Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2012

Okay, so to narrow down ALL the favorite books I read this year, I'm only listing ones that actually came out this year. Otherwise, this list could go on forever, because I have made some awesome finds, and some awesome new friends in characters I just totally fell in love with. Particularly my renewed love of Rosemary Sutcliff's books. (Okay, a few honorable mentions: Eagle of the Ninth, Frontier Wolf, Outcast...) also for a lot of new authors I discovered like Paul Dowswell, Simon Scarrow, Jeri Westerson, Katy Moran, Lloyd Alexander, and lots more, but again... too many to mention.

So here's my favorite books of 2012! For the record, I am very happy that there was an influx of good YA books out there. I very nearly swore off YA books for good until I started reading some of the new releases, and, partly thanks to Mara (at 667B Baker Street) I renewed my love for the genre!

If you click on the covers, you can find my reviews at Goodreads

I want to wish everyone a happy new year (and a Guid Hogmany in the Scottish tongue)

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, December 28, 2012

Books of Note: December Reads

Well, it did turn out that I actually got to spend the last two weeks of December reading just as planned before I go into the paper piles and start working on my sequel to Ballad of the Highwayman. And I have read some amazing books in that time, and finally got around to writing reviews. These were some of the best/most interesting books I read this month.

What's a nice girl like Alice doing with a hangman called Dan Skinslicer?
He likes a good clean killing and a hearty supper afterwards.
She likes pretty dresses and riding a well-bred horse.
But fate throws them together on a mission of mercy--to save Alice's poor uncle Frank's head and restore his dignity.
Soon they find themselves on the run from every soldier in London.
It could be their necks next!


Thoughts on the Overall Book: Where to begin? I absolutely LOVED this book. The story, the characters, the writing was just all so good that there was nothing not to like! I believe the author wrote it from an actual story, so that just makes it all the more amazing and hilarious. Truthfully, I don't really know what else to say about it.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I like this cover, actually better than the one on the copy I have which I'm not very fond of. This one is very simple though, and I like it.

Characters: Well, to start off, Alice is a lovely heroine. I loved her because she is witty, she never let anything get in her way, but she was also sympathetic, and at the times she could have been annoying, it was more that she was acting like a real person would and not like an annoying character. Dan Skinslicer was also a very lovable character. I just love the thought of a soft-hearted hangman who just viewed it as a job. I don't know if there were really men like that, but I hope there were. Hew Ffrench was an awesome character too and I liked him immediately. Major Slavering was a very good villain. Meaning, of course, that he was utterly terrible. I also loved a lot of the supporting characters, especially Alice's grandmother. Oh yes, and of course, Uncle Frank's head!

Writing Style: Wonderful. It was witty, it was fast paced, and just fit the story sooo well. This whole story appealed to my, rather dark, sense of humor (gallow's wit, pardon the pun) perfectly.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing at all it was perfect.

Conclusion: 5 stars, I would not have thought of giving it anything different. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year and a lovely read for my vacation where I promised to immerse myself in all the books I have had waiting on my shelf for a while.

Recommended Audience: Any historical fiction fans should definitely read it. I don't care what time period you like, this is a must read. Both a guy and girl read, ages 12 and up.

In this gripping journey, a fifteen-year-old pacifist must decide what he believes as he faces the reality of World War II.

The year is 1944, and fifteen-year-old Noah Garrett's parents have died from smallpox. Without any other family nearby, Noah is sent to live with his uncle, whom he has never met, in Camp Hale, Colorado. There is one small problem with this decision: Noah has been raised a pacifist, and Camp Hale is a U.S. military base for a little-known division of winter warfare soldiers called Phantoms. Can a boy who's never seen snow and doesn't believe in war survive among these soldiers?
Noah's struggle to resolve his upbringing with the horrors of World War II into a way of life he can believe in takes him on an incredible and riveting journey from the training camp to the frontlines of battle. Based on historical events, the story of Noah and the Phantoms of the Tenth Mountain Division is one of courage and conviction, brotherhood, and the joy in living


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I thought this book was a very nice, meaningful war story and perfect for the age it's geared toward. Of course the synopsis was a done deal for me when it promised a brotherhood story and I was not disappointed in that fact. It was a brotherhood story, a coming of age story, and a family story. Seriously, all my favorite things to see in a war novel. I was also intrigued because I had never heard of the "Phantoms", the skiing devision who fought in WWII. It kind of reminded me of the Rangers from the Ranger's Apprentice series a little bit, and I really enjoyed learning this bit of history I didn't know and found it very interesting.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I actually do like the cover, even though I'm not always fond of having the characters on the cover. I think the boy looks like Noah and I love the misty, snowy look to it, that and the title were actually what caught my attention, and once I realized it was a WWII novel, I was even more intrigued.

Characters: Noah is a good protagonist for this kind of book and the audience who's meant to read it. He's a very moral young man, raised by pacifists during WWII, so when he was sent to the training camp of the Phantoms after his parents died of small pox to go meet his uncle, you can see the dilemma that awaited him. His uncle James Shelley seems at first to be a wastrel, but I loved how their relationship grew and how Shelley actually turned into a likable character. There were a lot of likable characters in the supporting cast as well. I loved Noah's friends and the camaraderie that was between them with plenty of brotherly railing and banter. Daniel was your typical brooding character who usually turns up in these stories who has the hard past of losing all his family and friends. The only problem I had with him was that I wished his character and story could have went a little farther. I think Noah should have formed a better friendship with him.

Writing Style: The writing style really wasn't all that special, but it was not bad either. It was clear enough.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing really bothered me in a big way, but I think the book could have been longer, especially if it had been written for an older audience. I have no problem with the book itself, because I think that just the way it is is great for young teens, but I still think there could have been more time between the characters. And also events seem to come and go without a lot of time shown in between, but that's really the only thing I had a problem with and it probably wouldn't bother everyone. I just like a little deeper war novel myself.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The outcome was very satisfying, and I liked how Noah came to the conclusion that if he was going to have to fight in war, he would fight to save the lives of his friends and not to take the lives of the enemy.

Recommended Audience: A good guy read for probably ages 12-15. There's no content, even the parts that could have been bloody were not. It's not a hard core war novel, but reading it for the story alone is enjoyable and it's a good book if you want a quick read. As I said, I think it is a fantastic book for the age range it's written for. 

The first volume of Lloyd Alexander's classic "Westmark" trilogy finds a printer's apprentice on the road with a traveling show. Performing feats that astound and amaze, he and his friends fall into a trap set by Chief Minister Cabbarus, who is determined to wrest power from the grief-stricken king.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I'm a huge fan of classic adventure stories and also fantasy that is more alternate universe, especially ones set during the 1700s or thereabouts like this one was. I actually have never read any of Lloyd Alexander's books before which I find rather odd now since I totally would have loved these when I was younger, but now I am definitely a fan.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I don't hate it, but I don't like the character representations either. You can tell it's a fantasy/adventure novel, but I don't like how Theo or Mickle are drawn.

Characters: This book had the great kind of cast that one should expect in an adventure novel. Theo is a great hero; I liked the fact that he had morals and he was easily likable from the moment you meet him. Likewise so were Musket, Las Bombas and Mickle who was an awesome female character and actually reminded me of the kind of heroines I like to write about. There were also really good supporting characters. I liked Florian and Dr. Torrens a lot. Cabbarus could have been worse but he wasn't bad for the kind of book this is either. I do prefer a more nasty villain though.

Writing Style: Fast paced, yet not so much that there is no story line, just enough to move the story along properly as it should be. Lloyd Alexander has a wonderful writing style. It's very classic, witty, and this book actually reminded me quite a bit of "Prisoner of Zenda", it definitely had the same feel to it.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing bothered me in this book, at least nothing so major I would complain about it.

Conclusion: 4 stars, I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy and other books by the author.

Recommended Audience: Fans of classic adventure stories will love this. People who liked "Prisoner of Zenda" and books like that should definitely try this one out. It's suitable for any age.

The world knows Jack London as a writer who lived his own thrilling, real-life adventures. But there are parts of his life that have remained hidden for many years, things so horrifying even he couldn’t set them down in writing. These are the Secret Journeys of Jack London.

We meet Jack at age seventeen, following thousands of men and women into the Yukon Territory in search of gold. For Jack, the journey holds the promise of another kind of fortune: challenge and adventure. But what he finds in the wild north is something far more sinister than he could ever have imagined: kidnapping and slavery, the murderous nature of desperate men, and, amidst it all, supernatural beasts of the wilderness that prey upon the weakness in men’s hearts.

Acclaimed writers Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, along with illustrator Greg Ruth, have crafted a masterful tale both classic and contemporary, a gripping original story of the paranormal in the tradition of the great Jack London


Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was one of those books for me that has such a unique premise that I had to read it. I have actually not read any of Jack London's stuff (unless I did in school and don't remember) but I obviously know the gist of it and so this book sparked my interest. This series is about a young Jack London, before he really became famous, and his supposed 'secret journeys' that are written down, as we see in the preface, by a companion of his who he meets in the book. It was truly nothing like I thought it was going to be when I picked it up, in fact, about a third of the way through, I really had no idea which direction it was going and I liked that. There are so many predictable books out there, but this one really caught me by surprise in every chapter and I could never guess what I would find on the next page. It was very strange, but in a good way, and the kind of way I like. But I'll talk more about that later.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I do like the cover and the illustrations inside. I love the weathered look of the picture and how Jack and the wolf are both on it and you can only see a back profile of Jack. I think I have said before that I really like a back profile of a character.

Characters: I liked how Jack was portrayed. Like I said, I don't know much about the real Jack London, but I really liked how this teenage version of him was portrayed. And from what the authors said in their authors' note, his character is pretty accurate. I liked his two friends, Jim and Merrit and the boy Hal who he rescues from getting taken by slavers up in the Yukon. The slavers were appropriately nasty, and they really were vile. Lesya was appropriately mysterious and exotic, but I won't say more about that for fear of spoilers.

Writing Style: The writing style is partly why I gave the book four stars. The story itself was intriguing, but if it had not been written properly, it would have been a complete flop in my opinion, and the authors did very good with it. This was a very well written book, and the style fit the story perfectly. It was vivid, and visual and I could totally see all the scenes playing out in front of me which was great because some of the strange scenes could have been very vague. I am a fan of books that portray fantasy and supernatural happenings realistically, if that makes any sense, and this book really did. I liked the setting of the Yukon because it's such a deserted place, that you could actually believe the happenings of this book could happen. I liked how they brought in the story of the Wendigo which came from that area, and the Wendigo was portrayed to be very frightening. There's also some Russain lore in the book too, dealing with the forest spirit, Leshii. That part of the book for me was almost creepier than the Wendigo. This is more of a narrative book, and there's long chunks without dialogue, but it's hardly noticeable if you're not a fan of narrative writing. I go either way depending on who writes it, but this one you will not notice the difference at all.

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't have anything to complain about, truthfully, this book was just so odd that I just kind of went along for the ride and didn't really think about it too much. It kept my attention though, and I cared for the characters, so I must have enjoyed it! I know that sounds kind of funny, but this book was just so different, I'm still not quite sure what to think of it.

Conclusion: 4 stars. Very unique read, and I'm interested to see if they top it in the next book.

Recommended Audience: Older teens, a guy book. There's a bit of language and lots of gore. This is definitely a realistic book so if you're squeamish of blood, don't read it. Also, it really is kind of creepy, so I wouldn't suggest reading it at night!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Deals for the New Year

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great holiday, I definitely had a better Christmas than Thanksgiving since I had no obligations and I could actually take the week to sit and do nothing but read for fun. I hope some of you get the change to do the same, so to help with that, until January 2nd all my e-book novels are only $2.99 from both Smashwords and Amazon. I'm also excited to announce that "Ballad of the Highwayman" is now also in e-book format!

And don't forget, that if you buy a copy of "By Blood or By Bond" during the duration of the blog tour (until Jan 18th) send me an email notifying me that you have, and if you buy the e-book, I will send you a coupon for a free copy of one of the backstories "To Save a Life" from Smashwords. If you buy the paperback copy, I'll send you a coupon for 30% off the paperback copy of the backstories collection that includes all three stories as well as three extra mini stories that are exclusive only to the hard copy of the book. If you want a chance to win a free copy of both books, enter the Goodreads giveaway for "By Blood or By Bond" on the right of the blog, and follow my blog tour and comment for a chance to win a signed copy of the backstories!

Purchase links


Amazon Kindle:

Ballad of the Highwayman:

On a Foreign Field:

By Blood or By Bond:

Please take advantage of these deals! Hope you have a great new year!

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, December 15, 2012

By Blood or By Bond Tour Schedule

December 18th: Character Interview with Viggo Callias at Amanda McCrina's Blog
December 20th: Guest post about Roman and Celtic cultures at Sandra Saidak's Blog
December 26th: Author interview at 667B Baker Street
December 27th: Guest post-The Writing of a Roman Epic at 667B Baker Street
December 30th: Excerpt/Blurb at Janet Kellough's Blog
January 3rd: Guest post at Modern Papyrus 
January 7th: Author Interview at A Write to Review
January 17th: Author Interview at The Secret Writer

Here is the schedule for the virtual book tour of my new novel By Blood or By Bond! I really hope everyone decides to take a look and follow the tour. Here's some reasons why:


I will be giving away one signed copy of By Blood or By Bond through a Goodreads Giveaway and a signed copy of my backstories collection to a lucky commenter during the blog tour. It you want to win the backstories collection, leave a comment with your name and email address and after the tour, I will draw the lucky winner from my highwayman hat.

Here’s another fun thing! During the tour, if you:

a. Purchase a paperback copy of By Blood or By Bond through Amazon or Createspace, you can email me at with the subject “Blood or Bond” and notify me of your purchase. I will then give you a coupon code for 30% off a paperback copy of the backstories collection from Createspace.

b. Purchase an e-book copy of By Blood or By Bond from Smashwords or Kindle send me the same email, and I will give you a discount code for a FREE Smashwords e-book copy of “To Save a Life”. So, if you buy the book, don’t forget to email me before the 31st of January, or you won’t get your coupon! 

So seriously, comment and email me, or you'll be the only one missing out :P

Hope to see you on the tour!

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Paperback Short Stories Release!

Sink me! I can't believe it! Two releases in one week! It certainly seems like I have been working non-stop since December (actually since Thanksgiving) but I hate sob stories, and this is my job right now anyway, so I can't complain :P

ANYWAY! To the point: The backstories for By Blood or By Bond are now available in a compiled paperback addition! But wait! There's also perks to buying the hard copy instead of the e-stories:

1. It makes a great gift for Christmas! Small enough to be a stocking stuffer or a present for someone who enjoys historical fiction and/or is a relative who needs a quick read for the plane/train/car ride back home.

2. The three extra mini stories in the back. I decided to write three extra little fluffy stories to add to the paperback addition.

3. Character sketches! Of the main characters featured at the beginning of each story.

Here's the Purchase links:



And of course, don't forget that you can get all three of these stories: "To Save a Life", "Home Before the Harvest", and "Wolf Hunt" on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords! But you won't get all the extra perks...

Also, concerning the Blood or Bond tour, I will soon be adding an itinerary that you will be able to find by clicking the poster on the upper right hand side (kindly designed by Amanda McCrina!) Again, if you'd like to host a stop do let me know! And check out By Blood or By Bond and the backstories!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

By Blood or By Bond Release!!!!!

Which ties are stronger—those of Blood or those of Bond.

Caolán, the son of a Celtic chieftain, awaits his first pitched battle against the Roman invaders, knowing that this is the moment in which he will truly become a warrior, of the tribe.

Viggo Callias is a seasoned centurion in the Roman army on his first deployment to Britain with his newly enlisted son, Aulus. Serving under an incompetent commander, he wonders whether victory will be theirs.

But fate takes a hand in both Caolán and Viggo’s lives when Viggo’s son is killed by a spear meant for him. Enraged at the loss of his son, Viggo seeks vengeance on the man responsible: Caolán’s father. As the chieftain breathes his last, Viggo vows to take Caolán as a slave to avenge Aulus’ untimely death.

Torn from his country and people, Caolán’s only comfort is the hope that one day he will be able to avenge his father. But can the greatest wrongs be righted? Brotherly bonds, gladiators, old enemies, corrupt politicians and a young woman who captures Caolán’s heart, take a role in the physical and emotional journey that binds Caolán’s and Viggo’s fates together. Can the two wounded parties work past their hatred of each other and find what they have lost: a father and a son?

This new novel by Hazel West, explores the familial ties that bind us all, whether by blood or by bond.


It's here! By Blood or By Bond is finally released! Just in time for buying as a Christmas gift for your historical fiction lover (hint,hint) I'll be posting all the purchase links here as they are available. Currently, it's only available in paperback from Createspace, which is a wonderful thing! Later it will be up on Amazon and I'm getting the e-book ready as well while I will let everyone know about as soon as I do. I'd also like to let everyone know that I'm working on the hard copy version of my backstories, so I'll let you all know about that when it's up for purchase as well.

Createspace Paperback:

Amazon Paperback:

Smashwords Ebook:


Another thing: I am trying to get a blog tour together to promote Blood or Bond, and if you would like to host a stop, please let me know! I'm trying to find at least three more stops. If you'd like to, please email me at For those of you interesting in following the tour, and you should because there's going to be some (hopefully) awesome guest posts by me about Roman and Celtic history/culture and writing the book, interviews, and not to mention promotions and giveaways that you're going to have to comment to get! I'll be posting the itinerary soon once I get all my stops together.

I do hope that By Blood or By Bond might be a book for you. If you get it, I hope you enjoy!

Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Finding....A Better Title

Well, this isn't exactly a Trend Post, but I will be talking a little bit about trends in it. I've seen a lot of title trending going on lately, particularly an influx of novels titles "Finding (enter person's name here)". Now, I don't mean to offend anyone who's book is one of those titles, but I do think it is important to address the fact that trend titles are not going to get you more readers. In fact, it might just look like a trended title is a knock off of the original.

Titles, for me, are about as important as the book cover when I go to choose a book. A book entitled "The Rogues" is going to pike my interest a lot more than say one entitled "Ruby Red". For the record, I'm reading "Ruby Red" by Kristen Gier right now and enjoying it, but I would not have picked up the title if it had not been recommended to me by a friend. I judge books by their titles as much as I do by their covers, but I don't like to be too judgmental either, because I might miss something I would really enjoy.

However, as a writer, you really need to choose a title that works for your book. When I choose a title, I try to reflect the kind of book it's going to be. I like to think that titles such as "On a Foreign Field" promise a historical war novel, which is what it is, and that "By Blood or By Bond" makes one think of strong ties and also possibly a historical novel, which is obviously what the book is about. I love when authors actually sneak the title into the book or have the title be an obvious lead in to the book itself. Series books can get away with having perhaps not to interesting titles, because by the time you hook readers with the first book, you have loyal fans for life (unless you do something to really tick your readers off.) Of course certain genres have certain kinds of titles. You can usually tell a mystery, thriller, and a romance from their title alone, (This is kind of what I think of as 'blind taste-testing' of books). Another favorite way to title books of mine is using a line of a poem. Most of my older, never-will-be-published books had Scottish poems as their titles. I actually carried this into the title of "Freedom Come All Ye" which is a song that I feature in the book. It also has a significant meaning to the story in itself. I would imagine the person who picked it up, even without knowledge of the Scottish folk song, would think that it was a book about freedom fighters or something of that nature, which it is: a novel about a young William Wallace.

I think titles are a very personal thing, which is why I am against title trending. Don't title your book like someone else's just to get people to read it. In fact, I'm kind of against putting a character's name in the title at all unless it's a series like my eventual "Anthony Maxwell Mysteries" but that should not be the title itself. The only time I would ever do this is if I were writing a book about a historical figure. Just for an example, I could call a book about William Wallace simply "Wallace". Anyone who liked reading about Wallace would probably pick up the book to see if it was about the famous Scottish hero, I know I would. Nigel Tranter entitles one of his books, "The Young Montrose" and yes, it is about James Graham, Earl of Montrose. The title should mean something to the author, that is why I personally do not wrack my brains for a title, I let it come to me. When I can't think of one, I resort to looking through poems or quotes that remind me of my book and take a phrase or line from that.

Authors, how do you go about choosing a title for your books and what are your thoughts on title trending?

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, November 30, 2012

Books of Note-- November Reads

I read lots of good books this November, even though I kind of slacked off at the end of the month to finish writing "By Blood or By Bond" But these were my favorite choices for the month:

Hal and his brotherband crew are hot on the trail of the pirate Zavac and they have one thing only on their minds: Stopping the bloodthirsty thief before he can do more damage. Of course, they also know Zavac has the Andomal, the priceless Skandian artifact stolen when the brotherband let down their guard. The chase leads down mighty rivers, terrifying rapids, to the lawless fortress of Ragusa. If Hal is to succeed, he will need to go beyond his brotherband training. He will need to challenge the pirate one-on-one, knowing only one of them will survive.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: Whereas the last book tended to drag a little, I think this was was properly more fast-paced and exciting and I'm glad it ended the way it did. I really enjoyed it a lot. It had all the great character moments, adventure and humor that I have come to expect in John Flanagan's books. I've come to like the Brotherband Chronicles just as much as the Ranger's Apprentice series.

Characters: As always, I loved the Heron Brotherband, plus Thorn. They are totally awesome. I'm also glad we kind of had more of a chance to get to know some of the other boys in this one too like Ingvar and Edvin, both of whom I have come to like quite a bit. Lydia, I still kind of feel was just thrown into the story to have a female character. She had her moments, but there was only one instance where she really did anything that the others couldn't have done, and even then, it still could have been accomplished just with the boys. I just can't seem to get to know her or care for her as much as I did for Alyss in the Ranger's Apprentice series. I know John Flanagan can write good female characters, but Lydia just kind of falls flat for me. I am totally glad there was no stupid love triangle between her, Hal and Stig though which was what I was really afraid would happen in this book. In fact, I'm kind of rooting for her and Ingvar ;) As for the villains, I still love Zavak, again, he's a great pirate character. I also liked Doutro because he was interesting and really nasty, though I kind of wish there had been more of him and that he had played more into the plot.

Writing Style: As always, I love John Flanagan's writing style. This book was no different than any of the others.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing really bothered me, except I still think Lydia wasn't nessessary, and then there was that one part at the place with Doutro that almost seemed like a lose end, but it's easily overlooked and doesn't take away from the story.

Conclusion: 4 Stars. Really liked this installment, and I'm totally excited to see what will happen next. Apart from the duel, I think the epilogue was my favorite part of the book. It was so perfect in so many ways =)

Recommended Audience: Long time John Flanagan fans, of course. And if you haven't read Brotherband yet, do so! They're just as good as Ranger's Apprentice!

(You can also read my friend, Mara's review of the book here)

A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!

When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I must say that I am very impressed by the number of really good YA books that have come out this year. For a while I almost dreaded going into the YA section because I just hated everything that was new and popular, but it's books like these that gives me hope for the genre. I think this book had a wonderful new story line, a nice steampunk feel, good characters, and an overall classic appeal to it. The mystery was also intriguing and definitely not simple because I had little to no clue what it was all about.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I really liked the cover for this book, it tells you everything you need to know. I am always attracted to books with mansions on the front and I love the stormy colors of it. I also always like back profiles of the characters, then you don't have to worry about their faces not matching how you picture them. The gears behind the title are cool as well since it gives a promise of a steampunk novel. I also liked the title and how you find out where it fits into the story line. I'm quite partial to enigmatic titles.

Characters: I really like Katherine as a protagonist because I think she grows very well during the story. She might not seem like a greatest person and even a little snobbish in the beginning, but she definitely turns out to be a very sympathetic character. I also liked the supporting cast. Uncle Tully is just one of those endearing characters you can't help but love. Lane and Davy were two of my favorite characters though. I can't resist those dark brooding types, so, of course, Lane would be on my favorites list, and Davy was just such a sweet little boy, quiet but yet seeing everything. And Mrs. Jefferies as well, was the typical slightly bad tempered housekeeper who you can't help but like anyway. And then, of course, you had Aunt Alice who was so fun to hate. Overall a wonderful cast, fitting for the kind of story.

Writing Style: The style was very good, and descriptive which I love in these kinds of stories. As mysteries often are, it was in first person. The language was very accurate to the time period and I think the author did her research well into everything she wrote about, and I know how much research must have gone into this novel, or any mystery novel, so my hat is off to Sharon Cameron.

Problems/What bothered me: Truthfully, there was nothing that bothered me in this story. Even the romance was spot on to my tastes, so I can't complain there either.

Conclusion: 5 stars, Loved it! Sharon Cameron has given us a wonderful debut novel here, and I think she will continue to do so as she carries on with the proposed sequel of this book, that I am awaiting with the utmost anticipation!

Recommended Audience: I think readers of the classics such as Jane Eyre and Sherlock Holmes would find this book to their tastes. Also people who enjoy light steampunk (more like Gaslight Romance) would like it. I'd say it's probably more of a girl read than a guy read, but it's still a wonderful story and mystery.

(You can also read Mara's review here)

A story of loyalties tested, secrets exposed, and one boy’s search for identity amid the tangled political intrigue and deception of the Dark Ages.

A young thief known as "the Ghost" roams seventh-century Constantinople, tangling in political feuds and petty theft, using his eerie gifts of persuasion and stealth. With his father away at war and his mother devastated by his little sister’s death, Cai would rather be anywhere than at home. But when a rival ambushes and sells Cai as a slave, he begins to regret his choices. Aboard the slavers’ ship, Cai travels far from the warmth of Constantinople into his parents’ homeland — the forbidding land of Britain, where war is brewing between tribes. Bought by a clan head, Cai finds a new life as a tribal member, and using his uncanny talents, is put to work as a spy. The secrets he discovers, however, kindle doubt and disloyalty in his heart. Adrift in a society he still feels apart from, Cai seeks truth and revenge, throwing his life to the wind with startling results.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I loved "Bloodline" which I actually ended up doing a faith buy on (which I ended up being glad I did) but "Bloodline Rising" I think was even better. I mean, seriously, it has every theme I absolutely love in it! Celtic Britain, thieves, the Middle East, plus a lovely father-son relationship and lots of brotherly relationships too. Just simply a wonderful book!

Cover--Yae or Nay: I really like the covers for these books because I love silhouettes and you can tell it's going to be set in Constantinople or someplace like that. Even if I had no prior knowledge of these books, this would have caught my eye.

Characters: I love Cai because, number one, he's a flawed character, thus making him realistic, but yet, he really does want to do the right thing. Of course, he's Essa's son (Essa being the character in "Bloodline") and I actually love how Essa never told him about his past. Their father-son relationship was so good because it was dynamic, and, again, realistic. I also loved seeing other characters from the previous book like Wulf (who was a favorite of mine) and also how his son became good friends with Cai; Cenry and Edge were great characters as well. I also loved the Emperor of Thieves. There were also a lot of good secondary characters.

Writing Style: While "Bloodline" was written in third person one perspective, "Bloodline Rising" was first person from Cai's point of view. I normally don't like books written in the present tense, but seriously, in this one, it took me several pages to realize that and it was not distracting at all. Sometimes present tense can be a little vague, but this book I hardly noticed it, and I think it actually added to the story.

Problems/What bothered me: Truthfully, I had no problems with this book.

Conclusion: 5 stars! I loved this book. It was just really, really good!

Recommended Audience: People who enjoyed "Bloodline" should definitely read this one. I really don't even think it's necessary to read them in that order; you could actually read "Bloodline" as a prequel later, if you wished. Rosemary Sutcliff fans would also like these books. A guy and girl read, probably thirteen and up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Final Cover Art + Teaser for "By Blood or By Bond"

As promised, here is the finished cover art for "By Blood or By Bond"!

And the back cover teaser:

Which ties are stronger—those of Blood or those of Bond.

Caolán, the son of a Celtic chieftain, awaits his first pitched battle against the Roman invaders, knowing that this is the moment in which he will truly become a warrior, of the tribe.

Viggo Callias is a seasoned centurion in the Roman army on his first deployment to Britain with his newly enlisted son, Aulus. Serving under an incompetent commander, he wonders whether victory will be theirs.

But fate takes a hand in both Caolán and Viggo’s lives when Viggo’s son is killed by a spear meant for him. Enraged at the loss of his son, Viggo seeks vengeance on the man responsible: Caolán’s father. As the chieftain breathes his last, Viggo vows to take Caolán as a slave to avenge Aulus’ untimely death.

Torn from his country and people, Caolán’s only comfort is the hope that one day he will be able to avenge his father. But can the greatest wrongs be righted? Brotherly bonds, gladiators, old enemies, corrupt politicians and a young woman who captures Caolán’s heart, take a role in the physical and emotional journey that binds Caolán’s and Viggo’s fates together. Can the two wounded parties work past their hatred of each other and find what they have lost: a father and a son?

This new novel by Hazel West, explores the familial ties that bind us all, whether by blood or by bond.

Still looking for people to host for the Blood&Bond blog tour as well! Email me if you're interested.

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, November 23, 2012

By Blood or By Bond cover teaser!

As promised, here is a teaser of the cover for my upcoming novel "By Blood or By Bond", the cover art sketch my meself.

I'll post the finished cover once it's finished. Another little secret, I just coffee-stained and distressed a piece of paper ;)

Also don't forget to check out the sales on some awesome books (yes, mine included) this weekend!

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Weekend Sales!

Hi everyone! I just wanted to make a quick announcement that myself and a couple other amazing authors have put our books on sale this weekend, so strike while the iron is hot! You can choose from these awesome titles for you e-reading pleasure:

"On a Foreign Field" (Which is obviously my book, once again lowered to $2.99 )



Also Daniel Ottalini's Roman Steampunk adventure novel "Brass Legionnaire"

And Amanda McCrina's historical fantasy military adventure "His Own Good Sword"

I'll hope you'll take time to check these out and purchase copies for yourself or a friend. Remember, it's only $2.99, and it would make us all really happy!

On another note, "By Blood or By Bond" is in it's editing stages, which means that I am still on schedule for it to be out by Christmas. I'll be relseasing a teaser sketch of the cover really soon as well. Also, I'm still looking for bloggers who would be willing to host a tour stop for my book tour of "Blood or Bond" email me at if you're interested. If you'd like to read&review it for the tour as well, be sure to let me know.

More later! And don't forget to avail yourselves of the sales this weekend!

Slainte, Hazel

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Characters Who Make You a Better Writer

As a writer especially of Young Adult novels I think it's important to write characters who will make the reader a better person. Or characters who can push through things that a reader might be finding hard. I remember reading books in my tweens and early teens that really just made me feel better, and I think really shaped my personality to a certain degree. This is important, but there's something else certain characters can do for a writer as well, and that is help to to write better.

I'm sure avid readers will be able to pick out certain books by their favorite authors that are just gold: the story and characters mix in the most perfect way and you just can't get enough of it! You'll also probably be able to pick out books by the same author that just didn't do it for you. This is most likely personal preference, but it could also have something to do with the author themselves.

As an author, I will say this: some characters you just fall in love with. All your characters are like your children, and while you love them all, of course, there might be some that you just get along with better than others. I know some books for me are harder to get the prose and the characters right, and take a while for me to get to know them. Other characters just simply talk to me when they want to and say "write this down".

Then there are the characters who speak for themselves and when you write them, you find yourself using words or phrases you never would have thought of but with the voice of the character. One reason I seriously love first person, even though most of my books just don't seem right for it. For me, Anthony Maxwell, my hero detective in my upcoming Steampunk novel, is a character who makes me a better writer. I don't know what it is about him, he just says things and I write them down. It's all him. I can't even imagine how I know how to properly use all those large, interesting words in a sentence--it's all Anthony. Where, in other books, I have to fight with the prose to get it to sound right, Anthony seems to make it effortless. Why is this? I don't really know, one day writers might come up with a word for it. The best I can come up with now is "possession".

It's true that not all your characters are going to speak to you in a way that will make you a better writer, but trust me that when you find them, you'll want to hang on to them. For about two, three, four, five books, or more. And here's a little advice for new writers: Don't speak for the characters, let them speak for themselves. Writing in its purest form should be effortless, and when it is, you'll know that's some of the best writing you have ever done!

So here's a health to our characters who make us better writers! (Raise your coffee cups everyone!)

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Home Before the Harvest--Short Story Release!

Well, I'm excited to announce my newest backstory for "By Blood or By Bond": "Home Before the Harvest" and also sad because it's the last one that I have planned at the moment (though that plan might not last very long either). My inspiration for this...well, let's just say Horatio Hornblower fans might see where I got some things from...

Now a centurion in the Roman army, Viggo Aulus Callias and now his younger foster brother, Hector, find themselves in Germania on duty. He's looking forward to his leave to go back to his wife and see his son for the first time that autumn, but that hope becomes more desperate when he finds that his old enemy, Tribune Amatus, is serving his military term in the same legion.

Old rivalries spring up between them, even more deadly than they had been before, and with his and Hector's lives threatened by Amatus, Viggo begins to wonder whether he will make it back to Rome alive at all, let alone before the harvest.

This is the third and final story is a series of backstories for Hazel West's upcoming novel "By Blood or By Bond" about one of many of Viggo and Hector's adventures with the Roman legions. 

And here's an excerpt for buying incentive!

“Sir, the new tribune has arrived and wishes to present himself to you. Shall I show him in now?”
“Yes, bring him here,” Kaius said. Viggo made to leave, regretfully putting aside his half finished wine. “No need to leave, Callias, you’ll need to meet the tribune eventually anyway if you’re to be working together.”
Viggo settled back down but as the door opened again to admit the new arrival, he and the legate both stood to greet the man and Viggo nodded his head slightly in respect of the man’s higher position before he heard what Kaius was saying.
“Ah, Tribune Amatus, I trust your journey was satisfactory?”
“As satisfactory as it could have been in this wasteland,” came a snobbish voice that Viggo knew all too well. He looked the man in the eye and a flash of sickness and anger flooded through him, making him clench his hands into fists involuntarily as that smirk appeared in the corner of the tribune’s mouth.
“Tribune, this is Centurion Viggo Aulus Callias, he will be serving with you. Callias, this is Tribune Amatus.”
“I know,” Viggo said, trying with every ounce of his being to keep his voice civil. “We have met.”

Both on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle:

Smashwords link:

Kindle link:

But before you read this story, I would advise you to read "To Save a Life" if you have not already. It's not totally necessary, of course, but it will have more meaning if you do. Also, if you have purchased any of my stories from Smashwords, I would really appreciate it if you have written a review, that you put it on the Smashwords website. I haven't gotten a review or rating there yet so I would love it if you would post a review there whether it's bad or good ;-)

As an update, my novel's title is now officially change to "By Blood OR By Bond" (it makes more sense that way) and it should still be out by Christmas.

Also, now that I have the three of these stories written, I will be publishing them as a combined anthology in a paperback from Createspeace and that should be up by the end of the month. There also might be some surprises in the print copy, but we'll see.

Apart from that, again my apologies for not blogging writing tips right now, but writing is taking up all of my free time (which is pretty much all my time right now).

Also, I am looking to create my own blog tour for the release of "By Blood or By Bond" sometime, hopefully at the end of December through January, and I'm looking for historical fiction bloggers who might be interested in hosting me. Please email me at if you would like to help out, and I'll keep you posted on details!

Slainte, Hazel

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Books of Note-- October Reads

Some of the best books I read this month! And there were so many, it's hard to choose which were my favorites! Oh yes, and I've also added a section where I say what I think about the book cover in my reviewing format.

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I'll admit that originally, I was a bit wary of how this book was going to be. I LOVED "Scorpio Races" and I was afraid from the description of this book that Maggie Stiefvater would revert back to some of her older stories like Lament and Ballad which I was not a fan of. But I really really ended up enjoying this book more and more as it went along. There were just so many plot twists and unexpected things that I couldn't stop reading because I just had to know how it ended. There are very few books that can leave me guessing throughout and with this one, I really had no clue where each page would lead me. I think it was another really amazing unique, never-before-seen kind of book like "Scorpio Races" was.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I honestly thought the cover was a bit odd, and if I hadn't been anticipating this book, it's not the kind of thing I would normally pick up, but once you read the book, you understand the picture. I do like the oil paint look to how the raven is done, and the cover is pearly which is kind of cool. I'm really not a fan of white though. I don't know why, I like off white, but bright white just looks too sterile to me or something. So while I didn't dislike it, it's not my favorite either. I Liked the cover for "Scorpio Races" better.

Characters: I'll talk about Blue first because I don't have as much to say about her. While I wasn't a huge fan of her name (I'm with Gansey, let's call her Jane) her character was really great. It's funny because I thought she was going to be the main character, but she turned out to almost be more of a supporting character while Gansey took lead role. Perhaps this was why she didn't have The Attitude like some girls (and girls from some of Maggie's other books) have had. She was smart, she was likable, and I liked how she was friends with the guys while not being all "I'm better than you all because I'm a girl" or "I'm just going to play all these guys 'cause they're hot". In fact, there wasn't that much romance at all which I was very happy about but I'll get to that more later.

As for the guys, I am a huge fan of quirky groups, and these four are definitely quirky. Gansey was a great hero type guy. I loved how he was an eccentric scholar type person (I can relate) I also really LOVED how he took care of his friends. The brotherly relationship between the four here was epic for a modern YA book. You don't usually see that, and there were some parts that I won't mention because of spoilers that just made me happy. I also like how, though he's so confident, he's still kind of awkward socially like a typical scholar. Adam was probably my favorite character in the book though. He was just sweet and troubled and I love those kinds of characters. And I also liked how he was too proud to accept charity, because that's always a hard thing to do. Ronan isn't normally who I would class as a likable character, but I do see where he came from, and you can't blame him either because of his past. Grief can ruin a person and I do like to see tortured characters in books because I think a lot of times characters get washed out and too 'un-real' almost. And Ronan had his moments where I had to cheer for him too. Noah, I liked for reasons I can't say because of spoilers, but I thought he was a pretty cool character ;-)

Writing Style: I have always liked Maggie's writing style, even for some of her books I didn't like as much. This book was really awesome, and I think the only one of hers that has not been in first person. But it's one that I don't think could be in first person either because you hop characters too much. I really loved how she added Welsh folk lore into it. This book was weird, but it was a good weird. I love stories about ghosts and faeries and ghost hunting (or whatever you would really term this) and I love it even more if it's mixed with history and folk lore. And of course it has to be British history, because it wouldn't be right otherwise. I also loved, as I mentioned before, the fact that there was no unnecessary romance involved. There was a little bit of crushing as a side plot, but since Blue is actually a sensible heroine, she didn't let that get in the way. This book could have turned into another Twilight but it didn't, thankfully. This book almost felt like an Indiana Jones adventure looking for the sleeping Welsh king, Owain Glendower, and it was more adventure than anything else even though it was definitely a character driven story.

Problems/What bothered me: For story I didn't really have any problems. The ending surprised me, a lot actually since it was way far away from what I was expecting, but I didn't have any problems with it. The only thing I could mark was that there was more strong language than I think should be in a YA book, but then some YA books are just like that and if I like a story and characters enough I can bleep out the language in my head. (Oh, and on a technical side- I found several typos of a type I know all too well: where you start to write one thing but then change it to another and you forget to delete the first part?)

Conclusion: 5 stars. I throughly enjoyed it. I don't usually rates books with this much language over four stars, but I had to factor in the total uniqueness of this as well, so I made an exception in this case. Perhaps still not quite as good as "Scorpio Races" but a huge surprise to me. I really can't wait to see what she does with the sequel. As long as Maggie keeps doing whatever she has been doing for the last couple books, I think we're good.

Recommended Audience: Older teens because of language mostly but there are other themes that might bother people like abuse, a little darkness and maybe a little creepiness if you creep out easily. I'm probably not a good judge of that because I don't. I'm a "that was weird" kind of person. I can't really compare this book to any others, but if you like modern/historical fantasy (see I can't even class it) or are a Maggie Stiefvater fan, I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

(Also read my friend Mara's review here: )

Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency--Patrice Kindl's first novel in a decade--is like literary champagne!


Thoughts on the Overall Book: Okay, I really just simply enjoyed this book! When I read a "girly" book this is the kind I like. A quirky heroine, lots of good humor, and a lovely supporting cast, both with people you love and those who can be quite tiresome but are fun to read about anyway.

Cover-- Yae or Nay: Yes, I like the cover, it looks kind of whimsical and I love the font of the title as well. Though if I had seen this without knowing what the story was about, I might have thought it was a medieval story, just because I don't normally expect castles to feature in Empire novels, but once you read the description, you're obviously told differently.

Characters: Althea, is a wonderful protagonist, and well casted for the first person. I love her slightly sarcastic English humor and her descriptions of things and the other characters. Her step sisters are quite droll ladies, one with the infatuation for quotes about death and the other always flirting and trying to steal every man before he can even get to know Althea. I also love how Althea is always saying what she means even if she doesn't mean it. (Well, of course we know she does, even though she shouldn't have spoken in the first place). Lord Boring wasn't too bad. He's just kind of mediocre, and I actually felt rather sorry for him being stuck under the thumb of his mother all the time. My favorite character though, was Mr. Fredericks. I adore characters like him and he was hilarious with his sardonic attitude.

Writing Style: Very Austinian in style and a light and easy read. Definitely the kind of thing one can enjoy after a long day.

Problems/What bothered me: I had no problems with this book, it was just a simple story and very enjoyable.

Conclusion: 5 stars. I loved this story, and I really hope the author writes some more about this time period because she has a good knack for it.

Recommended Audience: Any age would enjoy this book. There's nothing content wise and appropriate for any age, though it's definitely a girl read.

(You can also read Mara's review here: )

When Peter's parents are killed, he is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland. But Peter is Volksdeutscher-of German blood. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he looks just like the boy on the Hitler Youth poster. The Nazis decide he is racially valuable. Indeed, a prominent German family is pleased to adopt such a fine Aryan specimen into their household. But despite his new "family," Peter feels like a foreigner-an ausländer-and he is forming his own ideas about what he sees and what he's told. He doesn't want to be a Nazi. So he takes a risk-the most dangerous one he could possibly choose in 1942 Berlin...


Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was a very well-written historical fiction story, well researched and exciting. While it might have had some slow parts, I liked the fact that it seemed like a real story, more than actual fiction. The author did a wonderful job portraying what life was like back in the Nazi occupation and this book even went to extremes that I hadn't really heard about before, but, as explained in the author's note, were completely accurate. For me this book was actually very eye-opening as to how truly fanatic Nazi supporters were.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I do like the cover for this book, that and the title is what made me pull it off the shelf. Though it makes it look more like an action thriller which it really wasn't. Only the last part of the book really had that kind of feeling to it whereas the rest of it, while not boring, didn't really have a lot of action in it. But it definitely looks like a WWII novel.

Characters: Peter's a good protagonist, as well as Anna. At some points you wanted to smack them over the head for their stupidity, but that was another thing that led to this book being like a real story. They were real, flawed characters. I loved the idea of a character (Peter) who was a privileged Aryan even though he was Polish instead of fully German, being idolized by the Nazis because of his 'perfect' complexion. I also liked how, at first, Peter seems flattered though a little overwhelmed by his position, but then when he sees what the Nazis are really capable of, he decides he doesn't want to be part of that anymore. I also really loved how the plot went into the underground as well, helping the Jews to escape occupied Germany.

Writing Style: I haven't read any of Paul Dowswell's books yet besides this one, but I know I'll like them now because his writing style truly is very very good. You can definitely tell all the research that went into this story down to every little detail. In fact it's so detailed that the reader automatically knows he is not making anything up. He is a truly amazing Historical writer.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing truly bothered me. I think "Auslander" is a good look into life in Nazi Germany. I can't complain about the book because it was presented in a historical way.

Conclusion: 4 stars. This was a really good book, and I'm only rating it four because it's not one of my favorite books I have read, though I'm not marking it down for anything but personal preference. If I was going on historical accuracy alone, I would give it five stars.

Recommended Audience: Probably older teens and adults. It's not as brutal as it could have been, but, as can be expected, there are themes that young readers might find disturbing (it goes into torture/execution methods, medical experimentation and the horrors of the camps--though that's only mentioned somewhat in passing. It also talks about what they would do to the mentally ill people, which is rather hard to swallow.) Any fans of good historical fiction would enjoy this book though.


On another note, I apologize that I have not been updating my blog very much lately, I'm neck deep in writing "By Blood or By Bond" and I have also entered Anthony Maxwell's book (Now entitled "A Case of Poisons" ) Into NaNoWriMo this year! I'm totally excited because this is my first year of doing it, and I am deturmined to write the full 50,000 words of Anthony's story during the month. Anthony will be very pleased too. If you want to follow the updates, keep checking his Facebook account. Or if you too, are entering NaNo you can look me up as "theartfulscribbler" 

And in case you didn't know (because I can't remember if I put this up yet or not) I also started a Twitter account where you can check all my quick updates or shared links on a daily basis @artfulscribber

Last announcement: I have posted my excerpt for "By Blood or By Bond" on Createspace too now! And I would really appriciate some feedback if you would like to read it and answer the questions there. I would be much obliged.

I'd also like to let you know (I lied about the last announcement) that I am still planning on getting both "Freedom Come All Ye" and "Ballad of the Highwayman" formatted for e-books before Christmas this year. I will keep you updated on all that as well.

I'll hopefully be posting another article of some kind soon.

Slainte, Hazel