Book Review: ‘The Feels’ by Vanessa Ravel

‘The Feels’ is a gripping psychological thriller that explores ideas of guilt, secrecy, and vengeance through the experiences of Ariel, the protagonist of the story, and her interactions with those close to her as the story progresses.

Ariel is a complex and deeply flawed character, yet one for whom the reader develops a strong sense of empathy because the story is told from her perspective, Her thoughts and feelings are communicated powerfully, creating vivid images in the reader’s mind and evoking strong emotional responses.

The story also provides a fascinating study of a mind corrupted by both mental illness and indulgence in evil, through the thoughts and actions of the antagonist. This adds a dimension of psychological horror that leaves the reader aghast at the extent of the destruction caused by a depraved mind.

The story remains unpredictable and suspenseful throughout, keeping the reader guessing right to the end with plenty of complications and heart-in-the throat moments.

‘The Feels’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

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Audiobook Review: ‘The King’s Hounds’ by Martin Jensen

‘The King’s Hounds’ is a murder mystery set in Oxford during the reign of King Cnut. An unlikely duo, Winston and Halfdan form a friendship that is still in its early stages when they find themselves assigned the job of investigating the murder and reporting their findings to the king, a task complicated by an abundance of suspects and plenty of obstructions along the way. 

The reader is immersed in the sights and sounds of medieval England, culturally divided between those of Anglo-Saxon and Danish/Viking origins just as Cnut has come to the throne, which places the events of the story in the year of 1016. The resulting climate of distrust and resentment adds further difficulty and intrigue to the case: the king himself is not above suspicion in the death of a prominent Anglo-Saxon thane. 

The characters are very well developed, and are characterised effectively by the narrator. The contrast between the conservative Winston and the rogueish Halfdan creates some entertaining moments, but also enables each of them to play to his strengths when challenged by the various situations and problems they encounter. 

The story is interesting and entertaining, and quite well told. The dialogue is a little stilted at times and not quite consistent with the way people spoke during that period of history, but this may be accounted for by the fact that the book was translated from Danish into English. 

The narration by Napoleon Ryan is noticeably slow, but before I was far into the book, I began to feel that this was something of an advantage, because it gave me time to take in all the detail of the story. 

An enjoyable and interesting book, ‘The King’s Hounds’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

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Book Review: ‘Fallen Prey’ by Aliya DalRae

This is the first book in Aliya DalRae’s new paranormal romance series featuring the vampires of the Fallen Cross Legion. 

‘Fallen Prey’ is the story of Harrier, a Vampire who spent most of his time as a side character in DalRae’s Jessica Sweet trilogy being aloof and gruff, and really only began to let his guard down toward the end of the third and novel in the series.  

DalRae’s characters are always interesting and complex, so the opportunity to delve deeper into the mysteries of one of the leading men of the Vampire Legion was most welcome. 

The highly original and well-paced plot takes the reader up close and personal with Harrier, developing his character and story more fully and extending the story of the Legion and it’s key members at the same time. 

While Harrier and Kythryn give the term ‘paranormal romance’ new meaning as the story unfolds, they find themselves immersed in situations filled with danger, action, and some moments of almost palpable tension between themselves and others. 

DalRae has also demonstrated her cleverness in the title! ‘Fallen Prey’. It is only when the reader is deep into the story that they realise just how meaningful and appropriate the title of the book is, on numerous levels. 

Even for loyal readers of Aliya DalRae’s books, it’s good advice to expect the unexpected. 

‘Fallen Prey’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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Book Review: ‘The Skeletons of Birkbury’ by Diana J Febry

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to believe that the events of the past will remain there.

There are plenty of people in this book who are dealing with the ghosts and skeletons of the past, some with powerful and tragic consequences.

The Skeletons of Birkbury is a very enjoyable and well-constructed mystery story, set in a seemingly normal English village populated by believable characters, most of whom seem quite likeable and all of whom seek to keep up appearances of respectability.

Whose ghostly chickens are about to come home to roost? And which members of the community will fail to get out of the way as they do?

The Skeletons of Birkbury has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

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Book Review: ‘Pandora’s Matryoshkas’ by Ferdy S.G. Dumel

“You know, a man loves the mystery of woman, but not the moral confusion.”

This is the essence of the situation in which Chris, one of the central characters, finds himself.  Caught in a web of grief, desire and a deepening sense of confusion and frustration, Chris is trapped within that very riddle packed in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma that is both Russia and her women. 

The author effectively captures the reader in the same mysteries that engulf Chris, deepening the reader’s sense of empathy for his situation and heightening the suspicion that Chris will never fully understand what he has gotten himself into.

Although this reader was not entirely satisfied by the conclusion, and my suspicions remain unassuaged, it certainly gave me insights into the different world of Moscow and the vastly different lifestyle of its people to my own. This added to the sense of mystery and intrigue that the story evoked, and heightened my interest in the events of the plot.

Overall, this is a confronting read, quite well-written and intentionally unsettling. It reminds the reader that little in life is ever as straightforward as we think, and that trust is something we tend to do far too easily.

Pandora’s Matryoshkas has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

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Audiobook Review: ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The identity of Jack the Ripper remains one of the biggest mysteries in the history of both Victorian England, and of the murky world of serial killers.

Maniscalco takes that mystery, envelopes it in the life and times of a fictional would-be forensic scientist, shrouds it with London fog, and hides it in a dark place where nobody thinks or dares to look.

‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ is a beautifully written blend of mystery, macabre horror and historical fiction that keeps the audience completely rivered as the story unfolds. Suspense builds from the time of the discovery of the first victim right up to the climax and conclusion.

Available on Kobo and Audible.

The cast of characters is varied and complex, each with secrets and personal motivations that intrigue both the reader and one another. The way in which the author drops hints and suggestions is quite tantalising, adding another layer of mystery to the characters and their actions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The narration was fluent and well paced, and a pleasure to listen to.

I definitely plan to indulge in the sequel very soon.

‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Audiobook Review: ‘Chalk Outline’ by Veronica L Smith

A suspenseful and dramatic detective story.

Children are disappearing and being found dead in alleys. Jake and Darius  are the detectives whose job it is to find out who is responsible. 

The trail is not without complications, and the investigation gets personal  for both officers before they can solve the case. 

‘Chalk Outline’ is a compelling and suspenseful story, narrated very effectively by Todd Waites in a style that at times sounds as much like a reporter as it does a storyteller, which adds to the sense of urgency and gives an air of reality to the narration. The narrator also makes very good use of voice and tone to denote the various characters, 

The story rises to a dramatic climax that keeps the reader’s heart well and truly in their throat as they listen, unable to do anything to change the outcome and having to look on as the action unfolds. 

An excellent audiobook experience, ‘Chalk Outline’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here