Penshaw by LJ Ross

Penshaw by LJ Ross
Publisher: Dark Skies Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

When you sell your soul, the devil gives no refunds…

When an old man is burned alive in a sleepy ex-mining village, Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is called in to investigate. He soon discovers that, beneath the facade of a close-knit community, the burn from decades-old betrayal still smoulders. When everyone had a motive, can he unravel the secrets of the past before the killer strikes again?

Meanwhile, back at Northumbria CID, trouble is brewing with rumours of a mole in Ryan’s department. With everyone under suspicion, can he count on anybody but himself?

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

When an old man is burned alive in his small, village home DCI Ryan first things it should be a fairly simple case. Only he quickly discovers there is plenty of decades-old tension simmering just under the surface and a number of old grudges and betrayals that have never really been put to rest. Also, with a number of the police divisions merging together – lines are blurring, and DCI Ryan’s team are no longer exactly who is trustworthy and who might have sinister other agendas.

I found this to be an interesting and decently plotted police procedural type of mystery story. There is a bit of romance in the sidelines between some of the main characters – two sets of very well-established couples and Jack and Mel are trying to sort out will they or won’t they take that plunge. I found the two main mystery plots to be very well written and solid additions to the story but found myself a bit disappointed with the whole Jack/Mel situation. Without giving too much away I found them both to act a bit immaturely – with Mel throwing a number of Jack’s previous mistakes in his face during an argument and Jack knowing he was in a bit over his head and refusing to reach out to Frank or Ryan to even get their advice – let alone ask for help. While each problem is excusable, it really felt to me like they were both showing how immature and not sensible they were being, particularly considering the fact they’ve each been in similar situations before and clearly not learned anything from it. It soured me a little on them both which was a shame.

That said I thought the arson investigation was a solidly written plot and I enjoyed the way the author linked the small mining town back to the past and really captured the feeling of both the residents in a small village like that and the way wounds can fester over time. I also thought the tensions and inter-office conflict with a number of the various police forces coming together and needing to work together as a unit was exceptionally well handled. With so many different groups – all having worked in their own divisions and teams for so long – and so many different dynamics and ego’s all being crammed together and suddenly needing to share and co-exist the drama and issues really felt well-handled and realistic. It added a lot of conflict and drama to the interactions and story without feeling as if plot devices were being dragged around the regular team and dynamics and things being added just to create tension. I thought it was a good idea and will be interested to see how it unfolds in the next few books.

This is a good story with two solid plots. While I feel it could be picked up without the reader having read any of the previous books, I don’t feel this is a good book to try that with. Personally, I’d read at least a few of the previous installments as many of the characters, history and teamwork that so strongly ties them together would need some explanation prior to this story. Having at least some idea on how the team works together and a general grasp of their history together is fairly important to fully enjoy this story I feel. But it’s a great British mystery and police procedural style of plot and well worth the investment.

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa M.D. (Author), Ray Porter (Narrator)

Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa M.D. (Author), Ray Porter (Narrator)
Publisher: Hyperion (Print), Blackstone Audio, Inc. (Publisher)
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A remarkable cat. A special gift. A life-changing journey.

They thought he was just a cat. When Oscar arrived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island he was a cute little guy with attitude. He loved to stretch out in a puddle of sunlight and chase his tail until he was dizzy. Occasionally he consented to a scratch behind the ears, but only when it suited him. In other words, he was a typical cat. Or so it seemed. It wasn’t long before Oscar had created something of a stir. Apparently, this ordinary cat possesses an extraordinary gift: he knows instinctively when the end of life is near. Oscar is a welcome distraction for the residents of Steere House, many of whom are living with Alzheimer’s. But he never spends much time with them — until they are in their last hours. Then, as if this were his job, Oscar strides purposely into a patient’s room, curls up on the bed, and begins his vigil. Oscar provides comfort and companionship when people need him most. And his presence lets caregivers and loved ones know that it’s time to say good-bye. Oscar’s gift is a tender mercy. He teaches by example: embracing moments of life that so many of us shy away from. Making Rounds with Oscar is the story of an unusual cat, the patients he serves, their caregivers, and of one doctor who learned how to listen. Heartfelt, inspiring, and full of humor and pathos, this book allows readers to take a walk into a world rarely seen from the outside, a world we often misunderstand.

This is an unexpected gem – totally out of my comfort zone and yet one of the best accidental reads I’ve ever experienced.

The narrative style is smooth, well-paced and it included wonderful descriptives, dialogue, in-depth and heartfelt patient portrayals with insights, emotion, respect and warmth. Dr. David Dosa, an attending physician at Steere House, shares stories of his impressions as he went from skeptic to believer with regards to the amazing skills of Oscar, the resident cat. As far as I’m concerned, this novel is definitive in proving that animals have a special place in soothing and helping people when they are sick, in pain, or in Oscar’s case, providing comfort while signaling that death is imminent for a patient.

Dr. Dosa quoted this, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous” from a famous person. I liked that quote. I enjoyed watching the doctor slowly but surely come to the realization that Oscar really did have a special way of knowing. He comes to the conclusion that it’s not just for the patient, but for all the family going through the journey of watching their loved one being torn down by dementia or Alzheimer’s. One of the concepts is that the sufferers of the disease go through a process of un-learning everything, including even how to use a spoon. It’s a downward spiral that is unstoppable. I learned along with Dr. Dosa aspects of the disease process and how it affects the spouses left behind, their sons and daughters left behind, and the memories of who these people used to be before – just how much is lost. Yet, in the sharing, I saw amazing ways to deal with the loss, a different way to think, of little daily victories, and what is really the most important thing in life – slaving away to a deadline, a job, everything and anything other than our loved ones and family is NOT it – it’s that it IS our family and our loved ones that should be number one. When they’re gone, they’re gone and all the what-ifs, and If-onlys will only drag you down and follow you the rest of your life.

I was very affected by some of the patients’ stories. My aunt was in one of those situations described – sent to the hospital but the place she lived in would not allow her back. Where do you put a person suffering from severe dementia when they have no place to go – on the street? Hospitals don’t care. No one advises families about things like this. Doctors don’t share information people really need to know about in these situations. Not knowing how to care for your loved ones causes a distress you can’t imagine until you feel it yourself. It’s not good. Dr. Dosa shares advice in short vignettes woven throughout the novel. The most impactful was the story of Mr. and Mrs. Rubinstein. Ruth was the patient. The history of their relationship, where they met, and what happened to Frank later on when he tried to celebrate their wedding anniversary hit me in my tear ducts. There were many parts that affected my emotions throughout the book, but Ruth and Frank’s story got to me. I KNEW that scenario. A couple that used to go to our church could have been Ruth and Frank. The succession of final events happened the exact same way. I think that’s why Making Rounds with Oscar affected me so strongly – I could relate. After this book, I could understand in a way I hadn’t before. I found a lot of value within the pages of this novel and I feel like I’m better for having read it.

I also liked the descriptions of all the cats, not just Oscar. Their antics, their personalities – Munchie, Billy, and others, were enjoyable. Another cute line from the doctor is, “Calling a cat fickle is like saying snow’s wet.” I cracked up at that. I seriously believe that having the furry friends made the nursing home seem more homey. I hope there more geriatric centers like Steere House out there than not. There’s value in a purr.

Ray Porter, the narrator, provided wonderful interpretations of the main characters. He imbued the dialogue with emotion. His narrative of Dr. Dosa really seemed to get into the author’s head and convinced me I was listening to the good doctor. It was a joy to listen to and I think helped make the book that much more relatable than reading the print words alone.

There is a lot I could talk about because there is so much rich content, some of which I’d never heard of or considered. I truly believe that anyone facing the challenge of a family member suffering from the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia would benefit from the insights shared in this book based on Dr. Dosa’s experiences. It’s not depressing, it’s empowering. Yes, I cried quite a few times. But I laughed too. Just like life, there are ups and downs.

I really, really liked this book and I can’t tell you how strongly I recommend others to read Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. Its delivery is easy to read/listen to. It’s not dry at all; it’s engaging, interesting and entertainingly educational. I realize this book has been out for a while but it’s still relevant, and its message is as important now as the day it was published.

Fool Me Twice by JM Dalgliesh

Fool Me Twice by JM Dalgliesh
Publisher: Hamilton Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool Me Twice, shame on me…

When the body of a high-profile, semi-retired barrister is found brutally murdered at his Norfolk home, DI Tom Janssen and the team must work to uncover who killed him and why.

With a glittering career, spanning several decades representing the privileged and the wealthy, behind him the focus of the investigation inevitably turns toward cases and clients past and present, but was his death linked to his work or is there another, darker and far more sinister motive at play?

No matter how successful, privileged or elevated in society one person can be, one universal rule applies… we all bleed the same…

Set within the mysterious beauty of coastal Norfolk, this fast-paced British detective novel is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end when the final shocking twist is revealed.

DI Tom Janssen is called out to work a particularly brutal beating and murder of a little-known local barrister. With such a long career behind him and so few strong ties in the community it takes a while for Tom and his team to piece together what might have happened. But when another murder happens things become murkier, and the team can’t even be sure the two cases are linked until things finally begin to unwind.

I’ve been enjoying this series and while this book was a little slower in pace than I usually enjoy I have to admit I like that there was ample time spent with the various characters and allowing them to grow and flourish a little. This is not heavily action-based plot so readers looking for something fast paced or really thrilling might not find this satisfies them. That said I thought the plot was quite well thought out and well linked. I only put a few pieces of the puzzle together before it all started to unfurl in the last quarter of the book and while there were bits I did guess there was still plenty that caught me pleasantly by surprise.

I was especially pleased that Tom’s partner, Alice, and Alice’s young daughter played a strong – but not overwhelming – part in the story and I’m pleased they are both becoming more prominent in the series. I’m also keen to learn a bit more about Eric and his wife and young son – I feel there’s still plenty of growth and exploration that can happen with his character too.

Readers looking for a small-town type of coastal, British based mystery series should find this book really fits the bill. While it’s a little slow in paces the mystery moves well and is plot-heavy which I really enjoyed and even though this is well into the series I feel it can definitely be read as a standalone as the plot is quite independent and not linked to previous books. The team has a strong history, but they are all very well explained in my opinion, and I feel readers picking this up without having read any prior books should still thoroughly enjoy this story.

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Ruth Galloway uncovers the bones of what might be a notorious Victorian child murderess and a baby snatcher known as “The Childminder” threatens modern-day Norfolk in this irresistible mystery from Elly Griffiths.

The service of the Outcast Dead is held annually in Norwich, commemorating the bodies in the paupers’ graves. This year’s proceedings hold special interest for forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway, who has just unearthed the notorious Mother Hook, hanged in 1867 at Norwich Castle for killing multiple children. Now Ruth is reluctantly starring in a TV special, working alongside the alluring historian Dr. Frank Barker. Nearby, DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the case of three children found dead in their home when another child is abducted. A kidnapper dubbed the Childminder claims responsibility, but is the Childminder behind the deaths too? The team races to find out—and after a child close to everyone involved disappears, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

During a dig, forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway unearths a Victorian body which she strongly suspects is that of Jemima Green, a woman hung for the murder of five children. DCI Harry Neilson is investigating the recent death of a woman who lost her infant son – the third of her children who has died. During the investigation Ruth is drawn in and once again back to Harry.

I really enjoy the way this author and series merges together the history and archaeology of the British setting but meshes it so skillfully with the modern time and present day. While the two main plotlines are very well kept and fully explored during this book, I can’t help but feel the characters’ lives and interactions will be much better appreciated and have a stronger emotional link if the reader has followed along with at least a few of the previous book. While I do think a reader can pick up this story alone and thoroughly enjoy it a number of the links and threads binding the various characters will have a much deeper connection with some of that history known to the reader.

I was pleased that while the two cases – the historical story of Mother Hook/Jemima Green and the modern case – had a number of similarities and clearly played off each other, the two cases didn’t “just happen” to link up or connect. Sometimes I feel an author might try too hard to have everything dovetail in even if it’s not particularly realistic – I was really pleased that this time while there were obvious similarities they weren’t forced or merged, they were just showing how even though times change – people and circumstances don’t necessarily change much at all. I really enjoyed this.

I was very pleased with the progress and growth of a few characters and while I can see there might be some adjustment and settling needed in the future, I was very pleased with how the longer-term arc of the story between the characters is moving in this book. I feel many readers will be pleased with the movements made here.

A delightful book that blends history, archaeology and modern times very well and with what I feel is exceptional skill, this is a great mystery book.

Beyond The Point by Damien Boyd

Beyond The Point by Damien Boyd
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

DI Nick Dixon is on the hunt for a vicious serial killer, following a trail of fingerprints and DNA across west Somerset.

When the body of a young woman is found on the building site of a nuclear power station, work grinds to a halt. The body bears all the hallmarks of yet another random murder at the hands of the escaped killer. Then Dixon finds a motive.

Fighting for his place on the Major Investigation Team, he soon uncovers a family’s desperate search for the truth, exposing a web of corruption and death that will shake the billion pound construction project to its very foundations. But who can be trusted when so much money is at stake?

Can Dixon find the killer under intense pressure from the top of government? And can he do it before anyone else has to die?

With a dangerous criminal on the loose there’s no rest for DI Nick Dixon. Despite knowing exactly who they are after, Dixon and his team have had very little success in tracing him this last month. Until the bodies start being uncovered and Dixon finally catches the scent – and he knows his quarry isn’t so far away after all.

I’ve been enjoying this series and while I don’t feel this is one of the author’s strongest books it is a very solid and enjoyable read. The plot is extremely straight forward and while the killer is the same nemesis as the previous book in this series, the author explains everything very well – without those annoying, massive info-dumps – and I feel readers who haven’t read any of the previous installments can still be clear on the plot and enjoy the book.

I do feel that readers looking for a heavily action-based story or something with a deep mystery might not be as pleased with this story as others. The killer is known from the very beginning – though readers wanting a more “who dun it” style of book might start with Dead Lock, the previous book where they do the more traditional mystery solving. But this is more of a police procedural manhunt style of story.

I was impressed though that a lot of the conflict came from within the police force and team themselves – things like the power and political plays between the media and the bureaucracy and the more internal police issues. That was quite a bit of the conflict and tension found in this type of story. I also really appreciated how about halfway in the manhunt started to link around another aspect of the mystery and there was still a puzzle to solve and more traditional mystery case to solve. So that was a really enjoyable aspect to the story as well.

I was pleased both Nick and Jane had a good amount of time together – both working and personal – in this story and I am very happy with how both of their character arcs are coming along. Readers looking for lots of bombs and chase and action might not find this story fits their needs. For a realistic and character driven story with plenty of police procedure and enough questions and tension to push the plot along this was a good story and one I enjoyed.

Mirage by Shutao Liao

Mirage by Shutao Liao
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Poetry
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The poet found himself retreating to his own lodge as an observer after long tedious travel, writing down everything across his mind, to reveal a splendor of romantic emotions as well as a profound sense of beauty throughout the words between the lines.

An intimate journey to the kingdom of self salvation.

Change isn’t always easy, but it’s an unavoidable part of being alive.

I enjoyed the repetition of certain themes throughout this collection. For example, the speakers spent a lot of time talking about the circle of life and death and how what might seem to be a catastrophe in one moment can be interpreted very differently if a long term view of the problem is taken instead. Natural disasters were one example of this, and they made me think of how fire can look quite destructive for a prairie or a forest in one particular year but also be critical to the survival of that ecosystem decades or centuries from now. Finding patterns like these made it difficult for me to stop reading. I kept wanting to pick out more examples of what the author was talking about and connect everything together.

There were times when I struggled to understand what the author was trying to say. Poetry can be written in ways that can lead to multiple valid interpretations of the same text, of course, but I did find myself wishing that some of these passages were a little easier to comprehend. The writing style was so detailed that it saddened me to walk away from certain stanzas without fully figuring out what they were trying to share with the audience. If not for my confusion in those moments, I would have happily gone with a higher rating.

The references to the events of 2020 were an interesting surprise. I liked the way Mr. Liao discussed how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s lives to this day, from the tragedy of the countless deaths from this disease to the social isolation that all of us survivors have dealt with while trying to slow the spread of the virus. The poem after this one described the author washing his dusty soul for reasons I’ll leave other readers to discover for themselves, and I thought it was a pleasant way to wrap up a reference to something that is still such a major portion of everyone’s lives.

Mirage made me yearn for spring and the beginning of the next cycle of the seasons.

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini
Publisher: Paragon Publishing
Genre: Inspirational, Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

What would your response be to a group of small people, overlooking you,

to look at the masterpiece you’d lovingly made for them?

How would you feel by their admiration of your magnificent creation,

as they ignore your wonderfully creative hands?

Would you feel sad? Frustrated? Angry?

Imagine your relief when they leave your invisible side.

Picture your joy and gratitude with their replacement –

and appreciative group marvelling at your masterpiece,

undoubtedly produced by your love.

Would you feel glad,

grateful, relieved, believed,

like the Artist in this story felt?

The Artist’s Page by Debra Rufini is a wonderful children’s picture book that can be enjoyed with readers both young and old! Beautifully illustrated by Dina Kalo, this story tells of God’s love and His incredible gift. Rufini takes readers on a journey of looking at how different people might see of respond to this magnificent gift, and how sometimes they also choose to reject it.

This story is suitable, but the focus of the story might be slightly lost on younger children, and will have more meaning for those who read it more than once and over time.

I loved reading this story, and really felt it brought the story and lessons to life in a unique and beautiful way! Filled with creative imagery and enticing colors, The Artist’s Page is a pleasure to read!

Wilde Treasures by K.M. Fawcett

Wilde Treasures by K.M. Fawcett
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Rick McKinnon is on the hunt for booty…

…pirate booty, that is. With one week left to find the hidden trove before his mafia boss investor starts busting kneecaps, Rick discovers the location is inside a 200-year-old well on private property. Unfortunately, claustrophobic Rick gets stuck.

The last thing Willow Wilde needs after moving away from her thieving ex is to rescue a sexy hustler from her well. But when the fortune hunter offers a piece of buried treasure in exchange for her help, Willow gets swept into an adventure sure to solve her money woes and add to her man troubles. As long as she can guard against Rick’s sultry charms, she won’t get hurt again.

But the two aren’t the only ones searching for the lost loot, and rivals will stop at nothing to get the gold. It’s now a race against time as Rick and Willow chase a string of clues throughout the small town of Candlewood Falls. And to survive this dangerous game, they’ll have to learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts.

Oh, my goodness! Oh, my goodness! I have so much that I want to say. I started this book without any background. After I finished it, I did some research and discovered that I was the one who found the best treasure of all. I found a new series to escape into.

The “Dear Readers” note in the beginning of the book explains it all. Too bad I missed that page when I hastily started reading chapter one. In case you are an eager reader like me, let me tell you what it says. I don’t want you to miss it like I did. Wild Treasures is the fourth book in the Candlewood Falls series. (It can easily be read as a standalone.) “However, the end of one story doesn’t mean the end of your favorite characters. They can show up in any Candlewood Falls book at any time.” (That, folks, is my kind of series. Especially when I bond with the characters and hate to let them go when the story is over.) “Candlewood Falls is a unique world of connected stories by different authors whose characters, business, and events appear in each other’s stories.” (I’ve read one other series like this, and it is still my favorite. I sincerely will be checking out books one, two and three.) The “Dear Reader” note also says “Think of Candlewood Falls as a literary soap opera”.

Wilde Treasures is similar to my favorite movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Only set the movie in our modern times.

I was drawn into the story right away when I read the first paragraph. The leading man, Rick McKinnon, was love at first sight for me. He was sexy, smart and protective. He made me feel safe. The heroine, Willow Wilde, was spunky, smart and beautiful. When they were together, I could feel their chemistry sizzle off the pages.

I was thoroughly entertained, hunting for the treasure right along with Rick and Willow. Their bantering made me chuckle. The suspenseful parts made my heart race. Rick and Willow were both romantics at heart which I found heartwarming and endearing.

If you are looking for a swoon-worthy book, then I’d suggest this one. I’m still suffering from a book glow a day later. I’m ready to go on another treasure hunt with Rick and Willow.

This was my first K.M. Fawcett story, and it won’t be my last. I loved how her writing style brought the book to life. Like, I said, I’m the one that found the real treasure. Happy Reading!

Ryan’s Temptation by Amber Daulton

Ryan’s Temptation by Amber Daulton
Arresting Onyx Book 2.5
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Wrong place, wrong time. Now she’s running for her life.

Beautician Chanel Leroc can wield a pair of scissors like nobody’s business. After she witnesses a murder and lands on a serial killer’s hit list, she has to figure out how to protect herself—and fast. The killer tracks her down, but her sexy new neighbor, Dr. Ryan Naylor, drives the brute off.

The police dump the pair in a witness protection program, which doesn’t last long. Either the killer has a connection to the police, or he’s far more intelligent than they realize. All Chanel wants to do is get back to her safe life and get to know her neighbor better. Instead, she and Ryan hit the road and try to survive on their own.

How will they stay alive and keep their blooming romance intact with the killer hot on their trail?

I read the synopsis for Ryan’s Temptation and, no pun intended, I was tempted to read this book. LOL

If the synopsis didn’t arouse my attention, then the first sentence of the story surely did. “The piercing cry froze the blood in Chanel Leroc’s veins”.

Chanel is the heroine of the story. I am undecided if she’s brave or lacks common sense. Let’s think about it for a minute. Chanel hears a cry for help, and she asks herself, “What kind of person would that make me if I abandon someone who might be hurt?” I’d say that would make her a smart person. Chanel is a beauty beautician with no weapon. But does that stop her? Her choices wouldn’t be my choices, but it sure set up the suspense. What Chanel thinks next and what happens right after is the perfect setup for the story and plot. Chanel even meets her new neighbor in an unconventional way.

Needless to say, it didn’t matter to me at that point if Chanel was brave or stupid. Ryan is the new neighbor that Chanel couldn’t stop thinking about. Chanel can’t resist men with a cleft in their chin, or dimples. It’s remarkable that her new neighbor, Ryan Naylor, the hero in the story, has both. He is simply breathtaking.

If you like to watch the tv show “Criminal Minds” as I do, then this story might delight you as it did me. Ryan’s Temptation would make an entertaining episode for any of those crime solving police shows on tv. The plot is predictable as they come but I still rapidly turned the pages to solve the mystery. The romance was electrifying as much as the suspense was riveting. I couldn’t get to the end fast enough. Once I finished the book, I felt quite satisfied.

The story was well written as I read to find out “How will Chanel and Ryan stay alive and keep their blooming romance intact with the killer hot on their trail?”. This story is book 2.5 in a series but can be read as a standalone. If you are in the mood to raise your blood pressure either by a steamy romance or sitting on the edge of your seat, then this book might be a good choice for you. I’m glad I read it. Happy Reading!

Beyond Odin’s Gate by Greig Beck

Beyond Odin’s Gate by Greig Beck
The Mysterious Island: Book 2
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

The legend of Lemuria, the Mysterious Island, and all its wonders and dangers were all too real. And it has been found.

But the ancient stories of the great treasure and great horrors that existed through the ice rift and beyond Odin’s Gate, could never have prepared them what they discovered – monstrous creatures that lived in the sea, in the air, and on land. And now Troy Strom and Anne Walsh are trapped there amongst them.

But they have a plan, and if they can retrieve the Heart of Odin, the massive ruby, they can use it to escape. Until then they must learn to live on a primordial island amongst horrifying life forms that defy the normal rules of evolution. To survive they need to travel into the dragon’s lair, and there find the truth about the ancient dragon of myth and what it guards, and also discover the fate of the first Viking clan that set foot there and what they had become.

The legend of Lemuria – the Mysterious Island – has been discovered and the tales of adventure and monsters are all too real. Troy Strom and Anne Walsh are trapped down there, with the creatures and wonders. But if they can retrieve the Heart Of Odin – a massive ruby – it can be used by them to escape. Only their enemies – Elle and Tygo – are not far behind them, even more determined to once again have the Heart Of Odin in their hand, and this time they don’t plan to leave without it.

I found this to be an exciting action/adventure story, filled with paranormal and amazing creatures and monsters. I feel the story covers a number of genres, from Mystery to mild Horror, to Paranormal and Adventure. While it’s the second book in what I expect shall be a trilogy I do feel readers could pick it up and enjoy it without having read the previous installment. I strongly feel for maximum enjoyment the first book should have been read before this – but the plotline, characters and story arc is very well explained by the author so it isn’t strictly necessary. Equally, some new characters and plotlines are introduced here in this book so it adds a lot to the overall arc – that of Lemuria and the mysterious hidden island – and definitely nudges the reader towards interest and curiosity on what will happen in the final installment of the trilogy.

I really enjoyed the fact there were a number of new types of monsters (very hungry monsters) in this book and Beck really needs to be commended on his imagination. I found the monsters he created were realistic, scary and very easy to picture. The fact the monsters managed to eat a fair number of random characters was just a bonus for me. Readers who like monster/horror style of adventure novels should definitely feel Beck does justice to this genre in the book. I was found the book quite amusing/ironic that just as a number of parties were trying to find their way into Lemuria and find the Heart of Odin, equally there was Troy and Anne trying to find their way out. That situation tickled my funny bone.

Overall, I thought this was an exceptionally well written story – full of adventure, monsters, a few really solid plotlines and plenty of interesting characters. I definitely feel Beck is an excellent author and am eager for the final installment in this trilogy. The pace of the story was fast enough to keep me gripped to my seat but didn’t feel too rushed or like it skimmed over anything. There were a few plots interwoven together and as they’re all so clearly linked to the one larger story arc, I feel this helps give the whole book a good cohesion and feel as if we’re rollicking along on a crazy – and monster filled – adventure together. A great book and I’m very eager for the next one to come along.