Book Review: 'Webley and the World Machine' by Zachary Chopchinski

The byline of ‘Webley and the World Machine’  promises “a steampunk adventure full of sass and snark” which is a very good indication of what the reader will experience in this book. The adventures of Adal and Arija make for a highly original and entertaining read. 

Adal and Arija are typical teens, each with passions and interests that motivate them, both unfailingly loyal and committed to one another as best friends. The story takes them on a journey that challenges their resilience and their individual understandings of life as they have always known it and, at the same time, strengthens and transforms their friendship. They are people that young adult readers will relate to in many ways, including their experiences of life and of other people who are not so easy to get along with, the priorities they hold, and the way they speak and interact with one another. 

The intricate and multi-textured world building in this novel is testament to the immense imagination and creativity of the author and adds a lot of interesting sensory detail to the story. The settings, characters and creatures are brought to life vividly, and the story is very well paced. 

In short, there is absolutely nothing that is boring or mundane about this book. 

Book Review: 'The Mistress of Pennington's' by Rachel Brimble

Set in the early years of the 20th century amidst the campaign of the Suffragette movement and aa growing awareness of the inequality of women in a “man’s world”, the story of Elizabeth Pennington’s struggle to be acknowledged as an equal by her father is one that captures the challenges and frustrations of the generations of women who worked together to change the way the western world operated. More than a hundred years after the events that frame the story, in a world that has changed so much and yet seems to have progressed so little at the same time, readers can still be inspired and challenged by the commitment and aspirations of Elizabeth and other characters in this book. 

Magnificent and luxurious, the eliteness of Pennington’s department store in Bath and the exclusivity of its clientele provide Elizabeth both enormous opportunity and significant frustration as she fights to bring the business into a new century and to make it increasingly relevant to a rapidly changing society. 

Through Elizabeth’s experiences as businesswoman, daughter, lover and friend, the reader is confronted with a number of issues that women faced, often finding them insurmountable, and thus gains a clearer understanding of why so many women fought so hard to achieve greater equality— not just the right to vote, but also to be treated with respect, to be able to make their own decisions, and to overcome all sorts of deeply-ingrained discrimination that plagued them. 

Even though Elizabeth is of a much higher social class than most of the readers, she is relatable and believable in her frustrations and responses to the society in which she lives. The cast of characters are realistic and believable, presenting a fair representation and cross-section of the working and upper classes that existed in society at the time. 

While there is some adult content, making it suitable for an adult audience only, this is a most enjoyable work of historical fiction that it well worth reading. 

Book Review: ’The Shadows of Miss Pring’ by K.E. Fraser

They say you should never make assumptions about people, and it’s certainly true of the titular character of this book. There is a lot more to Miss Eleanora Pring than meets the eye, which makes for a most entertaining read. Miss Pring is an absolutely delightful character with a snarky sense of humour and a wicked talent with a set of knitting needles. 

Part cozy mystery, part adventure, part suspense, this is a really fun story with some great surprises and twists. The story is set in Adelaide, Australia, providing some nice local content and offering a laconic kind of humour that is typically Australian.

It also delivers some great lessons along the way: one should not assume older people don’t know more than they let on, and never, ever underestimate little old ladies. 

‘The Shadows of Miss Pring’ is a most enjoyable mystery read. 

Book Review: ‘The Last Temptations of Iago Wick’ by Jennifer Rainey

This is the first of two books thus far in the ‘Wick and Lovelace’ steampunk/gaslamp fiction series, although both Iago Wick and Dante Lovelace both also appear in ‘Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen’.

Similar to life for a tempter such as Iago Wick, this book is never dull. Mystery, adventure, temptation and danger combine to provide a well paced, very entertaining read that hooks the reader early and proceeds to charm them into feeling far more empathy for a demon than most would be willing to consider wise. 

Iago and Dante are delightfully devilish, giving the reader an insight into how demons might go about distracting and tempting humans while at the same time being thoroughly charming and polite. 

The writing is fluent and witty, vividly bringing to life the Victorian-esque city of Marlowe, Massachusetts, and the spectrum of characters who live there. This is a story laced with dark humour and keen insight into what makes people tick, making it both very readable and deeply fascinating. 

Overall, it’s a fabulously wicked and highly recommended read.

New Release: 'Slick Filth' by Erato

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed ’The Cut of the Clothes’ by Erato, it is a pleasure to be able to introduce the author’s new release. 

‘Slick Filth: A Story of Robert Walpole and Henry Giffard, to Which is Appended the Farce of The Golden Rump’ by Erato is a story of satire, assassination attempts, politics and censorship in 18th century England.

“Sir Robert had composed the most seditious, disgusting, obscene, shameful thing I had ever seen.”

It’s 1737 and England is on edge: someone has tried to assassinate the king at the theatre, and every stageplay is a satire of the royal family. Enter Prime Minister Robert Walpole with a cunning scheme that will grant him power to censor anything that goes on stage — by writing the filthiest play ever conceived. All he needs to pull it off is a patsy, which he finds in Henry Giffard, the proprietor of the theatre at Goodman’s Fields. But will Giffard cooperate with the Prime Minister’s plan, or will obscenity and satire be allowed to overrun the British stage?

Based on true events, Slick Filth includes a recreation of the notorious play The Golden Rump, which so offended Parliament that new censorship laws were enacted for the first time in England’s history. The book is typeset in historical fonts, making you feel like you’ve been pulled back in time to watch the drama unfold first-hand.

Available in hardcover only, this book is more than just a book but an art project of itself, set in 18th century type with added “errors” for the sake of both authenticity and humour. 

Book Review: 'My Dream Woman' by C.H. Clepitt

While many people may insist that they wish their dreams really would come true, this story reminds the reader that it might not always be a good thing. ‘My Dream Woman’ is a heartwarming, entertaining and quite fantastic tale of the power of dreams in the lives and destinies of those who have them. 

The author has created a quite brilliant concept with the Guild of Dream Warriors and in doing so has opened up a whole new realm of potential for contemporary fantasy— one which the author has deftly and confidently made her own with the mystical and mysterious collection of characters who populate this story. Of course, nothing is perfect, and therein lies the complication that sets the plot of this delightful tale in motion. 

The story is written in a familiar and relaxed tone that makes the reader feel as if they have known Andi, the central character, for much longer than just the time they’ve been reading. The story rolls on at a good pace, at some times lighthearted and amusing, and at other times suspenseful and intriguing, but always delivering twists that keep both the reader and the characters curious and engaged. 

Once again, Cleiptt has produced a highly original and quirky story that has far more depth and meaning to it than just mere entertainment. As the assumptions, fears and instincts of the characters are explored, so are those of the reader, revealing truths that challenge the way in which one understands their own responses to life and the different people with whom we share it. 

There is some adult content, so it’s not a book for younger readers, but it is a positive and empowering read that promotes understanding of different perspectives and orientations. 

Having found so much to enjoy in this novella, it is very exciting to know there are two more books in the Guild of Dream Warriors series. 

Short Story Review: ‘The House That Evil Made’ by Sarah Northwood

A dark and suspenseful story in which foreboding builds gradually until the truths underlying the story are revealed. 

This story is evocatively written in a way that draws the reader into the life and mind of the central character as the innocence and natural curiosity of childhood are discarded and replaced by the bleakness of hindsight and the passion of revenge. 

‘The House That Evil Made’ is a 10-15 minute read that can be enjoyed over a coffee break or in a few spare minutes, providing a quick but satisfying escape to the reader’s day.