If You Were Me and Lived in The Ancient Mali Empire by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in The Ancient Mali Empire by Carole P. Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Children’s Reader
Length: Short (68 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis

Join Carole P. Roman as she travels back in time to visit the exciting Ancient Empire of Mali in Africa during the 1300s. Learn about the varied customs and cultures. Travel to the past to discover what you would eat and do for fun. See the land and its rich history through the eyes of a youngster like you. Don’t forget to look at the other books in the series so that you can be an armchair time traveler.

The blurb on the back of this title says that you should check out this series so you can be an armchair traveler, and that’s exactly how I feel each time I read books in this series.  In this case, not just a geographic traveler but a time traveler too. This one focused on the Mali Empire. I hadn’t read anything about it prior to reading this title so let’s just say I learned a lot. Ms. Roman manages to pack a ton of information into these short reads and they’re always nicely illustrated too (this time by Mateya Arkova).

This book not only described what life would have been like but also tells you about how the empire shaped modern day Sudan.

The area was an important part of the trading route for both China and Europe and one thing I learned was it was rich in salt and gold…both of which were important commodities. Both government and religion played vital roles in society and shaped the future of this region.

Once again a fascinating read for both adults and children. If you homeschool children I think these books would make a good resource for your at home library.

Soul Awakening by Paul Lonardo

Soul Awakening by Paul Lonardo
Publisher: Inkspell Publshing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short (53 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Orchid

Something otherworldly is happening in a small Texas town.

As a small Texas town mourns the tragic death of its high school football star, Alecia is struggling to adjust to life without the boy she has dated since sixth grade and thought she would be with forever.

When Braden comes to her as an apparition, she finds herself falling for Riley, Braden’s best friend and teammate. Has Braden returned to spy on her, or for some other reason?

Alecia’s not sure, but she soon realizes she must find a way to accept Braden’s death and welcome love back into her life, or risk losing everything.

The Power of Secret Love changes everything…

Tragedy hits Alecia when her boyfriend dies in an accident. Her mother seems to think she should put the tragedy behind her, while her schoolfriends seem determined to avoid her. Braden was the leader of the football team and because of their loss the team members decide not to play the next important match. Braden’s apparition visits Alecia to ask her to intervene and get the match played, and she begins to wonder about her own sanity.

Although a short novel, this is well rounded and ticks all the boxes needed to make a good story. The author got inside Alecia’s head and showed her thoughts and decisions extremely well. It shows how the tragedy affected her, her fear at going forward from the moment of despair and her acceptance of her loss.

I did feel her mother was a bit harsh and unfeeling, but I believe the author wanted her to appear in this way. Good book.

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!

If You Were Me and Lived in The Mayan Empire by Carole P. Roman


If You Were Me and Lived in The Mayan Empire by Carole P. Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Middle Grade Reader
Length: Short (54 Pgs)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis

Join Carole P. Roman and travel through time to visit the most interesting civilizations throughout history in the first four books of her new series. Learn what kind of food you might eat in Ancient Greece, the clothes you wore in 15th century Renaissance Italy, what your name could be in Viking Europe, and what children who lived during the Han Dynasty did for fun. If You Were Me and Lived in…does for history what her other award-winning series did for culture. So get on-board this time-travel machine and discover the world through the eyes of a young person just like you.

I think this might be one of my favorite of the If You Were Me books by Carole Roman. I’ve enjoyed all of them but I thought this was full of facts that I never knew and I think children will find it a fascinating read that will encourage them to find out more about the civilization.

This book not only described what life would be like if you’d lived as a Mayan but the author touched upon Mayan practices that I’d never read before like parents binding their baby’s heads in order to get the sloped forehead that the Mayans found attractive.

I especially liked the last section that grouped together all the Mayan achievements and contributions to society including them preparing the most accurate calendar, and also performing brain surgery.

Two other interesting facts I found out from reading this book were that the most important contribution they made to mathematics was the concept of zero and that they mapped the night skies without using a telescope.

This is a book I highly recommend for not only your only enjoyment but I think it would make an ideal gift for your children or grandchildren too.

A Colorless Blue by M.W. Muse


A Colorless Blue by M.W. Muse
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

I have everything. Rich parents, popular friends, hot boyfriend. An expectation to be a colorless, snobby stereotype. I don’t like maintaining that image, but I get it. I know the drill. Until one day when I can’t stop bleeding, and that shell of a charmed life shatters in the wake of my new reality.

I have everything. Including leukemia.

As soon as I get rid of this cancer, things can be normal again. Denial. It‘s such a beautiful thing until that thin veil crashes down. But left standing in the debris is a boy who brings color into this dying girl, who is there at my lowest and teaches me what it really means to live. A boy who urges me to fight a losing battle because my death would tear him apart.

A boy who is not my boyfriend. And a death that will find me anyway.

Leukemia might steal all of her hair, but it will never take away Skye’s will to live.

Skye’s character development was handled well. She matured so much during the course of this novel. The best thing about her personal growth was that all of it happened for reasons the audience got to see first hand. Some of the changes in her personality were huge, so I was glad that the author spent so much time showing us why and how they happened. That made it easy to follow along as this character responded to everything in her life that was turned upside down by by her diagnosis.

There were a couple of times when I wondered how Skye was able to roam around the hospital so often while she was going through chemotherapy. She slipped through the nurses’ fingers on more than one occasion, and that struck me as a little odd even though I absolutely loved the storyline overall. This is a minor criticism, but it would have been nice to have some kind of explanation for how she was able to bend so many of the rules that patients have to follow when they’re hospitalized.

Skye and Fallon had wonderful chemistry. I especially enjoyed the fact that both of them had the same irreverent sense of humor. Not only did that make their conversations a lot of fun to read, it drew them closer to each other as Skye grew sicker. The romantic elements of the plot weren’t what first attracted me to this tale, but they turned out to be my favorite part of the whole thing. These scenes were beautifully written, and I really wanted these characters to end up together in the end.

I’d recommend A Colorless Blue to anyone who is in the mood for something romantic.

The Separation by Stormy Corrin Russell


The Separation by Stormy Corrin Russell
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (206 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Orchid

In a world where men and women live on separate sides of a massive wall, seventeen-year-old misfit Eroyn Fairchild has always been too busy with her broken family to wonder why they live the way they do. When a man from the other side breaks through, Ero holds him hostage, hoping for a ransom large enough to pay for her Elder Grace’s treatment. Things get more complicated as the man is followed by two others who make Ero question everything she’s ever known about her life. As Ero searches for the truth, the lines between right and wrong blur, leaving her to choose between saving her city and saving herself.

After the war between the sexes, men and women live in separate conclaves. Ero works as security on the fence between the male and female compounds and one night discovers two men have broken through to the female side. One of these men is her brother and together they find out all they have been told is a lie.

It was interesting to read the author’s concept of this world with men and women living separately and babies being conceived by IVF although it appears records are kept of the fathers of each child. It’s amazing how different history to the truth can evolve when the descendants are not told the truth. This world is well built with rules, ceremonies and procedures which must be obeyed and apparently the only contact between the to halves of the compound are through special liaison people.

This is really Ero’s voyage of discovery finding out about her world, the men’s world and the true history of the past. There is a budding romance, but this has not developed by the end of the book. I liked how the original horror of males – instilled in her by her upbringing – is gradually replaced by acceptance that they are not the monsters she’s always believed. A good, different, book with a lot of tension throughout.

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.

In the Company of Crazies by Nora Raleigh Baskin

In the Company of Crazies by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (84 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

Thirteen-year-old Mia Singer thought that she had it all under control. Sure, her grades were slipping a little bit (well, really, more than a little), and she couldn’t explain her occasional compulsion to shoplift, but things weren’t that bad. Then the sudden death of a classmate affects Mia in a way she can’t quite define—and she goes one step too far. At their wits’ end, Mia’s parents place her in an “alternative” boarding school. Away from her parents and surrounded by trees, space and students whose problems she can’t completely comprehend, Mia has no choice but to learn about herself.

With insight and sympathy, Nora Raleigh Baskin focuses on the universal feeling of being a misfit, showing that sometimes the path home is as unexpected as it is challenging.

Some books leave you re-evaluating your life and the lives of those around you, this is one of those books.

Mia Singer is in a downward spiral. Her grades stink, she is caught shoplifting and quite frankly, doesn’t care about what is going on in her life or her family. Mia isn’t a bad kid, Mia just is having a hard time with some life transition.

Mia is sent by her family to a special “school” to help with her attitude and outlook on life. Needless to say, this is one reform school or boarding school, whatever you want to call it, that is completely unlike what you would expect.

The reader sees the world through Mia’s eyes. Through flashbacks we get to see what happened and we start to understand the choices that Mia made. Mia is a girl who is trying to make her way through the world. The story tends to be a little darker in some aspects, but this is where I found the magic. We get to see the world through a different set of eyes, we see the darkness out there, and then appreciate how good life may be for us.

Mia’s experiences are very similar. She learns about “cheating life” and she sees others who have a life so very different from her own. Mia begins to understand a little more about the other students who at first seemed so weird and “alien” to her. As a reader we begin to understand that those who walk life’s journey with us are not all that different from us, but they may just show it in a different way.

I am honestly glad that I had the opportunity to read In the Company of Crazies, the author does a great job of causing the reader to re-evaluate the world. I hope that you will consider taking a strange journey with Mia and also walk In the Company of Crazies! I am grateful that I did.

Boss of the Whole Sixth Grade by Ann Herrick


Boss of the Whole Sixth Grade by Ann Herrick
Publisher: Chaucer Publishing
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (106 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

Greta can’t wait to be at the top of the grade-school heap–especially since she’s dealing with loss at home. Her father’s away in Antarctica, her mother’s still angry with Greta’s Dad for leaving, and Grampa’s losing his memory. But even sixth grade starts to feel like “life stinks.”

Greta discovers she’s not in the same home room with her best friend. New girl Kiki moves onto the scene and starts acting like the boss of the whole sixth grade. And the handsome new teacher seems way too interested in Greta’s mother.

Greta agrees to be a candidate for class president only to stop Kiki from winning. She regrets accepting Kiki’s bet that if Kiki wins the election, she gets to tell Greta what to do for the whole school year. It takes some inspiration from her school project about René Descartes and his “I think, therefore I am” beliefs to help Greta keep her sixth-grade experience from totally going down the toilet.

Sometimes life just falls apart and it seems like nothing can go right.

Greta is in sixth grade which places her at the top of the school food chain, but it seems like she can’t catch a break. Her mom and dad have separated, her grandfather is losing his memory and now there is a new girl at school stirring up trouble and telling everyone how they should dress and act.

Greta makes a bet with the new girl which hinges on winning the election for class president. Greta is by no means the most popular girl, and already she begins to regret running for class president. Things becomes even more muddled when her mother realizes that Greta’s teacher is an old friend from her past.

Ann Herrick does a great job at showing the world from the point of view of Greta, from her internal emotions to the feelings of frustration and loss of control. The reader comes to realize and understand how frustrated Greta feels. The reader can empathize with the various predicaments that Greta faces.

The dialogue is fun, the situations are understandable and the characters are deep. Ann Herrick does a perfect job at relating the difficult situations to the age of the reader. There are lessons at various levels and even older readers will find great enjoyment and humor at the various situations. Older readers will also be able to reflect on their own youth and understand the feelings that Greta faces throughout the story.

I really enjoyed the personality of Greta. Many authors develop a character that the reader often views as “pure” or “good” but Ann is able to show the actions that Greta takes when she is feeling frustration or anger. Rather than just describing the feelings that Greta has, Ann shows how Greta lets those feelings out, whether in words or actions the feelings come forth.

This is one story that is full of lessons and reflections for readers of all ages, you don’t want to miss this great read!

Curse of the Moon by Beth Trissel

curse-of-the-moon-by-beth-trissel
Curse of the Moon by Beth Trissel
Secret Warrior Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (182 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

The bad news? Morgan Daniel’s wolf is out of control. The good news? There’s a treatment. She just has to get a potion from a lizard shifter witch–without looking into the witch’s eyes. Easy, right? But when the witch puts a spell on her younger brother, Morgan has to do the witch’s bidding to save him.

Fortunately Morgan isn’t alone. She has Jackson to lean on, a few witches coming into their powers, a secret warlock, and the always mysterious Chief Okema. What could possibly go wrong?

Morgan is a teenager with a young brother but she’s horrified when she discovers she is also part werewolf. Help is offered by Jackson and his Native American tribe. Morgan’s transformation is particularly strong and painful and a potion is needed to calm things down. Unfortunately the only person with the potion is Lilith, the Lizard lady and when they go to her for help she puts a spell on Morgan’s brother.

Werewolves, shape-changing panthers… this book has it all, and just when you think you’ve got it sorted, another unexpected shape changer arrives on the scene. The budding romance between Morgan and Jackson, plus the danger not only to Morgan’s brother, but the tribe as a whole gives the tension and flow to make this a good book.

The story weaves between modern day and myths and legends, providing an exciting and compelling read.