Second Cousin Once Removed by Kenneth L. Toppell.

Many thanks to TheWriteReads and Kenneth L. Toppell for giving me a free e-book in exchange for an honest review.

About the book.

Henry Atkinson’s life as an attorney is slow, predictable, and lonely, to boot, since their divorce left his ex-wife with custody of the kids. To fill the time, he’s taken up a hobby of genealogy, but it doesn’t do much to spice up his mundane routine. 

Until the day he prods at a dead end on one of the branches of his family tree. Who is Shelley–a cousin he’s never met nor even heard of in years? Despite being warned to leave well enough alone, Henry continues his investigation of the man, though it yields little more than a disturbing criminal record that finally convinces him to drop the matter. 

But Shelley is a man who doesn’t appreciate being looked for . . . and now he knows someone has been looking. Before he knows what’s hit him, Henry is propelled suddenly into a mayhem of ominous threats, mysterious strangers, and running for his life. Second Cousin Once Removed is a fast-paced sweaty-palm thriller that will keep you hooked until the last page.

My thoughts.

This was a fast paced read that I read within a day or so. I was drawn to Henry’s character particularly because he came across as an average, one might almost say boring guy, instead of the usual hot, exciting heartthrob we normally get in thrillers. Fast forward to the realization that he’s wanted by Shelly, a deranged cousin he’s never connected with or even met in real life and Henry’s lifestyle and outlook on life changes in the blink of an eye.

We get to see Henry’s, Shelly’s and Henry’s love interest Carolyn’s perspective in different chapters which opened the story up more for me. I particularly enjoyed Shelly’s POV as from the start he was pegged as being the heartless bad guy.

There’s something old school about the story, part of me feels it could have been set in the Fifties. Henry definitely gave off a vibe of being the type of man who like women to wear lipstick and look good at all times. I feel this may not have sat well with some readers. For me, I’d give this book three stars. It was gritty, gripping and something different from the norm. Not my favorite book ever, but a solid enough read.


Crossing in time by DL Orton.

The past isn’t over, it’s an opening. The future isn’t hidden, it’s a trap.

If she ever wants to see him again, she’ll have to take the risk.

Fall into this “Funny, Romantic & Harrowing” (Publishers Weekly Starred Review) dystopian love story and prepare to encounter a finicky time machine, a mysterious seashell, and a very clever dog (some sex, some swearing, some violence, but no vampires and absolutely NO ditzes!)

When offered a one-way trip to the past, Isabel sacrifices everything for a chance to change the rapidly deteriorating present–and see her murdered lover one last time. When she arrives twenty years in the past, buck naked and mortally wounded, she has 24 hours to convince a stunned but enraptured nineteen-year-old to change their future. Definitely easier said than done, as success means losing him to a brainy, smart-mouthed bombshell (her younger self), and that’s a heart breaker, save the world or not.

This offbeat tale is about falling madly in love when one is too cynical for such things, letting go of pessimism when it’s the last life jacket on a sinking ship, and racing against the clock when one doesn’t have the proper footwear. It’s a coming-of-age story for old fogeys, a how-to-make-love guide for diehard celibates, and a laugh-out-loud tragedy with a hopeful twist.

My review

I’d like to thank TheWriteReads for having me on the tour for this book. I would never have discovered it otherwise. Crossing in time is a great Sci fi romance, smart, funny, and faster paced than an F1 car. The two main characters are Diego and Isabel. One (Diego) is a likable hero who does everything he can for Isabel, but through circumstances beyond his control is ripped away from her. He disappears about 2/3rds of the way through the book but (minor spoiler) you can rest assured we have not seen the last of him in this series I think. The other (Isabel) well, and this is probably just my opinion, is a bit whiny, a bit irritating generally likes to be right and blames Diego for everything that went wrong in their lives. Her heart is in the right place she is just damaged.

If that is how the author intended to write her then it is quite genius as when she (again minor spoiler) travels through time it is with the intention of teaching a younger Diego all the things he needs to do differently to be able to make their relationship work. After a few chapters where she is admonishing him she comes to a realization that is is actually she who needs to change and give him a fair chance. My one criticism is that this realisation is a bit softer than it should have been. 

There are several very powerful and occasional graphic moments throughout and and ending that unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for the authors sales) leaves you hanging. 

Overall I think its an excellent book and a 4.5 star read from me.

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis.

Many thanks to Dave @theWriteReads, Kat Ellis and Penguin books for giving me a free E-arc in exchange for an honest review. I’ve noticed that I’m not the only book lover who has signed up to netgalley to be part of this amazing tour! This massive tour is ongoing until May 16th. The book will be released on July 9th 2020 in the U.K.


Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and then there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her . . .

My thoughts.

I was gripped by this book from the very first page. I am a big Y.A fan, not so much of horror but I was intrigued by the premise of the book. The main character Lola, is initially portrayed as the spoilt, selfish, teenage daughter of Nolan Nox a famous horror movie director. I’ll admit I liked her from the get-go, particularly her inner dialogue with her over- protective dad. She knows how to ruffle his feathers and has to work through scenarios in her head to determine what is “Optimal” for Nolan. He marries the intriguing starlet from ‘Nightjar’, Lorelei who was born and raised in the tragic town. It transpires that Lorelei abandoned Nox and their daughter many years ago when Lola was quite young. The main thing that Lola remembers about her mother is her habit of writing her secrets down on scraps of paper and burying them, a habit that Lola herself practices.

The story begins with a transcript of Nolan’s interview with a movie magazine where he is asked about the disappearance of Lola from Harrow Lake a year or so ago. He cagily avoids answering the question and becomes quite irate with the journalist. The story moves back before Lola’s visit to Harrow Lake and we learn a little more about her home life and relationship with her dad before the brutal assault.

Fast forward to Lola’s trip to Harrow Lake to stay with Lorelei’s mother whilst Nolan recuperates in Hospital. Lola has never met her before and I can see why! The Grandmother is creepy, she lives in a creepy house in very creepy Harrow Lake. Harrow lake was once a prosperous mining town but after a tragic landslide due to mining activity the town becomes dated and isolated. It is one of those towns that time forgets, people never leave it and no one really visits except for the annual festival celebrating the Nightjar movie. Yes, you read it correctly, this creepy town celebrates the horror film that puts Harrow lake on the map. Not only that but there is also an urban legend of a monster, Mr Jitters who terrorizes locals in the town. Harrow Lake isn’t somewhere you put on your bucket list.

Lola spends time trying to get to know more about her mother but it feels like there’s someone following her, there’s chattering noises in her room at night and she’s starting to fall to pieces. Is her mom hiding out in Harrow lake?? There’s definitely something afoot. This is a fast paced novel that you will sail through (hidden under a blanket) to learn more about Lola’s family and the monsters that haunt her. The sad fact of life is that some monsters are real and they are closer than you think.

I’d rate this book 4 stars and I’d definitely read it again!

5 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley.

Well, what can I say? This short story collection was masterful. Maurice Barkley is a fantastic author who brilliantly captures the feel of Conan Doyle to a level that few I have read to date can.

Reading these stories is little different to reading the originals. My only complaint was the collection was too short! I’d love if there were twice as many stories in it.

For quality of writing alone I would say with extreme confidence you womt find many indie published books better than this.

If I was to pick a favorite story in this collection, I’d probably go with either The Holborn Toy Shop or The Legacy of Dr Carius. 

The stories are:

1- The Holborn Toy Shop 
“Extreme danger. Children’s lives are at risk”
2- Legacy of Doctor Carus 
“Holmes prevents an injustice and triumphs over a greedy family.”
3- The Train From Plymouth
“A train arrives 3 years late. Only Holmes can solve this one.”
4- “Holmes battles blundering politicians and a master criminal.”
5- “An elaborate crime with a strange motive”

5 stars out of 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Many thanks to Dave @thewritereads for facilitating this tour and for Maurice for giving me a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Venators: Magic Unleashed by Devri Walls.

Six years ago, Grey Malteer was attacked by creatures he thought couldn’t possibly exist. They repeated a word, calling him a name he’d never heard before…Venator. Since then, his life has been a hellhole of secrecy—hiding old pain alongside strange new abilities.

Rune Jenkins has an itch, as she calls it, but it’s more than that. It’s an anger that builds up like the inside of a boiler whenever she’s around anything remotely supernatural. The pressure is growing steadily worse and she can’t understand why. All she knows is—her control is slipping.

By order of an unknown council Grey and Rune are pulled through a portal in the St. Louis arch, landing them in an alternate dimension where creatures of myth and legend exist. A realm that calls them, Venators.

Made up of centuries old fae, vampires, werewolves, elves and succubi the council’s corrupt nature becomes obvious as they seek to wield the newly returned Venators as weapons. Wedged in an impossible position, Grey and Rune must decide their fate—do they go against the council’s wishes and help the innocents of this unforgiving land, or face the possibility of execution by the council.

My Review
5 stars!!!

Omg this is one of my favorite books of the year so far! I’m so grateful to Dave and thewritereads for introducing me to the Venators series and to the work Devri Walls who I had never heard of before this tour. But wow I am a fan now. I can’t wait to review the rest of the series!!!

Is that enough gushing yet? Yes I think it might be pretty apparent that I really liked this one. Why??? … BELTRAN!!!!!!!

Umm, I mean, ok totally not gonna start crushing on Beltran here… yeah totally not. Umm ok get serious now…

Venators: magic uneashed is the first book in Devri Walls’ Venators series. The main characters, Grey Malteer and Rune Jenkins are Venators – they have mysterious powers. They get pulled through to an alternate dimension full of all sorts of creatures and demons and the fun starts from there.

You would of course expect there to be something going on between Rune and Grey, but that’s where Beltran comes in … and it’s love triangle time!!

I won’t go into synopsising the plot further but I just want to repeat, you will love this!!! Super highly recommended and right to the top of my favorite reads so far this year. Can’t wait to read the next book! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for sure!


Buy links

Review of Kingshold by D.P Wooliscroft.

Mareth is a bard, a serial under achiever, a professional drunk, and general disappointment to his father. Despite this, Mareth has one thing going for him. He can smell opportunity. The King is dead and an election for the new Lord Protector has been called. If he plays his cards right, if he can sing a story that will put the right person in that chair, his future fame and drinking money is all but assured. But, alas, it turns out Mareth has a conscience after all.

Neenahwi is the daughter to Jyuth, the ancient wizard who founded the Kingdom of Edland and she is not happy. It’s not just that her father was the one who killed the King, or that he didn’t tell her about his plans. She’s not happy because her father is leaving, slinking off into retirement and now she has to clean up his mess.

Alana is a servant at the palace and the unfortunate soul to draw the short straw to attend to Jyuth. Alana knows that intelligence and curiosity aren’t valued in someone of her station, but sometimes she can’t help herself and so finds herself drawn into the Wizard’s schemes, and worst of all, coming up with her own plans.

Chance brings this unlikely band together to battle through civil unrest, assassinations, political machinations, pirates and monsters, all for a common cause that they know, deep down, has no chance of succeeding – bringing hope to the people of Kingshold.

My review

4.6 stars

Another big thanks to The Write Reads for providing a copy of Kingshold by Dp Wooliscroft.

What an interesting premise. I love that Kingshold looks at 99.9% of fantasy – and what do we have in them? A king (or queen) always a monarch and yes some will be bad and some will be good, but usually the idea is that the MC or will become or will help somebody become or will deal with a monarch and there is always that idea that you just can’t beat a good kind, powerful, honourable king or queen.

Kingshold (despite the name) is different. We get somebody, the guy who just like totally murdered the king and queen, trying to establish a democracy. I love it. Such a good idea. And the characters in this. Wow. They are so deep, it really doesn’t read like a debut novel at all in this sense at least. Wizard, sorceress, bard, serving girl, rogues all just done very well. And of course Jyuth himself who is just a brilliant, brilliant character.

The only reason this doesn’t get a straight 5 stars is its a little rough around the ages in a few places, only a little, just some sentences are a little awkward, the dialogue feels a little off now and then, and probably the length could be cut down a fraction. But I can’t dock a full star for that as there is just so much good in this that I’d rather it to some ultra-polished run of the mill forgettable book. It’s just far more enjoyable. 

Yes, great read a diamond in the rough maybe but a diamond all the same. 

Amazon Link:

About D.P. Woolliscroft

Born in Derby in England, on the day before mid-summers day, David Peter Woolliscroft was very nearly magical. If only his dear old mum could have held on for another day. But magic called out to him over the years, with a many a book being devoured for its arcane properties. David studied Accounting at Cardiff University where numbers weaved their own kind of magic and he has since been a successful business leader in the intervening twenty years. 

Adventures have been had. More books devoured and then one day, David had read enough where the ideas he had kept bottled up needed a release valve. And thus, rising out of the self doubt like a phoenix at a clicky keyboard, a writer was born. Kingshold is David’s debut novel and Tales of Kingshold, companion short stories to the novel, are flooding onto the page as fast as David can write them. You can get an keep up to date on all new releases, and get an exclusive Tale of Kingshold, at

He is married to his wife Haneen and has a daughter Liberty, who all live with their mini golden doodle Rosie in Princeton NJ. David is one of the few crabs to escape the crab pot.

Rise of Gaia by Kristin Ward.

“Beneath rock and soil, trees and oceans, she lies. 

Under concrete jungles and poisoned rivers, she slumbers. 

She is Mother Earth. 

And mankind has turned its back on its mother. 

The visions begin on Terran’s seventeenth birthday. Horrifying images pummel her brain, while a voice commands her to see beyond the world she thought she knew and into the heart of it. Gaia has awakened, brought to consciousness by the greed of a species that has tainted every aspect of her being in a tide of indifference. With this awareness, comes rage. Gaia calls upon her children to unleash her fury, wreaking vengeance on humanity. 

Terran will emerge in a world on the brink of collapse, to face a being whose wrath is beyond imagining. “

My review;

This is my second book by Kristin Ward. I liked the first (After the Green Withered) but I LOVED this. Rise of Gaia opens with 17 year old Terran experiencing strange and very scary visions. They come from Mother Earth herself, Gaia. And Gaia is angry.

This was such a great idea and so topical right now. I couldnt help think of all the fires and droughts and storms and oil spills and just everything we seem to see so often these days when reading this.

It could have been very easy for something like this to preachy, but Kristin Ward plays it just right so it never really felt that way to me.

My favourite aspect was definitely the relationship between Terran and her best friend Beth. I love that the character aspect focused more in that than the romance. In some ways that reminded me a little of Frozen (one of my favourite movies!)

There was lots of other cool things in this too. From the ancient and powerful Gaia to Silas and the links to Irish myths.

Definitely 5 stars from me!!

Big thanks to Dave and @the_writereads for having me on this brilliant tour!

About the Author
Kristin Ward has loved writing since middle school but took thirty years to do something serious with it. The result is her Best Indie Book Award-winning YA novel, After the Green Withered, followed by the sequel, Burden of Truth. In her YA SciFi-Fantasy, Rise of Gaia, Kristin intertwines her environmental passions with fantasy elements, creating a world that holds a secret deep within its heart. 

She lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, three sons, and many furry and feathered friends. A SciFi geek to the core, she is fueled by dark chocolate and coffee and can be heard quoting eighties movies on a regular basis.

The Friday Edition (Samantha Church Mystery #1)

Christmas is coming to Denver, Colorado, but it isn’t only snow that’s falling.

A beautiful young woman, who also happens to be a Truman County Assistant DA, tumbles from her apartment balcony to her death on Christmas Eve.

The incident is ruled a suicide, but the DA’s sister, newspaper reporter Samantha Church, isn’t buying it.

Feverishly Samantha throws herself into finding out what really happened to her sister. She pursues her sister’s killers, maneuvering through a minefield of intrigue deliberately set out to divert her from the truth. She invariably stumbles when confronted by the inescapable specter of a greater enemy: the alcohol dependency that has already cost her the respect of her peers, and, worse, custody of her daughter.

Samantha must summon the courage to face not only a cartel of criminals, but also her own demons. Physically threatened and betrayed, she nearly defeats herself through her own insecurities and fears. She not only must summon the courage to get beyond her own shortcomings, but she must work quickly to beat her nemesis – a reporter at the major metropolitan daily newspaper, who is also in close pursuit of the developing story.

Can Samantha ultimately prevail, write the biggest story of her career, and finally begin to change her life before it is too late?

My thoughts;

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Dave, from theWriteReads and Betta, the author for facilitating this.

I am a big fan of thrillers and murder mysteries so the synopsis of this book piqued my interest from the start. Samantha Church is a functioning alcoholic and her life has fallen to bits, her husband has left her and has gained custody of their daughter. On Christmas Eve her sister dies by what appears to be suicide but upon closer inspection, Sam is convinced that Robin was murdered. Sam works for a local paper as a reporter after losing her job at The Denver Post so she has the investigative skills necessary to dig deeper in to the death of her sister. I enjoyed the pace of the book and finished it within a few days. I’m not going to say too much about how the mystery plays out but I didn’t have an ‘oh my gosh’ moment. I found it slightly predictable.

I thought that Sam was a very hard character to like and that is understandable given the nature of her addiction and the deception associated with it. The author does a great job showing how someone can develop a drinking problem and how hard it can be to overcome.

I’d give this book 3.5 stars and would definitely read the next book on the series.

December Readathon Update.

I’m currently working my way through this list of prompts. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t planned out exact reads yet BUT I am confident I’ll complete it.

As mentioned in a previous post, I am reading Looking for Alaska by John Green for my ‘Dasher’ prompt. I’ve just finished listening to the audiobook of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. This will be filed away under the ‘Vixen’ prompt!

Shadow and bone audiobook

I am a bit stumped on ‘Dancer’ as I read A House of storm and sorrows and Daisy Jones and the Six in November, both of those would have been fantastic contenders for a dance or music theme. Looking for recommendations if anyone has any please?!

Hoping to update again before the weekend is over!

Make your own fictional Christmas squad Tag

I had seen this tag created by Booksnest and Fictiontea pop up on my Twitter feed and decided as ‘billy no- mates’ / independent woman I’d have a go myself! I noticed had left an open invitation for anyone to get involved, bless her! 😂 I’ve gone with a Potter theme!

The Rules:

Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their post
Link to both creators’ blogs ( & in your post
Tag 5 others to take part.


The Gift Giver
The Scrooge
The Tree Decorator
The Excitable Christmas Enthusiast
The Games Master
The One Who’s Been in their Pyjamas All Day
The One Who Dressed up as Santa

The Gift Giver;

Hmmm someone who is generous…. I’d have to pick Luna Lovegood. Admittedly the gift may be a Christmas decoration made of dirigible plums but it means your Mistletoe would be nargle free!

The Scrooge;

I’m going to award this one to Griphook. I feel that any goblin made item in particular is going to be hidden from sight. You might get a lump of coal, then again you might not!

The Tree decorator;

I think Dobby would do an awesome job decorating the tree. Lots of odd socks and one of Hermione’s knitted hats on the top in pride of place!

The excitable Christmas enthusiast;

Definitely Ron as he grew up in a large family. I feel that there would have been a great atmosphere in the Weasley house in the run up to Christmas.

The Games Master;

I’d have 2! Fred and George Weasley would be awesome and they could test their new inventions out on Christmas Day!

The one who has been in their pajamas all day.

I could picture Neville quite happily spending the day in his onesie just pottering around with Trevor.

The one who is dressed up as Santa.

Ah this has to be Dumbledore! No fake beard required! Plus I have a feeling he would know exactly what you want for Christmas!

If anyone wants to play along, feel free!