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. 

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: '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. 

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.

Audiobook Review: ‘Six of Crows’ by Leigh Bardugo

A stunning, tense and dark adventure that carries the reader from the streets of Ketterdam to the splendour of the Ice Court on the most dangerous mission Kaz Brekker and the Dregs had ever taken on. 

The writing is powerful and compelling, conveying the desperation and adrenaline of the story, and the imagery is rich in sensory detail.

Telling the story from the different characters’ perspectives create an intriguing dramatic irony that both informs the reader and helps to build the suspense and anticipation that completely  hooks the audience. 

The narrators – one for each central character – are expressive and very listenable, making the story flow and creating a very effective interweaving of the strands of the story. The characters really come to life with the audio, especially in the recounting of their backstories, the exposition of their thoughts and fears, and the revelation of their perceptions and responses to the other characters and the experiences they share. 

The story remains suspenseful and maintains the innate tension of the story right to the end.