Book Reviews

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Isolation Junction | Dawn of the Spiders | Karl Drinkwater’s Horror Collection | She’s Not Gone | The Way of Life | The Promptuary | Survivor | Ghosts of Bliss Bayou | Heads Will Roll | The Perfect Tree | Loreless | Secrets and Souls | If I Wake | The Seas Come Still |The Phantom of Faerie Mountain | The Soul Guide #1Hollow | Lives Collide | The Stationmaster’s Cottage | The Unravelling | Complicated Blue | Living Past Being a Victim

5/5 stars

This is a raw, emotional story of a young woman who finds herself trapped in an abusive marriage with no way out. As so often happens, Darren’s violence towards Rose slowly escalates, starting with verbal put-downs meant to lower her self-esteem, and ending up with brutal physical violence.

Although the story is fiction, I think it will ring true with survivors of domestic abuse, and those women going through it right now. The moment Rose realises she is being abused, through completing an online questionnaire, is heartbreakingly real. I like how the author has incorporated the questionnaire into the story, it may help other women understand that they need to get help before they too end up like Rose.

Rose’s fight to keep her children will tug at your heartstrings – the court scene where the judge appears to be on her husband’s side right up until the end stirred up feelings of anger and helplessness in me, as I have actually been in that very same situation.

Well done to the author for writing this story to help other women in abusive situations. I hope that they too will find the courage to leave, both for themselves and their children.

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5/5 stars

When a virus causes spiders to mutate, the residents of Newtown don’t know what’s going to hit them. Blood, gore, and creepy gigantic spiders that are out for human flesh – I think you can guess what type of book it’s going to be from the title and the cover!! A small handful of people are the only ones who can save the world and stop the human race from being devoured by these terrifying creatures.

This is a great read that keeps you turning the pages, even though you know that each scene is going to be worse than the last. There is a great mix of likable and odious characters, but you end up feeling sorry even for the worst of them as they meet their demise. Brian O’Gorman is definitely good at scaring his readers!

I’d like to say I never want to see another spider again, but I’ve preordered the sequel…

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5/5 stars

I’d read one of Karl Drinkwater’s short horror stories before, so I knew what to expect – but this collection was far scarier than I thought possible! I highly recommend this collection of well-written stories.

The author has the ability to create diverse characters in just a few pages that the reader can relate to and empathise with, placing them in seemingly normal situations that quickly take you into the realms of fear and horror.

You carry on turning the pages, even though you want to grab the protagonist and run as far away as you can with them, feeling the hair rising on the back of your neck as you follow them to their inevitable doom. Do not read these stories at night, alone…

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5/5 stars

This is the story of Katie, who thinks she has met the love of her life, Daryl, only to find out that underneath his charming exterior lies the heart of a monster.

Written in first person, present tense, the author manages to convey Katie’s anguish, self-doubts and low esteem to the reader in a way that makes it easy to understand why she can’t leave Daryl, despite the warning signs. There are hints of a difficult childhood that, while not dealt with in detail, leave no doubt in your mind that Katie has led a very troubled existence.

Even though he is manipulative and violent, and even though she is terrified of him, Katie continues to blame herself for his behaviour, justifying his actions and delaying the moment she knows she will have to leave him.

Once again, Sarah Northwood has written a book that deals with sensitive issues in a way that draws the reader into the story, pulling you along on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, right to the end when you can at last mull over what you have just read. This well-written novella will open people’s eyes to the effects of psychological and physical abuse, and help to explain the too-often repeated question: “But why doesn’t she just leave?”
Well done, I can’t wait for the author’s next book!

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5/5 stars

Wow, this is a long book, but well worth the read! The author uses descriptive narrative incredibly well, so that the reader lives each character’s experiences with them and becomes deeply involved in their lives.

Josie has had a traumatic experience in her past, which still has an effect on her now but, despite this, she has a wonderfully bubbly personality and gets on well with people. She also has a deep empathy towards others who are suffering, which she uses subconsciously to help them.

Jim is a shy man who has always had problems connecting with people, his religious beliefs have kept him holding back until he finds the right woman. When he meets Josie, the two of them form a deep bond that goes beyond love. But Josie must overcome the traumatic events of her past in order to be able to form a future with Jim.

Josie is a painter and uses her skills to distract herself from her painful past, while Jim trains young horses on a farm, sensitive to their every quirk and fear. The author manages to convey their talents in a way that the reader can understand, even if they know nothing about the subject. I know horses, I grew up with them, and her descriptions instantly took me back to those wonderful times that I miss so much, while I know nothing about painting, but I nevertheless got caught up in Josie’s dedication to her art.

I loved this book, Annette Spratte has a wonderful way of writing that is easy to read, but at the same time pulls you into the story until you feel as if you are a part of the book yourself. It is a romance with Christian tones but don’t let that put you off, as the story is so much more, it is a story of courage and hope that many women will be able to identify with.

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5/5 stars

Anais Blue, the teenage witch trapped in a five-year-old’s body, is back and she’s on a mission – to fix her promptuary, the essential spell book every good witch needs. The story carries on from where Complicated Blue left off, and once again the reader becomes embroiled in Anais’s adventures as she travels about in enchanted cars and a supernatural locomotive, helping lost shades on the way and coming across characters who enrich both her life and ours. The author has perfectly captured the larger-than-life personality of the celebrity shade Anais meets – I won’t reveal who it is, but Whittlesea has added a touch of humanity to this character that was rarely seen in real life, that leaves you feeling as though you have finally got to know this wonderful person.

I love reading the Anais Blue books, that look at the witching world in a different way and aren’t about broomsticks, wands and black cats. Full of wry, witty observations on people and life that will have you reluctantly nodding in agreement or laughing out loud at their perceptive truthfulness, these books take you on a fun journey of self-discovery through the eyes of a teenage witch.

Well-written and well-edited, I highly recommend this series to anyone who wants to leave the stress of the real world behind and lose themselves in this magical story. I can’t wait for the next instalment!

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5/5 stars

This well-written short story introduces us to Josie, who is the protagonist of the author’s full-length novel.

Something terrible has happened to Josie, although we don’t find out what in this prequel. Just out of therapy, Josie has been sent to boarding school by her parents, and is having a difficult time settling in. We are given brief insights into her past that hint at a traumatic event she is trying to overcome, where everyone is walking on eggshells around her without really understanding what she is going through.

The author describes Josie’s inner anguish very compassionately, you can feel her desperation as events threaten to overwhelm her. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger – rather, the reader is intrigued to find out what happens next to Josie, as she embarks on her journey towards her future. I can’t wait to read the novel!

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5/5 stars

When Abby has nightmares about drowning and sees a shadowy man everywhere she looks, she thinks she’s going crazy again. Drawn to her grandmother’s house in a tiny town in Florida, she hopes to find the answers she’s looking for.

However, she soon finds herself mixed up in magical events where she is the key to fighting the evil entity that is plaguing the town. Even though she has doubts about her abilities, she is determined to save those she loves.

You’ll come to love the characters, such as Abby’s granma and Molly, who quickly becomes her best friend. Light-hearted in places, tense and scary in others, full of ghosts and legends, spells and secrets, the reader becomes gripped by this YA paranormal fantasy that will keep you enthralled to the end.

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5/5 stars

I loved the idea of this book, that a crazy scientist/doctor would experiment with cutting people’s heads off and giving them a new body. And I believe that there are people would who be mad enough to want to try it – not only people who are crippled, like Barry in the story, but those who are just not satisfied with their bodies or want a certain image.

The story goes along at a nice pace, with the right amount of suspense and back story, keeping you wondering whether the operation will be a success right to the end. The image of the carousel of bodies going around will stay with me for a long time. I also liked the ending, with a hint of continuation along this crazy route.

The author’s easy style of writing is perfect for carrying the reader along on this journey into madness. The whole story leaves you wondering when, not if, this will become a reality.

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5/5 stars

I had this book on my tbr list for a long time and never seemed to get around to it, I think the cover put me off a bit. I am so glad I finally did, it is a fantastic read.

This is a beautifully-written story set in rural America of two children who meet by chance. Blake has worked on his parents’ farm all his life, while Greta has recently moved from the city. Both outcasts, they develop a close friendship. This coming of age story is written from the children’s point of view, and the author manages to write their thoughts and feelings in such an open, honest way that you feel as if they are real people and not characters in a book.

Their childhood innocence is abruptly taken from them when a series of events overturns their lives, and they discover that they cannot always believe what they see. The narrative is so good that the reader feels the characters’ delusion, anger, sadness and fear as the events develop. And there is a twist on the very last page that will shock you to your core, while leaving you to make up your own mind. Very clever.

This book is reminiscent of Stephen King’s “Stand By Me”, in the way that it evokes memories of your own childhood, forgotten friends, and daring escapades your parents never found out about.

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5/5 stars

This is the story of Billy, a young man who is abandoned by his friends on his stag night in the middle of nowhere. Waking up in a strange place, with no memory of how he got there, little does he know that his life is about to completely change. As Billy embarks on his journey of self-discovery, rejecting his comfortable city life and everything he has ever known for a small community in the dry Australian bush, his self-doubts are replaced by a fierce pride of his Aboriginal roots and knowledge of his place in the world.

Loreless is more than just a story, though. This book leads the reader through the violent events that have shaped Aborigine history in Australia over the last two centuries, with a breath-taking narrative that will move your soul. The story is broken up by several flashbacks that are relevant to the story and Billy’s past. Each one goes further back in time, showing how the arrival of white settlers disturbed the Aborigines’ natural balance of life. These flashbacks are incredibly vivid, with haunting images that leave you wanting to know more, but also feeling devastated by the suffering of these people.

This book leaves you with a sense of sadness at the things human beings do to each other, but also with a glimmer of hope for the future, that in generations to come the natural balance may one day be restored. I would recommend everyone reads this, if only to learn from our past and make sure that these things never happen again. Another great book from P J Whittlesea.

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5/5 stars

A while back, I reviewed The Soul Guide, a dark YA book. This novella reveals the story behind Mellissa and Bertram, which is only alluded to in The Soul Guide. It is a tale of unrequited love and secrets that can never be told, yet by the end you are left with a sense of well-being as the two characters put their feelings aside and find a mutual respect that goes far beyond love.

Carlo the Italian cafè owner features more in this book too, a likable character who is more important than he seems. Less dark than The Soul Guide, it sets the scene for the series and introduces the reader to the story in a clear, concise way.

Wonderfully written, with realistic dialogue and well-formed characters, I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.

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5/5 stars

This is an incredibly well-written, sensitive story about a subject that is still taboo for most of us – suicide.

Lucy is a teenage girl who has always had a tough time at school from bullies, to the point where she feels like an outsider, practically invisible to everyone around her. But every year, on her birthday, she falls asleep and wakes to find herself in a different time period, ranging from prehistoric times to the Romans, from the Black Death to Pearl Harbour in the Second World War, and even to the future. The one constant is Will, who she saves every time from certain death, only to die herself and wake up again in the present.

You can’t help feeling sorry for Lucy, her life is so desperately sad and she is so alone. Even her own mother can’t understand what is going on and seems to abandon her. The school bullies are realistically portrayed, their snide remarks and spiteful actions gradually wearing Lucy down until she can’t take any more. When her one friend commits suicide, Lucy feels that life isn’t worth living any more. Can Will save her this time?

This book should be a must-read for all teenagers and be added to every school’s reading list, if only to show how our actions affect other people in different ways and to help us be more understanding of what others are going through.

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5/5 stars

This beautifully-written book tells two separate stories, one set in 1602 BCE about a young man called Luyan, the other in 1769 AD about a Navy officer, Lt. S Singer. Each chapter jumps from one era to the next, carrying on each person’s story where it left off before.

The powerful narrative leads you into the story right from the start, using language and images so realistic that you can imagine yourself being transported back in time. Both stories are based around a strong female culture, bound by love and a deep respect for all life.

The first story recounts a group of holy women’s fight to persuade towns and cities along the coast to move inland, before a volcano erupts and causes a tsunami that will destroy them all. Luyan is a young man they save from a life of slavery on board a ship, and who becomes an integral part of their group. A few of these women are healers, and there are some very detailed descriptions of the intricate operations they perform that make you hold your breath as you read.

Lt. Singer’s story is completely different but also steeped in folklore and the culture of holy women. The main theme of the whole book is that of strong, determined women who must fight against the rules of their time in order to make themselves be heard, whilst maintaining their dignity and respect for others in the hardest of situations. The author uses a lot of nautical terms, which add to the settings and eras of the two stories.

This is not just an ordinary historical narrative, there is a twist in the story that literally made me put down the book and stare at it in amazement, it was so unexpected. An excellent debut book, I look forward to reading more by this author.

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5/5 stars

This YA fantasy is also suitable for younger readers who love to read stories about faeries, talking animals, and solving riddles. Unlike most YA, there was no teenage angst, no low self-esteem, and no eye-rolling, which is a pleasant relief! It’s a well-written, enjoyable story where the characters get on with solving the problems that arise without getting bogged down by going into too much detail.

Abby is looked after by her older sister, Sage, while her father is away on business, as her mother died in mysterious circumstances when she was very little. When a glowing green dog appears in front of their car, Abby is drawn to discovering more about the mountain in Scotland where they are staying. The knowledgeable Mrs MacTavish guides her in the right direction, and Abby finds herself exploring a cave in the mountain.

The dog, Finlay, appears again and transports her back in time, where she meets Rory, a young Scottish boy. Together they must solve an ancient riddle, defeat the evil faeries, and break the enchantment on Finlay. This story has all the ingredients of an epic fantasy, from magical enchantments to fiery swords and the eternal battle between good and evil.

Abby and Rory are likable characters with great interaction – I love the way Abby calls him Numpty all the time! There is also a surprise at the end that makes you want to read the next book and see how the story will develop. A great read for all ages.

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5/5 stars

This fantasy novel starts with Bertram the Caretaker sensing the death of Mellissa, the Soul Guide. Devastated at losing the love of his life, he is told that he must find and help the next Soul Guide.

Sybil, alone after her mother dies and her father goes abroad for work, heads to her favourite cafè, owned by a friendly Italian, Carlo. Alec is there too, a troubled boy who has dark secrets hidden inside him. Bertram, Alec and Sybil are thrown together by the events that follow, and the story slowly unfolds with each chapter.

When evil Victor arrives on the scene, Carlo’s part in the story is revealed, but we don’t find out what happens to them in this book. I hope their story will be continued in the next one! I also hope that more will be revealed of Bertram and Mellissa’s story, as it was touched upon too briefly in this book.

This is a well-written darkly magical story, with keys that open doors to wonderful, mysterious worlds and characters that you can relate to. The love-hate relationship between grumpy Bertram and surly Alec is fun to read, and you can feel Sybil’s frustration with the two of them. All of the characters fit well in the book, and each one adds another layer to the story.

As the story builds, more of the secrets of the Soul Guide are revealed, with some surprises towards the end. The epilogue is very well-written, and there is an unexpected twist at the end that caught me by surprise.

I gave the book 5 stars because I enjoyed the story so much. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Secrets and Souls, a prequel to The Soul Guide.

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5/5 stars

Fifteen-year-old Liv has no memory of her life before her accident four years earlier, and her family seems to be keeping secrets from her. When she joins her cousin and aunt in a seance, she awakens a gift she didn’t know she had. The reflection of a strange, faceless girl appears when she looks into a mirror or window, and she has no idea who she is or what she wants. All she knows is that the girl is dead.

This story draws you in from the start, creating tension as it progresses, so that you don’t want to put it down but keep reading to find out what happens. Even though it is YA, it is also perfectly suitable for adults – the suspense keeps you enthralled until the end. And I’m happy to say, the ending doesn’t disappoint! Even though I was pretty sure who the murderer was, the author cleverly added enough twists to create uncertainty. And after mentioning the Hollow all the way through, it was all explained satisfactorily in the end.

This well-written book kept me gripped from start to finish, I look forward to reading more from this author. If you like Stephen King without the gruesome bits, this is the book for you!

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5/5 stars

I won a paperback copy of this book in a Facebook competition. Both the cover and the interior are of very high quality. The story follows the two protagonists’ lives from each one’s point of view, and is written in first person, present tense.

Lisa and James meet in traumatic circumstances twice during their adolescence, never to meet again for many years. In the meantime, their lives run parallel to each other without ever crossing, until they both go through another traumatic experience and suddenly meet in the most unexpected way.

Lisa believes she is broken and will never be loved by any man, James holds himself responsible for the terrible death of his wife and never wants to love another woman again. Once their lives collide, they must both face up to their pasts and decide if they want a future.

This is a well-written, heart-warming story that carries you along to its conclusion, leaving you feeling warm inside. A romance with a difference, its flawed characters are nonetheless people you find yourself liking, and you root for a happy ending for everyone. A beautiful debut novel, I look forward to reading more by this author.

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5/5 stars

When Christie inherits her grandmother’s cottage, little does she know she will become involved in a family secret that spans three generations of her family. The Stationmaster’s Cottage is a heart-warming story, with vivid descriptions that will leave you with fond memories of River’s End and its inhabitants, even though you’ve never been there!

Local artist Martin has a bit of a chip on his shoulder at the beginning, but you start to warm to him as you get deeper into the story. The secondary characters are also well-constructed and believable, whether they are friendly villagers or odious boyfriends.

The story keeps you engaged all the way through, as you find out what happened between Christie and Martin’s families. If you’re looking for a beautiful, romantic story that will keep you captivated until the end, this is the perfect book.

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5/5 stars

The Unravelling is the prequel to The Volunteer, and tells us the stories of Ryan and Jennifer. While the story of The Volunteer slowly develops as we follow the protagonist Sam, this book jumps straight in and pulls the reader along in a flurry of emotions. We find out the events that caused Ryan’s PTSD and how his psychologist is not all she seems, and the author cleverly interweaves Jennifer’s story with that of Ryan. This dark, psychological thriller manages to keep the tension going throughout the whole book, and you find yourself unable to put it down as it leads you towards its horrific, unexpected conclusion.

I gave this book 5 stars as the story was so engaging, a real page turner, even though the book does need some more editing. A brilliant read, I look forward to more from this author.

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5/5 stars

I don’t often laugh out loud when reading books, but I did with this one! A fun, modern-day story about a teenage witch called Anais Blue, trapped in a five-year-old’s body, that will appeal to people of all ages.
In true Douglas Adams style, there is a running commentary explaining everything we don’t know about witches, including the reason for their primordial hatred of chickens and why they love cooking! I will also be looking out for shades in crowded places from now on.

As the story develops, you get drawn into Anais’ world and wonder where it will take you. This is a completely new take on witches and magic, where broomstick riding is regarded with scorn.

It is a brilliantly-written book that is a delight to read, and I look forward to reading volume 2.

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5/5 stars

This autobiographical book is an emotional read. The author doesn’t spare you any of the details of the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her father, beginning at just age 4. There are some harrowing scenes that will shock you, so be warned. But she also talks about the good times in between her father flitting in and out of her life, and how happy she was during the brief period that she lived on her grandfather’s farm.
Throughout the book, she writes about the various men who abused her and her mother and you find it hard to imagine how she ever got through it all. But the fact that she has written this book, and found the courage to live her life with dignity, is a testimony to how strong women can be.

I would strongly advise any woman to read this book – if you are lucky enough to never have suffered at the hands of another human being, then it will help you understand how it feels and perhaps how you can help someone in this situation. And if you are in this situation, this book will give you hope, that things can get better and you can find help. This truly remarkable woman deserves all happiness for the future.

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