Book Review: ‘Once Upon An Ending: Seven Short Stories, Each With A Twist In The Tale’ by Jonathan Posner

This is an enjoyable collection of seven mixed genre short stories. 
Some of these stories are more complex than others, offering some intrigue and good plot development before delivering a twist. One or two of the others were less involved and, while they certainly delivered a twist, it was more of a surprise ending than the fulfilment of a sense of mystery. 

The retro narrative style of the three ‘Private Eyes’ stories which comprise a detective noir style series gave them a nice mystery aesthetic that worked quite well. A profound contrast is provided by the dark humour and bleak irony of ‘Halloween in Windsor. 

These stories are most likely to appeal to readers with varied and eclectic tastes and an appreciation for clever and unpredictable storytelling. 

Book Review: ‘The Bet’ by K.A. Denver

This is a short but darkly creepy and suspenseful story. The premise is relatable, and the characters and their responses are realistic and engaging. 

The macabre and horror story elements were well crafted, aided by the setting and context of the story. 

If you are looking for an enjoyable story that will both fill and darken your lunch break, this is it. 

Book Review: ‘Blue Mage’ by Amber Morant

The saying goes that “there is no honour among thieves”, but the protagonist of this story is certainly an exception to that rule. 

This is a fun fantasy short story full of action and varied, interesting characters. Elona, the central character is clever and talented, and it is most engaging to see her adapt to the changes that happen in her life without losing her individuality or sacrificing her loyalty. 

The world building is quite unique, providing settings that reveal the two extremes of life in the kingdom of Tore— the wealth of the mage’s citadel and the grunge of the thieves’ den. The kingdom has a very old-world feel, yet the characters have access to modern technology, which creates an intriguing juxtaposition

The story can be read under an hour, which makes it ideal for a lunch break or fitting into a busy lifestyle. 

Book Review: ‘The Council’: The Witch’s Ambitions Trilogy Book 1 by Kayla Krantz

In a genre that is highly competitive and very well populated, it is crucial that an author finds a way to make their work stand out from the crowd. 

Kayla Krantz has achieved this bu creating a vibrant, talented and engaging protagonist who has a disability, and crafting complications and one of the mysteries of the story around the origins of Lilith’s injury.

As a reader with mobility issues of my own, this gave me a point of connection with Lilith and created instant empathy for her. Her disability is presented in a genuine and realistic way, as is the mental and emotional “conversation” she has with herself because of it. Importantly, the author demonstrates very clearly and powerfully that a disability does not define a person, nor does a physical impairment limit one’s talent, character or potential for success. Lilith is clearly a witch who happens to have a disability, not a disabled witch.  This is a really important distinction.

The story is well crafted, with plenty of interest and mystery in the subplots as well as the main story. The characters are varied and complex, many with intriguing backgrounds and individual motivations that contribute to the mysterious tone of the story.

Having greatly enjoyed this first book, this is certainly a series I want to read more of. 

Book Review: ‘The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap’ by Paulette Mahurin

This is a really thought-provoking story about the consequences of prejudice, hatred and gossip in the lives of those who suffer the judgement and contempt of others. It is well-written and easy to read, although the nature of the story is both serious and discomforting. 

Set in 1895 in a small rural community in Nevada, ’The Persecution of Midlred Dunlap’ is one of those stories that takes a slice of time, brings it to life, and makes one thankful that things have changed since then. On reflection, though, the reader is confronted by the fact that some things haven’t changed that much at all. People still discriminate against and make fun of those who are different, or who live in ways of which they do not approve. We may have laws to deal with those issues now, and legal means of both protection and redress, but those can not actually change human nature or the tendency of some people toward the behaviours that made those laws necessary in the first place.  

Through clever crafting of characters and story, the author demonstrates that there are all sorts of hatred and prejudice that people suffer, ranging between racism, religious persecution, discrimination on the basis of looks, sexuality or lifestyle, to peer pressure and bullying. The treatment of those who are different in various ways by those with the position and power to persecute them is abhorrent, emphasising the narrow-mindedness and hatred that motivates such abuse. The fact that. even though we live 120+ years later, one does not have to travel far or look too hard to see that some things never change, is an indictment that can be neither escaped nor explained away. 

In contrast, Mildred is a character who demonstrates kindness, resilience, thoughtfulness and generosity. Like her, Edra, Charley and Gus are positive characters who stand against the horrid behaviour of their neighbours. Those characters who show kindness, acceptance, and respect bring light and relief to the darker undertones of the story and return balance to the portrait of humanity that is painted in these pages. Through them, the story reminds us that love does indeed drive out both fear and hate, and that a true friend is a gift of immeasurable worth. 

There is so much power and weight in this story, and also much that is hopeful and encouraging. It is a work of historical fiction well worth reading, 

Book Review: ‘The Pursuit of Trust’ by Sarah B. Meadows

‘The Pursuit of Trust’ is Book 2 in the author’s Discovering Kia paranormal/urban fantasy series. 

Following on directly from where ‘In Pursuit Of Light’ left off, this book continues to explore questions about not only Kia, but also the individual pasts and stories of the men who have become her protectors, Once again, these men share the role of narrator, but it is also significant that Kia has more agency in this book and communicates her thoughts and feelings through more than gesture and action. 

Kia is still a mysterious character, although the reader definitely feels as though they grow to know her better throughout the second book. Answers to the questions about her nature and abilities remain elusive, however, which is also true of her companions.  

It is interesting that this book is titled ’The Pursuit of Trust’ because the lack of trust, and the inability of the central characters to have absolute confidence in one another, are central drivers of the storyline. In fact, the only character who has any implicit trust in anyone is Kia herself, thanks to her innate ability to know the truth and integrity of one’s character.  The different characters’ insights through their narration of parts of the story is a key means of exploring notions of trust and distrust, and the associated experiences of loyalty, jealousy and resentment that either nourish or poison the feelings of each character toward the others. 

This is an intriguing story that moves at a good pace, with a satisfying balance between action, suspense and development.

While the book finishes with the very strong sense that there is more of the story to come, it also provides a brief glimpse into one of the characters’ former lives, of which he has no memory, and which raises as many questions as it provides insights. This adds further mystery and complexity to the story, and increases the reader’s desire to read on and discover the truths that underpin the nature and personality of each of the central characters. 

Book Review: ‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance: The Dragon’s Heir Trilogy Book 2′ by JB Richards

‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance’ is the second instalment in The Dragon’s Heir trilogy, a fascinating and original blend of fantasy, paranormal romance and fairy tale that makes for a most diverting and intriguing read.

This sequel to ‘The Curse of the Dragon Stone‘ continues the story of Kirin, the dragon’s heir, and his family’s quest to overcome the curse that has befallen them. 

Themes of loyalty and enmity are explored as Kirin, Tyriel and the Fabiosa sisters are set against a darker, angrier power that seeks to undo them. The inner conflict that plagues Kirin reminds the reader that each of us has choices to make about which side of our own nature we allow to control us, while the plight of his family serves as a sobering cautionary tale about the unintended consequences that one’s actions and decisions can have in the lives of others. 

The events of the story create a balance of anticipation and tension that is both tantalising and compelling, keeping the reader fully engaged throughout the book. Even as this part of the story closes, the remainder of the tale beckons, leaving the reader longing for more. 

Comfortably read in a little over two hours, this novella is an ideal fantasy escape for a quiet afternoon or evening.