‘The Darkest Veil’ by Catherine Cavendish

Find your copy here.

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

Find your copy here.

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

Find your copy here.

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

Find your copy here.

‘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. 

Book Review: ‘Kin: Horror in Moonshine Holler’ by J.B.Richards

This is a short story read that takes the reader from Texas to the wilds of West Virginia and an old family’s quest for revenge. 

While the tale has a few well-crafted macabre moments, it’s not really a full-on horror story as such- although it’s fair to say that at least one of the characters might beg to differ. It is a story of tragedy and of loyalty that binds a family against anyone who hurts one of their own. It’s a story that makes the reader hold their breath without realising it, and which highlights the often unforeseen consequences of one’s actions. 

The story is well written, interesting, and suspenseful. The characters are colourful and unique, and fit very well into the context and setting of the book.

Book Review: ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern

The story of Le Cirque des Rêves is magical and fantastic, drawing the reader into a world of illusion, mystery, and wonder. It is a story full of contrasts: light and dark, reality and illusion, cold and heat,  truth and deceit, life and death. Richly imaginative and sensory, the story is absolutely captivating. Yet at its very heart is a secret so cold and dark that it doesn’t even seem to be compatible with such a wonderful tale.  

While the lines and boundaries are blurred, and morality is highly subjective, the reader is drawn strongly to certain characters: Celia and Marco, Poppet, Widget and Bailey, and becomes deeply invested in their stories. 

I loved the story concept, the settings and the characters. I very much enjoyed the clever Shakespearean references, some of which were very obvious while others were much more subtle and covert, possibly going undetected by readers less familiar with the works of the Bard. 

However, I was frustrated by two aspects of the book. Not only was the plot development very slow… and I do mean  s  l  o  w, I found the author’s regular forays into writing overtly in second person incredibly annoying and distracting, particularly in conjunction with present tense. Was this story set at a series of specific points in history,  as the dates at the beginning of chapters suggested, or was it happening right now? Either way, I’m perfectly certain I am not, nor was I ever, actually there. When I encountered this on the second page, it was so jarring that I almost put the book down for god, thinking the whole narrative might be like that. 

Never one to quit a book early, I kept going. The story was good enough for me to almost manage to forget while reading that the writing is in present tense, but the second person perspective interrupted the flow of the narrative and broke my concentration every single time.  I understand that the intent was to immerse the reader into the story, but it actually had the opposite effect on me, and it happened far too often for me to easily forgive. 

As a result, the book left me with mixed feelings and wondering if I was being petty because I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. I know it’s very much a matter of personal taste, and I’m glad I persisted with it, but I can’t deny that I am disappointed. As a lover of fantasy, magical stories, and dark fiction, this should have been everything I wanted in a book, but it wasn’t. 

As the old saying goes, it’s a fine line between love and hate. I find myself standing on that very line, still unsure of which way to fall. 

Book Review: ‘Dark Little Wonders and Other Stories’ by Amy Cross

A collection of well-crafted and varied short stories, ‘Dark Little Wonders’ definitely lives up to its title.

The stories are all quite different, invariably dark, and full of twists and surprises. Taken one by one, each story challenges the reader to see life – and death – from a different perspective. In combination, this collection of dark fiction reminds the reader that one can be haunted by many more things than just ghosts. 

The writing is very good and the characters are realistic, each having burdens, flaws, and motivations to which the reader can easily relate. This adds punch to every twist sand makes the message of each story more powerful. 

‘Dark Little Wonders and Other Stories’ is an excellent read.