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Monday, 14 December 2015

Book Review: Fall of the Cities - Planting the Orchard

Product Details


The world is falling apart.
Terrorists spark a worldwide oil and gas crisis while imports grind to a halt. Europe and Britain are erupting into chaos as food runs out and desperate people take matters into their own hands.

As the government begins to seal off rioting parts of the city, Corporal Harry Miller takes an offered discharge to get his sister and her kids to safety. But he's not fast enough. Trapped in the city with a rag-tag collection of ordinary citizens, Harry struggles to create a small pocket of stability - a place to ride out the coming confrontation between rioters and the Army, and save themselves from annihilation.


The sergeant got the squaddies all sorted out and lined up by the time the Hercules finished taxiing from the runway to wherever. By then Harry had made sure his stick was invisible inside his pack because it wasn't allowed in public. The men  organized purely by their remaining gear with no reference to what unit they belonged to. Because he had a full set of kit, Harry was in the first thirty off. They started off as soon the back door lowered into a ramp even if the view didn't help.

Harry couldn't see where they were going since the ramp pointed back towards the runways. The first thing he noticed was the puff of vapour as everyone breathed out. Then the cold bit through his clothing, reminding Harry, and the rest, that it was January and they were no longer in a desert. The soldiers wheeled as instructed and came around the end of the plane, and into view of the terminus.behind the terminus.

The view of the terminus wasn't quite as expected. Harry didn't actually think there would be a cheering crowd, but nobody at all in one of the busiest airports in England was. Nobody seemed to be in any of the parked planes outside the terminal, and nobody behind the terminal windows. Not even staff or Army brass to greet them.

There was plenty of debris around the planes as they marched past and a lot of noise somewhere ahead. There weren't any footprints in the light snow.The place really was deserted, though still warm inside. The soldiers marched into the main hall and came to attention in ranks, and an officer appeared.

As soon as he spoke it was apparent from his voice that he was the one from the plane. "There has been a breakdown in law and order. Martial Law has been declared in London and the other population centres, so we are unable to take you to your barracks yet. First the streets must be cleared. There are no shields or batons available, so we will use fixed bayonets."

"You are the British Army, and I trust you to uphold the traditions of that Army. Turn in your ammunition so there are no accidental discharges, and try to minimise casualties among the civilians. We will organise cover if firearms are used against you." He left and headed back through the terminal, and the sergeants began to split everyone up into squads.

"What about bricks and stuff, Sarge?" Harry had seen riots on the TV and they always included rocks and bricks. "Without shields, we'll get beaten to death even with helmets.

"Move your packs round to the front if possible. Take some gear out to lighten them, but nothing essential. I don't know if we're coming back here though your kitbags will catch up eventually." The solution spread down the line and a very small pile grew behind them. Most of what was in the packs was essential if they weren't coming back to collect it. The pack felt weird hung in front but was probably capable of stopping a brick.

"Right, you lot. Outside those doors are the taxi ranks and access roads. We go left, to where a fairly thin line of London Bobbies is trying to stop the citizens storming the planes."

"Why do they want the planes, Sarge?" Which was a good question since there were no pilots in evidence. Though another two planes had landed.

"Since I'm a mushroom as well I wasn't told. Presumably because one of them thinks they can fly one of those bloody planes. Which they will not be allowed to do. Am I clear?" "Yes Sarge!" From most of the throats present.

"Let's get at it then, because there's another two planeloads coming through here to sort out any other little problems. Turn in your ammunition, now." Harry really started to worry. What sort of unrest needed three planeloads of squaddies with bayonets?

Book Review:

“Kill or be killed! If you are going to die, die fighting!” Corporal Harry Miller now lives by these words, especially after fighting in Iraq. There is a worldwide petroleum war going on causing people in London to behave sadistic as food and other commodities become scarce. After his discharge, Harry finds shelter in an abandoned community taking his widowed sister and her children, and other residents, after they come under attack from crazed rioters.

Harry is elected their leader and suddenly finds himself in a different kind of war as the fighting escalates. He delegates duties to this diverse group that are mostly defenceless against the violent mobs. They struggle to survive by taking available supplies from stores already looted and defend themselves against the gangs who constantly appear to harm them. This is difficult since the army base nearby will not allow them to retaliate with guns, so they learn to improvise and hope their efforts will not be in vain when the next mob attack occurs.

Fall of the Cities: Planting the Orchard – Book 1 is a thriller by Vance Huxley. It was hard to put down the book since it is a riveting action packed one. There are several interesting characters that the author developed very nicely, and some had their own special qualities and personal issues to make them stand out. Harry is one such character that I would not make an enemy. I like the way the refugees banded together to defend themselves, despite being scared - “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Vance Huxley created a wonderful story that was intriguing from the beginning with very entertaining sections as well as some emotional ones that made the plot even stronger. He has shown his excellent writing skills in this engaging novel. The book cover is nicely illustrated and readers will eventually learn why the title is appropriate for the story. Planting the Orchard, Book 1 from the Fall of the Cities series is highly recommended.

About the Author:

Vance Huxley lives out in the countryside in Lincolnshire, England. He has spent a busy life working in many different fields - including the building and rail industries, as a workshop manager, trouble-shooter for an engineering firm, accountancy, cafe proprietor, and graphic artist. He also spent time in other jobs, and is proud of never being dismissed, and only once made redundant. 

Eventually he found his Noeline, but unfortunately she died much too young. To help with the aftermath, Vance tried writing though without any real structure. As an editor and beta readers explained the difference between words and books, he tried again.

Now he tries to type as often as possible in spite of the assistance of his cats, since his legs no longer work well enough to allow anything more strenuous. An avid reader of sci-fi, fantasy and adventure novels, his writing tends towards those genres.

Amazon              Goodreads

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Monday, 23 November 2015

Book Review: IA Initiate

Book Review:

Thirteen-year-old Naz Anderson is a troubled teen who lives with his little sister Meri at a foster home. He tries to live a normal life but has constant flashbacks and nightmares about places and events that seem familiar, and he often hears voices. Naz unconsciously makes things move by thinking about them but is not fully aware of the supernatural powers he possesses. He is a smart student who detests unwanted attention, but somehow always manages to be the main attraction for bullies. There is also a strange man in a car who appears wherever he goes.

Naz is desperate to find information regarding his deceased parents, especially his father, whom he knows little about. The Grand Master while competing against him in a chess tournament intrigues Naz, but he cannot figure out why there is such a familiarity about him. His part-time job also keeps him occupied, but a gang known as Incubus Apostles has plans for Naz that could disrupt this source of income that he badly needs.

IA Initiate is a wonderful supernatural thriller for young adults by John Daryl Winston. It is an emotional story of a teen who shoulders more burdens than most his age, and unusual ones too. Naz and Meri are fiercely protective of each other, but each has their own emotional baggage to carry. There are also flashbacks into the past prior to Naz’s birth that stirred my curiosity, as well as the ending, which has kept me guessing what the final outcome will be. 

I like the author's writing format and the intriguing direction in which he took the story since dreams are an important part of the plot. IA Initiate is an absorbing, well-written novel. It is the first book in a series of sci-fi thrillers that young adults will find interesting. John Daryl Winston also includes Meri’s Crossword Puzzles and a Words of Wisdom builder that students who take standardized tests should know. These are located at the back of the book, which is worth reading. 


                                Goodreads          Amazon

                          Please, feel free to comment.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Book Review: Moxie's Decision

Book Blurb:

Moxie's story continues! Moxie is determined to rule as queen after her father, King Smedley, dies. But Smedley refuses to acknowledge her as his heir. Her uncle also wants the throne and he's already tried once to eliminate Moxie's competition.

Moxie realizes she hasn't been trained to rule and she needs lessons about the real world. She decides to flee the castle to learn how to rule and to learn about life outside the castle. Moxie faces unexpected challenges as she struggles to cope with a brutal reality that tests her mettle and determination. 

This is a coming of age story that is decidedly different from the usual ones. The book is filled with memorable characters, satire and humour. What more can a reader wish for? The story takes place against a backdrop of Camelot, but this Camelot is in a parallel universe. So don't expect the usual stories and tales. Ain't gonna happen.

My Review:

Homely looking Princess Moxie knows she will never become her father’s successor to the throne, especially if her scheming uncle gets his way to become king instead. She flees the castle and enrols at the Heroes Guild to learn fighting and other survival skills. The training is torturous, thanks to her instructor, Harry the Murderer. Moxie, who can be obnoxious herself, wonders how long her patience will last before hitting him. She is given a mission to capture a band of outlaws and follows their trail, but soon realizes that she is outnumbered when she enters their camp alone.

King Artie of Camelot is worried because Hengist the Saxon intends to invade England with a larger army than his. The only way to defeat the Saxons is to play a game of football, but the Knights of the Round Table have a series of ailments that will strengthen the opponent’s chances. Hemp smoking Merlin devises a plan with the coach and sorceress, Rowan, but Artie fears they may be too late to save Camelot. Sir Tristan, one of Artie’s knights organises the festive entertainment with renditions of “How Do I Loathe Thee, Let Me Count the Ways,” ”Deck the Hall with Battle Loot,” and The Merchant of Londinum.”

Moxie’s Decision (Princess Moxie) is the amusing fantasy sequel to Moxie’s Problem by Hank Quense, which I also reviewed. The story is a terrific conclusion and is just as entertaining as Book One, which I recommend reading first. Moxie, who was accustomed to getting her own way and annoyed everyone with her constant nagging, has matured a great deal.

She still shows a bit of the haughtiness that makes her stand out and is one of my favourite characters. Hank Quense takes readers into a satirical version King Artie’s Camelot with tongue-in-cheek humour and colourful characters. Queen Gwenevere and her buxom cheerleaders’ antics will keep you laughing, so will Merlin’s mind-reading tests. The author writes exceedingly well, is very imaginative and I want to read more of his books.

                                                   Goodreads           Amazon

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Friday, 21 August 2015

The Network Series Book Reviews:

I was a participant in The Network Series Review Tour and published my review for Miss Mabel's School for Girls  by Katie Cross in late July.The reviews for Books Two and Three are included in this post. You can read Book One by clicking on the link below:

 Miss Mabel's School for Girls


Antebellum Awakening (The Network Series, #2)

Never underestimate the power of a volatile witch.

Still reeling in the wake of her mother’s death, sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe is forced to move to Chatham Castle. Not even the sudden appearance of ancient dragons in haunted Letum Wood nor her two best friends can distract her from the strength of her deep, dark rage.  Her grief puts her magical powers into chaos, endangering any witch around her. She has six months left to destroy the curse that will kill her and fulfill her contract with the most cunning enemy of all: her former teacher Miss Mabel. Bianca must make a choice: learn to control her restless powers, or let the powers control her.

Antebellum Awakening is the second book in the thrilling new fantasy collection The Network Series. It’s a haunting tale about tragedy, loss, and the power of moving on.

Book Review of Antebellum Awakening:    
Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe now lives with her father Derrick at Chatham Castle following the tragic death of her mother, Marie. She is remorseful and does not know how to control her grief; is too stubborn to seek help, but knows her moods are uncontrollable and often causes calamities. Bianca wants to destroy detestable Miss Mabel but knows it will take cunning skills and wits to fight the vile witch who refuses to terminate the Inheritance Curse that will kill her on her seventeenth birthday.

She also wants to find a way to snatch the Book of Contracts from her so that she can terminate their binding agreement, written in blood. When Miss Mabel summons Bianca to carry out her part of the binding contract and reveals the deadly task she has to perform, unwillingly, it only makes Bianca more determined to outwit the witch at her own game, even if she has to die to do it.

Katie Cross caught my attention once more with Antebellum Awakening, her second book from The Network Series. It is even more absorbing and action filled than Book One. I found the story extremely poignant, intense and suspenseful as Bianca struggled to cope with the loss of her mother and other threatening problems that Miss Mabel inflicted on her and the community. 

There were times, though; that I worried about Bianca’s impulsive behavior and rash decisions, but that made the story even more appealing. She is a lot stronger than she believes. I was also fond of other main characters and enjoyed the mild romance and humour that the novel contained. Antebellum Awakening is an entertaining book that young adults will enjoy.

 Rating: 



Isadora is a quiet, old witch living alone in the fog-strewn forest of Letum Wood. Her magical power is great, but her foresight is even greater.As a Watcher, Isadora has the ability to see into the heart of every witch she meets, a talent that makes her the perfect guardian of the prestigious Miss Mabel’s School for Girls.Any witch that wants to enter the school must first pass an interview with Isadora. No secret insecurity or sinister motivation can be hidden from a Watcher, as four teenage girls will soon find out.Join Leda, Camille, Michelle, and Priscilla, as they each encounter Isadora in their quest to join Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. It’s a collection of short stories that fans of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls can’t afford to miss.

Book Review of The Isadora Interviews:

The Isadora Interviews is the third book from The Network Series by Katie Cross. It consists of four short stories containing useful in-depth background information on four girls who are main characters in the series. You will become acquainted with Leda, Camille, Michelle and Priscilla who display uncommon personalities, attitudes, and skills, which reflects their family life. 

Isadora is an elderly witch and Watcher who can read people’s innermost thoughts and is an excellent judge of character. This special skill makes her the ideal recruiter for selecting potential girls to attend Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, located in Letum Wood. She is a sharp-witted witch who certainly knows how to extract information from persons without their knowledge.

This charming book complements the others in The Network Series. It shows the amusing selection process for the girls who are to attend Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, as well as hints of the significant future roles they will play. Having read the previous books from the series, The Isadora Interviews made me more understanding and somewhat sympathetic to the girls and their mannerisms. The Isadora Interviews is nicely developed and Katie Cross writes very well and creatively to attract her readers.

 Rating:     


Katie Cross grew up in the mountains of Idaho, where she still loves to play when she gets the chance.If she’s not writing, you can find her traveling, working as a pediatric nurse, trail running with her husband and two dogs, or curled up with a book and a cup of chai.

Author Online: Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter @kcrosswriting

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Monday, 27 July 2015

The Network Series Review Tour: Miss Mabel's School for Girls by Katie Cross/Giveaway


By Katie Cross


Never Underestimate the Power of a Determined Witch.

Letum Wood is a forest of fog and deadfall, home to the quietly famous Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, a place where young witches learn the art of magic. Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe has inherited a deadly curse. Determined to break free before it kills her, she enrolls in the respected school to confront the cunning witch who cast the curse: Miss Mabel.  Bianca finds herself faced with dark magic she didn’t expect, with lessons more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Will Bianca have the courage to save herself from the curse, or will Miss Mabel’s sinister plan be too powerful? 

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is the first novel in The Network Series, an exciting new fantasy collection. A gripping tale about the struggle to survive, it will take you to a new place and time, one you’ll never want to leave.

Goodreads *


Expect the unexpected and never let your guard down when you're around Miss Mabel!

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe inherited a deadly curse from her grandmother. The curse, thrown by Miss Mabel many years ago stipulates that if it remains unbroken when the third generation female reaches seventeen, she will die. Bianca enrols at Miss Mabel’s School for Young Girls that teaches magic. Her ultimate goal is to convince Miss Mabel to break the curse, and she begins training to become Miss Mabel’s Assistant. Bianca soon learns how unfair, devious, and treacherous Miss Mabel can be when assigned peculiar dark magic assignments the other witches do not study. 

The poor girl struggles to survive this rigorous training but comes to realize that Miss Mabel does not intend to break the curse that will save her ailing grandmother’s life or her own. This infuriates her, but she decides to find another way to solve her dilemma using the hidden magic powers her father taught her. Bianca wonders if she will be strong enough to outwit the mistress of dark magic, who ruthlessly threatens to harm her loved ones if Bianca refuses to participate in the deadly scheme that she is brewing.

Miss Mabel's School for Girls is the first book in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This fast-paced story nicely combines humour, drama and magic with a good cast of characters. Miss Mabel is downright evil and despicable, so do not let her good looks and charming voice fool you. Bianca is a lot stronger than she believes, mentally and physically, having to endure the torturous training she receives. Each character played their roles convincingly and some kept me wondering if they were friends or foes. Katie Cross is imaginative and developed an intriguing story that made me want to keep reading. Letum Wood, where the school is located has an aura that I like. Miss Mabel's School for Girls is a terrific fantasy I recommend.

RATING   :            


Katie Cross grew up in the mountains of Idaho, where she still loves to play when she gets the chance. If she’s not writing, you can find her traveling, working as a pediatric nurse, trail running with her husband and two dogs, or curled up with a book and a cup of chai.

  AUTHOR ONLINE:      Website  Blog  Facebook   Twitter @kcrosswriting


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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Book Review: Johnnie Come Lately

I am glad that I had the opportunity to read Johnnie Come Lately by Kathleen M. Rodgers and think it is as interesting as her award-winning novel, The Final Salute.

Book Review:

One would consider Johnnie Kitchen a fortunate woman for marrying Dale, a good-looking, devoted husband, and raising three lovely children. She cherishes her family but feels her life's accomplishments are inadequate and yearns to complete her college education. Johnnie overcame bulimia that plagued her while growing up, but still has the occasional urge to succumb to it. She realizes that part of her problems link to her past, because she never knew whom her father was, and wonders why her mother abandoned her when she was little. Why was she named after an uncle who died tragically?

Johnnie releases her woes in a journal by writing letters to the living and deceased associated with her life. When her son Cabe talks about his personal struggles, Johnnie becomes glum and confesses a secret that damages her relationship with Dale and the children. Her life appears to be spinning out of control and Johnnie just wants to puke. 

She wants to make things right, but only the unanswered questions of the past can resolve the unhappiness she now experiences. Meeting the new neighbour who constantly relives events in his past and hearing of a young soldier's injuries make her see things in another perspective. Although ailing Granny Opal has the answers, she refuses to tell Johnnie the truth that could set her free from the poignant anguish that has festered within her for so long.

Kathleen M. Rodgers' novel portrays normal people with concerns that readers can compare to their own. This is an intense, emotional drama with well-defined characters, who face their issues with different strengths and moods. Johnnie always seemed happy but her burdens were too heavy to carry alone. The author also brings to light how bulimia affects persons physically and mentally, and how it can remain untreated or undetected. Her charming writing style puts one at ease and Johnnie Come Lately is a novel I recommend reading.            


Links:                            Amazon                         Goodreads  

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Saturday, 30 May 2015

Book Review: Italian Wine Notes

Italian Wine Notes

Book Review:

Italian Wine Notes is written by Bob Lipinski and Gary Grunner, both qualified connoisseurs in the wine industry. The book comprises alphabetical lists of both major wines and their areas of origin, foods of the region, a glossary and phonetic pronunciations of terms, wine categories and grape varieties. Italy has approximately 2 million acres of planted vineyards, which are divided into 20 wine producing regions. Each region adheres to DOCG, DOC and IGT laws, which have specifications for all types of wine produced and how grapes should be grown.

Italian wines are classed as Generic - place or origin; Varietal - varieties of grapes for specific wines; Proprietary - producer. The country is the world's largest producer of Vermouth and largest exporter of table wines into the United States. There are over 2,000 varieties of Italian wine which are an output no other country has surpassed.

Persons wishing to travel to Italy or who are interested in a wine and food career will recognize the full worth of Italian Wine Notes. The goal of the authors is to educate readers on Italy and their wines by providing more informative and in-depth data using a journal Gary Grunner kept on the topic, as well  as input from Bob Lipinski. The authors not only elaborate on wines, but include major regional soccer teams, places of interests and towns, cheeses, a listing of DOCG wines as of 2013, and other relevant content that made Italian Wine Notes even more enlightening to read.

Book Links:                       Amazon      Goodreads


Reviewed by Michelle Stanley for Readers' Favorite.

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