With a unique blend of adventure, friendship, history and travel Darlene Foster has hit upon a winning and inspirational combination for her children’s books Amanda Travels.

The series is aimed at middle grade (aged 9-12) children, although from reading her latest book I feel it would also be suited for adept readers of a younger age as well as reluctant readers.

Darlene Foster’s latest in the series, Book 8, takes the reader to Malta after Amanda receives a letter from her best friend Leah. To receive a letter alone sends concern to Amanda in the modern digital age of emails. Leah hints that something is wrong, but gives no detail and wants Amanda to join her.

Amanda would love to leave the cold wintry weather of Canada behind her for the warmth and sun of the Mediterranean island but would it even be possible?

As with all children’s books, a resolution is quickly found and Amanda joins her classmate and his parents on their holiday on the beautiful island.

Immediately the author captures the heavenly warmth of the landscape, limestone buildings and history perfectly. In snippets, the reader is enveloped in the amazing historical elements of the island, some of which become central to the story whilst others act as a stunning backdrop to the action.

Any reservation I had that the historical might slow down the pace of the story proved unfounded as the plot is quickly propelled along. Although there are dramatic events such a brief kidnapping, ominous warnings, chases and unexplained killings of protected birds these are all pitched gently and safely for the younger reader.

Initially, Amanda cannot even find Leah and when she finds her it turns out that Leah’s aunt has become mixed up with crooks. Two criminals want Leah’s aunt, who is an archaeologist, to steal the 4000-year-old Sleeping Lady statue from the museum otherwise there will be consequences. Could Leah even be involved?

Luckily Amanda and Leah are not alone on their mission. Max is a helpful and able go-between and Caleb, the son of the family friend, provides many comic moments throughout the book, particularly with his strange phobia of fish and love of all things Popeye.

When finally they visit the famous Popeye Village he is ecstatic and his courage shines through as he has to rescue Leah!

I like how all the main characters are slightly flawed with their fears and how through working together they find courage, helping each other. The warmth and kindness is a beacon of hope!

Amanda in Malta is a hugely enjoyable book, the writing flows with ease and the plot had me eagerly turning the pages. The book took me back to my addictive reading of the Nancy Drew mysteries as young and I can see how readers will long to read and collect the whole series of Amanda Travels.

Although I have unfortunately not read any previous books within the series this is in no way hampered my enjoyment or understanding of The Sleeping Lady. The author slips in enough backstory to ensure this book is an exciting and stand-alone book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars


PUBLISHER: Central Avenue Publishing

GENRE: Children’s Fiction / Middle Grade / Travel





A bit about me. I am a writer of children’s stories, a retired employment counsellor, and ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. I love travelling, reading, shoes, cooking, sewing, music, chocolate, walking on the beach and making new friends. My grandson once called me “super-mega-woman-supreme”. I was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where I dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. I currently divide my time between Orihuela Costa in Spain and the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. My husband, Paul, and I enjoy spending time with our adorable dog, Dot.


Do visit Darlene on her Blog or on Twitter.

Finally, I can highly recommend you listen to a wonderful interview with Darlene Foster on Rebecca Budd’s excellent Tea Toast & Trivia podcast. Their sense of fun is fantastic and their laughter infectious. It is touching how Amanda joins Darlene and her husband on their travels!


    1. Jacquie, I totally agree with you! 😀 As you can tell I loved the book and the adult reader can enjoy the immersive story and be in awe of the history on a more mature and knowledgeable level! It’s great you’ve had a chance to read the whole series … I’m jealous! Many thanks for your great comment and Happy Reading! 😀

      1. A wonderful review, Annika! Congratulations to Darlene! I enjoy reading middle grade and children’s books, and if this series is about travel and reminiscent of the Nancy Drew mysteries than it’s right up my alley. Thanks for sharing❣️

    1. Diana, thank you so much and great you enjoyed the review! I’m beginning to think that rites of passage of being a writer is having read all the Nancy Drew books as a child! 😀

    1. Jan, it’s been a joy to read one of Darlene’s Amanda Travels books and they were a long time on my list of books to read! It was brilliant as you can tell and I loved it! Enjoy when you get a chance to read it.

    1. Thank you so much, Liz! 😀 It’s inpsired to include some light and funny moments in a book and especially in ones for children! One as so visual it’s as if I’ve seen a film of the moment!

    1. Shari, thank you so much! 😀 I was hooked by the book and could happily read my way through the series! It brought back lovely memories of my trip to Malta as well as recalling childhood favourite books in this genre!

  1. Hi, Annika – I fully agree with Erica and other commenters — you have a knack for writing very meaningful reviews. This one was of special interest to me as I have been following Darlene Foster for awhile now. Thank so much for sharing this.

    1. Donna, thank you so much for your kind comments about my book reviews – it means so much. I always want to make them ‘meaningful’ and so glad you feel I achieve this. 😀 Darelene has a gift for storytelling and entering into the mind of young people and pitching the plot and adventure just right! Hope you get a chance to read one of her books soon.

  2. I have mentioned before how you have a knack for writing wonderful reviews, Annika. Informative, engaging and just enough information to entice me to read this book. The concept of “slightly flawed” characters adds to the story. Thank you for recommending a book my grandchildren will enjoy in the fast approaching future years. (Coincidentally, I just finished reading a moving blog post by Rebecca Budd. Interesting how the Universe works its magic)❤️

    1. This is a great review. I think children can relate to characters that are not “perfect”. I hope you have fun reading my books to your grandchildren eventually. Reading to grandchildren is the best occupation ever!

    2. Bless you for your wonderful commnet, Erica and heartfelt thanks for your kind words. Would you believe I still have a slight moment of worry before I start a book review but once I have the opening sentence or two I’m set! 😀 Yeah! I can imagine your grandchildren soon loving these books … I bet you’ve supplied a libraries worth of books to them! 😀 It is eerie how the universe works in synchronicity and you’ve just come from Rebecca’s post. She writes the most thought-provoking and eloquent posts … I’ve saved so many of her shared quotes as well as writings by her!

      Here’s to remembering the magic in the world! Hope you’re keeping well. hugs xx ❤️

  3. A great review, Annika. I am waiting for my paperback to arrive at my doorstep. Although, I have Amanda in my Kindle library my mother, Frances, wants all of Amanda’s books in paperback. We love Amanda. After all, she came from Alberta, Canada, where Frances and I used to live. Darlene – you have the best stories. Sending many hugs to you both.

    1. Rebecca, it is a small world after all! 😀 How lovely that you all came from Alberta and perhaps that added a sense of connection and closeness on your interview with Darlene! I love how your mother is reading all of Darlene’s books. With these glorious covers I too would like to own the actual books! Hugs winging their way to you and hope you’re doing well. xx ❤️

    1. Barbara, thank you so much and I’ve loved reading and reviewing Darlene’s latest book in the series. It was particularly of interest to me as I’ve been to Malta and had an opportunity to ‘revisit some of the sights! 😀

  4. Sounds like a good book to entice young people to read more plus slip in a little history, Annika. Anything that gets kids into reading and learning has to be a good thing! –Curt

    1. Absolutely, Curt … it is a winning formula of entertainment and learning – although introduced in such a way the children won’t think of it as such! 😀 I can imagine many of the young readers, once they’ve finished on of Darlene’s books, badgering their parents to travel to Malta, Holland, Spain etc. I for one am keen to revisit Malta and will pay a lot more attention this time when visiting museums, castles, islands!

      1. My blogging friend, Andrew Petcher, raves about Malta. I really must visit there. My formula for writing is similar: entertain and slip in a little education. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Neil, definitely a winner and the whole series sounds superb! Good question about the children’s book market and I found one study from 2018 for the UK and imagine it might give an insight into American and Canadian trends too where over 30% of 100 bestseller books were children’s books! Very positive!😀

      “The U.K.’s 100 bestsellers list of 2018 comprises nearly 16 million copies. Of these, nearly a third — 31% — were children’s books, by McCrudden’s count.

      That’s a huge number, even though the limited media coverage of the genre can often undersell how popular children’s books really are.”

  5. Annika, I so agree with Balroop, your review is fabulous. Then again, we have come to expect this from you. No pressure😊.
    You bring the book alive with ease, the events drawn quick and deep. What did that letter really say, how are the girls going to cope.
    Malta is beautifully described, make me want to go back again. I too loved Popeye village.
    Congratulations to you Darlene and may Amanda continue her travels.


    1. Haha! 😀 No pressure at all, Miriam! 😀 Seriously, bless you for your wonderful and thoughtful comment. It means a lot that you feel I’ve brought the book alive with ease — thank you! The story is quick-paced throughout and I like how it manages to surprise all the time, including a great unexpected ending!

      Yeah! I hope you enjoyed a quick revisit to Malta via my book review … I recognised particularly one place from the Popeye village where there is a very intense and exciting scene!

      Wishing you a lovely sunny Sunday, my dear friend! hugs xx ❤️

  6. Fabulous review Annika. Darlene’s Amanda is indeed an adorable character and I’ve accompanied her to two of her adventures. I gifted one book to my grand daughter and she loves it.

    1. Balroop, thank you so much and it’s wonderful you have enjoyed some of Darlene’s books and gifted one to your granddaughter! I wouldn’t be surprised if she puts another one or two on her birthday list etc! 😀

  7. One of my favorite books when was about nine or ten was a book about children around the world. I wish I not only remembered the title but still had the book.
    Because of Darlene’s travel nature of her books I am definitely going to read her. It might be written for children but everyone likes to visit new places.
    It’s a great concept, Darlene. Annika, your review was inspiring. ❤

    1. Carol, I must admit I do not tend to read much within this age group but the mix of travel and history sold me on the books! You will thoroughly enjoy the story and the travel aspect of it. I found myself looking up and reading more about certain places visited by Amanda and her friends during the mystery. Having been to Malta once before I now long to revisit the island! I can just imagine the creation of ‘Amanda Travels’ tours in the places in which Darlene’s books are set!😀

      Oh, that must be so frustrating about the book you recall so well but not the title … are you sure it isn’t saved somewhere amongst your books? Fingers crossed … you have me trying to think what it could be called! 😀❤️

    2. Thanks, Carol. I recall a colouring book of children from around the world, given to me by my grandmother. It really made me want to visit those places. Perhaps that is where my travel bug started. Many adults seem to enjoy my stories, which provide some armchair travel.

      1. I’m quite sure, Darlene, that your love to write travel stories has its roots in that colouring book of children from around the world along with a sense of wonderment and pleasure that colouring book gave you. I hear that children’s coloring books are very popular items on Amazon. Might be a project for you. ❤

    1. Exactly! Jacqui, this is why I dislike labels for books as many might be put off the book for this reason. Although for that age group I wanted to make clear that readers, younger and older, would equally enjoy the story. So glad you enjoyed the review and another for you to read from the series! 😀

  8. Hooray for a fabulous review, Annika! I look forward to reading this new Amanda adventure. I’m sure it will be a wonderful as the other Amanda books I have read, as Darlene is an excellent writer. Her mix of adventure and history makes the Amanda series books that the reader simply cannot put down.

    1. Jennie, I had to smile as we so closely reviewed one of Darlene’s book! 😀 Just perfect for adventure and history as you say … and for me a chance to revisit Malta. I’ve been to quite a few places mentioned on the island and now long to go again!

  9. Thank you for this fantastic review, Annika. Congratulations on a wonderful series, Darlene. I was always a big fan of Nancy Drew, so Amanda’s adventures sound so exciting. I love all of the covers, too!

    1. Thank you so much, Jill! 😀 I agree about the covers, they are terrific and so eye-catching! Makes anyone who sees them want to launch themselves into the story! Wishing you a wonderful Sunday, Jill and hope you’re being spoilt this Mothering Sunday! xx ❤️

  10. I haven’t as yet read any of this series but am looking forward to doing so. One (at least) is waiting patiently in my Kindle. I wish I could magic up some more time. Thanks for your review.

    1. Norah, I can relate to the wish of creating more time – especially for reading! 😀 When you get round to reading your Amanda Travels book on your Kindle you’re in for a treat! Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday! xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s