'The Darkest Veil' by Catherine Cavendish

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Dark, sinister and brooding, this is a horror story that unfolds powerfully, despite the resistance of both the reader and the characters. Foreboding and suspense combine to intensify the darkness of the imagery and the anticipation of the next twist.

The story is skilfully crafted, using characters who are relatable in their absolute normality, which heightens the tension by emphasising the understanding that the events of the story could happen to anyone.

This is an outstanding horror mystery story. Read it if you dare. 

Book Review: ‘Bentwhistle the Dragon – A Threat From The Past’ by Paul Cude

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The first in the Bentwhistle the Dragon series of urban fantasy novels, this book is a wonderful blend of fantasy, mystery, adventure and suspense thriller. Dragons and magic abound in a parallel world that is complex and fascinating, and which remains full of surprises even for those who live there. 

Suitable for young adult and older audiences, the story explores important themes of friendship, ethics and personal integrity through the experiences of Peter Bentwhistle and his best friends, Richie and Tank. 

The characters are delightful, each with quirks and qualities that make them both likeable and relatable for human and dragon readers alike. The more sinister characters are similarly relatable, because we all know someone who is selfish or a bully. As the action rolls and the story develops, the reader is drawn deeper into the story and finds themselves very definitely on the side of the protagonists. The twists and surprises keep coming, right to the end of the book. 

Well-written and expertly constructed, this is a brilliant read.

Book Review: ‘The Adventures of Viola Stewart: Three Short Stories’ by Karen J Carlisle

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This book presents three Victorian-style short stoeies featuring Viola Stewart at different phases of her life – one as a child, two as an adult. Throughout, she is clever, vivacious and scientifically minded, creating a sense of positive connection and admiration in the reader’s mind. It is easy to see how the young girl with a toy dirigible grew into the optician with a scientist’s eye for detail. 

The second and third stories explore mysterious circumstances that occur, with the investigations falling to Viola and her friend, Dr Henry Collins. 

The stories are interesting and entertaining, leaving the reader keen to know more of Viola Stewart. 

Book Review: ‘Le Cirque de Magie’ by Marsha A Moore

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‘Le Cirque de Magie‘ is an excellent dark fantasy/paranormal romance novella set in a circus populated by both human and magical performers. 

The story gains momentum with the arrival of a mysterious new cast member who brings new complications to the show and, as the suspense builds, the reader becomes more invested in the safety of the central characters and the delivery of   justice to the antagonist. 

The characters are interesting and varied, and the story is well-developed, making a very enjoyable hour’s reading. 

Book Review: ‘Beast Navidad’ by Camilla Ochlan and Bonita Gutierrez

A Christmas-themed novella in The Werewolf Whisperer Series, this is a paranormal suspense story that will please readers looking for something darker than Jingle Bells and Winter Wonderland for their December fare. 

It’s a great story, full of twists and turns that keep the reader guessing. It’s easily read in about an hour, which makes it the perfect length for reading on busy December days. 

Book Review: 'Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Collection of Spine Jingling Tales'

‘Christmas Australis’ is not your usual Christmas reading fare. Instead of fairy lights and tinsel, you’ll find shadows and dark corners, disreputable people, food that is not to be trusted and family secrets that are even darker than most. 

Introducing each story by means of a letter from The Epica adds another layer of mystery and darkness to the collection, while the distinctly Australian flavour of the stories adds a unique quality to the anthology that sets it apart from other Christmas collections.

This excellent anthology will certainly add a delicious dash of darkness to your Christmas reading.

Book Review: ‘The Grunch Who Stole Winter Solstice’ by Michael W. Huard

A dark fantasy short story set in a small island community, this can be read — like most fairy tales — as a as a story of heroism and commitment that enables one to face their fears for the greater good, but also on another level as a cautionary tale about the importance of following instructions and meeting one’s responsibilities.

The story is quite well written, although the language seemed a little stilted in places. This may well have been an intentional choice by the author in keeping with the old-fashioned narrative style of the fairy tale genre, but as Huard is an author that is new to this reader, it is hard to tell. It may simply be a matter of not yet being used to his writing style. 

The story is enjoyable and the challenges encountered by the characters certainly encourage the reader to engage in the action and hope for a positive outcome. The fact that not all characters survive is realistic in terms of both the fairy tale genre and real life. 

This book makes great December reading primarily for YA and older children, or for families to enjoy together.