Book Review: 'Dead by Morning' by Kayla Krantz

Teen peer pressure reaches terrifying new levels in this YA paranormal thriller, in which the protagonist Luna Ketz appears to be a most unlikely heroine: she’s not popular, she’s Muslim in a predominantly white community, and she hates Chance, the boy who is determined to get her attention. 

The tension between Luna and Chance continues to escalate as the story progresses and Luna finds herself caught in a web of conspiracy, secrecy and deceit. In a highly original blend of YA paranormal, mystery and horror, the gripping storyline is evidence of author’s ability to blend reality and fantasy in an intriguing way that engages the reader and causes them to invest emotionally in Luna’s fate.  

‘Dead By Morning’ is easy to read and hard to put down once started. 

Book Review: ‘Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe’ by Richard Dee

Andorra and her best friend Cy are fabulous as the lead characters in this entertaining science fiction mystery story that takes place on a space station operating on the rings of Saturn. 

Dee writes with a natural and relaxed style, infused with humour and observant  insight into human behaviour and responses. 

The story itself is well-crafted, immersing the reader in the station’s community and keeping them guessing with well-executed twists and clever diversions woven seamlessly into the plot. 

The world building is original and complex, opening the reader’s imagination to the vast possibilities of life beyond our own world.

The cast of characters and their individual personalities, quirks and motivations remind the reader that people are the same wherever you go, which is why the premise and assumptions of the story work so well. 

This is a most enjoyable read that will appeal to lovers of sci-fi and murder mysteries alike.

Book Review: ‘13 Ways to Midnight’ by Rue Volley

Echo Navarri thought she was exchanging an unusual life with her parents for a more settled life with her aunt in Port Royal. She also thought that paranormal creatures were fictional. She was wrong on both counts. 

Echo is a teenager with whom the reader quickly develops empathy, developing the understanding that one can be flawed and ideal, weak and strong, and perfectly imperfect all at the same time. Her experiences of family, love, loss, friendship and self-esteem are relatable for readers, while her determination, confidence, loyalty and honesty about herself and others make her a character that readers can admire and respect. Her introversion, awkwardness and bookishness make a refreshing change from the ‘social butterfly’ or ‘fairy tale princess’ style heroines who seem so popular. 

Supported by her friends and her aunt, Echo navigates her way through a story that is engaging and interesting, full of challenges and change, punctuated by failures and victories along the way. 

The story is well crafted and well-written, with some great surprises and unpredictable twists. The characters, settings, and plot combine to deliver a book that holds strong appeal to Young Adult and paranormal romance readers. 

13 Ways to Midnight’ is an excellent opening to a four book series which this reader is keen to enjoy. 

Book Review: ‘The Last Temptations of Iago Wick’ by Jennifer Rainey

This is the first of two books thus far in the ‘Wick and Lovelace’ steampunk/gaslamp fiction series, although both Iago Wick and Dante Lovelace both also appear in ‘Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen’.

Similar to life for a tempter such as Iago Wick, this book is never dull. Mystery, adventure, temptation and danger combine to provide a well paced, very entertaining read that hooks the reader early and proceeds to charm them into feeling far more empathy for a demon than most would be willing to consider wise. 

Iago and Dante are delightfully devilish, giving the reader an insight into how demons might go about distracting and tempting humans while at the same time being thoroughly charming and polite. 

The writing is fluent and witty, vividly bringing to life the Victorian-esque city of Marlowe, Massachusetts, and the spectrum of characters who live there. This is a story laced with dark humour and keen insight into what makes people tick, making it both very readable and deeply fascinating. 

Overall, it’s a fabulously wicked and highly recommended read.

Book Review: ‘My Dream Woman’ by C.H. Clepitt

While many people may insist that they wish their dreams really would come true, this story reminds the reader that it might not always be a good thing. ‘My Dream Woman’ is a heartwarming, entertaining and quite fantastic tale of the power of dreams in the lives and destinies of those who have them. 

The author has created a quite brilliant concept with the Guild of Dream Warriors and in doing so has opened up a whole new realm of potential for contemporary fantasy— one which the author has deftly and confidently made her own with the mystical and mysterious collection of characters who populate this story. Of course, nothing is perfect, and therein lies the complication that sets the plot of this delightful tale in motion. 

The story is written in a familiar and relaxed tone that makes the reader feel as if they have known Andi, the central character, for much longer than just the time they’ve been reading. The story rolls on at a good pace, at some times lighthearted and amusing, and at other times suspenseful and intriguing, but always delivering twists that keep both the reader and the characters curious and engaged. 

Once again, Cleiptt has produced a highly original and quirky story that has far more depth and meaning to it than just mere entertainment. As the assumptions, fears and instincts of the characters are explored, so are those of the reader, revealing truths that challenge the way in which one understands their own responses to life and the different people with whom we share it. 

There is some adult content, so it’s not a book for younger readers, but it is a positive and empowering read that promotes understanding of different perspectives and orientations. 

Having found so much to enjoy in this novella, it is very exciting to know there are two more books in the Guild of Dream Warriors series. 

Book Review: ‘The Old Gilt Clock’ by Paulette Mahurin

Find your copy here.

There are times, particularly in the face of conflict or adversity, in which one might be tempted to ask, “What can one person do?”

The story of Willem Arondeus is testament to the fact that one person can do a very great deal to oppose hatred or wrongdoing, both through their own efforts but also by inspiring and encouraging others to also stand against evil. 

 Willem’s life story is well written and makes compelling reading. A man well acquainted with prejudice and hatred, Willem has been brought to life by the author in a manner that is both realistic about his flaws and empathetic about his suffering, credibly portraying him as a very normal person with a profound commitment to doing what was right.

This book adds a personal dimension to history and confronts the reader with the sense of helplessness experienced by the Dutch people of the time, and with the anger and resentment they harboured toward the Nazis and those who dumped with them. It made me reflect on what I know of my own grandfather, who was also a member of the Dutch resistance during the German occupation of the Netherlands in WWII, and to feel.somehow even more strongly connected to Willem and his friends as a result.

This is often an uncomfortable read, but it is an important one. Because stories like this are told, our generation is reminded to be vigilant against evil, to stand with the oppressed, and to ‘do some good ‘.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins

Find your copy here.

’The Binding’ is a tragic and compelling historical fantasy story of unlikely alliances, forbidden love, and the power of memories. The writing is beautiful and the story is superbly crafted. The narration by Carl Prekopp is a joy to listen to, as he gives life and voice to the characters and enchants the listener into feeling as though they are actually there as the events unfold. 

The story explores timeless themes including patriarchy and the abuse of power, particularly in terms of social class but also when it comes to the way society as a whole viewed same-sex relationships in the past. Because all of those prejudices still exist in society today, albeit to a lesser extent, the story is powerfully relevant. 

The characters, particularly Emmet and Alta, are developed so fully that the audience feels as though they know them intimately, which creates an emotional investment in their lives. This depth of feeling heightens the tensions of the complications and challenges they face, and makes the twists and revelations of the story more impactful. 

‘The Binding’ is available in ebook and novel as well as audio.

Book Review: ‘The Promise of the Opal’ by Lyra Shanti

Find your copy here.

As full of mysticism as it is of mystery, ‘The Promise of the Opal ‘ is a vivid and sensual read that takes the reader to China and immerses them in a compelling love story that both blurs and crosses boundaries– of time, of gender, and of the laws that apply to the physical and spiritual worlds as we understand them. 

The characters are complex, interesting and relatable. Each struggles with questions of identity and belonging, and with feelings of inadequacy and failure, and each must wrestle with those issues as they discover confronting yet undeniable truths about themselves and each other. 

The writing is full of texture and sensory richness that brings the characters and settings — and their history — to life. The story unfolds seamlessly, deeply engaging the reader and making them feel as though they are present in the story. 

While the adult content in the story is tasteful and respectful, it is suitable for adult audiences only. 

This book delivers a fascinating story and a beautiful.reading experience.

Book Review: ‘A Queer Old Christmas ‘ by CH Clepitt

Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, this excellent story explores the devastating consequences of bigotry and hatred within families, and the healing power of acceptance and love.

Infused with humour and warmth that serves as a very effective contrast to the bitterness of the antagonist, the story immerses the reader in the lives of Linda, Tim and Ani as they navigate their way through quite significant challenges. It is a positive and uplifting book that helps those who have the privilege of being comfortable in their situations to understand what it is like for others who experience discrimination and prejudice, and how to appropriately respond to differences in others. 

The writing is excellent, the story is expertly crafted, and the characters are delightful. All in all, it’s a very entertaining read that comes highly recommended for YA and older. It’s a story that everyone should read. 

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.