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.

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

When I started book three of Rue Volley’s ‘13 Ways To Midnight’, I was in no way expecting the reality shift that this book delivered. 

While Echo struggles with her perceptions and choices, the reader shares her sense that something is not quite right. As the truth unfolds, the reader realises just how cleverly this story is designed and crafted. Even so, nothing prepares the reader for the body slam of the ending. 

Yet another great instalment in this spellbinding series. 

Book Review: ‘Foul is Fair’ by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

‘Foul is Fair’ is a story that transports the reader from suburban normality deep into the land of the Fae, drawing them into a quest full of challenge, trials and very old magic. That these two worlds coexist and interact is a given, and any imbalance between them could be disastrous. 

Well paced and full of action and adventure, this story is very engaging. The plot is original and unpredictable, delivering twists and challenges that build tension and drama but also call upon the protagonists to demonstrate both loyalty and ingenuity, and the ability to work together to achieve particular outcomes. 

The characters are interesting and varied, each one having specific qualities that help their allies and hinder their opponents, so that every battle or challenge could, in fact, go either way. The two lead characters are not only engaging individuals, they also provide good role models for young readers, each exhibiting positive attitudes such as acceptance, inclusion, helpfulness, endurance and resilience. 

Suitable for young adult and older readers, this is a ripping read that is really hard to put down. 

Book Review: ‘The Seven Year Dress’ by Paulette Mahurin

Many excellent books have been written about different people’s experiences during World War II, each offering a personal perspective that is unique and yet similarly heartbreaking. ‘The Seven Year Dress’ is as compelling and profoundly personal as any of them.

Mahurin’s writing is, as always, vivid and realistic without being gratuitous in her depiction of life as a young Jewish woman in Germany both before and throughout the horrors of the Holocaust. 

Told with honesty and deep emotion, Helen’s story brings to life the experiences of one German Jewish young woman and her family and friends. It is a story of friendship, resilience, and survival against all the odds. 

This book is one that everyone should read, particularly in this world that is still plagued by hatred, racism and suspicion of anyone who dares to be different. 

Book Review: ‘The Auctioneer’ by J.S. Frankel

‘The Auctioneer’ is a highly original, fast-paced sci-fi novel that transports the reader to new worlds while at the same time challenging and reinforcing their values and priorities. 

The story delivers mystery and intrigue in a classic science-fiction setting populated by a plethora of different types of people and creatures. The characters are diverse and interesting, each vastly different from the others, and from the outset it is hard for the reader — and, indeed, the heroes of the story— to know who really can be trusted. 

Different rules and standards apply in different worlds — but does that make them all acceptable? This is the crux of the complication that sets this story in motion, and the issue which the reader finds so compelling. 

‘The Auctioneer’ is a brilliant read, full of surprises and twists, and enjoyably unpredictable in its resolution. 

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.