Book of the Week: ‘Naji and the Mystery of the Dig’ by Vahid Imani

Naji andthe mystery of the dig is the highly engaging tale of a day in the life of Naji,an eight year old girl growing up in Persia. Author Vahid Imani has crafted a book which is sure to hold the interest of young readers while offering a rare and enchanting glimpse into the fascinating culture of Persia.  
Children’s Literary Classics

There’s a deep, dark hole in Naji’s yard and it’s full of secrets. But will the girl’s curiosity lead her to answers, or disaster?  

When Naji wakes to a strange sound she discovers a group of workers digging a hole just outside her room. Filled with intrigue, she wonders what they’ll find at the bottom. Sleeping monsters? Skeletons and curses? Her father warns her to stay away. The worksite is no place for a child, and if she isn’t careful, she’ll be snatched up by a Looloo; mythical creatures that lurk in the shadows.

Summoning her courage, Naji decides to investigate—until a terrible event leaves the whole neighborhood panicking. Have the terrifying Looloos struck again? As it turns out, the answer is far more surprising than Naji and her father could ever imagine.  

Based on a true story, this award-winning middle-grade chapter book includes a glossary, study projects, and discussion questions. Join Naji on a suspense-filled exploration of Persian culture and folklore as she learns that sometimes, the best adventures are waiting right under your nose.

Winner of a Gold award in 2015 from The Children’s Literary Classics.
Winner of 2015 Best In Category: Cultural Issues Preteen from The Children’s Literary Classics.
Winner of 2015 Best In Category: Best First Chapter Book from The Children’s Literary Classics.

Find out more about Naji and the Mystery of the Dig at 
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About the Author

Vahid Imani was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, and made the United States his home in 1979. Coming from an old civilization, he is fascinated by ancient cultures and archeology. He earned a master’s degree from Gonzaga University’s School of Business, Spokane Washington, in 1980. An enthusiast of fine art, he has been creating music, poetry and stories since he was seven years old. He is father of three children and grandfather of three (so far). Currently, when he is not dreaming about his next book, he is teaching music and classical guitar to children of all ages.

Reader Reviews: 

Great kids book
A wonderful book! A charming story that introduces readers to the Persian culture. The study guide in the back of the book adds the educational aspect of this mystery novel. I highly recommend this book for every child’s bookshelf. 
Kellie Henkel 5.0 out of 5 stars 
Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2021


Great book for third grade
I teach third grade. After my students read an opening Reading unit with a couple of tales from Aladdin, this book was a perfect Real Aloud for students after lunch. They really enjoyed the aspect of the ‘mystery’ and the tales of Naji, an eight year old girl from mid 20th century Persia. It was fascinating and culturally rich with wonderful sensory imagery. My students are looking forward to a sequel. I really enjoyed the book myself and it presents a wonderful slice of city life in Tehran 80 years ago.
Gilson 5.0 out of 5 stars 
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2020

Book Review: ‘Nix Alba: Vita In Morte: A Snow White Vampire Novelette’ by Lanie Goodell

The much beloved fairy tale of Snow White gets a cold, dark twist in this paranormal reinvention by Lanie Goodell. Many elements of the story remain the same, although the reader experiences a heightened sense of sinister suspense as Snow’s true nature is revealed to the reader.

This is definitely not the Disney or children’s storybook version of the story, harking back to the macabre intensity of the fairy tale’s earliest form while adding additional original twists to the tale.

Comfortably read in under an hour, this story was both interesting and darkly entertaining without being too mentally demanding.

Book Review: ‘Severn’ by S.E. Turner

Although ‘Severn’ is book 9 in The Kingdom of Durundal series, there is absolutely nothing repetitive or predictable about this book. The author has cleverly and covertly woven discreet threads of the earlier narrative into this story, concealing the intricacy of the narrative until the story carries the reader to the well-crafted moment of revelation in which the connections and relationships become clear and crystallise.

This is a tale of strength and survival, of brotherhood and friendship, and of death and destiny. Different narratives interweave and blend together, keeping the reader fully engaged in Severn’s story. It is an enthralling story which moves at an exciting pace and is very hard to put down once started.

The cast of characters are varied and vibrant, with powerful and relatable motivations and interests. The settings are portrayed so vividly that the reader can almost feel the snap of the wind in their face or the crackle of a fire as it burns.

Turner’s craft as an author is so finely honed that readers who are new to this series can easily read ‘Severn’ as a standalone, and then enjoy the earlier books in the series without having received significant spoilers.

‘Severn’ is a highly recommended read.

Book Review: ‘Lonely Hearts Complex: A Tombora Springs Novella’ by S.K. Wee

Part murder mystery, part personal journey, ‘Lonely Hearts Complex’ is an interesting and authentic read that immerses the reader in the lives of the Ruth, Riley and Marshall, residents of Tombora Springs.

The characters are diverse, likeable and engaging. Their personal stories keep the reader intrigued and maintain a good level of excitement and suspense as the narrative continues.

This book is comfortably read in a couple of hours and delivers a most enjoyable contemporary light mystery read. 

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.

Book Review: ‘Midsummer’s Bottom’ by Darren Dash

When an amateur theatre company reunite for their 20th annual performance of Shakespeare’s’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, one might expect they’d have their act together.

‘Midsummer’s Bottom’ immerses the reader in the lives of the actors, but also in the lives of the fey characters who are weary of seeing themselves represented in the troupe’s performances.

Like the play being performed, the story is an enjoyable romp through a glade in a forest, complicated by love, jealousy, and fey interference in the lives of humans.

This book is well-written and quite entertaining. The characters are varied and interesting, made complex by their desires and motivations, and intricately connected to both the play and one another’s lives.

Just how the plot will resolve keeps the reader guessing right to the end.

This book is recommended for readers aged 18 and over, as ‘Midsummer’s Bottom’ does contain some adult  content, although not graphic or gratuitous.

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.

Book Review: ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’ by Tony Riches

This is a richly detailed and colourful story set during the troubled reign of Henry VI. The book tells the story of Eleanor Cobham, wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, a younger brother of King Henry V. 

Eleanor is a fascinating character who demonstrates intelligence and resilience throughout the events that shaped her life and the future of her family. The story is told in first person, so the reader develops a strong sense of empathy with her as the story progresses. 

Her perspective delivers fascinating insight into well-known events of the past from the point of view of a woman whose security and future depended on those who held power and who jostled for position at court. 

The story is complex and thought-provoking, full of intrigue and political manoeuvring, nuanced by reminiscences and regret. It highlights the precarious nature of courtly life and the swiftness with which one’s circumstances could change, and reminds the reader that true clarity and wisdom are delivered only by hindsight. 

Riches’ writing style is engaging and easy to read, yet still consistent with the way in which Eleanor and her contemporaries would have thought and spoken to one another. 

‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’ is a most excellent work of historical fiction. 

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: ‘Footprints In The Sand’ by Pam Lecky

The second in the Lucy Lawrence mystery series, this is a most intriguing story, full of twists and turns, and set in a most exotic location. From Nice to Cairo to Sakkara, the reader is taken on a journey of many discoveries — not all of them archaeological.

The characters are colourful and lively, each with personal motivations and interests that they tend to keep to themselves, adding layers of intrigue to the secrets and mysteries that Lucy finds awaiting her in Egypt.

It is clearly evident and most pleasing that the author has taken care to keep the characters and their actions consistent with the time and places in which the story is set.

The story is well-crafted and written in a style that is very easy to read. The narrative unfolds at a good pace, with enough suspects and red herrings to keep both Lucy and the authorities guessing and to ensure very little predictability. 

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