Book Review: ‘Eye of the Beholder: A reimagining of Beauty and the Beast’ by C H Clepitt

In a marketplace where there are fairy tale revisions aplenty, ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that stands out from the masses because of the author’s highly original recreation of roles and the devices by which the key events take place. 

Like the original fairy tale, this is a story of looking beyond appearances to see the real person. The author has added some original magical twists that make the tale interesting and less predicated, resulting in a very entertaining read that can be enjoyed in the space of an hour. 

Written with Clepitt’s usual quirky style and wit, this is a story with definite appeal to YA and older readers. 

Book Review: ‘A Medium’s Birthday Surprise’ by Chariss K Walker

This is the first book in the Becky Tibbs: A North Carolina Medium Mystery Series, in which medium Becky Tibbs uses her paranormal abilities to help solve mysteries and help ghosts find peace. 

While skeptics might think that such blending of cozy mystery and paranormal investigation sounds contrived, Walker has created characters and storylines that seem realistic and eminently believable. A range of world views and perspectives are represented by different characters in the story, and the reader is respectfully left to draw their own conclusions. 

Regardless of one’s philosophy and world view, this is a really interesting and well-crafted mystery story. Becky’s path to solving the mystery is challenging and complex, and she must rely on investigation and logic to solve the problems she encounters along the way. 

The writing is good and the action and intrigue of the story builds well, right up to the end of the book. 

This is a series I would like to read more of. 

Book Review: ‘1066 Turned Upside Down: Alternative Fiction Stories by Nine Authors’

1066 was a pivotal year for England: it brought the death of two kings and end of Anglo-Saxon rule, the Battle of Hastings, and the Norman Conquest. 

‘1066 Turned Upside Down’ is a collection of speculative historical fiction, presenting some very enjoyable reading and some really thought-provoking alternative histories. 

As a collection, the quality of the writing is exceptional and the variety of possible outcomes presented is truly fascinating. My personal favourites are the contributions by Annie Whitehead and Joanna Courtney, but I also really enjoyed Richard Dee’s story that highlights the power of teachers to inspire and mentor their students. 

It is not necessary to know the history of 1066 before reading: these stories will satisfy both curious minds and history buffs alike. The true historical context of each story serves as an introduction for the fictional account that follows. 

The stories are all quite believable, each one challenging the reader to question: what might have been if things had gone even just slightly differently? 

The Mansfield Trilogy

Lona Manning’s historical romance novel ‘A Contrary Wind’ is an excellent variation on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and now stands as the first book in The Mansfield Trilogy. 

‘A Contrary Wind’ is not new to this blog: the book was awarded a Gold Acorn review in January 2019, and won a silver award in the annual Golden Squirrel Awards in the same year. 

That a second and third book have been written to follow and further develop Fanny’s story will delight all who have read the first instalment in the series.

This is a series that even devoted fans of Jane Austen will enjoy for its consistency with the language and style of Austen, even though the story does divert from that of Mansfield Park and follow its own original path. 

What other reviewers have said about ‘A Contrary Wind’:

“…Excellent.. it’s a novel which certainly deserves a place on the bookshelves of a Jane Austen fan.” — Jane Austen Centre, Bath

“Manning …. emulates Austen’s writing style so well that she often seamlessly incorporates exact passages from the original into her narrative…. Many try to emulate Austen; not all succeed. Here, Manning triumphs.” BlueInk Review Starred Review

“Highly recommend it. Extremely well written, extremely clever, the way she incorporated details from the original Mansfield Park.” — First Impressions podcast

“Brava to Lona Manning for her thoughtful twists and skillful execution in this variation. This story was in no way predictable and it kept me guessing almost until the end!….   – Meredith Esparza, Austenesque Reviews

“A Contrary Wind is well-written, keeping close to the style of Austen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I never lost interest and enjoyed the occasional comic relief.”  — Historical Novel Society

Audiobook Review: The Gold Dragon Caper. A Damien Dickens Mystery by Phyllis Entis

‘The Gold Dragon Caper’ is a the fourth of the Damien Dickens mystery  novel/audiobook series. 

The story is complex and full of intriguing twists, and progresses at a pace that keeps the reader hooked without feeling rushed.  A number of the characters from previous books in the series return in this story, giving a pleasing sense of continuity and connection for those who have read or listened to them, but there are also enough new characters to keep things fresh and interesting. 

The book does stand alone for readers who have not read the previous installments, but will deliver spoilers for anyone who might want to read the earlier books. 

The narration by Tom Lennon is very easy to listen to, and very much suits the detective noir style and tone of the story.

Book Review: ‘A Moth in the Flames’ by S.E. Turner

When the reader first meets Sansara, it quickly becomes evident that she is a powerful young woman with a destiny to fulfil, but they can not predict how she might achieve that mission, nor what her role will be in the resolvution of the mysteries and complications of earlier storylines. 

The way in which the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and this instalment is seen to fit neatly into the broader narrative leaves readers who have followed the series as a whole with deep satisfaction. The conclusion of the book is well executed, and yet it does not feel like a complete ending: there is  a sense that there is more to come, and that there is a new generation of adventurers, warriors and leaders to come. 

The fifth book in The Kingdom of Durundal fantasy series, ‘A Moth In The Flames’ stands on its own as a very good fantasy story, full of mystery, adventure, magic and challenge. While first-time visitors to the Kingdom of Durundal will be able to infer the assumed knowledge needed to give this story its own integrity and resolution, returning readers will bring with them the deeper understandings and knowledge that will enable them to draw more meaning from the conversations and explanations between characters that reference the events and characters of the previous books in the series. 

So, while readers of fantasy are sure to enjoy this book on its own, my recommendation would be to start with book one and enjoy the richness of the bigger story, so that Sansara’s story is enjoyed in its entirety. 

Book Review: ’13 Ways to Midnight’ Book 2 by Rue Volley

In this sequel to ‘13Ways To Midnight’, Echo’s story continues as she tries to realign her priorities and build her life in Port Royal. 

Readers will find Echo to be realistically flawed and conflicted, but also admirable in the way she seeks to maintain her personal ethics and integrity. She is a character who challenges readers to consider right from wrong, and to understand that ones actions, even the ones considered to be minor, can have unexpected consequences that still need to be reconciled. 

The story is original and unpredictable, keeping the reader guessing and building a sense of anticipation. The story is very appealing for Young Adult readers, with sufficient complexity and interest to engage wider audiences, too.

’13 Ways to Midnight’ is proving to be an excellent series. 

Book Review: ‘The Spyglass File’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

This is the fourth full length novel featuring Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist. The books in this series all explore an historical mystery while Morton also researches his own genealogical background. 

This is an intriguing story, extremely well told. 

A captivating blend of WWII intrigue, family secrets and investigative mystery fiction, this is yet another riveting instalment in a most excellent series. 

Book Review: ‘Capturing Joy’ by Jackie Oliver

‘Capturing Joy’ is a suspenseful zombie apocalypse romance with plenty of action and danger to keep the storyline going, and some lovely macabre scenes and imagery to balance the romance. 

The characters are interesting and varied, and the author does a good job of keeping the reader guessing about who really can be trusted right up to the end of the book. This, and the fact that very few of the characters are completely likeable, makes the story mysterious and engaging as the reader tries to distinguish truth from deception as the story twists and turns. 

While the central conflicts are resolved by the end of the book, there is still some intrigue remaining, serving to tantalise readers with the hope of another book to follow. 

This is an enjoyable read that will appeal to readers of mystery and action novels as well as contemporary romance readers. 

Book Review: ‘A Study of Rusalki : Slavic Mermaids’ by Ronesa Aveela

I had read stories of sirens and nymphs before, but there is so much more to this aspect of folklore than many people have ever realised. Prior to reading ‘A Study of Rusalki’, I had no idea that the Slavic culture of mermaids was so interesting and complex. 

This book is easy to read, well organised and quite fascinating. From superstition and legend to history and literature, the author provides a comprehensive study of a culture and belief system that seems little known beyond its own region.

The selected excerpts from literature are wonderfully entertaining, but also add depth and substance to the author’s descriptions and analysis.