‘The Elemental Coven’ The Witch’s Ambitions Trilogy Book 2 by Kayla Krantz

The second book of this great paranormal series continues the story of the ongoing war between the Elementals and the Council from Lilith’s perspective. The narrative delivers some completely unexpected twists and heart-in-your-throat moments of suspense and anticipation. Because the reader can never be sure of what will happen, it is highly involving and interesting. 

The writing is good and the story moves at a good pace. The story is easy to read and very engaging, particularly in the way it immerses the reader in Lilith’s personal life and keeps them invested in her wellbeing and her future.  

Just like Book 1 in the series, this is an excellent paranormal mystery read.

Book Review: ‘Roger’s Revelation: : An Emma: Ancestor’s Tales Vignette ‘ by Paula Shablo

This is a quite a wistful and quirky read on one hand, yet quite dark and confronting on the other.

A deep sense of irony pervades the story and  highlights the tragedy of the backstory which Roger reveals to Emma when she meets him at their old school. It is certainly thought-provoking about what comes after death and the likelihood that the spirit world could exist right alongside, or even intersect with, our own.

The raw reality of suicide and the jolting power of grief and survivor’s guilt are treated with sensitivity and empathy, and the story cleverly positions the reader to understand the perspectives of both Roger and Emma, and other people known to them both, as they share their experiences. 

This story may be personally challenging to those who have lost friends or loved ones to suicide, but it may also offer some reassurance and objectivity through the different perspectives of the characters.

It is a testament to the skill of the author that the story is very well balanced and poignant, given its serious and sombre themes. 

‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ by Jeffery Cook and Kathleen Perkins

As unpleasant as the experiences may be, it is often when experiencing persecution or encountering conflict that people make surprising discoveries about themselves.

That is absolutely the case for Rae Schwarz when she discovers that there is much more to her life than homework, preparing for Halloween and avoiding the school bully. What ensues is a story of resilience, friendship, loyalty, discovering new talents and looking beyond the surface to recognise what is hidden underneath.

This story is refreshing and original, written with a very comfortable style and personal tone that makes it very relatable and highly engaging. The characters are interesting and varied, each complementing the others in ways that are not immediately obvious to the reader at the outset, and demonstrating the it is entirely possible to be ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. 

A book laden with positive messages and values, ‘You’re Not A Goth Until You Sack Rome’ demonstrates a profound acceptance of differences and individuality and encourages the reader to recognise their own unique combinations of personality, ability and talent, and to learn to see others in the same way. 

This is a most enjoyable and entertaining story, written for a YA audience but suitable and appealing for all ages. 

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.

New Release: ‘Re:Camelot’ by E.C. Fisher

This brand new Arthurian fantasy adventure will appeal to YA readers of fantasy, time travel and all things ‘King Arthur’.

Seventeen-year-old Arthur Godwin-Dragos finds himself much unlike his childhood heroes who fought for the grace and honor of Camelot. Banished to a bleak boarding school in England, Arthur cannot help but retreat into the fantasy of his mother’s old tales. Longing for his own destiny to assuage his loneliness and despair, Arthur withers in exile in wait for something more.

In the stillness, however, the hands of fate begin to turn. Across the universe, far out of reach of time or space, the planet Avalon grows dim. The ancient sorceress Merlin awakes from a fevered dream- as prophecy calls out through the darkness. Sealed and forgotten, Morgana la Fey stirs in the dark, biding her time to strike against Merlin and Avalon.

Once again must the legend of King Arthur awaken, and with the power of the mighty Excalibur, beat back the insufferable darkness once and for all.

Book Review: ‘Not Your Abuelita’s Folktales’ by Maria J Estrada

This book contains four unique young adult short stories that are full of the colours and textures of Southwestern America.  

These are very entertaining and interesting stories, populated by a variety of diverse characters who all face various challenges common to youth, from issues of cultural acceptance to boys manipulating girls to get what they want. The challenges faced by the characters are often complicated by differences of culture or understanding that set them apart from those around them. 

All four stories have quite thought-provoking elements that pique the reader’s curiosity and invite them to engage in the story at a deeper level. By making the reader intimately familiar with each main characters’ thoughts and responses, the author cleverly immerses the reader in each story and leads them to feel as though they are watching over the characters’ shoulders as a silent eyewitness to the events that unfold. 

Magical realism and paranormal elements create additional layers of mystery and intrigue within each narrative. Because some of the protagonists are not human, the stories are highly original and their outcomes are not predictable. 

This is a most enjoyable and diverting book with a fresh perspective on YA literature. 

Audiobook Review: ‘Escaping from Houdini’ by Kerri Maniscalco

The third in Kerri Maniscalco’s Victorian macabre mystery series, ‘Escaping from Houdini’ is set on the Etruria, a cruise ship travelling from London to New York in 1899 with Audrey Rose Wadsworth, her beau Thomas Cresswell, and Uncle Jonathan Wadsworth aboard.

A series of gruesome murders present this Victorian forensic science team with a series of challenges and mysteries that must be solved before arriving at their destination. 

The story is intricate and complex, dark and dangerous, and completely captivating. Themes of distraction, illusion and deception interweave like a macabre carnival dance. The personal consequences and implications for Audrey Rose, Thomas, and other passengers on the ship are compelling, keeping the audience engaged both mentally and emotionally in the drama as it unfolds. 

Nicola Barber’s narration is expressive, fluent and most enjoyable. Barber has a definite gift for characterisation and drama  that makes her storytelling lively and most enjoyable.  

An excellent audiobook experience, ‘Escapting From Houdini’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Available as a novel or audiobook