‘ARIA: Book 1 of the Scintillance Theory’ by Gyorgy Henyei Neto – Review

Immersive science fiction with some mystery and time travel elements…

‘Dia’ sets out to recall lost memories while trying to decipher what is real and what is dream in an immersive and partly surreal story that puts readers in the very centre of her dilemma. To begin with everything is shrouded in a level of mystery as our main character tries to put her memory together while also being unsure who to trust and that is while she recovers from the recent past. This is a future world where the ‘ARIA foundation’ seem to control and see everything and after an event known as ‘The Scintillance’ we gradually find out what happened and how ‘Dia’ was involved.

To begin with I did struggle to get into the story but it picks up and figures itself out as events unfolds and it gets better throughout. The stakes emerge and as ‘Dia’ learns about her past the twists, turns and drama emerges into an enjoyable story. Some of the concepts were original and overall I was immersed into a world that has only just been introduced as this is the first of a wider series. For those who enjoy science fiction with mystery and time travel elements, this is the one for you.

4 Stars – Thank you to the author who provided an advanced copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

‘Life of Maggot’ by Paul Jameson – Review

A masterfully written vision and song about the end of time…

Paul Jameson delivers his unique writing style to tell a story laid out much like a song about the end of time. The language and style immediately pulls you in with its classic but modern feel over the many chapters and short verses that keep the pages turning.

Pace and rhythm take centre stage in the seemingly apocalyptic world this story takes place in. We see the events from the view of ‘Maggot’ who is just a boy while chaos unfolds. Just what does the end look like? The author does a fantastic job of capturing this demise through description and visionary language that stirs the imagination by walking readers to the door but we are then given room to fill in the rest – this is story telling in its finest form and alongside that unique style makes for a stand-out reading experience.

The Monsters, their Respectable, the Commons, all drown in the storm that comes…”

While there are some darker tones there are also brighter moments because this journey is seen through the eyes of a boy who can perhaps see past that darkness. Even when there is Plague, War, Famine and Death there is still magic to be found and perhaps this is something adults forget. No matter what bad is happening there is always hope and ultimately there is some light to be found somewhere. Life of Maggot is a book I highly recommend and served as a wonderful reminder of how awesome reading can be.

5 Stars – Beautifully written and hands down one of the best books I have read in a long time.

‘Josef The Writer’s Cat’ by Ellen Khodakivska – Review

A heart-warming and fun story told from a unique perspective…

Ellen Khodakivska tells a unique story from a unique and imaginative perspective, that of a cat named ‘Josef’. We see the big wide world through his eyes and his journey to becoming a writer’s best friend is a heart-warming tale for all ages. The writing style is easy to read and a few pages in I was immersed into the very real world and life that pets have. Although they may only be around for part of our lives, to them we are their lives and that is the deeper meaning to this story which is highlighted at the very start. We do sometimes take things for granted in life and this story reminds us that pets are such an instrumental part of it while they also have a life too.

The sights, the sounds and smells are all captured well making the unique perspective of this story a must-read for anyone looking for originality in story telling because you’ll find it here. ‘Josef’ has a wonderful personality that resonates throughout as he interacts not just with people but with other animals too – a cool concept. I very much enjoyed this and would highly recommend this book, especially to those of the writing persuasion or to anyone who loves animals.

5 Stars – Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.

‘Raven Woman’s Tavern’ by Laura Koerber – Review

There were many things the people of Warrentown didn’t know about Raven…”

I’ll admit the first line of this book’s blurb caught my attention straight away and the reading experience that followed did not disappoint. The powerful prologue sets the scene of a remote forest setting where man came, destroyed and then left again but the constant being ‘Raven’ who is a powerful deciding figure among the trees and a place where this book finds it’s setting.

“Animals, plants and people, came and went, but Raven stayed…”

Most dystopian futures focus on cities or even the masses but Raven Woman’s Tavern homes in on the path less travelled and welcomes you to Warrentown, perhaps a forgotten corner of the world where a community of people are still trying to survive whatever happened out in that wider world. Many of them are older or just trying to get by and we meet near enough all of them along the way. It has all the feels of a Stephen King multi character piece but without the overindulgence because between them there is a real sense of community and their hub just happens to be a quaint tavern. Of course this is intentional because Raven is watching over them and protecting them with it.

The story begins to take direction as a group of young Militia turn up at the tavern looking for more than just a few drinks and their troublesome presence brings the a taste of what is going on in the wider world. After one of the group’s wallet appears to go missing they return yet again looking for trouble but instead receive a lot more. This is where things really kick up a notch because Raven starts to play with their heads and what is supposed to be a short path for them becomes a lot longer and for the sake of protecting the people of this small community. For one of them in particular this path puts everything into perspective and becomes an opportunity for Raven to recruit someone new.

Laura Koerber tells this immersive story with range and imagination. There are even a few deep metaphors about life and survival. It’s dark in places with some chills but also carries a deeper moral story about community. My only real critique would be for the ending to have a little less pace but for anyone looking to read something different with a dark fantasy edge then this is the one for you!

4 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery.

‘Deification’ by Brooklynn Dean – Review

The intimate description and deep prose will consume you long before the apocalypse…

Brooklyn Dean delivers her unique brand of intimate description and style in this apocalyptic tale which carries a depth that’ll consume you and I’m okay with that. Set in a world after the ‘sky opened’ we meet ‘Torrence’ who is on a high stakes path to collect virtues and ascend to a whole new sinister level. She’ll promise you power in return for loyalty for helping her cause which is lined with violent and ritualistic blood spilling but before we even get there this story begins with intrigue and mystery. Just what happened in this part dystopian world? Who is ‘Torrence’ really? And what is she trying to achieve? This intrigue partnered alongside the vivid description and prose is where you’ll find the true strength because sometimes it’s not what’s there, but what could be and it’ll keep you turning pages while building the world in your imagination. Stories that let the imagination breathe like this are hard to come by.

“It was as if, for her and her brethren and her violent delights, the world should have always been this way…”

While on the surface there is symbolism near enough everywhere but like all of Brooklynn Dean’s works it operates on a much deeper level with metaphors throughout that individual readers will interpret in their own way – yet another strength this book has and watch out because it will consume you. To the less applied or even those not paying proper attention it might appear to be just about the end of days but I assure you it is more than that and you’ll find it happening beneath those words. Unique and stylistic, this is a story that cannot be missed.

5 Stars – an encapsulating and immersive read about so much more than the apocalypse.

‘Judd’ by J.D Toombs and Erika Schulze – Review

A ‘high school for heroes’ tale about the power of accepting who you are paired with some unique world building…

Welcome to Aries High, a school for those with unique powers but in this world they are known as Fragments. The only problem is our main character and narrator Samael Judd doesn’t appear to have any powers… That is without mentioning the many pressures he faces for someone his age from stepping out of his older brother’s shadow to even making the basketball team and while he does his best to hide a lack of powers he’s also concealing his sexuality. If both are revealed the repercussions could be disastrous, at least to him anyway. There are only a few he can fully trust and confide in – perhaps the most realistic thing about the social politics of high school, something this story captures well.

There are some unique and interesting concepts in this world of Fragment’s and that world building is something I want to see more of. Terminology and abilities like ‘technomancy’ and ‘magnekenisis’ sound cool and these concepts are only really touched upon as most of the story focuses on Judd’s journey and his high school life which is most probably just the beginning. The symbolism paired with the struggle to accept one’s self is what you’ll find at the centre of this tale and it’s bravely executed. From fighting bullies to borrowing a new girl’s magical dragon to pretend you have powers – as I said cool concepts, there are even some awesome references to video games and music.

On a few occasions there were moments where scenes felt crowded with quite a number of characters present so it was a little difficult to follow and transitions between scenes did occur rather abruptly but overall Judd is a unique story full of drama that captures coming of age, explores social issues and celebrates diversity.

4 Stars – Reviews left on Amazon and Goodreads. Thank you to the Author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. Judd is released today – grab yourself a copy here!

‘From Voiceless to Vocal’ by Danielle Larsen – Review

Candid, brave and ultimately inspirational…

While many of the subjects in this memoir aren’t easy to talk about, Danielle Larsen delivers her story flawlessly and highlights the moments and events of a journey that makes for a gripping read. In this day and age the subject of mental health needs to be talked about more and this book does that. Being wrongly diagnosed at a young age ultimately paves the way for Larsen’s struggles while the main bulk of the story focuses on her being in a relationship with an abusive controlling partner. For much of the time it’s frustrating to see the abuse that unfolds – why can’t she just leave? Unfortunately it’s a little more complex than that and part of the journey is understanding that it’s hard to leave sometimes and breaking those shackles is difficult when the circumstances of gaslighting and emotional abuse are present.

“Normal does not have to mean good or comfortable, but simply what one gets used to…”

This book acts as guide in some senses to spread awareness while also informing others. The narration style feels natural and relays every moment with dignity and there are some moments when you cannot help but feel for a person who has been through so much – a lot of it wasn’t even her fault and you just want her to succeed in the end. There are even some brighter moments later on which highlight finding inspiration from musical theatre and how we all need to find something for emotional release. For Danielle Larson to share a memoir like this it’s incredibly brave and ultimately inspirational because the message is no matter how many chips are down you can always come back, there’s always hope and survival is probably the greatest gift we have.

5 Stars – A gripping and touching well-written read that bravely shares so much. Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.

‘The Ghost of Whitmore Manor’ by Sarah Jayne Harry – Review

A breezy paranormal romance with a young adult edge…

For a short book Sarah Jayne Harry has managed to deliver a satisfying story with a range of themes with an easy to read writing style. There’s a young adult vibe from the very start as ‘Charlotte’; a paranormal sceptic is dared to spend the night in an abandoned manor house. It’s spooky and descriptive from sight to smell and we even get a harrowing backstory of the place – some elements of this book do go to dark places and this is mentioned beforehand but only for a short while and it’s not exploitative but necessary for plot and eventual resolve. On this night our main character and narrator comes across ‘Lewis’ a ghost which she befriends. This friendship in turn becomes something more.

We also see ‘Charlotte’s’ home life where her over protective and abusive Father casts a shadow over everything while the pressure of succeeding in school is ever present. There are other characters in this story, even if they are smaller parts they contribute to the wider picture. Soon this picture culminates with a choice or suggestion that ‘Lewis’ makes and an ending perfect for the genre. I would have liked to of seen perhaps a little more between ‘Lewis’ and ‘Charlotte’ but for a short read which most will complete in one sitting, it makes for a perfect spooky season experience.

4 Stars – Reviews left via Goodreads and Amazon

‘The Pirate Captain – A love story’ by Jill A. Logan – Review

A feel-good swashbuckling fairy tale style romance of the seven seas…

The Pirate Captain is an easy to read short but fun tale that follows the journey of young lady ‘Avalee’ who escapes her abusive confines and empty promises made to her for an education. From the first page we get a lot of information that helps set the scene as her life transitions from that confinement to escape and the terror of being on the run to an eventual destination; that being a stowaway on an infamous Pirate’s ship.

After some quick thinking our heroine disguises herself to fit in and talks her way into joining the crew of this vessel. She changes her name and spends her days adjusting to the life of a pirate in sometimes amusing and possibly disastrous ways that almost reveal her true identity. All the time ‘Lee’s’ journey unfolds a slow burning admiration for the ship’s captain begins to form into something more.

The strength of this story is the slow build towards an eventual romance which runs the course of an enjoyable tale where the worst of situations in life bring the best possible outcomes. Nearer the end it get’s a little steamy making this one probably better suited for a more mature audience. My only real critique is that the story does tend to tell as opposed to show but for a shorter book that works.

4 Stars -Reviews left via Amazon and Goodreads.

‘Noxious’ by Bruce Knapp – Review

An enjoyable yet sinister tale of the macabre that’ll keep you turning pages…

There is so much going on in this book and I found myself quickly turning the pages as the events build, unfold and eventually intertwine in what is a clever fusing of several stories that centre around the strange dark small town known as Blackwater. Bruce Knapp has delivered a tale that is dark, sometimes gruesome and wholly satisfying and the setting is delivered well and through the multiple characters. Throughout, the story evolves along with those characters as everything plays out.

Grim shadows loomed over Blackwater, trying to conceal the hatred, but the evil continued to grow like a fungus, a black poisonous mould…

We see those who are looking for faith, some with lust on their mind, religious types, businessmen, lawmen and even those on the fringes of the occult and witchcraft. Hell, there is even something monstrous lurking in the local ‘Suwanee’ river, this tale really is one of variety that even feels like an anthology piece that is all wrapped up in less than a 200 pages and with short but sharp chapters which keeps those pages turning and the flow consistent.

Main character ‘Robert Thompson’ seems to have a dark cloud following him and his choices soon lead to a shocking and gruesome turn of events. It was at this moment I really became invested in the story. Robert is a changed man from this point and his journey is filled with sometimes graphic brutality to himself and others. Of course that cloud hanging over him has a name (‘Nyx’) and plays an influencing role in the form of possession.

Eventually we see the ‘Noxious’ part of the story which kicks in later on but has been cleverly built from the early stages. Of course Robert’s journey culminates during this satisfying finish for a book with so much variety in the horror genre. The town and setting of Blackwater feels like a character in its own right, it’s always there, hanging over everything with a certain darkness. This makes for a great atmospheric feel to the reading experience.

Those who like multiple character led stories with elements of the occult, witchcraft, paranormal that’s a little graphic in places will enjoy ‘Noxious’. Everyone else may just end up in the ‘Otherworld’ on Leap Day.

4 Stars – this review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery. Reviews left on both Amazon and Goodreads.