Book Review: ‘Shadow’s Edge: The Kyn Chronicles Book 1’ by Jami Gray

‘Shadow’s Edge’ is a really well constructed urban fantasy/paranormal/mystery story that hooks the reader right from the start and envelops them in a web of mystery and conspiracy that holds them captive until the very last page.

Also evident from the outset is the writer’s skill at developing character, a setting and scene through powerful writing and stunning imagery. This author is a wordsmith, a creator of imagery and fluent, compelling narrative that makes reading this book a pleasure.

Contrasting with that, however, is a small number of typographical errors that take the reader by surprise and break their concentration from the flow of the story. While this is disappointing, it should also be acknowledged that these flaws are fewer in number than those I have encountered in some traditionally published classics, so they remain a minor irritation and nothing more. 

The characters are varied and interesting, each a unique blend of characteristics that work well for the role they play – the hard headed boss, the investigators with tough exteriors, or the mysterious nemesis, all of them are very finely crafted.

Raine and Gavin are both really well developed. The reader feels as though they come to know them well, although the secrets of their pasts are only hinted at, keeping the reader guessing about their back stories and the inner conflicts each one conceals. These complexities are compounded by sexual tension between them that is so ripe, it’s about to fall off the vine. The frisson of energy that results adds to the intrigue and suspense of the story, building and rumbling like not-so-distant thunder as theIr individual investigations deepen and interweave.

The story is action-packed and suspenseful. While some satisfying resolution is achieved within the story arc, there remain some tantalising questions and connections that tie this book to the next in the series. 

All in all, this is a riveting read that, once started, is very hard to set down. 

‘Shadow’s Edge’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

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Book Review: ‘Storm at Keizer Manor’ by Ramcy Diek

The story opens at a point where the relationship between Annet and Forrest is complicated by their different pasts and by their different aspirations for the future. As is often the way, their feelings for one another really only crystallize when they are blindsided by events that change everything for them. 

As the narrative progresses, the reader is reminded of the importance of both communicating one’s love for another so that nothing is left to assumption or doubt, and of making the most of every moment, not taking each other for granted. 

This book delivers a fascinating study of the contrasts in moral judgements and social expectations of women between the 19th and 21st century, and challenges the reader to contemplate how they might cope if they found themselves in a different time, and without electricity, cars or smart phones. Annet is challenged not only by the differences between the two time periods, but also by the prejudice with which she is treated by those who have no understanding of her origins or culture. 

The story is quite well structured and progresses at a good pace. The characters are realistic and varied, and generally quite well developed, although I did feel that Forrest was a little too prone to dithering about and moaning without really developing or progressing the story much at a crucial part of the plot when he could have heightened the drama and suspense had he responded differently. 

The use of alternating points of view enabled the reader to have quite deep insight into the thoughts and feelings of both Forrest and Annet, engaging in their circumstances and becoming quite invested in how the complications of the story might be resolved. 

Overall, this was quite an enjoyable and interesting book. 

Storm at Keizer Manor’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

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Book Review: ‘Out Of Chaos’ by Elle Mott

‘Out Of Chaos’ is a compelling autobiographical read, written with honesty in a matter-of-fact style that makes reading this somewhat discomfiting story still a quite comfortable experience. 

The title of this book is no lie: it is a story of family dysfunction, homelessness, crime and abuse experienced by a young woman who had the strength to then reclaim and rebuild her life. It is a cautionary tale about how easy it can be to fall so far that it’s hard to get back up, but it is also a story that would give hope to anyone in similar situations.  

Mott neither glorifies the less-than-stellar choices and actions of her misguided youth nor begs for the reader’s pity as she tells her story, but does evoke a great deal of understanding and empathy in the reader as her life is pulled into a downward vortex from which she cannot escape. The moments of resolve and the decisive actions that Elle takes as a result position the reader to share her hope of a better life and to almost will her to make it work, despite the fact that they are reading the story in past tense. 

Despite the bleakness of its beginning and the despair encountered as the story continues, the overall tone and the message of this book are positive and life-affirming.

‘Out Of Chaos’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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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.

Find your copy here