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. 

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: ‘The Malan Witch’ by Catherine Cavendish

‘The Malan Witch’ is a haunting story of old magic, retribution and superstition, filled with tension and suspense.

The writing is powerful, full of symbolism and dark imagery that captures the imagination and takes hold of the pit of the reader’s stomach.The tone becomes darker and increasingly urgent as the story unfolds.

This is a gripping read and an absolute page-turner, suitable for Young Adult and older audiences.

Book Review: ‘Cirque De Slay’ by CeeCee James

This is an entertaining mystery full of all the sights, sounds and intrigue of the circus. Trixie is a likable young woman with integrity despite her obscure past, and her natural curiosity and honesty make her a great amateur investigator.

With a cast of colourful characters in vibrantly drawn settings, the story unfolds at a good pace, delivering lots of intrigue and plenty of possible suspects to keep the reader guessing.

Appropriate for YA readers and older, this book is sure to have wide appeal.  

Book Review: ‘Eye of the Beholder: A reimagining of Beauty and the Beast’ by C H Clepitt

In a marketplace where there are fairy tale revisions aplenty, ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that stands out from the masses because of the author’s highly original recreation of roles and the devices by which the key events take place. 

Like the original fairy tale, this is a story of looking beyond appearances to see the real person. The author has added some original magical twists that make the tale interesting and less predicated, resulting in a very entertaining read that can be enjoyed in the space of an hour. 

Written with Clepitt’s usual quirky style and wit, this is a story with definite appeal to YA and older readers. 

Book Review: ‘A Medium’s Birthday Surprise’ by Chariss K Walker

This is the first book in the Becky Tibbs: A North Carolina Medium Mystery Series, in which medium Becky Tibbs uses her paranormal abilities to help solve mysteries and help ghosts find peace. 

While skeptics might think that such blending of cozy mystery and paranormal investigation sounds contrived, Walker has created characters and storylines that seem realistic and eminently believable. A range of world views and perspectives are represented by different characters in the story, and the reader is respectfully left to draw their own conclusions. 

Regardless of one’s philosophy and world view, this is a really interesting and well-crafted mystery story. Becky’s path to solving the mystery is challenging and complex, and she must rely on investigation and logic to solve the problems she encounters along the way. 

The writing is good and the action and intrigue of the story builds well, right up to the end of the book. 

This is a series I would like to read more of. 

Book Review: ‘The Spyglass File’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

This is the fourth full length novel featuring Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist. The books in this series all explore an historical mystery while Morton also researches his own genealogical background. 

This is an intriguing story, extremely well told. 

A captivating blend of WWII intrigue, family secrets and investigative mystery fiction, this is yet another riveting instalment in a most excellent series. 

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: ‘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.