Book Review: ‘The Realm of Lost Souls’ Angels and Magic Series Book 1 by R.M. Gauthier

It seems that even in the realms of heaven and hell, not everything is as straightforward  as one might imagine. 

This novella length introduction to Gauthier’s   Angels and Magic series is an entertaining read, written with good humour, an air of mystery and a very enjoyable degree of snark. 

This is a fun story that definitely whets the reader’s appetite for the rest of the series. 

Book Review: ‘Prince of York: A Story of Reginald Pole’ by Samantha Wilcoxson

‘Prince of York’ offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of Reginald Pole, Catholic cardinal who also happened to be the nephew of English kings Edward IV and Richard III. As such, Pole found himself at odds with Henry VIII over more than his Church of England’s split from the Roman Church. 

In the turbulent world of Renaissance, political intrigue and religious Reformation, Wilcoxson brings Pole to life, networks him with both prominent and humble people, places him in vividly drawn settings, and animates the conflicts and issues that confronted him in a highly realistic and compelling way. The reader has the sensation of looking on as the events of the story unfold, developing considerable  empathy for Pole in the dilemmas and challenges he faces.  

The story definitely presents history from a perspective that is not often explored through fiction. Unlike his more famous relatives, Pole’s responses to the world around him are characterised by his faith and humility. Wilcoxson’s Pole reminds the reader, as the man himself would have done, that there is always a bigger picture to consider and that the greatest success is not always found in personal gain. 

The book is very well written and most enjoyable to read. Even though it is historical fiction, it feels authentic. Surely, for a work of fiction, there can be no higher praise than that.

Book Review: ‘The Seven Year Dress’ by Paulette Mahurin

Many excellent books have been written about different people’s experiences during World War II, each offering a personal perspective that is unique and yet similarly heartbreaking. ‘The Seven Year Dress’ is as compelling and profoundly personal as any of them.

Mahurin’s writing is, as always, vivid and realistic without being gratuitous in her depiction of life as a young Jewish woman in Germany both before and throughout the horrors of the Holocaust. 

Told with honesty and deep emotion, Helen’s story brings to life the experiences of one German Jewish young woman and her family and friends. It is a story of friendship, resilience, and survival against all the odds. 

This book is one that everyone should read, particularly in this world that is still plagued by hatred, racism and suspicion of anyone who dares to be different. 

Book Review: ‘Rub a Dub Dub’ by N.D. Burrows

This is a dark comedy novella for grownups that blends the mysterious with the everyday to create an unpredictable but very entertaining story. 

The characters are realistic and credible, and varied enough to make their interactions interesting. The story is well written,  with enough twists to keep it interesting without becoming unbelievable. 

 That it can be easily read in less than two hours makes it a great option for busy people who have to fit a good read into the demands of life.  

Book Review: ‘The Silent Shield’ by Jeff Wheeler

The fifth book in The Kingfountain Series, ‘The Silent Shield’ is another wonderful foray into the kingdom of Ceredigion and the conflict that threatened to consume the surrounding lands. 

The continued story of Tryneowy Kiskaddon is personal and compelling, enchanting in both plot and the language used to tell the story and depict the places in which it takes place. 

A young woman of strength and integrity, Tryneowy is an admirable character that readers can respect, a role model for equality and embracing one’s abilities despite the judgement and expectations of others. 

Readers who have not read the previous books in this series will find this to be a complete story on its own, and thoroughly enjoyable as such. 

Those reader would, however, be better advised to start at the beginning of this outstanding series, simply because it is so immensely enjoyable. 

Book Review: ‘The Auctioneer’ by J.S. Frankel

‘The Auctioneer’ is a highly original, fast-paced sci-fi novel that transports the reader to new worlds while at the same time challenging and reinforcing their values and priorities. 

The story delivers mystery and intrigue in a classic science-fiction setting populated by a plethora of different types of people and creatures. The characters are diverse and interesting, each vastly different from the others, and from the outset it is hard for the reader — and, indeed, the heroes of the story— to know who really can be trusted. 

Different rules and standards apply in different worlds — but does that make them all acceptable? This is the crux of the complication that sets this story in motion, and the issue which the reader finds so compelling. 

‘The Auctioneer’ is a brilliant read, full of surprises and twists, and enjoyably unpredictable in its resolution. 

Book Review: ‘Eye of the Beholder: A reimagining of Beauty and the Beast’ by C H Clepitt

In a marketplace where there are fairy tale revisions aplenty, ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that stands out from the masses because of the author’s highly original recreation of roles and the devices by which the key events take place. 

Like the original fairy tale, this is a story of looking beyond appearances to see the real person. The author has added some original magical twists that make the tale interesting and less predicated, resulting in a very entertaining read that can be enjoyed in the space of an hour. 

Written with Clepitt’s usual quirky style and wit, this is a story with definite appeal to YA and older readers. 

Book Review: ‘A Medium’s Birthday Surprise’ by Chariss K Walker

This is the first book in the Becky Tibbs: A North Carolina Medium Mystery Series, in which medium Becky Tibbs uses her paranormal abilities to help solve mysteries and help ghosts find peace. 

While skeptics might think that such blending of cozy mystery and paranormal investigation sounds contrived, Walker has created characters and storylines that seem realistic and eminently believable. A range of world views and perspectives are represented by different characters in the story, and the reader is respectfully left to draw their own conclusions. 

Regardless of one’s philosophy and world view, this is a really interesting and well-crafted mystery story. Becky’s path to solving the mystery is challenging and complex, and she must rely on investigation and logic to solve the problems she encounters along the way. 

The writing is good and the action and intrigue of the story builds well, right up to the end of the book. 

This is a series I would like to read more of. 

Book Review: ‘1066 Turned Upside Down: Alternative Fiction Stories by Nine Authors’

1066 was a pivotal year for England: it brought the death of two kings and end of Anglo-Saxon rule, the Battle of Hastings, and the Norman Conquest. 

‘1066 Turned Upside Down’ is a collection of speculative historical fiction, presenting some very enjoyable reading and some really thought-provoking alternative histories. 

As a collection, the quality of the writing is exceptional and the variety of possible outcomes presented is truly fascinating. My personal favourites are the contributions by Annie Whitehead and Joanna Courtney, but I also really enjoyed Richard Dee’s story that highlights the power of teachers to inspire and mentor their students. 

It is not necessary to know the history of 1066 before reading: these stories will satisfy both curious minds and history buffs alike. The true historical context of each story serves as an introduction for the fictional account that follows. 

The stories are all quite believable, each one challenging the reader to question: what might have been if things had gone even just slightly differently? 

Audiobook Review: The Gold Dragon Caper. A Damien Dickens Mystery by Phyllis Entis

‘The Gold Dragon Caper’ is a the fourth of the Damien Dickens mystery  novel/audiobook series. 

The story is complex and full of intriguing twists, and progresses at a pace that keeps the reader hooked without feeling rushed.  A number of the characters from previous books in the series return in this story, giving a pleasing sense of continuity and connection for those who have read or listened to them, but there are also enough new characters to keep things fresh and interesting. 

The book does stand alone for readers who have not read the previous installments, but will deliver spoilers for anyone who might want to read the earlier books. 

The narration by Tom Lennon is very easy to listen to, and very much suits the detective noir style and tone of the story.