Archive for September, 2014

Review of Sand – Hugh Howey

Posted: September 17, 2014 in Review, science fiction


Palmer’s family has been falling apart since his father walked out on them one night. His youngest brother Rob wasn’t born, their middle brother Conner wants to be him, his older sister Vic is running from her past, their mother Rose is struggling to survive. Palmer is a sand diver, someone that dives beneath the sands to scavenge anything useful or a relic from the world before the sands buried it. He and his best friend sign on to join a secretive team looking for something and he comes across something that will change his life, and the future of his people, forever.

Told from the different perspectives of the family members, the plot weaves its way together by the first third of the book. I found it hard to get into the story at first but once I figured out the whole diving thing, it became clearer and the separate plots meshed seamlessly together.   The story is not related to the Wool trilogy yet I saw similarities in the worlds that made me wonder.

I don’t like this genre – I find it depressing and boring, yet Hugh Howey compels me to read every word he’s written while enjoying the story. I can’t explain it, he’s either into the dark arts or is an extraordinarily gifted writer.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

The Bonded By Blood Vampire Chronicles by Arial Burnz is the saga of Broderick MacDougal following the soul of his true love through the centuries.

bonded by blood 1

Broderick MacDougal follows the familiar yearning of his soul to a fierce warrior who is as seductive as a siren at sea – and she is just as deadly. The world of the supernatural opens to Broderick as he not only finds himself in the midst of an ancient war of shapeshifters, but the devious Cordelia Lynn Harley has re-entered his life and has a few of her own surprises.

Born into a hated race of Norse wolf shifters, Celina Hunter knows all too well the dangers of trusting anyone other than her two brothers. And yet the survival of her family hinges on trusting the strangely familiar vampire, a natural enemy of her kind…yet her tribe’s Shaman advisers confirm he is her soul mate. Enemy or not, Celina slips into the spell of Broderick’s promises of eternal love, gambling with all she holds dear.

Broderick and Celina are bound by a curse, but having come this far through the centuries, Broderick is not about to risk his chance at having his soul mate for eternity. The price, however, may be more than Celina is willing to pay as there is more at stake than just her immortal soul

Bio: Broderick “Rick” MacDougal

  • Born: April 4, 1450
  • Crossed Over: October 11, 1486
  • Height: 6′ 3″
  • Weight: 220 lbs (15.7 stones)
  • Role: Hero and Main Character of the Bonded By Blood Vampire Chronicles

Born with a sword in his hand and raised in the Highlands…

…Broderick is a rugged Scotsman through and through! Son to Hamish and Moira, he was the elder of his two siblings – Maxwell the middle son, and Donnell the youngest. In 1478, Broderick’s mother died in battle beside her sons and husband during a raid orchestrated by Angus Campbell and his father Fraser. At Moira’s funeral, Hamish MacDougal threw himself from the highest tower of the MacDougal estate. Though his sons had tried to talk him down, Hamish could not be swayed from his deed and shouted, “’Tis my fault she is dead! I’ve brought this upon all of you,” before he fell to his death.

Broderick and his brothers had to forge on with their lives and occupied themselves with building their own estates. Maxwell and Donnell both married and had children while Broderick focused on finishing his own holdings of Glenstrae, where he eventually settled in with his own wife, Evangeline. However, during a May Day celebration in 1485 at his manor – with his brothers and their families in attendance – Angus Campbell attacked the estate and slaughtered all in attenance, leaving Broderick for dead. Evangeline escaped and was rescued by a convent. Rescued by Cordelia Lynn Harley and with her assistance, Rick crossed over into immortality a year later, seeking revenge against his clan enemy. Traveling as a Gypsy in a caravan of wagons, he hid his vampiric nature by using his immortal gifts to tell fortunes while he searched for Angus Campbell, who is also a vampire.

Rick is a very accomplished painter, and gets to indulge in this pastime when he isn’t fighting for those he loves.

Fact About Broderick MacDougal NOT in the Books

  1. Broderick had two brothers – Maxwell (3 years younger than Rick) and Donnell (5 years younger than Rick). Maxwell married Addy MacIntyre and they had two girls and one boy (Libby, Agnes and Richerde). Donnell married Elspet Murray and they had two boys (Johne and Will). Broderick and his brothers would have loved more siblings in the family, but their mother, Moira, had many miscarriages before she was told by the physicians that childbirth would endanger her life if she tried to bear anymore offspring. If Angus had known this about Broderick’s past…a lot of lives could have been saved.


Arial Burnz is giving away a TON of stuff during this tour! Please use the Giveaway Tools entry widget to be entered into the drawing. Each button will earn you more chances to win and you can keep coming back to earn more entries! All entrants will automatically become members of Arial’s VIP Club, which is free to join and has many more benefits, such as exclusive contests like this one. These are the prizes for the Character Reveal Tour featuring the characters in Midnight Conquest (Book 1) – winners will be chosen on Sep 27, 2014:

  • Vampire coaster set
  • 1 signed set of Books 1-3
  • $10 Amazon, B&N or iTunes gift card (winner’s choice)

Tour Grand Prize

Arial is also giving away a single Grand Prize of…

  • A $100 Amazon, B&N or iTunes gift card – winner’s choice
  • A signed set of Books 1-4 of the Bonded By Blood Vampire Chronicles

Winner will be chosen on 11/21/2014. Everyone who participated in any stops on the Midnight Eclipse tours (VIP Club members or not) will be entered for the grand prize drawing. The more you participate, the more chances you have to win. Use the Giveaway Tools buttons below to earn extra chances to win by tweeting, following and liking. For Official Contest Rules, click here.

Arial Burnz


Arial Burnz has been an avid reader of paranormal and fantasy for over thirty years. With bedtime stories filled with unicorns, hobbits, dragons and elves, she succumbed to crafting her own tales, penning to life the magical creatures roaming her dreams. Having a romantic husband who’s taught her the meaning of true love, she’s helpless to weave romance into her tales. Now she shares them with the world. Arial Burnz lives in Southern California, with her husband (a.k.a. her romance novel hero)—who is also, quite coincidentally, a descendant of Clan MacDougal.

Buy Links

Social Media Links

bonded by blood banner

black moon

The scenario is an intriguing one. People stop being able to sleep, which brings about an apocalypse full of madness, as insomnia erodes their sanity. Calhoun writes cleverly enough with his lucid descriptions and dreamy philosophical musings, but ultimately the novel failed me for two reasons.

Firstly his characters although theoretically well-developed simply failed to gain my interest. And secondly, although I persisted right to the end (thankfully it’s a short book) there was no real resolution, and no satisfying explanation for the cause of the plague of sleeplessness. So, it’s very much a case of a potentially excellent premise that simply goes nowhere in particular. Maybe if I happened to suffer from insomnia, this book might have worked better for me, but I don’t…


Supplied by Random House NZ

Reviewed by Jacqui


Unusually, there is no by-line, and it is apparent that this is a collaborative effort, involving various of the people of Amisfield; its vineyard, winery and bistro. We don’t get to meet them except in the acknowledgements and the illustrations, and perhaps that’s just a bit impersonal, for a book which is very much rooted in a place and its people.

It’s an unusual book, part local history, part wine-making treatise, and about three-quarters cookbook. The historical background was well-written and quite interesting, but I have to confess that I have little interest in wine, being more of a cider-drinker (I’m from Somerset and that’s my excuse). It is the section relating to the bistro and the recipes that got most of my attention, and I was not disappointed. Many restaurant books have little to offer the home cook, but that’s not the case here, for a couple of good reasons. Firstly, the folk at Amisfield like to make their food from scratch using local produce, and consequently there are a number of recipes for making items that you wouldn’t normally think to try making yourself. This is particularly true of the breads and the charcuterie – meat products like pancetta which are horrendously expensive to buy, but actually look like something one might be able to make oneself, at home. Secondly, the recipes, though often complex, are clear and well-illustrated, and though many are definitely for special occasions, they don’t look ridiculously difficult. I can’t say that mine would come out looking as beautiful as they do in the book, but I’d give it a good go. And speaking of illustrations, I was especially impressed with the photomontage accompanying the English Muffins recipe which displayed the steps elegantly without the clunky step-by-step labels. It worked very well, and I won’t be surprised if it sets a trend.

I expect they’ll sell a lot of these at Amisfield, at the cellar door and at the bistro, because the book would make a lovely souvenir. Meanwhile, until I get to go there, I’ll just read the book, experiment with the recipes, and take myself vicariously to central Otago. And so can you…

Random House

Supplied by Random House NZ

Reviewed by Jacqui

dear leader

Not much is known about life inside North Korea under the Communist Party regime. This is a first-hand account of how the totalitarian state is run, written by a former Party insider who defected.

It follows his early life as a doctor’s son, then rise through the ranks of the Party through to his service in the Literature Division. Then he returns home and has a good look at the lives of ordinary people and he begins to question the state’s ideas.

Sharing a forbidden foreign magazine with a friend who is also disillusioned, they are forced to flee when the magazine is accidentally left behind on a train. Knowing their families would be punished if they stay, they escape across the border to China on foot, hoping to reach South Korea and gain asylum. If found by the Chinese authorities they’ll be sent back, so their journey is perilous and nerve-wracking, with the kindness of strangers offering hope.

The stories of other refugees are shared, and bits of the hardships of North Korean life are shared. I was horrified for most of the book by the sufferings of   the people and the blindness of the regime’s leadership. The fate of female refugees in China was sobering and the courage and determination of returned refugees to escape again is immense. I was surprised by the cleverness of the Party regime in their diplomatic negotiating and hadn’t realised there was such a coldblooded, calculating method to their insane policies. The leadership of North Korea and reality are not on the same planet as each other and I’m so fortunate to live in New Zealand.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

earth strike

I’m still working through the pile of free books from LoneStarCon 3, and this is one of the last. It’s also one of the best if you happen to like rock hard military SF. Ian Douglas is one pen name of the prolific American writer William H. Keith, who started writing Doctor Who adventures for the FASA games company, went on to write for their Battletech line and for Chivalry and Sorcery, and has authored several series mainly in military fiction, and military SF. Yes, he does have a military background. I’m pretty sure that I’ve read some of his work before, but I’m not sure under which name.

The novel takes a familiar approach in military SF, alternating between two principal characters; one of the admirals so as to follow the overall strategy, and a lowly lieutenant to take the reader into the forefront of battle. The lieutenant in question is a fighter pilot, and it’s pretty obvious that the author, being a navy man himself, has gone to considerable trouble to make the idea of “aircraft carriers in space” actually work.

There was a lot to like here. The aliens are really alien, very weird and their motives inscrutable. Why do they fear humanity? What do they mean by “transcendence”? The idea of alien organisms that are not either plant or animal but somewhere in between is a cool idea that I’ve tried writing about myself (must get around to finishing that story). I can’t I entirely understood how everything works in this version of the Universe, but the sheer level of detail certainly was impressive. It is the first of a series, and I’d be tempted to hunt down more, if it wasn’t for the sheer size of my books-to-read pile.

Note to publishers: I shouldn’t have to look up Wikipedia to figure out which is the book title, and which is the name of the series; it should be entirely obvious on the cover.

Harper Collins

Supplied by Science Fiction Outreach Project at LoneStarCon 3

Reviewed by Jacqui

the gospel of loki

It is what it says on the tin, a re-telling of the tales of Norse myth from the point of view of Loki. A thoroughly post-modern, and increasingly disagreeable Loki at that. He spends far too much time whining about how it isn’t his fault, when it’s entirely obvious that it is. But, that too, is part of the character. You’d really expect him to figure it out, but he never does; his character never really develops, which is possibly the point – the gods are archetypes and cannot change.

As for the book, it’s an enjoyable and cleverly written romp through mythology, with a number of laugh-out-loud moments. You know how it’s all going to end, only you don’t, and frankly I think the ending is the weakest part of the story, with a throwaway last line that simply doesn’t work, for me at least. It’s not the only problem. There are a number of references to Pandemonium which I had thought was Greek myth, unlike I looked it up, and discovered that it was coined by Milton for Paradise Lost. So, not Norse. Bragi, the god of poetry, is depicted as playing a lute… which is also not Norse! If he did play stringed instrument, it would be a harp or a lyre (yes really, they found one at Sutton Hoo, admittedly Anglo-Saxon, but at least the right period).

There are lots of other irritating anachronisms, such as calling someone a “septic tank” when “cesspit” would have done just as well. Even the title really doesn’t fit. This is not a gospel, it is not any kind of good news; it’s a legend, or more accurately a mythopoeia.

So some pluses for entertainment value and writing skill, but a number of minuses for jarring anachronisms, and I’ll rate it a C+.


Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui