Breath And Mercy

Book Two of the Phineas Mann Series by Mark Anthony Powers 

Breath And Mercy – The Phineas Mann Series. Hawksbill Press, 2022.

There are stories and Stories. Breath and Mercy is part of the second category.

The book begins with Phineas, the main character, starting his day at the hospital. He is still a student, but he’s already reached that brilliant, hellish stage of his career where doctors study and work at the same time and sleep becomes a commodity they are too poor to buy.

He is a kind, caring, goofy and sensible young man, who does everything by the book and loves his job: helping people makes the many hours he spent on books memorising as many names and diagnosis his brain could store worth it. He is enjoying his internship in the cardio-pulmonary unit as well as his flatmate’s company, and life is plain sailing towards a brilliant future. Life is looking good for Phineas. He meets a girl, Iris, who almost immediately tells him that she loves what he does and she would like to be of some help too, but she is too terrified by blood – risking to pass out at the mere idea. This doesn’t discourage them from getting together and, eventually, get married.

For a number of reasons, they move from Boston to New Orleans, at the end of the 70s. They find a decent apartment with a nice landlord that helps them with a few repairs and they also get a dog, as Iris is not very happy to spend her nights alone in their new house on the outskirts of the city. Life goes on, Iris gets a new job, her father dies, her mother falls into a deep depression and Iris leaves everything behind to temporarily look after her. In the meantime, Phineas is about to face a terrible outbreak of pneumonia at the hospital, which is also accompanied by a mysterious bruising on the skin. All the patients die within a very short period of time and no one can explain why, until months after, when the word AIDS enters the world, with all its scary connotations. It’s terrifying, they are all worried – to catch the disease, to not being able to find a treatment, scared of the paralysing uncertainty of the unknown – but eventually things begin to ease. They don’t find a cure, but at least they find some form of treatment that gives a little hope to the sick.

When things seem to finally turn for the best again, a hurricane hits New Orleans. Its name is Jezebel, and just like the biblical princess, it brings destruction on a vast scale. Phineas shockingly finds out that the electrical system of his hospital is located in the basement which will probably be flooded, meaning the only power supply available to the hospital is external power units. Nedless to say that they won’t last forever. Phineas is simply brilliant at organising all he can think of, moving patients and giving directions to his staff, but despite all their efforts and the relatively quick passage of Jezebel, a hard time is ahead of them, made of difficult choices, unbearable heat, no water, no sleep, barely any food. Help will arrive but it will only bring Phineas to a court of justice, his reputation smeared with the accusation of euthanising some of his patients.

Breath and Mercy is a brilliant book, full of plot twists and unexpected events. The way some events are shaped and presented is so relatable. HIV, for example, still scares older generations – both the ones who saw it happen in real time and the ones right after, who grew up in the fear of the disease. It also resonates with a younger public; think about Covid: no one knew what it was, what to do and we could only powerlessly look at people dying. On the other hand, there is the humanity of doctors: we almost look up to them as if they were gods and had all the answers and could fix anything, not realising that they are people, they see terrible things and take incredible decisions and are required to do it everyday and move on to the next patient. I think that telling a doctor’s story from the voice of someone who has been there is simply brilliant (Mark himself was an Associate Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Duke University).

However, there are times when the drama of it all doesn’t come across in all its brutality. I would have loved a touch more pathos, perhaps digging deeper in the testing, desperate and hopeful moments that are typical of any hospital, along with the smell of disinfectant and the cheap linoleum flooring. As much as we don’t want to scare our readers off, some stories deserve to be told in all their ugly details.

Other than that, it’s a brilliant book that I loved reading. It’s a dramatic story told with a very light touch and an incredible ear for words and constructions, making the hand of the writer disappear completely behind a curtain, letting the reader enjoy the ups and downs of human lives with a pinch of irony and a bittersweet insight on the medical profession and all the challenges medical staff have to face.

Breath and Mercy is available for purchase at:

About Mark Anthony Powers

Mark Anthony Powers grew up in the small town of West Lebanon, NH. At Cornell University, he strayed into Russian and Creative Writing while majoring in engineering. After receiving his MD from Dartmouth, he went south to the University of North Carolina for an internship and residency in Internal Medicine, followed by a fellowship in Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine. 

After almost forty years in clinical practice and teaching, he retired from Duke University as an Associate Professor Emeritus of Medicine and began his exploration of other parts of his brain. Writing, gardening, IT, and magic courses were just some of the enjoyment that followed. A deep dive into beekeeping led to his presidency of the county beekeeping association and certification as a Master Beekeeper. Two cups of coffee and two hours of writing most mornings produced A Swarm in May and other works. To learn more or connect with Mark, please visit (Source:


Secrets of the Volkovs

Book One of the Secret Series, a trilogy by Ellie Jay

Secrets of the Volkovs – The Secret Series (Book One). Ellie Jay, 2021.

Do what you have to do to survive in a world where everyone is your enemy“.

Antonin Jelennski is a young, ambitious police officer originally from Moscow who has been given his first solo undercover assignment in the town of Yaroslavl, 173 miles away from home. He is tasked with investigating the Volkovs, a local family allegedly running mysterious criminal activities – an actual plan for world domination nonetheless. Despite receiving help from the inside by Daryia, daughter of the family patriarch, Anton will soon find himself in over his head, the investigation made more challenging by an omnipresent, omniscient, viciously persistent Vladimir Volkov, his huge progeny and a mole within the local police department, putting Anton’s own family in mortal danger. Will justice prevail or was it too much to handle for our hero?

Secrets of the Volkovs is the first book of the Secret Series trilogy by English author Ellie Jay, a fast-paced story masterfully built through robust dialogues, very easy to read and written in an informal, unpretentious language that is honestly a breath of fresh air.

The book could probably have done with an additional reading and further editing, as typos and repetitions sometimes stand in the way of fluency. Descriptions could also be improved, to make the story more powerful. For example, there is hardly any reference to the space the main characters move within, except for a couple of brief, generic descriptions, leaving the reader to figure it out by themselves. The story could actually take place anywhere in the world, which is a shame, as the Russian winter setting is an interesting narrative choice.

Character development could also be improved: characters do have goals, face obstacles and conflict, but we hardly know anything about their background, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, or motivations informing their actions and decisions, elements that could give them further depth.

The overall impression is that Ellie Jay sees the world she is painting so clearly and vividly she sometimes forgets that the only way we can experience it as readers is through her own words. We strongly believe this book could have been absolutely magnificent if the author took more time to scratch beyond the surface of the story.

Having said that, the Volkovs saga does not stop here, so we cannot wait to tackle the rest of the series!

The Secret Series is available for purchase at:


Free Radical

The debut novel by Tyler Black

Free Radical. Friesen Press, 2021

What could possibly go wrong when your tech firm sends you abroad on a trip to Eastern Europe? Nothing, right? It’s just a work trip. Accommodation is already taken care of and you’ll surely find some fine company to keep you entertained.


Free Radical opens with James, who is also the narrator, sitting in an old truck filled with cigarette smoke and a lot of vodka, with one of his colleagues/companions of misfortunes, Kieran, and Valentine, their local guide. They’re waiting.

This already tragicomic situation will get worse before it gets better, as they say. The night before, over a lush feast and too much alcohol, the unlikely trio has taken the improbable decision to pack and go hunting “the Russian way”. This means, as we will soon find out, a lot of waiting in the truck, drinking and smoking and chatting. As much as James and Kieran are grateful for the hospitality, enclosing three such different personalities into a confined space for such a long time, adding Valentine’s linguistic barrier and the fact that Kieran is the stereotypical IT geek more interested in programming computers than surviving in polite society, is a recipe for disaster.

In a flashback chapter, we discover why James, Kieran and a bunch of other colleagues are in Estonia: they are working with a Japanese company, the Hayashi Corporation, on an Artificial Intelligence product called Taro, a dog-shaped robot. Taro is programmed to pair up with the owner’s voice, learn about their needs and provide for them before they ask for it. The team believes it’s a great idea that will help elderly people feeling less lonely and be taken care of at the same time. Estonia appears to be the perfect place to gain access to a suitable production plant and all the raw materials needed to build this top-of-the-range IT product.

The hunting trip takes a turn for the worse almost immediately: Kieran is shot by mistake and requires urgent medical attention. The trio therefore drives on frozen roads and the amount of alcohol Valentine downed doesn’t do any favours to his driving skills, culminating with them capsizing the car. They are lucky enough to come across an old couple of farmers leaving nearby who help them with basic first aid. In all this, Taro – who’s travelling with the party in Kieran’s backpack – is active and learning. After having been paired up with Kieran, it will actually find a solution for his master’s deteriorating mental and physical conditions, of which no one is aware of. 

How we went from a modern office in Canary Warf, London, to an isolated, snowy forest somewhere outside Tallin, Estonia, will be revealed chapter after chapter, in a ping-pong of scenes set in the present and immediate past. It actually takes a while to piece all the elements together and the temporal sequence of events is not always straightforward, making it difficult to follow the story at times. Overall, there’s a good balance between descriptions and narration, with dialogues sounding very natural, underlying the writer’s talent. However, the narration is sometimes weighed down by too many technical references, be it jargon, Russian talks or explanations on how computer programs work, which could be quite discouraging for computer novices or non-techies.

The story structure itself could benefit from a thorough polishing of the timeline: while I don’t mind a medias res opening (it’s actually greatly appreciated and a clever thing to do), there are too many back and forth in-between events that don’t seem to have a clear connection to one another until the end of the book. The risk is to lose the timid sci-fi reader, who may never get to the end to see how events are actually knitted together.

Characters composition, though, is great: they are so realistic they may seem the guy sitting three chairs down from yours in your office. As Black himself says in a back cover note, he took inspiration for many of his characters from people he actually met along the way, and that made, in my opinion, a big difference in their personification, making them lovable, laughable and relatable.

All things considered, I found it an interesting debut story, with its ups and downs. We always need to remember that even the best books are not perfect and while this one could do with extra editing, it’s an enjoyable, funny and gripping story that deserves a chance.

Free Radical is available for purchase on Amazon:

About Tyler Black

Tyler Black is an author currently based in Reading, Berkshire, England. Free Radical, his standalone debut, was inspired by two specific periods in his life: first, a backpacking trip that drew him to Estonia in the late 1990s, preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union, and his experience of the chaos of that short-lived period; and second, a two-year stint in the UK’s tech industry that lapsed into decades, and which allowed him to pick between the teeth of the corporate beast and glean much from colleagues’ treatment of others. Many friends were made along the way, and many sights seen, all of which shaped his writing and the characters he crafted.


The Reaper Chronicles (Book One & Two)

The Reaper’s Quota and Chasing the Reaper by Sarah McKnight 

“I want to be human again. I want another chance to live life the right way, without going into a murderous rage. I think I’m perfectly capable of pulling that off if I ever get the chance”. 

The Reaper’s Quota starts in medias res by introducing Grim Reaper #2497 (who suspects he was called Steve in a previous life, because “it just feels right”). He’s behind with completing his monthly 30 Random Deaths quota and faces extermination if he does not meet his targets. While he understands how critical his situation is, Steve is also a Grim Reaper with a conscience, struggling to come to terms with the fact that he needs to kill additional humans for fundamentally no reason. However, work is work so he sets on a worldwide journey – physical, metaphysical and spiritual – to find his victims, always looking for a good motive to terminate them, making sense of life (or death, more specifically). During this journey, he encounters all sorts of humanity: good, harmless people, evil people, not so remarkable people, until he meets somebody who can actually see him, changing his afterlife forever (pun intended). Spoiler alert: Book One ends with a cliffhanger. 

In Chasing the Reaper, Steven Kelton from Indiana (it was his name after all) gets the second shot at life he was hoping for, starting from when he left off. However, he cannot remember anything about his previous human life (let alone his Reaper life) and doesn’t understand why, mistaking a trauma he doesn’t know he had for a midlife crisis. He is also gifted with the ability to see Grim Reapers, which really unsettles him – to the point that he starts seeing a psychiatrist. In his quest for logical explanations and answers to the meaning of life he’s so desperately trying to grasp, he will find love and start the most surreal exchange with Reaper #1632 who constantly follows him around (for circumstances we cannot explain without additional spoilers). His past as a reaper will eventually catch up with him, leaving Steve to make the most difficult decision of his life. 

The Reaper Chronicles is an extremely well written series, the two stories intertwined in a subtle, clever way, every scene flowing seamlessly into another, taking the reader on a journey. It is incredible how Sarah McKnight managed to pack so much action into only 200 pages of writing! In more than one occasion, the story brought a tear to my eye and I found myself hoping that Steve would ultimately find happiness and meaning. His character is the ultimate positive hero that everybody can’t help but cheer on.

While McKnight manages to keep the tension up for most of the narration with imaginative, vivid descriptions and masterful dark humor, there are some slow moments that could have done with a bit less detail (especially in Book One). However, she presents a slow and steady stream of events that make the reading very pleasant.

My advice to you, dearest reader: if you have 24 hours to spare, do put your hands on a copy of both and start reading NOW. You won’t be able to stop.

The Reaper Chronicles Series is available for purchase at:

About Sarah McKnight

Sarah McKnight has been writing stories since she could pick up a pencil, and it often got her in trouble during math class. After a brief stint teaching English to unruly middle schoolers in Japan, she decided she wasn’t going to put off her dream of becoming a writer any longer and set to work. With several novels in the making, she hopes to tackle issues such as anxiety, depression, and letting go of the past – with a little humor sprinkled in, too. A St. Louis native, she currently lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and three cats.


The Mage’s Journal 

The debut novel by L.A. Lewins

The Mage’s Journal – the Soastan’s Magic Trilogy (Book One). L.A. Lewins, 2020

Once upon a time, there was an apprentice, a brigand and a lost journal. It seems the beginning of a joke for nerds, but it actually covers the very core of The Mage’s Journal, Lewins’s debut novel.

Seren is a 19 years old boy who has just finished magical high school and is waiting for a letter from the Megacastle Academy of Advanced Magic, like many Earth kids his age would wait for an acceptance letter from college. And just like any other Earth kid his age, he is unfortunately rejected. Sorry darling, you are not good enough for us. Try again next year. It’s a hard blow for Seren. But Mr Merryman, a local shop keeper who has known him forever, offers him a job in his bookshop. While sorting out some second-hand and returned books, Seren comes across the personal journal of James Berryton, who’s been captured after gradually losing his powers, leaving his journal behind. Inside it, there’s a magic formula for a potion that no one has ever come across, its use and effects unknown. Prompted by Berryton’s words on the journal, Seren sets out to find the missing mage.

Laurentis is Seren’s friend and school mate. Having run away from home a few years earlier, she is part of a brigand company led by Archimon, a powerful old man who’s acting as chief. Archimon tasks Laurentis with preparing a poisonous potion. As she succeeds, she is given increasingly difficult tasks, that she accomplishes the best way she can. What she doesn’t know is that her powers are coasting black magic, which use is forbidden. Archimon, who knows it perfectly well, pushes the girl to learn how to use and control them. While she struggles with this decision, she convinces herself that it might not be such a bad thing: if black magic is part of what she is, why should she reject it?

In the meantime, Seren has teamed up with Marcus, a friend of James, who is looking for the captive mage too. It takes them a while to find out where James is being held – in Archimon’s citadel – and come up with a plan to free him. The reasons why Archimon is doing all this are still a mystery, as it’s the reason why James was starting to lose his powers before vanishing. It will all become clear in the end, also thanks to Laurentis’s help, in an ending that brilliantly paves the way for Book Two.

The story itself is pleasant: good action-driven plot, nice mix of characters, good potential for future developments. However, the way it is delivered could be improved: the narration is inconsistent and slightly confusing, with some chapters abruptly ending in the middle of an action, different sets of characters suddenly appearing out of nowhere without giving the reader any cues (the conventional three asterisks in the middle of a page to signpost a change of scene would really help ). This results in quite a lot of confusion, making the story challenging to follow. On occasion, the choice of language is poor or not completely appropriate. Too often the magic rule ‘show, don’t tell’ is discarded in favour of a narration that deprives of excitement what could otherwise be a brilliant story. This is an absolute shame, and we are sure a more careful editing could make this book great and let its potential shine as bright as it deserves.

The first two books of the trilogy are available to purchase at:

About L.A. Lewins

L.A. began writing during her University Christmas holidays one year, bringing the first of her fantasy worlds to life. She has since been writing at every available opportunity and made the decision to self-publish in December 2019.

Aside from writing, L.A. Lewins is a former archaeologist with a love of ancient history, although her first love will always be dinosaurs! An avid fossil collector, she makes the three-hour drive down to Dorset to look for fossils when she has a spare day. Her bookshelf is full of Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, and Alien and Predator novels, as well as an extensive history collection, spanning Ancient Egypt to World War II. Her other interests include drawing, gaming, tending the fern garden (had to be prehistoric plants) and walking her dog. The cat doesn’t much like walks!


Soul Strung

Book Two – the Stones of Power Series by Rachel Hobbs

“Soul Strung” – the Stones of Power Series. Rachel Hobbs, 2021

There’s a whole lot of stories out there about vampires and demons and a broad range of supernatural creatures, but so many of them end up following the same pattern and the result is a flat, “seen-it-all-before” final product that leaves the reader disappointed, if not deluded, by the waste of time and money.

Soul Strung does not belong to that category. It is instead a fresh, brilliant and, as much as it could, realistic portrait of demon-human relationships. The story begins with Ruby, the protagonist, wondering about this piece of jewellery her grandmother left her: there is something uncommon about it, but Ruby doesn’t know that the pendant is called lapis vitae, the stone of life, which makes the owner untouchable and immortal.

What also Ruby doesn’t know is that creatures from other dimensions are after this particular stone. The charming and dark figure that made her head turn in the bar where she works, Drayvex, in one of them. He is the Demon Lord and darkness incarnate, who’s on Earth to obtain the lapis vitae and use it, back in his dark world, against Saydor, a traitor demon who’s actually trying to depose Drayvex from his throne and become the new king and destroy humanity.

Unfortunately for them – but luckily for us – Saydor gets his hands on the lapis vitae, in a very difficult battle where Dayvex is forced to choose between the stone and Ruby’s life, leaving Saydor free to go.

We then need a Plan B to save the situation, or die trying, and while we rush against time – to get Saydor, to save Ruby, to save the Earth too – we have these two brilliant, witty and stubborn characters who never fail to voice their displease or underline their specific view on any matter.

Between twists and turns and difficult decisions, the plot moves forward almost effortlessly, rich of events and memorable moments. The characters are very well painted and far from being cliché: she doesn’t cling on him, he doesn’t fall for her beauty the first second he sees her and it actually takes them time to grow close. They are both stubborn and volitive and, despite the changes in their relationship, they maintain their main traits.

The narration may result confused at times, the narrating voice is omniscient but too close to each character and there are some passages where it’s not exactly clear who is talking, but that is an easily forgotten mishap, thanks to the amiability of the story, the curiosity that it naturally instils in the readers and the amazing ending that of course, I won’t be spoilering.

This far, Ruby and Dayvex have the best romantic, non-toxic, not cliché relationship I’ve ever come across in a book. An extremely pleasant surprise that leaves you hungry for more.

Soul Strung is available for purchase at:

About Rachel Hobbs

Rachel lives in South West Wales, where she hibernates with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes.

​Her debut novel Shadow-Stained is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her.

​Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night. ​



Project Eight Ball (Books One & Two)

Flash Back and Extreme Peril by John Turiano

Project Eight Ball Series. John Turiano, 2020

What if time travel was a possibility? What if it actually was a reality and people could move back and forth in time? What alterations would it cause and what would be the consequences?

That’s what John Turiano delves into with his Project Eight Ball Series (three books in total so far).

In Book One, Turiano considers the possibility of going in the past and describes the vicissitudes of a group of scientists studying time travel. How great would it be to go back in time and prevent events with considerable impact on world history? We all probably would love that. Unfortunately, each time trip opens a new dimension, some sort of alternate reality, where the untampered reality keeps existing, while the new one develops in parallel. 

Problem is, not everyone goes back in time to prevent catastrophic events. Ultima Imperium is an example. Ultima Imperium, a radical secret society rooting back into 18th century Illuminati and considering itself the “Final Reich”, are using time travel to shape a new reality where they will be the only winners.

Book Two presents an alternate universe xenophobic Germany, no longer part of the European Union, where a black American soldier is accused of raping a civilian white girl. Ultima Imperium is behind a lot of decisions and the fear of an incurable disease pretty similar to Ebola has everyone on edge. It’s a scary, out of control situation that no one seems capable of stopping.

With events being unpredictably altered by a multitude of players and references to a too close home reality (unstoppable pandemics, the rise of far right movements), the book is a captivating, hard to put down read. Turiano depicts some very strong characters, each of them characterised in a way that is reminiscent of 1940s noir stories. However, the pace is somehow broken by the too frequent changes of narrative voice, space and time, unsettling the reader just like the characters are when they time travel. The lack of basic descriptions leaves a sense of dissatisfaction for not drawing the reader more into such a brilliant fictional world and idea, making us live, breathe and see what the protagonists are seeing.

But all in all, this is one of the best time-travel ideas I’ve come across since Back to the Future. As the author reiterates on a number of occasions, time travel presents an incredible paradox: if you went back in time and killed your grandfather, you would actually prevent your father and yourself from being born, but if you don’t exist, how can you kill your grandfather? Turiano, keeping this paradox top of mind the whole time, is able to escape it an a magistral way.

The Series is available to purchase at:

About John Turiano

John is the author of three time travel adventures, blending science fiction and history in an exciting new way. He wants to write in multiple genres and next up is a psychological thriller.

John lives in upstate New York with his wife Sue and their dog Duffy. When not writing he can be found camping, hiking and biking. His most recent trips: Puerto Rico, where he hiked the El Yunque National Rain Forest; Alaska where he visited the Denali National Park; and Mexico where he explored the ruins of Tulum and an amazing river cave. 


Desa Kincaid Bounty Hunter

By R.S. Penney

Desa Kincaid Bounty Hunter. Next Chapter, 2019.

Desa Kincaid Bounty Hunter is the first volume of a trilogy by American indie author R.S. Penney. 

The novel is set in an alternate world, characterised by a western-like landscape of dusty, remote villages and towns, where people go about their business and tend to beware of strangers. As the title suggests, it tells the story of bounty hunter Desa Kincaid, a fearless, lesbian heroine from the remote land of Aladar. She has spent the last ten years hunting down super-villain Bendarian, a fellow countryman guilty of despicable crimes against harmless people, in an attempt to dominate and unleash immense “supernatural” powers, to be used to his advantage.

However, Desa is no ordinary bounty hunter, as she’s endowed with a magic power known as Field Binding, the ability to give objects the power to absorb and release different types of energy (heat, light, kinetic energy), a skill she’s developed back home, where this technology (not witchcraft) is very well guarded and not shared with the outside world. 

While she is a bit of a loner and usually prefers to hunt on her own – except for her mighty horse Midnight who never leaves her side – she, mostly unwillingly, picks up a diverse group of companions along her quest: the young, inexperienced Tommy, who soon becomes her student, fellow field binders Marcus and Miri, and the beautifully mysterious clairvoyant Adele. 

Despite a slow start, the book soon turns into an action-packed pursuit, filled with unexpected twists and turns and epic fights, as well as hints of romance and disappointing betrayals. What I found particularly refreshing was the presence of such a strong female lead character, tough and determined, but also tender and insecure, so human and so extraordinarily goddess-like at the same time. 

R.S. Penney is an outstanding writer, his ability to mix many different genres (dystopian, science fiction, fantasy, romance and western) in a single book is second to none. His detailed yet dynamic descriptions are excellent, drawing the reader right in the middle of the action and never falling into exposition, with well written and compelling dialogues. 

The only scenes I found particularly challenging to process are the lengthy battles: while they constitute a core element of the narration, they are particularly complex, too detail-rich and sometimes lacking rhythm, making it hard to keep up with the picture in one’s head, especially for who’s fairy new to the genre. 

Overall, this is a great read suitable to any audience – no need to be a fantasy aficionado. If you are not a big fan of cliff-hangers though, I suggest you purchase – at least – two volumes of the saga at the same time, as you’ll be left wanting more when Book One ends.

Desa Kincaid Bounty Hunter is available to purchase at:

About R.S. Penney

Rich Penney grew up in Stoney Creek, Southern Ontario. 

His love of science-fiction and fantasy started with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. His first novel Symbiosis, part of the Justice Keepers Saga (14 volumes, available on LINK) was published in 2015.

Penney is a global environmental sustainability activist and a proponent of social justice and equality. He has given talks in Toronto, Athens and Brisbane on these topics (source: next

In his Amazon profile, Rich says about his writing: “I’ve always been an advocate of diversity in fiction. I remember noting, at the age of sixteen, that one big problem in epic fantasy is the fact that all the characters are white. So I try to create a cast populated by people of all genders, ethnicities and orientations. If you like genre bending stuff like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you’ll love my books.” 


Millie loves Malaga

A novel by Lily Ryder

Millie loves Malaga, Lily Ryder, 2021.

Millie loves Malaga is a honest, not vulgar and funny story. The main character, Millie, is a 22 years old girl from the outskirts of Birmingham, who runs away from it after a close encounter with the wife of her last conquest. Which, let’s put that in writing, she had no idea was married.

In the heat of the moment, she heads to the airport and books a flight for… “Surprise me!” is the destination she provides to the airline employee on the other side of the desk. The only thing she asks for is sun and a weather hot enough to wear a bikini. That’s how she ends up in Malaga, where she comes across the most disparate ensemble of people.

Being the book in the Erotica category, it’s full, as predictable of sex and sex scenes. Of any types. We have threesomes, we have foursomes, role play, girls only, one night stands. But none of them falls into a vulgar, trite list of actions (he did this whit his…, she did that to his…, he did that to her…). All the contrary!

There is action, as much action as a 22 years old girl can get from a holiday break abroad, fuelled by young age and gin&tonic, but Millie does things: she goes to parties in private houses, where she hooks up with the host, she goes shopping, where she has a brush with the police when the shop assistant accuses her of theft, she goes out for dinner with a Spanish guy she met along the way and she spends more than one night with a cute and free girl from Essex.

Like every holiday, even Millie’s one comes to and end, but not without the promise of another encounter in London that already promises to be as hot as the first one.

Erotica is not my main genre, and still there is something about this book that made me stick to it until the end. The narrative is brilliant, Lily has a strong and powerful voice that leads the reader through the whole story with no problem, she is able to keep the story light enough to be enjoyable but convey it in a brilliant way even without detailed descriptions of characters and surroundings and most of all she is honest. The thing I appreciated the most about was her skill to present the main character – a GIRL – as strong and in control. So many times stories, especially stories involving sex, are male-driven, while women are either an accessory or sluts willing to open their legs on request. Wrong! Girls can go on a sex-spree with no-strings-attached too, not just boys, and they have all the right to not be considered whores just because of that! If a girl wants to have sex with another girl it doesn’t have to be a striking moment in her life, nor it has to be a coming out moment. It might come as a revelation for her or it might be what it is: fun. One of the most feminists and girl-empowering books I’ve read in a long time.