Book Review: ‘The Dance Plays On’ by D. Denise Dianaty

The Dance Plays On is an enchanting original Victorian Gothic story.

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Denise Dianaty The Dance Plays On‘The Dance Plays On’ reads quite like a Victorian Gothic story. All the classic elements are present, and yet this story is quite original. In an opening scene that could have come right out of Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’, the author introduces the main character, her guardian, and a handsome, heroic young man.

Elspeth is the most fully developed of the characters, while some remain somewhat two-dimensional. It must be said, though, that this is neither unusual nor out of place for a story of this length. While immediately positioned to like and favour Elspeth, the reader is less enamoured with her guardian, Mrs McIlroy, and experiences quite some relief to see her develop so that she becomes less aloof and detached, and actually demonstrates genuine care and affection for both Elspeth and her beau.

I enjoyed the melancholy, haunting tone and the eerie foreshadowing of the second half of the story, which kept the “heroine in distress” trope from being cliched or predictable.
Acorn Award II Silver

This beautiful story has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen’ by Jennifer Rainey

‘Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen’ by Jennifer Rainey: Deliciously dark and twisted.

Jennifer Rainey Lovelace and Wick 0This book’s brilliant opening was just a taste of the vivid imagery and dark, ironic humour that characterises the writing. Before I had finished the first page, I knew I had found an author whose work I would truly appreciate.

This story is deliciously dark and twisted, full of varied and creatively crafted characters who each have their own motivations and desires that bring some surprising twists to the tale. The story moves at a very good pace, with lots of interesting plot and character developments.

The other aspect of this story that I really enjoy is that it delivers a wonderfully unique combination of steampunk, science fiction, historical fiction and paranormal elements.

There is absolutely zero chance of boredom while reading this book, and it is perfect for my subversive sense of humour. I definitely intend to read this entire series.

Acorn Award I Golden
‘Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Once A Queen – A Story of Elizabeth Woodville’ by Samantha Wilcoxson

Excellent historical fiction that tells the story of a little-known queen.

Samantha Wilcoxson Once A Queen‘Once A Queen’ is a novella that tells of Elizabeth Woodville, widow of Edward IV, from the time of the accession of Richard III until her death. Being very familiar with this period of history and with Shakespeare’s version of the story, I was delighted to find that this book had been researched quite well, and that the author had not simply settled for the ‘Richard was a very bad man’ interpretation of history.

Instead, Wilcoxson develops her theory of events and those responsible in subtle yet persuasive ways, drawing the reader into understanding how the alternative theories could very well be true. Of course, it is impossible for us to know who was responsible for the disappearance of Elizabeth’s young sons – the princes in the tower, or their eventual fate. It is, however, most refreshing to find intelligent and plausible historical fiction that embraces the possibilities in such an insightful way.

Wilcoxson brings Elizabeth and her daughters, and the other characters with whom they interacted, to life in glorious colour and depth, skilfully animating them and filling their conversations with emotion, hope, and responses that make the reader feel that they really begin to know them. The narrative flows smoothly, delivering Elizabeth’s story with the occasional surprise twist to keep the reader interested and engaged. Indeed, there is nothing cliched or predictable about the way in which the author delivers this story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish, and will definitely read the other books in the author’s Plantagenet Embers series.
Acorn Award I Golden

‘Once A Queen’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘A Daffodil For Angie’ by Connie Lacy

This is a brilliant read, evocatively and honestly written.

Connie Lacy A Daffodil for Angie

‘A Daffodil For Angie’ drops the reader right into the social upheaval of the 1960s, in which Angie must try to make sense of her life. Against the backdrop of feminism, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and integration of negro students into schools, the Vietnam War, and the craze for British fashion and music, Lacy has woven a story that fits right into the world of ‘Mississippi Burning’ and ‘To Sir With Love’, and yet she makes it intimately personal.

As the reader sees things from Angie’s point of view, the reader is confronted with the same questions that Angie struggles to answer: What sort of person am I? How do I respond to behaviour that is unacceptable? How do I stand up for what’s right when I have to go against the majority of people to do that? Am I more than the sum of my clothes, makeup and behaviour?

Angie speaks to the person inside each one of us who remembers being bullied or singled out, who has been unfairly compared to a sibling or a friend, or who is no longer prepared to tolerate abusive behaviour even though others seem blind to it. As she grapples with these questions, our own convictions and social consciences are challenged and solidified – because as much as we don’t like to admit it fifty years later, our society is still focused on appearances, sexism and sexual predation are still very real, and many people still discriminate against others on the basis of skin colour. People are still hateful, and both racism and sexism are still very real to us.

Yet as much as this is social commentary, it is also a very personal and emotive story of one young woman’s search for meaning in her life, and of her finding her own identity in the process. The use of songs and records to pinpoint moments in her journey lends another dimension to the setting, but more importantly to Angie’s growth as an independent and self-aware individual, willing to stand for what she believes in and against what she understands to be wrong.

Acorn Award I Golden
This is a brilliant read, evocatively and honestly written. It is fully deserving of a Gold Acorn award.

Get your copy here.

Book Review – ‘A Contrary Wind: a variation on Mansfield Park’ by Lona Manning

One of the finest Austen variations I have had the pleasure to read.

Lona Manning A Contrary Wind

Having read and been delighted by a number of Austen variations on previous occasions, I was most interested in Manning’s adaptation of Mansfield Park. While not my favourite of Austen’s works, I was intrigued as to what might be done to the classic novel to provide genuinely viable alternate outcomes for the characters, and hopefully to make Fanny Price more interesting than I found her in the original classic.

Lona Manning’s recreation of Mansfield Park, its inhabitants and neighbours did not disappoint. I found myself drawn into Austen’s world where the Bertram family prosper and their cousin, Fanny, is stifled amongst them. From that point, Manning’s variation is interwoven seamlessly with the original until Austen’s story is found to be completely changed. More than once, I had to think back and remind myself of what had happened in the original text, until I gave up on doing that and simply allowed myself to be carried away by Manning’s narrative.

‘A Contrary Wind’ is well-written, keeping in step with the language and writing style used by Austen to tell her stories, while being mercifully less wordy about some of the characters’ more trifling thoughts and decisions than Mansfield Park itself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and consider it to be one of the finest Austen variations I have had the pleasure to read. Acorn Award I Golden

‘A Contrary Wind’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘A Shape On The Air’ by Julia Ibbotson

This brilliant story is an absolutely enthralling blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.

Julia Ibbotson A Shape On The Air

 

This brilliant story is an absolutely enthralling blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.

 

Drawn into the life of Vivianne Du Lac, history professor, the reader is almost immediately plunged into an intricate web of complications, challenges and unexpected developments that are woven together so that no strand of the story is independent of the others. The narrative is smooth and well-constructed, and Ibbotson’s writing is excellent.

 

The characters are very well crafted, especially given that each fits into more than one story strand. Viv is the most complex and detailed of them all, being the central character, but the others are all given depth through their interactions and responses as the story progresses.

 

More than simply being enjoyable, this is a thought-provoking and involving read in which the reader becomes completely engrossed. Acorn Award I Golden

 

‘A Shape On The Air’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

 

Get your copy at Amazon.

Book Review: ‘A Little Favor’ by Erich Schubach

An enjoyable short read set in 1930s Germany.

Erik Schubach A Little Favor
When Jillian agrees to do a little favour for a friend, things take a turn for the worst. Thus we see her drawn into a world that she never expected to be part of.

 

This is an enjoyable short story, easily read in less than an hour. Some of the 1930s slang – which would have been quite at home in an old black & white detective noir film – was a little mystifying, but the story was generally quite well told.

 

I liked the personal qualities that made Jillian stand out amongst pre-war stereotypes, and which she drew on in order to complete far greater errands than that initially entrusted to her.

Acorn Award II Silver

As an enjoyable short read, ‘A Little Favor’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

 

Readers can buy a copy of the book at Amazon.