The Architect’s Apprentice by Colin Garrow

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architects apprentice coverThe Architect’s Apprentice by Colin Garrow, e-book, 124 pages, published in 2015.

Young Tom has been forced to work for the unscrupulous Mr Savidge in London in 1630. He has been working hard to help support his mother and sister since his father disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Mr Savidge has Tom do many jobs for him, which sometimes includes Tom helping him to steal from houses late at night. On one such trip, Tom discovers a book that has the wrong printing date, it is a date in the future, so it must be a mistake, right? When the owner of the book, the architect Martin Deacon approaches Tom, explaining that the date is in fact correct, Tom’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.

A complex time slip novel, The Architect’s Apprentice was engaging and intriguing. I tumbled into this fantasy adventure, with its historical London setting, working class English and description that had me wandering the crowded lanes, avoiding excrement and detritus whilst being intoxicated by the cloying odour of the Thames. It was on occassion, a little confusing, with many characters, but I felt satisfied that everything made sense in the end. There were also several surprises that I didn’t see coming!

Time travel stories are always complex due to the nature of moving through time and the possibility of changing the future or the past. This book is no exception. I love that the time breaks are in doorways, and that they exist all over London, yet few people realise it. I also liked that the characters traveled through time, yet never encountered other versions of themselves.

The children, Tom, Sarah and Emily were delightful characters, bright and inquisitive. Though they are of a station that requires them to work at such a young age to survive, they were neither down-trodden nor broken. I enjoyed seeing the way Tom and Sarah bonded with Emily through the story. Emily is rather precocious, yet it fits her superbly. Whilst the children were obviously good, it took a little longer to work out the roles of the adults. I was quite suspicious of Deacon when he first approached Tom, but as I got to know him better, I liked him. For the most part, the adults had a lot to hide, and I was often undecided as to which adult the children should trust, but that mysteriousness only added to the intrigue of the story.

While the book contains some violence, I think it would still be suitable for upper primary school students and high school students. I really enjoyed The Architect’s Apprentice, and I definitely want to read the next book in The Maps of Time series, Mortlake. There was a short preview of Mortlake at the back of the book, which served to strengthen my desire to read it.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Delilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure by A. J. York

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DDtrans coverDelilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure by A. J. York and illustrated by Gavin Childs, e-book, 149 pages, published in 2014.

Delilah and Abi have formed a very successful cleaning company called “Dustbusters”. They have a whole team of cleaners working for them and they have endless work keeping them occupied. Delilah is wonderful at removing dust that others just can’t, she whips out her duster and simply eradicates the dust! Whilst cleaning for one of their clients, Delilah receives a letter from Count W. Dracula requesting her services in preparing his castle in Transylvania for a large function. Delilah and her workers, Dev, Billy and Doris travel to Transylvania, meeting the rather eccentric Count. Delilah gets much more than she expected on her first overseas gig!

This is the second book in the Delilah Dusticle series. The story picks up with Delilah and Abi in their successful business venture, but leads Delilah to discover so much more about herself. There were fairies and spies, and of course a very annoying villain ready to be overthrown in this delightful fantasy. It was a fun and engaging story, with plenty of magic and humour. The chapters are short and the plot easily followed, making it perfect for early independent readers. There are cute colour illustrations at the beginning of each chapter too.

I quite like Delilah. Her ability to eradicate dust is pretty amazing, but she is also clever, kind and generous. Abi is similarly endowed, except her special ability is to create incredible and beautiful dusters. Winnie, aka Count Dracula, was a complete card! His antics and his style made me laugh. I do wish I could have some fluffy duck slippers that quack when I walk! His assistant, Ulrik was also a funny character. All of the characters are interesting, and well developed.

I read Delilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure in a single sitting, and now I am ready for Delilah’s next adventure. It is most suitable for primary school students, but I really liked it! I think this book could be read independently of the first Delilah Dusticle story, though both are worth reading.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Valentine’s Oops by Emily Martha Sorensen

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valentinesoopscoverValentine’s Oops by Emily Martha Sorensen, short story, 8 pages, published 2016.

When Donovan is told that his best friend’s sister is planning on making him her valentine, he panics.

This short story was a quick and fun read. It had a scattering of magic, and it was funny. It’s perfect for reading in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day.

Donovan and Junior are a bit naughty, and quite mean to their sisters! Just typical brothers. The story wasn’t really long enough to get to know the characters in depth, but I did like them. The Wilkinsons (Junior’s family) can make some unusual things happen. I would like to read more about this interesting family!

Valentine’s Oops is suitable for primary school students, but adults can also chuckle along as Donovan attempts to evade Elsie’s Valentine plans.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Gone by Christine Kersey

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gonecoverGone by Christine Kersey, e-book, 230 pages, published by Sapphire Creek Press in 2013.

Morgan is a teenager that thinks she is being treated unfairly by her parents. She also perceives them to be biased towards her younger sister, Amy. So in a huff she runs away into the woods nearby her house. It starts getting cold and Morgan gets lost, finally taking shelter in a little hut she finds among the trees. After a large storm which damages the hut, Morgan must find another way out. She follows a tunnel, which leads her right into an alternate universe, where it is illegal to be overweight, and the government enforces this rule by locking people up in fat farms. Will Morgan ever find her way home?

This novel is set in a parallel universe, where things are the same, but not the same as we know them. The main difference that Morgan finds in her new world is that the government is monitoring everyone’s weight, and it is illegal to become overweight. If this occurs, the person is forcibly taken into a weight loss facility, where they must stay in prison like conditions until they drop the weight. And they have to pay for it themselves, which has created an abundance of very poor families struggling to survive after a family member has been committed for rehabilitation. As a premise, this held a lot of promise, and I quite enjoyed the plot. It was disturbing and intriguing how much everyone was focused on diet, exercise and weight.

One thing that bothered me was what happened to the Morgan that had been living in the alternate universe? She was on a camping trip, and just disappeared, but where to and how? I kept expecting her to turn up and claim Morgan as an imposter. Maybe she was forced into Morgan’s world, which then begs the question of what’s happening back there? I’m just curious…

I found Morgan a little whiny and immature. I’m a bit appalled that she would run away at sixteen because they moved to a new house and her mum said she couldn’t have a new phone, it’s selfish to say the least. And it’s somewhat stupid to wander into a forest during winter without proper supplies or protection, especially in a location with a high likelihood of snow at that time of year. I know she’s young, but a bit of commonsense would have gone a long way to preventing her trip through the time-space continuum! I think she improved as a person whilst in the alternate universe, but not enough to protect her family. She was too proud and self righteous to back down from the nasty girl at school, despite knowing that it wasn’t a good idea. The other characters didn’t make much of an impression on me.

I think this could have been a great book. It was let down by the irritating nature of the main character, and the lack of other interesting characters. It didn’t capture my attention enough for me to seek out the second book in the series.

Gone was an easy read suitable for upper primary school and high school students. The novel is very clean, with a little superficial romance, and no foul language. It is the first book in the Parallel Trilogy.

 

 

Delilah Dusticle by A. J. York

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DD coverDelilah Dusticle by A. J. York, e-book, 81 pages, published by Smashwords in 2013.

Delilah is a whizz at removing dust; she waves her special feather dusters and it simply disappears. She works in a grand house in London, and is in love with her employers’ son. When he announces his engagement to another, Delilah goes into a deep funk, creating dust everywhere she goes instead of removing it. Unemployed, and all alone, will Delilah ever recover herself?

Delilah Dusticle is quite an uplifting story, one which I enjoyed a lot. It is amazing what the power of friendship can do, and while Delilah waits for a long time to find that friendship, when it arrives, it is beautiful.

With short chapters and easy language, Delilah Dusticle is a sweet chapter book for young independent readers to try. It is also a charming story to read aloud, or for older children to lose themselves in. There are simple colour illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. These pictures represented the contents of the chapter quite well. My daughter was very taken with the little spider that appears in some of the illustrations.

Delilah is an intriguing character (she actually likes to clean!). I wish I could eradicate dust with a swish of my duster! Yet, when her heart is broken, she can’t help but leave a thick layer of dust all over. Picturing her room and belongings covered in dust, and the little mouse making tunnels in it was amusing, but the reason behind it is so sad. Poor Delilah. No one should have to be alone like that, and it is wonderful when she begins to become friends with Abi. I love their meetings at the park, feeding ducks and talking. I liked both Delilah and Abi.

This book is most suitable for lower and middle primary school children, but older children and adults can also appreciate this lovely tale. I’m excited to see what Delilah gets up to in her next book, Delilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure, which is also available now.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Eliza Bluebell by A. J. York

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elizabluebellEliza Bluebell by A. J. York and illustrated by Gavin Childs, e-book, 97 pages, published by Smashwords in 2015, first published in 2014.

Eliza Bluebell has a special talent; her shadow is a separate entity and is invisible to all bar Eliza. When Eliza and her shadow arrive in Blossom Brook they begin running a tearoom on the high street. On the side, Eliza and her shadow help members of the community with any problems they might be having.

This is a delightful chapter book! Some magic and humour, and a lesson that helping others can be very rewarding. The language is simple with short chapters, perfect for younger children. Each chapter began with a black and white silhouette illustration of the main theme of the chapter. The flow of the story was very smooth without the interruption of illustrations within the text. I love the cover of Eliza Bluebell too, it’s so simple, yet striking.

Eliza is a bit like Mary Poppins, arriving when needed, and leaving quietly when she is no longer required. She is kind and gentle, while her shadow is quite cheeky. I really liked grumpy old Mr Groop, with his sour expression and insistence on telling the bus driver how late the bus is running. I’m glad someone was able to cheer him up though!

Eliza Bluebell is suitable for lower and middle primary school students. It would make a great read for early independent and reluctant readers, as well as being a nice story to share. I liked this story very much, and I hope there will be moreĀ  Eliza Bluebell adventures in the future.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Tony Taylor and Summer with Grandpa by B.C. Mullins

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tonytaylorTony Taylor and Summer with Grandpa by B.C. Mullins, paperback chapter book, 70 pages, published in 2015.

Tony spends his summers on his grandparents’ farm. He loves every moment of it, as he explores, fishes and helps out with the chores. His Grandpa’s dog, Skippy, is his constant companion. He’s not so keen on the early mornings, but he does like to walk down along the stream. It is here that he meets a little girl picking wildflowers. Tony wonders who she is and where she comes from.

An easy to follow story with largish text and short chapters make this book great for kids learning to read independently. The subject matter will be enjoyable for a broad range of children.

Tony is an average kid, ready to explore and adventure. I liked him well enough, and his grandparents are nice. I liked the simple story, which is mostly realistic and contemporary. However, there is a hint of magic on the farm! The story seemed to end a little suddenly, yet it still felt adequately completed. Now I’m wondering what adventures Tony will go on next!

Tony Taylor and Summer With Grandpa is suitable for lower to middle primary school children. Older reluctant readers might also enjoy this tale. Overall this was a nice chapter book that I will happily give to my first grader to read.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.