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. 

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 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: ‘Gravity Hill’ by Greg Alldredge

This third book in the Helena Brandywine steampunk adventure series is packed with action and suspense as Helena fights to solve the puzzle of her parents’ disappearance and battle against the evil forces that have taken over San Francisco at the same time. 

In many ways, Helena is a woman ahead of her time, who shows that women can do anything they set their mind to. She is also flawed, which makes her more believable and relatable for the reader.

While this story is part of a longer overall narrative, there is sufficient resolution for this story to stand on its own merits. The book ends in a satisfying manner, and yet the teasers for the next story still make book 4 beckon most invitingly. 

Book Review: ‘The Unforgivable Act: Beaumont Bros. Circus Mystery Book 1’ by Tabi Slick

Set in Victorian London, this is a novella length paranormal adventure story in which the mystery is not so much who did what, but rather what the nature and powers of the main protagonist are. This was quite intriguing, although not the whodunnit kind of mystery that readers might anticipate from the title. 

The story is filled with tension and suspense that have been well crafted to build toward the conclusion and keep the reader engaged throughout. The exciting plot is enhanced by the varied nature of the characters and the vivid settings in which they live and operate. 

The book finishes with a strong sense of anticipation for further adventures. This reader hopes that the next instalment delivers more adventure and intrigue, but also more of a mystery that needs to be solved. 

Book Review: ‘Regency Love: Reflections of a Young Lady’ by TL Clark

‘Regency Love’ is a delightful journey through Regency England, a period  familiar to readers of Jane Austen. This is a most original and entertaining work, carefully researched and attentive to detail, and still absolutely captivating in its delivery of the story of Anne Frithringham. 

The characters are vivid and animated, drawing the reader into their world and playing their roles to perfection. The author has created original personalities consistent with the world and era in which they live, and who are concerned with the things that ladies and gentlemen of the time would definitely have had to deal with. Their interactions and dialogue are witty and engaging, keeping the reader deeply involved with their experiences and welfare. 

The plot is carefully structured and well developed, so that the narrative flows naturally. The end result is a book that is very hard to put down once started, and which leaves the reader completely satisfied at the end.

Written for a considerably less conservative audience, this story deals with subjects that Austen could only ever hint at, yet it does so with language and style that remains tastefully consistent with Austen’s world. 

‘Regency Love’ is deliberately not Austen, but it does feel like Austen. This reader is confident that, had they met, Anne Frithingham and Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet would have got along famously. 

Book Review: ‘The Curious Case of the Cursed Spectacles’ by Constance Barker

‘The Curious Case of the Cursed Spectacles‘ is a very entertaining cozy mystery read that keeps the reader guessing right until the end. It is the first book in Constance Barker’s Curiosity Shop Cozy Mysteries series. 

Populated by a seemingly mismatched but delightful cast of characters, the story is intriguing and suspenseful but also lightened by humour and some genuinely endearing moments. The premise of the story is original and, although fantastic, is made to be quite believable through the author’s talented writing and clever story development. 

This book definitely captures the reader’s imagination and provides a great escape from reality for a few enjoyable hours.