Book Review: ‘Blackrock’ by S.K. Gregory

A very enjoyable YA magical realism novel.

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S.K. Gregory BlackrockWhen Kasey moves to a new town with her family, she automatically assumes it’s going to be awful.
It’s a situation many of us can identify with, although we’ve probably never had it go quite so badly as it does for her. In this, the author cleverly makes the reader identify with Kasey, and by that time, they’re hooked on the mystery of what’s been going on in Blackrock.

The story is interesting and complex enough to keep the reader guessing right up to the last page. The characters are believable and vividly drawn, each with their own flaws and secrets, so that anyone really could be the troublemaker. It’s natural for the reader to distrust them, but in having them distrust one another, the author creates seeds of doubt that help to drive the story and give it depth.

Acorn Award II Silver

I found ‘Blackrock’ to be a very enjoyable read, and have awarded it a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Summer Of My Enlightenment’ by Kristy Dark

A well-written and complex psychological thriller.

51pGX1V5G5L‘The Summer of My Enlightenment’ is , on one level, the story of Angela and her search for meaning and fulfilment after a tragic event, but it’s also an interesting study of the nature of obsession, infatuation and narcissism and the danger that exists when they interact.

There is so much I could say about my anger toward particular characters, and my desire to see them suffer some consequences for their actions, but I don’t want to give any spoilers. Be prepared, though, for some strong emotional responses as the story unfolds. And if mind games and manipulation are trigger points for you, it’s probably best to choose a different book.

A well-written and complex psychological thriller, this book certainly kept me guessing. There was suspense and frustration aplenty, and there were numerous surprises and twists along the way. Both of the central characters are flawed and conflicted, which often makes a reader sympathetic to one or both of them, which others very well may be; however, I found it hard to warm to either of them. This certainly added an extra layer of “chiller to the thriller” for me, but also added to my frustration because there was a large degree of dramatic irony involved in my reading of the story.Acorn Award II Silver

I have awarded this book a Silver Acorn because it ticked all the “dark fiction” and “suspense” boxes, but left this reader somewhat dissatisfied at the end.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Return of the Sleeping Warriors’ by Petra Costa

A brilliant Australian YA #urbanfantasy read.

Petra Costa Return of the Sleeping Warriors 1The first book in the ‘When Magic Awakes’ series, this book starts by dropping the reader right into a situation of tension and mystery that continues to grow and develop further as the story progresses. One by one, the questions are layered and woven together so that before long, the reader realises that this book simply demands to be read.

Michael and Dana appear to be typical teenagers living in suburban Melbourne. Sport and school consume most of their time, but there’s something else going on that intrigues both the central characters and the reader. Their family seems quite normal and their dislike of the nasty neighbours seems completely natural.

There is, however, much more to both sides of the equation than meets the eye.

As the action of the story progresses, the reader becomes very familiar with both Michael and Dana, their family members, and the flaws and strengths of each. The reader is very much inclined to cheer Michael and Dana on as they confront a set of circumstances that they never expected to meet in suburban Melbourne.

I really enjoyed the typical Australian flavour of the settings in the story and also in the writing. I find that, too often, Australian authors feel they need to sacrifice their ow surroundings and way of speaking in deference to the power of American popular culture. The author has, in this book, not only retained those qualities but also incorporated them as part of the strengths of the settings, characters and story.Acorn Award I Golden

I found this to be an excellent and interesting book, with plenty of action and excitement to engage YA readers and older, so I have awarded it a Gold Acorn.

I have also added Petra Costa to my list of “one-click” authors, whose books I shall buy without hesitation.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Leshy’ by N.C. Stow

A great story for families to enjoy together.

N.C. Stow The LeshyA short story drawn from Russian folklore, ‘The Leshy’ is a poignant story of a girl who understands and accepts that she is different to others, and must discover her true destiny in order to fulfil it.

Although not quite as evocative as the author’s other Russian-inspired story, ‘The Kupala Night’ which was reviewed on this blog in February 2018, ‘The Leshy’ is an interesting story well told. The imagery used and the retention of Russian names for household items and places give the story a distinctly folky-fairytale feel that is both charming and very effective in helping to draw the reader into the story.

‘The Leshy’ is a short read that would be suitable for families to read together, and for older children to enjoy on their own.

Acorn Award II Silver

This delightful story has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Dragonheart Stories: Fairy Tales for Grownups’ by Jane Jago

A magnificent adults-only collection of dragon stories!

Jane Jago The Dragonheart StoriesOne of my favourite things to discover is a book that gives the reader a sense of the author’s own personality. The incidental humour and quirky characters in these stories are evidence of a creative mind brimming with ideas and unafraid to follow them wherever they lead.

The Dragonheart Stories Is a brilliant collection of short stories that are imaginative, sensual and highly original — and definitely not for children! Very conservative readers would probably not appreciate them either, although this reader considers that to be very much to their own loss. The stories are much like the nature of their dragon characters: magnificent, beautiful, rowdy, complex, and at times aggressive, but at the same time filled with insight. Each story is both entertaining and thought-provoking. The narration instils in the reader a sense of reverence for the dragons, but also considerable affection for the central characters.

Acorn Award I Golden

I really hope there are more of these stories to come. It is only fitting that this humble squirrel should pay these wonderful dragons tribute with a Golden Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Recruit’ by M.M. Cox

The Recruit is an interesting and refreshing change from witches and vampires.

M.M. Cox The Recruit‘The Recruit’ introduces the reader to Cassie, a teen who thinks her biggest problems are not getting along with her mother and not wanting a boyfriend when everyone else seems to. When Cassie is confronted by bigger problems that she hasn’t even realised existed in her life, she is launched on a journey of discovery that the reader follows with avid interest.

This story is really well written. The characters and dialogue are believable, and the story is packed with action, complications and heart-in-your-throat moments that make it hard to put down. Teen and YA readers will relate quite easily to Cassie, Kristen and Landon, and there’s certainly enough complexity and depth in the story to keep older readers engaged, too.

‘The Recruit’ tells a great story, but it also raises some really interesting and thought-provoking questions about the nature of evil, and the balance of good and evil in the world we live in. Readers are challenged to think beyond what they can see and reminded that appearances can be very deceiving.

As a reader who enjoys a variety of paranormal stories, I found this book to be an interesting and refreshing change from witches and vampires.Acorn Award I Golden

‘The Recruit’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn for excellence.
Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Witch’s Touch’ by Rosie Wylor-Owen

A deliciously dark short story read.

Rosie Wylor-Owen The Witchs TouchThe Witch’s Touch is a delightfully dark story about justice being delivered in the most satisfying way.

The narration of the story is fluent and masterful, giving the reader rich insights into the characters and their actions. The characters are developed with considerable detail given the length of the story, and the reader is captivated by the story that unfolds. The story itself is quite unique and has some brilliant twists in it to keep the reader guessing.

Acorn Award I Golden
It’s a short read that took me a little under half an hour, so it’s perfect as a quick escape from a busy day. ‘The Witch’s Touch’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn for excellence.

Find your copy here.