Book Review: 'Tied to Deceit' by Neena H Brar

This is a really good mystery set in India in the 1970s. The cultural insights add a fascinating layer of  interest to the story and further complicate the mystery at the core of the novel. 

The characters are diverse and colourful, each of them with something to hide and many of them with a motive for the crime.

The story is well crafted and keeps the reader guessing throughout. It’s easy to read, and the glossary at the back proves very helpful in understanding the Indian words used for cultural items such as clothing and food. The settings are easy to visualise, and the colours, textures and flavours of India are evoked by the author’s provision of wonderful sensory detail. 

Overall, this is an excellent piece of murder mystery fiction. 

‘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 Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier Novella’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

The third book in Goodwin’s The Forensic Genealogist series, ‘The Orange Lilies’ is a shorter story that focuses on Morton’s own history and the family secrets that have obscured it for so long. 

Equally interesting and intriguing as the first two books in the series, this story is different in that it is far more intensely personal for Morton, and does not involve an exterior case that Morton is called upon to investigate. This story brings some well-crafted resolution to the questions Morton has harboured as a sub-plot that runs throughout books one and two, and returns him to a position of strength and resolve, from which he can approach the future and future investigations more confidently. 

Morton’s exploration of his family history takes the story back to the opening months of World War I and his great-grandfather’s service as a soldier. While the discoveries he makes are fascinating, some questions regarding his great-grandfather and extended family still remain, giving a satisfying sense of continuity to the overall narrative of the series, and providing healthy anticipation for the next book. 

This is an excellent read, and the series as a whole is brilliant. If you enjoy historical fiction and mystery, do not overlook this book and its companions in The Forensic Genealogist series. 

International Talk Like A Pirate Day Book Recommendations

In honour of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here are three great pirate tales for your reading pleasure. 

Fallen Into Bad CompaNy’ by Kayla Jindrich

Matthew wants nothing more than to escape from his past, but that hardly seems possible with his new apprentice. While William might be Matthew’s chance at redemption, an opportunity to pay for his mistakes, William also has a reckless streak that could ruin the new life that Matthew has built for himself. Either Matthew will pull William from piracy, or William will drag Matthew back into the dangerous world that they both come from.

Read my book review of ‘Fallen Into Bad Company’ here.

Ghosts of the Sea Moon’ by A.F. Stewart

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean. Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed. 

His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts. 

What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns… 

Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.

Brotherhood of the Black Flag’ by Ian Nathaniel Cohen

“Cohen delivers a solid, compelling, and briskly paced story that blends adventure and romance within a rich historical setting.” — The BookLife Prize

Thrills, romance, and high-seas swashbuckling adventure await in the Golden Age of Piracy’s final reckoning!

His once-promising naval career in tatters, Michael McNamara leaves the newly-United Kingdom behind in search of a new life. With no other skills but the sword, he joins forces with a pirate turned pirate hunter, determined to rid the Caribbean of the Brotherhood of the Black Flag once and for all.

Eager for a worthy cause to fight for, McNamara pits himself against treacherous seas and battle-hardened buccaneers… and uncovers an international conspiracy that threatens the lives of thousands.

I’m currently reading this book, and really enjoying it. Look out for my review, coming soon!

Book Review: ‘Crystal Bones and Gossamer Wings’ by Dona Fox

A dark and horrifying tale of lives scarred by grief, pain, and abuse, this is not a story for the faint of heart.

Scenes of horror merge with images that arouse both deep pity and righteous anger in the individual narratives of Crystal and Dee. Having positioned the reader to feel deep empathy and sadness for the two very different central characters, the author then before weaves the different strands of the story together into an even darker, bleaker tapestry. 

The writing is strong and the story is well crafted. As the tale progresses, the author evokes a sense of dread that grows proportionally to the building suspense, yet the reader is still completely blindsided by the twists when they come.

This is a compelling and unsettling work of dark short fiction. 

Book Review: ‘The River Of Time’ Shiva XIV Book 4 by Lyra Shanti

‘The River of Time’ is book 4 in Lyra Shanti’s magnificent Shiva XIV space opera novel series.

In this instalment, there is plenty of intrigue, suspense, action and epic battle as Ayn and his comrades work agaisnt the evil power that threatens to destroy not only individuals, but also the universe as they know it. 

It is also, however, the most intensely mystical of the series, exploring themes of friendship and loyalty, the nature of the power at the centre of the universe, and redemption and reincarnation.  It is in the context of these themes that Ayn and Axis each question their identity and experience, and their roles in both the history and the future of the worlds they inhabit. 

Through their existential quests, the reader too is reminded that each of us has a role to play, services and gifts to offer, and dreams to pursue, which can contribute to either the destruction or the redemption of our world. The choices we make are crucial, and their impacts and implications extend far beyond our own individual lives. Thus, like Ayn and Axis, Pei and Meddhi, and all the other much-loved characters from this series, we all navigate the River of Time.

This is a universal story and a deeply personal story at the same time, one which confronts and challenges while also entertaining and inspiring the reader.