Book Review: ‘Arija and the Burning City’ by Zachary Chopchinski

The third book following ‘Webley and the World Machine’ and ‘Kip and the Grinders’ in Zachary Chopchinski’s Hall of Doors Steampunk adventure series  is another action-packed, highly entertaining adventure story that features Adal, Arija and their friends Kip and Ypsilon as they negotiate a most challenging world full of dark creatures and even darker intentions. 

Chopchinski yet again demonstrates his creativity and humour in his edgy writing, sassy dialogue, and the complexity of the settings and the creatures who inhabit them. This novel, while still full of adrenaline and suspense, also explores some of the characters’ personal issues and motivations, developing more maturity and thoughtfulness amongst the familiar snark and showmanship.

One distinct contrast to the first two books in the series is that there is some sexual content in this book that makes it less suitable for younger readers, and really making it an NA rather than YA novel.

A blend of steampunk and paranormal fantasy, ‘Kip and the Grinders’ is an original and suspenseful story that will keep readers intrigued and entertained.

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: ‘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: ‘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: ‘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. 

Book Review: ‘Another Girl Calls My Dad Daddy’ by Emma L Price

Find your copy here.

If there’s anything young readers will find relatable, it’s sibling jealousy and rivalry— especially in blended families. The author has done a great job of creating a realistic and complex family situation in which two girls must each learn to share their father and fully accept one another.

Readers will find Portia both likeable and understandable, and while not all of her responses are ideal, they will se her as a young person who is doing her best to adjust to new challenges and trials. Her challenges in getting to know the real Jasmine are clearly and empathetically portrayed through her thoughts and actions, just as Jasmine’s feeelings are communicated through her behaviours. 

Although both girls find the changes they have to make confronting and awkward, this is a positive and encouraging story that is sure to help young readers understand these kinds of situations from someone else’s point of view. 

This book is probably best suited for preteen and early teen readers, but it is enjoyable enough for older audiences too.  It would certainly be a good choice for families to read together, and a highly appropriate addition to local and school libraries. 

Book Review: ‘The Old Gilt Clock’ by Paulette Mahurin

Find your copy here.

There are times, particularly in the face of conflict or adversity, in which one might be tempted to ask, “What can one person do?”

The story of Willem Arondeus is testament to the fact that one person can do a very great deal to oppose hatred or wrongdoing, both through their own efforts but also by inspiring and encouraging others to also stand against evil. 

 Willem’s life story is well written and makes compelling reading. A man well acquainted with prejudice and hatred, Willem has been brought to life by the author in a manner that is both realistic about his flaws and empathetic about his suffering, credibly portraying him as a very normal person with a profound commitment to doing what was right.

This book adds a personal dimension to history and confronts the reader with the sense of helplessness experienced by the Dutch people of the time, and with the anger and resentment they harboured toward the Nazis and those who dumped with them. It made me reflect on what I know of my own grandfather, who was also a member of the Dutch resistance during the German occupation of the Netherlands in WWII, and to feel.somehow even more strongly connected to Willem and his friends as a result.

This is often an uncomfortable read, but it is an important one. Because stories like this are told, our generation is reminded to be vigilant against evil, to stand with the oppressed, and to ‘do some good ‘.

Book Review: ‘Coming Home For Christmas’ by Helen Pryke

Although the subtitle is ‘A Haunting Christmas Tale’, this is far from being scary or spooky. Instead, is it a positive and inspirational story full of Christmas Eve spirit. 

Without being overly sentimental, this story is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. The reader is invited to witness a very special moment through the thoughts and memories of the central character, and is encouraged to reflect on what makes a particular date or a relationship unique and memorable. 

The story is beautifully told, wistful rather than morbid, and imbued with love and devotion. It is a short story, read in less than 15 minutes, but one that lingers in the thoughts of the reader long beyond that.