Review of ‘The Making of Robert Moony’ by Jane Gilley

Robert has no friends. His mother invited herself to stay with him for a few months and has never left. He hates his job and is beginning to wonder what life REALLY has in store for him. But his life is about to change in a shocking case of mistaken identity, proving that friends and love can be found in the most unlikely of places…

The Making of Robert Moony is marketed as an “uplifting” book and it lives up to its reputation. A short, comedic tale of Robert, bullied mercilessly at school, bored in his dead-end caretaker job and a slave to the whims of his elderly mother who has moved in and shows no signs of leaving. Robert does not stand up for himself and finds himself unable to reap any joy from his life – wishing it would end. Suddenly, when walking to the shop to get some more supplies for his mother, Robert is mistaken for the criminal who lives in the flat above him by a man wearing a pig mask. Kidnapped and tied up in the back of a van; Robert’s mundane life is soon transformed into a saga worthy of a fast and furious screenplay.

Robert soon becomes caught up in the world of his kidnapper Brett, whose brother owes a lot of money to a gangster who wants the debt collected. Robert – not ready to go back to his mundane existence – helps Brett on his quest to escape the gangsters and persuade his brother to pay up before they all end up dead! The story is fast-paced and moves swiftly through the action and adventures of Robert and Brett. We feel a deep sense of pride as Robert develops and blossoms in confidence through his interactions with Brett and Brett’s family, transforming him from a shrinking violet into a man ready to take back control of his life. A heart-warming story for those days when you want to feel good about the possibility of life.

Jane Gilley

I couldn’t stop writing when I was a nipper. I wrote wherever my pen could make its mark and especially at the back of my school exercise books. The lady who taught maths, in junior school, even asked if I wanted more paper to write on!

But life has a way of taking over and guiding you down its own path. Hence my initial foray into writing was dampened by society’s usual requirements of getting married and working to pay the mortgage, whereby I simply didn’t have the time to sit, tapping away at my computer to my heart’s content. But when I managed to start writing again in 2008; when publishers were telling me they didn’t want any more animal fiction, I self-published 6 children’s books – 5 animal adventures, which I sold at Durrell’s Jersey Zoo – and I had a book signing at Waterstones with a novella for young girls, Maisie’s Dream. All still for sale on Kindle.

With my children’s books localised French / Jersey themes, I was invited by 3 of the primary schools here and on the tiny channel island of Herm to give talks to the school children, about where I found the inspiration for my stories.

Since becoming self-employed, I’ve been able to step back and concentrate on writing adult fiction. Avon, Harper Collins published my debut book, The Woman Who Kept Everything – about an elderly lady who rediscovers what life has to offer after an electrical fault in her house threatens a fire, followed by The Afternoon Tea Club – about 4 very different people who meet at a community afternoon tea club and put their worlds to right, after becoming friends.

During 2020 and with PLENTY of time to spare, I wrote 2 new books, which I self-published this year on Kindle – both under adult fiction:

The Making of Robert Moony – an unusual, funny, heart-felt tale about a 27 yr old bullied man who finally finds love and acceptance in life, after he is kidnapped by mistake

County Lines Road – about 2 teenagers whose lives are turned upside down when a joyride goes horribly wrong and they are dragged away to a gang-house by drugs dealers and have to find a way to escape as well as protecting their families from the gang’s threat of retaliation.

All my books are always quirky, uplifting tales about new beginnings and have happy endings!

You can purchase a copy of The Making of Robert Moony here.

You can purchase a copy of County Lines Road here.

A copy was gifted for an honest review as part of a Blog Tour.

Review of ‘The Lore of Prometheus’ by Graham Austin-King

John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.

Discharged from the army after a traumatic stint in Afghanistan, John can still smell the heat, dust and plastic clinging to the air. He is haunted by hallucinations of his dead comrades. Clearly suffering from PTSD, John falls into a deadly pattern of drink and gambling, to distract himself from the visions and the memories. However, when John falls into debt with a madman, he has no choice but to take a paid security contract that takes him back to the horrors of Afghanistan…

Meanwhile, rumours circulate in Afghanistan of a soldier who appeared to stop a bullet in its tracks. John shakes off these ridiculous claims, rejecting his nickname of the ‘Miracle of Kabul’, disbelieving the men who witnessed it with their own eyes. John believes he is just as normal as everyone else – but is he?

John is soon forced to face the rumours when he is captured and tortured to reveal the secret of his powers . Captured alongside him is an Australian nurse MacKenzie, who was the sole survivor of a devastating fire that ripped through her family home. John and McKenzie are subject to horrific physical and psychological torture, fed and watered through tubes in the wall and strapped naked to restraint boards. Their capture scenes are graphic and detailed which some readers might find triggering. Scientists experiment on them to try and learn more about why people who suffer trauma are susceptible to magic powers, why are only the broken gifted? How far can the broken be pushed to unleash their power without breaking them irreversibly?

Lore of Prometheus is the first military fantasy novel that I have read and I have to say, what a blinding introduction to the sub-genre. I was sceptical about whether I would like this novel, I thought it would be too much action and not enough character building or plot. However, Graham’s characters blew me away with their rage-inducing powers, heart-wrenching stories, darkness, rawness, tragedy and realness. I like how the title of the novel – the story of Prometheus is inter-woven into the plot. The legend of Prometheus is that he stole fire from the Gods and gave it to mankind. As a result, he was tortured endlessly. This mirrors John and Mackenzies’ narrative, both defy nature with their powers and are tortured as a result. Prometheus is eventually freed by Hercules but will anyone come for John and Mackenzie or will they be their own heroes?

You can purchase a copy of the novel here.

Author links: Website: Twitter:

NB: I was gifted a copy of this book for an honest review on a Blog Tour.

Review of ‘The Crowns of Croswald’ by D.E Night’

Ivy Lovely, a scaldron maid, lives a life of drudgery and isolation. The castle she serves is surrounded by slurry trees whose property dims magical powers. Once she is fired and crosses the slurry boundary, Ivy is whisked away to magic school to harness the powers she never knew she had. Ivy’s life takes a turn for the better however, the kingdom of Croswald takes a turn for the worse; ruled over by the Dark Queen who threatens all that is good.

D.E.Night’s middle-grade fantasy series is packed full of magic and adventure, the perfect entry read into the fantasy genre for pre-teens. The protagonist’s name, Ivy Lovely encapsulates the mood of this novel – whimsical. From the very first chapter, we are introduced to the scaldrons – dragons who act as ovens to cook meals for the lords and ladies of the castle – these quirky little dragons made me feel a pang of nostalgia for the quirky fantasy of J.K.Rowling, Terry Pratchett and Enid Blyton. The novel is full of eccentric and fabulous creatures, porcupines who are used to pluck quills from; hairies who are literally hairy fairies who light the lamps of Croswald and ginormous cabby beasts who carry their own foul weather system and remind me of the giant rhinoceros storm in James of the Giant Peach. Whilst the book is incredibly unique you can’t ignore the Harry Potter inspiration such as a street of magical shops like Diagon Alley, a magical school like Hogwarts and a whole menagerie of fantastical beasts. However, the unique magic system stands out. At the scrivinist school of magic, there are two types of students; royals who gain their powers from the stones in their crowns and scrivinists who gain their power from their blood and sketching skills. Scrivinists are trained to hone their abilities so that they can one day serve the royals in their courts and castles. This interesting magical hierarchy makes for some brilliant snooty enemies and genuine friends for Ivy.

The story really picks up pace once Ivy has been enrolled into magic school and is introduced to glenageries. A glenagerie is a unique system of magic whereby you can capture an imaginative scenario into a bottle that can be uncorked and re-lived. When a glenagerie is opened during one of Ivy’s magical classes, she is drawn into a pirate ship where the mysterious Derwin Edgar Night tries to leave her a message. Ivy keeps seeing the same man in her dreams at night – it is as if he is trying to tell her something – something important. When Ivy learns that there is a room in the school where things go to be forgotten, wiped from the memory of all outside of the door once placed inside, Ivy suspects that the answers to who Derwin Edgar Night is lie in there. Why would anyone try to erase him from history? Is the Dark Queen involved? What connection does he have to Ivy? The mystery of Derwin Edgar Night drives the narrative into its dramatic, whirlwind ending. I would highly recommend this novel for children aged 11+ who love magic, mystery and adventure stories. A delightful, light-hearted escapade.

You can order a copy of ‘Crowns of Croswald’ here.

A copy was gifted via Net Galley for an honest review.

Review of ‘Queen of All’ by Anya Leigh Josephs

Jena, despite being the main protagonist, is intriguingly a side character in the ‘Sisi’ show. For as long as she can remember, Jena has always lived a simple, farmer life, quietly resting in the shadow of her beautiful friend Sisi. Whilst Jena is abandoned by her mother as a baby and is bought up by her emotionally cold, reluctant father; Sisi grows up as daughter of a numbered household, meaning she has royalty in her ancestry. Sisi’s brother fled their life of ruthless court intrigue for a quiet, rural life. But – when a message arrives from the second in the kingdom – Lord Ricard – inviting Sisi to the Midwinter Ball, it seems as if Sisi will return to a life of luxury. In reality, Sisi wants Jena to help her enact revenge on the very same lord who tried to destroy her family all those years ago and unearth the truth about the lord’s fear of anyone who practices magic. Jena, as a loyal friend, accompanies Sisi to the palace and together they face their uncertain future.

The book begins with a prologue and a prelude that are very stand alone in comparison to the rest of the book. In my opinion, the prologue is the standout section of writing from the novel. Written in Jena’s mothers’ voice, it is a stunning declaration of love and loss. Jena’s mother appears reluctant to leave her baby girl but is driven by a deeper calling which appears to hint at magic. It leaves the reader wondering whether she will ever return to claim her baby girl back and teach her about magic, this story arc is sadly only touched on within this book and not resolved but hopefully will be more of a central focus in the next book.

The class system is intriguing and reminds me slightly of the Russian dynasty of serfdom versus royalty. The lower classes are kept to the fringes of the towns and the countryside, living in comfortable poverty. Whilst those families who can trace their heritage back to the first King and Queen are called ‘The Numbered’. The lower your number, the closer you are to royalty and the more wealth and power you wield over others. The numbered live within the large cities in opulent lifestyles. However, all is not as it seems as some numbered families are hunted down and massacred if deemed to be a threat to Lord Ricard becoming the next crowned king. For despite being second in line to the throne, you must pass a test to be deemed worthy of the crown, Lord Ricard has failed once already and is desperate not to fail again.

There was a lot I enjoyed in this book, the Midwinter Ball scene was the peak, highly engaging as Sisi and Jena enjoy the splendour of the ball but tremble at the political threats that loom underneath the glamour. However, the threat of Lord Ricard’s murderous intent seems to die away in the latter section of the book. One minute he threatens the lives of her family and the next they are invited to the castle to enjoy the city’s luxuries. This story arc seems confusing to me, it seems unlikely that such a built up villain who has murdered hundreds of families to advance his position in the numbered, now sits back and allows Sisi to slip away from him. Lord Ricard’s arc is not believable and his villainy is not fulfilled to it’s true potential.

This book is marketed as an LGBTQIA book. Jena’s adoration of her best friend, quickly turns into complicated, deep feelings that she can’t ignore. There is a lovely, tender moment between Jena and her Auntie where they discuss her feelings towards women and Jena is made to feel valued and respected. However, Jena’s feelings are not reciprocated and in the end it feels like she is used by Sisi as Jena must sacrifice her love for Sisi in order to give Sisi her happily ever after. Sisi does not seem worthy of Jena’s love, paying her little attention and always reluctant to communicate with her. The unrequited love arc is touching at times but most of the time is is frustrating for the reader as we know that Sisi is not redeemable enough to be worthy of Jena’s affection.

I will definitely be reading the second book as I’m intrigued as to whether Jena will ever find her mother and gain an explanation as to her budding powers. I believe the next book may be more enticing than the first if the focus is on Jena’s growth and development, leaving Sisi’s coming of age story behind, allowing Jena to bloom as the proper protagonist.

Pre-order a copy of ‘Queen of All’ here.

NB: An early arc of this novel was gifted via NetGalley for an honest review.

Review of ‘Cecily’ by Annie Garthwaite

Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make her first move.

Cecily gives voice to a woman glossed over by history. Known only to most as the mother of Edward IV and Richard III, tainted by his legacy of the rumoured murdered princes in the tower. However, the beautiful delicacy of history is that it can be revitalised in the right hands and Anne takes up the mantel of giving Cecily her voice in history. 

The novel begins with the burning of Joan of Arc. Cecily watches with a mix of admiration for such a fearless, powerful woman and disgust for the French commander. In that moment, Cecily learns the valuable lesson that strong women have the farthest to fall. From the outset, the novel positions itself as a lens fully focused on the women in the 15th century that were pivotal in the War of the Roses and the hundred year war in France. The novel is very ambitious in its scope but it more than pays off in the sumptuous delivery of love and loss, rise and falls, kings and queens, traitors and loyalists.

Cecily’s‘ main qualities are her endurance and ruthless determination. She endures heartbreak at the loss of children, shame at the loss of favour at court and heartache at the knowledge that her husband has a more legitimate claim to the English throne but instead has to act like the king’s lapdog. She survives the ocean of childbirth twelve times! Which in 15th century England, is a miracle. Cecily talks openly about the pressures to give birth to an heir and also the pressure to procure advantageous marriages for her daughters. Even if that means marrying them to a traitorous, aggressive, narcissist. Cecily, determined to place her husband where he belongs, fights and schemes for decades, delicately guiding her husband towards his rightful throne. 

Throughout Cecily’s trials and triumphs, other women are also given centre stage in the novel such as Marguerite, daughter of France and Queen of England who holds onto the reins of England and the reins of her puppet, sickly, mad husband.  She is another female force to be reckoned with, devious and sly. There are also gloriously cunning enemies at every turn but Beaufort being the main Machiavellian whisperer, whispering demands and commands in the ear of the king, steering his policies alongside Marguerite. Beaufort will stop at nothing until Cecily’s husband Richard is destroyed along with the dynasty of York. 

The novel sweeps through Whitehall, Ludlow, France, Ireland and Wales, giving a real sense of the tension and fragility of 15th century England’s feudal power. The king is only able to retain his power through the loyalty, hard work and sacrifice of his men. Richard swears fealty to his king, despite being the son of a traitor to the crown. He is always treated with suspicion because of his father and cast away to maintain foreign policy in France and Ireland. Cecily dreams of a world where Richard’s soul shines at the head of the English throne – will they make it to stand side by side as king and queen? Pre-order Cecily to find out. 

(A copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.)

Review of ‘Vile’ by Keith Crawford

Elianor Paine is a Magistrate of the Peace in the Kingdom of Trist and a republican secret agent. She has 6 days to subvert her investigation, supplant war-hero Lord Vile, then coerce his adult children to start a revolution, before her masters discover the truth and have her killed. Just how far is she willing to go? And can she change the world without changing herself?

Vile is a dark, gritty fantasy novel woven from many inter-connecting plot threads. There is: Elianor’s secret mission to start a revolution against the monarchy; the disappearance of women from Shadowgate town, the mystery of the Black Dog monster haunting Shadowgate, civil unrest between two rival families of Shadowgate Town and the secretive Vile family, whose war-hero Lord, openly despises his children. The main setting is Shadowgate castle which is the first line of defence between the realm and the Kindred – shapeshifting terrors. It is ruled over by the once-glorious Vile aristocracy, with Lord Vile, rumoured to have killed the last Kindred prince. There is history, suspense and mysterious happenings from the very first page, that draw you deeper into the darkness of Shadowgate.

Keith is certainly not afraid to kill his characters. The whole novel feels like one giant blood bath, with no character spared the wrath of the plot’s advance. This is due to the multiple villainous creatures that stalk the novel and the villainous townsfolk. Elianor begins to investigate the disappearance of the women taken by the Black Dog but soon finds herself uncovering mystery after mystery. Why is Lord Vile so secretive? Why are his children at odds? Why is his eldest son Nathaniel so secluded? Why do the monks at Demonspass not allow anyone behind their monastery walls? These multiple mysteries are woven relentlessly, building suspense through right until the very end where finally the plot twists are revealed and suddenly, every jigsaw piece falls satisfyingly into place.

The main protagonist Elianor is a tough heroine who knows how to defend herself and how to use her power as an upholder of the law to interrogate and anchor the truth. Elianor has the gift of Truthsense, as all magistrates do, to aid her investigations. Elianor’s secret agenda, to secure the Vile’s vote for the republic and aid in disposal of the Queen, runs neatly alongside her investigation into the missing women. Elianor is fierce, unforgiving and merciless, the perfect concoction of grit and determination. As Elianor investigates she is embroiled in Shadowgate’s civil war between two rival families, the Garns who holds Shadowgate’s riches through their mine and Tannyr who keeps Shadowgate’s labourers under his wing. The civil war reaches a crescendo towards the end of the novel as the bodies begin to pile up in the streets of Shadowgate town and Lord Vile faces a mutiny.

There were a few potential trigger moments/ graphic moments in the book such as an incest storyline and a rape scene that any future reader may need to be aware of.

If you love fantasy novels that involve: dark beasts, mystery, murder, civil unrest, war, fighting, evil villains and cunning enemies, then ‘Vile’ is for you.

Purchase the book here – Vile by Keith Crawford

March Roundup of Reviews

March was a good month for me, I felt really invigorated with my reading and was able to power through quite a lot of the books on my TBR list and Net Galley shelf. Here are the books I read and the links to my reviews. I’m looking forward to another productive reading month in April. I also have my very first blog tour posts coming up next month which I’m really excited about! I’m hoping to be able to read more books in April as I have two weeks off work at the beginning of the month which should boost my reading time.

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo

My review can be found here.

Rumaysa A Fairytale by Radiya Hafiza

My review can be found here.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My review can be found here.

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

My review can be found here.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

My review can be found here.

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter

My review can be found here.

Review of ‘All The Murmuring Bones’ by A.G. Slatter

All the Murmuring Bones is a delicious, horror-infused, gothic-laced folk tale. Miren’s story begins like any ordinary tale, she is the granddaughter of a matriarch whose power and influence is wavering leaving the future of the O’Malley name resting on her shoulders. Miren feels this burden like a lead heart, suffocated by her family’s expectations of her future prosperity. As soon as Miren is promised in marriage to a cousin to thicken the family’s bloodline, she makes the brave decision to turn her back on the ocean and the bay of Hob’s Hallow once and for all. With each turn of the page in Miren’s adventure, the story tumbles further into the depths of folk legend. Corpse wights haunt the marshes, merfolk reign over the oceans and ghosts meander over the land seeking revenge.  Miren seeks the freedom to carve her own destiny but that destiny comes at a heartbreaking cost… 

A.G.Slatter’s tale is not for the faint-hearted, it’s as dark and unforgiving as the tales of Hans Christian Anderson. Girls brutally murdered haunt the shores, kelpies prey on the lost and an assassins sword can be bought as easily as a loaf of bread from the market.  All the Murmuring Bones is a surreptitious, horrifying tale that tosses you around like the sea, magnifying echoes of folk stories into gruesome newness. My first five star read of the year. 

Purchase a copy of ‘All The Murmuring Bones’ here.

Review of ‘The Lamplighters’ by Emma Stonex

They say we’ll never know what happened to those men.

They say the sea keeps its secrets…

Three light keepers disappear from a lighthouse in Cornwall. The door is locked from the inside, a meal is laid out for two, the clocks have stopped and the weather log indicates a wicked storm battered the lighthouse but residents report only clear skies that night. 

On the 15th of December 1900, three lighthouse keepers on Eilean Mòr, one of the Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides, disappeared without a trace. Emma Stonex takes inspiration from this unsettling mystery, keeping some of the original details whilst adding her own dramatic license. Gripping from the blurb, The Lamplighters takes the reader on a journey that ebbs and flows with the mood of the ocean, sweeping us from peaceful serenity to tempestuous suspense in a heartbeat. Each twist, turn and reveal tugs on the heart strings, every page filled with pain, guilt, regret and dreams of redemption. Throughout it all, the lighthouse stands, personified as the mistress of the keepers, silently keeping their darkest secrets safe. 

The narrative flows between the keepers in 1972 and the women they left behind in 1992, giving the reader a glimpse into the psychological state of the men’s isolated experience and the women’s grief, as they are left to piece together the mystery, each with their own conflicting theories, unable to move on from the past until they face their collective trauma. The description of the ocean seeps through the pores of the book, exhilarating, tantalising and poetic. For as sure as the ocean can calm and welcome, it can drown and destroy. 

Pre-order here now.  

Review of ‘The Fortune Men’ by Nadifa Mohamed

‘The Fortune Men’ centres around Cardiff’s Tiger Bay in 1952 where many men flock seeking their fortune including Somali and West Indian sailors. We meet Mahmood Mattan – he is gambler, pick pocket, loving father and wayward husband – but he is not a murderer. When a local, loved Jewish shopkeeper is viciously killed, everybody points the fingers at Mahmood with only the description of a ‘tall Somalian’ to go by. Mahmood has to fight prejudice, racism, injustice and judgement before his freedom can be secured.

When we are first introduced to Mahmood we cannot help but judge him for his sins, how he puts gambling before his children, how he roughly treats his friends and how he regularly misses paying the landlord his rent. However, when he is suddenly accused of murder we feel strongly against the biased judgements made against him. After all, what is a man but the sum of his deeds? He did not commit any violent crimes and therefore, is wrongly accused of this offence. Despite his flaws, he is worthy of love and to be treated fairly but we are not always given such blessings.

Nadifa’s description of Tiger Bay and its inhabitants is fascinating, the wealth of characters, the hustle and bustle, the nightlife, the dark underbelly, the surface shops and businesses. Tiger Bay is revealed to have many glorious layers of lives and lies. Mahmood drifts between the many layers, a multi-faceted man who has lived a life full of adventure, disharmony and faith. He describes how his faith his wavered since docking into Tiger Bay, as if the welsh air and fog has built a divide between him and his God, giving way to his life of sin. Despite his flaws, his is a character worthy of redemption. His wife Laura, his staunch advocate, stays by his side through thick and thin, alongside his three sons. We are drawn to wanting to support and fight for their family to be together once more.

Will Mahmood have his redemption? Will the justice system prevail in the truth? Will Mahmood walk away a free man or be hung by prejudice? Pre-order now to find out.

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