Book Review: ‘The Guilty Path : Versatile Layer Book 5’ by Thomas K Davis

The fifth book in the Versatile Layer science fiction series, this book has some great qualities. The story is interesting and exciting, with moments of intense action balanced by humour and character development to give the reader a feeling of being on the same side as the protagonist, the warrior Adeola. There are characters who are likeable, and others who are less so. Most intriguing, though, are those whose status as ally or antagonist remains unclear as the story progresses, maintaining the mystery of the story and it’s outcomes right to the end.

Sadly, though, the book doesn’t live up to its potential because it really needs editing. There are too many basic errors that compromise the quality of the writing and cause frequent and unnecessary frustration for readers. The author clearly knows how to write well, so this seems to be an issue of poor quality control that would easily be overcome with thorough proofreading and correction.

Book Review: ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern

The story of Le Cirque des Rêves is magical and fantastic, drawing the reader into a world of illusion, mystery, and wonder. It is a story full of contrasts: light and dark, reality and illusion, cold and heat,  truth and deceit, life and death. Richly imaginative and sensory, the story is absolutely captivating. Yet at its very heart is a secret so cold and dark that it doesn’t even seem to be compatible with such a wonderful tale.  

While the lines and boundaries are blurred, and morality is highly subjective, the reader is drawn strongly to certain characters: Celia and Marco, Poppet, Widget and Bailey, and becomes deeply invested in their stories. 

I loved the story concept, the settings and the characters. I very much enjoyed the clever Shakespearean references, some of which were very obvious while others were much more subtle and covert, possibly going undetected by readers less familiar with the works of the Bard. 

However, I was frustrated by two aspects of the book. Not only was the plot development very slow… and I do mean  s  l  o  w, I found the author’s regular forays into writing overtly in second person incredibly annoying and distracting, particularly in conjunction with present tense. Was this story set at a series of specific points in history,  as the dates at the beginning of chapters suggested, or was it happening right now? Either way, I’m perfectly certain I am not, nor was I ever, actually there. When I encountered this on the second page, it was so jarring that I almost put the book down for god, thinking the whole narrative might be like that. 

Never one to quit a book early, I kept going. The story was good enough for me to almost manage to forget while reading that the writing is in present tense, but the second person perspective interrupted the flow of the narrative and broke my concentration every single time.  I understand that the intent was to immerse the reader into the story, but it actually had the opposite effect on me, and it happened far too often for me to easily forgive. 

As a result, the book left me with mixed feelings and wondering if I was being petty because I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. I know it’s very much a matter of personal taste, and I’m glad I persisted with it, but I can’t deny that I am disappointed. As a lover of fantasy, magical stories, and dark fiction, this should have been everything I wanted in a book, but it wasn’t. 

As the old saying goes, it’s a fine line between love and hate. I find myself standing on that very line, still unsure of which way to fall. 

Book Review: ‘The Quarantine Fence’ by Roma Gray

This is a short, macabre story that unsettles rather than horrifies the reader. It raises questions about the values of society as a whole and of different groups of people within it.

The story is quite well written and developed, building tension as the narrative progresses. It is an enjoyable enough read, although one which most readers will not really find scary.

Overall, it’s a decent story, with some good macabre moments.

Book Review: ‘Black Vials’ by S.K. Gregory

Find your copy here.

It’s common knowledge that taking drugs isn’t good for you — and you should never take something if you don’t know what it is. 

This chilling tale reinforces that premise in a very powerful and graphic way. The portrayal of seedy drug dealers and drug use may seem stereotypical to some but is probably quite accurate and certainly feels realistic to the reader. 

Camille’s experiences when she swallows what is in the black vial are shocking on both a physical and a psychological level. The author combines the horror of the unknown with a very cleverly constructed sense of dread to position the reader to fear for Camille and anticipate possible outcomes that may await her. 

At times grungy, at other times macabre, this a short but  effective dark suspense story. 

Book Review: ‘Morrighan’ by Stacey Jaine Mackintosh

This is an interesting Arthurian dark fantasy tale that explores the relationship between Arthur and Morgan. Told from Morgan’s point of view, the reader is treated to a very different perception of Arthur than that told by the more popular legends. 

The opening paragraph is stunning, and most of the writing is quite good, so the prescence of some fairly basic errors was disappointing.  A careful proofreading and edit would make a significant difference to the finished quality of the story. 

Overall, the story is quite enjoyable.

Book Review: ‘The Gravedigger’s Tales’ by Kaye St Clair

This is a collection of poems and short stories In the style of folk tales and fables, with darker themes and motifs that make them ideally suited for October reading. 

The stories are quite well-written, although not particularly complex or deep. Each set of related stories is introduced by a poem that introduces the key idea that connects the poem and subsequent stories to each other. 

This book was an entertaining enough read to be a pleasant diversion at the end of a busy day, but would probably not satisfy one’s desire for a deeper, more compelling story or a truly horrifying read.

Book Review: ‘Presenting the Marriage of Kelli Anne and Gerri Denemer: Beyond the Chamber Door Book 2’ by Paul Alleva

This is a dark, horrifying tale that grasps the reader in its talons and holds them captive, right to the end. 

The different parts of the narrative seem disjointed, and to not make sense at first, but that is the intended effect: this is a nightmare, a living hell, flashes of lucidity and terror that draw the reader into the different kinds of horror that the central characters each find themselves in. 

The story lurches and rolls, disorienting and impossible to predict, reflecting the turmoil of the main characters’ deepest thoughts and feelings. As the story plays out, the strands of the narrative pull together to create structure and resolution from the mayhem.

The one thing that really annoyed me was the failure of the author to differentiate between ‘slither’ and ‘sliver’,  using the one word for both meanings as though the second does not exist on more than one occasion. This may seem like nit-picking, but it demonstrates yet again that there is no substitute for a good editor if an author wishes to avoid frustrating their readers.

This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is certainly a gripping read.