Book Review: ‘Yardley: An Unconventional Love Story’ by Lucretia Stanhope

Part of Stanhope’s ‘Elemental Witch Trials’ series, this novella tells the back story of Yardley, a minor but mysterious character in the other books. 

It is interesting to gain insight into the nature and qualities of a character who has hovered on the periphery of the story so far, and to see how the connection between Yardley and Sebastian was first established. I was surprised by the appearance of one of the other minor characters from the series in this book, as it was a connection I had not expected.

Testament to the author’s creativity and talent is the fact that even after reading multiple novels in this series, I can still be completely surprised by a cleverly crafted connection or plot twist. 

This was an enjoyable read, easily finished in under two hours. 

‘Yardley’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Moon Warriors’ by Kayla Krantz

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the bad people and the good. After all, we only see what other people are willing to let us see, and some of them are very good at manipulating our perceptions.

Our understandings of the world and of ourselves would certainly be confronted and challenged by the shocking discovery that one we have always been told was our enemy is actually more of a friend than someone we have loved and trusted. 

Talia, driven to find our the truth behind the death of her boyfriend, finds herself in exactly that situation, The story takes her on a sometimes terrifying and often surprising journey of discovery, during which she finds out far more than she expected at the outset. 

‘Moon Warriors’ is a really good paranormal romance story that can be read in a couple of hours. This is a book that will please lovers of paranormal romance or dark romance, although there is some strong language and graphic content, so it’s not suitable for young readers.  

‘Moon Warriors’ has been awarded a Silver 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: ‘In Pursuit of Light’ by Sarah B Meadows

‘In Pursuit Of Light’ focuses on the experiences of a close-knit group of men, a ‘band of brothers’ so to speak, each of whom is gifted with some form of special ability. These characters share the role of narrator, giving the reader intimate insights into the events of the story but also into each one’s thoughts, emotions and reactions. 

Kia is a most mysterious character, who hooks the reader first with her vulnerability and then with her independence. The author makes fascinating use of  the narrative device in that the reader gets to know Kia through the perspectives of the narrators rather than through her own experience and point of view. 

The story combines elements of paranormal and urban fantasy, with strong post-apocalyptic overtones which come partly from  the settings and world-building, and partly from the activities and behaviour off the men. While their actual occupation is really only hinted at, the reader does feel as though they are involved in some sort of resistance or paramilitary activity in a world that has survived an undefined but significant trauma.  

The writing is powerful, telling a compelling story and making use of some almost poetic imagery at times. However, it is also true that the book as a whole would also benefit from more thorough editing to remove errors that, while individually minor, frustrate the reader as they accumulate.  

This is an interesting and often suspenseful story. It does end with a cliffhanger designed to motivate readers to advance to the second book, but the story has sufficient resolution to give the reader a sense of having been provided answers to at least some of the residual questions posed by the story and its underlying premise. 

There is adult content in this book, so it’s recommended for readers aged 18+ only.

‘In Pursuit Of Light’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

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Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Blood’ by Wilkie Martin

The first book in Wilkie Martin’s ‘Inspector Hobbes’ mystery series, this is a highly original contribution to the genre. It is at different times suspenseful, macabre, darkly humorous, and quirky, while maintaining a well-developed and interesting mystery storyline. 

The cast of characters is delightful, made up of mismatched and very different personalities that one might not expect to get along with one another at all, and yet they are oddly complementary. In that sense, there is much in this book that challenges the ways in which people often perceive others based on looks, occupation or social status.  Inspector Hobbes is an enigma: beneath the intimidating exterior and generally gruff presentation lies a good heart and a very literal sense of humour. Still, he is clearly not your everyday local police inspector, and the questions about his past and his otherworldly nature are both puzzling and captivating. That many of these questions remain unanswered is a point of continued intrigue that holds strong appeal for the natural curiosity that is common among readers of mystery novels. 

Similarly, Mrs Goodfellow is both kind and terrifying at the same time, providing yet another contrast to Andy, whose trademark quality is his mediocrity: he wants to be ‘more’ than he is but never quite manages it. It is his profound sense of disappointment in his unrealised dreams and his helplessness when the events of life conspire against him that make him relatable to readers and have them silently hoping for better things for him. When he falls in with Hobbes and discovers life beyond his less-than-stellar career in journalism, the unlikely friendship between the two provides a frequent source of both amusement and fascination.

The oddities of the characters and the macabre elements of the story add further layers of mystery and curiosity to the story, which is well-developed and proceeds at a good pace. Unlike some other mysteries, there is nothing predictable or formulaic about this book. 

A most enjoyable dark urban fantasy mystery story, Inspector Hobbes and the Blood has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Pretty Waiter Girls’ by Greg Alldredge

An excellent steampunk fantasy mystery novel, ‘Pretty Waiter Girls’ is a captivating story set in San Francisco, 1899, where mystery, magic, science, inventions, petty crime and serial murderers exist uneasily alongside one another. 

Helena Brandywine is a charming heroine – young, feisty, smart, good-natured, and keen to rescue others from danger. While she aspires to become like Sherlock Holmes, Helena is more empathetic and less aloof than her hero. The detective, Doyle, and Helena’s companions and employees Sigmund and Lane are all effective foils for her youth and impulsiveness.  As they investigate the disappearance of a young socialite and the death of another young woman from very different circumstances, each of the central characters turns out to be as complex and challenging as the mysteries they seek to solve.  This sets up a dynamic between them that is both enjoyable and fascinating.

The narrative is interesting and exciting, and very well constructed. The story is as full of action and adventure as it is of mystery and intrigue. The writing has a positive, adventurous tone that really suits the genre and style of the story and keeps the reader hooked on the action of the story as the mysteries and challenges that face Helena unfold. The mysteries are well constructed, made more fascinating by their relation to questions relating to Helena’s family, and by their apparent connections to the shadowy beings that frequent the city in the dark. 

A most enjoyable read, ‘Pretty Waiter Girls’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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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.

Find your copy here.