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. 

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: ‘The Glass Runner: Versatile Layer Book 2’ by Thomas Davis

‘The Glass Runner’ is a science fiction book with a decent storyline, interesting characters, and some good action sequences. Moments of humour break the tension of battle and conflict, and an air of mystery surrounding some of the characters adds an element of intrigue. 

The central characters are varied and interesting, with personalities and qualities that make them likeable and engaging.  While recounting the conflict between the Terrans and the Arez, the story provides a coming-of-age for Chase as he fights to overcome those who not only threaten the future, but also plague his past. 

This book is, however, rather in need of a good edit. Correcting the too-frequent errors and polishing the storytelling would raise the overall finished quality of the book and make it more appealing and satisfying to readers. 

‘The Glass Runner: Versatile Layer Book 2’ has been awarded a Bronze Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper’ by Phyllis Entis

The third book in Phyllis Entis’ ‘Damien Dickens Mysteries’ crime/detective series, ‘The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper’ continues the story of private investigators Damien and Millie Dickens with new challenges and investigations, at the same time taking them into new territory in their relationship. 

This is an exciting and tension-filled story with some very interesting and quite unexpected twists. I enjoyed the suspense and the interaction between different characters, and I loved the chance to revisit Montreal as I enjoyed the narrative. 

The narrator has a nice, clear voice and is easy to listen to. His reading is expressive and fluent, and his use of register, accent and inflection in his characterisation is consistently good. 

Overall, this was an excellent audiobook experience.

‘The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy of the audiobook or the novel here

Book Review: ‘The Lady Of The Mist’ by WC Quick

If you have ever suspected that the ‘happy ever after’ of fairy tales wasn’t actually true? 

This is a dark fantasy sequel to Cinderella that brings with it a very different set of premises than those suggested by the ending of the popular children’s fairy tale. 

Written with dark humour and a strong sense of irony, this is a fairy tale for the cynical and subversive. 

An entertaining short read, ‘Lady Of The Mist’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.  

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Fallen Prey’ by Aliya DalRae

This is the first book in Aliya DalRae’s new paranormal romance series featuring the vampires of the Fallen Cross Legion. 

‘Fallen Prey’ is the story of Harrier, a Vampire who spent most of his time as a side character in DalRae’s Jessica Sweet trilogy being aloof and gruff, and really only began to let his guard down toward the end of the third and novel in the series.  

DalRae’s characters are always interesting and complex, so the opportunity to delve deeper into the mysteries of one of the leading men of the Vampire Legion was most welcome. 

The highly original and well-paced plot takes the reader up close and personal with Harrier, developing his character and story more fully and extending the story of the Legion and it’s key members at the same time. 

While Harrier and Kythryn give the term ‘paranormal romance’ new meaning as the story unfolds, they find themselves immersed in situations filled with danger, action, and some moments of almost palpable tension between themselves and others. 

DalRae has also demonstrated her cleverness in the title! ‘Fallen Prey’. It is only when the reader is deep into the story that they realise just how meaningful and appropriate the title of the book is, on numerous levels. 

Even for loyal readers of Aliya DalRae’s books, it’s good advice to expect the unexpected. 

‘Fallen Prey’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here


Book Review: ‘The Skeletons of Birkbury’ by Diana J Febry

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to believe that the events of the past will remain there.

There are plenty of people in this book who are dealing with the ghosts and skeletons of the past, some with powerful and tragic consequences.

The Skeletons of Birkbury is a very enjoyable and well-constructed mystery story, set in a seemingly normal English village populated by believable characters, most of whom seem quite likeable and all of whom seek to keep up appearances of respectability.

Whose ghostly chickens are about to come home to roost? And which members of the community will fail to get out of the way as they do?

The Skeletons of Birkbury has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here