Book Review: ‘Becoming a Hero’ by C.R. Garmen

This is a fun fantasy story full of action and adventure for Paul Paulson and his donkey, Gilbert, who set out on a journey and find themselves landing in more danger than they ever anticipated. It’s a story that reminds the reader of the power of friendship and loyalty, and the importance of working together to solve problems and achieve what needs to be done. 

The story moves at a good pace, full of twists and turns that engage the imagination and keep the reader guessing. There are a few macabre moments, effectively balanced by the optimism of the central characters and the humour and positive tone of the writing. 

‘Becoming a Hero’ is an entertaining and enjoyable novella with a good moral and valuable messages that will suit for Young Adult and older readers.

Book Review: ‘Wild Rose’ by Sherrie Hansen

‘Wild Rose’ continues the story of Pastor Ian MacCraig and the community of St Conan’s in Lochawe, Scotland, that began with Thistle Down. 

This is a lighthearted, often humorous and sometimes very poignant story of an unlikely meeting that unleashes an unpredictable series of events full of twists and turns.

While it is a romantic story, it’s also a story of human nature in which judgement and forgiveness feature prominently. It challenges the reader to think about their own perceptions of others, especially those who stand out from the crowd in one way or another.

There is some subtle adult content, so it’s not a book for young readers. That being said, that content is written with sensitivity, and is unlikely to offend adult readers.

‘Wild Rose’ is a most enjoyable read, and has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Book Review: ‘Thistle Down’ – Wildflowers of Scotland Book 1 by Sherrie Hansen

‘Thistle Down’ introduces Pastor Ian MacCraig of St Conan’s Kirk in Lochawe, Scotland, and the various members of the congregation and community in the village in a lighthearted and warm story of two very different sisters and their prospective wedding plans. 

The tone of the story is warm and familiar, aided by delightfully origina yet typically Scottish characters who speak with frankness and good humour. This book really does have the feel of one of those wonderful British TV series that one watches on a Saturday or Sunday evening, becoming immersed in a small community and the local goings on while getting to know all the neighbours. 

Being a novella-length read, it was easy to read in an afternoon, and provided a wonderful escape for a couple of hours. 

‘Thistle Down’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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Book Review: ‘Or What You Will: A Reimagining Of Twelfth Night’ by CH Clepitt

Just like Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, this is a fun romp full of coincidence, disguise, trickery, and mistaken identity, albeit set on a tropical island in the 21st century. 

Clepitt’s trademark humour infuses the narrative with warmth and a lighthearted tone that make the story very entertaining. The characters are, in keeping with Shakespeare’s play, delightful and a bit daft at the same time, which is how the story is actually made to work. 

Given that the play already bent the gender roles and expectations back in the 1600s, it is a  plot that easily lends itself to the incorporation of gay and lesbian characters and themes, achieved with the intelligence and wit that are characteristic of Clepitt’s writing.

There is sufficient homage to Shakespeare’s tale to make it recognizable, and sufficient originality and development of setting, plot and characters to make the work distinct as Clepitt’s own. 

A most enjoyable read, ‘Or What You Will’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

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Book Review: ‘The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ by Claire Buss

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ is a prequel to The Rose Thief’, Claire Buss’ first novel to feature Ned, Jenni, and the rest of the Thief Catcher gang.

It is a wonderfully quirky fantasy story, full of rich and diverse characters that all have their own priorities and vested interests in catching the murderer.

It’s written with humour and warmth that infuse the story with a genuine feel-good tone, despite the multiple deaths, general trickery and deliberate obfuscation by some, and the presence of some rather sinister characters. 

This novella-length book can easily be read in a couple of hours, and would best suit a YA-and-older audience. I found it to be a great diversion on a quiet afternoon, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. 

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ has been awarded a Gold 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. 

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Book Review: ‘The Lady Of The Mist’ by WC Quick

If you have ever suspected that the ‘happy ever after’ of fairy tales wasn’t actually true? 

This is a dark fantasy sequel to Cinderella that brings with it a very different set of premises than those suggested by the ending of the popular children’s fairy tale. 

Written with dark humour and a strong sense of irony, this is a fairy tale for the cynical and subversive. 

An entertaining short read, ‘Lady Of The Mist’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.  

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