Beginning January 1, 2013

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dark Territory by J. Gabriel Gates and Charlene Keel

Dark Territory by J. Gabriel Gates and Charlene Keel
The Tracks, Book One
Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (497 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Rose

Star-crossed love, supernatural evil, and martial arts meet at the abandoned tracks in the deceptively quaint village of Middleburg . . .

When Ignacio Torrez moved from the rough streets of Los Angeles to a small town dead smack in the middle of nowhere, he never expected to find himself in the midst of a gang war. But, he soon learns, these are no ordinary gangs. The wealthy, preppie Toppers on one side of the tracks and the working-class Flatliners on the other adhere to a strict code of honor and use their deadly martial arts skills, taught to them by the wise Master Chin, to battle one another for pride, territory, and survival. When Raphael, leader of the Flatliners, falls forAimee, a Topper girl, the rival gangs prepare for a bloody, all-out war. The only hope for peace between them lies within the dark territory of the abandoned train tunnels where the tracks cross. Under the direction of the mysterious and frightening Magician, the awesome power within the crossing sends the rivals on a terrifying mystical quest to fight the malevolent force that threatens the existence of Middleburg-and quite possibly, the world.
This book, the first book of The Tracks series, is a paranormal Karate Kid meets West Side Story—but so much more. There is a mystery that surrounds the town of Middleburg—a mystery that goes back generations and involves more people than is apparent at the beginning of the book.

The story begins with Ingacio "Nass" Torres being brought to Middleburg from LA because his mother is concerned he will get into trouble with gangs. Little did she know that she was bringing him to an area that is right in the middle of a gang war—a war between the Toppers (wealthy and upper class) and the Flatliners.

The leaders of both groups were once best friends and train with the same teacher—and there's more to Master Chin than meets the eye—as there are many of the characters in this book. Mystery surrounds the train graveyard. All the children know the warning:

Keep out of the railroad tunnels
And stay off the tracks
Don't go into the train graveyard
Or the Middleburg Monster will break your backs.

Are there actually monsters in the Dark Territory—a section of train tracks not covered by signals—or is it only a tale created to scare children? Ask Aimee—a girl from the "right" side of the tracks who falls in love with the leader of the Flatliners.

The world building is extraordinary—detailed, layered, rich—as are the characters—a mysterious man who appears and disappears at will, a woman obsessed with tapestries, a girl who is not sure how she came to Middleburg, among many others.

The action scenes are drawn well enough that even readers not familiar with martial art movements can clearly see what's going on and the strict code of honor both sides adhere to is a good lesson.

I'm looking forward to the next book in this series—there is still a lot of mystery to solve and a lot of history to uncover.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Shades of the Future by Suzanne Lilly

Shades of the Future by Suzanne Lilly
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short (125 pgs)
Age Recommendation:  14+
Rated: 5 Stars
Review by Snapdragon

What would you do if you could see your future? Would you accept it or would you change it?

Mariah Davis loves animals, running, and her hunk of a boyfriend, Kevin Creamer. Everything looks bright for her until the day she finds a pair of sunglasses that allow her to see the future.

When she glimpses a disaster looming, she tries to avoid it but fails. She has a car accident that lands her in a wheelchair, smashing her hopes for a running scholarship to the veterinary program at Ohio State University. She pushes Kevin away, thinking he’ll want to end their relationship now that she can’t walk.

Will she ever learn to trust and love again? She could search for an answer in the sunglasses. But she’s afraid what they reveal might destroy her.

Suzanne Lilly’s ‘Shades of the Future’ is a quick trip into the most-happening lives in a small town ever.

Honey Creek seems normal enough, from the diner to the general location, the everyday folks as well as the teens, like Mariah Davis. Mariah’s an ordinary teen, isn’t she? She’s got goals – like running a marathon and getting into college. She’s not superstitious and she’s got some good friends. She’s got a perfectly good boyfriend. They all take part in raising funds for a benefit – all very contemporary. Life is far from boring too, as friend Hayley’s paranoia leads to moments of real suspense.

And then, quite accidentally, Mariah finds a pair of sunglasses.

Suddenly, everything changes. Mariah can see the future. Or, can she? All our doubts fly aside as Mariah’s own doubts increase. We readers feel a thrill of premonition ourselves when we hear Eulalie’s caution:

When you start messing around with fortune telling and seeing the future, sooner or later you might see things you don’t want to know about.

Is the future really ‘like a train coming?” That thought will recur as you read, and …there is just no putting this book down after that. Can Mariah see the future – and more importantly, can she change it? As events unfold, we realize this is not only an adventure for Mariah, but truly a personal journey.  Shades of the Future becomes the classic ‘page-turner’ early on and simply never lets go. It has light moments as well as dark moments. Subtle humor and casual conversation are as well presented as serious, life-altering moments.

Although the suspenseful part of this keeps you riveted, the characters continue to delight along the way. Hayley and Kevin and Granma and even dear old cook Eulalie are a few of a host of wonderful, complex characters. If I had one complaint it was that the author’s preoccupation with food just killed my diet (from the Elvis sandwich to the chocolate beet cake, not to mention the biscuits with gravy for breakfast).

The charming setting of Honey Creek is tangibly real and in some respects, so believable as to be an ‘everyday’ location; a spot where any of us might visit relatives…off the beaten track, but real. Its so charmingly rural you notice scents like honeysuckle drifting in the windows.

The story is unpredictable and surprising, has funny moments and wonderful characters. This is ultimately the coolest YA book I’ve ever read: You don’t have to be a teen to love this book!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spirited Kat O’Shea

Spirited Kat O’Shea
Publisher: Leap Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (249 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Haunted houses. Haunted hearts. And a past that refuses to die. . .

Leap Books summoned best-selling paranormal and dreadfully talented debut authors to conjure up Spirited, a haunting collection of 13 tales guaranteed to keep you up all night.

Get entombed in stories of Egyptian treasures, shudder at tales of malevolent spirits, and become enthralled with the adventures of witch-hunters, ghost seekers, and lost souls. From steampunk to cyberpunk, our collection spans past, present, and future hauntings. One story actually leaps off the page with 3D augmented reality. Go ahead. Turn the page if you dare. We won't tell if you sleep with the light on. Because after all, there's no rest for the wicked.

Go ahead. Turn the page if you dare. We won't tell if you sleep with the light on. Because after all, there's no rest for the wicked.

Are you ready to enter a world of spirits and take your chances? Not all of them are nice…

What caught my eye about this book was the fact that it was short stories by a variety of authors. I enjoy different writing styles and different plot concepts, so I was interested in seeing how they handled this central theme of ghosts.

The stories ranged from historical to science fiction, avenging spirits to kind spirits. Several stories focused on putting the ghosts to rest. Each author did a good job describing the setting and making this reader interested in their characters. The words flowed well and I enjoyed the read. However, I would like to have seen either more variety or perhaps a couple of more throughly fleshed out stories. It just seemed something was lacking.

Once I started reading this book, I didn’t want to stop. I went from story to story and each author gave me a short treat to read. There was a combination of scary and sweet in the collection. My personal favorites were the science fiction stories. They provided a different form of ghost story and even seemed a bit more believable because they were fantasy.

If you enjoy ghost stories, this is a nice selection that's easy to read and doesn’t get too extreme at horror or romance. If you think you aren’t into ghost stories, this is a good way to sample them and see which types appeal to you. I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy and then you'll have opened a new genre to expand your reading. This collection has something for everyone.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Phoenix by Jennifer Mason-Black

Phoenix by Jennifer Mason-Black
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Astilbe

At sixteen, Tucker has nothing but the clothes on his back, the bruises on his ribs, and the truth about what happened between him and the band teacher. He left home looking to escape his memories, but all he's found on the road are new bad ones to take their place.

Then he meets Gabriel, a beautiful hustler, and Kelsey, a fire-obsessed girl with a head full of fairy tales. After Gabriel rescues him from a pair of drunks looking for a fight, Tucker's happy to join him in the abandoned factory he calls home. All he must do in return is help keep Kelsey safe.

There’s always a way out. The trick is to stick around long enough to discover it.

Accurately capturing what it feels like to be a teenager isn’t easy. This is one of those rare books that knows exactly how to talk about complex issues like homelessness, abuse, depression and homophobia without talking down to or alienating its audience. Older readers, especially those who have personal experience with any of these issues, will be catapulted back to the wonder, pain and confusion that can come with living on the cusp of adulthood.

Because this story jumps around in time I finished the last page wishing we could know more about the years of Tucker’s life that happen between his time spent as a terrified homeless youth and the man he eventually becomes. A few clues are sprinkled throughout the story to connect his teenage and adult selves but I’d still love to see a sequel fill in these gaps. Some people transform suddenly while others take years to build the life they’ve always wanted. I cannot help but to wonder to which category Tucker would belong!

It was difficult to pick an appropriate rating for this book. A (consensual) sexual encounter is briefly alluded to and several scenes include graphic depictions of violence that would be inappropriate for younger or sensitive readers. As powerful and inspiring as this book was I think it’s best suited for older teens for these reasons.

If you’ve ever wanted to skip ahead during a difficult chapter of your life to see how everything turns out in the end Phoenix is the perfect book for you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dormitory of the Dead by Kelly Lougheed

Dormitory of the Dead by Kelly Lougheed
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (142 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

Blood coming out of the bathroom faucets of Charity Hooper's Hawthorn School dormitory doesn't just mean Charity can't wash her face to maintain her porcelain (well, kind of) complexion--it means there's a dead body from 1923 buried in the plumbing, astonishingly well-preserved by the wet sewage conditions.

Well-preserved enough, in fact, for the dead girl's vampire boyfriend to reanimate her as a zombie so they can live happily ever after, massacring innocent Hawthorn students side-by-side.

Faced with such homicidal creatures, Charity would ordinarily consult her English teacher, Ms. Van Tessel, whose knowledge of zombie extermination rivals only her knowledge of British literature. But Ms. Van Tessel has gone mysteriously missing. Can Charity track down her teacher before the annual midnight Capture the Flag tournament, which will be nothing more than an all-you-can-eat buffet for the vampire-zombie tag team?

Charity cannot be bothered with the mundane tasks of studying for a math test when she has things like vampires, ghosts and zombies trying to maim her and her friends. So while her roommate Louise and the other girls in her dorm focus on homework and study groups, Charity is trying to save their lives.

Charity’s character is certainly entertaining and comical to the point that I could picture her as one of my middle school/high school friends. She certainly has a certain outlook on life that's infectious and makes you want to read more. Whether it be hiding from her teachers so they do not realize that her C average takes little to no effort, or imagining her classmates getting their brains sucked out, she just seems to enjoy life no matter the circumstances. This was a character who I'm sure many young adults would find entertaining.

Louise is the complete opposite of her roommate Charity. It may be one of the reasons their friendship works so well. Louise is the book smart level headed one who tries to see reason and logic even when trying to figure out how to save their ghost teacher, and avoid other vindictive ghosts who seem to be intent of bothering the girls. Louise’s personally was one that I could relate to myself. Because of the extreme polar opposite of these girls personality I am sure everyone can find someone they relate to in this book.

While the characters where entertaining in themselves this does not mean that the plot was not just as enchanting if not more so. These teens seem to really get everything possible thrown at them from real problems to paranormal entities. How they do it while still attending school, and avoiding explaining their bizarre behavior to their teachers is beyond me.

This is a story I can definitely see me reading with my daughter, which is always a plus. The author keeps it light and amusing without making a story that was too “adult” for teens and pre-teens. It can sometimes be difficult to find a story that can be entertaining for both kids and adults, and Dormitory of The Dead certainly fits the bill.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chasing McCree by J. C. Isabella

Chasing McCree by J. C. Isabella
Publisher: Smashwords
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (134 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Briar Thompson had it all. The right clothes, the right friends, the right car. Being popular was all that mattered. Her parents were rich and treated like royalty throughout the community. She thought her senior year of high school was going perfectly, until the night her drink was spiked at a party by one of her so called friends.

That was the night she met Chase McCree.

Chase wanted to go back to Montana. To the ranch and the wild, wide blue sky that went on forever. He wanted nothing to do with flashy cars or spoiled rich kids. But he found himself head over boots for the quirky cheerleader who turned her back on her social status. She befriended him when no one else would.

Shunned and hurt by the people who were once her friends, Briar flees with Chase to his family ranch in Montana. There she discovers another world, and apart of herself she never knew.

The cowboy wasn’t like anyone she’d ever met. The cheerleader wasn’t like anyone he’d ever met. Apart their lives didn’t seem to make sense, but together, they were chasing forever.

Chasing McCree is a delightful and thought provoking tale about two young adults from different backgrounds finding a common dream and being willing to fight for it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the effective way Ms. Isabella showcased the difference in her characters. Chase, the hero, was awesome. Even as young as he was, just about to turn 18 years of age, he had the demeanor of a much more well-rounded and sophisticated man. It’s believable and quite refreshing and it’s all due to the fact of his upbringing. The author did a stellar job of highlighting the differences between the shallow, self-centered and callous peers in the high school against someone who shouldered responsibility from a very young age and who was grounded in what was important in life. It certainly wasn’t fast cars, using and manipulating people and snobbish cliques that demean others. False pride and fake body parts also didn’t play into what was important to Chase and the people he came from. His sense of self-worth and confidence showed early on and it was integral to the story.

The person who experiences the most growth, is Briar. It was funny how she met Chase in the beginning, but it was also rather scary. The ramifications of what could have happened to her are all too real. The author’s description of how Chase saw her was very telling and how she reacted to him once she became aware of her situation was equally so. I felt bad for her because of Ms. Isabella’s descriptions of the heroine’s family life. The dialogue and the details portrayed a very dysfunctional family. It took her meeting Chase to open her eyes to what was wrong with her life, her friends and her decisions up to that point. It takes courage to make changes. It takes a lot more to take a stand and not back down even when people that she used to trust prove they were never worthy of that trust. Watching Briar take each step towards a maturity that left her peers in the dust was wonderful reading. I enjoyed seeing a young woman emerge from the na├»ve girl she’d been. I also liked her sense of adventure, her willingness to try new things and her general joy in life which blossomed from Chases’s acceptance of everything about her, including her tears. It was beautiful, romantic and heartwarming.

The most fun secondary character was Briar’s grandmother. She was amusing, full of kick and vinegar, and the one person who truly understood Briar. She was integral to helping me believe in the heroine’s ability to embrace the changes that she faced. No one can stay a snob with such a wonderful bundle of energy and sass in their lives. The author had a moment of genius when she created Grandma.

The conflict comes from parental expectations and shallow and vicious peers. I loved the part when Chase told Briar that she should have used a different book. That startled a laugh out of me. Another conflict comes from merging a city girl with a country boy and finding their dreams aren’t that different. It’s what they had to do in order to make them come true that kept me flipping the pages.

For the purpose of the story, I’m sure the level of dysfunction that occurred in Briar’s family was necessary but it seemed rather extreme to me. I can’t imagine a mother and a father having that intensity of self-absorption; one perhaps, but not both. At least, I certainly hope not. In the heroine’s case, however, it cemented my feelings of concern and horror on her behalf which, I expect, was the author’s intention.

I enjoyed Chase’s family and the descriptions of ranch life. There is another external conflict that bordered on nasty and provided the right amount of suspense to stir the plot as well as giving another push towards character growth for both Chase and Briar. It was well done and kept me enthralled.

The wrap-up of the happily ever after reminded me of one of my favorite made for T.V. movies, Night of the Twisters. In that movie, the epilogue came from the voice of the main hero and gave highlights of what later happened to the characters that we saw in the movie and how things played out in their futures. I remember the winds of the zephyr and crying. I had tears in my eyes from Chasing McCree as well. The follow-up was so thorough and beautiful, I sighed when I got to the last page. It’s sweet, tender, respectful and full of hope with a wonderful future spread out before Briar and Chase. This was an awesome read and I recommend it highly.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Heirs of Prophecy by Michael A. Rothman

Heirs of Prophecy by Michael A. Rothman
Publisher: M and S Publishing
Genre: Fantasy
Length:  Full (369 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by Poppy

The Riverton family had been enjoying a simple summer vacation when, through a fluke of nature, they found themselves in a strange new land.

The Riverton brothers quickly realize that in this world, they have gained unusual powers. Powers that their parents fear will attract the attention of Azazel himself – the merciless wizard who brutally controls this world.

The two brothers soon learn that an ancient prophecy has finally been initiated by their arrival in Trimoria. As the heirs of this prophecy, they are destined to lead the armies of men, dwarves, elves, and even a misfit ogre against the prophesied demon horde.

Only one thing stands in their way.

The evil wizard who has learned of their presence, and has sent assassins to wipe them from existence.
Heirs of Prophecy is a fun, action-packed book that's appropriate for all ages.  Truthfully, it's been a while since I've read a middle grade book, so I wasn't sure it would hold my attention.  It did that and more.  I completely enjoyed it!

It starts off a little slowly with the Riverton family packing for vacation, but once they take their little unscheduled side trip to the land of Trimoria, things certainly pick up!  The author's done a fine job of showing us the land and its people clearly, with each character being unique.  I enjoyed the family interactions, with the boys being boys and the parents actually parenting!  While I think the boys acted a bit older than their chronological ages, that may have been in part due to the circumstances. Certainly the tween and teen boys from a hundred years ago or more acted with more maturity than those of today. And the Riverton brothers are thrust into a world where they're required to grow up quickly.

There's no shortage of conflict here, either. From a bully in the town, to ogres and a crazy, powerful wizard, we're kept on a roller coaster of excitment.  I'll admit, once I was done reading this, I shared it with my thirteen year old daughter, and she gobbled it up and asked for more.

I highly recommend this book for both kids of any age (there aren't any truly terrifying parts that would scare younger children) and for adults who have a love of fun, innocent fantasy.  It certainly appealed to all of those in my household. I'm betting it would do the same in yours.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full length (303 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistable good looks and charm on ususpecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.

Calder White is a man lost among women. Or rather, a merman surrounded by mermaids – angry, vengeful, bloodthirsty mermaids. When he’s called home early to the cold waters of Lake Superior, he’s reluctant, to say the least. But when his sisters inform him that the man responsible for their mother’s death has been found, he has no choice but to return and seek out his revenge.

I think that I’m just a little bit in love with Calder. He’s charming, he’s handsome, and he tends to put his foot in his mouth. While that last part’s not normally something a woman looks for in a potential date, it shows that he has a strong human side battling with the merman exterior. Calder’s also very adept at swallowing his true feelings to make peace with his three sisters, something that might just come in handy later in life. He’s an extremely complex character who grows and learns an awful lot about himself and his history throughout the course of the story.

Lily Hancock is every man’s dream come true. She’s beautiful, poetic, and a truly free spirit. Her easygoing nature really helps to balance out Calder’s more natural unease and restlessness. I like how different she is from other young heroines I’ve come across. Lilly has a love of the past, vintage clothing and Victorian poetry, and she has old-fashioned values, too. She’d give anything to keep her family together and whole.

Lies Beneath is an intense and fast-paced trek into the real lives of the merpeople. This decidedly dark twist on a familiar theme will make you reevaluate everything you thought you knew. The author does an amazing job of twisting reality and fantasy and making into a seamless whole. So, what are you waiting for? Come dip your toes into the water and see what you find.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Olivia Bean: Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean: Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (278 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Olivia Bean knows trivia. She watches Jeopardy! every night, and usually beats at least one of the contestants! If only she were better at geography, she would try out for kids' Jeopardy! Not only could she win bundles of money, she could go out to tape it in California where her dad, who left their family two years ago and whom she misses like crazy, lives with his new family.

But one day Olivia's friend-turned-nemesis, Tucker, offers to help Olivia bulk up her geography knowledge. Before she knows it, she's getting help from all sorts of unexpected sources: her almost-stepdad, superannoying Neil; her genius brother, Charlie; even her stressed out mom. Soon she's breezed through the audition rounds and is headed for the taping in Hollywood. But will the one person she wants to impress more than anything—her dad—show up to support her?

What is family? Ask Olivia at the beginning of this book and she would say her mom, Little Bother (uh, brother) and her dad, who happens to live several states over with his new family. It would NOT include Neil. No way, no how!

If only life was as structured as a game show. Olivia Bean is smart. Really smart. Could-win-at-Jeopardy!- if-she-could-just-earn-a-spot-on-their-kid’s-week-show smart. Best of all, she would make her dad proud and he would come see her, and maybe Neil would go away and maybe her little brother would be less of a Little Bother…if only.

Children think on such simple terms. If only this one big thing could happen, the rest of the world would fall into place and things would be perfect. Olivia Bean: Trivia Queen is a coming of age story for 12 year old Olivia. At a very pivotal point in her life, her world, as she has known it, is totally turned upside down. Sure her mom and dad fought, regularly, but she never imagined there would be a time that she wouldn’t get to sit down with her dad and watch their favorite show together.

I really liked how Ms. Gephart created this character. I have a ten year old daughter and it was so easy to relate to how Olivia viewed the world. I could see/hear my daughter saying some of the same things Olivia said and with just as much attitude. Watching Olivia grow and mature as the book progresses was a joy. From the beginning where her goal is to avoid her mother’s live in boyfriend, Neil, and not kill her annoying little brother to when she realizes the true definition of family.

What is family? By the end of the book it was easy to see that Olivia had faced some tough truths and learned more about what’s important in life. She has an incredible support system right under her own roof and the very same person she thought she could never talk to, much less befriend, is the one who becomes her closest ally.

This was a really fun book. It was a story within a story that highlighted the value found in family (even an unconventional one) and friends. Young readers as well as adults who simply like to keep up with what their children are reading will enjoy this book.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rise From Darkness by Ciara Knight

Rise From Darkness by Ciara Knight
Battle for Souls Series
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (182 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Peppermint

Alexander Lorre gives new meaning to the term “tormented teen.” He’s a newly fallen angel, which means he has the self-control of a three-year-old, the hormones of a teenager and the strength of an angel. When he rescues Gaby Moore from drowning, the chemistry between them is undeniable. With a local demon threatening Gaby’s life, he struggles to find a balance between remaining close enough to protect her but distant enough to control his desires.

As danger draws closer, Gaby uncovers shattering secrets that will lead to an ultimate choice. Will she fight alongside her father, an earthbound hunter killing fallen angels and demons, give into the demon blood coursing through her veins and join the demon world, or save the man she loves from both? The first two choices damn her, but the last one could destroy them all.

This story consumed me from the exciting beginning to the very satisfying ending - to the point that I even dreamed about fallen angels and epic battles between good and evil.

Alexander is everything that I typically look for in a hero. He's arrogant, good looking, and protective to a fault. I immediately knew this story would entertain me when introduced to this character who wants to save everyone. The way he interacts with his not so little sister, Sammy, had me smiling like the Cheshire Cat because it reminded me of so many sibling relationships. When he falls head over heels for Gaby I knew she would have a handful with him.

The plot line of this story is the age-old battle of good versus evil with a twist. You not only have fallen angels, and demons competing but also a hunter looking to destroy them all as well as other creatures, who may not be angels or demons but something entirely different. For someone like me, who enjoys an exciting paranormal element within a story, this book easily kept me captivated. The author also throws in a few other twists that had me on the edge of my seat and engrossed in the action.

The secondary cast of this story are as entertaining as the main characters if not more so at times. Especially Alex’s sister Sammy and one of Forras’s demon flunkies, Boon. Sammy’s bubbly personally is amusing. I couldn't help but laugh out loud when she turns into the bossy girl who seems to know more than one may think. Sammy could absolutely have her own story that would be just as enjoyable as this one.

This is a story I will gladly recommend to others because I know it will stick with me for a while. I eagerly await the next installment of the Battle of the Souls series.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Toby’s Trek by John Paulits

Toby’s Trek by John Paulits
Publisher: Burst Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (107 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Toby Manders is a bored sixteen-year-old Earth immigrant to Hobson’s Planet who is tired of living the quiet life of a farmer. After running away from his father and home, he becomes close friends with Jar Kensch, a native Walber boy. He and Jar, who has family troubles of his own, get themselves entangled in the feud going on between the Earth immigrants and the Catonians, conquerors of Hobson’s Planet.

Can Toby resolve the trouble he and Jar get into, resolve his estrangement from his father and avoid the boring life he left behind?

Toby and his father left earth behind and moved to Hobson’s planet to farm and have a better life. Neither of them planned on working for Catonians and having to give them all the food they harvested.

Mr. Paulits writes a good sci-fi tale about a world with three nationalities who live separately and don’t care much for each other. There's the conflict between the Catonians and farmers, and the Walbers want nothing to with either party; they just want a simple life on the river with a bit of farming. The author uses the conflict between the various groups to set the stage for Toby’s story. He’s sixteen, bored with farming, and wants to find his own way and live his own life instead of staying on the farm and being bossed by his father.

When Toby gets brave enough to run away, he finds himself running right into other problems. Soon the soldiers are looking for him, the young man he meets is a Walber and gets him into more trouble. Mr. Paulits’ story is about Toby coming of age. The trials and tribulations he lives through by trying to make things right teaches him a lot about life. There's a child’s death in this story, so judge the maturity of the child you buy it for.

My grandparents lived in Czechoslovakia, and the same thing happened to them. When their crops were harvested, the Communists came and took it all away; in this story, it’s the Catonians taking the crops. This future world didn’t learn anything from the past.

The author shows Toby’s indecision on which way to turn and lets you see him figure out which way is the most important. He also learns that sometimes you have to sacrifice what you thought you wanted and embrace the change that is possible.

I found this world believable and Toby’s story to be authentic. He’s going through adolescence and we all learn hard lessons then. Why not share this story with your young one who has an interest in science fiction? It’s good read and will take you on a walk through another world.