Book Review: ‘A Dark Covenant’ by F.B.Hogan

‘A Dark Covenant’ is a Gothic horror short story filled with foreboding and dramatic tension, embellished with macabre scenes that cause the reader to hold their breath and open their eyes just that little bit wider as they read. 

The writing is evocative, subtly appealing to the reader’s senses while appearing to tell the story in a quite straightforward fashion. The terror of the climax is heightened by the profound contrast with the main character’s indifference toward his situation, and with the pathos of his childhood experiences. 

This outstanding short read demonstrates not only the author’s versatility, but also her ability to draw extraordinary horror stories out of the most ordinary of circumstances. 

Short Story Review: ‘Good Intentions’ by D.J.Doyle

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Readers of horror who want a top quality short read will be well pleased by this dark and twisted short story, which can easily be enjoyed during a coffee or lunch break. 

Doyle’s writing is always easy to read and her characters realistic and relatable. That dreadful things can happen to ordinary people is an underlying premise that enables a great horror story to evoke shock and fear in its readers, who are invariably aware of the fact that such things could happen to anyone. When the story takes an unexpected turn, it heightens the anticipation of what is to come and the fear of the unknown. 

It is in these elements of the story that Doyle successfully manages to immerse her readers in a situation, turn it around, and leave them gasping, all within the space of just a few minutes. 

Short Story Review: ‘The House That Evil Made’ by Sarah Northwood

A dark and suspenseful story in which foreboding builds gradually until the truths underlying the story are revealed. 

This story is evocatively written in a way that draws the reader into the life and mind of the central character as the innocence and natural curiosity of childhood are discarded and replaced by the bleakness of hindsight and the passion of revenge. 

‘The House That Evil Made’ is a 10-15 minute read that can be enjoyed over a coffee break or in a few spare minutes, providing a quick but satisfying escape to the reader’s day. 

Book Review: ‘Books, Blogs and Bloody Murder’ by Michelle Ann Hollstein

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This is a fun short cozy mystery story featuring Aggie Underhill, an amateur sleuth. The story revolves around a woman’s sudden death in a local bookstore.

Aggie is delightful, and each of her friends adds colour and vitality to the story. 

While this particular story is more about Aggie’s situation than sleuthing or solving crime, it is an engaging and entertaining light read that serves as a good introduction to the series.

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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘The Christmas Angel: A Tale of Redemption’ by S. Tilghman Hawthorne

This is a beautiful short story that reminds us all that Christmas can be really challenging for those who have lost loved ones and miss them terribly. By sharing Julie’s thoughts and feelings, the author positions the reader to empathise with her and forces them to consider the power that grief and loss can have at Christmas, especially when other people are so cheerful. 

Even stronger, though, are the power and the warmth of the love and the words that bring healing to Julie’s heart. 

Full of love and Christmas spirit, this is a story that would suit both individuals and families at any time of year, but especially during December. 

Book Review: ‘The Herbalist’s Daughter’ by Jeanette O’Hagan

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This charming and delightful story focuses on Anna, nurserymaid at the palace and daughter of the local herbalist. The misery of feeling less attractive than others and of being not quite fulfilled in life imakes Anna a character that many readers will easily relate to. Despite her own perceptions of her shortcomings, Anna is a good-hearted and honourable young woman who does her job well. 

While there are moments of doubt and events that threaten Anna’s safety, the overall tone of the story is warm and lighthearted. It is a quick read that very effectively delivers an important message: others often see more value or beauty in us than we perceive in ourselves. 

’The Herbalist’s Daughter’ will appeal to readers of young adult fantasy, fairytale and romance.