Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Gold Diggers’ by Wilkie Martin

The third novel in Wilkie Martin’s Unhuman urban fantasy mystery series is just as entertaining and intriguing as the first and second.

‘Inspector Hobbes and the Gold Diggers’ delivers another riotous mystery story while at the same time taking a more personal turn for both Inspector Hobbes and his sidekick, Andy. 

As always, Martin’s witty writing is highly entertaining and as engaging as the story itself.

This quirky and fun read provides yet another great escape from reality. 

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.

Audiobook Review: ‘The Blue Moon Caper. A Damien Dickens Mystery’ by Phyllis Entis

‘The Blue Moon Caper’ is a the fifth of the Damien Dickens mystery  novel/audiobook series. 

Like the earlier instalments in the series, the book does stand alone, but will deliver spoilers for the previous books. There is definite continuity, but also some new characters and settings, and some great twists, that help to keep the ongoing story interesting and engaging.

Tom Lennon’s narration is well paced and entertaining, making excellent use of voice and accent to differentiate between characters and animate and narrative. 

Book Review: ‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ by Wilkie Martin

The sequel to Inspector Hobbes and the Blood, this is the second book in Wilkie Martin’s Unhuman urban fantasy mystery series.

‘Inspector Hobbes and the Curse’ delivers an intriguing and unpredictable mystery story featuring the hapless Andy and the unflappable Inspector Hobbes as they investigate the circumstances of a wild animal killing a local farmer’s sheep. 

Of course, nothing is as straightforward as it might otherwise be, so the story develops into a much more complicated and unexpectedly bizarre case than either Hobbes or Andy are expecting. 

Martin’s writing is witty and easy to read, characterised by a lighthearted tone that is enriched by word play and “dad-joke humour”, and balanced by macabre scenes and some really lovely poignant moments. The story is very engaging, and carries the reader along at a very comfortable pace.

This quirky and fun read provides a great escape for the duration of the book, and the series is proving to be most enjoyable. 

Book Review: ‘Sorceress of the Sapphire Part 1’ by S.E. Turner

This book tells two stories: the first, a quest to restore justice and balance,  and the second, a thread that draws together the strands of narrative from the first five books in the series. Together, these stories become a complete, complex high fantasy tale of the battle between good and evil for control of the Kingdom of Durundal.

It is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series in order to fully enjoy this one, although they are  all well worth reading.

While some of the characters  from the preceding books in the series continue in this one,  the central characters are of the next generation,  adding a sense of freshness at the same time as achieving very effective continuity in the series as a whole.

Reminiscences from some of the older characters provide part of the backstory, but they are not sufficient to deliver any major spoilers forecasters who might want to revisit previous instalments in the series.  This is evidence of how cleverly the author has crafted and woven an intricate story full of adventure, danger, and deep, powerful magic.

Book Review: ‘The Silent Shield’ by Jeff Wheeler

The fifth book in The Kingfountain Series, ‘The Silent Shield’ is another wonderful foray into the kingdom of Ceredigion and the conflict that threatened to consume the surrounding lands. 

The continued story of Tryneowy Kiskaddon is personal and compelling, enchanting in both plot and the language used to tell the story and depict the places in which it takes place. 

A young woman of strength and integrity, Tryneowy is an admirable character that readers can respect, a role model for equality and embracing one’s abilities despite the judgement and expectations of others. 

Readers who have not read the previous books in this series will find this to be a complete story on its own, and thoroughly enjoyable as such. 

Those reader would, however, be better advised to start at the beginning of this outstanding series, simply because it is so immensely enjoyable. 

The Mansfield Trilogy

Lona Manning’s historical romance novel ‘A Contrary Wind’ is an excellent variation on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and now stands as the first book in The Mansfield Trilogy. 

‘A Contrary Wind’ is not new to this blog: the book was awarded a Gold Acorn review in January 2019, and won a silver award in the annual Golden Squirrel Awards in the same year. 

That a second and third book have been written to follow and further develop Fanny’s story will delight all who have read the first instalment in the series.

This is a series that even devoted fans of Jane Austen will enjoy for its consistency with the language and style of Austen, even though the story does divert from that of Mansfield Park and follow its own original path. 

What other reviewers have said about ‘A Contrary Wind’:

“…Excellent.. it’s a novel which certainly deserves a place on the bookshelves of a Jane Austen fan.” — Jane Austen Centre, Bath

“Manning …. emulates Austen’s writing style so well that she often seamlessly incorporates exact passages from the original into her narrative…. Many try to emulate Austen; not all succeed. Here, Manning triumphs.” BlueInk Review Starred Review

“Highly recommend it. Extremely well written, extremely clever, the way she incorporated details from the original Mansfield Park.” — First Impressions podcast

“Brava to Lona Manning for her thoughtful twists and skillful execution in this variation. This story was in no way predictable and it kept me guessing almost until the end!….   – Meredith Esparza, Austenesque Reviews

“A Contrary Wind is well-written, keeping close to the style of Austen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I never lost interest and enjoyed the occasional comic relief.”  — Historical Novel Society

Book Review: ‘A Moth in the Flames’ by S.E. Turner

When the reader first meets Sansara, it quickly becomes evident that she is a powerful young woman with a destiny to fulfil, but they can not predict how she might achieve that mission, nor what her role will be in the resolvution of the mysteries and complications of earlier storylines. 

The way in which the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and this instalment is seen to fit neatly into the broader narrative leaves readers who have followed the series as a whole with deep satisfaction. The conclusion of the book is well executed, and yet it does not feel like a complete ending: there is  a sense that there is more to come, and that there is a new generation of adventurers, warriors and leaders to come. 

The fifth book in The Kingdom of Durundal fantasy series, ‘A Moth In The Flames’ stands on its own as a very good fantasy story, full of mystery, adventure, magic and challenge. While first-time visitors to the Kingdom of Durundal will be able to infer the assumed knowledge needed to give this story its own integrity and resolution, returning readers will bring with them the deeper understandings and knowledge that will enable them to draw more meaning from the conversations and explanations between characters that reference the events and characters of the previous books in the series. 

So, while readers of fantasy are sure to enjoy this book on its own, my recommendation would be to start with book one and enjoy the richness of the bigger story, so that Sansara’s story is enjoyed in its entirety. 

Book Review: ’13 Ways to Midnight’ Book 2 by Rue Volley

In this sequel to ‘13Ways To Midnight’, Echo’s story continues as she tries to realign her priorities and build her life in Port Royal. 

Readers will find Echo to be realistically flawed and conflicted, but also admirable in the way she seeks to maintain her personal ethics and integrity. She is a character who challenges readers to consider right from wrong, and to understand that ones actions, even the ones considered to be minor, can have unexpected consequences that still need to be reconciled. 

The story is original and unpredictable, keeping the reader guessing and building a sense of anticipation. The story is very appealing for Young Adult readers, with sufficient complexity and interest to engage wider audiences, too.

’13 Ways to Midnight’ is proving to be an excellent series.