FREE BOOK SUNDAY: The Selective Bookworm

FREE BOOK SUNDAY: The Selective Bookworm

HEAR YE! HEAR YE!  Welcome to Free Book Sunday. 

From the moment I started reading City of Stone, author FL Rose's elegant prose -- almost flawless in some passages -- reminded me of the great British writer Hector Hugh Munro, more famously known as Saki.

Where modern-day writers, especially of horror or psychological thrillers, always seem to be looking for the next Big Twist (think Gone Girl or Verity or Woom), the prose itself is the grand deception in Saki's many short stories and in the eleven tales of simmering dread Rose delivers in City of Stone, across genres including high fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, post-apocalyptic, magical realism, and horror.

Take this passage from The Wind, which reminds me of Hemingway's famous opening lines in A Farewell to Arms:

"Fifty years ago the river flowed deep and brown between steep banks, the glint of fish, and the glitter of gum leaves shimmering under summer rain. Under the mud of a thousand rotted trees, the bones of a million small lives, the still slow silence of the black cold depths, the wind rested."

The Wind also illustrates a talent Rose has for the subtle buildup: hints of trouble or tragedy that unfold gradually to deliver a wallop at the end. The story's main character Emily has returned to her grandfather's farmhouse after just such a tragedy (no spoilers), which may also include either something apocalyptic, like a world war or a climate meltdown -- or the deteriorating state of Emily's mind.

Among recurring themes in City of Stone, the personal effects of corruption among the powerful stands out.

The title story, written in such an immediate manner you'd almost mistake its past tense narration for present tense, follows an English-speaking real estate agent, Richard Temple, looking for investment property in Albania, "which was at that time only just opening up after her long experiment with communism," Temple explains.

Former Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha -- the epitome of corruption -- has left deterioration in the wake of his 40-year rule, dedicated to establishing Albanian independence while ironically throttling the nation's people.

"As it turned out, there was a lot of vacant property in the city which was both attractive and cheap," says our real estate agent narrator.

The story takes a strange turn when the narrator meets a "slim, fine-featured" old woman and her granddaughter Arjuna, whose "absolute self possession struck me almost as a force, quivering through the air between us."

Her eyes, "light, grey, slanted and brilliant as a wolf's" add to the mystique. He has to know more.

At first, no one around Temple knows anything about the pair, calling them "strangers." Later, a man Temple befriends warns him to stay away, far away, from the two women, who live in an isolated mansion so derelict, Temple cannot understand how they survive.

The warnings and the hints that all is not right come too late: Temple has fallen madly in love with Arjuna who -- beneath her striking surface -- may be as decayed as the city of stone around her.

My favorite City of Stone story is Goddess, about three competitive sister goddesses -- Artemis, who narrates; Aphrodite and Athena -- the universal need for love, and the corrupting influence of absolute power. 

The story follows Artemis' love for a young man who wanders into her path. "It is not the first time that one of my kind has fallen in love with a mortal, or in lust. But since I was old enough to understand it, I have always despised such things as beneath me. It was all very well for Aphrodite...for Athena...but not for me. Now, suddenly, I understood them. The boy was beautiful.

"Each week, we met and made love, and I grew more and more enthralled."  
Their sex is delicious, and Rose spares no prose in describing its very physical, very mortal delights.

But the sense of impending dread also creeps in, as Artemis -- not as pretty as her sisters and a virgin to this point -- tells us how her stunning sisters modeled how to be a lover. The key takeaway, and one reason Artemis, a moral character, had so long resisted: her two sisters "toyed" with mortals, their power so much more vast, toying came all too naturally.

Cats toy with mice, and we all know the usual result.

CLICK FOR your copy of City of Stone, a fast, FREE read from our partners at BookFunnel. Scroll down to titles. 

City of Stone


"This was a quick and easy adventure read with nice short chapters. It also felt like a pretty light read, even when it touched on some heavier topics toward the end.

"The cover reminded me of Indiana Jones and that vibe was also in the story. Parts also reminded me a bit of myth retellings like Percy Jackson.

"I was a little unsure how it could end in a satisfying way while I was reading, but I was happy with the ending when I got to it."

I am not sure why this author does not have more exposure. For pure escapism this series fits the bill.  Kind of a mix between Raiders of the Lost Ark, Baron Munchausen and Pirates of the Caribbean.

A real creative dive into adventure with well built, although fleeting, characters.

Was a good quick read. Would definitely recommend this book to anyone who fancies a good fun adventure book :)

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"Michael Martin wowed me with this brilliantly written book. Part Legal in the right to choose death, part medical.

"Charles Chessman is burned over 60% of his body with 3rd-degree burns in an airplane crash and is going thru hell as medical personnel attempt to keep him alive and comfortable.

"Sadly, his chance to end his life legally is very slim. I was in awe of his journal with all his pain, yet he endured more than anyone should imagine.

"I was all in as Charles Chessman went thru even feeling love, and loss and finding he was not alone. Beautiful, heart-touching book."

CLICK FOR your FREE copy of Death Magnanimous at NetGalley

In CRIMSY, young scientist Jen Zendeck and her research team must rescue the greatest discovery in history from the universities, governments, and trillionaires fighting to keep it for themselves. A realistic take on science and discovery 20  years from now, CRIMSY is perfect for fans of Andy Weir and Michael Crichton. 

◆◆◆◆◆Sometime in the not too distant future, a team of scientists discover and retrieve bacterial life on Mars. But there's a problem. The powers that be won't let them study it.


So begins an epic story of determination and scientific passion which ends in a thrilling and unpredictable climax. I was awestruck by the scientific knowledge, imagination and detail that went into this novel. It wasn't an easy read, but I didn't want to put it down either, and the finish just blasted me.


Oh, and it's not just about technical stuff either, there's love and tragedy and family issues... really this author has a tremendous talent.

◆◆◆◆◆  So great to read "science-y" Science Fiction with well-developed characters and a great story! This book is a rare and excellent combination of a science-based storyline and intriguing, well-developed characters!

◆◆◆◆◆ Paints a picture of true scientists and the values they share. I recommend this to those who enjoy good dialogue, thrillers, and realistic fiction.

◆◆◆◆◆ This just punched all the right buttons for me. It had the very real feel of Mercury-Gemini-Apollo, Skylab, ISS, Space Shuttle, Voyager, and Carl Sagan's "quest' for life on Mars. Great characters with a well-developed story and twists to keep you on your toes.


Crimsy screams for a sequel.

◆◆◆◆◆ Extremely well written and enjoyable. It really captured the ups and downs of graduate student life so well I felt like I was back in graduate school. It was a pleasure to read the science, especially the familiar microbiology, but even the unfamiliar was rendered so creatively and realistically that it was a pleasure to read and imagine.


A truly awesome read

◆◆◆◆◆A funny, thought-provoking, and well-written story of space exploration, politics, and the moral issues of scientific investigation.

GET Crimsy: A gripping, funny, realistic near-future sci-fi adventure AT:

NEWLY WIDOWED AND STRUGGLING with single fatherhood, SILHOUETTE hero and small-town prosecutor Ben Harper investigates a murder and uncovers racially-charged secrets that threaten a charismatic Black mayor's ambitious plans for New Orleans.

◆◆◆◆◆ "A fascinating read, clear and suspenseful, all the way until the end. Keeps the reader guessing and turning the page. This is a complex tale with lots of character."  

◆◆◆◆◆ "The author does a wonderful job expressing the intricacies and nuances of race in America."

◆◆◆◆◆ "Ben Harper is smart, anchored, educated, and cares about his people. Unlike many previous portrayals of Black detectives that play to various stereotypes, Ben is worthy of Black readers' admiration."

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A heartfelt thank you to Janet, who recently reviewed The Fires of Lilliput on Goodreads: 

A long and somewhat difficult read

Shosha Mordechai Price lives in New York when she is called to Rome to speak on behalf of Jakub Chelzak, who is being considered for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church.

Shosha knew and loved Jakub and his brother Karl during the Nazi invasion of Poland and credits them with saving her life.

After this introduction, the book goes back to 1939 and the Warsaw Ghetto. It follows Shosha and her family through the ghetto, the uprising, and the camps. Shosha loses almost everything, but her spirit remains indomitable.

It also follows Jakub and Karl and several German officers.

It does not edit out either cruelty or humanity on either side. I had to read it very slowly in order to digest it all, which is why it took me eight nights of reading before bed to finish it.

This is not a book for the casual reader, but I do recommend it to anyone who believes in the oneness of humanity and the triumph of the human spirit.



Thank you so much for reading!

Until next time,

Michael Martin

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