Book Review: Miraculum (Steph Post)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

A tattooed female lead? Yes please!

TL;DR – A story of good and evil with a freak-show background.

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Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Folks who like mysteries and mythology

About the Book…

Ruby is a freak – literally. She works as snake charmer as part of a circus sideshow. Life is normal, or as normal as circus life gets, until the day a performer commits suicide. The geeks replacement, Daniel, is an unusual man who doesn’t seem to belong. But he also harbors a deadly secret that turns Ruby’s life inside out.

What I thought…

I was really enjoying this book, right up until the end. I must say, before I go on, that the reason for this is that what I wanted to happen, didn’t happen, the ending was perfectly fine otherwise.

Miraculum starts off as a bizarre mystery over the backdrop of a travelling circus, and morphs into a wild and creepy occult battle of good versus evil. The book goes pretty deep into a sort of voodoo / occult area, which I struggled with a bit as I understood almost none of the words being thrown around.

The whole book is entertaining, and also pretty tragic in places. I love the main character, Ruby – and the way she interacts with a world she has no place in. It’s pretty upsetting to read about the treatment of the freaks, although the book doesn’t dwell on that too heavily.

Final Thoughts…

It’s a fun book and definitely worth a read if you like fantastical stuff in a historical setting.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: I Wanna Be Well (Miguel Chen)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

Interesting reading, if a bit sweary.

TL;DR – Bite sized chunks of wisdom, spiritual insights and self-help guidance from the punk perspective.

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Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: People with a more sceptical view of spirituality, who want to dip their toes in the water

About the Book…

I Wanna Be Well is sort of spiritual smorgasbord, in a good way. Drawing from a range of sources from Buddhism, yoga, the 12-Step program and others, Miguel Chen provides insights and advice, backed up by years of experience practicing what he preaches.

Each chapter takes up a specific issue, for example, breathing, compassion, forgiveness, and explains the concepts with reference to various spiritual traditions and Miguel’s own life story. Each chapter ends with a different practice for you to try, drawn from a number of sources.

What I thought…

I almost gave up on this book quite early on, because if I’m being completely honest, I was thrown by the authors use of swearing. I’m not opposed to swearing, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t swear myself, but for some reason it felt abrasive, and it made me uncomfortable. Having completed the book, I would reassess that position, and suggest that in reality it is just the way the author talks, and this book is written in an informal style to help better engage people who might find all this ‘spiritual talk’ dry and hard to follow if it was written in the style I am accustomed to. I’m still not sure I like it, but I do at least understand it.

The content of the book is actually pretty good. Miguel uses examples from his own life to explain various concepts in a simple and informal way, and offers regular reminders that none of the stuff in the book needs to be thought of as inherently religious or spiritual, it’s just useful things to help calm your mind and help you live your best life.

At the end of each chapter, there is a practice to do, broken down into simple steps and with a tl;dr after each if you just want an overview. I actually really liked this, as it tied everything together nicely. I imagine if you picked this book up and read a chapter a day, or every other day, by the time you finished you would have a really good set of tools to help you cope with life. There are also step by step pictorial instructions for the various sets of yoga practices the book contains, which I thought was another useful touch.

Final Thoughts…

I’m glad I finished this book. The writing style caught me off-guard, and kept me that way, but the practices and explanations contained in this book made that small discomfort worth enduring. Actually, thinking about it, I could have probably done with this book as a teen.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Supremacy’s Shadow (T. Eric Bakutis)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link | Author Website

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Ragdoll Rating: 4/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of Sci-fi and action

About the Book…

Life sucks for Hayden Cross. His wife is dead, he’s just been fired and now someone is trying to kill him! But Cross soon comes across evidence that his wife faked her own death – solving this mystery will take Cross and his associates into the middle of a war, filled with terrorists, political machinations, espionage and betrayal!

What I thought…

I think probably the best thing I can say about this book is that it is fun. It goes to some serious places, but it doesn’t take itself to seriously, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.

The plot is a bit complicated in places, the writing style is a little strange at times and some of the names are a bit cheesy (The Terrorist leader is called Xealot, and the biologically advanced ruling class is called ‘The Supremacy’) but that’s about as far as my criticism is gonna go. More importantly the book is action-packed, with likable (and not-so-likable) characters, and a whole load of violent explosive nonsense going on.

The book starts with a terrorist being crushed to death as a car runs through the wall of Hayden’s home, and ends with a full-scale assault on a top-secret military base, it’s that kind of story.

Final Thoughts…

If you like a good space-warfare action read, then this is definitely the book for you. Bring on book 2.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra (Thich Nhat Hanh)


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A new interpretation of an ancient text.

TL;DR – A skillful breakdown of the Heart Sutra, making an important piece of Buddhist scripture more accessible.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s work, I find the man totally inspiring, so I’ll read basically anything of his. I read this specifically because I wanted to start reading Buddhist scriptures, and not just commentaries.

The Book…

The book is broken down into several parts. First up, we have introductions to the book and a very brief background to the Heart Sutra itself. Next we have what I suppose technically needs to be classified as a re-interpretation of the text. It’s more or less a translation but with some sections tidied up for better clarity. What follows is a series of chapters, each focusing on a few lines of the sutra, explaining what the text means and how we are to understand it. Then to finish up we have the original text in romanised sanskrit, and then a literal English translation and finally an English version of the text that was used for chanting at Plum Village from the 1980’s to 2014.

What I liked…

This book has Thich Nhat Hanh’s typical easy-to-read style of presentation. The concepts presented in the sutra are difficult and on their own, really confusing. But the text is broken down into sections, never more than a few short lines, and it’s content is fully explained clearly and carefully and allow even a novice reader to take away some important understanding from this text.

The purpose of this book was to clear up some confusion about the common interpretations of this sutra.

This rewording is needed because to say “in emptiness there is no form, no feelings, no mental formations, no consciousness…” is not in accord with the ultimate truth. Emptiness means only the emptiness of self, not the nonbeing of self, just as when a balloon is empty inside it doesn’t mean the balloon doesn’t exists.” Extract, p20

Apparently it is very common to get hung up on the sutra’s wording and get the wrong idea, and frankly having read it for myself I can absolutely see why people would get confused, it is a tough one. However, Thich Nhat Hanh has altered the wording of his translation (hence calling it a reinterpretation) to help clarify some of the finer points. It can get a little repetitive but it the commentaries are extremely helpful in aiding understanding of the text.

What I disliked…

The inclusion of 3 different English translations/transliterations/interpretations or whatever is a little peculiar. The commentaries focus exclusively on the first interpretation, which makes life easier, but I don’t fully understand why the others have been included and unless I missed it, I can’t find any explanation for it either. It’s nice to have more information of course, but 3 slightly different versions of the same text seemed a little unnecessary.

Final thoughts…

This is definitely a book I will come back to over time. I’m sure there are countless things I have missed and not quite understood fully. This book is, as far as I am aware, an excellent introduction to the Heart Sutra and a great jumping off point for the Buddhist canon in general.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Binti (Nnedi Okorafor)

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You can’t go far wrong with a Space Octopus!

TL;DR – Octopus aliens take over a spacecraft and only Binti can prevent a massacre when the spacecraft lands at Oomza Uni.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

What I thought…

My TL;DR above does not adequately or even appropriately describe what this book is about – but frankly that’s why I’m not an award winning author. This book is about space octopuses murdering a ship full of people. But it is also (and more importantly) about a girl who leaves her people, breaks away from all her traditions to pursue an academic career. It is about family, and culture and all sorts of other important topics too.

It took me a little while to get into this book for one reason – Binti keeps talking about mathematical things, like fractals and equations and all sorts. I know nothing about maths, apart from the basics. I’ve heard of fractals, but the rest could be all made up or it could be real and I’m not sure which it is. However, once I decided that it probably didn’t matter what exactly those little bits meant (I mean I don’t know what ‘wingardium leviosa’ actually means, but it didn’t stop me enjoying Harry Potter) I found story really clever and interesting.

I’ll definitely be getting hold of the other two books when I get a chance.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Mindfulness in Plain English (Bhante Henepola Gunaratana)


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Mindfulness in Plainer English might be a more appropriate title. 

TL;DR – A useful guide to the practice of Vipassana (insight) meditation.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

This came under the heading “A book that will make you smarter” in my reading challenge. Also I’m trying out a selection of ‘basic’ meditation guides in an attempt to deepen my practice.

The Book…

This book is presented as a step-by-step guide to the practice of Vipassana (insight) meditation – or MINDFULNESS.

It’s primary selling point is that it is written in, as the title suggests, plain English, as opposed to many of the other meditation manuals that are often steeped in jargon and difficult concepts that require quite a lot of prior knowledge and experience before it can be even remotely useful.

The book has some pretty amazing quotes on the cover that sing high praises of it’s content and author. I’m not entirely sure I agree with them.

What I liked…

The thing I liked most about this book was definitely the last chapter on metta (or loving friendliness / kindness). Bhante G (as the author is often known as), provides a detailed explanation of a concept of loving friendliness, it’s place within a Buddhist context, it’s purpose and then provides real-world examples of it’s use and benefits, alongside examples from Buddhist scriptural writings. It is an excellent chapter and probably my favourite bit of writing on the concept of metta that I have read so far.

One story from this chapter tells of how Bhante used to wave at a man who seemed very angry all the time whenever he went past. This man, as it turned out, would never wave back because he was recovering from a serious accident and literally couldn’t wave back. Bhante notes that had he just written this difficult man off as angry and unworthy of loving-friendliness he would have written off a good man, and indeed a friend, because of circumstances the man had no control over. I’ve made a real pigs-ear of explaining this story because I think it needs to be read in Bhante’s own words – but it is a really excellent example of why loving friendliness should be extended to everyone – even those who by appearances don’t seem to deserve it.

The rest of the book is pretty good – although I didn’t find it quite as good as others seem to have done. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of bits I have taken in while reading that have definitely helped my practice and I definitely recommend it as a book for any meditator to read, I just didn’t think it was ‘a masterpiece’ as the front cover would have you believe. This is probably down to the fact that the last dharma book I read was literally life changing, and this is a practice guide and not a philosophical work.

The book is well written and the instructions are mostly pretty clear. Actually come to think of the the instructions are pretty much excellent because it deals with a whole bunch of things some books overlook. Like pain.

If you are serious about meditation I don’t think you would have much difficulty in understanding the instructions – although following them is quite intimidating.

What I disliked…

I have some issues with the title. Plain English. There is no two ways about it, this book is infinitely plainer in it’s speech than the vast majority of books that I have read on the subject. That does not mean, however, that this book is jargon free. There are a lot of Pali terms flying around and a handful of high-concept words that, while mostly well explained, could be intimidating to the beginner. This book was written by a Buddhist monk after all, so it is to be expected that some Buddhist terminology is included – it’s just something people should be aware of as mindfulness tends to be thought of as a secular thing a lot these days.

I warn you now, what I’m about to point out would stop a great deal of reading this book – and I have to admit it made me feel pretty weird about the whole thing too. All I can do is say that just because I’m pointing this out doesn’t mean you should write off the whole book. Just forget this bit and move on – it’s not worth missing the whole book because of one paragraph.

“There is a point in the meditator’s career where he or she may practice special exercises to develop psychic powers…Only after the meditator has reached a very deep stage of jhana will he or she be advanced enough to work with such powers…” p.15

This quote comes from a section entitled “Misconception 4: The purpose of meditations is to become psychic”. Obviously it’s good that Bhante is making a point of saying you don’t meditate to try and become psychic, but he also pretty much

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MMM….bitter pill…

point blank says that it is a thing that can happen and that you can train to do it when you are very experienced. This is obviously going to be a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of people – and by bitter I’m talking bitter like the sour candy Homer Simpson eats at that trade show that all but turns his mouth inside out kind of bitter. If this bothers you, just move on and forget you read it.

Final thoughts…

This book definitely helped me absorb some useful tips for my meditation practice, and probably deserves a second read another time when I haven’t just finished something life-changing.

I would recommend it to anyone who meditates or plans to meditate, providing they don’t go into this book expecting a secular mindfulness guide.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Lost Christmas (David Logan)

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This book reads like that list of ‘really bad metaphors’ that surfaces on the net every now and then – and I LOVE it.

TL;DR – This is the story about a boy whose life falls apart on Christmas eve, and if you’re wondering why I read a book like this at the beginning of July, I should point out that apart from the references to snow – which I don’t think I have ever seen at Christmas in the UK anyway – the book could have been set at any point in the year. It’s not just a Christmas story is what I’m saying.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

What I thought:

Goose’s parents both die in a car crash on Christmas eve, and in the following year his life has gone from happy and carefree, to casual criminal and a destroyed childhood. The only good things left in his life are his Nan and his dog. His Nan has Alzheimer’s, and he’s just lost his dog. Then this somewhat magical weirdo appears and turns things upside down.

The first thing that stuck out was on the first page – “His all-over-the-place hair was all over the place”. It’s childlike and weird, and it totally sets the tone for the rest of the book. It is written with a childlike quality that I really loved.

The next thing that stuck out was that I guessed the ending literally the second it was possible to do so. I’ve thought about it and I don’t know why it was so obvious, but it jumped out at me immediately. That said, I wasn’t disappointed to discover I knew the ending, and really enjoyed reading it.

The story is entertaining, the writing is funny, and the plot is quite clever, if a little cliche. It’s just a nice, easy read.

I can’t abide Christmas books – which is probably why I liked this one. If it wasn’t for a title and the occasional mention it could be just winter or any other cold place (that also happened to be called Manchester).

I recommend this one to anybody who likes a good story with a very casual writing style.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves (Robin Talley)


Goodreads Link | Author Website

“A stunning novel about love, race and finding the truth..”

TL;DR – A book about integration and the struggles POC faced in the late 1950’s. A very good read although I’m not so sure about the romantic angle.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I read this book because it was recommended to me by a very good friend. Her judgement in books is (usually) on point, so I agreed to read it.

The Story…

This book is set in Virginia 1959 at the peak of the fight for civil rights. Sarah Dunbar has been picked to be part of a group of ten black students to be sent to Jefferson High School, a previously all-white institution. She is such a strong character and through it all, her, her sister Ruth and their friends stick together. Her and her peers are subjected to days of constant abuse from the white students and teachers (except the music teacher Mr. Lewis).

One of these white students is Linda Hairston, daughter of one of the town’s biggest segregationists. All her life she has been taught that the races should be kept separate and, until she meets Sarah, she almost believes this. When Linda and her best friend Judy are forced to work on a French project with Sarah, the reader begins to see the cracks and doubts Linda has about her and her father’s views. Over the course of the book, we see Linda drifting away from the segregationists and closer to Sarah. They fall in love and at the end of the book, they go off to college together for a fresh start.

What I liked…

I loved all the strong, beautiful and brave characters created in this book. All of them: the secondary characters like Chuck, Ennis, and Ruth; the main characters like Sarah, all of them. They really show great courage.                                                                                                                                                                          Ruth is Sarah’s 15 year old sister. She is treated as though she needs the most protection, but in reality, she shows some of the greatest spirit and resilience in the book. I love how this book really makes you feel and understand what it’s like to live with a mark, to be different, to be ashamed of who you really are, not just people from a different race but for LGBTQIA+ people too. I think if more people read and wrote books like this, books that give people this understanding, the world could be a much better place than it is now. The power and fire behind the messages of this book are morals that everyone should have to learn.

I also really liked seeing both Linda developing as character as well. At the start, she was not likeable at all. But as the book progresses, you see that in no way is this her fault. Growing up in a society like the one she lives in with an aggressive father who is the voice of the towns segregationists cannot be easy and by the end, her having such courage amid all the evil she’d been brought up to believe in was very honourable indeed.

What I disliked…

While I do like the development of the characters and completely support the friendship between Linda and Sarah, I do not see any reason for Sarah to have loved Linda. I completely understand why Linda could fall in love with the beautiful, strong character that Sarah is, but I don’t agree with how quickly those feelings are requited. I feel like their should’ve been much more time. I mean, by the end of the book they had only known each other for about 6 months, half of which were spent having arguments, debates or avoiding each other. In my opinion the friendship was already a huge step between the two girls and the relationship between them just came on too quickly.

Final thoughts…

I very much enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in historical fiction, equality, civil rights or just a very good read.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I borrowed this books from the library for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: An Argumentation of Historians (Jodi Taylor)

Goodreads Link |  Author Website

“Adventures of the Time Travelling Arsonist” ~Rejected title (probably)

TL;DR – Think ‘Female Indiana Jones’ + Time Travel and you’re pretty close to the premise of this book. A real fun read.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 4/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

Did you read my “TL;DR”? How was I not gonna read it! Seriously though, I love historical fiction, I love time travel and sci-fi…it was just an obvious move for me.

Also it was in the “A Book Published This Year” category of my reading challenge. One thing I should mention at this point is that this book is part of a series and I wish I had started at the beginning.

The Story…

An Argumentation of Historians is the 9th book in the series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. Unfortunately I haven’t actually read the rest of the series, so I can’t give a great deal of overview but I’ll do my best.

Historian Max works at St Mary’s, travelling through time in order to document as much of history as possible. After the unexpected appearance of an illegal time traveller during a visit to Tudor England, Max persuades her coworkers to lay a trap to catch the villainous Clive Ronan (who I have to assume is well established as a nemesis in the previous books).

Unfortunately, the trap fails and Max finds herself stuck with no hope of rescue in the year 1399. Despite being stuck in an unfamiliar time, fortune smiles upon Max by dumping her at St Mary’s…or at least, the St Mary’s of 650 years ago. The story follows Max and her attempts to survive in a harsh new environment, and hope for a rescue that might never come…

What I liked…

The premise is perhaps the part I like the most about this book. As I said above, I love time travel and historical fiction, so the combination of the two was never going to be a hugely difficult sell (although it wouldn’t be the first book I’ve read with this premise that I completely hated).

The story itself is fun, the character of Max is entertaining, and the story is written as if Max was telling it to you in person one evening round a camp fire. I personally am I big fan of informal writing, however this isn’t for everyone so be warned.

There were a lot of references to the previous books in the series during this book. Something about different worlds, or possibly different realities; more time travel; an Arch Nemesis and also a whole host of characters who got little interesting teaser lines which would make sense if you had read the rest but made little sense to me…but I enjoyed those because it still fleshed the world out a bit and it made me want to know more about the St Mary’s setting.

It seems a little odd to say this about the final book in a series I haven’t actually read yet, but it left me wanting more. I want to read both the next book, whenever that comes out, and all the previous ones too. The story references the previous books quite a lot, which is a bit of a pain if you haven’t read them, but not so much that it becomes unreadable. You certainly could read this book as a standalone, but unless it turns out that the other books are terrible I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing so.

What I disliked…

There was nothing about the story I disliked – apart from the fact that I didn’t know who anybody was or what the setting was, but that was entirely my fault for starting at the end of the series.

However, I’ve rated this book 4 buttons out of 5, and the reason for this is presumably more the fault of the publishers than the author, but you never know.

Specifically, this book could have done with another run through by a proof reader (assuming it actually had one) and another look by an editor. The first thing that struck me was that the text was slightly offset on the page – presumably intended to compensate for the binding, but it was too much and it looked really strange. I got used to it, but it really bugged me when I started reading. That in-and-of-itself wouldn’t have lost the book any marks, but then came the spelling and wording errors.

I get it, spelling errors happen. Sometimes you just miss things – I’m sure there are spelling errors on this site! That said, I’m neither a profession author, nor a proof reader, I’m just some mug on the internet with nothing better to do. I can take the odd error here and there, in fact I wasn’t even going to mention it originally, but by the third time I’d seen the word “off” spelt “of” (and this was far from the only problem) it had annoyed me so much I couldn’t not say something.

In addition there was a phrase to the effect of “There is no hard evidence for a sixth sense” which massively irritated me, since I would have thought most people by now where aware the the ‘5 senses’ thing we were taught as children is bunk. There were also a few occasions where it felt like the author had rewritten a sentence, but failed to properly delete the previous attempt and ended up with a garbled mess – a mess which apparently nobody at the publishers caught.

Having said that, I realise these complaints are – despite taking up most of the review space – fairly minor on their own. They just really bugged me. Hence the lost Button in the rating. It’s not something that would stop me reading the series or recommending it to others.

Final thoughts…

When all is said and done, I really enjoyed this book and I intend to read this rest of the series, copy errors be damned.

I would recommend this for historical fiction fans who like a bit of science fiction (because if you hate sci-fi, you probably won’t enjoy reading this much). Just remember to be warned about the writing style – it’s not for everyone!

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!