October Book Reviews

I spent half of October in Hawaii, hiking volcanos and lounging on the beach with my nose in a book. I’m rested and ready for a month of frantic writing during NaNoWriMo.

And have I got some great books for you! Happy Reading.

October book reviews include my 4 and 5 star reads of poetry, fantasy, sci-fi, two anthologies, and a short story.

Click on the covers for Amazon global links.

*****

Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair

This collection of 15 short stories ranges from humorous and sentimental to haunting and sinister. Clair explores numerous themes of paranormal fiction: life after death, reincarnation, ghosts and monsters, spirit guardians, and there’s even a bunch of genies bamboozled by prim old Miss Lily. Some tales are full of action, some full of twists. In other words, there’s something here for everyone who enjoys wandering into speculative fiction.

Some of my favorites were:

Remembering Sadie – a burial with a twist.
Kin-Slayer – a monster fantasy by the sea.
Robin of Sherwood – a deftly written and super entertaining mashup blending medieval and futuristic details.
Desert White – a tale of guardian spirits and a search for redemption.
Mrs. Conway – an exquisitely written encounter. My favorite of the favorites.
Miss Lily makes a Wish – full of humor, immensely clever, and nothing like I’ve read before.
I’ve got a Plan – a haunted house tale for every entrepreneur.
Father’s Day – a paranormal story close to the author’s heart.

Now I’ve shared more than half of the book as personal favorites. Head over and pick up an entertaining book. Highly recommended to readers of paranormal short fiction.

*****

Fallout by Harmony Kent

This is a long book, but the pace is ripping fast and the story flew by. A thousand years in the future, a virus ravages the human population inhabiting the planet Exxon II. What’s left is a lawless world where survival is precarious, infection threatens, and aspects of technology don’t function as they used to. There’s also a cure contained in a lost vial. This becomes the driver of the story as various parties are out to find it and use it to increase their political power and control.

The plot is complex and the world-building fascinating with technology that seems realistic on one hand while it stretches boundaries on the other. The virus, for example, can induce various superpowers in the infected, and serums are capable of imparting knowledge. There are political factions and lots of maneuvering, crosses and double-crosses and, dare I say, triple-crosses. Things move so fast, it’s important to pay attention.

Many of the characters are self-serving and devious to the point of sociopathic, so readers are wise not to take them at their word. Sexual violence and sexual manipulation are prevalent among these characters. Though a few repent and try to turn their lives around, I never found them likeable based on their past choices. The exceptions are Priya and Kaleb. Though the main character Priya begins the story as naïve and helpless, her arc rapidly progresses, transforming her into a woman of power who never surrenders her innate goodness. Kaleb is a tragic figure, and he’s the one that pulled on my heart strings.

Readers who enjoy a deep dive into post-apocalyptic science fiction with a complex plot and a flawed cast will find Fallout a fast-paced and polished read. Enjoy. 

*****

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight book 2) by Katherine Arden

The first book in the Winternight trilogy captivated me, and I was eager to read the second. In this retelling of a Russian folk tale(s), Vasya has ridden away from her village on the back of Solovney, her magical horse. She dresses as a boy, determined to see the world and escape a culture where women lack choices. On her way south, she saves three children from bandits and flees with them to Moscow where she continues her charade… a day too long.

Old spirits of the land and hearth fill the story, magical creatures and beings that fade before the new religion that denies their reality. I loved how alive the invisible world is to Vasya, and the ill-fated love story with the Frost King feels almost sacred.

The setting and worldbuilding are mesmerizing, as are the characters. Main and secondary characters are emotional and often conflicted. Sacrifice, guilt, obligation, love, and the freedom to make one’s own choices are central themes. A steady undercurrent of tension keeps the pace moving and doesn’t let up until the explosive end. I’m looking forward to book 3. Highly recommended.

*****

Fable (Fable book 1) by Adrienne Young

I’d read several reviews praising this book and finally got around to reading it after letting it languish in my kindle for months. Honestly, by the time I finished chapter 3, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. As soon as I read the last page, I moved on to the second book in the duology.

The worldbuilding is rich but not overly laden with detail – there’s just enough to bring the setting to life. The story takes place on sailing ships. “Dredgers” harvest gems from the coral beds, and in this world, gems are the foundation of wealth and trade. While some get rich, dredgers like Fable, barely scrape by. It’s a brutal world for those without power, and no one gets a break.

Fable’s a survivor with a lot of emotional baggage, special talent, and fearless determination. But she’s all alone – abandoned by her father when her mother died. Then she finds a ship where she might have a chance to belong. And just when that dream seems to be coming true…

This book is a fast-paced adventure with memorable characters and a touch of romance. It’s a great set up for all the intrigue that unfolds in book 2 (which I already finished). Highly recommended to fantasy readers.

*****

Namesake (Fable book 2) by Adrienne Young

Namesake starts where book one left off. Fable’s dream of belonging to a crew falls prey to powerful people and their plots to control the world of shipping and gems. She has a solution, but it also puts her new companions in jeopardy. A chance at love makes her vulnerable to manipulation, and when things go wrong, she’ll give up everything to save her crew.

The pace picks up as the stakes increase, and the plot becomes more complex and twisty-turny than in the first book. A lot of surprising secrets, as well as hidden agendas, come to light as the story progresses. Fable has to take plenty of risks and not all of them work out in her favor or to the benefit of her crew. Nothing’s easy.

The action is non-stop, but character-driven readers will enjoy the distinct, emotionally rich personalities, the warmth and genuineness of Fable’s allies, and the impersonal avarice of those willing to use her to achieve their goals. A highly satisfying conclusion comes after a highly satisfying read. Definitely recommended.

*****

The Shadows We Breathe: An anthology of short fiction, edited by Sarah Brentyn

Full disclosure: I’m a contributor to this collection, but wanted to recognize the talent of the other authors whose work is included within these pages.

Shadows we Breathe opens with a stunning flash piece by Ali Isaac. Her story feels scraped and raw and personal, a deep dive into the emotional wreckage and redemption of love. I think I held my breath through the entire read, hanging on every word, completely immersed in the dark and light of the relationship she describes. It’s so beautiful it hurts.

Then the book moves on to an exquisite flash story by Sarah Brentyn… then Georgia Bell and onward to Reena Dobson, Allie Potts, Maria Carvalho, and Mary Smith. I’m truly humbled (and intimidated) to be included among this amazing line-up of talent.

The theme of the flash stories (500 words), micro stories (50 words), and micro-bursts (10 words) is relationships. Sarah Brentyn’s introduction describes them as tales “beautifully painted and edged with darkness.” That darkness is deeply human, often hidden, and in this book, thoroughly compelling. Highly recommended to readers of flash fiction who want to feel stories in their hearts and bones.,

*****

The Moons of Autumn: A Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse, First Edition

(Full disclosure: I have 3 poems in this one too.)

The first Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse invited poets to submit poems around the theme of the Harvest Moon. If you love poems about the moon, you’ll find a plethora of verse among the pages to entrance, haunt, and raise a sigh or smile.

The range of forms is impressive – 18 in total – and the poems are organized by type. Each section begins with a description of the form: number of lines and syllable count, as well as the original focus of the poetic form if there is one (nature or love or human foibles, for example). In this way, the journal is instructive while offering a collection of beautiful poetry.

With approximately 75 poems in the collection, I didn’t make a list of favorites, but the editors chose three “Best of Issue” poems. Below is a Haibun Idyll a combination of prose and haiku.

Moon’s Magic
By D. L. Finn

A lone black cat sits on the edge of the world, under the harvest moon. Her green eyes reflect the celestial beams, and her fur absorbs the stars. She rubs against the night’s promise, and its magic fills her soul.

our perceived shackles
released in nature’s healing
under the moonbeams

*****

Breathless: A Short Story by Yvette M. Calleiro

Silena is a maid with a crush on her employer, the wealthy playboy William. When he ridicules her, she uses magic to make herself young and beautiful. William falls for her, but at the last moment, Silena changes her mind. Instead of having sex with him, she curses him. It’s a curse with an unexpected twist that neither of them will escape. This short story is a quick 1/2 hour read and a great way to fill some free time. Recommended to adult readers who enjoy a touch of magic and a whole lot of karma.

*****

Happy Reading!

215 thoughts on “October Book Reviews

  1. Resa says:

    Lots of praise here! I know you only review 4 & 5’s so it’s expected.
    I did chuckle in the review of “Things Old and Forgotten” 15 stories.
    You picked a few of your faves. You chose 8 0f 15…. over half. Lol!

    Now, I want to turn the table. What do you think is the best book you’ve written? Why?

    Liked by 1 person

    • First of all, thanks for stopping by and checking out the reviews. Lots of great reads here.

      And what a hard question! Probably my most technically adept book is the Ferryman and the Sea Witch because I had the most experience when I wrote it. But there are other books that I think back on fondly because I loved a character (Soul Swallowers), or the magic system (Sunweilder), or the humor (The Sorcerer’s Garden). See what I mean? They’re all my children and I love them equally. Hehe ❤ Hugs.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Chel Owens says:

    If I haven’t said it before, I will again: I strive to be like you some day. You are so supportive of the writing community, plus an excellent author yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Khushi Garg says:

    Seems like you had a relaxing vacation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Shadows We Breathe is on my TBR list and now I want to move it up! These all look like must-reads, thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for the reviews I am saving your post for when I need something new to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Diana, that must have been a sublime vacation. I’m so glad you got to do that. I’m sorry to be late. I could have sworn I had checked your blog since this post went live… but it’s a treat now. Kudos on “The Shadows We Breathe”. Thanks for bringing it and all these other terrific reads to our attention. Congrats to all the authors. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by, Teagan, and for the comment on The Shadows We Breathe. Sarah did a wonderful job pulling it together. I had a lovely vacation and will share some photos and haiku tomorrow. Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. myrelar says:

    I like the books: Fable (Fable book 1) by Adrienne Young and Namesake (Fable book 2) by Adrienne Young.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, Diana. These all sound good. My TBR list just grew:) Thanks for sharing.
    I thoroughly enjoyed Moons.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sooo glad you had a great trip Diana and welcome back. Good for you and I’m about to follow in your footsteps for 10 days! I tell you that went fast but you never fail to amaze me with all of your great reviews of books read.
    OMG I am in awe to be in a finalist with you for Gabriella’s contest. Congratulations to you which comes as no surprise my friend. big hugs and love and best run and pack! 💖💖

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for your review, Diana. I feel honored to be among so many great reads. I appreciate you taking the time to write the review and share it. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow this is so intriguing 💚💚 I must say,you really are an adventurous person Mr Wallace Peach… keep it up

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Diana, a lovely selection of books and I enjoyed your reviews. I have read quite a few of these, finishing Mae’s new book just yesterday.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. arlene says:

    Hello Diana, these are lovely book reviews. So nice to see you again.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jeff Flesch says:

    Agree with everyone. Wonderful reviews, Diana. I’ve not read a piece of function in some time, and the series by Katherine Arden looks and reads as amazing. First book in the series will be on order. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. dgkaye says:

    I love and look forward to your book reviews Diana. I have Mae’s and Sarah’s book and thanks for the new introductions to others. Harmony’s book sounds magnificent. And I’m glad you enjoyed Yvette’s short story, which I have a feeling you were curious to read after my review two weeks ago, lol. Us writers are the best promoters for books, lol. And oh, a bit jealous you jaunted off to Hawaii. Good for you! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks for sharing this opportunity

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for these wonderful reviews Diana. You are all lucky to have your support.
    xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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