Book Review: ‘Sentinels of Oz’ by JB Trepagnier

‘Sentinels of Oz’ is Book 1 of the Emerald City Academy series, a reverse harem adventure set in the not-so-wonderful-anymore land of Oz.

Francesca and Saffron, daughters of the witches of the East and the West, embody the struggle of those who deal with notoriety in the family and trying to claim what is rightfully theirs, despite the prejudice and judgement of most of the populous. In this, the author gives the readers an intriguing perspective, from which Dorothy and her friends are not necessarily heroes they have been made out to be. 

The characters are quirky and highly individual, but also relatable to readers. Each has strengths and flaws, motivations and priorities. The central characters also share a mission and a desire for justice, which binds them together and positions the reader alongside them. I really enjoyed the snark and sarcasm of Francesca, and I appreciated the fact that even though the four central characters had known one another all their lives, they could still disordered other. 

The story is a highly engaging blend of fantasy and mystery which draws the reader in and keeps them guessing to the end.The ending balances the resolution of some questions with the development of others, making the reader both satisfied with the conclusion and keen for the next book in the series.

This book should not, however, be mistaken for a children’s story. The story contains adult and sexual content which is definitely not appropriate for younger readers. 

Overall, this is a fun and enjoyable read.

Book Review: ‘Nowhere: A Shore Haven Short Story’ by Jennifer Reynolds

Find your copy here.

A zombie apocalypse story with some graphic macabre moments, ‘Nowhere’ is an emotionally involving story that pits the reader alongside the protagonist in a desperate bid to outrun the zombie epidemic. 

The tone of the story is urgent, drawing the reader into the panic and fear that Tera experiences as the story plays out. The author very effectively uses suspense and foreboding to create additional tension, while the macabre and often gruesome imagery repulses the reader’s senses. 

The story is quite well-developed and the writing is good, so this was an enjoyable short read. 

Book Review: ‘Creep’ by William Cook

Find your copy here.

This is an intensely suspenseful story that strikes dread into the heart of the reader right from the first moment of foreboding. As the tension and desperation of the story builds, so does the reader’s sense of hopelessness for the protagonist, whose innocence reinforces the positioning of readers against The Creep. 

The story is well-written and developed. The characterisation is effective and the detailed descriptions add depth and power to the the chilling effect of the story. 

While the story certainly has its macabre moments, the story is centred more on the psychology of fear and revulsion. The Creep is a very real and twisted monster in his own right, and the author subtly plays on the reader’s sensibilities to unsettle and repulse them. 

Book Review: ‘Larkin’s Landing’ by S.K. Wee

Small towns often seem quiet, as though nothing interesting would ever happen there. 

Larkin’s Landing is not that kind of small town. Full of old secrets and strong prejudice, it’s a community that is bursting at the seams with lies, deceit and mystery. 

This excellent blend of contemporary mystery and family drama keeps the reader guessing right to the end. The central characters are likeable, regular people who find themselves in the middle of a web of intrigue that they must undo before it undoes them. The story is well developed and suspenseful, taking the reader on a rollercoaster ride of anticipation and discovery as the mysteries of Larkin’s Landing unfold.    

There are elements of the story that some readers will find very confronting. It is a story that exposes the horrors of domestic violence and emotional abuse, and demonstrates very clearly that nobody should ever tolerate or excuse such reprehensible behaviour. There is also some adult content, so this book is not recommended for younger readers.

It is, though, a story of the importance of resilience, the healing power of acceptance, and the life-changing difference that true friendship makes. Overall, the story delivers a positive message and a satisfying sense of justice having been done.

Book Review: ‘She Hunts In The Woods: A Horror Story’ by Rich Hawkins

This is a good short story for October and Halloween reading. What starts as a sinister and tense story develops into a tale of fear and flight before growing darker and more horrific. 

The tension and sense of dread grow steadily, making both the main character and the reader increasingly uncomfortable before the true horror of the forest is revealed. The author combines elements of foreboding, macabre, revulsion and fear to influence the reader’s feelings and reactions. 

Even though the title gives away the fact that there’s something lurking in the woods, this story is quite original and well written.

There is some adult content, so it’s not recommended for kids.

Book Review: ‘Black Vials’ by S.K. Gregory

Find your copy here.

It’s common knowledge that taking drugs isn’t good for you — and you should never take something if you don’t know what it is. 

This chilling tale reinforces that premise in a very powerful and graphic way. The portrayal of seedy drug dealers and drug use may seem stereotypical to some but is probably quite accurate and certainly feels realistic to the reader. 

Camille’s experiences when she swallows what is in the black vial are shocking on both a physical and a psychological level. The author combines the horror of the unknown with a very cleverly constructed sense of dread to position the reader to fear for Camille and anticipate possible outcomes that may await her. 

At times grungy, at other times macabre, this a short but  effective dark suspense story. 

Book Review: ‘The Artist’ by P.J. Blakey-Novis

What would you do if you held power that nobody else knew about? Most people would like to think they would use it for good, but this story explored just how easy it would be to manipulate things to suit our own interests.
The main character is likeable enough at the outset, and seems to have good intentions. The other characters in the story are a realistic cross-section of society: his family, classmates and teachers. 

The narrative is interesting and quite relatable, albeit less easy to identify with as it gets darker. The twist before the ending is both confronting and horrific, but the conclusion escalates that even further. 

This is a well-crafted story that lures the reader in and then ambushes them with darkness.

Given that it is easily read in less than half an hour, it makes perfect reading for busy people looking for excellent dark fiction short reads.