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Monday, February 27, 2012

Zirconya: The Sage of Aluh’Nehn by Diana Ilinca

Zirconya: The Sage of Aluh’Nehn (Zirconya 1) by Diana Ilinca
Publisher: Burst (a division of Champagne Books)
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (265 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

A young elf named Caelum is forced from her world of Zirconya into an unmagical realm called Earth. Ignorant of the life she left behind, she lives as a normal human being, but nothing could be further from the truth. After seventeen years of unknowing exile, a man from her real world, Maze, comes to escort her back, but without her memories of Zirconya, his tales only convince her of his insanity.

When holes begin tearing through the dimensional fabric between Earth and Zirconya, Caelum must find a way to remember her past life before Zirconya's existence is discovered. But how can she remember something she doesn’t even believe has happened? As if surviving high school isn’t tough enough, add the constant dogging by an annoying, though hunky, mythical man, and the appearance of a creature from her darkest nightmares, and you’ve got a troubled teen.

Sometimes a girl just wants to feel special, but Caelum didn’t want to be quite this special.

I was a little surprised when I started reading Zirconya. After reading the blurb, I thought the story would open on Earth. Instead, I found myself in the magical world of Zirconya as Caelum is riding her horse desperately trying to outrun an unknown pursuer. I was immediately caught up in Caelum’s predicament, and the pacing of the story only intensified from there.

Shortly after escaping her would be captor, Caelum discovers the sages of her world have been killed and she and her best friend Melanya are descendants of the sages of water and fire respectively. It would be a lot for even the most level headed girl to handle, yet I thought Caelum and Melanya absorbed the enormous amount of information they were inundated with remarkably well. Sadly, they didn’t have time to say goodbye to all their friends and family. Caelum does get to have a special moment with Aquin, the boy she intends to marry, and it was heartbreaking to watch them share what was their first and probably last kiss. I couldn't help but wonder what the future would hold for them. Caelum and Melanya didn’t have much time to dwell on the huge changes they were about to face. They are informed that they are to be reborn on Earth immediately for their safety, but the ceremony doesn’t go quite as planned. I won’t spill the details, but I will say the ending of chapter two was so intense that I gasped.

From that point the pace of the story slowed briefly, but picked up again very soon. Caelum, whose name is Chloe on Earth, doesn’t remember a thing. She’s a typical teenager trying to navigate high school, so when Maze, her guardian, shows up telling her she’s a sage from a world called Ziconya, she understandably thinks he’s crazy. Despite offering her proof that he’s telling the truth, Caelum stubbornly refuses to believe Maze. I could tell Maze was going to be fighting an uphill battle trying to convince Caelum of her heritage.

Though Caelum is extremely obstinate, I found it easy to like and relate to her. Part of her yearns to be special and unique while part of her just wants to be normal. She wants to stand out enough that she attracts the attention of the guy she has a crush on, but she doesn’t want to stand out so much that she's labeled weird. It's a difficult line to walk, and I can certainly remember feeling that way when I was a teenager. Caelum didn’t seem to be able to handle stress very well, or at least not when she was living as Chloe on Earth. Every time things got intense or difficult, she ran away from the issue. She even cut school quite a bit, to the point her grades were suffering. I could only shake my head at her actions because she made things much harder on herself.

Maze is certainly an interesting character. At first he seems very arrogant and believes he can capture the attention of any woman he chooses. However, as he spends more time with Caelum, it becomes clear that he's much more complex. He begins experiencing feelings he’s never felt before. He truly cares for Caelum, and I seriously suspect that he’s fallen in love with her. Given the rules Maze follows as a guardian and the life Caelum will lead as a sage, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll be allowed to have a relationship someday. I’m very curious as to how things will progress between Caelum and Maze in the next book and I'm wondering if Aquin, her first love, will be a factor at all.

I think the ending of Zirconya slowed down a bit too much. The majority of the book moved at such a fast and exciting pace that I expected all that build up to culminate in a thrilling ending. Instead, the roaring intensity tapered off until it was just a whisper. Despite this small issue, I was still intrigued by the way Ms. Ilinca ended the story. Now that I’ve read the book, I think I have more questions in my mind then when I started reading. I’m anticipating the second book in the series so I can find the answers.

Zirconya is a well thought out fantasy with a fascinating mythology and well developed characters. I’m so glad I had the chance to enjoy this refreshing story. I highly recommend it to young and old readers alike.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Consoling Angel by Denise Alicea

Consoling Angel by Denise Alicea
Publisher: DCL Publications LLC
Genre: paranormal
Length: Short Story (24 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Mira did not know what she had in store the day she fell asleep while wanting to escape her current situation. Overcoming the death of someone close and burying herself in school and an internship has kept her somewhat awake and alive. An admiration for the actor James Dean was all that kept the memory of her father alive. If she couldn't be with her father, she could at least remember what they shared. She always wanted to meet James Dean. Be careful what you wish for. It may just come true.

Will destiny and fate do their part? Can she change history or just be his consoling angel?

Mira is a likeable teenager from New York. She’s a busy girl with school and an internship. The reader gets a brief feel for her hometown then a description of lovely scenes with her dad before he passed away. She has a great relationship with her mom and big dreams in life.

It feels real, and one can identify with the characters. Thanks to her dad, Mira has an obsession with the actor James Dean. Fate has a surprise in store for her.

This story is set partly in modern-day times and partly in 1952, and the two connect via time travel. She finds herself back in the fifties, where the real fun begins. To her pleasure, she meets her idol, James Dean, and there’s chemistry there; it’s sweet but genuine. She warns him about the accident that will kill him. Does she change history, or does he not take her seriously? Her time in the past with him could end any second, and she values it. She says, “I had to live my life instead of making myself forget.”

Another question comes up: What will her trip back in time mean for her present?

For such a short story, this one is charming and addresses some really good questions. Mira is a good character, easy to root for, and her interactions with others, especially James Dean, are well written. When she comes back to her present, she runs into someone that will change her life.

A good little story, I recommend it to those who like YA and time travel.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Land of Misfit Teens by Katie Charles

Land of Misfit Teens by Katie Charles
Publisher: Desert Breeze
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (84 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Geranium

Amelia MacDonald liked her life.

Her parents were both teachers, which most kids would find annoying, but Amelia liked it just fine. Sure, her family was quirky -- with her 'Da' being Scottish and a bit on the Geek Chic side -- and her mom was actually fun to hang out with -- but that was the way she liked it.

Then everything changed. Fast.

Her mom died, her family broke. If that wasn't bad enough, the university where her father taught literally shut down without enough students to keep it open. Everything she thought her senior year -- her life -- would be just disappeared.

Now, she and her Da are trying to rebuild their lives with only 2/3rds of their family. She's in a new school where quirky isn't cool, and it's even more uncool when your father is the new English teacher and he's unlike any teacher any kid at this school has ever seen.

She could try to be like everyone else, try to blend in as best as any 'new kid' can, but that's not Amelia.

Taking a stand makes her plenty of enemies, but by Christmas her senior year, she's also made the kinds of friends who will last her a lifetime. They all live in the Land of Misfit Teens, but at least they live there together.

This is one of those novels I couldn't put down. Make no mistake, though there are romantic elements in this story, it's not one of those HEA novels. It tackles difficult subjects – the death of a parent, loss of income, gang violence – and the 19 year old author isn't afraid to tell it like it is: it sucks. It sucks right from the prologue, where main character Amelia describes her mother's death, right through the shoot-out by rival gangs in the school Amelia now attends.

The concerns of the characters, true to the teen experience, range from the mundane ("does he like me?"), to the serious: will her father be able to afford to send her to college. Chapter one, Amelia starts attending an inner city Chicago high school. She gets lost, and when she finally finds an office, the secretary is more interested in complaining than in helping Amelia. It's funny, and it's true, and it's sad. It's told in the third person, with multiple points of view, and Amelia's voice, ironic and self-deprecating, is distinctive. I enjoyed this line, which ends chapter one: The silence was broken by someone coughing. Oh, yeah, this was going to be fun.

The book contains a number of places where “where” is used when the text should contain “were.” In fact, there were so many I can't help thinking that this was one of those editing glitches we all are prone to: hitting “replace all” when that's not what we wanted to do.

The point-of-view shifts are well-handled, and there was no head-hopping, but occasionally, as at the start of chapter three, I was unsure who the point of view character was until half-way down the page. And I didn't feel that the author provided quite enough details of the setting for me to really picture it. I wanted to see, smell, hear, what the high school halls were like, and I didn't quite get it.

The author has a real feel for plot and pacing, and the book rolls along at a good clip, with just enough light relief to provide a welcome break, as when Drake agonizes over whether or not to sit next to Victoria at lunch toward the end of Chapter Seven. And the shoot out in the school hallway had me digging my nails into the palm of my hand.

Kudos to the author, who manages to convey her message about teen violence without descending into either melodrama or preachiness. If you're a teen, the parent of a teen, or, yes, were a teen, you won't want to miss this fine book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Slay a Dragon by Bill Allen

How to Slay a Dragon by Bill Allen
Publisher: Bell Bridge Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (228 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Ruuan is a very large dragon.

Twelve-year-old Greg Hart can't slay a dragon. He'd be lucky to win a fight against one of the smaller girls at school.

Now the magicians of Myrth have mistaken him for a legendary warrior, so they've yanked Greg into their world of sorcery and danger. Nothing will stop the people of Myrth from believing Greg will rescue King Peter's daughter from Ruuan the dragon. After all, Greg has been named in a prophecy, and no prophecy has ever been wrong before.

Greg Hart has an active imagination for a boy. He’s not particularly athletic or exceptionally smart. He writes in his journal and creates exciting fantasies where he's the “hero” in some imaginary adventure. He sure never expected to transport from his world to another and find himself ACTUALLY facing a death-defying adventure!

This author has created a very challenging course for his young character who keeps protesting he’s no hero. He takes an ordinary school kid and plops him in another world where witches and dragons and strange creatures live. His assignment: To slay the dragon and save the princess. There’s nowhere to run and if he hides in the wrong place; something might eat him.

Mr. Allen grabs your attention at the very first chapter and keeps Greg running all throughout the book. Young adults reading this will find it easy to stay connected to the characters and interested in what might turn up next in the woods. The author has a very creative writing style. Some creatures are merely odd, some will eat you, and some will kill you just for fun. It’s good that Greg has some friends with him or he’d never make it through.

One aspect I really liked about this story is how the author takes a young man with no self-confidence to speak of on an adventure that helps him grow up and understand he has skills he had never identified as being important. The author also plays word games in the story. How Greg slays the dragon is amazing. This ending will suprise with it's cleverness!

This is a very good adventure that younger readers can enjoy. You might want to use it as a read-aloud book because they may not recognize some of the “punny” jokes included. There is also some violence and danger included in the story which makes it exciting and could be discussed if the child has any questions.

This was Greg’s first adventure and it appears he will be returning to Mryth. This series put me in mind of the Magic Tree House stories. Why not grab a copy of How to Slay a Dragon and then watch for the future books. Greg is an fantastic character you’ll want to follow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Warrior Queen by Tasarla Romaney

The Warrior Queen by Tasarla Romaney
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance
Length: Short Story (103 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Finally, the Warrior Queen yields the Specter of Hope. Will she blanket all of humankind in darkness destroying the world of magic? Or free the humans of creatures from nightmares and restore the world of magic to its splendor? She must see through trickery, trust in what she fears the most, and rely on those closest to her to succeed.

Crenshaw, Taraly, Sancha, Jalie, and Taigo continue their quest through the land of the dead, the barren salt plains, fight endless battles for what they believe in. Only have they placed their belief in the correct Warrior Queen?

There are two sides to the mirror, light and dark. Who will represent each side?

Ms. Romaney wastes no time getting the action started in this exciting installment of the Night of the Gryphon series. The Warrior Queen picks up right at the moment The Hollow King ended. Readers wanting to enjoy The Warrior Queen to it's fullest should read The Hollow King first.

As Taraly, Taigo, Crenshaw, Sancha, and Jalie continue on the quest for the Scepter of Hope, it becomes apparent the five individuals are still not working as a unit. Taraly is still unsure of her feelings for Taigo. Sancha loves Jalie, but knows that she isn’t good for him or the quest. Even more troubling, Jalie and Taigo have some skeletons in their closets that seriously call their motivations and loyalty into question. I had hoped to watch these budding romances continue to bloom in this story. Unfortunately, I have a feeling these fragile romances might not stand the test of time. However, the romantic in me is still holding out hope for some sort of happy ending.

Ms. Romaney is very good at filling her stories with twists and turns to me on my toes. When the first book ended, I at least thought I knew who was going to be on the side of light and who was going to be on the side of dark. As this story progressed, it became increasingly clear not everything is so easily divided. Ms. Romaney reveals two warrior queens and two hollow kings, each representing the light or the dark. Also, several new minor characters were introduced. Each of those characters were working to ensure their candidate for warrior queen or hollow king succeeded. The meddling of these other characters is a bit much at times, but they do move the plot along as well as reveal some interesting background information concerning the main characters.

I must mention that I have one small issue with the story. There are several typos sprinkled throughout the book. For example "pass" was used instead of "past", etc. As I said, this was a minor issue in an otherwise excellent story.

As much as I like the twists and turns of the plot, the characters are what really make this book special. What sets Ms. Romaney’s characters apart and gives them great depth is the fact that very few of them are purely good or evil. They all have the capacity to choose the light or the dark. This is especially apparent in the character of Ovezara, an evil sorceress. Her entire childhood was spent being abused and groomed to do evil, but every now and then a little light shines in her. This causes her a great deal of distress because she isn’t sure what to do with the light. Will she nurture it or crush it?

Crenshaw is another character who really came into his own in this book. When I first encountered him in The Hollow King, Crenshaw had one thing on his mind, killing Ovezara. He also had a pretty low self esteem and didn’t believe that he was capable of much. As the story progresses, Crenshaw slowly begins to realize the strength of the light within him. Crenshaw is also a great source of humor in the book. I especially enjoy his interactions with his mother. His sense of humor is certainly a bit dark at times, but it is always entertaining and never failed to make me smile.

I absolutely enjoyed reading The Warrior Queen, but I must warn readers, like the first book, The Warrior Queen ends at a crucial moment sure to leave readers wanting more. The Warrior Queen is an excellent addition to the Night of the Gryphon series, and I’m already looking forward to the next book. Readers looking for a great fantasy laced with romance should certainly give this book a try.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cut by Patricia McCormick

Cut by Patricia McCormick
Publisher: Front Street imprint of Boyds Mills Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (160 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Fifteen-year-old Callie isn't speaking to anybody, not even to her therapist at Sea Pines, the "residential treatment facility" where her parents and doctor sent her after discovering that she cuts herself. As her story unfolds, Callie reluctantly become involved with the other "guests" at Sea Pines -- finding her voice and confronting the trauma that triggered her behavior.

Everything is as good as it can be for teenager Callie until that fateful day when her younger brother, Sam, falls horribly ill. From that moment forward, Callie is thrown into a net of insecurity and doubt culminating in her ultimate breakdown. Finding herself installed at Sea Pines, a psychiatric hospital for teens, mute and alone, she’s forced to face the reality of what is and what isn’t. And the truth about herself.

Callie is a very complex character expressed in a very non-complex manner. Her voice is straightforward and honest, even if she’s not being completely honest on the outside. She comes off as shy and reserved, although she’s also very dedicated to her brother and maintaining his precarious health. She’s older than her fifteen years as she tends to take on more responsibility than is natural. Callie’s also extremely hard on herself, taking blame where none is to be placed.

It wasn’t a surprise to me, with all the weight she’s put upon her own shoulders, that she is forced to find a way to cope with the stress and burdens of life. I was surprised that she turns to cutting for her relief. The title of the book aside, you don’t normally find this topic approached in books of any type, let alone ones geared towards young adults. I think that it’s important for parents and teens alike to be aware that things like this do happen and are real.

Callie’s journey from the mute outsider to a girl who is finally coming to grips with her place in the world is both sweet and heartbreaking. Watching her find herself – and her voice - in the midst of a group of girls with a variety of issues all their own is encouraging. It makes you want to believe in a better tomorrow and revel in the idea that everyone deserves a second chance. Cut is a true journey, from insecure and angry to a chance at peace and self-love.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Inc
Genre:) Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (374 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Peppermint

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlaying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has also resolved to outwit the creators of the games. To do that she will have to be the last person standing at the end of the deadly ordeal, and that will take every ounce of strength and cunning she has.

This story was truly life changing. The premise of the story alone is enough for anyone to realize this will not be your run of the mill young adult novel.

Katniss and Peeta’s story is amazing. How two children can be sent to compete against other kids knowing the likelihood of them surviving is minimal at best is enough to make any reader lose their breath. Then the relationship development between these two characters really puts the icing on the cake. The story was so well written, I was literally in tears to the point where I thought I couldn't continue any further, yet I still refused to put the book down. On the flip side, there were moments I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Therefore, if you don't want people to think you're losing your mind you may want to find a nice quiet room to read in because you may not be able to control your emotions when reading this story.

Though both main characters were inspiring to me, Peeta was really the standout character within the story. As the son of a baker, he comes off as one of the most unlikely players to make it through the first few minutes of the hunger games. He may not be the strongest or best with weapons, but he has an inner strength and resolution that really makes you rally behind him.

As if creating exciting main characters wasn't enough, the supporting cast Ms. Collins brings in are just as remarkable. For example, Rue and Cinna are two characters I felt could have had their own stories. They had a star quality. I was eagerly anticipating the next scene to include them. These are only two of the wonderful characters that grace the pages and I am sure you will fall in love with each and every one of them.

I have recommended this book to numerous people including my daughter. She was captivated to the point that she brought the book to read during lunch and recess in school. While this book may not be appropriate for children under twelve due to its dark themes, it is certainly worth an adult's time to read and then decide whether to share with their child.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (452 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

There's something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price's attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He's the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce—and goes out of his way to make that very clear—she can't let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.

Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, Fallen is a page turning thriller and the ultimate love story.

Lucinda Price has a history. The bad thing is, she doesn’t remember it all. After a boarding school party ends in disaster, she and her faulty memory are shipped off to Sword & Cross – a last chance school for the bottom of the barrel. Luce knows that she doesn’t belong here, that she didn’t cause the tragedy that killed her friend, but she can’t prove any of it. What’s a girl to do? Besides find a new boy to obsess over?

I found Lucinda to be a fascinating character, if a bit overzealous at times. She has a good heart and really wants to do her best so she can return home to her family and her best friend. However, her immediate attraction – and later obsession – with Daniel Grigori, sort of pushes her over the edge as a relatable character. That said, it didn’t lessen my fascination with her in the least. On the contrary, it made me want to know why she was so into him and what she and her new friend, Penn, would do to gain his attention. Luce and Penn’s antics ensure that there is never a dull moment when Daniel is concerned.

At first, Daniel is a bit flat as all he does is avoid Lucinda at all costs. When he finally gives in to the inevitable and begins to let Luce into his life at Sword & Cross, you begin to learn more about him and, eventually, to like him. He makes himself so unavailable at first, that I started to root for Lucinda’s heart to go to his opposition – Cam – if only because he manages to at least show some interest in her. In the end, his silent strength and eternal love for Luce won me over.

Fallen wasn’t anything like I had expected from the blurb I read and for that, I’m thankful. There’s so much more to it than a girl who’s attracted to a boy she can’t have. This novel is fat with layer upon layer of story. However, now and again, all these layers become cumbersome as they interfere with the actual telling of the story. I found myself desperate to find out a detail – any detail – about Luce’s past or just who Daniel Grigori really was so that we could move forward. So, I advise a bit of patience with Fallen. The story doesn’t move as fast as you might like in some parts, but it is worth it in the end.

Fallen is a dark and enchanting love story unlike any I’ve read before.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lost in the Bayou by Cornell Deville

Lost in the Bayou by Cornell Deville
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (187 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

The Voodoo Swamp is scary, but becoming alligator bait may be a better option than having to face what’s waiting in the cellar.

People disappear in the bayou. And that’s exactly what fourteen-year-old Robin Sherwood needs to do — before her Uncle Conrad snips her toes off with his rusty garden nippers.

When her parents’ private plane disappears in the Voodoo Swamp, Robin’s uncle moves into the multi-million dollar Sherwood Estate as guardian. It doesn’t take Robin long to figure out there’s something not quite right about Uncle Conrad — besides having a metal claw where his left hand used to be.

Weird changes to crazy when he explains the bizarre game he has planned — a game that will leave Robin dead and Uncle Conrad the sole heir to the Sherwood fortune. In order to escape his devious plan and its deadly consequences, the bayou may be Robin’s only chance. It’s a risky choice, but becoming alligator bait seems a lot less terrifying right now than what’s waiting for her in the cellar.

Robin and Andy are home alone with servants; their parents have disappeared. Child Protective Services says they need a responsible adult to care for them and they have asked their Uncle Conrad to come stay with them. Not only has Robin not seen him since she was two, when he arrives he has an iron claw instead of his left hand. She doesn’t know it yet, but that’s not the only thing scary about him.

This is a psychological thriller that will keep readers glued to their chair. This author does a good job of scaring the reader with suggestive conversations and threats to the children. He makes Uncle Conrad rabid enough and angry enough to be a real danger. The children have grown up in a loving family, are close with each other and the servants, and have no idea how to respond to their new caregiver.

Mr. Deville is very good at drawing out your own fears by threatening his characters with everything from torn out fingernails to death. Just like the children, you can’t be sure if Uncle Conrad means it or is just crazy. Or maybe he’s crazy and he does mean it. But given such an ultimatum as: "I’m going to kill you unless you kill me first", what would you do?

This story has good tension, a very interesting plot line and ends with a dramatic finish. You don’t know who is going to win until the last few pages. The author managed to increase my heart rate, scare me with the creatures and people of the bayou, and kept my attention to the end. It’s an exciting read with more than one “monster” involved. Could you do what these children did?

Young readers will enjoy the action; older readers will enjoy the psychological games. There is even a touch of zombies. Do I have you intrigued yet?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Arley Cole

The Blacksmith’s Daughter by Arley Cole
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (224 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Acwellen Lex'Magen rules as liege lord of a small country bounded by forbidding mountains and powerful neighbors. When the neighboring baron, allied with a powerful wizard, attempts to take over his land, first by political, then by covert means, Acwellen finds an ally of his own in Enith Roweson, an unassuming blacksmith who possesses powers he's only known of in legends. As he attempts to unravel both the plots against him----including the nature of the monsters sent to assassinate him----and the mysterious powers Enith is only beginning to understand she has, he also finds himself falling in love with the blacksmith's daughter.

Enith is no lady. She’s the blacksmith’s daughter and is living with her uncle and his family after her father’s death. His wife tries to teach her appropriate ladylike talents, but the lessons don’t take. Enith likes working with metal and that’s it. Then a silly princess comes to town and upsets her whole life…

Ms. Cole’s words wisk you away you on a magic-filled tour of a medieval world with predators that reminded me of ones I’d met in the Lord of the Rings series. It seems everyone has a bit of magic and many don’t know how to use it. That makes the story even more fun to read.

Juliana is in love with a guardsman and doesn’t want to marry the prince. Enith must challenge the right of Juliana to claim her betrothed to stop the marriage. The challenge turns into a sword fight between the two suitors and everybody is surprised when the prince actually marries Enith, right then and there in the courtyard. However, the parents involved are NOT charmed by it.

The author gives you ambushes, invigorated fights and near death on almost every page. You won’t be bored reading this story. I especially liked the fight between good and evil; magic was used for evil and foiled by good magic. It’s easy to pick out the good and bad characters in the story and it only took me a chapter to know that Enith and Acwellen are a good match for each other. The author takes you through an early romance that matures at the end of the story and it’s a sweet tale.

Ms. Cole also weaves enough nuances in the story to let you know that the adventure is not quite over. The evil wizard is still alive, Nerian (Acwellen’s best friend) has not realized all his potential yet, and it wouldn’t be hard to develop another book to continue the story.

I hope she does, I’d love to read more about this world and the characters that people it. If you like fantasy, I know you will too!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Belonging by Eric Del Carlo

The Belonging by Eric Del Carlo
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (16 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

A teenager's attempt to fit in with the new kids in town takes an out of this world turn.

When first contact is made with the alien race Khondra, Flynn is excited and interested in the newcomers. So, when a group of Khondra youngsters enroll in his high school, he'll do anything to be considered part of their clique. But the most ordinary things are considered contraband for the Khondra. Flynn's quest to be just like his new friends leads him down a dangerous path. Will he really ever belong to the Khondra clique? Or, will he just learn to despise his humanity in the end?

Every teen’s dream is to fit in with the cool crowd, right? But what if the cool crowd isn’t from Earth? What would you do to adapt and fit in?

This is the question Flynn Adams is asking himself. For Flynn it’s more than merely fitting in, he wants to belong. What he fails to see is the fine line between becoming “one of the guys” and being obsessed with becoming something you’re not.

When we’re first introduced to Flynn, he’s your typical teenager. Both fascinated and a little frightened of the new aliens at school, he does his level best to befriend the newcomers and find out all that he can about them. A healthy curiosity to understand something new can be good. However, Flynn is too easily sucked into the unknown and his quest for knowledge gets out of hand. Because of this flaw, his character is both believable and relatable for teens and adults alike.

I had no trouble seeing at least a little bit of myself in Flynn, for better or worse. What I enjoyed best about his character is that despite his major character flaws, I really did like him and want badly for him to succeed. Even though I knew, deep in my heart, that success for him would ultimately be an epic failure.

The Belonging is a timely story for our generation. This story is a futuristic reminder to us to take heart with what we are and to make the best of ourselves without getting caught up in the bid to be noticed.

An intriguing and unique way to retell a familiar story, The Belonging, is an enjoyable read for both teens and adults.