Book Review: ‘The Holly and The Ivy’ by J.A. Clement

A delightful fantasy tale that follows on from ‘A Sprig Of Holly’. The characters are warm and engaging, their interactions reflecting quite realistically both the tenderness of a close-knit family and the tensions that quickly develop when a child starts to misbehave. 

The story is very enjoyable, and even though it is part of a series, it stands alone very well and makes complete sense without having read the first book. 

This short book is a great read for individuals or families in the lead-up to the December solstice and Christmas. 

Book Review: ‘Murder and Mistletoe’ by AR DeClerck

‘Murder and Mistletoe’ is a very good cozy mystery set in 1936, first on the Paris-Bordeaux train and then in Bordeaux itself. The very confident and classy Franny Calico is a seasoned amateur sleuth who finds herself investigating a mystery that threatens not only her own safety, but that of others near and dear to her. 

The story is well crafted and develops at a good pace, keeping both Franny and the reader intrigued. The characters are engaging and interesting, and there are sufficient touches of late 1930s styling and glamour to make the settings and plot believable. 

Easily read in less than 90 minutes, this novella delivers most enjoyable reading, ideal for readers busy with preparations for Christmas and end of year celebrations. 

Book Review: ‘Hang Onto Your Shirt Tails’ by C.A. King

The sequel to ‘Tails Always Wins’, this is a paranormal suspense adventure that directly pits good against evil. 

The story highlights the importance of family and loyalty, and reminds the reader that appearances can be deceiving in a number of ways. The steady development of mystery and suspense hook the reader and engage them deeply in the story. 

The central characters are relatable and easy to empathise with, very effectively positioning the readers against those who seek to destroy the protagonists. 

This book ends with some questions satisfied and others unresolved, creating a strong sense of anticipation for the next instalment of the series. 

Book Review: ‘Becoming a Hero’ by C.R. Garmen

This is a fun fantasy story full of action and adventure for Paul Paulson and his donkey, Gilbert, who set out on a journey and find themselves landing in more danger than they ever anticipated. It’s a story that reminds the reader of the power of friendship and loyalty, and the importance of working together to solve problems and achieve what needs to be done. 

The story moves at a good pace, full of twists and turns that engage the imagination and keep the reader guessing. There are a few macabre moments, effectively balanced by the optimism of the central characters and the humour and positive tone of the writing. 

‘Becoming a Hero’ is an entertaining and enjoyable novella with a good moral and valuable messages that will suit for Young Adult and older readers.

Book Review: ‘An Unexpected Brew’ by JE Mueller

The concept of coffee being magical is not a new one by any means, but how good would it be if a barista could brew a bit of luck or confidence into your next cup? Similarly, the tale of Cinderella is not new, but this adaptation of the story has qualities that are original and different. It is an unexpected and delightful brew indeed. 

The author has given the old story a new setting and context, and provided some interesting twists to keep readers guessing. 

The characters have been reinvented so that they are quite original, yet recognisable and true to the conventions of the much-loved fairy tale. The central characters are likeable and relatable, and their interactions are natural and engaging. 

The target audience is YA, but it is a story that will be appealing for a much broader readership. This is a really fun and engaging read.

Book Review: ‘Presenting the Marriage of Kelli Anne and Gerri Denemer: Beyond the Chamber Door Book 2’ by Paul Alleva

This is a dark, horrifying tale that grasps the reader in its talons and holds them captive, right to the end. 

The different parts of the narrative seem disjointed, and to not make sense at first, but that is the intended effect: this is a nightmare, a living hell, flashes of lucidity and terror that draw the reader into the different kinds of horror that the central characters each find themselves in. 

The story lurches and rolls, disorienting and impossible to predict, reflecting the turmoil of the main characters’ deepest thoughts and feelings. As the story plays out, the strands of the narrative pull together to create structure and resolution from the mayhem.

The one thing that really annoyed me was the failure of the author to differentiate between ‘slither’ and ‘sliver’,  using the one word for both meanings as though the second does not exist on more than one occasion. This may seem like nit-picking, but it demonstrates yet again that there is no substitute for a good editor if an author wishes to avoid frustrating their readers.

This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is certainly a gripping read. 

Audiobook Review: ‘The Asylum’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

This novella-length story serves as a prequel to Goodwin’s The Forensic Genealogist historical mystery series featuring Morton Farrier, using an intriguing research case to frame the beginning of Morton’s relationship with Juliet. 

Morton’s investigation takes him back to 1924 and the death of a young woman in an asylum. The results of his research are completely unexpected, in more ways than one. 

The story is well-constructed and highly  engaging, with some really nicely crafted creepy moments and great twists to keep the reader guessing. 

The narration is clear, well-paced and most enjoyable to listen to. The audiobook runs for a little over 2 hours, a great length to for well into a quiet afternoon, a drive or a longer commute.