Thursday 28 September 2023



Title: Sisters Under The Rising Sun
Heather Morris
Bonnier Books UK, Zaffre
General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Womens Fiction
Release Date:
28th September 2023

In the midst of WWII, an English musician, Norah Chambers, places her eight-year-old daughter Sally on a ship leaving Singapore, desperate to keep her safe as the island falls to the Japanese Army.

Australian nurse Nesta James has enlisted to tend to Allied troops. But as Japanese troops overrun the island she joins the terrified cargo of people, including the heartbroken Norah, crammed aboard the Vyner Brooke merchant ship. Only two days later, they are bombarded from the air off the coast of Indonesia, and in a matter of hours, the Vyner Brooke has sunk.

After surviving 24 hours in the sea, Nesta and Norah reach the beaches of a remote island, only to be captured and held in one of the notorious Japanese POW camps. The camps are places of starvation and brutality, where disease runs rampant.

But even here joy can be found, in music, where Norah's 'voice orchestra' has the power to transport the internees out of the squalor and into the light. Sisters in arms, Norah and Nesta devote themselves to the women's survival while discovering their own extraordinary reserves of courage, love and strength.

Goodreads Link

I have seen the different countries covers for this book and I love them all though my favourite has to be the UK one. I think it will do its job of drawing your eye yo it on a bookstore shelf perfectly. The only negative and it's my own personal pet peeve is the circular sticker/label/logo stating the book is by the same author who wrote The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

I need to mention the title of the book Sisters Under The Rising Sun, at first I thought 'Sisters' referred to the nuns, then thought it applicable to the nurses, by the end of the book I cam to realise it referred to all the women in the prison camp. They may have started out in their own groups, the nuns, he Dutch women, the native women, the nurses, the well off civilians, and the everyday civilians but they all ended up 'sisters' surviving together. Their very lives depending on the support from each other.

The book is set in the midst of WWII, Norah is an English woman who finds her only option to possibly secure the safety of her eight-year-old daughter Sally before Singapore falls under the Japanese army control is to place her in the arms of her older sister Barabara and send on a ship leaving Singapore. Norah promises little Sally that once her father John is able to leave hospital they will get on a boat and come straight for her.
Days later Norah, her husband John, who is still weak from suffering from typhus find themselves boarding a ship, the Vyner Brooke to flee Singapoore with her reluctant sister Ena who is leaving her husband Ken to care for their elderly parents. Also reluctantly leaving and boarding the Vyner Brooke are Australian nurses, amongst them Nesta James. After one last appeal to stay to care for the injured Allied soldiers in the hospital Nesta and her nurse colleagues are ordered to board the ship. The ship is crammed full and conditions are poor but the Australian nurses tend to anyone they feel they can help be they injured or just scared.
Just two days later, they are bombarded from the air off the coast of Indonesia. The order to abandon ship is given and once again it's the Australian nurses that jump into action helping people leave the ship. Once everyone has abandoned ship it's not long until the Vyner Brooke has sunk.
Different groups of survivors make their way to land by whatever means they can, holding onto each other or debris from the ship. There are the many different tales of how the Vyner Brooke survivors managed to get to shore, for example
Norah, Ena, John & little a 5 yr old June who has lost her mummy but has rapidly become attached to Ena. They end up briefly rescued by the RAF in a speedboat but are swiftly dropped at shore and handed over to and now at the mercy of the Japanese.

Once on land the different groups soon find themselves either handed over or captured by the Japanese. Initially men and women are together in there family/friend groups. Others have lost family either temporarily or permanently and are making new connections with those around them. They are all marched to the first of many camps where they meet other survivors who are now also prisoners at the mercy of the Japanese. Upon arrival at the camp the huts are allocated, with the Australian Nurses kept together but in different huts to the other survivors. At the camp though the men and women are separated they freely mix with each other during the day. Some of nurses explore the compound & return with the information that theres a dormitory that's suitable to be used as a hospital and has some Doctors already there. The nurses have of course immediately volunteered for duty there. One of the Doctors volunteers to speak to the Japanese soldiers about food, water & medical supplies.
Two women, Margaret Dryburgh and Mrs Hinch who were already at the first camp were already in the positions of 'command' and had the dubious and dangerous task of being I intermediaries between the women and the Male Ah Fat Japanese male who was to be the one who acted as interpreter between the women and the various camp commandants. It is Margaret Dryburgh who sorts those that were shipwrecked with suitable clothing.
Soon enough the men and women are sent to different camps, the heart break of being separated from loved ones only adding to the harsh reality of being prisoners of war and no longer in charge of their own lives. The women soon find theres little else they can do but to find ways yo get on with it. If that means carrying buckets of water from a nearby stream or growing vegestables when allowed go do so by the commander, then the women do it. Of course all the camps were places of starvation, brutality as well as death from disease. Complaints are met with violence, one day you are allowed to grow food and eat it, another day you can grow the food but it is for the soldiers and another day you aren't allowed to grow anything. Punishments were harsh, such as being forced to stand all day in the blazing sun, food taken from the whole camp, in fact a beating was a lesser punishment on some occasions.These women were living life by the whim of whichever commander was in charge of the camp they were in. It's no surprise morale was seriously low and that when Norah, a trained musician came up with the idea to create a voice orchestra. Not only did it give the women who wished to be part of it something to do, something to enjoy and look forward to, it also lifted the morale of all the other women too.

Though I confess to knowing very little the little bit I knew about Japanese Prisoner of War Camps it was based on the views of people older than myself, a partial episode of Tenko I watched many years ago, and perhaps a brief reference in books I have read. This is one aspect of World War 2 that is not taught, spoken or in my experience even referred to at school. I went through a whole range of emotions and feelings reading the book. There was the horror and disgust at how the women had to survive, from a heart wrenching revelation of few of the Australian nurses sacrificing their bodies for the 'use' of the Japanese soldiers for greater good of the many, as if no one stepped forward the whole camp would be starved to death. Then the dirt, squalor and uncertainty the women existed in. I think the voice orchestra provided not only something to pass time but something to nurture hope, an outlet for some defiance singing anthems including Land of Hope and Glory as well as evidence there was still some beauty left in the world.
Throughout the book different characters notice that close up most of the Japanese soldiers look like frightened boys, however though this suggests a human perhaps softer side they are quick to jump to attention and carry out orders, as well as regularly beating the prisoners. The way the soldiers and even the commander enjoys the women’s music and concerts also suggests a softer, homesick, civilian side to the Japanese soldiers. I think the women humanised the Japanese guards by giving them nicknames, such as grumpy to one who became incensed if he ever saw any of the women wearing lipstick! Or seedling, for the guard who brought the seeds, and seedlings for the women to plant in the vegetable patch that they were sometimes allowed to use produce from.
Another scene in the book is when Ah Fat becomes upset at the death of one of the women which gives you mixed feelings as on one hand you think oh he has got a heart but then on the other hand you are thinking perhaps he could have prevented her death or at least eased the women’s living conditions.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were, that the book was amazing, so moving, and strangely interesting how the book says the women seemed to fair better than the men. A fantastic story telling of a group of women who bonded and banded together in unimaginable situations and conditions. How they lifted each other, gave each other hope and love. Not forgetting how brave they were to face every uncertain day.

Summing up, another must read book from Heather Morris based on true events that happened during WW2 an awful time in history. This time it is the story of those who find themselves in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp. Sisters Under The Rising Sun is an a story of the amazing bravery, friendship and resilience people seem to find and hold onto in the very deepest darkest of circumstances. Though this book is a fantastic read it should never be forgotten these were real people, some survived and came home to continue their lives, others never made it home from the camps.




Tuesday 26 September 2023



Title: The Novelist From Berlin
V.S. Alexander
Kensington Books
Historical Fiction
Release Date:
26th September 2023

An engrossing novel inspired by the mysterious true story of Irmgard Keun, a female novelist who defied all the rules during Berlin’s volcanic post-WWI years, as a young German writer exiled for her ideas flees her country and her Nazi-supporting husband, fighting for her art, her life, and her child.

1920s Germany: Though the world has changed in the wake of the Great War, it is still ruled by men. Even a woman as resourceful and intelligent as Niki Rittenhaus needs alliances in order to survive. Her marriage to Rickard Länger, a movie producer for Berlin’s Passport Pictures, seems convenient for them both. When Rickard succumbs to increasing pressure from the Nazis to make propaganda movies, a horrified Niki turns away from her own film aspirations and instead, begins to write.

Niki’s first novel, The Berlin Woman, is published under a pseudonym to great success. But Niki knows she cannot stay anonymous for long. The Nazis are cementing their power over Germany—and over her husband. Though she succeeds in escaping Rickard, he directs Hitler’s Brownshirts to do the unthinkable: kidnap their daughter. With her books blacklisted, her life in danger, and Europe descending into war, Niki travels to Amsterdam, joins the Dutch Resistance, and then returns to war-torn Berlin determined to claim freedom for herself and her child, and to write her own story at last. 

Goodreads Link

I think the cover fits the book well & along with the title would have me picking the book up from a store shelf to learn more!

The main character is Marie or Niki as her best friend Lottie names her, saying it is more fitting for the modern woman Marie wishes to be. Marie/Niki regularly frequents a local bar with best friend Lottie soon becoming firm friends with bartender Rudi. Marie/Niki considers herself a new modern German woman who doesn't need marriage and children to fulfill her, she wants more, a single, free life. Marie/Niki enjoys the single life, flirting and if she chooses sleeping with whom she pleases. Her mother Frieda is not so impressed with the life her daughter is leading, waiting for what she sees as the inevitable day she will return home single, shamed and pregnant! Though Frieda & Marie/Niki don't have what you would say a close relationship they are there for each other and offer each other support when most needed. Lottie is the other constant friend in Marie/Niki's world.

It's whilst at the bar a man, Rikard Langer, a movie producer catches Marie/Niki's eye and attention and she asks the bartender Rudi to call her the next time Rikard is in the bar. One thing leads to another and Marie/Niki end up in first an arrangement of convenience, living together, then a relationship, and finally becoming husband & wife.
Now relatively comfortably off Marie/Niki begins to write, something she has always wanted to do. At first Rikard unconditionally supports her, but then urges her to be cautious as the Nazis will not like her books as the women in them do not conform to that of a 'Good Nazis German Wife & Mother'
At the same time their happy life and potential future is interrupted by Adolf Hitler, the mad man who wants power and hates Jews.
When Marie/Niki's books are banned & burned by the Nazis she knows she is in danger and with Rickard being coerced into making films for the Third Reich and becoming more and more drawn into 'party politics' it's too much uncertainty and danger for Marie/Niki. Despite Marie begging him to leave, Rikard believes he knows better that everything will soon be over and that Hitler will not gain the power he seeks. Marie/Niki leaves with their daughter. However Rickard has already lost a son to a previous broken marriage and is determined not to lose his daughter, so with his friends in high places in the ever gaining strengthened Nazis he takes his daughter back and Marie/Niki is warned to stay away.

Marie/Niki briefly finds happiness with a Jewish man Emil, even escaping Berlin, living with him and his Uncle, joining a small resistance group when once again the Nazis come for the Jewish population. When Emil and his Uncle disappear, probably to a work camp, then extermination camp and the Nazis becoming stronger danger is round every corner. Marie/Niki finds herself back in Berlin searching for a glimpse of her daughter, back in contact with her mother Frieda and best friend Lottie.

Even when the Nazis are defeated the war is not over for Marie/Niki, having to live with different factions ruling different parts of Berlin and Germany. Marie/Niki once again does what she has to in order to survive, trading information with those who some would consider the enemy. Finally Marie/Niki finds her daughter pregnant and trapped in an abusive marriage, being trapped along with Lottie and her family on the 'wrong side' of the Berlin Wall.

This is a mixed difficult review. I honestly disliked the main character at first, Marie seemed somewhat cold and self centred at times. I just didn't take to Marie/Niki at all but as time went on and you got to know her more and what she went through was revealed I couldn't help but warm to her. In the end I didn't want her story to end I wanted a better outcome for her, different to the one she ended up with. I really wanted her to find a happy ever after, which I know in her own way she says she does. Marie/Niki definitely lived many different lives during her lifetime, from single modern German woman, to lover & actress, the wife & mother. Marie/Niki also played her part in smaller acts of Defiance against first the Nazis then the Stasi. You could say Marie learns to use men to get what she wants and where she wants to be but it's not without costs to herself and some major losses along the way. I found myself asking how much more can this woman take many times during the book especially when she was separated from her young child by the Nazis and her then husband who went along with the Nazis for a quiet life but found himself drawn in deeper and deeper making propaganda films for them.
Throughout the book Marie/Niki always has her friend Lottie and her mother Frieda as constant support whenever she needs them. There's some seriously sad scenes, one in particular between Rickard and Marie, making you wonder if the Nazis had never got control if their life would have been different, a happier ending. Then the devastating endings for some of the characters.

Favourite characters were Lottie always there to help her friend Marie/Niki, and Emil who knew his precious time with Marie/Niki was limited because of the Nazis threat.

I enjoyed reading about the acts of Defiance the Jewish and some German people were brave enough to carry out, from printing & distributing leaflets, to courting & killing Nazis, to digging a tunnel under the Berlin wall to escape to the other side. They all added up to making this book a realistic, intriguing and at times edge of your seat read! In the end I didn't want Marie/Niki's story to end I wanted a better outcome for her, different to the one she ended up with.

Summing up, though initially a bit of a slow burner I really enjoyed reading this book. Then to find out it was loosely based on a real German woman made it all the more poignant and interesting!


Thursday 21 September 2023



Title: The Treatment
Sarah Moorhead
General Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Speculative Fiction
Release Date:
31st August 2023

The future of law enforcement has arrived, courtesy of private health contractor Janus Justice. Their ground-breaking ‘Offender Treatment Programme’ has been hailed as the most effective way of tackling crime yet.

As offenders move through the four-tiered system, their needs are dealt with, each tier more drastic in its methods:

Tier One: Low-risk crimes. Physical therapy encouraged

Tier Two: Trauma and addiction. Emotional and psychological reasons for offending are examined

Tier Three: Aversion therapy & moral punishment

Tier Four: Siberia, where all hope is lost

But Grace Gunnarsson, one of Janus’ most highly regarded rehabilitation psychiatrists, has uncovered a terrible flaw in the system, one that is allowing people to get away with murder...

Goodreads Link

The first thing that drew my attention to this book was the bright striking cover, with its waves and of course the eye. We later learn in the book that the waves are in fact brain waves. The byline of an 'an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind' fits with the book really well.

Dr Grace Gunnarsson has come a long, long way, so far successfully burying her past life where she was in prison with her mother, then when she lived with mothers best friend & prostitute Lottie & her son Remy. Remy is both brother and protector to Grace, they have a deep bond, and there is nothing they won't do for each other. Then when Lottie died Remy and Grace ended up choosing different paths in life, despite Grace's efforts to take Remy into her new life at university.

Some would say Grace has 'gone up in the world' and we all know the saying 'the higher they go the further they have to fall.' Grace is equally protective & secretive about this time in her life.
In the present day, Grace Gunnarsson is a highly respected and successful psychiatrist who works for Janus Justice and is married to Dan Gunnarsson yet he nows nothing of her early life. Dan is a reporter for the well known, News Flex. Dan is desperate for his big break story, and is like a dog with a bone where Janus Justice is concerned, he is determined to get the inside story.

Grace works for the somewhat controversial Janus Justice Rehabilitation centre who operate the new highly debated Tier System of punishment. The Tier system becomes harsher depending on the tier. Tier 3 is Aversion Therapy and is quite literally a dose of whatever they did wrong done to them!! The guilty person is drugged and made to witness their crime from the point of view of the victim, in the hope they never commit such a crime again. Grace isn't fully comfortable with Tier 3 and usually manages to easily avoid it, she works on Tiers 1 & 2 but when the usual psychiatrist Myriam is off sick her boss Conrad coerces Grace into 'just helping out' with the argument of 'all hands on deck' etc. Grace soon finds out that the Tier System has another level Tier 4 that is the chillingly torturous and drastic 'answer' for when nothing else works to stop the criminal reoffending.

Grace is needed to oversee the treatment of repeat offender Noah Begbroke. Noah has already been through Tier's 1 & 2 which are based on the criminals circumstances & biology Tier 3 is a more proactive treatment based on the criminals morality. Grace had assessed Noah Begbroke on Tier 1 & 2 but found there was no chemical imbalance, childhood trauma, or mental health issue - absolutely nothing that could explain his actions.
Grace watches as Noah is sedated, given drugs and the atmospheric & emotisonics, until when asked Noah says his name is that of his victim/ex girlfriend Corrinna Saunders. The crime is played out on a screen in front if Noah. Grace is not wholly comfortable with this type of therapy but she will endure this just once then take the matter of her having to be involved up with her boss Conrad again. Grace looks at the fresh Tier 3 tattoo on Noah - an image of Janus the two headed Roman God one face looking at the past the other at the future & then the number 3 in the middle. The ink that does eventually fade with time, though the worse the crime committed, the deeper the tattoo is and the longer it will last and be there for all to see.
Grace notes that Noah Begbroke is now experiencing the crime/his violence towards Corrinna as if he is her. At first he sees himself as Corrinna as her beautiful self before his attack on her then Abigail the 'effects operative' turns up the heat, the crackling of fire, even the smell of burning flesh so Noah can really experience the attack himself as Corrinna, his victim. Grace physically gags & Abigail grabs her arm digging her nails in deep in an attempt to support her but Grace can't take anymore and flees from the treatment room, but on the way past the window she sees the burnt, scarred misshapen hands and burnt face of the once beautiful Corrinna Saunders who has been watching Noah Begbroke receive his 'taste of his own medicine' Aversion Therapy.
When Grace comes out of the bathroom from being sick she finds an apologetic Conrad waiting for her. He takes her to his opulent, physical bound books - rare as paper is so expensive, thr wood panelling even though wood is extremely expensive, an effort to be more environmentally conscious. Grace stares at the brass statue of a horse racing (which is now banned) horse, Conrad brags his family had a stud farm, that's where he got the money to start Janus Justice in the US. Then the UK became interested in the Janus Justice concept. Conrad jokes that the US liked the UK NHS and the UK liked the US Janus Justice system/prisoner rehab. So Conrad built the hospitals & clinics and rents them back to the UK. Conrad finds it amusing that he is earning really big money this way.
Conrad then discusses Grace's work record. commending her on her great Tier 1 and her promotion to Tier 2 in just 18 months. Conrad commends her on her work developing new drugs then brings up the subject of her psychometric test, everyone undergoes them on a monthly basis.
This testing is part of the whole 'living transparently,' no one has real privacy anymore.
Grace uses these same tests to help find out what has caused her 'clients' to act in the way they have.
However, Grace knows exactly how to tailor her responses to the test questions, she even cleverly throws in a 'rogue' answer here and there so her almost perfect answers do not raise suspicions.
It's clear Conrad wants even more from Grace which she is initially dead set against until it turns out the records access and extra freedom within the company is something she desperately needs if she is to help someone from her past that she still dearly loves, the man she feels owes so much, Remy. Remy is destined for Tier 4 if Grace can't come up with an alternative treatment to help him fast!

Grace isnt just under intense pressure at work as her husband, Dan is speaking to victims who have witnessed/observed their attackers have Aversion Therapy to see if it has helped them or traumatised them further when seeing a mock up/recreation of what happened to them & the eye for eye justice doled out by Janus. Dan continually pesters Grace for information numerous time each with increasing pressure, 8n fact he is becoming quite demanding, but Grace takes her work confidentiality very serious and refuses to give him the insider information he desperately wants. Grace tries to reason with Dan that if she gives him any information let alone the details he is asking for she would be sacked and possibly prosecuted too! Dan's response is for her to give him enough information for one big story then he would hit the big time and earn enough to keep them both. Dan wants Grace to give up her job, stay home and have babies, make family her priority as opposed to her career. Unfortunately Grace has something she hasn't told Dan about herself & babies, another secret!

All whilst this is going there are groups of vigilantes enacting what they see as just punishment on offenders. It's one such group, the 'Diros' that Remy used to work with but when they started to go 'too far' in his opinion he left. The only problem is no one gets to just leave this group. The ex army leader takes anyone leaving personal and has the that attitude they are 'with him, or against him' so anyone leaving the group usually find themselves meeting a gruesome end or being set up for a crime they did not commit. When Remy finds out he is being set up he reaches out to Grace, or as he called he all those years ago Gracie. With his old gang and the authorities after him he asks Grace for her help. Grace needs to speak to someone about her past and she confides in Shannon one of the Tier 2 agragarian compound managers. It's with Shannon, and her boyfriend Shuggie who is a compound inmate, that Grace comes up with a final desperate plan, but will it work and with weapons involved will everyone get out alive?

Characters I immediately adored were Grace, Remy, Lottie, Shannon, Shuggie and George. Characters I instantly took a disliking to were Conrad, Abigail and weirdly Dan!

There's so much going on in this book, from the justice system to the baby screening for the violent gene, then there's the details of the torturous Tier 4. I feel theres so much I have missed out in my review. I thoroughly enjoyed and quickly became drawn into to the brilliantly meticulously detailed, and so well thought out world building of this book. The stark themes of an eye for an eye, deaths too good for them, a taste of their own medicine, cruel to be kind, so familiar in the real world and how many times have we said them, perhaps without even thinking what it would mean to live by them. Then there was the other side of the argument that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind element, which I personally really want to say totally believe and agree with but in the real, flawed world I find I can't fully get on board with, theres always that niggle of they should have it done to them and see how they feel thoughts.

It would have been interesting to hear the point of view of the victims watching their attackers undergo the aversion therapy, for example Corrinna Sanders, did she feel anything watching Noah Begbroke think he was being burnt as he had done to her.

The ending is a bit sad really. Nearing the ending of the book amid the 'last stand' against Diros theres the loss of a couple of characters, particularly one I had really become attached to. I really wanted that happy ever after together for Grace & Remy and Shannon & Shuggie.The only thing that still has me pondering a little is I didn't really get the significance of Grace putting the Funland keyring containing the photo of herself & Remy as youngsters in, into Abigails hand??

Summing up this book has amazing world building, a brilliant meticulously detailed penal system, with characters you quickly became attached to and really cared about. The book and its intriguing world and plot really had me on the edge of my seat and at one point shouting in my head 'How could you Grace!' So yes you really get pulled into the characters dynamics and their relationships. DI would definitely add this one to my favourite speculative fiction reads such as, The Sentence by Christina Dalcher, The Marriage Act by John Marrs and Overdrawn by NJ Crosskey. Speculative fiction is certainly one on my favourite genres to read and this book was wow! Definitely recommend reading!



Tuesday 19 September 2023


Title: The Complete Book Of Birthdays
Clare Gibson
Quarto Publishing, Wellfleet Press
Health, Mind & Body, Religion & Spirituality
Release Date:
19th September 2023

BLURB from Goodreads
Discover the secret to exactly who you are based on the unique combination of astrology and psychology.

Did you know that your birthday can reveal surprising details about your personality, relationships, and health ? The Complete Book of Birthdays - Gift Edition —featuring dazzling new cover art and a more portable and accessible format —is a compelling, easy-to-use reference book that gives you insight into your birthday profile and shows you how to maximize your career goals, love life, and health.

Each day of the year comes with a complete, in-depth personality profile that, when partnered with your astrological sign, creates shockingly accurate results. After a review of the history and principles of astrology , find separate profiles for each sign of the zodiac and a page for each day of the year with a detailed discussion of the character traits of people born on that day. Each birthday page also

Learn all about yourself and your unique strengths, then turn the pages and find out the secrets of your friends, family, and colleagues .

The Complete Book of Birthdays - Gift Edition is the perfect for gift for any occasion, including, of course, birthdays!

The cover is a nice purple shade, very mystical feel. I would probably pick it up from a book store shelf.

The book goes into depth about the historical origins and how all the different elements come together to make your very own unique individual horoscope. It contains sections on Chinese astrology and then the history of the four elements.

Then there’s the Days of the year sections which starts 21 March Aries - then lists the Ruling planets, the Elements, the Symbols, the Polarity, the Colours, Physical Correspondence, Stones, Flowers

Then the book goes day by day listing, planetary influences, virtues, vices, suggested ideal careers, the corresponding skills & aptitudes, famous births within each horoscope, and who you are most compatible with.

I have to say that this book isn’t what I would call a light read though it is interesting I have read quite a bit of the information before in other books. I would say I enjoyed skipping to different sections and dipping in and out, reading the horoscopes that were relevant to me and all they entailed. The format is done in an easy enough to read way but at times I felt like it was a tad laborious at times I felt like I just wanted it to get to the point.

I read this as an ebook but I think the reading experience would be improved by reading the actual physical book making it easier to flick back and forth.

Summing up, it was an interesting, fun read. Would make a cute stocking filler gift.


Tuesday 12 September 2023



Title: Mate To Curves Book One
D.V. Fischer
Paranormal, Romance, Fantasy
Release Date:
31st August 2023

BLURB from Goodreads
All shifters are pack-less. A few well-snapped photos and a crazy and persistent journalist later, packs no longer exist. It’s to keep their race alive, but shifters like Avani have to get out their aggression somewhere. She’s an alpha with something to prove, and even though she can’t lead a pack, she can still be the best fighter at the nearest shifter underground fight club. What she wasn’t expecting was to find that her mate owned it.

Goodreads Link

In this shifter world there are no packs anymore. It's a difficult decision made to keep the existence and freedom of shifters. However there are still humans/people lurking on the outskirts of the shifter world intent on proving they exist and wanting to reveal them to everyone in the world, wanting to put an end to the species altogether, one such man is reporter Gary Spelling, obviously detested by the shifter population.
All this keeping under the radar leaves shifters, particularly Alpha's a need to burn off energy. No longer able to shift and run in packs, or even live in packs they need an alternative.
Cade former Alpha of the Glacier Mountain Pack provides a suitable option, an underground fighting club. Though Cade used to take part in the fights in the early days of the club now he just sits at the bar talking with sometimes bartender Cruz. Cade watches the room and is around to handle the general arguments that take place in a bar as well as any fighting that overspills from the ring.
The rules of the ring are, well just one rule no shifting at all, not even partially! The shifters fight in human form until one is literally knocked out or taps out. There's a healer, Aaron on hand to help with injuries as even shifters need help sometimes after a fight in the ring!!

When Avani walks in she notes she smells like blood sweat & tears, three of her favourite things! Avani is an Alpha and refuses to conform to a human job so she fights in clubs like this for money. Avani is at this club as she had to move on from her last one as it had got to the stage where no shifter wanted to fight her. Avani fought well and was used to winning, unfortunately a new club means opponents she hasn't had a chance to see fight or work out their weaknesses. Its finally Avani's turn to fight, her opponent is built like a house and called Kye. Kye wins the fight leaving Avani making her way to the bar to drink something strong to anaesthetise some of her pain. That's where Cade finds himself drawn to her and when she eventually returns his gaze on his Alpha command he immediately knows she is his mate. Avani wants nothing to do with a mate bond and the potential issues it could draw to them but Cade appeals to the fighter/earner in Avani saying if she comes back the following day he will show her why she lost the fight to Kye and more importantly how to beat him in the next fight.
Avani coerces her friend and fellow shifter Joyce to go to the fight club the next evening. It seems the mate bond is not on board with the whole single shifters, no packs rule as it's not long before Joyce finds herself locking eyes with her own mate.

With Cade & Avani together and Joyce locking eyes with her mate you might think theres going to be a straight forward happy ending, the one and only Gary Spelling pops up complete with camera at a rather unfortunate moment capturing Avani as her shifter.

This is a really good plot that I can see and hope is built on to create a nice lengthy shifter series. Theres certainly some steamy adult scenes within but it's all within the book storyline.

Summing up Wow! This is a great steamy start to a potentially sizzler of a series, loved it! When can I read more? 


Friday 1 September 2023



A smart, modern Rom-Com about a witch banished from her coven who seeks help from the only person who can prove she’s not a threat to witchkind
—her annoyingly immortal childhood crush.
Title: Big Little Spells
Author: Hazel Beck
Publisher: Graydon House
Release Date: 29th August 2023

BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade Publishing
Rebekah Wilde was eighteen when she left St. Cyprian, officially stripped of her magic and banished from her home. Ten years later she’s forced to return to face the Joywood Coven, who preside over not just her hometown, but the whole magical world.

The Joywood are determined to prove Rebekah is a danger to witchkind, and she faces a death sentence if she can’t prove otherwise. Rebekah must seek help from the only one who knows how to stop the Joywood—the ruthless immortal Nicholas Frost. Years ago, he was her secret tutor in magic, and her secret, impossible crush. But the icy and frustratingly handsome immortal is as remote and arrogant as ever, and if he feels anything for Rebekah—or witchkind—it’s impossible to tell.

Now, she’s no longer a child…and this time what sparks between Nicholas and Rebekah is more than just magic…

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HAZEL BECK is the magical partnership of a river witch and an earth witch. Together, they have collected two husbands, three familiars, two children, five degrees, and written around 200 books. As one, their books will delight with breathtaking magic, emotional romance, and stories of witches you won’t soon forget. Find them at

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 Chapter One

You don’t have to be an exiled witch under threat of the death penalty should you cast the faintest little spell to feel the magic in Sedona, Arizona.

But it doesn’t hurt.

The full moon is shining, high and bright, making the red rocks glow outside my little bungalow. The air is soft and dry instead of swollen with Missouri’s trademark humidity, which I’m not sorry to leave behind.

If it was up to me, I would never have gone back to Mis­souri at all.

Because one thing exile has taught me is that magic is as much a habit as anything else. Unnecessary at best. Danger­ous at worst. An addiction, in other words.

These days I am all about recovery.

Except for tonight. Tonight, admittedly, has been a bit of a relapse.

I breathe out and try to blow away the past while I do.

I’m standing out in my little yard, my head tipped toward the Arizona sky and my shoes kicked off so I can feel the earth and as many vortexes as possible. Because I’m a hippie, I tell myself. Just a run-of-the-mill Sedona hippie. Hair down, feet bare, crystals hanging all around like every other New Ager around here.

Not magic, just vibes.

But before I manage to fully ground myself here, I feel something grab me, like a huge, magical hook around the center of me—but inside out. It’s dark. Hard. Kind of slimy, really—and it makes my stomach heave.

This particular magical tug is a summons, yanking me out of the life I fought so hard to build, all on my own. Not for the first time.

Not even for the first time tonight.

Though this summons is harsher than the one before. Meaner.

I know instantly it’s not him.

Because he yanked me back to St. Cyprian too, but it didn’t hurt when he did it. It’s not supposed to hurt at all, and he made it feel almost good

But I stop thinking about the maddeningly beautiful, im­possible immortal witch who ruined my life once already, and start worrying about me.

There’s only one reason for me to be dragged back home against my will. And it’s been a long night already. My sister, Emerson, who I haven’t seen in person in a decade, formed her very own coven made up of our closest friends and one ob­noxious immortal. Then, together, we all fought off a major, magic-induced flood that would have submerged the town of St. Cyprian and most of Missouri.

The final jerk makes Sedona disappear into a blur of red, then there’s a whooshing sensation while whispered words fill the air around me.

Rebekah Wilde, come before us, the voices command me.

And I’m back.

Right where I don’t want to be.

I’m standing outside a farmhouse across the river from my hometown. And instead of the terrifying wave of water and my sister ready to dive into the middle of it all like the first time I showed up here tonight, the river has settled down. The fight is over.

Or…maybe it’s only just begun.

Because a quick glance around shows me that Emerson is standing outside in the cool April night, looking like the fierce Warrior she is, her eyes blazing gold with all her newly redis­covered power. Jacob North, our old friend and a Healer—and, I think, my sister’s new love—stands with her and doesn’t look any worse for the intense healing he did when we came much too close to losing Emerson earlier.

Behind them is Zander Rivers, my cousin, looking un­characteristically grim for a guy who used to make the role he was born into—a Guardian—seem a lot more fun than the name suggests. Next to him is Georgie Pendell, Emerson’s best friend, whose entire family has been witch Historians—and actual historians who run the town’s local-interest museum—as long as anyone can remember. And last but never least, El­lowyn Good. My best friend. And also the Summoner who helped Emerson contact me once Emerson remembered she was a witch, despite the Joywood spell that took those magic memories away from her for ten whole years.

Across from them stand all the members of the Joywood, the ruling coven based here in my hometown of St. Cyprian, MO. The authoritarian, bullying, small-minded coven that cheated me out of the life I was supposed to have.

Seven dictatorial witches I had no intention of laying eyes on again.

I feel a rush of a very old, too-dark fury inside me—but stop myself. It’s practically a reflex at this point. I don’t do outsize emotion or high drama anymore. I don’t do dark. That would lead directly to my death, and I’ve always been pretty clear about wanting to stay alive.

If I hadn’t wanted to live—my life on my terms—I would have stayed here. I would have let these petty Joywood tyrants wipe my mind the way they wiped my sister’s, taking away any hint of ever knowing magic.

I tell myself that I’ve forgiven them. I chant it inside me, not like one of the spells forbidden to me, but like a mantra. They were only doing their jobs, following their laws, as stu­pid as those laws might be. I forgive them because forgive­ness is mine to give. I don’t need to carry the bitter taste of St. Cyprian and its ruling coven with me. I chose to leave all of this behind. I still choose it.

Something—not quite a shadow—moves in my peripheral vision, and I see him too. Nicholas Frost, the one and only immortal witch. Some people call him a traitor.

I call him all kinds of things and unlike most, have done it to his face. But now is not the time to air all my oldest grudges.

His gaze from halfway across a field makes everything in­side me…change. Not so much that dangerous black fury any longer. This is something else. A different kind of heat.

I don’t want to acknowledge it. Or him. Especially not with this audience.

Even if, for a moment, it feels as if the two of us are all alone here.

I have to remind myself that we’re not.

I forgive you, I think at him, in my smuggest internal voice. The best of a decade of recovery programs right there. And even though I can’t—won’t—use a witch’s usual telepathic version of conversation, I suspect he hears me anyway. Be­cause his dark blue eyes gleam.

From all the way across the tall grass.

“Rebekah Wilde,” booms a voice I recognize entirely too well, even though I haven’t heard it in a decade. Carol Simon, the Joywood coven’s Warrior and therefore the leader of…ev­erything involving witches the world over.

I force myself to look at her, hopefully without my feelings all over my face, and decide that teenage me was right. Her frizzy hair really is unforgivable.

“You have been summoned here, to the site of your infrac­tion, to answer for your offense,” she intones.

I finally take note of the fact that she and her cronies hauled me into this field, but not into the group of my friends and family who also infracted tonight. I’m standing halfway be­tween them and the Joywood. As tempting as it is to think that’s just carelessness, I know better.

They don’t do careless.

I slouch where I stand, because even being across the river from my hometown makes me want to behave like the sulky teenager I was when I lived here. That’s what Carol and her buddies likely see anyway, so why not live down to their worst expectations? I’ve always been excellent at that.

I lock eyes with Felicia Ipswitch, the Joywood’s Diviner and my personal nemesis, and smirk a little. And just like that, it might as well be tenth grade when Felicia was the high school principal and I was a problem. A problem she thought she could solve with draconian detentions and the kind of pun­ishments that would send human teachers to jail—but witch students heal up better.

Turns out I’m not over high school, which doesn’t really do a lot for the sullen peace and love vibe I’m trying to exude here.

I look away from that evil old hag to find Emerson look­ing at me like I’m an answer. That’s not unusual. My sister always thinks there is one. And better yet, that she can find it and implement it.

I know better, because I made my own way out in the world, relying on nothing and no one but me. I learned the hard way that life and the world often have no answers, no neat little bows. For anyone, witch or human.

I tell myself that it gives me great internal peace to accept this knowledge, and maybe it will, someday. I grit my teeth and think peace, please.

Especially when Carol starts to speak again. Peace, love, light, I chant inside me. No spellwork here. No witchcraft. Just words of power that anyone could use while anointing themselves in essential oils and rearranging their houses for better feng shui.

“I know you must think you did something big here to­night,” Carol is saying, as if she’s never heard anything dumber in her life. Her voice is so persuasive that I have to pinch myself to remember that no, we weren’t giggling over a Ouija board, pretending we weren’t pushing it while we clearly were. We actually fused together the way all the books say true covens should, fought some gnarly dark magic, and won. Almost at the expense of my sister’s life.

“But I’m afraid all you really did, Emerson and Rebekah, is break the terms set down before you when you failed your pubertatum.” She glances around. “And the rest of you broke several laws aiding them.”

The word pubertatum has not gotten any less obnoxious in the ten years I haven’t heard it spoken aloud. It’s an ugly Latin word for a coming-of-age ceremony where witches in their eighteenth year are required to demonstrate their pow­ers so they might take their places in witch society. Pass the test and you answer a few questions to be herded into one of the seven witchkind designations. Warrior, Guardian, Sum­moner, Healer, Historian, Praeceptor, or Diviner.

Fail the test, like Emerson and I did, and you get to be a zombie or an outcast.

“I have power, Carol. You can’t deny that,” Emerson says, with her usual bouncy forthrightness, like she’s flabbergasted at the possibility that Carol would bother trying to deny such a thing. When it’s so obvious.

I really have missed my sister.

“You told me I had none.” Emerson points to me now. “You told us we have no power at all. You were wrong. And then, all this power inside me you said I didn’t have fought off your obliviscor.”

I expect rage. Carol has never been one for being told she’s wrong. Her mind wipe spell wasn’t supposed to have failed. But Carol surprises me.

She titters, and her cronies all laugh along with her. I re­mind myself that it’s supposed to make me feel wrong and stu­pid and vaguely humiliated. That’s what they do. Better to rule us by making us hate ourselves.

“And you’ve turned a simple testing error into some…ne­farious plot? I do worry, Emerson, that fighting off the obli­viscor addled your senses.”

“We just saved St. Cyprian and possibly all of witchkind, Carol,” my sister says, and not angrily. Just like she’s reciting facts, inviting Carol to come aboard. She even smiles. “You’re welcome.”

And I know hate is for the weak. Forgiveness is power. Blah, blah, blah.

But Carol Simon makes the case for blood feuds, forever. Especially when she rolls her eyes.

“We saved witchkind with no help from you,” Emerson continues, as if she doesn’t see any eye-rolling. Because she won’t give up. Emerson never, ever gives up.

Even when she should.

“As a concerned, dedicated St. Cyprian citizen who also happens to be chamber of commerce president, I have to won­der,” Emerson tells Carol. But she also casts an eye over the rest of them, these fixtures of St. Cyprian and my witchy past that I did not miss at all. Like Maeve Mather, the Joywood’s Summoner, who used to go out of her way to be mean to my grandmother. Just because she could. “Why, I’m asking my­self, did the ruling body of all witchkind not only turn a blind eye to the obvious imbalance in our power source that’s been making the rivers rise so dangerously, but also fail to help us fix it? Why did we have to stop it?”

“I assume because you wanted attention,” Felicia says. It is a familiar sentence, meant to be pure condemnation. She used to use it all the time as a precursor to her nasty little punish­ments. My gaze moves across the dark field to find Ellowyn’s, and I can tell from my best friend’s expression that she’s re­membering the same thing I am.

All of high school, basically. When Principal Ipswitch dedi­cated herself to what she called our reprehensible, attention-seeking behavior.

What amazes me is how little I’ve thought about high school since leaving Missouri. Deliberately. And tonight, it’s like I never left.

“I saw the darkness at the heart of the confluence myself,” Emerson says with a great calm I certainly don’t feel. Espe­cially since I saw it too. That terrible, encroaching dark, eat­ing the world whole. It had hunkered there where the three rivers meet, waiting malevolently. And then, tonight, it ex­ploded. Emerson, with our help, destroyed it. My heart starts kicking at me again, a riot of panic, like it’s still happening.

“Are you accusing us of something?” Carol asks, and she’s scarily good at this. She sounds on the verge of laughter, yet somehow almost hurt. As if she cares deeply what Emerson thinks of her. Of them.

I worry this will work on my sister. Because the truth is, Emerson has no power here. She’s too honest, and this is pol­itics. Power. It’s ego and control. Emerson is a lot of things I roll my eyes at all the time, but she’s never been ruled by ego or greed.

Not like these witches.

“I’m pointing out facts,” Emerson says, sounding patient now. My sister has never met a windmill she didn’t try to charge head-on. “And the facts are, we saved St. Cyprian. You could have helped us, Carol. But you didn’t.”

“Oh, Emerson.” Carol sounds sad. Legitimately sad, which would require emotions on her part. And I’m pretty sure ve­lociraptors don’t have emotions. “Why would we deliberately choose not to help save the place where we live? How does that make sense?”

Emerson blinks. “You tell me.”

I want to give a short TED talk on gaslighting and master manipulators, but this is not the time. It’s still not clear whether this is an execution or not. Carol did mention infractions of the pubertatum rules, and last I heard, me using magic the way I did tonight is a capital offense. Emerson wasn’t supposed to be able to do it. I claimed I could do it, but was exiled be­cause they said I had no real power—only the shameful, un­safe urge to use borrowed force. Either way, using witchcraft as an exile is about as forbidden as you can get.

I can always be counted on to rebel when it will do me the most harm.

There’s a part of me that wants to turn to Nicholas Frost, the only other being here who isn’t standing with a group. He’s the one who came up with the goddamned pubertatum back when the earth was young, or so they taught us in school. He is considered the first Praeceptor—the teacher of all teachers, but not in a safe little classroom way. Praeceptors in his day taught armies of witches, then wielded them.

But I know better than to look to him for help.

Looking at him at all is fraught enough when you were once a teenage girl with a teenage girl’s unwieldy crush. Those things are hard to vanquish.

“We saved St. Cyprian,” Emerson says again, as if saying it enough will get through to Carol when as far as I know, nothing has ever gotten through to Carol.

“Maybe you did save the town,” Felicia says, with her little sniff of disdain that I remember all too well. “But if you did, it was for your own gain and nothing more.”

I want to say that at least that’s better than doing it for at­tention, but I don’t, because I’m evolved as fuck.

My sister’s eyes narrow. And here’s the thing that most people don’t know about Emerson Wilde. She expends a lot of energy trying to convince the people around her to see the error of their ways. She embodies the notion that if you lead a horse to water in the right way, it really will drink.

But when she’s done, she’s done.

As her little sister, I know this better than anyone. So, I step in to stop the impending storm. “This seems straightforward to me,” I say, doing my best to sound as if all this carrying on is a waste of energy, and I low-key resent it. And as if I’m some kind of authority here. “Emerson has some magic. Let her take the test again.”

Excerpted from Big Little Spells by Hazel Beck. Copyright © 2023 by Megan Crane and Nicole Helm. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.