'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. 

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: 'The Promise of the Opal' by Lyra Shanti

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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: ‘Cookies and Scream’ by CeeCee James

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‘Cookies and Scream’ is the second book in the Baker Street Cozy Mysteries Series by  CeeCee James, which features amateur sleuth Georgie Tanner, her Aunt Cecelia and the fictional historical town of Gainesville, Virginia. 

A visit to a local historical re-enactment places Georgie at the heart of a murder mystery that has many roots in both local history and her own past. What ensues is an intriguing and often dangerous chain of events that nudge Georgie closer to the truth. 

The story is well-written and the mystery is challenging and interesting. This is shaping up to be a series I am keen to follow. 

Book Review: ‘Where Souls Entwine’ by Laura Rosek

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Part romance, part paranormal mystery and part crime story, ‘Where Souls Entwine’ is a story about interconnections between past, present and destiny that go beyond the physical realities that most people perceive. 

While it is a sequel to Rosek’s previous novel, the book does stand alone very effectively to deliver an interesting and thought-provoking read. 

Other than the antagonist, who is a most reprehensible person, the characters are quite likeable and serve to deliver significant lessons about trust, commitment and belief as the story unfolds. 

There are some scenes depicting graphic violence and domestic abuse, so this is not a suitable story for younger readers, nor for anyone sensitive to such matters. It is, however, generally a positive story.