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