Book Review: ‘Newcomer’ Elmwick Academy Book 1 by Emilia Zeeland

This first book in the Elmwick Academy series delivers a refreshing change to the “you’re a witch, here’s a wand, there’s a school of magic” trope that has become so popular. It’s an excellent  and highly original YA paranormal story that is engaging and interesting for YA and older readers alike.

‘Newcomer’ introduces Cami O’Brien, a 16 year old who faces a unique challenge: she already knows what her legacy and powers are, but she must learn to control and use them before they destroy her and everyone she cares about.

This is not just a story of challenge and magic, but also one of friendship and loyalty among unlikely allies.

Elmwick seems to be a town like any other, yet it is populated by a unique mix of people who reflect both their individual qualities and their family histories in their actions and motivations.

The writing is excellent and the story moves at a good pace. The story is unpredictable and exciting, delivering some most intriguing twists. The book finishes with sufficient resolution to be satisfying while leaving some questions to be answered in the next book in the series.

New Release: ‘Then and There Here and Where’ – Orabella the Oracle Saga Book 1

Then and There, Here and Where is a new release YA novel by Esabella Strickland which has appeared #1 on Amazon’s hot new release list. 

The main character of the book; Orabella has a learning disability while learning to become a heroine. Esabella’s goal is to have girls feel connected and empowered by Orabella. The story presents positive values for teens, including powerful messages about individuality, bullying and making good choices.

Fresh out of middle school, 12-year-old Orabella thought the worst of her worries would be choosing between going to high school and being homeschooled—between sticking with her friends or being free from the bullying she receives because of her learning disability. But she soon discovers that the world she knew, school included, isn’t what it seems. An eerie encounter with a mysterious raven during the Summer Solstice Festival—and the sudden disappearance of her parents soon after—forces her to move in with her grandparents, where strange occurrences happen more and more often. When Oreballa stumbles upon a family secret with roots in Ancient Egypt, she’s thrust into a world of ancient spirits, time-traveling, and, most importantly, the Tree of Life, a spiritual entity that maintains the stability of the entire universe.Newly aware of her true destiny, Orabella must learn to shed her self-doubt and insecurities surrounding her learning disability and adjust to her new role as a protector of humanity and the Tree of Life against the mischievous spirit, Iblis, and his forces of darkness in order to keep the universe in balance and find her parents.

Find out more about this book and its author at www.orabellatheoracle.com

Book Review: ‘Gone Witching’ Witches of Runesbury Book 1 by Mirren Hogan

The first book in the Witches of Runesbury series featuring Scarlett Oliver, this is an excellent read.

This book offers a fresh and highly original combination of elements that are very popular among readers, yet have been made the author’s own with a unique setting, characters and storyline that are most intriguing and entertaining.

The book is very well written, and hard to put down once started. The narrative develops steadily and delivers some great twists that ensure the story is unpredictable and exciting.

Runesbury is populated by a variety of well-developed and complex character, some of whom the reader is clearly meant to love, and others who are obviously meant to be disliked and distrusted. There are some cleverly tailored red herrings amongst them for good measure, and they certainly help to keep the reader guessing.

All in all, this is a most enjoyable book and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Audiobook Review: ‘Ice and Embers’ by Melanie Karsak

What a magnificent tale! Subtitled ‘Steampunk Snow Queen’ this was far, far more than a fairy tale retelling. It is a complex blend of Gaslamp fantasy, mystery, historical romance, and Shakespearean theatre that enchants and encompasses the audience, drawing them into the story and behind the scenes until there is no desire to escape. 

The cast of characters is a varied and colourful as in any piece of theatre, their features, costumes and voices full of colour, texture and depth. Individually, they are lifelike and realistic; together, they generate a level of energy and drama that  makes the audience feel as though they are right there in the scenes and events of the story. 

A magical blend of beautiful writing and flawless narration, Ice and Embers is a masterpiece of storytelling. 

Book Review: ‘Kip and the Grinders’ Hall of Doors Book 2 by Zachary Chopchinski

The sequel to ‘Webley and the World Machine’ in Zachary Chopchinski’s Hall of Doors Steampunk adventure series  is an action-packed, highly entertaining adventure story that features Adal, Arija and their friend Kip, a Dweller of Webley’s World Machine. 

This story is set in Taraveil, another of the worlds that lie beyond the doors in Webley’s Hall of Doors. Once again, Chopchinski’s world building is complex and detailed, full of fascinating technology and diverse, colourful characters. Rich sensory detail adds texture and dimension to the various settings and environments in the book, complementing the action, characters and complications of the story.

Snarky and confident, Adal and Arija meet their matches in Ypsilon and her Grinder compatriots. Through conflict, danger and the formation of unlikely alliances, the integrity and loyalty of each of the central characters is tested as the story progresses.

Just like Adal and Arija, Ypsilon, Sasha, Van and Masa are characters that young adult readers will relate to. They are strong and flawed, passionate and vulnerable, smart mouthed and profoundly loyal to their own.

Chopchinski’s writing is edgy and descriptive, in keeping with the story and the world in which it is set. The story moves at a good pace, keeping the reader and their imagination fully engaged.

‘Kip and the Grinders’ is fast paced, distinctly original steampunk fiction that demands to be finished once started.

Audiobook Review: Dragon School Books 1-5 by Sarah K.L. Wilson

‘Dragon School’ is outstanding YA fantasy adventure featuring Amel Leafbrought, a teenage girl beginning her career as a  dragon rider. 

Despite significant physical and social challenges, Amel demonstrates determination, integrity and resilience, presenting a really good role model for young people who often confront obstacles of one kind or another in achieving their goals. Her discovery of abilities that others do not have is a powerful element of Amel’s narrative, and serves as a strong encouragement for others who experience physical disabilities or limitations. 

Amel’s experiences of other people, whether peers, teachers or dragons, demonstrate important lessons about the importance of careful discernment about who should be trusted, and about the true nature of friendship. 

This series is highly original and well constructed. The story progresses at a very good pace, with plenty of adventure balanced by reflection and the development of friendships and connections between characters. The imagery is colourful and detailed, the characters diverse and varied, and the complications and problems they face are compelling. 

The world building is unique and interesting, featuring complex and thought-provoking social systems, detailed and thoughtful architecture, and geography quite unique to this world. 

The narration by Jigisha Patel, is clear and fluent, with excellent diction and expression, although there are a couple of minor errors. Her use of voice and tone to develop character and deliver the narrative results in a compelling story that is as engaging and enjoyable as Wilson’s writing. 

While there  are more episodes to follow, this audiobook ends with sufficient resolution to satisfy the audience, and a tantalising promise of more adventure to come.

Book Review: ‘The Malan Witch’ by Catherine Cavendish

‘The Malan Witch’ is a haunting story of old magic, retribution and superstition, filled with tension and suspense.

The writing is powerful, full of symbolism and dark imagery that captures the imagination and takes hold of the pit of the reader’s stomach.The tone becomes darker and increasingly urgent as the story unfolds.

This is a gripping read and an absolute page-turner, suitable for Young Adult and older audiences.

Book Review: ‘Autumncrow’ by Cameron Chaney

‘Autumncrow’ is a collection of stories set in the spookiest town in America, telling of its past and some of its quite varied and interesting residents. 

The town of Autumncrow resembles any other small town in many ways, and the people who live there are completely normal people — except, perhaps, for the fact that they acknowledge their monsters and accept their fears more openly than most of us are willing to do. 

The stories are loosely interwoven, ranging from the deeply unsettling to the macabre and horrifying. Each tale is a well-written narrative characterized by a dark undercurrent that creates shadows and nuances that become bigger and bolder at night. Some of the imagery is regular Halloween fare, while other elements are more sinister. 

‘Autumncrow’ is a most enjoyable work of macabre storytelling, suitable for young adults and older readers.  

Book Review: ‘The High Priest’s Daughter’ by Katie Cross

The third book in The Network Series of fantasy books for Young Adult readers, ‘The High Priest’s Daughter ’ is an action packed, suspenseful read that is very hard to put down once started. 

The characters, plot, settings and cultures  are highly original and well-crafted. This is a compelling tale of a battle between the powers of evil that threaten to destroy the world of Antebellum, and those who refuse to yield to the darkness. The story delivers tension and adrenaline in equal measure, and there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing. 

This book and the series to which it belongs have a magic of their own that readers of magical fantasy will find most appealing. Highly recommended for YA and older readers. 

Book Review: ‘Cirque De Slay’ by CeeCee James

This is an entertaining mystery full of all the sights, sounds and intrigue of the circus. Trixie is a likable young woman with integrity despite her obscure past, and her natural curiosity and honesty make her a great amateur investigator.

With a cast of colourful characters in vibrantly drawn settings, the story unfolds at a good pace, delivering lots of intrigue and plenty of possible suspects to keep the reader guessing.

Appropriate for YA readers and older, this book is sure to have wide appeal.