Book Review: ‘The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ by Claire Buss

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ is a prequel to The Rose Thief’, Claire Buss’ first novel to feature Ned, Jenni, and the rest of the Thief Catcher gang.

It is a wonderfully quirky fantasy story, full of rich and diverse characters that all have their own priorities and vested interests in catching the murderer.

It’s written with humour and warmth that infuse the story with a genuine feel-good tone, despite the multiple deaths, general trickery and deliberate obfuscation by some, and the presence of some rather sinister characters. 

This novella-length book can easily be read in a couple of hours, and would best suit a YA-and-older audience. I found it to be a great diversion on a quiet afternoon, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. 

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Betwixters: Once Upon a Time’ by Laura C Cantu

What a wonderful, spellbinding story! 

‘Betwixters’ has just the right balance of friendship, danger, adventure and magic to make it a highly engaging and memorable story that draws the reader in right from the start. 

Noah, Skye and Ethan are three regular kids who find their courage and friendship tested by the most unique circumstances, but it is those same qualities that they rely on to find the solution to their problems. They are realistic and relatable characters, brought to life in a really vivid way. The wider cast of supporting characters is similarly true to life, 

The story is wonderfully written, infused with suspense and tempered with humour, and frequently evoking a warm and positive tone that provides a very good balance for the darker elements of the story.

A great story for all ages from middle years up, ‘Betwixters’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village’ by Ronesa Aveela

This is a great fantasy story full of intrigue, action and challenges that require Theo, the main character, and his friends to use their skills and their brains to work out how to rescue those who fall into the hands of a cruel and hateful power.

Even greater than the obstacles Theo faces in learning what his abilities are, he must learn to overcome his self doubt and his fears by focusing on what is really important. This is an important and empowering message for the target audience of this book: older children and younger teens, who will readily relate to the problems of family relationships and friendship issues that the various characters in the book encounter.

Promoting values of loyalty, trust and resilience, the story takes the reader on a journey through varied and interesting places, filled with all sorts of magical creatures– not all of whom are helpful in the completion of Theo’s quest. 

This would be a great book for kids to read independently, or for a family to share together. It would also make a great addition to classroom and library bookshelves. 

A positive and encouraging tale, ‘The Unborn Hero of Dragon Village ‘ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Ye Olde Magick Shoppe’ by Claire Buss

‘Ye Olde Magick Shoppe’ is a delightful short story from Roshaven, the setting of the author’s’ fantasy novel, The Rose Thief.

Central characters Ned Spinks and Jenni the Sprite return with their quirky brand of investigation when a mysterious shop appears in Roshaven. Of course, nothing is straightforward and their endeavours to solve the mystery being about more mayhem than they anticipated.

This is a fun story for all ages that can be enjoyed in less than half an hour. It does work.as a standalone story: prior knowledge of Roshaven and its residents is not essential to understanding and enjoyment of ‘Ye Olde Magick Shoppe’, but readers who have not yet read The Rose Thief will very likely want to after this brief taste of Buss’s enchanting storytelling.

This excellent short story has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Green Pearl Caper: A Damien Dickens Mystery’ by Phyllis Entis

‘The Green Pearl Caper’ is a very enjoyable detective-noir style whodunnit story that keeps the audience guessing right to the end. The narration by Tom Lennon really suits the style of the story, very reminiscent of the black and white private eye movies that used to play on Saturday afternoon TV.

The story is well constructed, developing at a good pace while keeping the reader guessing until the end. There are plenty of characters, both major and minor, who could  be suspects, and the first person perspective of Damien Dickens invites the audience to develop theories and speculate on the evidence as more than an onlooker. 

This was a really engaging audiobook, and I am glad to know there are more in the series. 

‘The Great Pearl Caper’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Abandoned’ by Tim Walker

A great historical fiction novella to introduce Tim Walker’s ‘A Light in the Dark Ages’ series.

Set at the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, ‘Abandoned’ tells the story of the settlement of Calleva Atrebatum, and the determination of its people to resist the fearsome invading  Saxon raiding parties who threaten their home and their lives. 

This is a story of bravery and commitment, and of townsfolk uniting for a common cause. The danger they face is very real, and in their determination to survive and overcome, the reader witnesses both the best and worst of human nature. 

The story gives us a realistic and thought-provoking view of a period of history that is little-known to most, and foreshadows the rest of Walker’s series which continues to tell the story of post-Roman England and those who seek to  not only live there but also to control it.

Walker’s storytelling is fluid and lively, full of action, adventure and intrigue. The cast of characters is varied and interesting, ranging from slaves to the ranks of Briton members of the Roman army who, like their countrymen, were left behind when the Romans evacuated to Gaul. 

At the end of this novella, the reader is left feeling as though they have become an ally of the people of Calleva Atrebatum, and keen to discover what happens next in the following book in the series. 

‘Abandoned’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘A Sprig Of Holly’ by J.A. Clement

A delightful tale full of winter magic.

This is a delightful tale full of winter magic with well developed fairy tale qualities that enrich the story telling.

While the characters are not very complex, they are likeable and engaging, and the reader does develop a sense of empathy and concern for them at the beginning of the story that helps to hook them into the events of the tale.  Of course, it is a short story, so the characters are not required to be developed in any depth or detail. It is enough that they do what they do and that the story is beautifully told.

The story also has some lovely Yuletide elements, although not so much that it is only a story for the Christmas season. 

This would be a lovely story for family reading, particularly on a winter’s night. 

‘A Sprig Of Holly’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

There are more stories in this series, which I’m keen to read!