Thursday 18 May 2023

Book Review – The Fourth Charm (Dramsmit Childrens Mysteries Book 2) by Robert Howell

The Fourth Charm
(Dramsmit Childrens Mysteries Book 2)
By Robert Howell

It has been a few months since Sharron, Wally and Chip found their true home at Bellevue Manor, and their place in the witch community. They continue to learn their craft, and their powers grow. Yet their true destiny lies in their love of mystery solving. Using their unique abilities, they take on the challenge of solving supernatural mysteries. Their success in this though may become their undoing. For now, the Witch Council itself has come to them to help solve a mystery that is threatening the Witch community.

Some entity is stealing the familiars from witches, including the familiar of their good friend Ronnie. They put on their sleuthing caps, using all the research tools at their disposal, to find the answer.

Then comes the prophecy from Saleena. The only chance they can survive this, is if they use the Fourth Charm. But what is The Fourth Charm? Not a single book in the extensive Dramsmit library mentions anything about it. Nor do any of the witches they have spoken with, including Saleena. They race to find the answer to this question, yet mysterious and powerful forces oppose them every step of the way. Can they find the Fourth Charm, and the ability to use it, before all is lost?

Grab a copy HERE!

Sharron, Wally, and Chip may still be fairly new to the magical world, but they have not been negatively impacted by their late start to their studies. They have a unique ability, the power of three, that allows them to join their magic together into a singular force, and they have a knack at coming up with new spells that help them along their adventures.

The three take up the role of detectives, combining their powers and problem solving abilities together, to solve the mysteries that the magical world throws at them. When a mystery arises that even the Witch's Council cannot solve, Sharron, Wally, and Chip find themselves facing possibly the most difficult mystery they’ve ever solved before. 

There is a lot of information in this book that you must understand for it to make sense, but once you have the general gist of the magical world this book contains, you are in for a wild ride! Having not read book 1, I do feel like I missed some important aspects of the story, but that is a problem that can easily be remedied. I would definitely recommend reading this series in order, as I’m sure it is easier to understand the magical world if you learn about it as the main characters do, rather than starting halfway through the story.

The magical world itself in this book is one I have not come across elsewhere. It is a very original world of potions, spells, and creatures that captures your attention. The language used, and the mystery itself in this book, is perfectly suited to the age group this book is targeted towards. If I had read this book at age 12, I know I would’ve loved it. Having said that, I actually read this book as an adult, and I still greatly enjoyed reading it! It is not over simplified for children, so while it is suitable for a younger audience to read, it is also perfect for those outside of the targeted age range. 

I loved the way Sharron, Wally, and Chip are portrayed. They are powerful, and incredibly smart, but they are still children. Chip, as the youngest, often comes out with new words that he has just learnt, and although they know what they are doing, they are often held back by their age. The adults around them take measures to ensure they are safe, but this often comes across as the grown ups trying to hold them back. This can be seen from both perspectives when reading, and I’m sure different aged readers would see things differently. While reading, as a ‘grown up’ myself, I saw three children trying to take on an adult’s role, but not having the necessary tools to actually move forwards themselves. It does portray an important message, that even though you might know how to do something, needing a little help is not something to be afraid of. 

The mystery in this book is one that definitely keeps you guessing as you read. With mythical creatures, and the infusion of myths and legends into the story, the twists and turns the story takes are plenty to keep your attention hooked. I read this book in one sitting, and I can see plenty of avid young readers absolutely adoring this series. This book really reminded me of The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence, but with the added sparkle of a magical world and mythical creatures that the three must combat or befriend.

There are several mentions of the children having suffered violence in the past, as they went through different social systems after the deaths of their parents, and the children do face danger during the book, but the violence in the scenes is mild, and none of the children themselves are hurt at any point.

This is a wonderful book for children, or young teens, who enjoy mystery books, or have a love for magical stories. It also makes a great quick read for those adults who like to sit back with a simpler story. If magic and mysteries are your thing, this is the series for you!

Saturday 13 May 2023

Book Review — Stalin's Door by John St. Clair

Stalin's Door
By John St. Clair

In the dangerous time of Russia’s Great Terror, a knock on the door late at night could mean only one thing!

Moscow, 1937. 

As mortal fear engulfs the capital city, a singular man cements his lethal grip of absolute power over an entire nation. Accusations, mass arrests, executions, and deportations become de rigueur. Stalin’s cult of personality is so fearsome, that even a simple question could get you killed—or worse. Stalin’s dreaded secret police, the NKVD, would pit neighbor against neighbor in the insatiable hunt for the spies and saboteurs which threaten the supreme leader’s tyranny. The crisis will irrecoverably overwhelm the body politic—just on the eve of World War II!

Stalin’s Door is the unforgettable story of three extraordinary individuals who lived during the time of Russia’s Great Terror. They share a terrible fate which will forever intertwine their lives. Zhenya is the strong young daughter of an important government official, who is growing up fast in a privileged government enclave. Sava is a devoted husband, unceremoniously dismissed from the Soviet Navy, who considers a new opportunity. Lera is a wise grandmother who bears a crucial responsibility, while forced into exile in the outland of Siberia.

All will discover the heinous secret of Stalin’s Door!

Zhenya is a young girl when her father receives a promotion and her family moves to an apartment in the House on the Embankment. There are some strange things about the place, like the fact that the furniture is nailed to the floor, but Zhenya doesn’t care about things like that. Instead, she focuses on her friendship with Zina and working at being the best Young Pioneer she possibly could. 

Sara’s career came to an abrupt end when he was dismissed from the Soviet Navy, but another option presented itself. To join the NKVD would be a big change, but it was an opportunity that had been presented to him, and his choices seemed limited. With his wife, Lera, he finds himself moving to the House on the Embankment, and his duties are something he could not have foreseen.

Lera is a supporting wife to Sara, following where his career change takes him. When circumstances change, she is the one to step up and take control, and she excels at it. Thinking quickly under pressure is a skill that proves useful, but there are some things you simply could not think your way out of. 

Three different people, all tied together in one way or another. This book tells all three stories, and slowly, brings the characters together. It does not, however, flip back and forth between the characters. We begin with Zhenya, until Sara takes over the story. At a point, Lera then takes it over. The change in characters is prevalent, for Zhenya is very young for the majority of this novel, and there are things that would not have made sense, or been explained, without the perspective of an older generation, one who understood the workings of the world, and who had knowledge Zhenya did not.

I was unaware of what the title, Stalin’s Door, actually referred to when I picked up this book. While I studied this time period for a history exam, my studies were of vague details, spanning a wide time period, and I did not go in-depth to certain subjects or years. I had never heard of the House on the Embankment before, and I only had a vague sense of knowledge about some of the parts of this novel. This did not hinder my reading at all. You do not have to know Russian history to enjoy this novel, for the author explains everything wonderfully. You can easily read this book and come away with more knowledge than you had before. 

I adored Zhenya and Lera, for they were both wonderful characters. Sara’s perspective is, unfortunately, not as long as Zhenya’s or Lera’s, so we did not get as much time to properly get to know him in this book. Both Zhenya and Lera are incredibly brave, especially considering everything that happens to them both. The House on the Embankment seems to be the beginning for all the characters, and once they have lived there, their story really begins. I do not want to talk too much about some of the aspects of this novel, as I would be giving away too much of the story to even bring some things up, but the author has made this time period come back to life. You feel like you are in Russia yourself, alongside these characters. Another thing is that the events that occur in this novel actually happened, and people went through these things. To think about it, about people suffering as some do in this book, is enough to bring tears to your eyes, and make you feel incredibly thankful for even just the basic necessities of life.

Something I really liked was that things such as Russian names were written as they would actually be used. People did not simply have their first name and then their surname, they were addressed differently in different circumstances, and by different people. While I do not wholly understand it (there is an author’s note at the beginning explaining it, but I was too excited to start reading to actually study it properly) it wasn’t too difficult to keep up, and I always knew who was being addressed, even if I didn’t properly know the intricacies of the names. This is a detail that I am happy was included, as it immerses you in the story even more.

If you have any interest in Russian history at all, this is a book you should read! It puts you in the story, so you can watch the events happen, rather than simply reading about it. I read this book two weeks after buying it, but I wish I had started reading it straight away, because then I would have had two extra weeks of having read this fabulous book!

Review by Ellie Yarde

John St. Clair 

John St. Clair started his career as a novelist after spending 25 years battling fraud and abuse in the cyber realm.

John St. Clair lives with his wife in the northern Virginia suburbs. Stalin's Door is his debut novel.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Book Review – Do You Ship Us by Claire Rosalind

Do You Ship Us
By Claire Rosalind

Jasper Reid is everything his fans of The Obsolete want him to be. Whether it's for the dance-y pop songs he writes, his flirty and mischievous onstage persona, or the masterful way he plays along with the fans' ships, he's the perfect performer. On the verge of turning twenty-one, in what's expected to be the next boy band phenomenon, his life could not get any better.

Until he meets Ryan, an irresistibly attractive dancer, who is added out of the blue to their vocal band. Jasper is quick to call bullshit on the manager's reason for this addition, but even quicker to accidentally flirt with their new member.

This close to the band's success, Jasper's pissed to be the one vocally training this dancing liability. Between Jasper's outspoken nature and Ryan's anxiety, tensions rise. When a plan to improve Ryan's confidence backfires, putting the spotlight on something Jasper's been ignoring all his life, truths come to light.

Can Jasper let himself get swept up in his own real-life, convoluted, fanfic love story while protecting Ryan from the negatives of fame, uncovering the real reason their manager added him, and saving the band? Or will a photo scandal throw everything out in favor of some satisfyingly petty revenge?

CW: this book features an on page suicidal panic attack, discussions of previous suicide attempt, discussions of emotional manipulation, and instances of sexual coercion. 

Grab a copy HERE!

Jasper is one of the main reasons The Obsolete has so many fans shipping the band members. He flirts just to rile up the fans, and they love him for it. But, when a new band member is dropped on them without any prior warning, Jasper is quick to question their manager’s true motives, especially since the new member, Ryan, is a dancer, not a singer.

Ryan doesn’t fit into the band immediately, especially since the rest of the band members have already formed friendships, and he finds it difficult to get any of them, in particular Jasper, to accept him as a member. But when Jasper is forced to help train him, and get his singing up to scratch, Jasper and Ryan find themselves spending more and more time around each other, and the fans are quick to come up with a new favourite ship – but what if, this time, it wasn’t fictional?

I absolutely loved both Jasper and Ryan, and following their growing relationship. In particular, I enjoyed following Jasper as he slowly came to the realisation of what exactly he felt. Jasper had been brought up in a very religious household, and pushed towards a relationship with a woman he feels absolutely nothing for. But when Ryan comes along, something changes, and he starts to wonder whether he might’ve been gay all along. Jasper really struggles coming to terms with his sexuality, mostly because he is scared that the other band members won’t accept him, and that he will lose his friends. Fear such as this is certainly saddening to read about, but Ryan is next to Jasper every step of the way, to support him, and to, slowly, fall in love with him.

There is plenty of depth to this story outside of just Jasper and Ryan’s relationship. The band find themselves facing legal issues with their contracts, as their manager scrounges every last penny he can out of the band without giving them any of it. This thread of the story was particularly interesting to follow, as the band become aware of just what their contracts contain, and try to work their way around some of the clauses that seem to simply box them in. I must say, I absolutely hated their manager, Chris. I don’t think I could’ve hated a character more. He is simply vile, using blackmail against the band members to get what he wants, and having absolutely no care about the actual members of the band. He causes so much emotional damage, simply for his own monetary gain. He is an absolutely vile man, and my hatred for him is a testament for how well his character was written. Like Jasper, I would absolutely love to punch him in the face!

I will admit, it did take me a while to properly get into this book. I spent the first few chapters slightly confused, as things jumped around a little and there wasn’t much explanation as to who the characters were. However, once I figured out who the characters were, things made infinitely more sense, and by the halfway point, I couldn’t put the book down. In fact, I fell asleep reading it, because I didn’t want to put it down to go to bed.

There are a lot of mental health matters covered in this book, and I do like that the trigger warnings are in the blurb, so you can be aware of what you will find within this book before you decide to read it. Ryan in particular suffers a lot in this book, and there are some scenes that are very difficult to read, so do be prepared going into this book that these scenes are very distressing. I truly felt for Ryan, he has already gone through so much before the events covered in this book, and he goes through plenty more during the book. He is a character I really wanted to give a big hug to.

Even though he isn’t particularly a ‘main’ character, I think Blake really stole the show in this book. He is incredibly humorous, as well as amazingly supportive of his friends. He and Jasper are great friends, and while Ryan may be someone that Jasper needs, Blake is also important to Jasper, but purely as friends, nothing more. He is always ready to drop things to be there for Jasper, and offers support and consolation when needed, as well as simply being around to crack some jokes and cheer everyone up. I think everyone needs a friend like Blake!

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is the start of a very promising series, and I can’t wait to follow The Obsolete as their story continues throughout the series. If you are a fan of celebrity romances, drama, scandals, slow burn romance, and powerful friendships, this is absolutely the book for you!

Claire is a drinker of tea. Lover of music. Writer of love, and shipper of ships. She’s a small-town girl living in Australia, with a lot of dreams and a busy life. If she’s not writing, listening to music, or drinking tea, check her pulse and send her to hospital. If she’s already at the hospital, she’s at work, leave her alone.

Sunday 7 May 2023

#BookReview - Culloden: Blood on the Moor by Joshua C Wells #HistoricalFiction #Scotland


Blood on the Moor
By Joshua C Wells

Publication Date: 30th September 2022
Publisher: Austin Macauley
Page Length: 254 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

As Bonnie Prince Charlie lands in Scotland, intent on regaining the British crown for the Stuarts, Gregor, a young, ostracised Highlander, has fallen in with a gang of murderous outlaws, whose actions lead him ever closer to a date with the hangman…

Meanwhile, Flora, a young, beautiful Scottish girl, finds herself visited by a ghostly and sinister hag, who wishes to involve her in the fate of the prince.

Both Gregor and Flora find the paths of their lives dramatically altered by the Bonnie Prince, and their futures dependent on the success or failure of the Jacobite rebellion. Futures which would ultimately be decided at the battle of Culloden…

**Spoiler Allert!** 

"The world is a complicated place...And there is nothing more complicated than the scheming of kings and princes."

The standard of Charles Edward Stuart has been raised, and it is only a matter of time before the clans flock to his cause. Charles is determined to claim his birthright—he is convinced that God is on his side. He just needs to convince the clans that he will lead them to victory, that he will lead them to glory.

The historical detailing of this story has to be commended, and it is backed up by confident research. The hours that Wells has dedicated to researching this period of history shine through in the enthralling, although often harrowing, narrative. I think it is fair to say that Wells has an almost visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading, and once started, I found myself reading this book well into the night. 

Bonnie Prince Charlie, is a name that, for anyone interested in Scottish history, is instantly recognisable. Wells has portrayed him as a man who is steadfast in his belief that it is his destiny, his right, to be crowned king, and not just of Scotland. He wants everything, he wants to restore the Stuart monarchy, and this makes him a very interesting historical character, and I thought Wells did a remarkable job in breathing life back into him. Likewise, I enjoyed following Gregor's story. I thought the contrast between Charles and Gregor's story gave this novel an added touch of time and place. It was really interesting to read about the man who was giving the orders and the one who was obeying them.

As this story progresses, the reader witnesses, first-hand, the breakdown between Charles and Lord Murray. I thought the relationship between these two men was fascinating. Charles refuses to listen to wise counsel, preferring to listen to men who say what he wants to hear. His arrogance, his almost delusional belief that God was on his side, and that he would succeed even when the odds were stacked against him was wonderfully depicted. I thought this relationship breakdown between Charles and Murray was beautifully portrayed and it really gives the reader an insight into the final days of the Jacobite Rebellion and it shines a light on the needless, countless deaths of men who should not have been asked to engage with a far superior force in a place such as Culloden where the terrain was not in their favour. It was a case of lambs being sent to slaughter, yet knowing they were being sent to the slaughter. I thought the battle of Culloden came across as not only harrowing but also chaotic. Charles, when he sees what is happening, what he has caused, falls into an unresponsive stupor and I could not help but feel sorrow, not for Charles, but for what he did, how many he was willing to sacrifice before he realised that the game was up. While he fled, Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland gave no quarter and I think that was one of the hardest parts to read because there was no forgiveness, the rebellion wasn't just doused, it was put to the sword, and all those lives that were lost were for nothing in the end. I think Wells did a really good job of portraying the senseless slaughter.

Culloden: Blood on the Moor is an immensely readable novel. You do not have to know anything about the Jacobite Rebellion to enjoy this story, for everything is explained and explored in explicit detail. The book is very battle-heavy, which is of no surprise considering the topic, but I thought the author brought a humanly emotional touch to the characters that made this story immensely enjoyable, even when the subject was quite dark in the telling.

There is no doubt that this book is a work of flawless historical scholarship. It is also a thrilling read that keeps the reader turning those pages until that final full stop. This is the kind of book that deserves not only a place on your bookshelf, but it is also one that demands to be read again and again. It is an impressively dramatic story and one that I cannot praise enough.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde 


Joshua C Wells lives in the south-west of England. His interest in military history has led him to writing novels based upon historic military campaigns.