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

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.


Princess Rosalinda and the Color Pink by Marcel Szenessy

Princess Rosalinda and the Color Pink by Marcel Szenessy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (31 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Rosalinda is a young energetic princess with lots of ideas. Her parents support her in every way to let her live her dreams even if it means to completely redesign their kingdom. However, one day Rosalinda makes an amazing eye-opening discovery that changes the way she sees the world…

There is such a thing as having too much of something you love.

I liked the fact that the king and queen were so patient with all of Princess Rosalinda’s requests to make everything in their life pink. It was adorable to see them do everything from order the royal painter to paint her bedroom walls to change the color of the trees outside of their castle. They seemed like they were very loving and warm parents because of how much attention they gave to the things that mattered most to their daughter.

Some of the items that Rosalinda wanted to turn pink made me grin. I’ve never looked at a lake and wondered why it wasn’t pink, so seeing how unlikely stuff like that happened was amusing. The magical elements of this fairy tale world were simply delightful.

One of my favorite parts of the plot was how it used repetition to give kids hints about what would happen next. Repeating the same phrases over and over again is a great way to make a children’s book sound like it really happened once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away.

The ending was what really made me fall in love with Rosalinda’s adventures. It was the perfect capstone to all of the things she learned after she asked her parents to make everything on their property pink. I couldn’t have imagined a better ending for her or for her family.

Princess Rosalinda and the Color Pink was a sweet and gentle story that I’d strongly recommend to princesses of all ages.

Background of A Daughter’s Curse by C.J. Davidson – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. C. J. Davidson will be awarding $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Background of A Daughter’s Curse

When I first came up with the fantasy world contained in A Daughter’s Curse, it wasn’t as the plot for a novel. I created the mystical world years ago to escape a difficult childhood. It is my belief that no one should have to feel unsafe, living life on the edge, wondering when they are going to get hurt. Sleeping with one eye open is the worst feeling in the world. Fear that catches in your throat paralyzes your whole body. Living life like that hurts, and it comes with consequences. I know.

Obviously, when I wrote about something that had affected me profoundly, it was not painless. Emotions were high during the writing process, and it was not easy for me to dig up a past that has been buried in the back of my mind for so long. When I put bits and pieces of my life out there for the world to see, the brick wall that was protecting me had fallen. That is the scary part, because I couldn’t help but feel a bit naked. I am showing my true self: what I went through, what my thoughts were, and so on.

A Daughter’s Curse also has an important message that is meant to get delivered to many who will relate to the main character, Brisnay. See, I write with a purpose. I dedicated this book to those affected by domestic violence in hopes of letting them know something: Imagination is a powerful thing. The book demonstrates how relatable the fantasy world I created is to real life scenarios today: The bad character who abuses, the mother who is scared to leave, the daughter (Brisnay) who wants to leave but won’t leave her mother behind, and a forbidden love. People who are suffering abuse like Brisnay will feel connected to her and will empathize with her, more when the book describes how broken she feels.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, (and I say victim, because at this point, you are going through it) don’t just let it happen. Use whatever means you must to help you cope and escape. Personally, I used imagination and held onto hope. That was all I could do back then.

So, my question to you is: Are you a victim? Or are you a survivor?

If you are a victim, then fight to be a survivor.

Be Brisnay, a walking symbol for change.

When Brisnay discovers that she is a part of a fantasy world and meets Nickolaus, her miserable life takes a turn for the better. A world where anything is possible becomes her refuge and sparks fly between her and Nickolaus. Just when she thinks she knows everything about the realm she was thrust into, she uncovers shocking truths that rattle her to the core.

Betrayal. Hate. Envy. Deceit. Vengeance. Retribution. These are some of the things that Brisnay must face to fight a powerful, unknown enemy who is out to destroy her and strip her of the powers she’s rightfully inherited.

Brisnay realizes that she has no choice but to take a stand and must get revenge by fighting for the right to love.

Enjoy an Excerpt

She hugged her rib where her father had kicked her. Reality slammed against her face. She suddenly felt emotionally worn down and fragile, like a snowflake on the verge of being broken down and ceasing to exist. For some reason, she felt like she had to be honest. She didn’t want to keep anything from Nickolaus. And, if he didn’t like it or didn’t understand, then it wasn’t meant to be.

She looked up into Nickolaus’s eyes and saw nothing but understanding and sincerity. She felt compelled to tell him everything. “It’s my father…” she started.

And she told Nickolaus everything—from the way she worked like a dog to her abusive father to how they constantly moved. When she was finished, she was almost crying with relief that she had someone to share all her pain with. Someone other than Dulce to lean on. She felt as if a weight had been lifted off her chest. She didn’t realize that keeping everything in had been weighing her down.

“I do not know what to say,” said Nickolaus, a look of shock on his face. “But how could this happen to you?”

Before Brisnay knew it, Nickolaus had scooted closer to her, pulled her toward him, and tightly hugged her. She felt the tears swelling in her eyes. She honestly couldn’t remember the last time someone had hugged her. She tried to swallow back the tears, but she couldn’t stop. She felt her whole body relax, and a sob choked out, even as she tried to stop herself from crying. The tears were from years and years of suffering and keeping this to herself.

About the Author:Today, I am married and have four children. Their names are Dluce, Marin, Carlos, and Isabella. I work as Branch Manager at a financial institution. I couldn’t be happier with what I have accomplished so far.
My next step is to somehow help those affected by domestic violence. What hurts the most, is when children are in the middle of it. It is my belief that no one should have to feel unsafe, living life on the edge, wondering when they are going to get hurt. Sleeping with one eye open is the worst feeling in the world. Fear that catches in your throat paralyzes your whole body. Living life like that hurts and it comes with consequences. I know.

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If You Were Me and Lived On Mars by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived On Mars by Carole P. Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Sci-Fi
Length: Short Story (42 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis

Join Carole P. Roman when she blasts off to colonize the planet Mars, in the newest book of her informative series. Learn about how life would be living on the Red Planet. Travel to Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system. Look into the sky and watch Phobos and Deimos, Mars’ two moons. Discover what you would wear, and how the seasons change. See Mars through the eyes of an adventurous youngster like you and understand what life is like in a trip of a lifetime. Don’t forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair traveler.

I’ve lost count how many of the If You Were Me And Lived… books I’ve read and reviewed and I’ve yet to find one that I didn’t find entertaining.

This is the first one that didn’t focus on a country and instead the author chose an outer space theme.

It’s fun to read and nicely illustrated by Marteya Arkova. I learned a lot from just these few pages. Things like how long it would take to get to Mars and that you’d have to stay there at least two years until Earth and Mars are once again at their shortest distance from each other.

As with the other books, the authors uses the scenario that you live with you parents and describes what live would be like. In this book, you go to Mars with your parents where your father is a scientist who is helping farm the red planet, and your mother is a doctor.

This is another fun and educational book that is ideal to read with your children or grandchildren.