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: ‘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: ‘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? 

Book Review: ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ by Katie Cross

It is a rare thing to find a series of books for Young Adult readers  that ticks all your favourite boxes: mystery and magic underscored with macabre and gothic elements, strong female characters, quirky twists, and themes and ideas that are universally compelling and interesting for teen and adult readers alike.

Just as it exists in the world-famous Harry Potter series, it exists in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This first book in The Network Series delivers a well-paced, expertly constructed story that ticks all of those boxes and more. 

Make no mistake, though: This is no mere imitation. ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ is original and unique, and the story is thoroughly engaging. The book ends with sufficient resolution to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while dangling enough magical carrots to leave the reader wanting to just keep reading. 

The writing is excellent, creating an environment and atmosphere that is vivid and almost tangible, and propelling the reader into a story full of mystery, suspense and foreboding. 

Readers of all ages will find this book hard to put down, and should expect to be left wanting more. Thankfully, there is an entire nine book series, and another fantasy series featuring dragons by the same author, to look forward to. 

Book Review: ‘Kennedy Awakens’ by Greg Alldredge

‘Kennedy Awakens’ is a quick-paced urban fantasy that blurs the lines between truth and lies, good and evil, magic and non-magic, while pitching them against one another to measure their integrity. 

The action unfolds dramatically and Kennedy is forced to form unlikely alliances in her quest for peace and for the truth, all the while doubting if either one is actually achievable. 

A story that celebrates friendship and truth, this is a most entertaining read that will be appreciated not only by readers of urban fantasy, but also by anyone who enjoys paranormal suspense, magical adventure and regular fantasy books.

Book Review: ‘Mya’ by Missy Sheldrake

A prequel to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, this is a story that easily stands alone as a most excellent work of fantasy fiction.  Sheldrake’s storytelling is as mesmerising as the songs of her minstrels, making this magical sword and sorcery fantasy for Young Adult and older readers a spellbinding tale that, once started, is hard to put down.

Magically and mystically gifted, Mya is a young woman like no other, Her story is one of adventure and friendship, of seeking and fulfilling her destiny, and one in which danger is always conspiring or lurking around one corner or another. She is a wonderful heroine – she is engaging and loveable, straightforward yet complex, and humble despite her abilities. Through the adventure and the challenges she faces, Mya does not only become more resilient and self-reliant, she learns to trust both her own instincts and the destiny to which she is called.  

The cast of characters surrounding Mya is varied and interesting, each one portrayed in full colour and lively detail. The story is told with rich imagery and well-paced action that moves along at a very good pace. 

Sheldrake is an author who should be much more widely read, as her books are highly original and hold enormous appeal for lovers of fantasy, adventure and coming of age stories alike. 

Book Review: ‘Dead Lake’ by Darcy Coates

Suspenseful, dark, mysterious and occasionally macabre, ‘Dead Lake’ is a supernatural thriller set in and around a remote lake cabin. 

The anticipation with which the story starts soon turns to foreboding which grows steadily more profound as the tale progresses.

Coates’ writing is enriched with vivid imagery that stimulates the reader’s senses and imagination, immersing them in the curiosity, and then the terror, experienced by Sam, the protagonist of the story. By the two-thirds point of the story, the fear and adrenaline is palpable and the suspense creates a strong sense of dread that is both compelling and distinctly uncomfortable. 

Because of its suspense and brooding darkness, this is an excellent read that will appeal to readers of mystery, thrillers, and horror alike. 

Audiobook Review: ‘The Bone Witch’ by Rin Chupeco

In ‘The Bone Witch’, there are two narratives which seem at first to be separate, but eventually reveal themselves to be interwoven to create a vast, rich tapestry of storytelling that binds the listener in its magic. 

This magical dark fantasy is a spellbinding story in which fate and magic balance one another as Tea discovers her destiny and learns to use her powers and make important choices wisely. 

The narrators tell the story fluently and engagingly, with clear diction and good expression. Both are pleasant to listen to, and the two complement each other as effectively as their stories do. 

’The Bone Witch’ is a brilliant fantasy coming of age story, whether enjoyed as a novel or an audiobook. 

Book Review: ‘The Hollow Crown’ by Jeff Wheeler

Find your copy here.

The fourth book in The Kingfountain Series, ‘The Hollow Crown’ is another wonderful foray into the kingdom of Ceredigion and the surrounding lands. 

This book changes the focus of the story from Owen Kiskaddon to his daughter, Tryneowy, and the reader is once again drawn into the intrigue and adventure of life among the noble families, wizrs, the fountain-blessed folk, and the villains who conspire against them. It is an exciting and enchanting tale in which the reader becomes deeply immersed. The storytelling is mesmerising and the settings and scenery are richly and vividly drawn. 

Tryneowy’s story is both compelling and interesting. As she grows up, she becomes a young woman of strength and determination, guided by her ethics and loyal to her loved ones and the oaths she makes. She is a character that young women can admire, speaking up for equality in an era where women were not able to do all that men could, and showing that people should be valued for their integrity and abilities regardless of gender. 

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. 

There is, however, a profound sense of being part of something much bigger—an overarching, ‘big picture’ narrative — and evening a sense of belonging that the reader develops throughout this most excellent series. This is the magic and allure of Wheeler’s writing and the world he has created with Kingfountain and the Kiskaddons at its centre.