Back reviewing, sort of.

After almost a year taking a break from reviews, I’ve decided to dip my toes in the water again. One of many reasons I stopped was the queue of 40+ books to read which was honestly overwhelming.

To avoid that situation from repeating, I will review one book a month. At the peak of my reviewing days I received a review request a day. So here’s the deal. You need to be the best book presentation the month you submit. I don’t mean most eager, or the one with the most glowing previous reviews. I mean you need to pretend I’m a customer. I pick up your book to look at it. Why should I read yours over the next one on the shelf? The answer is a combination of good cover, but even more importantly a good blurb. If you aren’t sure about your blurb, head on over to celticfrogediting.com and check out my article on blurbs.  Send me the first page of your book as well, I can tell a lot about a book from that first page.

What I will be doing the rest of the month is reading other books, free books from newsletters, ones which intrigue me, but aren’t my review book of the month. Those I will post on a page if I finish them, and a one sentence comment. It won’t be long enough for an amazon review, but it will be something you can use as an editorial review.

While we’re on the subject of Amazon. Their review system is geared toward customers, not bloggers. I’ve had most of my reviews pulled down because I post the review on my blog first. I will post on Amazon, but don’t count on it staying. If your book is on Goodreads, I may post there as well.

The first month I will be accepting book for review will be February. If you send it in earlier, I won’t ignore it, but you won’t hear until February if you get chosen. If you don’t hear, you didn’t make it. Try tweaking your blurb and/or cover. I moderate a group on facebook ‘Better Blurb, Book Covers and Books’ you are welcome to request to join and work on your blurb there. You’ll get some good feedback from the group.

That’s it, that’s the new process for celticfrogreviews.

Keep writing.

Alex

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Blackmail

Blackmail

Arthur David

Blackmail is a first book by Arthur David, or rather it is the second iteration of his first book. One of the tough things to do as a reviewer is to tell the author a book is not ready for print. Especially when that review is going out where people looking for books to read will see it.

The first time I saw Blackmail it had a great concept at the heart of it, but needed a lot of work. I posted the review. Arthur sent me a note thanking me and I didn’t think about it again until Arthur contacted me to ask me to look at his book, now revised and review it again.

I get so few people coming back asking for me to look at a rewritten book, I decided I would take it on. I’m glad I did.

Blackmail introduces a character with that name. She works for a shadowy organization called ‘The Third Party” whose appointed task is the improvement of the world. She is given a new recruit to train so we get to ride along and learn what the life of an agent is like.

Blackmail is my favourite kind of hero. She’s not perfect. She makes mistakes, takes bruises and is human. We get to see a lot of that humanity in her training as, in spite of herself, she starts to care about her trainee.

The book is intended as a first in a series, but Arthur does a good job of closing it out, while leaving little doubt the story is not done. We get introduced to a variety of characters, villains and heroes and it isn’t always easy to tell them apart. What is particularly well done is the motivation of the villains is the same motivation as the hero.

While the book is not quite up to my standard for five stars, it deserves four with a fun to read story with solid characterization and truly interesting world building. I recommend it to people who like thriller/near future sci-fi.

You can buy the book at Amazon.

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Blood or Destiny by Angela Stevens

Blood or Destiny is a continuation of the Vargr Saga in which we are introduced to a unique interpretation of Werewolves and Skin Walkers, add in Vampires and magic and you have a strong world inhabited by strongly developed characters. Though this book doesn’t depend on the earlier Trilogy to be understandable, reading the earlier books will make it more enjoyable, plus you get to read three great stories.

Angela has a gift for developing characters and letting them struggle in relationships. The internal battles are as deep and interesting as the physical ones.

For those of you who like paranormal, this book and the earlier Trilogy is for you.

Buy her book at Amazon.

blood-or-destiny-final-owl-ebook-small-copy
Blood and family ties run deep but when destiny comes calling, which do you choose?

Becoming an adult is never easy, but Eva Vargr faces a unique challenge. Caught between two cultures that historically despise each other, Eva struggles to please the two most important men in her life.

For her brother, Rune Vargr, the answer is simple. Eva must embrace her Lycan side, keep to her own kind, and stay safe under his protection.

But Eva has different plans. Her grandfather’s band of vigilante Skin Walkers have fascinated her since childhood. As Eva turns twenty-one, she falls in love with a young warrior, Pilan. When Eva’s powers blossom, he encourages her to join the Black Walkers and fight by his side.

Rune, a Lycan and Pilan, a Skin Walker—both tug at her heart. One is her blood, the other her destiny. When it becomes clear she cannot have both, Eva is faced with an impossible choice.

Blood Or Destiny is the first book in a new action-packed fantasy-paranormal series. A spin off from the emotionally charged Vargr Clan Trilogy, readers can reunite with Eva Vargr, her Lycan family, and the handsome band of Native American Skin Walkers as they battle against the evil, power-crazed Clizyati that threaten the shifter and human worlds. Please note: this can be read as standalone series but readers planning to read the Vargr Clan Trilogy may want to read that series first to maintain the chronology and avoid any spoilers.

author-picBio:    Angela is British born but moved to the United States a decade ago. Always a keen traveler, she has enjoyed spending time living outside of her native country. She is an ex-teacher and the mother of two children. When empty nest syndrome threatened, Angela turned to writing novels to fill her growing free time. As her hobby grew she found storytelling began to fill her waking hours.

Her debut novel, Lemon Drops and Love grew out of her voracious appetite for reading romance and inspired by her passion for ice hockey. “I discovered ice hockey when I first moved to America. We went first to see an Anaheim Ducks game when I was visiting L.A. We all loved it so much that when we came home we went to watch our local team. Now I’m a rabid Washington Capitals fan, and can often be found ‘rocking the red’ at the Verizon center supporting the Washington Capitals.”

She rapidly moved on to writing fantasy stories, creating the New Adult books, The Vargr Clan Trilogy and her children’s book, Marquita. But which ever series or book you choose, Angela’s stories, will always provide a hero to fall in love with and a heroine who will be worthy of his love. Her characters are three dimensional and down to earth. She writes with a strong voice and in a gritty style weaving tension and suspense throughout her narrative. Her characters come to life and whisk you away, whether into a romantic or fantasy setting. Which ever you chose, be prepared to laugh out loud, cry and fall in love.

Author Interview:

Congratulations on publishing Blood or Destiny. How do you feel about publishing this book? Does it feel different from the previous books you’ve put out?

I am hugely excited about releasing this book for a couple of reasons, firstly because it is my tenth release and I never thought I would ever write one book let alone ten! But also because this book has been floating around inside my head for a couple of years now. Ever since I published the Vargr Clan trilogy in 2014, I have had this hankering to do a spinoff about the warriors that appeared in the last book, and now they finally have their own book and hopefully their own series.

Tell us more about yourself. What else have you published?

I write in a few genres so currently have a set of four steamy romance books called the Cocktail Series. They are standalone stories that revolve around a set of hockey lads who are finding their one true loves—however, each book has a hard hitting underlying issue. Book 1 for example deals with domestic abuse. I also have my Vargr Clan Trilogy plus its companion novella which is an urban fantasy with a strong Native American theme. And lastly I have a children’s book, Mariquita. This is a fantasy for 8-12 year olds—a sort of James And The Giant Peach meets Bugs Life.

Blood and Destiny looks to deal with the character finding her place in the world. What motivated you to write the story?

My main character Eva, is a mixed race new adult that is feeling the push and pull between her duel heritage. The pressures of her opposing cultures cause her to feel she has to identify with one over the other and that choice is also affecting her ambition.

Eva is part Lycan and part Skin Walker and she comes up against a lot of pressure from her brother, Rune, to ignore her Skin Walker side and adhere to her more traditional Lycan culture.

My main motivation for the story actually came from the birth of my grandson. He was born earlier in the year and is mixed race too (though not Lycan and Skin Walker, I hasten to add!). My daughter told me about his first trip to the doctor’s surgery and how the form she had to fill out insisted that he had to be identified as one race or another. She was pretty outraged. How could she choose and why should she. He is equally both races. All of which got me thinking how much pressure there is on people to be pigeon holed and how out dated things are in this modern world that we live. While Eva’s issues and the story itself is pure fantasy, it does explore this to some degree.

It also looks partly at sexism. Another issue that riles me. The Lycan society in my book are very much led by domineering males that are stuck in a 1950’s mind set. The women lead traditional lives and are supposed to be protected by the males. But the Skin Walkers are a matriarchal society and see women as equals. Eva’s brother thinks she should marry a Lycan, stay with the clan and be protected by her husband while making sure her husband’s dinner is on the table, but the man she loves (a Skin Walker) wants her to fight alongside him to protect the shifter races from the evil Clizyati.

What are your favorite kinds of stories to read and write?

I am an eclectic reader but most definitely have periods of favorite genres. Not surprisingly my reading reflects my writing, so I often gravitate towards romance and urban fantasy. However, for many years I was a huge fan of magical realism and was obsessed with Gabriel Garcia Marquais. I find that reading and writing romance acts as a great break from reading and writing fantasy. In both cases I love fantasy but it can be really hard work. The romance on the other hand gives me light relief.

What is your writing space like?

My writing space has recently changed. I used to write facing a wall in the study with my back to the door to shut out all distractions and mainly because that was where my desktop is. Earlier this year, I got a laptop and it has revolutionized my workspace. I now write in bed, out in the garden and on my sofa. I find being able to change places during the day makes me more productive.

What projects are you currently working on?

I currently have three projects on the go. I have 2 more installments of my Cocktail series that have been drafted and will be entering the editing phase after Christmas. Then I have a project I have been working on off and on for about eighteen months. This is a bit of a departure for me as it is moving into magical realism. It is based in Iceland in the 1800’s and revolves around the Icelandic beliefs about the Huldufólk (Hidden people). It is a bit of a stretch for me and I see this as one of those projects that will take quite some time to finish as I try to wrestle this thing to get everything to line up.

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Guest Blogs over at AlexMcGilvery.com

In the past while I’ve been posting guest blogs on my alexmcgilvery.com website. It isn’t reviews, but it may help to get the word out. I’m being very particular about who I have as a guest author. Some of them are my editing clients who’ve finished and published their books, some are people I meet on facebook, and some are people who’ve emailed me and their project catches my eye for some reason. If you have something to say aside from ‘buy my book’ that is always helpful too. I don’t want my blog to become a spam feed.

Check it out and if you are interested in guest blogging drop me an email or comment here. I’m only going to do one or two a month, so don’t be upset if you don’t get picked.

Go, check it out.

Alex

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The future of Celticfrog Reviews

Over the past twelve months I’ve got slower and slower at doing the things I love to do (and everything else, but that doesn’t hurt as much). Unfortunately, that includes reading and reviewing books. Where at one time I could turn around two books a week, now I’m lucky to read two books a month. I’ve already put a hold on accepting new books for review. With much regret and no small ache in my heart I’m making that hold permanent. I will try to finish the reviews on the twenty or so books on my list, but as of this time I will be accepting no more books for review. A search for indie book reviewers will show you lists of still active reviewers.

I don’t make this decision lightly. I’ve been reviewing books for more than three decades, starting with e-zines and moving to a great website before starting my own blog. I expect I’ve read close to a thousand books for review, starting back when indie books were just gaining traction and getting separate from vanity press. I’ve met some great people writing reviews and read some fantastic stories. Your books and stories will be missed.

I will be leaving this page up, both to upload reviews as I get them done, and as an archive. If you have a great review of a special book, send it to me and I may post it. If my health changes and my brain returns from its cosmic voyage, I may reopen my queue and start taking books again. But for now. That’s all he wrote, folks

Alex McGilvery aka celticfrog.

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Deja Vu

Deja Vu

Ian Hocking

This is a fascinating book which tackles the paradox of time travel. Saskia Brandt wakes  and soon finds herself involved in a locked room mystery where the only logical suspect is Saskia herself. She is then sent off on a case of perhaps sabotage and murder.
David Proctor is asked to investigate the scene of an old crime and is soon caught up fleeing the police as he tries to determine what is cause and what effect.

 

The characters in this book are well drawn, and we get to see them pushed to the limit, not only of their capacity, but their very identity. The plot guides us through twists and turns of causality while never lecturing us on the various theories. It is a wild ride and well worth the read.

 

If you like well written sci-fi which will make you think, this book is highly recommended.

 

You can purchase the book through Amazon.

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Not taking new books for Review until May

Tall_Stack_Of_Books

It is great to be popular. I enjoy reading a reviewing you books, but I also need to give time to my editing clients, and selfishly, I keep a tiny bit of time for my own writing. So I’ve gotten a bit behind. I have about forty book in my queue to be read and reviewed. I usually like to have maybe ten or twenty books so it is months or even weeks for the review to appear.

I’m going to work on getting my queue under control, but until I do that I won’t be accepting new books. It isn’t that they aren’t great books which deserve to be read. It’s just life. Editing pays, reviews don’t. I don’t want to sell ads because I want this site to be about your books. So check in, read the reviews as they get posted and I’ll let you know when I’m adding books to my queue again.

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Amazon and Reviews.

I have discovered that the vast majority of my reviews at Amazon have been taken down. Probably because I didn’t purchase the book through them, or their algorithm has decided there is too close a connection between author and reviewer. As a reviewer I am very upset, but I doubt Amazon is going to change the rules for me. As of now, I will no long post reviews on Amazon. You are still welcome to post all or part of my review as an ‘editorial review’ on your book.

I know that reviews on Amazon are important to you as an indie or small press author, but I have no intention of wasting my time posting something which never gets to the public eye.

Alex

 

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Little Golden Tree

Little Golden Tree

Deineke Henderson

This is a beautiful little book about a tree who loses it’s golden leaves to the wind. What will happen to it? The story line is easy for young listeners and readers to follow and it carries a message of hope, with a bit of humour too. The illustrations are the perfect balance to the story of the tree.

It is available on Amazon here.

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Timesnatched: Polestar

Timesnatched: Polestar

Barbara Boyle

Jack and Annie are just regular teenagers, Jack in the US and Annie in Britain. But a mysterious man in a blue coat snatches them to a future where a benevolent dictatorship claims to have cured all the ills of the world. The only price is freedom.

Jack and Annie are rescued by resistance fighters and learn that their future selves are essential to the resistance. General Graff, who had them kidnapped is snatching the younger versions of any who threaten the Federation.

The first task the young people have is to rescue their older selves from a bomb. We get to watch the characters grow and stretch in their new roles, and struggle with what it means if they don’t get back to their time to become who they are supposed to be.

There is everything you could want in an adventure story. The teens struggle to fill the shoes of their older selves and deal with a situation in a world changed drastically from what they knew. This is an enjoyable romp, and I will look forward to the next in the series.

You can buy the book here.

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