Book Review: ‘Ghost Camera’ by Darcy Coates

Chilling, suspenseful and macabre, this is everything I look for in a horror story. Building tension bursts into moments of fear, like waves on the ocean carrying the reader on peaks and troughs of anticipation and dread. The reader frequently finds themselves releasing their breath in relief, unaware that they’ve been holding it, only for it to happen again the next time the action of the story escalates. 

The main characters are likeable and relatable, which positions the reader to feel empathy for them when they find themselves in a situation they cannot control, and which promises most unfavourable outcomes. Because they are such normal people, it reminds the reader that this is the kind of thing that could potentially happen to anyone, regardless of their good intentions or innocence in making mistakes. 

The writing is excellent, the imagery is precise and well-crafted, and the storyline is unpredictable. All in all, this is a shudderingly good 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. 

Book Review: ‘Fight Like A Woman’ by J.S. Frankel

A story of resistance, resilience and loyalty, this is a book for the persecuted, the exploited and the downtrodden. It is a story in which brains overcome brawn and integrity is valued more than power.

Kyle Sorton is a classic underdog character, highly relatable for anyone who has struggled with mediocrity or a lack of opportunities to discover their potential. The tenacity and self-assurance of Rinarra and Merat make them powerful contrasts for Kyle, yet he surprises himself by proving to be their equal in resourcefulness and instinct. That the three of them overcome their challenges by working together and sharing their knowledge and abilities is a powerful reminder that we are stronger together than alone, and that a loyal team can achieve far more in cooperation than they could if the members were to work independently of one another..

The plot is intriguing and highly engaging, and the world building is excellent. There is enough that is familiar to the reader for them to feel sufficiently oriented and grounded, but enough that is different for them to be fascinated by the qualities of the world and culture in which they are immersed.

The unique circumstances in which Kyle finds himself are treated with sensitivity and a sense of natural curiosity, making him a central character who will endear himself to those readers who have questioned and explored their own questions of self, gender and identity, even though Kyle’s situation and the reasons for his questioning are bound to be somewhat different than their own.

This is a most excellent read.

‘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.

Book Review: ‘The Brotherhood of the Black Flag’ by Ian Nathaniel Cohen

Adventure, danger, intrigue and new horizons all await Michael McNamara as he begins a new phase of his life. 

The story travels from Bristol to Jamaica, Lisbon, and back again as McNamara takes to the high seas, sword in hand and ready to meet whatever challenges life holds in store for him. 

This is an action-packed and highly engaging story full of turns and twists that surprise Michael as much as they do the reader. The author makes great use of suspense, both at key moments where the reader finds their heart in their throat and their breath being held, and in the development of the storyline as a whole. 

The characters are lifelike and vividly drawn, presenting fascinating contrasts in human nature and reminding the reader that it is impossible either to determine integrity by appearances or to truly know what is concealed in a person’s heart. 

‘The Brotherhood Of The Black Flag’ is a most enjoyable read. 

Book Review: ‘Blue Mage’ by Amber Morant

The saying goes that “there is no honour among thieves”, but the protagonist of this story is certainly an exception to that rule. 

This is a fun fantasy short story full of action and varied, interesting characters. Elona, the central character is clever and talented, and it is most engaging to see her adapt to the changes that happen in her life without losing her individuality or sacrificing her loyalty. 

The world building is quite unique, providing settings that reveal the two extremes of life in the kingdom of Tore— the wealth of the mage’s citadel and the grunge of the thieves’ den. The kingdom has a very old-world feel, yet the characters have access to modern technology, which creates an intriguing juxtaposition

The story can be read under an hour, which makes it ideal for a lunch break or fitting into a busy lifestyle.