Book Review: ‘Capturing Joy’ by Jackie Oliver

‘Capturing Joy’ is a suspenseful zombie apocalypse romance with plenty of action and danger to keep the storyline going, and some lovely macabre scenes and imagery to balance the romance. 

The characters are interesting and varied, and the author does a good job of keeping the reader guessing about who really can be trusted right up to the end of the book. This, and the fact that very few of the characters are completely likeable, makes the story mysterious and engaging as the reader tries to distinguish truth from deception as the story twists and turns. 

While the central conflicts are resolved by the end of the book, there is still some intrigue remaining, serving to tantalise readers with the hope of another book to follow. 

This is an enjoyable read that will appeal to readers of mystery and action novels as well as contemporary romance readers. 

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: ‘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. 

Book Review: ‘A Dark Covenant’ by F.B.Hogan

‘A Dark Covenant’ is a Gothic horror short story filled with foreboding and dramatic tension, embellished with macabre scenes that cause the reader to hold their breath and open their eyes just that little bit wider as they read. 

The writing is evocative, subtly appealing to the reader’s senses while appearing to tell the story in a quite straightforward fashion. The terror of the climax is heightened by the profound contrast with the main character’s indifference toward his situation, and with the pathos of his childhood experiences. 

This outstanding short read demonstrates not only the author’s versatility, but also her ability to draw extraordinary horror stories out of the most ordinary of circumstances. 

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. 

Short Story Review: ‘Good Intentions’ by D.J.Doyle

Find your copy here.

Readers of horror who want a top quality short read will be well pleased by this dark and twisted short story, which can easily be enjoyed during a coffee or lunch break. 

Doyle’s writing is always easy to read and her characters realistic and relatable. That dreadful things can happen to ordinary people is an underlying premise that enables a great horror story to evoke shock and fear in its readers, who are invariably aware of the fact that such things could happen to anyone. When the story takes an unexpected turn, it heightens the anticipation of what is to come and the fear of the unknown. 

It is in these elements of the story that Doyle successfully manages to immerse her readers in a situation, turn it around, and leave them gasping, all within the space of just a few minutes. 

Book Review: ‘Red Ink: A Darkworld Tale’ by T.D. McIntosh and Nancy Uliano

Macabre and unsettling, this psychological thriller seems disjointed and strangely sequenced until the strands of the story start to pull together.

That which at first appears to be gratuitous splatter for spaltter’s sake turns out to be far more complex psychological horror brought about by a deadly combination of individual volition and a dark power that cannot be explained. 

The reader is shocked and disoriented by the twists and turns, just as the characters are, feeling as though the story lurches from one disturbing and not-quite-fully developed scene to the next without sufficient resolution. As the story begins to gel, and the seemingly unrelated events all start to lead to the climax of the story, the reader begins to realise that this was an entirely deliberate and quite complex strategy, designed to emotionally immerse the reader in the confusion and fear evoked by both the actions of the antagonists and the experiences of the victims. 

Gory and unpredictable, this is a dark and disturbing read. 

Book Review: ‘Annabelle’ by Elexis Bell

In this book, two distinct narratives unfold: what Annabelle does, and what drives her to do it. 

The storytelling is intuitive, drawing on the reader’s instincts and assumed knowledge to build empathy and understanding with Annabelle and to evoke anger, grief and sorrow not just for her suffering and pain, but rather for that of all who have suffered in similar ways. 

The story is very well written, boldly narrated by the character from whom it takes its title. Annabelle is a young woman who displays tenacity, conviction, and a desire for justice that proves, as it so often does, to be a far more powerful motivator than self-preservation.

While this book delivers an important and timely story that needs to be told and understood, it does contain some scenes of violence and of sexual assault, so it is not suitable for young readers, nor for readers whose own trauma may be triggered by that content. 

Like Annabelle herself, this is a story that points the finger directly at not only the perpetrators, bit also those who enable and protect them with their silence, and demands justice for their transgressions. 

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.

Short Story Review: ‘The House That Evil Made’ by Sarah Northwood

A dark and suspenseful story in which foreboding builds gradually until the truths underlying the story are revealed. 

This story is evocatively written in a way that draws the reader into the life and mind of the central character as the innocence and natural curiosity of childhood are discarded and replaced by the bleakness of hindsight and the passion of revenge. 

‘The House That Evil Made’ is a 10-15 minute read that can be enjoyed over a coffee break or in a few spare minutes, providing a quick but satisfying escape to the reader’s day.