Book Review: 'Coming Home For Christmas' by Helen Pryke

Although the subtitle is ‘A Haunting Christmas Tale’, this is far from being scary or spooky. Instead, is it a positive and inspirational story full of Christmas Eve spirit. 

Without being overly sentimental, this story is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The reader is invited to witness a very special moment through the thoughts and memories of the central character, and is encouraged to reflect on what makes a particular date or a relationship unique and memorable. 

The story is beautifully told, wistful rather than morbid, and imbued with love and devotion. It is a short story, read in less than 15 minutes, but one that lingers in the thoughts of the reader long beyond that. 

Book Review: ‘Warm Shelter: A Ghost Story’ by Rich Hawkins

A powerful, dark short story.

Rich Hawkins Warm ShelterThis is a powerful story of one man’s descent into darkness. The author has drawn the reader into that journey by positioning them to look over Alex’s shoulder to see what he sees, but also by expressing the character’s thoughts and feelings in a really natural and familiar way. It’s a very good story, combining elements of horror, macabre, and suspense to keep the reader in the grip of the rising tension as the story progresses.

Perhaps the most striking quality of the story is the writing itself. It’s lean and precise but, at the same time, incredibly sensory and poetic. Hawkins skilfully causes imagery to flash into the mind of the reader and linger for a moment in such a way that the reader can not only see but also smell and taste those images, until the next scene and the next image takes its place. Hawkins makes great use of suggestion and foreboding to gradually darken the story, allowing the reader time to hypothesise and question before reaching the conclusion of the story. These elements combine to imbue the story with a nightmarish quality that evolves subtly at first and grows stronger as the tension of the story builds.

It’s a short read, but one that has a significant impact on the reader.  Acorn Award I Golden

‘Warm Shelter’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn for excellence.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Snowberry Blossom’ by Missy Sheldrake

Missy Sheldrake 3.5

‘Snowberry Blossom’ is a short story companion to the ‘Keepers of the Wellsprings’ series of fantasy novels by Missy Sheldrake. It fits into the chronology of the narrative after ‘The Call Of Sunteri”, the second novel in the series, but works perfectly as a stand-alone story that introduces the characters and the kingdom in which they live.

 

Set on Midwinter’s Eve, it’s a heartwarming story of love, loyalty and teamwork that will entice the reader to read the rest of this excellent series.

 

‘Snowberry Blossom’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn for absolutely magical storytelling.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Bad Candy’ by India Emerald

Bad Candy: fun for adults, not so good for kids.

India Emerald Bad CandyThe title of this wicked little book is the first indication that it’s not all going to be about sweetness and innocence. In fact, it’s a romp full of magic, mystery and mayhem through the land of Charmnia, where some very bad business has been cooked up.

This story is a lot of fun, infused wtih good humour and plenty of action, and populated by a varied cast of characters, some of whom are more tasteful than others. As Marvelo discovers, it’s hard to know who to trust in a land where everything is sugar-coated, but he’s determined to find the answers he needs.

One important thing to note is that some of the humour is oriented toward adult understandings, so even though the book has a candy theme and motifs, it’s probably not suitable for audiences younger than mid-teens.
Acorn Award II Silver

This was an enjoyable short read at the end of a busy day, and it made me laugh. I’ve awarded it a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

‘Nerra’s Children: A Dragonhall Chronicles Story’ by Mirren Hogan

Nerra’s Children is the third short story of the Dragonhall prequels to Dragonhaze,

Mirren Hogan Dragonhall Short 3The third short story of the Dragonhall prequels to Dragonhaze, ‘Nerra’s Children’ is darker and more sobering than the others. The magin are still being persecuted and put to death, and Nerra faces challenges more heartbreaking than ever before.

Although older and less impulsive, Nerra remains the strong, loyal woman that we have seen her become in her first two stories. By the time the reader finishes this third story, they are familiar with Nerra and her world, and keen to discover more in the pages of Dragonhaze, the novel that follows.

Like the others in the series, this evocative story is very well written.
Acorn Award II Silver
This poignant and evocative story has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

‘Nerra’s Run: A Dragonhall Chronicles Story’ by Mirren Hogan

Nerra’s Run is the second of three short story prequels to Dragonhaze.

Mirren Hogan Dragonhall Short 2
The sequel to ‘Nerra’s Flight’, this second instalment in the Dragonhall Chronicles short story series is set some years later. Children with magical abilities are still being captured and killed, and the authorities are still pursuing Nerra.

‘Nerra’s Run’ is darker and more suspenseful than the first. The author establishes a strong sense of foreboding that continues to build as the story develops. Older and still determined to defy those who want her captured and killed, Nerra remains a character whose bravery and determination are admirable, and with whom the reader can sympathise strongly. She is developed with additional depth in this story in ways which both increase the reader’s affection and support for her, and fill them with anxiety for her future.

The action in this short story moves at a steady pace, carrying the reader along as the tension rises.

Once again, Mirren Hogan has excelled in her storytelling craft.

Acorn Award II Silver
This beautifully written story has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

‘Nerra’s Flight: A Dragonhall Chronicles Story’ by Mirren Hogan

Nerra’s Flight is the first of three short story prequels to Dragonhaze.

Mirren Hogan Dragonhall Short 1Nerra’s filght introduces Nerra, a young adult magin, living in a world in which even the ability to use magic is punishable by death.

The first of Nerra’s stories, ‘Nerra’s Flight’ tells of her attempt to escape those who would punish her for her abilities. Dragons, suspense and adventure await!

The story is engaging and interesting, and the reader quickly warms to both Nerra and her sister. It’s a brief but enchanting introduction to this series of stories, of which I am definitely keen to read more.

Acorn Award II Silver
This beautifully written story has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.