J C Edwards

Author  ~  Book Reviews ~ Manuscript Critiques

Book Review by J C Edwards

March 10, 2014


 Gilded Wagons, by F E Wharmby


Kindle Edition

Publisher: Gingernut Books Ltd (1 Nov 2013)


Book Description:


The year is 1790. Tired of pushing a large wooden barrow containing his possessions,
the Romani Gypsy Culvato Ardry daydreams that one day he will have enough money to own a horse-drawn vardo (a Gypsy caravan). His other ambition is to establish a travelling fair with various children’s rides and daring acrobatic performers.  Follow the Romani family through troubles, stolen babies, murder and rescues to find out how Culvato and his wife Ursula make their dreams come true with their own travelling fair.

My Review:


I was given an e-copy of Gilded Wagons in return for an honest review.  I have to say that I was drawn into the story and bonded with the characters right from the beginning, and continued to be engrossed by this book until the very end.


The characters and gypsy culture are well researched and believable. F E Wharmby's picturesque descriptions and historical weavings in her intriguing tale of gypsy life in latter 1700s England is both compelling and accurate. I was fascinated to learn about how these people lived and the struggles and persecution they faced. What most of us know of gypsy life is just surface detail, mostly from people who are un-knowledgeable, or  prejudiced against the earthy and simple way of life of these nomadic peoples - Wharmby offers so much more insight into their daily lives; the gypsy 'honour code' and fierce pride of the Romany people.


It didn't take long for me to become enmeshed in the tumultuous lives of these Romany families and their tribe, empathizing with Culvato and Ursulla and disturbed over the actions of Culvato's brother Tawno and his subservient and struggling wife, Synfye. Wharmby effortlessly wove tension, humour and romance throughout her work, each page and chapter knitting seamlessly into the next in this very well-written book. Without giving out any spoilers, let me just say that I was thoroughly delighted with the ending of the story, and was almost disappointed that it had to end.


I would definitely recommend "Gilded Wagons", by F E Wharmby to readers without hesitation, and give this excellent novel a 4.5 star rating out of 5.


Mystery, Ink:  Mystery Heir, by Staci Troilo

Publisher: Goldminds Publishing, 2013


I won a signed paperback copy of this delightful book by Staci Troilo in a blog tour giveaway and offered to give it an honest review when I'd finished reading it.


Mystery Heir is a light-hearted mystery starring twin siblings Naomi and Penelope Dotson with numerous plot twists and complicated situations usually brought on by the young women themselves. 


It didn't take me long before I was charmed, amused and invested in the lives of the blunt, impetuous Naomi and the slightly more reserved fashionista, Penelope.  Learning that the twin sisters were orphaned made me sympathize with them immediately; and I loved that they were both photographers, well-versed in the martial arts and could take care of themselves ... when they weren't landing themselves in hot water!


I liked Staci's character treatment of Naomi and Penelope; she stayed away from the trite and cliché "twins" syndrome, developing each character to be unique and believable in behavior and dialogue.  I thought they were perfect foils for each other, and especially appreciated the humor sprinkled liberally throughout the book.


Mystery Heir has a solid concept; the plot twists were intriguing and well developed, and all was tied up neatly in the end.  The fact that I correctly guessed, "whodunit" long before the ending did not take away from my enjoyment of this well-written book, and I would certainly recommend Mystery Heir to readers who enjoy books in the light mystery genre.  I give this book a solid 4-star rating and thumbs up for a thoroughly enjoyable read.






Pathways to Illumination, by Christy Birmingham

Publisher:  Redmund Productions, 2013

Pathways to Illumination, the debut poetry book by Canadian author Christy Birmingham, is the story of the author’s long journey to freedom from a toxic relationship, domestic abuse, depression and low self-esteem.  Her courage and inner light, combined with a fierce independent spirit lead her into counselling, reflection, self-discovery and ultimately, illumination.

The poems are edgy and soul-searching, and filled with contemporary imagery and sophisticated metaphors that are as poetically delicious as her delectable blog, Poetic Parfait. Christy is a realist and a survivor; and in this incredible collection pens an emotional message of struggle, redemption and hope that so many of us can relate to and learn from.

There are more incredible poems and individual stanzas in this book than are possible to mention; here are just a few that struck me most powerfully:


Sink to the Gravel Bottom -  “I feel like a rock thrown to sea, Without allowance for a moment to Jump across the waves.  My mind sinks to the gravel bottom to Fester with the other stones of your past.”

Watercolors on my Cheek (one of my favorite poems) – “I still question when the pink pill and my paintbrush grew To the sharp point that they were unable to manage me, and When I aged to become a wet watercolor print Without a frame or a hope, unable to Paint a word for help or a smile for myself.”

My Legacy Wilting – “My legacy is looking for masking tape To use to cover the holes In my bank account and in my heart, After your scissors cut Intricate designs for days at a time.”

Lost and Needs a Home – “You may think I’ve lost it, But really, I just realized where my home really is.”

Soul of Sand (another of my favorites) – “If my soul is made of sand, I hope that the shores stretch for miles With pebbles that remind me of my strength and Footprints that Speak freely about my journey.”

Christy’s poems are as amazing as she is. Her words are powerful expressions of her journey to discover her authentic self.  I could relate to so many of her poems that had  me reflecting on my own struggles. Some made me cry; others had me cheering for her. All of them were beautifully, skilfully written words of hope and encouragement to inspire the reader to discover their own pathway to illumination – knowing they are not alone in their journey.

I give Pathways to Illumination a 5-Star Rating, and would not hesitate to recommend it to fans of the genre; and to readers on their own path to self-illumination.





The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, by Paulette Mahurin

I loved this book, and as I read, had difficulty believing this is Paulette Mahurin’s debut novel because of the maturity of the writing and the way the story flowed so easily from beginning to end. I was intrigued by the book description and delighted when I won an ebook copy during a blog tour of Paulette’s The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap.

This book is about two women, Mildred and Edra, who are cousins and lovers living in a small Nevada town in 1895 and the impact on their small-minded community of the news of Oscar Wilde, who was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. It’s also a story of prejudice and intolerance against any form or display of individualism in personality, appearance or lifestyle, and the painful persecution of and fear instilled in those who lived outside the ‘norm’ of acceptable societal values of the time.

Paulette’s writing style emphasizes the hypocrisy of the town’s leading citizens compared to the lives and relationship of Mildred and Edra, who simply want to live a happy, loving life together. I found myself drawn into the characters of the book, into their lives and rooting for Mildred­ ‑ eventually being won over by Charley and Gus as well. Paulette took me on an emotional roller coaster of feelings: compassion, anger, sorrow, anxiety and indignation; and in the end, the satisfaction of knowing that love and friendship can bring great strength and healing.

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap invites us to question our own core values, to search our deepest, darkest places where intolerance and prejudice may take root and color the way we see and treat others different from ourselves. It imprints on our minds and souls the wounds inflicted on those of different faiths, cultures, social standing and personal belief systems; and invites us to celebrate our diversities and honor each other as unique individuals.

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is a wonderful book that asks us to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts, and is well-deserving of its critical acclaim and a 5-Star Rating.

All profits from Paulette Mahurin’s book are going to Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, the first and only no-kill shelter in Ventura County, CA. For further information please contact the author on Facebook.


[email protected]

Concrete Promises, by Charles Banks, Jr.  Writing as Curiosity

Charles’ new chapbook collection of poetry drew me in at the very beginning with the poignant and romantic opening quote:

“I have counted the days, the dawns and the dusks since we last embraced. And I will count the hours, the minutes, and the seconds until we embrace again.” – Curiosity

From the tender, “Not Just Yet” to the poignancy of “A Lovely Winter”, to the seductive notes of “Her Voice, The Gentle Spring Rain”, this is a truly romantic chapbook of poetry with a decidedly masculine flair.

While I enjoyed reading all the poems in this collection, these lines from “Tender Letter” really stood out to me as being particularly exceptional, and I loved the imagery Charles conjured up with his words:  “I cross out misguided words and catchy phrases … That need not apply”; and “I ball up pieces of fallen trees … And shoot bricks at the waste basket”.

When reading this unique collection of poems I could easily imagine the words being spoken aloud by a man to the woman he loves. This would make a lovely and romantic gift for any woman; a keepsake of poems to be treasured. This Chapbook of Poetry is the first installment in the Spilt Ink Poetry Collection

Spilt Ink Poetry Blog:  http://spiltinkpoetry.wordpress.com
Facebook Page:  “Spilt Ink Poetry” 

Email: [email protected]

Deadlier … Than The Male by D Michelle Gent, published by Gingernut Books Ltd.

I’m going to start off right away by saying that I loved this book, and can’t wait to read the others in the series. To borrow a phrase I saw bandied around the other night, it’s ‘unputdownable’.

Deadlier … is about werewolves; werewolf families in a werewolf society. I like this excerpt from the back cover: “You think you know your neighbours, your town and your surroundings; but everyone has a secret, some are darker than others. Hide in plain sight. Keep everyone in the dark; give nothing away. Leave no witnesses. There are the rules governing a society that exists within our own.” And when I first opened the book, I was delighted to find a poem written by Rudyard Kipling, The Female of the Species. A chilling and appropriate introduction that had my spine tingling before I even got to the first chapter.

Michelle’s book is highly entertaining; her characters well-rounded and believable. Red, the main character, is strong physically, intellectually and emotionally—and yet, has a vulnerability that is extremely appealing. All her characters, no matter how they are placed in importance, have been given similar treatment, respecting their own strengths and foibles. The book has been well-researched, and the plotlines are excellently laid out.

There is strong language throughout Deadlier …, and graphic violence; thus, this is not a book I would recommend for the younger set. This is a more sophisticated write, that would definitely be enjoyed by more mature teens to adults, however, and I give it a full five stars in all categories. A must-read book for all who read this genre, Michelle’s, Deadlier … than the male, does not disappoint, and is absolutely ‘unputdownable’.


Also check out Michelle’s other books on her Amazon Author Page:


Cruel … And Unusual by D Michelle Gent, published by Gingernut Books Ltd

Cruel…And Unusual is the second novel in Michelle’s highly acclaimed Werewolf series, following Deadlier…Than The Male.  After reading Cruel … I’m a huge fan of Michelle’s unique, well-researched approach to her novels and action-packed writing style. I love the way her mind works!

There are many theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper, the serial murderer of Whitechapel. Myths perpetuated by the press, and the fact that he was never caught, have created huge speculation that romanticizes the mystery of the notorious killer even today. Michelle’s telling of the story in Cruel…And Unusual, is a chillingly plausible version, made even more believable by the author’s brilliant interweaving of fact and fiction.

Michelle’s characters are entirely credible, each having their own complex individuality; her location descriptions authentic, and action scenes spell-binding. I also appreciated the  introduction of the Native American Indian Keme into Red’s saga, which brings an additional stimulating and intriguing perspective and depth to the intricate layers of Werewolf lore in this excellently penned book.

There is strong language throughout Cruel …, and graphic violence; thus, this is not a book for the faint-hearted, nor would I recommend it for the younger set. However, this sophisticated write would definitely appeal to more mature teens to adults, and I give it a full five stars in all categories. Michelle’s, Cruel … And Unusual, is guaranteed to thrill you— and chill you— right down to your very toes.


Check out all of Michelle’s books on her Amazon Author Page: