Priestess by Deidre Huesmann


Priestess by Deidre Huesmann
A Modern Greek Myth 2
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (194 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Poinsettia

Trapped on Mykonos, Azalee makes a deal with a god of death: find him Desdemona, and he’ll bring Joel, the love of her life, back to her. But her attempts are thwarted at every turn by an infuriating High Priestess, who touts great political pull and seems to have sinister plans for Azalee’s future.

Shipped back to Illyria, Joel is imprisoned beneath the Kurios’s quarters, where he’s unwittingly reunited with his dangerous elder brother, Deimos. Joel wants to rescue Azalee, but Deimos is determined to prove that Joel must break his pacifism to do it.

Though on opposite ends of Greece, Azalee and Joel’s decisions continue to twine across the threads of fate. Will fate bring them together, or are they destined to remain apart?

Can Azalee trust the gods?

The fates brought Azalee and Joel together, but now everyone seems to be conspiring to keep them apart. Determined to be reunited with Joel, Azalee makes a deal with Thanatos, a god of death. I was wary of this relationship from the start. The gods always seem to have ulterior motives and aren’t often concerned with the mortals they hurt along the way. Will Thanatos truly bring Azalee and Joel together, or will the gods continue to keep them apart? I must mention that Priestess picks up where the first book, Blistered, ended. To enjoy Azalee and Joel’s story, I recommend reading Blistered first.

When I finished Blistered, Joel and Azalee’s situation was far from ideal, but they seemed sure they would soon find their way back to each other. However, in this installment, things have quickly gone from bad to worse. Joel is imprisoned in a cell similar to the one he rescued Azalee from with one key difference. His brother Deimos is in the cell across from his. I’m not quite sure what to make of Deimos. He certainly has a colorful personality. Charming and flippant one moment, and deadly serious the next. I have a feeling that Deimos’ attitude is a front that masks deeper issues. Joel doesn’t have good memories of him, but I’m wondering if there is more to the story that Joel remembers or knows. I look forward to watching the brothers reconnect.

Niribelle has also been harshly punished for failing her mission. While I can’t say that I’ve grown to like her, I do actually feel bad for her now that I know more about her situation and family life. I will say that Niribelle provides a shocking plot twist, that I’m sure will come back to haunt her in some way.

When Azalee reaches the temple of Selene, it isn’t what she expected at all. The High Priestess takes an immediate and intense disliking toward Azalee. The priestesses are strongly discouraged from making friends with each other. I found this strange and very unsettling. However, Azalee does manage to make one friend, Emilia. Azalee and Emilia both know that something is wrong at the temple, and it has something to do with the High Priestess. Neither can figure out exactly what the problem is. One thing is certain. Azalee had a very strong connection with Selene before coming to the temple. It stands to reason her connection should be stronger at the temple, but once there, she can’t seem to hear the goddess at all. What is blocking Selene from communicating with her priestesses?

As if dealing with the vicious High Priestess wasn’t bad enough, Azalee also has to fend off the unwanted attention of Theseus, a very rich and powerful man. Theseus believes that if he and Azalee were to have a child, it would bring strength and peace to the Chertz people. Theseus is vain, selfish, and arrogant, and it would be very easy to write him off. However, the more I read, I think there is more to his character that has yet to be revealed. He treats Azalee terribly at times, but however misguided his actions are, I think he truly believes he is doing the right thing for the Chertzes.

Azalee and Joel’s situation is even more precarious at the end of this installment than it was at the end of the first. They are desperately trying to reach each other, but there are so many obstacles standing in their way. I fear they have a long hard road to travel before they will finally be able to be together. However, I’m still holding out hope that they will find their way to a happy ending. I eagerly anticipate reading the third and final book in this series!

June Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ High Summons by Eli Celata


High Summons by Eli Celata
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (180 pages)
Age Recommendation:16+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

BoM LASR YA copy

Jon Blythe is sick of waiting for his Yoda. After years of hiding his magic, he’s ready to retire from his mortal life, drop out of college, and jump into the world of demon hunters. He just didn’t really expect a bleach blond bookstore clerk with light up toys for weapons. Unfortunately, Jordan is Jon’s only hope. When rogue magic users come to Rochester with a malicious plan, the odd couple strikes out to save the day. Jordan might not be what Jon expected, but between demons and Econ homework, the demons win every time. Wild nights drag Jon further from normal into the world where his father vanished. Maybe he’s becoming an addict. Maybe magic just comes with a price. Either way, he’s hooked.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!!!

Blistered by Deidre Huesmann


Blistered by Deidre Huesmann
A Modern Greek Myth Volume 1
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (183 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Bearing the Curse Azalee wants a home—one that isn’t a cold, dirty prison deep within the earth. Even if she wanted to escape, she can’t walk in sunlight. Her skin will burn and flay, blistered by a god. Defying the Fates Joel wants to get her somewhere safe. Both are outcasts, shunned, and forbidden from taking proper Greek names. He breaks her out of an underground prison, and they flee toward Mykonos. Angering the Gods The battle-worn Kurios sends Niribelle after them. She’s gorgeous, she’s cunning, and she seems to have a thing for Joel. She arrives armed with Hecate’s magic, and blessed by Aphrodite’s beauty. Inciting the War Soon the three teenagers discover one horrifying thing: Mykonos will be no paradise. 14+ due to adult situations

Is Azalee and Joel’s connection a blessing or a curse?

Azalee’s life has never been close to resembling anything normal. As a child, she was an outcast. After she was blistered, she was thrown into an underground prison by her own parents. When Joel comes to rescue her, Azalee is understandably skeptical. After all, she’s never even known basic kindness. Azalee’s desire to be free is stronger than her doubts so she reluctantly leaves with Joel. However, it isn’t long before they are joined by Niribelle. I didn’t trust Niribelle from the first moment she appeared. Her whiny and superior attitude grated on my nerves. I couldn’t help but wonder what her true motivations were and how much damage she would do to Joel and Azalee’s quest.

Azalee is a likable character, but she can be very abrasive. She and Niribelle fought constantly while Joel made futile attempts to stay neutral and keep the peace. I must say that I’m rather surprised that Joel didn’t see through Niribelle’s attitude sooner. While it is clear he tries to see the best in people, he is also very smart. Niribelle shows her true colors on multiple occasions yet he persisted in making excuses for her. I found this hard to swallow.

Azalee and Joel’s budding friendship and romance perfectly balances the animosity between Azalee and Niribelle. Azalee is very guarded, convinced no one could truly care about her. However, Joel is so genuine, honest, kind, and patient that she gradually begins to trust him. I loved watching them get to know each other, particularly when Joel takes the time to teach Azalee how to read. The little things Joel did for her every day thawed Azalee’s heart bit by bit. I enjoyed watching their feelings grow so naturally that before they realized it, they had fallen in love. However, no one, not even the gods, is likely to look on their relationship with favor.

I do wish there had been more details provided about a couple of issues. I’d like to know more about the Chertz and Spinel. How did these two groups come to be, and why do they hate each other so much? I’d also like more explanation on why some children weren’t given Greek names. Clearly it is meant to shame them, but why? Because the child was conceived unexpectedly? This doesn’t make much sense to me.

I also have an issue with the fact that there are no good parental figures. Most of the adults are absolutely horrible and completely devoid of love and compassion. Familial bonds are nonexistent. I realize I’m not getting a picture of the entire culture, but the families I’ve met so far are beyond dysfunctional.

Despite these issues, I really enjoyed reading Blistered. The pacing is excellent, the plot is compelling, and Azalee and Joel are wonderful characters who are easy to cheer for. I must warn readers that this installment ends on a “to be continued” note. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that Azalee and Joel are relatively okay, but their situation is far from ideal. I will be picking up the second book immediately because I absolutely have to know what happens next!

The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr


The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr
Publisher: Wondertale
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (191 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Return to the world of the Magician’s Workshop: Where Dreams Become Reality.

In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?

Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.

After the Color Ceremony, life will never be the same.

First, it is absolutely imperative to read Volume One before reading this installment of the Magician’s Workshop series. Volume Two picks up exactly where the previous book ended, right before the life altering Color Ceremony. After reading Volume One, I desperately wanted to know how the Color Ceremony would go for Kai, Talia, Weston, Kalaya, Kaso, and Layauna. The course of their futures would be determined in a single moment. Each of these characters have grown on me, and I must admit I felt nervous as each of them stood before the puller. Who would have Color? Who would be void? I had to stop myself from rushing ahead to find the answers, and I discovered the truth is much more complicated than I ever could have imagined.

The more I learn about Color, the more convinced I am that the system is flawed. I won’t reveal any names, but some very talented characters are found void. Each time a promising character was found void, it was a breath-stealing blow. I couldn’t believe how unfair it was. However, the more I read, the more it became clear that there are big changes on the horizon for the inhabitants of O’Ceea. Some people are beginning to believe that having Color isn’t nearly as important they have been led to believe. Again, I can’t give too many details, but Layauna’s story convinced me that Color is not the only expression of power and talent. Her experience with the puller and indeed her entire storyline is by far the most disturbing and clearly illustrates that something needs to change. I fear that Layauna, Kai, and the others are pawns in a larger scheme that has yet to be fully revealed. Will the change be for the better or worse?

As I mentioned in my review of Volume One, everyone in O’Ceea has the ability to make projections, which are essentially magical illusions. They aren’t real, but in this installment, there are rumblings of people who’d like to make projections into reality. Most people think this is impossible, but I’m not so sure. I look forward to seeing how this particular plot thread develops.

The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two is an absolutely delightful addition to the series. The more I read, the more intrigued I become. I am thrilled I had the opportunity to read this installment, and I’m eagerly anticipating the release of Volume Three.

Grimm Remains by Eli Celata


Grimm Remains by Eli Celata
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (190 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Mammon’s summoning turned Rochester into a beacon for the denizens of Hell. As demon activity increases, Jon settles in for a new academic year, and Jordan moves in as the city’s protector. Unfortunately, the young warlock of Rochester might not be around long if the Devil’s marine legion has a say. Havfine, demonic mermaids, don’t often leave deep lakes and ocean waters. They’re better known for drowning mortal sailors than hunting magic users, but something has sent them upstream from Lake Ontario. When three orphans vanish from a magical sanctuary in Toronto, their caretaker – the Wizard Monday – dredges up a part of Jordan’s and Jon’s father’s history that Jordan would have rather forgotten. In this race against the Bane of Hamelin, more than three souls may be on the line.

Jon’s adventures have only just begun.

The new characters who were introduced in this tale were a nice addition to the cast. While I liked having such a strong focus on Jon when I first met him, meeting so many other magic users really fleshed out the world they all lived in. The number of people who has these abilities was so small that I was thrilled to see so many folks like Jon. It wasn’t something I was expecting to see happen, but it was a great way to push the plot forward.

There were pacing issues, and most of them were due to the plot getting off to such a slow start. As much as I liked the first novel in this series, I struggled to get into this one in the beginning because of how much time it took for anything exciting to happen to Jon or anyone else in his life. There were so many interesting conflicts in his previous adventure that I was expecting him to jump right into them in the sequel. When that didn’t happen, I was surprised and a little confused.

With that begin said, the storyline was solid once things began moving along more quickly. One of the things I enjoy the most about this universe is how much freedom it gives readers to come up with our own theories about how certain parts of it works. The basic explanations of magical society were there again this time, but I liked being able to test my ideas on how it all fit together against what the plot and characters eventually revealed to me. Whether I was wrong or right, it was fun to think logically and methodically about this stuff while I was reading.

This book is the second in a series. It can be read on its own or out of order.

Grimm Remains should be read by anyone who enjoys modern fantasy.

Before the Dawn by Courtney Rene


Before the Dawn by Courtney Rene
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (99 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Seventeen year old Abby can’t shake the darkness that continues to haunt her since her escape from the Hunterz. She can’t let it go. Questions continue to circle. Questions no one will answer. Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much? The answers could be found in a young boy named, Sam. He may be from the Hunterz, but he smells of wolf. Derek wants to believe her, and tries to help, but Abby still hasn’t learned how to accept help from others. Her relationships with her mother and father continue to deteriorate, but Derek is a puzzle. Some days he’s exactly what she wants and others he is all that she despises. Being a shifter isn’t as simple as she thought it would be. The wolf part is easy. It’s the human side that needs a little work.

There’s a wolf inside of Abby that can’t wait to get out again.

Lilly, Abby’s aunt, was such a kind person and wonderful role model for her niece. She brought a sense of stability and calm to Abby’s life that was desperately needed. Every time Lilly entered a scene, I smiled because I knew she was going to make everything feel alright again. She was by far my favorite character in this tale.

I would have liked to see more time spent developing Abby’s personality. She spent a great deal of this story being angry. While she had good reasons for feeling that way so often, it was hard to get to know the other sides of her personality because of it. I would have loved to see more examples of how she behaved when she was in other moods, too, so I could discover the rest of her as well.

The shifter society was fascinating. I really enjoyed seeing how it all worked, especially when it came to how men and women relate to each other in this world and all of the double standards that they have about what men are allowed to do but women are not. Abby’s reactions to those sections of the plot were exactly what I’d expect from her. It was as interesting to see her act the way I thought she would as it was to explore why so many of the men in this universe accept the status quo.

This book is the third in a series. I’d recommend reading the first two instalments before jumping into this one.

Before the Dawn should be read by anyone who enjoys stories about shifters.

High Summons by Eli Celata


High Summons by Eli Celata
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (180 pages)
Age Recommendation:16+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

BoM LASR YA copy

Jon Blythe is sick of waiting for his Yoda. After years of hiding his magic, he’s ready to retire from his mortal life, drop out of college, and jump into the world of demon hunters. He just didn’t really expect a bleach blond bookstore clerk with light up toys for weapons. Unfortunately, Jordan is Jon’s only hope. When rogue magic users come to Rochester with a malicious plan, the odd couple strikes out to save the day. Jordan might not be what Jon expected, but between demons and Econ homework, the demons win every time. Wild nights drag Jon further from normal into the world where his father vanished. Maybe he’s becoming an addict. Maybe magic just comes with a price. Either way, he’s hooked.

The magic is in him if he knows where to look.

The world-building was phenomenal. It reminded me of the first time I read other classic fantasy series like Harry Potter. The ordinary world that Jon grew up in had nothing in common with the hidden, complicated, and sometimes downright perilous society that was his birthright. Watching him switch between attending class during the day and hunting down demons at night that only people with magical powers can see made it impossible for me to stop reading. The more I learned about the different types of magic users in this universe and what kinds of steep obstacles they faced when it came to fighting the supernatural, the more I wanted to know. I couldn’t imagine a more exciting start to a series, and I can’t wait to continue along with it.

Pay close attention to the descriptions of all of the various types of demons that Jon meets when his training begins. This is a very minor criticism of book that otherwise I couldn’t get enough of, but many of them were introduced at the same time so it took me a little while to memorize all of their names and how dangerous they were. It was an important thing to do, though, and once I figured that out it was smooth sailing for the rest of the plot.

Jon was a well-rounded and fascinating main character. Watching him change as a result of his experiences in this novel was riveting. He often acted like a bored and restless teenager in the beginning, but by the end he’d grown up in so many different ways. While this is a young adult book, it’s something I’d recommend just as strongly to adult readers because of how much time the author spent showing how people start to make that transition to adulthood.

High Summons is a must-read for anyone who loves urban fantasy. This is the best new series I’ve started so far in 2017!

A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley


A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley
Publisher: Willow Wings Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (56 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Firion is a young merchant descended from generations of merchants. His first big break comes along when he sets out to trade with the wealthy dwarven kingdom of Oria. He has always dreamed of visiting this grand kingdom, having heard his father describe it in detail a hundred times while he was younger. But when Firion arrives in Oria, he is jarred by the details present that contradict with the image etched into his mind. Something dark and sinister seems to be afoot in Oria, but Firion knows he is no hero. He is just a simple merchant, and what can an ordinary person do in the face of danger and deception?

You’re never too young to make a difference.

The world building was fantastic. Everything from what it was like to meet a dwarf to how Firion reacted when their village didn’t match his expectations of what dwarven society was supposed to be like made me want to know more about what was happening in this world. There were so many small but vivid details included about the characters and settings that there were times when I felt like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book.

I was disappointed by the abrupt ending. The beginning and middle were so exciting that I was surprised to see how the author wrapped everything up. There were some issues I was expecting to be difficult to solve based on how they were written about earlier on, so it came as a shock to me to see how they were resolved. If not for this, I would have chosen a much higher rating as I really enjoyed the beginning of Firion’s adventures.

This book was pretty funny. No one was safe from the narrator’s quick wit regardless of what role they played in the plot or how much the audience liked them. That made this something that I didn’t want to stop reading. It was amusing to see who would be gently ribbed by the narrator next, especially when it came to characters who generally play serious roles in this kind of tale.

A Merchant in Oria should be read by anyone who loves fantasy stories set in the distant past.

A Poem for Britain by S.W. Wilcox


A Poem for Britain by S.W. Wilcox
Bards of Fantasia: (Book 1)

Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (124 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

IF YOU EVER WONDERED how future teens might interact with Arthurian figures, in terms of intellect and technology…

Two lab partners trek the coasts of the United Kingdom in 635 AD, encountering prototypes of the King Arthur myths. Their time-travel mission? Change the past just enough to forestall a 22nd century nuclear war. Their main weapon? Music. To meet the greatest Dark Age legends face to face is something any can dream of but few may hope to see.

Yet for young Skall & Dor, the chance of a lifetime is their sole alternative to chaos and despair. But history is a lonely place to pursue justice! Their compound’s fuel all but gone, the two youths are equipped only with their portal-opening device & guitars. The duo then bravely leap into a time gate before school-turned-fortress can cut power to the lab.

Time travel is only for the bravest souls.

The gods and other mythical beings in this tale were a lot of fun. As Dor said, “Gods: first uncaring as stone and then a wreck like teens in love – a mystery for the ages.” I never knew what to expect from them next, and that made me keep reading to see what zany things they’d say or do when or if the main characters crossed their paths again.

This story didn’t include enough details about what was happening in it. I had trouble immersing myself in the plot because of this. It was hard to imagine what the settings looked like or what it would be like to meet the characters because there were so few references to stuff like that. While I enjoyed the fast pacing in general, I needed a lot more information about what was happening with the characters so that I could get to know them well enough to worry about them when they found themselves in danger.

The dialogue was written well. There were a few different times when one of the characters came up with a coy response to something someone else said that made me laugh out loud. I also appreciated the fact that all of the main characters had such unique voices. It was easy to tell who was speaking because of how differently each person spoke. Skall used words in ways that Dor never would, and vice versa.

I’d recommend Bards of Fantasia: (Book 1) A Poem for Britain to anyone who really likes time travel.

May Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Or the Girl Dies by Rachel Rust


Or the Girl Dies by Rachel Rust
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full (168 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Stargazer

One school project. One kidnapping. One night they won’t forget. Natalie is an honors student with perfect grades. Victor is a drug dealer with a cryptic past. When a school assignment forces them to work together, things quickly spiral out of control. Victor fails to complete his part of their project, so Natalie hunts him down the night before it’s due. But Victor’s kingpin boss interrupts their study date and drags Natalie down into a seedy underworld where anything can be bought and sold—including her. Over the course of one night—while dodging bad guys and trying not to inhale—Natalie discovers shocking truths about Victor. And she’ll need to choose between preserving her perfect academic future and helping him escape his troubled past. Except one final revelation about Victor may be too much for Natalie to survive.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!