Friday, 18 June 2021

REVIEW - TOURNAMENTS OF THE THAW - THE THAW CHRONICLES BY TAMAR SLOAN & HEIDI CATHERINE

  

Title: Tournaments Of The Thaw
Series: The Thaw Chronicles
Author: Tamar Sloan & Heidi Catherine
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Climate-change Fiction
Release Date: 4th June 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
Four teens. Seven tournaments. One survivor.

The Outlands are a deadly place to grow up. In a world devastated by global warming, resources are scarce. Humanity and kindness are even scarcer. The struggle to survive is a deadly war. And a bitter one.

Because great riches lie just over the waters. There’s one place that has everything the Outlanders could ever want.

Askala.

But to seize power, they’ll need to unite the factions. And choose a leader. Only the strongest will succeed. The one person who can do what needs to be done—attack Askala and share in their riches.

The Tournaments are announced. Deadly games where there can be only one winner.

No one expects siblings to enter…let alone two sets of twins.

Lexis and Raze. Born to rule, trained to win.

Winter and Gray. Born to poverty, expected to lose.

In a world where survival comes first, there’s no room for mercy. Loyalty. Or love. And yet four teens are going to have to choose what matters most.

Let the Tournaments of Thaw begin. 

Goodreads Link

PURCHASE LINKS
Amazon US
Amazon UK

REVIEW
I have read and enjoyed every book in this series so far mostly centred around the people of Askala. I had previously read a prequel, but this prequel is now the beginning of this book rather than being separate book & novella. Having read the prequel I was looking forward to reading more about the Tournaments that were going to decide who would lead the Outlanders to battle against the Askalan people.

This one concentrates on the different tribes or people that exist in the Outlands. The people that try to survive in the Outlands are not as civilised and do not truly understand what the Askalan people are creating or how or they are trying to live the way they are doing. The Outlander’s thought process is they need to build an army to take what the Askalan people have cultivated to use for themselves. They think the Askalan people have an easy life and have a plethora of resources such as trees and plants to be used. The Outlanders think the Askalan people are wasting the trees and the assets on their island. This is why the current leader of The People Of Cy have organised and are hosting the Tournaments. Each different tribe/group of outlanders have travelled to represent themselves in this extremely important Tournament, whoever wins will become the leader of the Outlands and lead an army across the acidic ocean to take Askala from the Askalan’s.

A large ring has been made with five lines gouged out separating the small areas assigned to each group/tribe entering the Tournaments. Each group of people must provide their own food, water & shelter. They may also barter for what they need. Evrest stands in the ring stating what is to happen during the Tournament. He explains there will be seven rounds designed to test the skills and abilities of a future Commander. The only rule is that there are no rules! For the first round to end, someone must have been killed. Whoever makes that kill will be given immunity in the next Tournament. Whoever loses, by having one of their own killed will be excluded from the Tournament meaning the weakest group will not have to suffer more deaths. It soon becomes apparent that once round one is over there are only two options, to be killed and die, or kill others in order to survive and win!

The representatives from The People Of Cy are the offspring of their current leader Evrest who has trained his twins Lexi and Raze all their lives. Raze is mute, and he carves things in to wood. Raze’s world rotates around Lexis he always knows where she is. Without her nearby, the constant jittery feeling he has grows. It’s that clamped feeling he felt around his throat when he was child, stopping any words that wanted to say. When the feeling gets really bad, it hurts and it’s really hard for Raze to breathe or think. When Raze stays beside his sister Lexis, he is always ready to protect her, it keeps him focused, it keeps him calm. It’s surprising that the twins Lexis & Raze are so caring and emotionally attached to each other as they haven’t been shown much love, there were no hugs or shows of affection for them as they were growing up. The only kindnesses they remember from their younger days were that Ivor taught them to put stones in the broth to fool yourself into thinking the pot is full of broth to eat, which is more of a survival tactic than kindness really. The one form of human contact they had is when they were young and cold at night trying to sleep, Hester would lie by them to help to keep them warm. These twins have been treat as, and trained as warriors to be ready for this Tournament. There will be one victor in the ring at the end of the Tournament and in Evrest’s mind and those of his people expect it to be Lexis. Raze is to help his sister win the Tournament and be ready to lay his life down whilst protecting her and enabling her to win!

Then there’s the twins, Winter and Grey, they represent The People Of Fairbanks or “The Ghosts” as their opponents cruelly refer to them during one of the trials. Despite being the male twin Grey is the softer hearted, naïve and overly trusting. At the beginning it is Winter who is determined to enter the Tournaments, berating her brother saying why shouldn’t they enter they have as much right as everyone else. When Grey see’s his sister is determined to enter with or without him, he decides to tag along. Winter soon realises both her and her brother are way out of their depth and could well die during this Tournament, in fact according to the rules the victor is the last one standing, meaning one of the twins must die for the other to win! Winter tries to back out, but is told in no uncertain terms by Evrest that once a competitor has entered the ring they only leave when dead or as the last one standing. Anyone trying to sneak away and escape will be hunted down and killed by the many warriors Evrest has posted around the Tournament area.

The others competing are The People Of Never are used to travelling and are widely known as the nomads in the Outlands, they were the first to arrive to set up their camp at the side of the Tournaments ring. They are dangerous looking and wear tattered strips of fabric sewn together as clothes and each have a roughly made wooden weapon. Next are The People Of Rust who get their name from living by the blood-coloured ocean. They have light coloured hair too as it is bleached that way by the acidic sea. One of the “Rust People” seems to take a liking to Winter which whilst he seems harmless, Grey refers to him as “Rusty” and doesn’t trust him and by the end of the book certain things Rusty says and does seem to point at some hidden agenda relating to something maybe even larger and more important to him than the Tournament and his own people. Finally, the last tribe/group are The People Of Cragg who have travelled the furthest. These people are described as looking like they, are molded from the same stone that form the jagged hills of their home. Their leader is called Cragg and is tough, cold hearted and determined to be the winner of the Tournament.

The Tournaments are brutal, testing the strength of mind and body of each competitor as a group and as individuals. Though these individual Tournament Tests have been designed by Evrest leader of The People Of Cy, neither Lexis nor her brother Raze know what they are.

I really do not want to reveal any of the details of the particular test/trials and spoil the way they unfold within the plot but I have to say there are quite a few surprises about what the actual trials are and who seems to cope with them best. The Tournaments prove the ruthless, callous, violent nature of the people of the Outlands but it also reveals slivers of kindness and hope for a better way of life in the future. Evrest becomes more and more irate as the Tournament progresses and doesn’t go the way he wishes. Anyone who steps out of line faces his wrath and that usually means death!

We do get a little general background on these people taking part in the Tournaments as I have talked about further up in my review but there is more to learn about them in the rest of the book, over the course of the trials and perhaps for some of them (whoever survives) later in this series. It is interesting to see each tribe through the eyes of the other, tribes/groups. We mainly get to view the other tribes through the eyes of the People Of Cy, Lexi, Raze and Evrest and a little from the People Of Fairbanks, Winter & Gray. I enjoyed discovering the similarities between the two different sets of twins. Neither set of twins had great parents who bestowed any caring acts or love on them. Bothe sets of twins have determined kick-butt females, Lexis And Winter with the quieter, perhaps more soft hearted half of the twins being the males, Raze and Grey. Though the males come across quieter they are both fiercely protective over their twin sisters. Winter and Grey may appear to be the most naïve set of twins, in fact the most naïve and possibly ill prepared for their battle ahead. However, the trials don’t all consist of might over mind. Winter and Grey end up adopting a one round at a time approach. More of a battle to survive than a battle to kill and win.

It also becomes apparent as the book goes on that both sets of twins feel some sort of kinship to each other.I ’m sure you can tell I adored both sets of twins in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed hating the cruel character Evrest and after reading the ending of the book I am even more suspicious of what Rusty is really up to and what he is hoping to achieve.

I love the writing styles of Tamar and Heidi, they fit together so well, I loved the description of the Tournament ring that Evrest and his people made, it made it so easy to visualise. Lines gouged into the soil, making distinct areas for the tribes to stay in when not fighting in the ring. The really poignant and kind of poetic description of these areas comparing them to flower petals that surround the ring, the flower of death. The only thing I wasn’t overly keen on was the different groups of people being referred to as factions, it immediately made me think of Divergent, where as I suppose I could say the descriptions of different talents, habitats, and clothes the “groups of people” had, could remind me of Hunger Games but it didn’t as they were described and made different enough that I didn’t immediately think of it. I preferred to think of the different groups of people as tribes as I thought it felt more original and fitting to this series.

I have tried to set the scene without spoiling the reading experience for anyone. So much goes on in this book! Yes, there is the actual Tournament but then there’s the smaller off shoots and glances at the relationships between each set of twins. There’s the way Raze is resigned to his role in the Tournament, as his sister Lexis is, but then they begin to think about what has been ingrained in them as they have grown up together and trained. Does it really have to play out the way they have been told it will. Then there’s scenes in the book between Raze and Winter who are kind of thrown together at times when Grey is trying to secretly meet and impress Lexis. This book is about so much more than the fighting in the Tournament itself. It makes you realise that life can change and adapt, it doesn’t have to be what you have been told it should be. I could go on and on about this book, it’s a fantastic book in itself but having part of The Thaw Chronicles makes an already brilliant series amazing!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that I found that the ending was a little odd, and really has me wondering where this story will go next. I was sad to see the set of twins go their separate ways. It left me feeling a bit confused and a tiny bit disappointed too.

Summing up I love this world built by Tamar and Heidi and I am looking forward to more. Despite being the first book in The Tournaments of The Thaw it is bk 9 in the whole series and it answered a few questions and confirmed some inklings and theories I had. I don’t know what is going to happen next but I am eager to read more and find out. 


 


Wednesday, 16 June 2021

WISHLIST WEDNESDAY - ONE AUGUST NIGHT BY VICTORIA HISLOP

My Wishlist Wednesday book this week is
One August Night by Victoria Hislop
Beloved author Victoria Hislop returns to Crete in this long-anticipated sequel to her multi-million-copy Number One bestseller, The Island - the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. Be reunited with Anna,Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island...
 

Title: One August Night
Author: Victoria Hislop
Publisher: Headline
Genre: General Fiction
Release Date: 22 July 2021 

BLURB from Goodreads
5th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.

When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.

In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.

Goodreads Link

PURCHASE LINKS
Amazon US
Amazon UK


 


Sunday, 13 June 2021

SPOTLIGHT SUNDAY - THE VACATION BY JOHN MARRS

This weeks Spotlight Sunday choice is
The Vacation by John Marrs
Described as a compulsive holiday set thriller!
Title: The Vacation
Author: John Marrs
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: 24th June 2021

BLURB from Goodreads
How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…


PURCHASE LINKS
 

 
 

Friday, 11 June 2021

DOUBLE REVIEW - ANIMAL ATTRACTION & PRIMAL BONDS - WOLF HOLLOW SHIFTERS BY NIKKI JEFFORD

 

Title: Animal Attraction
Series: Wolf Hollow Shifters
Author: Nikki Jefford
Release Date: 25th May 2021


BLURB from Goodreads
Is love too great a risk in a cruel and dying world?

Rafael has never intended to settle down or take a mate. He knows firsthand how a mate bond can destroy a family. This world is too savage for love. He wants nothing to do with Hailey, the pureblooded female who arrives from Glenn Meadows. So what if she’s fearless, poised, and gorgeous? Not to mention that his wolf is on hers the moment they meet. Just because his brother changed their plans doesn’t mean he’ll stick around Wolf Hollow like a whipped dog. Too bad his furry half won’t let him flee.

Hailey had all but given up on ever finding a pureblooded male to continue her line. Too bad the one who shows up in neighboring Wolf Hollow is a complete and utter wretch. His wolf wants to mount hers while his human half rejects her—repeatedly. Message received. Why does he have to keep chasing her down, awakening dreams and desires long buried?

While their wolves get whatever this is out of their systems, Rafael and Hailey make a pact. The worldly nomad agrees to teach the sheltered she-wolf how to get by in the wild and become her own alpha rather than submit to her pack’s leader.

Once her survival skills are honed, Rafael will be on his way. But the animal in him won’t give in so easily, not until man and beast come together to claim Hailey as his mate.

Goodreads Link

PURCHASE LINKS
Amazon US
Amazon UK

REVIEW
I would say the male on the cover of this book is human side of Rafael, the single, traveller wolf who intends to stay single and continue to roam free where ever his wolf takes him. The book picks up where Moon Cursed left off. The two visitors Rafael and Diego are still in Wolf Hollow, Diego having met his true mate and Rafael despondent about his brother wishing to settle down and yet eager to leave and start roaming free again himself even if it means going it alone. Quite a bit of the book is also set in and around the Glenn Meadows pack, where news of the eligible single pureblood mates has come to the attention of former Alpha Jefferson and his mate Geraldine who are on the lookout for a pureblood male for their pureblood daughter Hailey. Aden has been sent from Wolf Hollow to invite Hailey to visit to see if she is compatible with Diego, unfortunately for Hailey Diego has already fallen for, and chosen his mate who lives in Wolf Hollow. By the time Hailey reaches Wolf Hollow the only available pureblood male is Rafael. Another problem that Hailey encounters is that Rafael in human form is not at all interested in a mate or settling down at all. However, when Rafael is being ruled by his four-legged self he can’t seem to resist Hailey and seems very eager to mate with her. Throughout the whole book Rafael is fighting internally between his human & wolf side. It is blatantly obvious to those from the Wolf Hollow Pack and the Glenn Meadows Pack that Rafael & Hailey would be perfect together, but Rafael is determined he will not give in to his animal side and when in human form is quite nasty, rather rude, and extremely off-standish with Hailey. Hailey has a difficult choice ahead of her, she can return to Gelnn Meadows and have the current Alpha Kamari who is quite a lot older than her claim her as his mate, or she can follow her urge to learn what is beyond Wolf Hollow & Glenn Meadows. Hailey eventually strikes a deal with Rafael, he will temporarily lead her new pack, consisting of some of her friends from Glenn Meadows, males Byron – her old fling, and Skeet, along with females Violet and Layla. They are also joined by Hudson from Wolf Hollow who feels he needs a change of pack and pace too. They set off and everything seems to be going well, they gel as a pack, they hunt and for the majority of the time they stay in animal form. Then when Hailey and Rafael change into human form and get closer than Rafael is comfortable with, it becomes apparent that the group need to part from him sooner rather than later. Despite Hailey feeling Rafael is the mate for her she is unwilling to hang around forever trying to change his mind. I think Hailey is thinking of the old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” as that is what ends up happening with Rafael trailing her and her pack. However, when he comes across a pack of dead humans his plans go awry when he discovers two young children are the only survivors of a Vulhena attack. Uncharacteristically for him Rafael becomes quite enchanted by the young humans, and just can’t bring himself to abandon them to their fate in the wild. Once Rafael has determined that Hailey and her pack safely passed the area where he can scent the vulhena he decides to escort 4 year old Coral and her even younger brother Eco back to the village they were travelling from. It turns out that their village has been taken over by werewolves, who are using the villagers as their personal slaves/servants. Rafael plans on leaving the children near the gates of the village and then going back to tracking Hailey. Things do not go to plan for Rafael as he ends up getting caught up in the problems of the village but it turns out help is on its way and just in the nick of time too. Whilst all this is going on Hailey and her pack end up in a few scrapes too, yet end up being rescued by other shifters that then follow Rafael’s trail to the village and they to are soon caught up in the drama unfolding there.

I’ll be honest, to begin with I did really dislike Rafael, in fact I wasn’t keen on him in Moon Cursed either. To me Rafael seemed an arrogant, ignorant pureblood who thought he could have whatever he wanted from Hailey in his animal form yet when in human form could treat her really badly and deny any feeling for her at all. However, as the book progresses you learn why Rafael is so dead set against having a mate and having a family. He saw what the humans did to his own mother, and he had to act much older than he was and protect himself and his brother Diego when his father abandoned them and walked to his death as he could not bear to be in a world without his mate in it. I ended up doing a full turn around and actually empathising with him and his reasons for not wanting to become emotionally attached to anyone.

I enjoyed meeting the new characters in this book, the villagers, Autumn the Aunt to Coral and Eco and her fellow villagers who are plotting to take back control of her village, despite another attempt failing and resulting in severe punishments for the villagers. I also loved the introduction of the other shape-shifters, I won’t spoil the “surprise” as to what type of shifter/animal they are but will say it proves not all shifter/animals can or should be tarred with the same brush!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that I truly adore these characters and am totally in love with the amazing world these stories are set in…… already looking forward to more!

Summing up, Animal Attraction is another great addition to the Wolf Hollow Series. This book and the novella Primal Bonds have me wondering what direction the series is going to go. Are we going to see more from the different species of shape-shifters? Or maybe some more from the villagers we met in Animal Attraction and whose story continued in Primal Bonds. I can see this series going in so many different directions and there are still some lose ends to tie up with the Wizards as well as plenty of relationships and mate bonds to catch up on, along with singleton shifters looking for mates. I should also add it doesn’t seem to make any difference how long I go in between reading the books in this series, they are so well written I easily slip in and out of the world expertly created by the author Nikki Jefford. I do normally only read wolf-shifter stories but this author has me opening up to reading about other types of shape-shifters too.

This novella Primal Bonds bk5.5 is a novella and comes as a bonus story
when you purchase Animal Attraction bk5 in the 
Wolf Hollow Shifters Series by Nikki Jefford.

Title: Primal Bonds
Series: Wolf Hollow Shifters
Author: Nikki Jefford
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic
               Paranormal, Fantasy, Shapeshifters

Release Date: 25th May 2021

BLURB supplied at the end of Animal Attraction book
Language, custom and ancestry forge impossible barriers between a woman and a bear shifter, but words cannot stand in the way when it comes to the language of the heart.

Kohana saved Autumn from a vicious werewolf attack. When he offers to claim her as his mate she is baffled. She's a human widow with two unruly boys. The mysterious and majestic Native bear shifter is chief of his tribe and the most gorgeous and she's ever seen. Surely he wants a young bride with her maidenhood intact.

Translating for his chief, Chester assures Autumn that she is the only female Kohana wants. he has witnessed her strength and position as a leader within her village. She has birthed two strong boys ad looks out for her people.

Autumn's settlement is still reeling in the wake of the werewolves' reign. If they are to protect themselves from future attacks they will need help from their new bear guardians. The villagers are eager to give the bear shifters a reason to stay, especially after learning there are more single males in the tribe interested in human wives. But before any of the bear shifters can court the village's women, they must first wait for their chie to claim a mate.

After a passionless marriage, Autumn struggles to make peace with the past and give in to her desires. Will her savage savior be her salvation?

REVIEW
This book is a free bonus story from the author that you can claim free via a link at the end of Animal Attraction at the time of me writing this review. The book picks up right after Animal Attraction finishes with the villagers, and shapeshifters healing and coming to terms with what has happened.

Autumn wakes up hearing her friend Blossom crying which she totally understands as she too is upset about the loss of their friend that made up their widow trio. Both Autumn and Blossom wish that their friend was still there with them but know she would not want to dwell on her loss. They need to think about the future for the village and for themselves. They are worried that the whole scenario with the werewolves could happen again and ideally, they want the bear shifters to stay close by. When Kohana, leader of the bear shifters approaches Autumn and asks her to be his she is at first shocked but when she thinks about the idea the more it seems like a perfect one. She doesn’t jump at the chance she tells Kohana via the bear shifter translator called Chester that she will think on the idea. The arrangement of Kohana and Autumn being together would also suit both the bear shifters as once their leader is mated the remaining single bear shifters can then approach those they wish to take as mates.

This novella goes more into detail about Autumn’s previous life in what you can only describe as a domestic abuse situation. Autumn’s first husband, Spruce, who was killed by the werewolves. Before the werewolves even arrived in the village Autumn was leading an unhappy life. To begin with Spruce had been attentive and fairly kind, then once they became married, he changed, he became both controlling and abusive. Autumn was glad to be freed from her marriage to him, though as a religious woman she would have never wished such a death on anybody.

Once Kohana takes his mate, it’s not long at all until the other bear shifters begin to woo the females in the village that have caught their eye. All is going fairly smoothly and well until a group of villagers that had locked themselves into a bunker away from the werewolves come out of their hiding place and begin to cause trouble.

I loved a lot of the characters in this novella but ones that really stick in my mind are of course Autumn, who looks like a tough, no nonsense woman afraid of nothing, but on the inside is still timid due to how she has been treat in the past. Autumn is brave and puts the safety and lives of others before her own. I adored how despite the language barrier Kohana took Autumns two unruly sons, who are quite ungrateful and disrespectful to their mother under his wing. Kohana takes the boys out hunting, teaches them how to make spears and shows them survival skills. I’ll be honest the two boy’s characters, Flint and Lynx both irritated me and they seemed beyond help, but as they learnt life skills and survival skills from Kohana their behaviours changed and I ended up quite liking them. Along the same age group I totally adored the bear shifter Nikiti, first being around the village as a cub and then with coaxing and being included with the village children he shifts into a boy and becomes really integrated with the villagers. Another point I would like to mention is the names of the characters and how they come from nature, such as Autumn, Storm, Rain, and Sterling etc.

I also enjoyed reading about the “vulhena” from different character points of view. The shape shifters view them as dangerous, wild scavengers and all the different shapeshifters seem to refer to them as vulhena. The human villagers call them werecats and at first cannot comprehend or even see a difference in them and any of the shifters, especially the werewolves who were ruling their village. It's difficult to say much more without revealing spoilers etc. so I can't really say anymore. 

Summing up, Primal Bonds is a great addition to the Wolf Hollow Shifters series.