Book Review: ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ by Katie Cross

It is a rare thing to find a series of books for Young Adult readers  that ticks all your favourite boxes: mystery and magic underscored with macabre and gothic elements, strong female characters, quirky twists, and themes and ideas that are universally compelling and interesting for teen and adult readers alike.

Just as it exists in the world-famous Harry Potter series, it exists in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This first book in The Network Series delivers a well-paced, expertly constructed story that ticks all of those boxes and more. 

Make no mistake, though: This is no mere imitation. ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ is original and unique, and the story is thoroughly engaging. The book ends with sufficient resolution to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while dangling enough magical carrots to leave the reader wanting to just keep reading. 

The writing is excellent, creating an environment and atmosphere that is vivid and almost tangible, and propelling the reader into a story full of mystery, suspense and foreboding. 

Readers of all ages will find this book hard to put down, and should expect to be left wanting more. Thankfully, there is an entire nine book series, and another fantasy series featuring dragons by the same author, to look forward to. 

Book Review: ‘Kennedy Awakens’ by Greg Alldredge

‘Kennedy Awakens’ is a quick-paced urban fantasy that blurs the lines between truth and lies, good and evil, magic and non-magic, while pitching them against one another to measure their integrity. 

The action unfolds dramatically and Kennedy is forced to form unlikely alliances in her quest for peace and for the truth, all the while doubting if either one is actually achievable. 

A story that celebrates friendship and truth, this is a most entertaining read that will be appreciated not only by readers of urban fantasy, but also by anyone who enjoys paranormal suspense, magical adventure and regular fantasy books.

Book Review: ‘Ronaldo: The Flying Reindeer Academy’ by Maxine Sylvester

Ronaldo is no ordinary reindeer, as this wonderful children’s book reveals.

Ronaldo attends the Flying Reindeer Academy alongside his best friend Rudi, enjoys The Weekly Flyer comics every Saturday morning, and dreams of becoming one of Santa’s elite reindeer like his hero, Vixen Pedersen. 

This is a really fun story about friendship, encouragement and celebrating one another’s achievements. The story is infused with humour and warmth that is sure to engage and entertain young readers. The characters and events of the story are relatable, delivering positive lessons and modeling appropriate responses to typical.childhood challenges along the way. 

Delightful reading for families and for independent young readers, this book would make an excellent addition to family, school.and community libraries.

Book Review: ‘Mya’ by Missy Sheldrake

A prequel to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, this is a story that easily stands alone as a most excellent work of fantasy fiction.  Sheldrake’s storytelling is as mesmerising as the songs of her minstrels, making this magical sword and sorcery fantasy for Young Adult and older readers a spellbinding tale that, once started, is hard to put down.

Magically and mystically gifted, Mya is a young woman like no other, Her story is one of adventure and friendship, of seeking and fulfilling her destiny, and one in which danger is always conspiring or lurking around one corner or another. She is a wonderful heroine – she is engaging and loveable, straightforward yet complex, and humble despite her abilities. Through the adventure and the challenges she faces, Mya does not only become more resilient and self-reliant, she learns to trust both her own instincts and the destiny to which she is called.  

The cast of characters surrounding Mya is varied and interesting, each one portrayed in full colour and lively detail. The story is told with rich imagery and well-paced action that moves along at a very good pace. 

Sheldrake is an author who should be much more widely read, as her books are highly original and hold enormous appeal for lovers of fantasy, adventure and coming of age stories alike. 

Book Review: ‘The Grimoire Prophecies’ by K.A. Denver

‘The Grimoire Prophecies’ is a YA paranormal romance story featuring Sophie Seymour, a high school senior who makes a likeable and engaging main character. 

While some of Sophie’s challenges are specific to her own situation, others are highly relatable for most teens. As Sophie begins to discover that there is a lot more to the world around her than meets the eye, she is confronted by choices and decisions that she must make, regardless of how ill-equipped she feels to do so.

In the midst of her trying to reconcile the past and the present, Sophie’s senior school year is made far more interesting than anticipated by the arrival of a mysterious pair of twins. Readers with siblings will easily relate to the tension between Joshua and Ethan, which adds another layer of intrigue and complexity to the story.  

As the story develops, the author infuses the narrative with a tantalising blend of anticipation and curiosity that draws the reader in and hooks them in the story, causing them to invest in Sophie’s dilemmas and develop hopes for her future and wellbeing.

The writing is good and the story is well paced. The end of the book leaves the reader keen for the next instalment in the series, and for answers to the questions that remain unresolved thus far. 

This is a book with lots of appeal for readers of YA paranormal romance. 

Book Review: ‘Don’t Be A Meaniehead’ by Angelique S. Anderson

This is an enjoyable and straightforward story for children that deals with bullying and interacting with other kids in positive ways. The story is told in rhyming verse that makes it easy for kids to memorise key principles and therefore be more able to recall and apply them. 

This is a great book for young independent readers, but also for families to read and discuss together. It certainly offers opportunities for parents to discuss with their children the sorts of experiences that kids commonly have, and how to deal with those situations when they arise. 

The illustrations are engaging portraits of Anderson’s clockwork dragon character Quincy, who also features in Anderson’s steampunk fiction novel series for older readers, and his friends posing to reflect different aspects of the story as it is told. 

‘Don’t Be A Meaniehead’ has a strong positive message for children, making it a valuable addition to family collections and libraries. 

Book Review: ‘Shy Violet’ by Sherrie Hansen

The third instalment in Hansen’s ‘Wildflowers of Scotland’ series, this book is a wonderful light romance read.

Infused with good humour and populated by diverse and interesting characters, it is a tale full of twists and turns and surprises that keep the reader engaged and guessing.

The narrative moves at a good pace, sweeping the reader along with Violet as she faces her challenges and her fears, albeit not always as wisely as one might hope. 

Not only is ‘Shy Violet’ enormously entertaining, it also reminds the reader of the importance of honesty, the value of friendship, and the life-changing power of forgiveness.

This book, like the series to which it belongs, is highly recommended.

Book Review: ‘October Jones: The Lightning Pines Mystery’ by J.D. McFarren

This is an entertaining and interesting mystery story for kids that delivers positive messages about honesty, friendship and personal integrity. 

October Jones is a likeable protagonist who kids will relate to easily. He is basically a good kid, but finds himself getting into trouble from time to time. Alongside his friends and his sister April, October takes it upon himself to solve a mystery and finds himself defending his own innocence at the same time. 

This is a kids’ novel suitable for independent readers, or for families to read together. It would make an excellent addition to any family, town or school library. 

Book Review: ‘The Gullwing Odyssey’ by Antonio Simon Jr

As Marco embarks on an errand to deliver an important package, his life takes a most unexpected turn. 

What ensues is a riotous escapade full of diverse and interesting characters, situations full of danger and challenge, and enduring friendships that change not only Marco’s outlook on life but also his entire future. 

The storytelling is lively and colourful, carrying the reader along at a good pace and immersing them in Marco’s experiences. The narrative is infused with good humor and witty banter between characters, making this a most entertaining young adult fantasy adventure. 

Book Review: 'Dead by Morning' by Kayla Krantz

Teen peer pressure reaches terrifying new levels in this YA paranormal thriller, in which the protagonist Luna Ketz appears to be a most unlikely heroine: she’s not popular, she’s Muslim in a predominantly white community, and she hates Chance, the boy who is determined to get her attention. 

The tension between Luna and Chance continues to escalate as the story progresses and Luna finds herself caught in a web of conspiracy, secrecy and deceit. In a highly original blend of YA paranormal, mystery and horror, the gripping storyline is evidence of author’s ability to blend reality and fantasy in an intriguing way that engages the reader and causes them to invest emotionally in Luna’s fate.  

‘Dead By Morning’ is easy to read and hard to put down once started.