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: 'A Queer Old Christmas ' by CH Clepitt

Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, this excellent story explores the devastating consequences of bigotry and hatred within families, and the healing power of acceptance and love.

Infused with humour and warmth that serves as a very effective contrast to the bitterness of the antagonist, the story immerses the reader in the lives of Linda, Tim and Ani as they navigate their way through quite significant challenges. It is a positive and uplifting book that helps those who have the privilege of being comfortable in their situations to understand what it is like for others who experience discrimination and prejudice, and how to appropriately respond to differences in others. 

The writing is excellent, the story is expertly crafted, and the characters are delightful. All in all, it’s a very entertaining read that comes highly recommended for YA and older. It’s a story that everyone should read. 

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: 'Coming Home For Christmas' by Helen Pryke

Although the subtitle is ‘A Haunting Christmas Tale’, this is far from being scary or spooky. Instead, is it a positive and inspirational story full of Christmas Eve spirit. 

Without being overly sentimental, this story is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The reader is invited to witness a very special moment through the thoughts and memories of the central character, and is encouraged to reflect on what makes a particular date or a relationship unique and memorable. 

The story is beautifully told, wistful rather than morbid, and imbued with love and devotion. It is a short story, read in less than 15 minutes, but one that lingers in the thoughts of the reader long beyond that. 

Book Review: ‘Midnight Lasagne and Other Stories’ by Maria R. Riegger

‘Midnight Lasagne’ is a very enjoyable collection of varied and original Christmas-themed stories that make relaxing reading for the holiday season. 

Each story offers a different perspective or experience of Christmas, from that of a single mother to a ten-year old kid whose first love is video games. 

These stories are perfect for filling in quiet moments in the busy lead-up to Christmas.