread of the story was particularly interesting to follow, as the band become aware of just what their contracts contain, and try to work their way around some of the clauses that seem to simply box them in. I must say, I absolutely hated their manager, Chris. I don’t think I could’ve hated a character more. He is simply vile, using blackmail against the band members to get what he wants, and having absolutely no care about the actual members of the band. He causes so much emotional damage, simply for his own monetary gain. He is an absolutely vile man, and my hatred for him is a testament for how well his character was written. Like Jasper, I would absolutely love to punch him in the face!

I will admit, it did take me a while to properly get into this book. I spent the first few chapters slightly confused, as things jumped around a little and there wasn’t much explanation as to who the characters were. However, once I figured out who the characters were, things made infinitely more sense, and by the halfway point, I couldn’t put the book down. In fact, I fell asleep reading it, because I didn’t want to put it down to go to bed.

There are a lot of mental health matters covered in this book, and I do like that the trigger warnings are in the blurb, so you can be aware of what you will find within this book before you decide to read it. Ryan in particular suffers a lot in this book, and there are some scenes that are very difficult to read, so do be prepared going into this book that these scenes are very distressing. I truly felt for Ryan, he has already gone through so much before the events covered in this book, and he goes through plenty more during the book. He is a character I really wanted to give a big hug to.

Even though he isn’t particularly a ‘main’ character, I think Blake really stole the show in this book. He is incredibly humorous, as well as amazingly supportive of his friends. He and Jasper are great friends, and while Ryan may be someone that Jasper needs, Blake is also important to Jasper, but purely as friends, nothing more. He is always ready to drop things to be there for Jasper, and offers support and consolation when needed, as well as simply being around to crack some jokes and cheer everyone up. I think everyone needs a friend like Blake!

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is the start of a very promising series, and I can’t wait to follow The Obsolete as their story continues throughout the series. If you are a fan of celebrity romances, drama, scandals, slow burn romance, and powerful friendships, this is absolutely the book for you!

Claire is a drinker of tea. Lover of music. Writer of love, and shipper of ships. She’s a small-town girl living in Australia, with a lot of dreams and a busy life. If she’s not writing, listening to music, or drinking tea, check her pulse and send her to hospital. If she’s already at the hospital, she’s at work, leave her alone.

Sunday, 7 May 2023

#BookReview - Culloden: Blood on the Moor by Joshua C Wells #HistoricalFiction #Scotland


Blood on the Moor
By Joshua C Wells

Publication Date: 30th September 2022
Publisher: Austin Macauley
Page Length: 254 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

As Bonnie Prince Charlie lands in Scotland, intent on regaining the British crown for the Stuarts, Gregor, a young, ostracised Highlander, has fallen in with a gang of murderous outlaws, whose actions lead him ever closer to a date with the hangman…

Meanwhile, Flora, a young, beautiful Scottish girl, finds herself visited by a ghostly and sinister hag, who wishes to involve her in the fate of the prince.

Both Gregor and Flora find the paths of their lives dramatically altered by the Bonnie Prince, and their futures dependent on the success or failure of the Jacobite rebellion. Futures which would ultimately be decided at the battle of Culloden…

**Spoiler Allert!** 

"The world is a complicated place...And there is nothing more complicated than the scheming of kings and princes."

The standard of Charles Edward Stuart has been raised, and it is only a matter of time before the clans flock to his cause. Charles is determined to claim his birthright—he is convinced that God is on his side. He just needs to convince the clans that he will lead them to victory, that he will lead them to glory.

The historical detailing of this story has to be commended, and it is backed up by confident research. The hours that Wells has dedicated to researching this period of history shine through in the enthralling, although often harrowing, narrative. I think it is fair to say that Wells has an almost visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading, and once started, I found myself reading this book well into the night. 

Bonnie Prince Charlie, is a name that, for anyone interested in Scottish history, is instantly recognisable. Wells has portrayed him as a man who is steadfast in his belief that it is his destiny, his right, to be crowned king, and not just of Scotland. He wants everything, he wants to restore the Stuart monarchy, and this makes him a very interesting historical character, and I thought Wells did a remarkable job in breathing life back into him. Likewise, I enjoyed following Gregor's story. I thought the contrast between Charles and Gregor's story gave this novel an added touch of time and place. It was really interesting to read about the man who was giving the orders and the one who was obeying them.

As this story progresses, the reader witnesses, first-hand, the breakdown between Charles and Lord Murray. I thought the relationship between these two men was fascinating. Charles refuses to listen to wise counsel, preferring to listen to men who say what he wants to hear. His arrogance, his almost delusional belief that God was on his side, and that he would succeed even when the odds were stacked against him was wonderfully depicted. I thought this relationship breakdown between Charles and Murray was beautifully portrayed and it really gives the reader an insight into the final days of the Jacobite Rebellion and it shines a light on the needless, countless deaths of men who should not have been asked to engage with a far superior force in a place such as Culloden where the terrain was not in their favour. It was a case of lambs being sent to slaughter, yet knowing they were being sent to the slaughter. I thought the battle of Culloden came across as not only harrowing but also chaotic. Charles, when he sees what is happening, what he has caused, falls into an unresponsive stupor and I could not help but feel sorrow, not for Charles, but for what he did, how many he was willing to sacrifice before he realised that the game was up. While he fled, Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland gave no quarter and I think that was one of the hardest parts to read because there was no forgiveness, the rebellion wasn't just doused, it was put to the sword, and all those lives that were lost were for nothing in the end. I think Wells did a really good job of portraying the senseless slaughter.

Culloden: Blood on the Moor is an immensely readable novel. You do not have to know anything about the Jacobite Rebellion to enjoy this story, for everything is explained and explored in explicit detail. The book is very battle-heavy, which is of no surprise considering the topic, but I thought the author brought a humanly emotional touch to the characters that made this story immensely enjoyable, even when the subject was quite dark in the telling.

There is no doubt that this book is a work of flawless historical scholarship. It is also a thrilling read that keeps the reader turning those pages until that final full stop. This is the kind of book that deserves not only a place on your bookshelf, but it is also one that demands to be read again and again. It is an impressively dramatic story and one that I cannot praise enough.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde 


Joshua C Wells lives in the south-west of England. His interest in military history has led him to writing novels based upon historic military campaigns.