Book Review: ‘Fight Like A Woman’ by J.S. Frankel

A story of resistance, resilience and loyalty, this is a book for the persecuted, the exploited and the downtrodden. It is a story in which brains overcome brawn and integrity is valued more than power.

Kyle Sorton is a classic underdog character, highly relatable for anyone who has struggled with mediocrity or a lack of opportunities to discover their potential. The tenacity and self-assurance of Rinarra and Merat make them powerful contrasts for Kyle, yet he surprises himself by proving to be their equal in resourcefulness and instinct. That the three of them overcome their challenges by working together and sharing their knowledge and abilities is a powerful reminder that we are stronger together than alone, and that a loyal team can achieve far more in cooperation than they could if the members were to work independently of one another..

The plot is intriguing and highly engaging, and the world building is excellent. There is enough that is familiar to the reader for them to feel sufficiently oriented and grounded, but enough that is different for them to be fascinated by the qualities of the world and culture in which they are immersed.

The unique circumstances in which Kyle finds himself are treated with sensitivity and a sense of natural curiosity, making him a central character who will endear himself to those readers who have questioned and explored their own questions of self, gender and identity, even though Kyle’s situation and the reasons for his questioning are bound to be somewhat different than their own.

This is a most excellent read.

‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ by Jeffery Cook and Kathleen Perkins

As unpleasant as the experiences may be, it is often when experiencing persecution or encountering conflict that people make surprising discoveries about themselves.

That is absolutely the case for Rae Schwarz when she discovers that there is much more to her life than homework, preparing for Halloween and avoiding the school bully. What ensues is a story of resilience, friendship, loyalty, discovering new talents and looking beyond the surface to recognise what is hidden underneath.

This story is refreshing and original, written with a very comfortable style and personal tone that makes it very relatable and highly engaging. The characters are interesting and varied, each complementing the others in ways that are not immediately obvious to the reader at the outset, and demonstrating the it is entirely possible to be ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. 

A book laden with positive messages and values, ‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ demonstrates a profound acceptance of differences and individuality and encourages the reader to recognise their own unique combinations of personality, ability and talent, and to learn to see others in the same way. 

This is a most enjoyable and entertaining story, written for a YA audience but suitable and appealing for all ages. 

Book Review: ‘The River Of Time’ Shiva XIV Book 4 by Lyra Shanti

‘The River of Time’ is book 4 in Lyra Shanti’s magnificent Shiva XIV space opera novel series.

In this instalment, there is plenty of intrigue, suspense, action and epic battle as Ayn and his comrades work agaisnt the evil power that threatens to destroy not only individuals, but also the universe as they know it. 

It is also, however, the most intensely mystical of the series, exploring themes of friendship and loyalty, the nature of the power at the centre of the universe, and redemption and reincarnation.  It is in the context of these themes that Ayn and Axis each question their identity and experience, and their roles in both the history and the future of the worlds they inhabit. 

Through their existential quests, the reader too is reminded that each of us has a role to play, services and gifts to offer, and dreams to pursue, which can contribute to either the destruction or the redemption of our world. The choices we make are crucial, and their impacts and implications extend far beyond our own individual lives. Thus, like Ayn and Axis, Pei and Meddhi, and all the other much-loved characters from this series, we all navigate the River of Time.

This is a universal story and a deeply personal story at the same time, one which confronts and challenges while also entertaining and inspiring the reader. 

Book Review: ‘The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap’ by Paulette Mahurin

This is a really thought-provoking story about the consequences of prejudice, hatred and gossip in the lives of those who suffer the judgement and contempt of others. It is well-written and easy to read, although the nature of the story is both serious and discomforting. 

Set in 1895 in a small rural community in Nevada, ’The Persecution of Midlred Dunlap’ is one of those stories that takes a slice of time, brings it to life, and makes one thankful that things have changed since then. On reflection, though, the reader is confronted by the fact that some things haven’t changed that much at all. People still discriminate against and make fun of those who are different, or who live in ways of which they do not approve. We may have laws to deal with those issues now, and legal means of both protection and redress, but those can not actually change human nature or the tendency of some people toward the behaviours that made those laws necessary in the first place.  

Through clever crafting of characters and story, the author demonstrates that there are all sorts of hatred and prejudice that people suffer, ranging between racism, religious persecution, discrimination on the basis of looks, sexuality or lifestyle, to peer pressure and bullying. The treatment of those who are different in various ways by those with the position and power to persecute them is abhorrent, emphasising the narrow-mindedness and hatred that motivates such abuse. The fact that. even though we live 120+ years later, one does not have to travel far or look too hard to see that some things never change, is an indictment that can be neither escaped nor explained away. 

In contrast, Mildred is a character who demonstrates kindness, resilience, thoughtfulness and generosity. Like her, Edra, Charley and Gus are positive characters who stand against the horrid behaviour of their neighbours. Those characters who show kindness, acceptance, and respect bring light and relief to the darker undertones of the story and return balance to the portrait of humanity that is painted in these pages. Through them, the story reminds us that love does indeed drive out both fear and hate, and that a true friend is a gift of immeasurable worth. 

There is so much power and weight in this story, and also much that is hopeful and encouraging. It is a work of historical fiction well worth reading, 

Book Review: ‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance: The Dragon’s Heir Trilogy Book 2′ by JB Richards

‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance’ is the second instalment in The Dragon’s Heir trilogy, a fascinating and original blend of fantasy, paranormal romance and fairy tale that makes for a most diverting and intriguing read.

This sequel to ‘The Curse of the Dragon Stone‘ continues the story of Kirin, the dragon’s heir, and his family’s quest to overcome the curse that has befallen them. 

Themes of loyalty and enmity are explored as Kirin, Tyriel and the Fabiosa sisters are set against a darker, angrier power that seeks to undo them. The inner conflict that plagues Kirin reminds the reader that each of us has choices to make about which side of our own nature we allow to control us, while the plight of his family serves as a sobering cautionary tale about the unintended consequences that one’s actions and decisions can have in the lives of others. 

The events of the story create a balance of anticipation and tension that is both tantalising and compelling, keeping the reader fully engaged throughout the book. Even as this part of the story closes, the remainder of the tale beckons, leaving the reader longing for more. 

Comfortably read in a little over two hours, this novella is an ideal fantasy escape for a quiet afternoon or evening. 

New Release: ‘The Next Phase Outcasts 2’ by J.S. Frankel

The Next Phase: Outcasts 2 is the sequel to J.S. Frankel’s YA urban fantasy novel Outcasts. The same characters return in another adventure in which they must fight for their lives.

If Frankel’s previous novels are anything to go by, readers can expect a great story full of action, suspense, danger, and surprise. 

Mitch Kessler, gargoyle, is back, along with his girlfriend, Callie, a former gender shifter, his best friend, Joe Chambers, a spinning top, and Neil, their rock-man sometime ally. 

Mitch and Joe help the police force of Independence, Oregon, fight crime, but their efforts go totally unreported by everyone. While that bothers Mitch, what bothers him more is his best friend’s rapid aging. Joe is dying, and no one seems to know how to stop it.

Except one person—Harmon Carson, an army general. Carson promises Mitch, Neil, and Joe, a cure for their condition, contingent on them finding a renegade scientist who carries the secret with him. The four volunteer, but soon find out that Carson has his own agenda going on—and it is not a friendly one.

With time running out, Mitch has to find the scientist who may be able to help them, assist another mutant called Niles, rescue his girlfriend, and fight the hordes of the unholy that Carson calls forth. Once again, the Outcasts are the underdogs, and only time will tell if they can prevail.

Outcasts is available on Amazon or via the Devine Destinies website.

Book Review: ‘The Cracksman Code’ by Jane Jago

The Cracksman Code is a terrific read.

On more than one occasion, this story will warm your heart right before lurching it into your throat and leave you holding your breath.

Part thriller, part heartwarming portrait of a family bound by loyalty and their own way of doing things, the strands of this story blend seamlessly into one immensely enjoyable story that leaves the reader feeling like a member of the family. It’s a story that immerses the reader in both the professional and the personal sides of operations that, while they are in pursuit of justice, are nevertheless just outside of legal boundaries.

The Cracksman family are entirely realistic and believable, each with strengths and flaws that play off the other characters’ qualities in a very familiar way. At the same time, they do have some remarkable talents and involvements that make them anything but your standard family-next-door. Similarly, their friends Anna Marshall and Sam Henderson are very normal people who do extraordinary things out of their commitment to the same kind of loyalty and values embraced by the Cracksmans. 

Clever and witty writing highlights the warmth of the friendships and family relationships and contrasts powerfully with the acute tension created in the action and suspense sequences of the story, making this a book that is hard to put down. 

There is some adult content, so this book is not suitable for young readers.

’The Cracksman Code’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here