Book Review: ‘The Day I Saw The Hummingbird’ by Paulette Mahurin

This book held definite appeal to me as I have long admired the work of Harriet Tubman and all those who worked to liberate slaves and help them to freedom. ‘The Day I Saw The Hummingbird’ immerses the reader in the life and experiences of Oscar Mercer, born into slavery in a sugar plantation in Louisiana in the years preceding the American Civil War. 

Oscar’s story is heartbreaking, terrifying and inspiring as the author positions the reader as an eyewitness to the tragedies, but also the courage and kindness, experienced by Oscar as he grows to understand that compassion is as powerful as hatred, and that wisdom and loyalty are qualities that should be as highly prized as one’s own freedom.

This story is beautifully told, with evocative language and vivid imagery that causes the reader to develop deep empathy not only for Oscar but also for all others in similar positions. The story also highlights a truth that is often overlooked: even in the deep south, there were many white people opposed to slavery or, at the very least, opposed to the cruelty with which so many were treated. Indeed, a broad range of human responses to slavery are depicted in the actions of different characters in this book, showing that it is one’s individual choices and personal ethics that set one person apart from another in terms of character and integrity, and that it is both possible and imperative to stand up for what is right rather than settle for convenient wrongs.

This is an important story that everyone should read in their lifetime, and which should be in personal bookshelves and library collections alongside ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. 

Book Review: ‘Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe’ by Richard Dee

Andorra and her best friend Cy are fabulous as the lead characters in this entertaining science fiction mystery story that takes place on a space station operating on the rings of Saturn. 

Dee writes with a natural and relaxed style, infused with humour and observant  insight into human behaviour and responses. 

The story itself is well-crafted, immersing the reader in the station’s community and keeping them guessing with well-executed twists and clever diversions woven seamlessly into the plot. 

The world building is original and complex, opening the reader’s imagination to the vast possibilities of life beyond our own world.

The cast of characters and their individual personalities, quirks and motivations remind the reader that people are the same wherever you go, which is why the premise and assumptions of the story work so well. 

This is a most enjoyable read that will appeal to lovers of sci-fi and murder mysteries alike.

Book Review: ‘13 Ways to Midnight’ by Rue Volley

Echo Navarri thought she was exchanging an unusual life with her parents for a more settled life with her aunt in Port Royal. She also thought that paranormal creatures were fictional. She was wrong on both counts. 

Echo is a teenager with whom the reader quickly develops empathy, developing the understanding that one can be flawed and ideal, weak and strong, and perfectly imperfect all at the same time. Her experiences of family, love, loss, friendship and self-esteem are relatable for readers, while her determination, confidence, loyalty and honesty about herself and others make her a character that readers can admire and respect. Her introversion, awkwardness and bookishness make a refreshing change from the ‘social butterfly’ or ‘fairy tale princess’ style heroines who seem so popular. 

Supported by her friends and her aunt, Echo navigates her way through a story that is engaging and interesting, full of challenges and change, punctuated by failures and victories along the way. 

The story is well crafted and well-written, with some great surprises and unpredictable twists. The characters, settings, and plot combine to deliver a book that holds strong appeal to Young Adult and paranormal romance readers. 

13 Ways to Midnight’ is an excellent opening to a four book series which this reader is keen to enjoy. 

Book Review: ‘Red Ink: A Darkworld Tale’ by T.D. McIntosh and Nancy Uliano

Macabre and unsettling, this psychological thriller seems disjointed and strangely sequenced until the strands of the story start to pull together.

That which at first appears to be gratuitous splatter for spaltter’s sake turns out to be far more complex psychological horror brought about by a deadly combination of individual volition and a dark power that cannot be explained. 

The reader is shocked and disoriented by the twists and turns, just as the characters are, feeling as though the story lurches from one disturbing and not-quite-fully developed scene to the next without sufficient resolution. As the story begins to gel, and the seemingly unrelated events all start to lead to the climax of the story, the reader begins to realise that this was an entirely deliberate and quite complex strategy, designed to emotionally immerse the reader in the confusion and fear evoked by both the actions of the antagonists and the experiences of the victims. 

Gory and unpredictable, this is a dark and disturbing read. 

Book Review: ‘Annabelle’ by Elexis Bell

In this book, two distinct narratives unfold: what Annabelle does, and what drives her to do it. 

The storytelling is intuitive, drawing on the reader’s instincts and assumed knowledge to build empathy and understanding with Annabelle and to evoke anger, grief and sorrow not just for her suffering and pain, but rather for that of all who have suffered in similar ways. 

The story is very well written, boldly narrated by the character from whom it takes its title. Annabelle is a young woman who displays tenacity, conviction, and a desire for justice that proves, as it so often does, to be a far more powerful motivator than self-preservation.

While this book delivers an important and timely story that needs to be told and understood, it does contain some scenes of violence and of sexual assault, so it is not suitable for young readers, nor for readers whose own trauma may be triggered by that content. 

Like Annabelle herself, this is a story that points the finger directly at not only the perpetrators, bit also those who enable and protect them with their silence, and demands justice for their transgressions. 

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.