‘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: ‘Little Book of Spring’ by Claire Buss

A relatable, easy to read poetry collection.

This book offers vignettes of daily life and glimpses into the thoughts of a young woman. Her children, family life, personal feelings and places they visit all feature in this collection of poetry. 

Some of the poems carry a kernel of a deeper truth that provoked more thought, while others skip through a scene, describing it in a way that leaves the reader nodding and smiling. In every case, it is easy to relate to the ideas expressed by the poet. 

Book Review: ‘Who Am I: Prequel to the Semiramis Series’ by Maya Daniels

This story tells of the early life of Alexia Semiramis, a young woman who learned the soul-destroying power of both words and abuse as a child before she ever discovered that the gifts that made her different than everyone else were magical. 

It is an interesting exposé of the psychology of one who has suffered at the hands of those who should have loved and treasured her, and of one who resents the qualities that set them apart from others in the first place. While it is fictional, there is much written here that will ring true for anyone who has been bullied or abused.

The writing is bold and defiant, creating an angry tone that begs for justice. Thus, this short story sets the stage for the Semiramis series, and creating a strong sense of intrigue and anticipation as to how Alexia might embrace her gifts and use them to take control of her life. 

Book Review: ‘The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap’ by Paulette Mahurin

This is a really thought-provoking story about the consequences of prejudice, hatred and gossip in the lives of those who suffer the judgement and contempt of others. It is well-written and easy to read, although the nature of the story is both serious and discomforting. 

Set in 1895 in a small rural community in Nevada, ’The Persecution of Midlred Dunlap’ is one of those stories that takes a slice of time, brings it to life, and makes one thankful that things have changed since then. On reflection, though, the reader is confronted by the fact that some things haven’t changed that much at all. People still discriminate against and make fun of those who are different, or who live in ways of which they do not approve. We may have laws to deal with those issues now, and legal means of both protection and redress, but those can not actually change human nature or the tendency of some people toward the behaviours that made those laws necessary in the first place.  

Through clever crafting of characters and story, the author demonstrates that there are all sorts of hatred and prejudice that people suffer, ranging between racism, religious persecution, discrimination on the basis of looks, sexuality or lifestyle, to peer pressure and bullying. The treatment of those who are different in various ways by those with the position and power to persecute them is abhorrent, emphasising the narrow-mindedness and hatred that motivates such abuse. The fact that. even though we live 120+ years later, one does not have to travel far or look too hard to see that some things never change, is an indictment that can be neither escaped nor explained away. 

In contrast, Mildred is a character who demonstrates kindness, resilience, thoughtfulness and generosity. Like her, Edra, Charley and Gus are positive characters who stand against the horrid behaviour of their neighbours. Those characters who show kindness, acceptance, and respect bring light and relief to the darker undertones of the story and return balance to the portrait of humanity that is painted in these pages. Through them, the story reminds us that love does indeed drive out both fear and hate, and that a true friend is a gift of immeasurable worth. 

There is so much power and weight in this story, and also much that is hopeful and encouraging. It is a work of historical fiction well worth reading, 

New Release: ‘The Next Phase Outcasts 2’ by J.S. Frankel

The Next Phase: Outcasts 2 is the sequel to J.S. Frankel’s YA urban fantasy novel Outcasts. The same characters return in another adventure in which they must fight for their lives.

If Frankel’s previous novels are anything to go by, readers can expect a great story full of action, suspense, danger, and surprise. 

Mitch Kessler, gargoyle, is back, along with his girlfriend, Callie, a former gender shifter, his best friend, Joe Chambers, a spinning top, and Neil, their rock-man sometime ally. 

Mitch and Joe help the police force of Independence, Oregon, fight crime, but their efforts go totally unreported by everyone. While that bothers Mitch, what bothers him more is his best friend’s rapid aging. Joe is dying, and no one seems to know how to stop it.

Except one person—Harmon Carson, an army general. Carson promises Mitch, Neil, and Joe, a cure for their condition, contingent on them finding a renegade scientist who carries the secret with him. The four volunteer, but soon find out that Carson has his own agenda going on—and it is not a friendly one.

With time running out, Mitch has to find the scientist who may be able to help them, assist another mutant called Niles, rescue his girlfriend, and fight the hordes of the unholy that Carson calls forth. Once again, the Outcasts are the underdogs, and only time will tell if they can prevail.

Outcasts is available on Amazon or via the Devine Destinies website.

Book Review: ‘Bitter Prophecy’ by S. Tilghman Hawthorne

‘Bitter Prophecy’ is a short story full of mystery and adventure. It explores themes of good and evil, and of the ways in which temptation and obligation influence a person’s actions.

The story is well written, with an easy flow that makes it a very comfortable read. There are some really good moments of tension, and a couple of great twists that keep the reader engaged right to the end. 

It’s a very enjoyable short read that can be finished in about half an hour, so it fits well into a lunch break or at the end of a busy day. 

‘Bitter Prophecy’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here. 

Book Review: ‘The Thief’s Daughter’ by Jeff Wheeler

Sequel to ‘The Queen’s Poisoner’ in the KingFountain series, this book continues the story of Owen Kiskaddon and his life as a one of King Severn’s most trusted advisors.

Many of the same central characters feature alongside some entirely new ones, who add new dimensions and qualities to the story.

Time has passed, naturally, and Owen has grown from the child hostage and stranger in the royal court into a man, rewarded with a Duchy for his loyalty, and charged with the duty of serving the king and protecting those closest to him. 

It is a magnificent and epic fantasy story, enriched with magic, deeply involving the reader in both the personal lives of the central characters the fate of the kingdom of Ceredigion, a kingdom that is richly and intricately detailed to the point where it seems real. The reader gains a deeper understanding of the complexities of the problems that face the king, fully aware as he is of the reasons why many distrust and fear him, yet also strongly motivated by his sincere love and concern for his kingdom and subjects. 

Although the connections between this story and the elements of English history during The Wars of the Roses, particularly the life and personality of Richard III, are clearly discernible, the story maintains an original and unique plot that sets it apart from those events and ensures its distinction as a fine work of fantasy rather than historical fiction.  

This book delivers a rich and deeply involving story that captivates the reader. It is difficult to put the book down once started, and as the momentum of the story builds, the story becomes even more compelling. It really is a most excellent read.    

The Thief’s Daughter has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here.