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.

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!

Webster: The Unhinged Edition by Anne Wentworth


Webster: The Unhinged Edition by Anne Wentworth
Publisher: Blue Swan Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (105 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Webster Harmon has a gift. When the veils come down, spirits show themselves, and he can communicate with them. Tandy, the woman who runs the group home where he lives, manages to find out about his gift and reports Webster as being mentally ill. As a result of this, Webster is sent to a psychiatric unit.

After being released, the only reason for returning to the group home instead of risking a life on the street, is Webster’s love for Beth, one of the other teens living in the group home. Beth is the one person who makes life with Tandy tolerable.

On his way back to Tandy’s, Webster meets Reggae. Reggae’s been living on the street since his uncle died, so Webster brings him along to see if he can stay at the group home. When Webster returns, he finds Beth terrified because Tandy wants to send her for a trial to live with a couple who may have less than honorable intentions.

With the help of his new friend Reggae, Webster is determined to keep Beth safe. When the spirits reveal Tandy’s secrets, Webster decides to make his move to get all three of them out of there and to a better life–even if it means using his gift to break the rules.

Not everyone cares about what happens to teens in foster care. If Webster and his friends are going to be saved, they’d better take fate into their own hands.

The friendship among Webster and the two other teens currently living in their group home, Beth and Reggae, was so strong. One of the reasons why I enjoyed seeing these characters work together to get out of their terrible living situation so much is that all three of them genuinely cared about each other. Their friendships were so strong that I couldn’t wait to find out if they were successful and if they’d find their happy endings.

There were many pacing issues in this book. The plot moved quickly in some scenes and pretty slowly in others. This made it harder for me to stay interested in the storyline because of how often the pacing changed and how much that affected every other part of the story. Some of the scenes felt rushed, while others didn’t have enough time to explore all of the issues that the characters were dealing with.

It was nice to have some helpful and empathetic adults in a young adult novel. I especially appreciated the fact that the kind adults in Webster’s life played such a big part in it. This wasn’t just one scene. There were many opportunities for this character to meet people who were nothing at all like the abusive woman who ran the group home where he lived.

I’d recommend Webster: The Unhinged Edition to anyone who is interested in books about foster care or the supernatural.

Snow Island by M.Y. Zeman


Snow Island by M.Y. Zeman
Chronicles of a Wererabbit

Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (250 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Vampires, werewolves, unicorns, pterodactyls, and other creatures from myth or brought back from extinction.

A deadly monorail with an insanely cheery Artificial Intelligence tour guide.

A fortune teller’s frighteningly accurate prediction of death…

Snow Island begins five months after Snow Bunny with Snow, now 15, receiving an ominous prediction from a fortune teller. She travels to a mysterious island with Josh, her dads, her friends David and Charlene to find out what happened to the creatures and werewolves that have been disappearing.

Chronicles of Wererabbit—a young adult paranormal/fantasy series about a girl who can shift into a rabbit and her journey to become a hero.

There’s never been an island quite like this one before.

Snow’s character development continued to surprise me in all kinds of wonderful ways. I liked her quite a bit in the beginning of this series, but seeing how she’s changed over the course of the first three tales of her life has only made me love her more than I ever have before. She has such a sweet and playful personality that I always look forward to seeing what she’ll do next.

There was a lot of violence in this story. While I deeply enjoyed the plot itself, I’m cautious about what age range I’d recommend it to because of how often various characters were harmed in sometimes pretty terrible ways. There was a disconnect between scenes like these and the overall tone of the plot that seemed to be written for much younger readers. If the author decides to continue this series, I hope the target audience will be made more clear as the storytelling itself was excellent.

The creatures living on the island that Snow and her companions travelled to were deliciously frightening. All of the descriptions of them were so vivid that I almost felt as though they were creeping up behind me when I read about all of the ways they could possibly harm someone. There were some incredibly creative twists here about what dangerous creatures look like and and what they’re capable of.

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

Snow Island: Chronicles of a Wererabbit made me grin. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for an adventure.

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.

The senior year of high school is all about looking to the future right? What happens when one night can change everything?

When Natalie is paired with Victor for a class project that can make or break her opportunity to go to a prestigious college, she only has a couple of choices. But, when she tries to get Victor to participate in the project she finds that she bites off much more than she can chew.

Natalie comes out of her bubble of the rich life and in one night wades through the dark underbelly of drugs and human trafficking. Each choice that Natalie makes is more difficult than the last. Throughout this one night and into the next day, Natalie is forced to choose between who she should trust and who she can trust.

The author, Rachel Rust, tells the story from the perspective of Natalie in such a way that the reader feels entwined with the decisions that Natalie makes. From the fateful choice of trying to get Victor to do his part of the assignment to the desire to help Victor escape from the murky world in which he has become entangled.

The feelings of Natalie are those which the reader can easily identify with. The dark situations and difficult choices are those which many readers and identify and may have even dealt with personally. While the age recommendation is higher due to adult situations and drug use, this story will resonate with many readers on a personal level.

After struggling through the night, the reader is able to breathe a sigh of relief only to face more twists and turns into the story. The author acts as a fantastic story teller and keeps pulling the reader back into the story. Essentially the author teaches the reader to question those who walk in the world with us, and look at the underlying desires which drive us to struggle through each day.

Make sure you don’t miss Rachel Rust’s fantastic book, Or the Girl Dies!

Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison


Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Orchid

When eighteen-year-old Aubrey Dale’s cousin is diagnosed with leukemia, Aubrey volunteers to in-vitro fertilization in order to become a vessel for the donor that will save her life. Now this clean-cut high school student must learn to adapt to life as a pregnant teenager, despite still being a virgin. Things only get more complicated when she falls in love with her best friend, Eli Calhoun, who has just returned from the penitentiary. Rumors soon spread that the insemination story is only a cover up. That’s when the anonymous threats begin. Someone in her small town disapproves of this so-called abomination. The psychological games soon take a twisted turn, putting Aubrey and her unborn child’s lives in danger. Aubrey and Eli race to uncover the horrible truth before it destroys everything.

Aubrey lives with her father and sister. Her mainstay in life is Kailee, her cousin, who has been there for her in all the years since her mother left. This summer a lot happens to Aubrey. Eli, a friend who has been in prison for several years, returns to the town and the friendship threatens to become a deeper relationship . Kailee arrives for the summer, and Brey finds out her cousin has leukemia. Brey offers to be a bone marrow transplant donor but unfortunately she isn’t a perfect fit. She takes the next best option and agrees to have a child with a donor to provide the stem cells needed for Kailee’s recovery.

At first I thought this eighteen year old was being brave in her wish to help her cousin. As the story progresses it becomes apparent she hasn’t really thought things through. One major result will be what to do with the baby when it’s born. At least one lady at her church has definite, but unwelcome, ideas about what will happen to the child.

The attitude of her fellow students at high school make her life more insulated. New students at the school, demean her for their own pleasure, and danger and intrigue from an unexpected source make her life scary and hazardous.

There are several sub-plots to this story which make it all the more intriguing and fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Coterie Declaration by Richard C McClain II


The Coterie Declaration by Richard C McClain II
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (161 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Arrested for hacking, socially awkward and speech-impaired sixteen-year-old Dakarai Holt is sentenced to two years at Sheffield Academy, an exclusive juvenile rehabilitation facility. Within the first two hours, Dak is subjected to mandatory brainwashing. The academy’s enforcers, the R.A.T. SQUADS, patrol Sheffield to ensure each student’s full compliance. Gacheru, Dak’s roommate, pressures him to drink a tonic that conspicuously counteracts Sheffield’s indoctrination. This places Dak in the middle of many adversarial and explosive situations. Additionally, Dak becomes knotted in a clandestine plot involving the Secretary of State and a mysterious group who goes by the name, The Coterie. While at Sheffield, Dak must find a way to survive the R.A.T. SQUADS’ terror, the annexation of a remote island, and battle his own inner demons.

Dak is the son of a wealthy man but this can’t help him with his anthropophobia which developed at the age of 5. In fact he hasn’t spoken since then. His world consists of hacking large amounts of money in a Robin Hood style of theft. He is eventually caught and sent to Sheffield, a weird place of detention which seems to be run by ex prisoners trained as guards. All the inmates wear headphones which are meant to brainwash them. Dak becomes aware that something is going on in the background, something illegal and possibly highly dangerous.

This is a science fiction book with a deep down mystery woven into the story. For a sixteen year old Dak is very computer savvy and it’s only when he’s set up by the FBI that he gets caught. Most of the book consists of Dak’s internal thoughts and how he interacts with the world and those around him. This sounds as if it would be boring, but it’s definitely not. The plots and sub-plots took me to many different scenarios and each time I thought I’d discovered what the end would be, another sub plot came along to drag me in another direction. I’m normally a fantasy addict but this science fiction book certainly intrigued me.

Don’t Tell Jessie by Traci Jo Stotts


Don’t Tell Jessie by Traci Jo Stotts
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (175 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Jessie tries to make the most of her senior year while dealing with the recent loss of her mother. She spends most of her time taking care of her dad, who has turned into a workaholic, and spending time with her best friend Stef who is getting over his own tragedy, his boyfriend’s suicide. The only thing bringing a smile to her face is Derek Stevens. He’s just been dumped by the head cheerleader and Jessie’s dreams come true when he asks her out. Stef warns her that Derek might be using her to get his ex-girlfriend back, but she falls for him anyway. Life is good until a secret turns her world upside down. Now, Jessie must choose between her own grief and salvaging her tarnished relationships.

Whoever said high school was supposed to be the best time of your life clearly doesn’t know just how many things can go wrong during those four long years.

This is one of the best books about bullying and betrayal that I’ve ever read. All of the characters had complex reasons for behaving the way that they did. Not only did that make them fascinating to read, it gave satisfying answers for why they behaved the way that they did. Some of the scenes were pretty painful for Jessie, so having such detailed reasons for why certain things happened to her were quite helpful.

Speaking of the main character, I absolutely loved her as an individual. I was also a huge fan of the strong character development she showed as a result of her experiences. Her stubborn, feisty personality made itself known from the very first scene, so it was great to see how such a well-rounded character responded to all of the plot twists that were thrown her way.

Stef and Jessie’s lifelong friendship was a highlight of the plot as well. I really liked how supportive they were of each other when it came to getting through their final year of high school, making plans for the future, or dealing with the guys they wanted to date. They genuinely cared about each other, and that made me want to see what would happen to them next.

Another thing I adored about this story was how thoroughly the main character’s strained relationship with her dad was explored. I quickly became engrossed in figuring out why their relationship had soured and why neither one of them seemed that interested in doing anything to fix it. She clearly had issues with him that had been going on for years, so trying to untangle how things had gone so wrong with them was rewarding.

Don’t Tell Jessie is a must-read for teens and adults alike!

An Aching Kind of Growing by Brittany Rowland


An Aching Kind of Growing by Brittany Rowland
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (341 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Orchid

When tensions with her parents reach a breaking point, fifteen-year-old Natalie flees into the night with a bike, some cash, and a backpack full of clothes. With no plan and nowhere to go, she won’t last long as a runaway. Life has taught Natalie not to count on anyone’s help, but she can’t keep running forever. The only person who sees her plight is a young boy, an unlikely friend. To finally stand up to the family that betrayed her, she’ll need to learn to trust again, even if it risks exposing the secrets she has fought hard to protect.

Most parents discipline their children, especially when they reach teenage years, but Natalie’s parents overstep the mark into torture and violence. Natalie leaves home and lives on the streets as a runaway. She still attends school and surprisingly her parents do not visit the school to demand she return home. This is another form of torture for Natalie.

Natalie spends time at the playground and meets Max and his mother Linnie, but does not let them get close to her for fear they will return her to her abusive parents.

This book is a “what could have been” for a lot of teenagers. The majority have comfortable homes and parents who discipline with firmness and authority tempered with love. Natalie’s story is what could happen to any child. Abused and ill treated, she is afraid to report her parents to the authorities. She knows this will lead to foster care and her one experience of this is enough to make her prefer the streets.

The book is well written with a touch of suspense as in “will she/won’t she” both for her and her parents. I liked the way the author gave Linnie and Max their own problems to solve, which had to be weighed up against whether they should help Natalie. Definitely a look into how things could have been for many teens and well worth reading.

Discord by Katy Haye


Discord by Katy Haye
Echoes of Earth Book 1

Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full (360 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by Orchid

Beth forgot her past. What if there’s nothing to remember?

Seventeen-year-old Beth has brain damage. That’s why she lives in a hospital in the middle of the English countryside filled with therapeutic music and medical tests. Some days she feels well enough to go home, but other days – the days filled with shadows and ghosts, and a strong sense of déjà vu – she fears she’ll never get better.

Toby’s arrival signals a turning point. Beth faces her fears instead of hiding from them. But even with Toby’s help, is she strong enough to face a truth that is stranger than anything Beth could imagine?

Steptoe House is a convalescent home for teenagers who are recovering from accidents to the head. The main therapy is music and the teenagers are expected to take part in concerts. Most of the patients have vague memories of their past, but Beth doesn’t. Her time before Steptoe House is blank. Several of the teenagers have paired off, and when a new boy, Toby, arrives Beth’s life takes a turn for the better emotionally.

The characters in this book are exceptionally well crafted, each with a personality which fits their place in the story. The setting with doctors, a teacher and country surroundings are exactly what I would expect of a convalescent home for teenagers. Although budding romance took place, it was only a sideline to the main plot and didn’t detract from the mystery and suspense areas. My only query originally was why the number of patients was restricted to a small amount, but this was revealed in the latter part of the book.

I did feel the story dragged out a bit, maybe a bit too long for the concept, but the final part was well thought out, making me want to read more about Beth and her friends.