‘The Baby on the Back Porch’ by Lucia N Davis

Sometimes people’s lives cross in uncanny ways. Whether it is by design, destiny or accident, these are events that can change the entire course of someone’s life.

‘The Baby on the Back Porch’ is a short story full of mystery, danger, and surprises. As the story progresses, the author makes really good use of foreboding and dream sequences to build tension and heighten the anticipation of the reader. The characters and premise of the story are believable and relatable, and while it starts off with the appearance of a story that might be romantic, it soon develops into something far more mysterious and compelling. 

This s a really well-crafted and enjoyable story that can comfortably be read in less than an hour and leaves the reader pondering the nature of coincidence and the ways in which one’s destiny might be interwoven with others’.

Book Review: ‘Wild Rose’ by Sherrie Hansen

‘Wild Rose’ continues the story of Pastor Ian MacCraig and the community of St Conan’s in Lochawe, Scotland, that began with Thistle Down. 

This is a lighthearted, often humorous and sometimes very poignant story of an unlikely meeting that unleashes an unpredictable series of events full of twists and turns.

While it is a romantic story, it’s also a story of human nature in which judgement and forgiveness feature prominently. It challenges the reader to think about their own perceptions of others, especially those who stand out from the crowd in one way or another.

There is some subtle adult content, so it’s not a book for young readers. That being said, that content is written with sensitivity, and is unlikely to offend adult readers.

‘Wild Rose’ is a most enjoyable read, and has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Book Review: ‘Gates of Golorath’ by R. M. Garino

‘Gates of Golorath’ is book 1 of the ‘Chaos of Souls’ fantasy series by R.M. Garino. It is set in a world somewhere between earth and the realms of heaven and hell, populated by a variety of angelic races – fallen and otherwise – and various other races and monsters.

For the initiates at the Gates of Golorath, there is much to be learned and much to be gained— but there is also much that might be lost if they do not successfully overcome the challenges with which they are presented. In that sense, this is an epic coming of age story, but it is also one of complex relationships fraught with obstacles and difficulties that must be met and endured if friendships and romantic attachments are to survive. 

The characters are varied in terms of heritage, rank and personality, giving the reader a good sense of the social structures of the civilisation in which they live. The main characters, Arielle and Angus, are engaging and likeable, and although I did not always like the things they do, I did become quite invested in their story and the outcomes that awaited them.

This is a gradually-but-steadliy developed and very detailed story that will appeal more to dedicated fans of military fantasy adventure than to those who prefer sword and sorcery or pure magical fantasy, but it is an interesting and enjoyable story.

I enjoyed the action scenes and the banter between different characters, but what I appreciated most was the imagery and energy of the writing. While the world building and orientation at the beginning of the book might be a little slow in terms of story development, it is rich with powerful images and expressive writing that I found to be very appealing. 

‘Gates of Golorath’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here or visit the author’s website.

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

Book Review: ‘July Fireworks Sky: A Cat Collier Mystery’ by Carol Ann Kauffman

In this seventh novella in Carol Ann Kauffman’s Cat Collier Mysteries series, life takes some surprising turns for Cat, Carter, and their families and friends.

Rather than investigating a particular case, Cat is confronted by questions and dilemmas of her own that she must solve. 

This instalment of the story keeps the reader engaged with some great heart-in-the-throat and “oh no!” moments, and keeps them guessing as to how Cat will resolve her issues and what she will do next. 

Like the others in the series, this book is written with warmth and familiarity, and demonstrates the author’s flair for great storytelling. 

‘July Fireworks Sky’ has received a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The First Queen Of England’ by MJ Porter

Elfrida, or Ælfryth, was anointed and crowned queen of England in the same ceremony that her husband, Edgar, was crowned King in 973 AD. 

‘The First Queen Of England’ is the first instalment of Elfrida’s story. This is a really well-written book, based on sound research and good knowledge of the historical context of the story. 

Historically, there is quite limited information available on the early life of Elfrida, but Porter has penned a well-crafted and believable personal story which, while it is fictional, is consistent what is known of both Elfrida and Edgar and their families. 

This task brings with it many challenges, not the least of which is diffusing a cast of characters from the different perspectives and accounts of history which have been the subject of discussion and debate for centuries. In presenting lead characters who are engaging and interesting, but also flawed and fallible, the author has given the reader people with whom they can relate at a very human level, despite their differences in social status and experience, and the changes in society that have occurred during the vast amount of time that stands between them. 

The supporting characters are likewise portrayed with not only their attractive qualities and strengths on public display, but also their motivations and interests exposed to the reader’s scrutiny. This gives the reader a rich insight into the machinations and social engineering of life at court and among the nobility in 10th century England. The characterisation is detailed, insightful and razor sharp, revealing the author’s considerable talent at filling in the blanks on the pages of history and creating characters that are complex and often quite delightful in the way they play their roles.  
Porter paints the settings and events in vivid colours and textures that seem almost tangible, bringing Elfrida’s home in Wessex and the King’s court at Winchester to life in such a way that each place is depicted clearly and then becomes familiar to the reader as the story progresses. 

A richly and intricately detailed work of historical fiction, ‘The First Queen Of England’ is an immensely enjoyable read. It has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Azalea Wang Mysteries’ Books 1-3 by Lucy Ai

Amateur detective stories are abundant, and readers are generally spoiled for choice. While readers will always choose books that appeal to them for their own reasons, it’s always exciting to find a series that not only presents a succession of very interesting mystery stories, but also addresses bigger ideas such as prejudice, jealousy and the assumptions people make about one another.  

Azalea Wang Mysteries is one such series, and is well worth reading for more than just well-developed mystery stories that will keep you guessing right to the end. 

These stories are set largely in and around the senior citizens community of Evening Glory. Azalea Wang is, like many of the residents, of Chinese heritage, and the Chinese culture adds a refreshing and interesting perspective in these mystery stories. The stories draw on particular Chinese cultural elements in such a way that they become part of the story and become more familiar to non-Chinese readers, providing a new sense of familiarity and understanding that builds both knowledge and acceptance.

The stories very subtly address not only the assumptions non-Chinese people make, but also the biases that different groups of Chinese people hold about one another. Because those stereotypes are challenged, the characters and the reader begin to see the people in these stories as individuals, each with a story and a past and reasons why they behave the way they do, rather than simply as a member of one group or another. This adds a positive tone to the stories that is actually very hard to resist, drawing the reader in and making them feel as though they too are part of the community. 

The three mysteries contained in this book are varied and unique, while Azalea’s own story continues throughout. The three cases are well crafted and there are some great surprises and twists along the way, making the stories unpredictable and entertaining.

Azalea is a delightful character. Kind, thoughtful, intelligent and lively, the reader gets to know her as a friend and a mother as well as an amateur sleuth. The people with whom she shares her life are a diverse group, so the cast of characters and suspects is realistic and relatable. 

There is a little bit of not-really-for-younger-readers content in one of the stories, but it is not graphic or explicit.

A most captivating and enjoyable mystery story collection, the Azalea Wang Mysteries collection has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here