Book Review: ‘Newcomer’ Elmwick Academy Book 1 by Emilia Zeeland

This first book in the Elmwick Academy series delivers a refreshing change to the “you’re a witch, here’s a wand, there’s a school of magic” trope that has become so popular. It’s an excellent  and highly original YA paranormal story that is engaging and interesting for YA and older readers alike.

‘Newcomer’ introduces Cami O’Brien, a 16 year old who faces a unique challenge: she already knows what her legacy and powers are, but she must learn to control and use them before they destroy her and everyone she cares about.

This is not just a story of challenge and magic, but also one of friendship and loyalty among unlikely allies.

Elmwick seems to be a town like any other, yet it is populated by a unique mix of people who reflect both their individual qualities and their family histories in their actions and motivations.

The writing is excellent and the story moves at a good pace. The story is unpredictable and exciting, delivering some most intriguing twists. The book finishes with sufficient resolution to be satisfying while leaving some questions to be answered in the next book in the series.

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. 

New Release: ‘Then and There Here and Where’ – Orabella the Oracle Saga Book 1

Then and There, Here and Where is a new release YA novel by Esabella Strickland which has appeared #1 on Amazon’s hot new release list. 

The main character of the book; Orabella has a learning disability while learning to become a heroine. Esabella’s goal is to have girls feel connected and empowered by Orabella. The story presents positive values for teens, including powerful messages about individuality, bullying and making good choices.

Fresh out of middle school, 12-year-old Orabella thought the worst of her worries would be choosing between going to high school and being homeschooled—between sticking with her friends or being free from the bullying she receives because of her learning disability. But she soon discovers that the world she knew, school included, isn’t what it seems. An eerie encounter with a mysterious raven during the Summer Solstice Festival—and the sudden disappearance of her parents soon after—forces her to move in with her grandparents, where strange occurrences happen more and more often. When Oreballa stumbles upon a family secret with roots in Ancient Egypt, she’s thrust into a world of ancient spirits, time-traveling, and, most importantly, the Tree of Life, a spiritual entity that maintains the stability of the entire universe.Newly aware of her true destiny, Orabella must learn to shed her self-doubt and insecurities surrounding her learning disability and adjust to her new role as a protector of humanity and the Tree of Life against the mischievous spirit, Iblis, and his forces of darkness in order to keep the universe in balance and find her parents.

Find out more about this book and its author at www.orabellatheoracle.com

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: ‘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: ‘Ghost Swifts, Blue Poppies and the Red Star’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Rather than a ‘whodunnit’ kind of mystery, this is a story about particular events of World War I and the consequences of those events for one English family.

Harriet McDougall is not a detective as such, but when she feels the need to find answers about her sons’ experiences in the war, she uses her intelligence, instincts and resourcefulness to investigate until she finds the resolution she seeks. Harriet is a sincere and kind woman whom readers will both like and admire.

The cast of characters is varied and interesting, adding colour, texture and some surprising twists and turns to the story.

This story is very interesting but also quite emotive and challenging, creating a profound effect on the reader. The narrative progresses at a good pace, drawing the reader deeper into Harriet’s quest and into her family as the story unfolds.

This is an excellent story for lovers of both historical fiction and mystery, but also for readers who value remembrance of the fallen.

Audiobook Review: ‘Ice and Embers’ by Melanie Karsak

What a magnificent tale! Subtitled ‘Steampunk Snow Queen’ this was far, far more than a fairy tale retelling. It is a complex blend of Gaslamp fantasy, mystery, historical romance, and Shakespearean theatre that enchants and encompasses the audience, drawing them into the story and behind the scenes until there is no desire to escape. 

The cast of characters is a varied and colourful as in any piece of theatre, their features, costumes and voices full of colour, texture and depth. Individually, they are lifelike and realistic; together, they generate a level of energy and drama that  makes the audience feel as though they are right there in the scenes and events of the story. 

A magical blend of beautiful writing and flawless narration, Ice and Embers is a masterpiece of storytelling. 

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.