Sanctuary by Kris Kramer (Book Review)

Once again here is a review for  The New Polder Review blog!  For the uninitiated the site is a group of reviewers dedicating their reviews to small press and self-published books worth reading.  You should definitely check them out!  And now ON TO THE REVIEW!

Sanctuary by Kris Kramer

Sanctuary by Kris Kramer

Sanctuary by Kris Kramer

Set in 9th century Britain, Sanctuary follows the journey of almost priest Daniel after a mysterious stranger saves his life during a viking raid. Daniel believes the stranger is a sign from God. The stranger disagrees but Daniel follows anyway as he is desperate to find his faith. Little does Daniel know that he is a pawn in a much larger game, one in which he has caught the attention of a very powerful demon.

Off the bat, I must say this is an exceptional debut book. I was fearful at times that it would develop into a travelogue. But Kris Kramer successfully avoids this pitfall and instead we are treated to a wonderful story that I would declare just as interesting and enjoyable as Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth though not nearly as daunting.

The characters are well written and believable. Though there is a religious nature to Daniel’s quest, the purpose is not to be preachy or overtly religious by rather to provide a background to his struggles. Daniel is a leaf in the wind trying desperately to get his bearings.

My one gripe about the book is the prologue. When I was given sample chapters to decide if I was going to review it, the prologue was not included. To be honest, if it had been, I might not have read the book. Most prologues add nothing to the book that couldn’t be added in small bits throughout the first couple of chapters. I feel that this particular prologue could be tweaked and much better used as an epilogue.

The Players

Daniel the Almost Priest – Daniel is a great character. He is someone looking for his place in life. He thought he found it in the Church but in his weakest moment, but he realized even that was lacking after vikings destroyed his village and his life was spared by the mysterious stranger Arkael. It was this realization that caused him to leave his adopted village and the Church for something bigger. He just didn’t know what it was, but he was sure that Arkael was the key.

Even after the Arkael leaves him behind, he continues to search for his purpose. This trek is particularly treacherous as vikings are raiding the countryside in overwhelming numbers. He eventually returns to the town he grew up in and is given his sign during a harrowing encounter with Ewan, a stablehand afflicted with spells of madness.

He travels with Ewan and Pepin, another priest, to confront and possibly cleanse the sorceress that afflicted Ewan with madness. There he looks into the very depths of the darkness only to realize that the darkness is looking back and has seen him.

Arkaelthe Mysterious Stranger/Divine Warrior – Arkael is a man(?) with a mission. He tracks down those inhabited by demons and delivers fast bloody justice. He knows no other purpose than this. He saves Daniel’s life by slaying one of the leader of the vikings who is the vessel for a demon.

Pepin the Frankish Priest – Pepin is a priest working in the same town as Daniel in the beginning. After the viking raid, he begs Daniel to allow him to travel with him but Daniel leaves him behind. He eventually catches up with Daniel and accompanies him to the island where they will confront the sorceress. He is surprisingly resourceful for a priest and there certainly is more there than meets the eye. I have a feeling that Kramer will expound upon this in the next book.

Ewan the Mad Stablehand – Ewan is a sympathetic character. He was injected against his will with the dark disease. He constantly is battling to hold back his violent intentions from spilling over. After an encounter with Daniel, he agrees to take the priest to the people who did this to him.

All in all, I thought this was a very enjoyable story and am looking forward to the sequel.  I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

You can visit Kris Kramer’s visit blog at

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Guest review – A Swarming of Bees by Theresa Tomlinson

Well bibliophiles, Richard Abbott over at Kephrath is back with another guest review.  His book In a Milk and Honeyed Land was published by Trafford Publishing and is available on Amazon.  You can visit Richard’s website by clicking here.  As always, the Bookworm is happy to have Richard’s input!

I really liked A Swarming of Bees, by Theresa Tomlinson, and have no hesitation in awarding five stars. The subject matter, the presentation, the writing style: all of this came together just right for my taste. And it had a couple of maps, which always please me. These help the reader become oriented in the community of Whitby, called here by the Old English name of Streonshalh. For those who are not familiar with English geography, Whitby is on the east coast, in the modern county of Yorkshire, looking across the North Sea towards Scandinavia. Somewhat later than this story, it would be part of the Viking-dominated region called the Danelaw (as in The Bone Thief), but at this time it was in Northumbria, a large swathe of land ruled from Bamburgh.

Bamburgh Castle from the beach

The (Much Newer) Bamburgh Castle from the beach

The historical setting is in the immediate aftermath of the Synod of Whitby, in 664AD. This was a key moment in British Christianity when the fledgling native church, which had been isolated from Europe after the collapse of the Roman empire, was brought back under the authority of Roman Catholicism.

Now, many today might regret the loss to the church of the Celtic flavour of faith that this caused, but at the time, church unity was considered more important than insisting on an opinion. Individual Christian leaders might (and did) regret the loss, and expressed it by withdrawal to isolated communities, but there was no church schism resulting from this event.

Anyway, A Swarming of Bees has this event, and the resulting shakeup of church leadership, as part of the background. But for many of the individuals who are central, the choice is not between Roman and Celtic Christianity. Rather, it is between any sort of Christianity and their continuing allegiance to the older beliefs. The British Isles were – and in many ways still are today – a meeting place for many different styles of life and faith.

This intersection of culture, and the different ways people approach it, is at the heart of Theresa’s book. Abbess Hild, leader of the religious community, is willing and able to bridge the potential gap of religious experience in order to integrate the community rather than divide it. She is an inspirational figure, successfully threading the difficult line between compassion and compromise.

The plotline is basically a murder mystery, with the detective role played by the abbey herbalist Fridgyth. She personifies many of the tensions and insecurities of the age, and I found her an endearing character who it was easy to identify with. Along with that, the frequent references to, and recipes for, herbal and folk medicines give depth to her experience. Regarding the murder mystery, there are some echoes here of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, though the motives here reflect the turbulent political and social setting of the times, rather than the religious extremism that Eco likes to target. As such, the story, and the motives of the various protagonists, are much more accessible to a modern audience.

Mixed farming and moorland in the north of England

Mixed farming and moorland in the north of England

But the mystery is only part of the subject matter, and only part of the charm of this book. More prominent are the everyday difficulties and triumphs faced by the inhabitants of Whitby – both within and without the abbey walls. It is a time when plague ravages the land, leaving whole communities decimated, orphaned, and struggling in its aftermath.

This lends a sense of perspective to the grim events within the abbey – for many lay people living nearby, there are much more urgent survival challenges. In any age it is easy to interpret drastic events as divine commentary on momentous, perhaps questionable, decisions, and this era was no exception.

Theresa blends poetry in with her prose, faithfully mirroring the Old English alliterative style – I personally found this a great source of delight. It is a style which held sway in this country and elsewhere in Europe for a long time, before (many years later) being supplanted by the accentual and rhyme-dominated patterns which are much more familiar to many people. But in the world of Streonshalh, the traditional patterns of verse are alive and well, and used powerfully and beautifully by Caedmon and others to bridge the pre-Christian and Christian views of creation.

All in all, a very satisfying book to have read – and which I am sure I will re-read in a while. Five stars, definitely.

You can visit Richard’s website by clicking here.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (Guest Book Review by Anthony Carver aka Mr. Bookworm)

After months of nagging my husband to write a review or two for some of the books he reads, he finally relented.  He is considering this his warm up review before tackling A.T.H. Webber’s Erasure.  Hope you enjoy!

I know I’ve been promising my wonderful wife here that I would give her a book review. And because I’m good at getting things done in a timely manner, I’m finally getting around to it about three months later.

fallingkingdomsFalling Kingdoms is the first book in a series set in the land of Mytica. At the center of this land are the three kingdoms of Auranos, Paelsia, and Limeros. Auranos, to the north, is a fruitful land where everyone is prosperous, the king is kind, and everyone is blissfully ignorant. Limeros, to the south, is also apparently fruitful, everyone is not really mentioned as far as prosperity goes, the king is somewhat cruel and iron fisted, and the people are drilled into a sort of religious obedience. Paelsia, smack in the middle, is nearly barren, the chief (apparently, they don’t get a king) is a gluttonous shaman, and the souls of the people are almost as barren as their land is becoming.

The characters in the book are almost as one-dimensional and flat as the landscape. The king of Auranos, Cordullin, is kind hearted yet firm if need be, a family man, and naive. The King of Limeros, Gaius, is (surprise, surprise) the polar opposite of Cordullin. He is cold, somewhat tyrannical, and constantly vying for more power. Chief Basilius of Paelsia is content to live off of his people while they toil away in their vineyards, keeping them at bay by promises of magical abilities that he never shows them. But these are just the rulers and they spend a lot of time in the shadows.

The main characters are a little more developed, but not by much. Emilia, the oldest daughter of Cordullin, is meant to become the next ruler. However, she is sick and dying. Cleo, the younger daughter of Cordullin, is at least better than the usual trope of the spoiled princess. She is caring and often conflicted about her emotions. She is sweet. But for as much as she’s shown to be an enlightened young lady, she is prone to making rash, reckless decisions.

Jonas, the brother of a plot device murdered in the first chapter, is driven by revenge (shock) and a desire to kill all nobles and take their riches. Magnus and Lucia are the children of Gaius, and seem to have the most depth to their characters. Magnus, through most of the book, is trying to reject the role that his father is setting for him. The author goes out of her way to point out the “mask” that Magnus wears, except when around his sister. His sister, like Cleo, is shown to be very caring, even to her father, who is shown through much of the book to be very distant and harsh.

Of course, there are other characters, but many of them feel like nothing more than plot devices to further the progression of the story. Characters seem to just go along, until they are needed for something. Theon, Cleo’s bodyguard, is the best example of this. He is sworn to his duty, despite Cleo’s constant need to disobey and she is constantly running from him even after she knows her life is in danger. Theon chases her down, they admit their love for each other, and then he dies. Specifically in that order. Idea of bodyguard and princess, an idea that could have been used to such great ends, becomes an awkwardly narrated love triangle that ends in almost the same fashion as Cleo’s older sister, Emilia.

At the beginning of the book, Jonas’ brother, Tomas, quickly escalates a haggling between Cleo’s betrothed- (who exists almost solely as an excuse to force Cleo to want the bodyguard) and the wine seller father. Tomas enters the story, gets angry well beyond the excusable limit for a character that has just been introduced with no real story, and is murdered.

Forced plot advancement plagues this book. There is another part where Emilia tells Cleo, who prior to this has been repeatedly described as a non-believer in magic, about a legend of a witch in Paelsia with grape seeds infused with earth magic that can heal anyone. Cleo suddenly believes in magic and rushes off to the very land that houses the family of the plot device that she witnessed other plot device murder. This whole escapade comes to feel like nothing more than a reason for Cleo to get captured and add fuel to the political fire.

Another example is that King Gaius has another, illegitimate son. This son is portrayed as Gaius’ favorite and Magnus’ rival. No sooner than this looks as if it will flesh out character interplay between the king’s siblings, he is murdered as a blood sacrifice to Basilius, who at this point has not really been heard from and has had very little to do with the overall story.

I’m sure by now, you have noticed the occasional mention of magic. Magic–or elementia– is the crux of Lucia’s character, both in the prologue, and actual development, as well as being the reason Cleo does something stupid (once again, after she had been portrayed as a non-believer). The existence of magic is linked to the briefly, and extremely convolutedly, explained mythos of Mytica.

Magic, like some of the characters, only exists to justify the presence or actions of others. There are watchers (god-like beings) who take the form of hawks in the mortal world (they live in Sanctuary–seriously?), and are looking for the lost Kindred (these are some rocks, apparently).

There are a lot of ideas going on in this story. A lot of them can be good with a little fleshing out (magic and the watchers), and some of them had potential to be great: Magnus and Lucia’s relationship was on the road to being a mirror of Ceasare and Lucretia Borgia’s, and the anguish that Magnus felt over feelings that he knew were wrong added a depth to probably the best character in the book. However, this idea is derailed with certain revelations of parentage that bring Magnus around to be more of a budding imitation of his father.

About halfway through, I realized that the only reason I kept reading was that I wanted to see how much of a trainwreck this story would become. And then I thought that maybe I was being overly critical. After all, Falling Kingdoms is a Young Adult novel. That excuse, however, doesn’t hold up when presented with books like The Hunger Games or The Inheritance series. There are many authors of Young Adult fiction that manage to craft deep, interesting characters and that can weave a tale that leaves you wanting more. At the end of the day, I felt much like a Paelsian citizen: disgruntled and ready for a change.

Mr. Bookworm gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

NB:  Those of you familiar with the site, will know that we have a policy of not doing a review for a book if we find we are going to give it less than 3 stars.  I would like to further clarify that this is strictly for indie/small press authors.  Morgan Rhodes is far from indie/small press.  She’s has put out enough books to know better.  I trust the judgement of Mr. Bookworm and if this is the kind of quality that Penguin is looking for, then I am not surprised that they bought Author Solutions.

Mr. Bookworm has been dealing with Mrs. Bookworm for almost a decade now.  If you like heavy metal or beer, you might be interested in checking out his blog MoshnHops.

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Force of Habit by Marian Allen (Book Review)

forceAll she wanted was a breath of fresh air. Was that too much to ask?

Apparently so.

Isobel Enid Schuster never planned to go into space. She almost wished there had been no Vatican III, and the clergy had not gone co-ed, or at least the Jesuits had not.

But all those things had happened. The Galactic Union Space-Troopers teamed up with the St. Bennedetta Jesuits to form the Space Academy Preparatory School, and now Bel is a Professor of Extra-Terrestrial Humanities and Value Systems on a starship.

Restricted shore leave on the planet Llannonn is better than staying on the ship, especially when Bel swaps clothes with a close-look-alike Llannonninn woman and slips out to see the sights. But the woman is the target of a criminal from another planet. The woman thinks Bel is a police agent, come to take her place. The criminal thinks Bel is his target. Yet another criminal thinks Bel is a VIP he can kidnap and hold for ransom.

The only thing between Bel and a life of slavery in the provinces is the tenuous friendship she’s formed with Tetra Petrie, a language professor from the planet Gilhoolie.

Gangsters aliens, local law enforcement and highly placed political operatives all get into the act, as a tangle of misunderstanding, miscommunication and mistaken identity land Bel in court, facing what passes for a legal system on Llannonn.


farce /färs/

1. A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.
2. The genre of such works.
3. Force of Habit by Marian Allen.

Clocking in at a mere 220 pages, Marian Allen’s Force of Habit is a pure comical tour de farce! After finishing the book, I read an interview with Allen where she explained that it started as a Star Trek fan fiction but then grew into its own story as it became more and more comical. This struck me a particularly hilarious as my initial description of the book would be if the crew of Star Trek went on shore leave on Tatooine and had to deal with Jabba the Hut.

It would probably be the crew of Voyager because let’s face it, they weren’t too swift to begin with. And before anyone argues with me on that all the other incarnations of Star Trek would have successfully navigated the situation without much effort.

For TOS, Kirk would have slept with every available female, including the grumpy ambassador thus nullifying much of the tension. In TNG Riker would have slept with every available female, including the grumpy ambassador thus nullifying much of the tension. And if that didn’t work, Picard would have smooth talked his way out of it. DS9 wouldn’t have shoreleaved and Enterprise just doesn’t count.

That leaves Voyager. The crew of Voyager would totally have mucked this up. If you honestly think about it, Voyager was the most “soap opera” of all Star Trek incarnations (once again, Enterprise doesn’t count). I can just imagine Seven of Nine’s handling of the hostage situation ending in even more confusion than this one did.

Okay. Okay. Enough about Star Trek. Back to the review.

Great! Now I have Voltaire’s USS Make Some Shit Up stuck on repeat in my head.

One of the things that makes this story so great is the absolute absurdity of the whole mistaken identify bit. Each character jumps to what the reader will see as wildly illogical conclusions but those conclusions actually make sense from the character’s point of view. At various points in the book, Bel is mistaken for a bookkeeper, a high level ambassador/diplomat, a secret agent, and a galactic union police.

I find that many times with farces or comedies, the author inserts a character that has it all figured out and sees through all the misunderstandings. Allen resists this urge, which made me quite happy as I often find the author is going out of their way to make sure that the reader understands the absurdity of the situation. When a farce is well-written, this character is unnecessary at best or breaks the fourth-wall at worst. At one point or another, every character in the story mistakes someone else for someone else.

Wow! You think I could have said that last sentence better.

Another aspect of the story that lends itself well to the mistaken identity device is the strained/casual relationship of Bel and every other character. Bel is a woman who is struggling to breathe through the boredom and tedium of her post as a teacher on a starship. She often bucks against the system enough to satisfy her need for rebellion but not enough to bring sanctions against her. This causes understandable tension with her crewmates, who must then become her rescue crew.

The alien races are also a hoot. One of the main antagonist is Gord Pron, a Stokk mid-level mobster looking to move up the ladder. You could describe the Stokk as if Jabba the Hut was a lizard type creature with less intelligence and finesse, more aggression, but equal ambition. If they actually succeeded in capturing Han Solo in carbonite, they would have accidentally him during a fight. But in all likelihood, they would have skipped the carbonite and just cracked him on the head.

Force of Habit is fun ride that will have you occasionally face-palming yourself as the character stumble through one mishap after another.

The Bookworm gives the book 4 out of 5 stars.


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Automaton by C.L. Davies (Book Review)


Automaton by C.L. Davies

In the not too distant future, after the huge successes of role-playing games, virtual worlds and reality shows, it was only a matter of time before somebody took the next step.  A remote island: a population existing only to entertain. Their lives broadcast around the clock and around the globe. Their actions dictated by their owners. It’s the world’s biggest game played by thousands. Welcome to Gameworld.

Dean 3012 is a good guy living on the Island. He loves his girlfriend, Lily, to pieces. With their first baby on the way, life is perfect. But when things take a sinister turn, the couple are plunged into a world of darkness and despair. Dean must somehow find a way to take control and fight for all their lives.

Amelia watches the game, given the gift of a Gameworld Character when she was but a small child. However, when her character’s happiness is threatened, how far will Amelia go to protect her?

The Bookworm’s Summary:

Clocking in at 200 pages, Automaton follows the story of Dean and Lily as they enjoy their blissful existence.  They live fairly normal lives except for a couple of weird laws:  No one can be out after curfew and when they turn in for the night, they must wear sleep masks.  Violating one of these laws will result in death. But these are small prices to pay to live in the world that Dean and Lily live in.  Crime is non-existent.

Things begin to change after Dean meets a woman who works as a bartender.  When Dean wakes up the next morning, Dean finds himself against his will pursuing this woman.  He tries to stop himself but nothing he does works.  Dean doesn’t know it but his controller has programed this desire into him.

When Lily’s controller, Amelia, realizes what is going on, she starts taking steps to counteract this.  She can’t understand why Dean’s controller would do this to Lily.  Amelia thinks that perhaps she can reason with Dean’s controller.  The problem is that controllers are anonymous.  Once Amelia finds Dean’s controller, things begin to rapidly spin out of control.





The Bookworm’s Impressions:

This book is very well written.  The characters pull you in immediately.  There were times when I would forget that Dean and Lily were “characters” in Gameworld and not part of the outside world.  In fact, it wasn’t until the very end of the book that I remembered that Dean and Lily were robots and not human at all.

Cheryl Davies does an outstanding job of taking the reader on the Dean’s journey.  I shared in Dean’s joys, cheered when he attempted to fight his programing, lamented in his inability to do so, and ultimately understood the heart-wrenching sorrow that would overtake him.

The characters on the outside world were just as intriguing as the characters within the Gameworld.  Being a reality-tv show junkie (Though I must say that I am not as bad as my mother.  Boy, can that woman suck down some reality-tv!), I can totally understand the obsession of Amelia and the other characters in the outside world.

Of course this comes from a woman who occasionally creates friends/co-workers on The Sims and throws them all into a house together a la Big Brother to see what happens (So what if I keep preventing that witch a couple of offices down from going to the bathroom so she ends up wetting the floor.  It’s funny.  Don’t judge.).

I think one of the things that I loved the most was the intricate layering of plots.  The outside world had control over Gameworld but in its own way, Gameworld began to influence the outside world.  There were so many threads woven beautifully together:  e.g. Dean and Lily, Amelia and Luke, the individual rebellions in Gameworld against “Big Brother”, the fight to overcome one’s programming (I might characterize this a mind vs. body type of fight), and the eventual total humanization of Dean.

This book is a quick and enjoyable read.  I would highly recommend it.

The Bookworm gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars!

To learn more about Cheryl Davies, check out her blog!  Check out some of our other book reviews!  Check back over the weekend for an interview with Cheryl Davies!

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The Bone Thief by V.M. Whitworth – (Guest Book Review by Richard Abbott)

Well bibliophiles, Richard Abbot over at Kephrath is back with another guest review.  His book In a Milk and Honeyed Land was published by Trafford Publishing and is available on Amazon.  You can visit Richard’s website by clicking here.  As always, the Bookworm is happy to have Richard’s input!

Let me first say that I really enjoyed this book and have no hesitation in awarding five stars. I had come across the title a little while ago, but was prompted to actually read it through a book club – and am extremely glad this happened!

In Wessex

In Wessex

The Bone Thief is set in tenth century England, at a time when there was no united kingdom but rather several different regions under separate leadership.

The region I know best, having lived in it for many years, is Wessex – in the south – whose capital at the time was Winchester.

The main character, Wulfgar, a junior but well-trained priest, grew up there. But the story really begins in Mercia, a great swathe of the west of the country stretching roughly from the Thames north through the Midlands.

And most of the central events take place in a Viking controlled region known as the Danelaw, covering much of the east of the country from London northwards to Leicester and York. Quite apart from the political difficulties this caused, it had a lasting impact on religious life, as it separated two major centres of Christianity from each other.

On the borders of Mercia

Whitworth captures this division of the land beautifully via use of dialect (still mostly alive today in regional British accents) together with the occasional use of specific Norse words and phrases.

This puts you as reader in the same place as Wulfgar – most of the text is readily understandable, some parts need a bit of puzzling out, and for some you have to deduce from context or the helpful explanations of other characters.

The main plotline is straightforward – Mercia needs religious relics to boost the residents’ flagging morale, and Wulfgar as a bright but rather timid cleric is chosen to find and retrieve something suitable.

But the outworking of this plot is fascinating, as Wulfgar is forced to continuously reassess who he can trust and who he cannot. The people he meets – both friend and foe – are memorable and compellingly drawn, and are instrumental in leading him to rethink his original rather naive view of the world.

Trust and faith are at the centre of this book. One of the many reasons I loved the book is that religious thought and feeling is treated realistically and sympathetically by Whitworth. Wulfgar and others struggle to live according to their ideals, in the midst of great challenges and difficulties. Often they fall to meet their own expectations. They are neither blindly literal nor cynically manipulative in their faith; rather, it shapes, constrains and illuminates their lives in creative and credible ways.

Wulfgar’s travels are actually over quite a small part of the land, but the story touches on the whole sweep of the British Isles and beyond. Key friends and enemies come from towns across much of southern and central England. One of Wulfgar’s travelling companions is from Ireland. Meetings with the Vikings bring in links with Scandinavia. And the relics themselves – of Saint Oswald – contain other historical echoes from the north. As a child Oswald fled from Scotland, and then grew up with the monks of Northumberland. He reigned as king from Bamburgh, and helped set up a Christian centre of learning on Lindisfarne – another region I am very fond of. Despite the seeming narrow sweep of Wufgar’s journeys, the future United Kingdom with all its multicultural diversity is already starting to emerge.



There were some stylistic features I did not like. In the first part of the book Whitworth uses a device of having sudden short paragraphs to arrest attention, which rather breaks up the reading experience.

But as the book gets properly under way this device is abandoned, and the text starts to flow in a smoother and more engaging way.

Quite why this irregularity was left after editing I am not sure, but once this habit is dropped the prose reads much more fluently and is less intrusive. A glossary and some historical notes round the work out nicely – the only missing feature is a map, but it is easy enough to find something suitable online if you are curious.

I would thoroughly recommend The Bone Thief to anyone keen to engage with this period of history, as seen through the eyes of an educated but rather unimportant figure. The major political and military events of the age – the formation of the Danelaw, for example, or its ultimate absorption into a whole nation, are hinted at in conversation, memory, or expectation, but are not described in depth. You will not find descriptions of great battles or Viking raids – you will walk alongside a person, and a nation, trying to find out how to live in a culturally diverse world poised on the brink of substantial change.

Five stars, without a doubt.

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Riddle in Stone by Robert Evert (Book Review)

Long after the last of the great heroes of old has died, the Undead King is stirring again, amassing a goblin horde ready to sweep out of the mountains and destroy all of humanity. The only thing preventing utter annihilation is Edmund—a stuttering librarian who knows a secret, a secret that every thief, assassin, and king would kill to have. Fleeing from relentless peril, Edmund wages a solitary battle against an ancient evil. But how can one man succeed when so many before him have failed?

A brief disclosure first about this book.  I was excited about the release of this book.  How excited was I, you ask?  When the book was released, I bought it for my kindle totally forgetting that I had already bought it for my nook.  Oh well.

After downloading it for my Kindle, I didn’t have time that evening to read it.  So I put it aside to read during my lunch hour the next day.  Not only did I arrived back from lunch half an hour late, but I spent the whole rest of the afternoon sneaking in a couple of pages here and there.  I ended up finishing it up sometime after dinner.  I decided to let my mind digest the book for a week before sitting down to write this review.

Riddle in Stone is the debut novel of author Robert Evert.  Frequent readers of the Bookworm’s Fancy will recognize the name from an author interview and a small feature in Around the Web #2.  He was one of the first authors that I met in the course of working on this blog.  I was surprised by his down to earth attitude about his writing.

Let me say that it starts off a little slow and a bit tedious due to the way Edmund thinks and speaks.  But the slow start is necessary to set up the character and gives the reader a glimpse into his inner struggles.  Once Edmund leaves Rood, the story picks up immediately.  

He leaves his home with his head filled with the legends and history that he read in his books.  But is soon forced to face the fact that all he has believed in was a lie when he is captured by goblins.  All that he has to sustain him during his captivity is a few spells that his mother taught him when he was younger and his love for a local woman named Molly.

For his first outing as an author, Evert does an outstanding job.  He isn’t afraid of the nastiness inherent in captivity.  The process of turning Edmund from a sputtering coward into something resembling a hero is a long and ugly one.  It is the inherent want to survive at any cost that finally pushes Edmund to that transformation.  This transformation is what allows Edmund to triumph over the goblins and rescue his beloved Molly.

Evert creates interesting characters that you can’t but identify with and root for.  You find yourself cheering on Filth, Crazy Bastard, and Pondscum.  You find yourself loathing the goblins and yet intrigued by the goblin king.  

With this story, Evert has successfully put a new spin on the ordinary fantasy character that either through magic, destiny, tragedy, or hardship becomes a hero.  I have read a lot of books in my life and I have never read one that managed to do that any better than this book.  

With Riddle in Stone, Robert Evert has given us a fantastic debut novel, though not without some rough parts.  The great thing is that Evert is a new author; and his writing and storytelling can only improve.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to its sequel, which we get a glimpse of at the end of this book.  

The Bookworm gives this book 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

 You can visit Robert Evert’s blog by clicking here.  You can order Riddle in Stone by clicking here.  If you like what you read here, be sure to follow us on twitter @ErinEymard and Google Plus.

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Bookworm Update!

See!  How can anyone feel bad after seeing this cutie?!

See! How can anyone feel bad after seeing this cutie?!

So posts have been a little slow here the past couple of weeks or so.  That doesn’t mean the Bookworm hasn’t been hard at work to deliver you awesome content about indie/small published books and authors.

But here’s a picture of a happy baby to brighten your day.

Don’t you feel better now?  Good!

But seriously here’s an update on what’s coming and what you can expect!

  1. Contacted the winner of the Stephen King On Writing Giveaway on Sunday. Waiting till tonight (48 hours) for a response before picking another winner.  In all honesty, the random number generator ended up landing on one of my twitter followers who probably even forgot they were following me and she is probably like “Who the heck is this person and why do they want to give me a copy of a book?”. So if any of you actually know @wendyyoung, let her know that the contest is legit and I will totally send her the book if she wants it.
  2. Upcoming interview with Rosemary Lynch, author of Kainan, should be posted by no later than Thursday.  You can read the Bookworm’s review of Kainan here.
  3. Upcoming interview with Ron Vitale, author of Cinderella’s Secret Diary, should be posted next week.  You can read the Bookworm’s review of Cinderella’s Secret Diary here.
  4. I am currently in the process of a copy edit to help an indie author/mom out.
  5. Currently reading:  Sanctuary by Kris Kramer (for the New Podler Review), Force of Habit by Marian Allen (for Bookworm’s Fancy), Guardian of the Realm by Krystal Mclaughlin (for Bookworm’s Fancy), and Riddle in Stone by Robert Evert(for the Bookworm’s Fancy).

So take heart!  If all goes as planned, the next week or two will have more content than you can shake a stick at!

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Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Book 1 Lost by Ron Vitale (Book Review)

Cinderella“What happened to Cinderella after she married the Prince? Set in the late 1700’s as Napoleon is rising to power, Cinderella embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to come to terms with her failed marriage and her inability to have a child. Torn between the Queen’s insistence that she try all means necessary to conceive and her own desires, she agrees to travel to Paris to consult with a witch to help her become pregnant. Her journey leads her to find her long lost Fairy Godmother and aids her to solve the mystery behind her mother’s death…”

Let me start off by saying “I love, love LOVE fairy tales”.  I love how they have made a resurgence lately and been re-tooled with stronger female characters that don’t lose their femininity and still manages to stay away from being “Chicks in Chainmail“. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I definitely enjoyed Chicks in Chainmail back in the day and am giddy that I found them on kindle, but when it comes to fairy tales, I want my princesses/heroines/main female characters with a little softness to them.

One thing I always wondered about fairy tales is “what exactly is happily ever after?”.  You don’t really ever see that addressed.  And if no one ever goes into detail about it, then how do you know it is even happy or ever after.

Enter Ron Vitale and his Cinderella’s Secret Diary series.  In this book, you learn (through Cinderella’s private journal) what exactly “happily ever after” looks like.  Turns out that its not so happy after all.  What I love about how Vitale approached this is that the characters are indeed human.  They aren’t perfect and have a bit of tarnish on them (sometimes though a bit too much). 

In this tale, Cinderella pours her heart out to her much missed fairy godmother through her journal practically begging for another miracle.  This added a level of realism to the story because we humans are greedy creatures.  I know that many people would say “Oh she already got one miracle.  She should be happy with that.”  But the truth is that we are never truly happy.  We always want more.  Especially when things don’t turn out quite as we think they should as they obviously have for this Cinderella.

The reader is given the very real character of a woman who was never prepared for life outside of her family much less the responsibilities that come with being royalty.  She soon finds out that there is more to being a princess/future queen than balls and parties.  Her plight is very reminiscent to that of Anne Boleyn (though with none of the rumor or slander), perhaps the most famous woman to fall in hot water for not being able to bear a (male) child.

As I was reading this, I was making notes (as I always do) of possible continuity errors/problems.  I am happy to say that Vitale definitely ties it all together in the end.  It is a quick read at 187 or so pages and I found it a great literary pallet cleanser.  It was something light, sweet, quick, and clean.  It gave my brain a much need rest and boost before delving into deeper selections.

Though it was not without its flaws, the Bookworm gives it 4 out of 5 stars!

Visit the author’s page at or grab Cinderella’s Secret Diary from the Bookworm’s Amazon Store If you liked the review, check out our previous reviews of Kainan, The Northern Star and Dragon Fate. Follow us on twitter @ErinEymard and Google+.

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Kainan – The Deragan Sword Prophecy by Rosemary Lynch (Book Review)

On the morning of his twenty-first birthday, Kainan is enjoying the quiet serenity of the forest around the village. His reverie is broken as he is greeted to the sight of his village burning and its inhabitants savagely butchered. He is captured by Gorzars, savage creatures who hold his mother hostage. Kainan is commanded to retrieve the Ardor Crystal from a place he never heard of. But retrieving the Ardor Crystal isn’t the end of Kainan’s tribulations.

Kainan by Rosemary Lynch

One of the things that I love most about this book is the opening. I love how the author starts the story in media res. She does a great job of drawing the reader into the story.

In true old fashioned fantasy form, the good guys are good and the bad guys are evil. The reader has no problems cheering on the good guys and wishing the defeat of the bad guys.

Though the dialogue seems a little forced or cutesy at times, Lynch has created great interplay between her characters. The story that the author has created is, at its core, original and unique.

Unfortunately Lynch tries to accomplish too much. Rather than focusing on a handful of fantasy staples and working on making them unique and memorable, the author numbs the reader with almost everyone one of them in existence. I almost feel as if this book could have been broken into two parts.

This story is littered with formatting and grammatical errors which take away from its readability. All in all I really did enjoy reading this book and would love to give it a better rating but the above issues make this a 3 star read. With a story edit and a copy edit, this could be a 5 star book.

The Bookworm gives it 3 out of 5 stars.

Did you like this review?  Check out our previous reviews of The Northern Star and Dragon Fate. Follow us on twitter @ErinEymard and Google+.