Book Review: ‘Sorceress of the Sapphire Part 1’ by S.E. Turner

This book tells two stories: the first, a quest to restore justice and balance,  and the second, a thread that draws together the strands of narrative from the first five books in the series. Together, these stories become a complete, complex high fantasy tale of the battle between good and evil for control of the Kingdom of Durundal.

It is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series in order to fully enjoy this one, although they are  all well worth reading.

While some of the characters  from the preceding books in the series continue in this one,  the central characters are of the next generation,  adding a sense of freshness at the same time as achieving very effective continuity in the series as a whole.

Reminiscences from some of the older characters provide part of the backstory, but they are not sufficient to deliver any major spoilers forecasters who might want to revisit previous instalments in the series.  This is evidence of how cleverly the author has crafted and woven an intricate story full of adventure, danger, and deep, powerful magic.

Book Review: ‘Cirque De Slay’ by CeeCee James

This is an entertaining mystery full of all the sights, sounds and intrigue of the circus. Trixie is a likable young woman with integrity despite her obscure past, and her natural curiosity and honesty make her a great amateur investigator.

With a cast of colourful characters in vibrantly drawn settings, the story unfolds at a good pace, delivering lots of intrigue and plenty of possible suspects to keep the reader guessing.

Appropriate for YA readers and older, this book is sure to have wide appeal.  

Book Review: ‘Foul is Fair’ by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

‘Foul is Fair’ is a story that transports the reader from suburban normality deep into the land of the Fae, drawing them into a quest full of challenge, trials and very old magic. That these two worlds coexist and interact is a given, and any imbalance between them could be disastrous. 

Well paced and full of action and adventure, this story is very engaging. The plot is original and unpredictable, delivering twists and challenges that build tension and drama but also call upon the protagonists to demonstrate both loyalty and ingenuity, and the ability to work together to achieve particular outcomes. 

The characters are interesting and varied, each one having specific qualities that help their allies and hinder their opponents, so that every battle or challenge could, in fact, go either way. The two lead characters are not only engaging individuals, they also provide good role models for young readers, each exhibiting positive attitudes such as acceptance, inclusion, helpfulness, endurance and resilience. 

Suitable for young adult and older readers, this is a ripping read that is really hard to put down. 

Book Review: ‘Prince of York: A Story of Reginald Pole’ by Samantha Wilcoxson

‘Prince of York’ offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of Reginald Pole, Catholic cardinal who also happened to be the nephew of English kings Edward IV and Richard III. As such, Pole found himself at odds with Henry VIII over more than his Church of England’s split from the Roman Church. 

In the turbulent world of Renaissance, political intrigue and religious Reformation, Wilcoxson brings Pole to life, networks him with both prominent and humble people, places him in vividly drawn settings, and animates the conflicts and issues that confronted him in a highly realistic and compelling way. The reader has the sensation of looking on as the events of the story unfold, developing considerable  empathy for Pole in the dilemmas and challenges he faces.  

The story definitely presents history from a perspective that is not often explored through fiction. Unlike his more famous relatives, Pole’s responses to the world around him are characterised by his faith and humility. Wilcoxson’s Pole reminds the reader, as the man himself would have done, that there is always a bigger picture to consider and that the greatest success is not always found in personal gain. 

The book is very well written and most enjoyable to read. Even though it is historical fiction, it feels authentic. Surely, for a work of fiction, there can be no higher praise than that.

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: ‘Sweet William’ by Sherrie Hansen

They say that the course of true love never runs smoothly, and that is certainly true in Lyndsie Morris’ life. 

The fourth book in Hansen’s ‘Wildflowers of Scotland’ series, ‘Sweet William’ is an excellent read in which romance is balanced by sass and snark, and happy coincidence is tempered by tragedy. That balance continues in the characters, some of whom are delightful while others are just plain nasty. 

It’s fair to say, then, that this story is quite realistic and believable in the way it reflects the best and worst of life and of human nature and challenges the reader to consider how to beat respond to challenges and trials,  and how one might seek happiness with a clear conscience at the same time. 

The story is well paced and the writing is very good indeed. 

This book, like the series to which it belongs, is highly recommended.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins

Find your copy here.

’The Binding’ is a tragic and compelling historical fantasy story of unlikely alliances, forbidden love, and the power of memories. The writing is beautiful and the story is superbly crafted. The narration by Carl Prekopp is a joy to listen to, as he gives life and voice to the characters and enchants the listener into feeling as though they are actually there as the events unfold. 

The story explores timeless themes including patriarchy and the abuse of power, particularly in terms of social class but also when it comes to the way society as a whole viewed same-sex relationships in the past. Because all of those prejudices still exist in society today, albeit to a lesser extent, the story is powerfully relevant. 

The characters, particularly Emmet and Alta, are developed so fully that the audience feels as though they know them intimately, which creates an emotional investment in their lives. This depth of feeling heightens the tensions of the complications and challenges they face, and makes the twists and revelations of the story more impactful. 

‘The Binding’ is available in ebook and novel as well as audio.

Book Review: ‘The Promise of the Opal’ by Lyra Shanti

Find your copy here.

As full of mysticism as it is of mystery, ‘The Promise of the Opal ‘ is a vivid and sensual read that takes the reader to China and immerses them in a compelling love story that both blurs and crosses boundaries– of time, of gender, and of the laws that apply to the physical and spiritual worlds as we understand them. 

The characters are complex, interesting and relatable. Each struggles with questions of identity and belonging, and with feelings of inadequacy and failure, and each must wrestle with those issues as they discover confronting yet undeniable truths about themselves and each other. 

The writing is full of texture and sensory richness that brings the characters and settings — and their history — to life. The story unfolds seamlessly, deeply engaging the reader and making them feel as though they are present in the story. 

While the adult content in the story is tasteful and respectful, it is suitable for adult audiences only. 

This book delivers a fascinating story and a beautiful.reading experience.

Book Review: ‘Haunted: The Sparkly Badgers Anthology’

Some of the stories and poems in this collection are creepy, others are darker and more sinister, and still others embrace a fascination with the macabre.

There is a good variety of concepts, genres and writing styles among the different authors’ contributions, making this an interesting and very enjoyable collection, ideal for reading at Halloween or on any other long, dark night.