Book Review: ‘The Castle’ by Nikki Moyes

A highly original and engaging short read.

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Nikki Moyes The Castle
‘The Castle’ is a fantasy/scifi short story about Risha, who finds herself vulnerable because of her age and place in society.

 

This is a story in which the author has created an empowering female lead character for a YA audience, something that we definitely need to see more of at this point in time. Rather than dwelling on her weaknesses, Risha focuses on her strengths and uses them to face the situation in which she finds herself.

 

The reader is quickly immersed in Risha’s world, becoming an observer and looking over Risha’s shoulder as she transforms from an observer into an actor in the story that unfolds,  taking some surprising turns that keep the reader guessing.

 

Highly original and engaging, this is a great short read that can easily be enjoyed in a lunch break.

Acorn Award I Golden

Book Squirrel has awarded ‘The Castle’ a Gold Acorn.

 

Find your copy on Amazon.

Book Review: ‘Once Upon A Grave’ by William Bove

An enjoyable short read, but I wanted more.

William Bove Once Upon A Grave

 

Set during a period of profound economic depression, the tone of the opening chapters is evocative of the hopelessness and privation experienced by those who endured it, and particularly by the central character who has different, but equally valid, reasons for disenchantment and restlessness. The contrasts between the environments and settings of the different phases of the story are striking, and have a profound effect on the author’s delivery of the story.

I enjoyed reading this story, although there were aspects that I wish the author had developed in more depth. The main character is really the only multidimensional character in the story, which is fine in a short read, but I did want to know and see more of the two other key figures that appeared in the second half of the story, and to understand more of the connections between them all.  I also felt somewhat dissatisfied that the revelations made to the main character in the second phase of the story were delivered by her reading a book to which the reader had no access – and was therefore somewhat glossed over in the narrative. It left this reader feeling like an onlooker, rather than being involved emotionally in the journey of the character.

 

Overall, ‘Once Upon A Grave’ is an enjoyable short read, although less gripping than I generally hope for in paranormal or dark fiction.
Acorn Award III Bronze

 

Book Squirrel has awarded this book a Bronze Acorn.

 

Find it on Amazon.

Book Review: ‘Embrace The Darkness and other short stories’ by P.J. Blakey-Novis

Six stories for readers who enjoy their fiction dark and original.

PJ Blakely-Novis Embrace The Darkness
This book is a collection of six dark stories that are just the right length to read during a coffee break.

Each of these stories paints a unique scene in which the central character experiences the darker side of life. Some macabre and some more horrific, each story surprises and intrigues the reader with a twist or a barb in the tale.The stories are well written and should please those readers who enjoy their fiction dark and original.

Enjoyable and varied, this book has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Readers can buy a copy at Amazon.

Book Review: ‘Forest of Ancestors’ by K.A. Denver

Book Squirrel Review: ‘Forest of Ancestors’ by K.A. Denver

K.A. Denver Forest of Ancestors

 

This is a great story which holds a good level of mystery and intrigue that develops at a good pace as the plot progresses. The differences between light and dark magic, and the ways in which each character uses their magic, add interest and complexity to the story. The central characters are varied and quite well crafted although, as a reader, I didn’t really feel as connected to most of them as I would have liked to.

 

I really like the concept of the forest of ancestors as a place of memory as well as of magic, and the ways in which that setting is portrayed and developed in the story. The images were formed quite vividly in my mind as I read, and it was good to see the characters fully engaging with, and responding to, this special element of their environment in personal ways.

 

My one criticism – and it is a real annoyance as a reader – is that there were places in which the writing really needed more thorough editing to remove quite obvious errors that remain in the text. A less fastidious reader might not notice all of them, but a couple of them were quite glaring and should never have made it to the final manuscript.

 

Overall, though, I did enjoy this book. It has some quite original elements and surprising turns that complement the strong storyline.

 

Acorn Award II Silver
I’ve awarded ‘Forest of Ancestors’ a Silver Acorn because, despite its flaws, it is a great read.

 

Get your copy at Amazon.

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Book Review: ‘The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor’ by Amy M. Reade

Someone does not want Carleigh Warner to restore Peppernell Manor to its former glory. Just who that person is turns out to be a more complicated question than the reader initially supposes.

Amy M. Reade The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor
Someone does not want Carleigh Warner to restore Peppernell Manor to its former glory. Just who that person is turns out to be a more complicated question than the reader initially supposes.

 

Set in an antebellum mansion outside of Charleston, surrounded by old money, old blood and old memories, Peppernell Manor is full of mystery and intrigue that develop steadily as the story progresses.  The reader does feel as though they are transported to the south, and as though the house and characters take shape before them as they read. Some of the minor characters are somewhat underdeveloped, but that doesn’t detract from the story too much, but rather adds to the plot in the sense that the reader continues to be suspicious of them and their motives as the plot thickens.

 

I started this book expecting it to be more about haunting and less of a contemporary mystery, and although that wasn’t quite the case, I was neither disappointed by the story nor by how it worked out.  Acorn Award II Silver

 

I’m awarding ‘The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor’ a Silver Acorn as a very enjoyable mystery story.

 

Find it on Amazon.

Book Review: ‘Bitter Challenge’ by Aliya DalRae

‘Bitter Challenge’ is another great short read that has further filled out the answers to mysteries raised in DalRae’s Jessica Sweet novels, yet can easily stand alone and be read without spoilers of the series for readers who haven’t got to those other books yet.

Aliya DalRae Fallen Cross Pack 2 Bitter Challenge

An ADR Short that follows ‘Bitter Beginnings‘, this book tells the story of the next stage in the life of Patrick Danes. Although now a wolf shifter and separated from his family, he has lost neither his principles nor his desire to make things better for the pack.

 

The narrative flows easily, bringing scenes and characters to life for the reader. Patrick’s strength and moral character gives the reader a sense of safety and hope in even the most dire of situations.

 

‘Bitter Challenge’ is another great short read that has further filled out the answers to mysteries raised in DalRae’s Jessica Sweet novels, yet can easily stand alone and be read without spoilers of the series for readers who haven’t got to those other books yet.

Acorn Award I Golden

For all of these reasons, I’m giving this book a lovely Gold Acorn.

 

Find ‘Bitter Challenge’ on Amazon.

Book Review: ‘The Dowling House’ by A. Drew

The Dowling House blends some nicely developed Gothic and macabre elements with some moments of pure horror. It is indeed a most satisfying creepy read.

A Drew The Dowling House

A tragic story of possession, grief and despair that crosses the boundaries of generations and spiritual realms, The Dowling House leaves the reader resolved to neither simply dismiss the unknown nor to underestimate the power of evil.

The story is quite well crafted, luring the reader into the presence of evil by appealing to that morbid fascination with the mysteries of spirits and ghosts that is so often a part of human nature. George and Melissa are realistic characters, and even though there were times I really wanted him to toughen up and be more useful, his responses to his experiences were probably how many of us would respond in similar circumstances, so I have had to forgive him for that, especially since he does actually do the right things when it matters.

The Dowling House blends some nicely developed Gothic and macabre elements with some moments of pure horror. It is indeed a most satisfying creepy read.

Acorn Award II Silver

I’ve awarded The Dowling House a Silver Acorn.

Find it on Amazon.