'Highland Blood' The Celtic Blood Book 2 by Melanie Karsak

In this excellent sequel to ‘Highland Raven’, Karsak continues the magical, mystical story of Gruoch as she continues to learn of her destiny amid the complexity of both worlds to which she belongs. 

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As with the first book in this series, Gruoch’s story is so beautifully written  and expertly crafted that the reader becomes deeply invested in the events and characters of the story, sharing Gruoch’s fears, pain, and hopes as her life takes compelling twists and unpredictable turns. She is a complex and powerful woman, strong and admirable, and steadfast in the face of conflict and danger. Yet, she is never portrayed as perfect, never unrealistically good, and never so contrived as to not be believable. 

There are some lovely references to Shakespeare’s ’Macbeth’, woven seamlessly into the narrative. This establishes close ties between that story and this one, even though the events of this series thus far happen before those in the famous play.

The story delivers a fascinating blend of history, mystery, fantasy, romance, and adventure in an deeply engaging read that, once started, demands to be consumed. 

Book Review: ‘Fallen Captive’ by Aliya DalRae

The second novel in DalRae’s Fallen Cross Legion Series is an excellent blend of paranormal romance, tragedy and thriller. 

‘Fallen Captive’ explores the backstory of Nox and his experiences before coming to Fallen Cross, providing both compelling reading and a powerful contrast to the future Nox has begun to build for himself. All of this takes place in the context of the development of the narrative of the Fallen Cross Legion and the stories of its individual members. 

The end result is a complex and well-crafted story that immerses the reader in the world of these Vampires and causes them to invest deeply in the survival and the futures of the central characters.

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.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins

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’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: ‘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: 'Winter's Curse' by April L Wood

‘Winter’s Curse’ is a very original and engaging YA paranormal romance novel in which Winter must overcome not just one, but two curses, that stand between her and future happiness. 

The story is well crafted, with some intriguing twists and turns and a few surprises along the way. Winter and her friends are likeable characters, while those who work against her are clearly intended to be disliked. The magical clans, their qualities and the social structures and rules by which they live are original and interesting, which adds another layer of complexity to the story and helps to drive the complications of the plot. 

This is a book that reminds the reader that real friendship and true love transcend the boundaries of class, heritage or alliance that people try to put on them, and that it’s more important to choose what is right than to settle for what others might decide or impose. 

Book Review: ‘What The Gods Allow’ by J.S. Frankel

Despite the fact that ‘What The Gods Allow’ is something of a change of pace for J.S. Frankel in that he usually writes fabulous YA and NA science fiction, this book is infused with Frankel’s trademark clever storytelling style and humour that engage the reader in the story and hook them so effectively that they lose all sense of time and place as they read. 

On one level this is an urban fantasy story of the ancient and modern worlds meeting in a quest to restore balance between the two. On another level, it’s a story of friendship, trust, and acceptance of differences in culture and appearance. It’s a story that reminds the reader that you can’t always believe what you’ve been told about someone, and that sometimes it’s the gods who are the monsters. 

The story is fun and engaging, deepened with moments of tension and driven by a deadline that compels the main character, Meddy, to fulfil her mission with a sense of urgency despite the growing conflict within her that makes her want to stay right where she is and keep her new life in 21st century Portland. 

An excellent read, ‘What The Gods Allow’ is a book that will appeal to readers of paranormal and urban fantasy.