Dragonsoul by Kayl Karadjian

Dragonsoul by Kayl Karadjian
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full Length (311 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Littlehorn is the last dragon, born into a world that wants him dead.

The dragon’s blue scales and orange eyes are a stark contrast to the dull gray around him. The sky is gray. The ground is gray. Everything is gray, even the skin, eyes, and hair of every other living creature, including humans.

When Denyth, a simple farmer dreaming of a world of color beyond the gray encounters Littlehorn, the two set out on a journey to find the truth of where Littlehorn came from and if there truly is a world of color beyond the gray.

But Denyth isn’t the only human who knows of Littlehorn’s existence. A dragon-hunter named Zero, who has dedicated his entire life to purging anything of color, is coming after Littlehorn to finish the job.

Dragon and human flee together to the colorful land called Evenar, coming across a host of odd, colorful creatures, including a cat-like shapeshifter who can hear the land, a pacifist troll who wields a club the size of a tree trunk, and even a group of walruses who can talk.

Just as they think that they have found paradise, they discover a terrible secret: humanity wasn’t responsible for the fall of dragons after all.

Everything is grey, and most call it The Gloom. Zero, leader of the King’s Deprived force, has killed the last colorful dragon and returns to report to King Tayen.

Denyth, a farm boy of the Gloom finds a dragon egg which becomes a very colorful blue dragon, Littlehorn. Needless to say Zero finds out about the dragon and then the chase is on.

This book is brilliant. The difference between the grey Gloom and colorful Evenar are well written and very visual. The playful little dragon gets into all sorts of mischief which provides humor to the story.

The chase from The Gloom to Evenar is cleverly written and I had to read on to find out what happened next. The story took several unexpected twists and turns until it reached a wonderful finale. I have to admit I love dragon stories but I would have read this one if it had been about any other creature or just the humans and the faeries. An exceptionally good book to read.

Incubation by Laura DiSilverio

Incubation by Laura DiSilverio
The Incubation Trilogy Book 1

Publisher: diAgio Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (348 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: Best Books
Review by: Orchid

Bio-chemistry whiz Everly Jax wants one thing: to know who her parents are. Raised with other repo kids in InKubator 9, she has pinned her hopes on Reunion Day, the annual event where sixteen-year-olds can meet or reunite with their parents. When her Reunion Day goes horribly awry, she and her pregnant friend Halla escape the Kube, accompanied by their friend Wyck who has his own reasons for leaving. In a world where rebuilding the population is critical to national survival, the Pragmatist government licenses all human reproduction, and decides who can–and must–have babies. The trio face feral dog packs, swamp threats, locust swarms, bounty hunters looking for “breeders,” and more dangers as they race to Amerada’s capital to find Halla’s soldier boyfriend before the Prags can repo her baby and force the girls into surrogacy service. An unexpected encounter with Bulrush, an Underground Railroad for women fleeing to Outposts with their unlicensed babies, puts them in greater peril than ever. Everly must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to learn her biological identity–and deal with the unanticipated consequences of her decisions.

Bird flu has decimated the world’s population and there are no longer any birds. Everly Jax is a repo kid raised in InKubator 9 where she becomes a bio-chemistry whiz. Ev, her friend Halla and other friend Wyck escape the Kube dome to run from the Pragmatists Government. They intend to travel to an outpost out of the reach of the government, but as none of them have any experience of life outside the dome, they find obstacles in their way that they had never dreamed of.

I started to read this book because I liked the cover but it soon had me under its spell. It’s an extremely well written book with one main plot, which leads to other problems and dilemmas. The three friends have to travel through swamps and ghost towns. At the same time they have to evade the guards who are chasing them and outlaws who want to sell the two women to the breeding labs.

The story is complex but at the same time easy to follow. It was one of those books I started to read and couldn’t put down. By the end of the book I was wondering if the world could actually end up in this situation if a pandemic took place. Highly recommended!

The Border by Steve Schafer

The Border by Steve Schafer
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (342 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Stargazer

BoM LASR YA copy

One moment changed their lives forever.

A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.

Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…

Do any of us truly value the life and opportunities that we have? Even by reading this review you have so many more opportunities than others in the world.

The Border is a first person account of the ruthless killing, drug trafficking and greed that proliferates portions of Mexico near the United States border. The four teens lose everything they have ever known when they are caught in the crossfire of a drug war near the border. After they are pursued and a bounty is listed for their capture or deaths, they are forced to cross the border into U.S. territory.

What comes next is heart rendering; the close connections that the friends forge, the shift from living life to simply surviving shows a different side of human nature and a dark reality that we often try not to dwell on. This story brings that reality into perspective and forces the reader to see and understand the pain that each of the characters experience.

Faced with setback after setback, the teens forge ahead with dreams of what life in the U.S. will be like. The author does an amazing job at character development through the entire story. Not a single character remained unchanged, in fact, the author highlights how the characters reflect on their own psychological changes after choices are made that impact the survivability of the entire group.

Just when it seems like everything will be okay, more adversities stand in the way; then when it seems like all hope is lost, there is still the beauty of the human spirit to overcome those adversities. This story brings to life the current political turmoil and debate of immigration but places it in a very different light then what many of us are accustomed to seeing.

Make sure that you do not miss The Border if you want to understand what truly drives the human spirit to push on when all is lost!

The Dreaming Spires by William Kingshart

The Dreaming Spires by William Kingshart
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (140 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Aloe

What do you do when the troll at the end of your garden tells you everything you ever believed in is a fantasy and your fantasies are reality?

When Jake moves from California to his new school in Oxford, he knows he is going to a different country, but he doesn’t realize he is entering a whole new world.

His first clue is when Gorm, a nine-foot, three-thousand-year-old Irish gnome, appears at the foot of his garden and gives him three special powers—powers that are of absolutely no use to him—or so he thinks.

But when things start getting really weird and Jake discovers that there’s an ancient prince from Tír na nÓg who is out to get not only him and the girl he is in love with but the whole of mankind, too, he also discovers that the powers Gorm has given him are more useful than he could ever have dreamed possible.

Jake knew that moving from California to England would mean some changes in his life. What he didn’t realize was just how much it would change and what direction that change would make…

The author has a very good imagination and when he introduces a nine foot tall gnome who is always eating while visiting, it’s just the beginning of strange creatures vexing Jake. He’s told he’s a changeling. He’s given a necklace from his mother (the one he never knew), and he’s told about his powers. He’s not impressed by the powers. He can’t turn invisible or anything. But the ones he gets are the ones that will help keep him alive!

The pace of the story is fast and there’s action on almost every page. He has a bully after him, a girl he’s interested in, and a good friend that stands by him in thick and thin. He’s going to need him.

He has more than one quest, he’s facing danger from the fae world, and his fae brother is trying to kill him. In the meantime, he has to convince the powers that be to change their minds and stop drilling in the ocean. The points he makes about the climate changes and the damages humans are doing to the earth are real. With no changes, we might see the type of collapse Jake was trying hard to stop.

It reads fast, is a fun read, has lots of fantastic characters and you find yourself rooting for Jake, even if he is the underdog. Sometimes just sticking with it makes a difference. He’s trying to save the girl he loves, so he has a good cause. Young readers will want to be as good as he is with a sword or bow.

Growing Up Neighborlee by Michelle L Levigne

Growing Up Neighborlee by Michelle L Levigne
A Neighborlee, Ohio Novel
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (282 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Lanie was a Lost Kid–a toddler found by the side of the road, with no one to claim her. She ended up in the Neighborlee Children’s Home, where her long journey to become a semi-pseudo-superhero began. She and her friend Kurt, and later Felicity, made up the “rules” for what they were and what they could do as they went along. Most of the time, they borrowed them from comic books.

Lanie could kinda-sorta fly and move things with telekinesis. Kurt could invent and make broken machines work when all mechanical laws said they shouldn’t. Felicity gave off uncontrollable EM bursts and controlled dogs. Where the trio came from and how they got to Neighborlee faded into the background when faced with the really big questions: Why were they the way they were and how could they do the things they did? Were they aliens? Genetic experiments? Mutations? Should they look for a spaceship? Should they fear the Men in Black or the CIA?

Adventures and misadventures tested their imagination, their loyalty, and their courage as they explored their abilities and their world. And one thing became perfectly clear: the Lost Kids were as necessary to guard Neighborlee from the rest of the world, as they were vital to protect the rest of the world from the everyday weirdness and magic of Neighborlee.

Lanie is an orphan being brought cup in the Neighborlee Children’s Home. She has special talents she keeps hidden until she finds she is not the only one who can do special things. Neighborlee is a  ​wonderful place, part magic, part goodness with a dash of greediness. At the heart of the magical part of Neighborlee is Divine Emporium a shop that decides if you are worthy to enter and purchase it’s unusual but exquisite goods. Divine’s is run by Angela who is an enigma.

I love this book. Told in the first person by Lanie, it brings to life a wonderful town and all its inhabitants, both good and, well, no​t​ really bad, just misguided. It also has a twinge of the unexpected. Lanie is found in a lane all buy herself, but obviously has been well looked after. No paren​t​s were found but she discovers she is not the only one of the “lost children”. Some have been adopted but many remain in the Neigborlee location.

This story is wonderfully put together and well written. It is one of those books that left me feeling warm and cozy and wanting to read more. Can’t wait for the next one.

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.

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.

Wyshea Shadows by Geoffrey Saign

Wyshea Shadows by Geoffrey Saign
– Divided Draghons Book One

Publisher: KiraKu Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: Full (307 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Age:  16+
Rating: Best Book
Review by: Orchid

A hundred-year-war that won’t end…

Three young women sworn to kill each other…

Famere, the wyshea butcher, seeks vengeance with loyal mythic beasts called shadows, Jennelle, commander of the Northerners, fights for her people’s survival using brilliant strategies, Camette, a wild divided draghon, searches for her kidnapped lover…Famere, Jennelle, and Camette must discover who is friend or enemy, who is responsible for the hundred-year dark sky and death mists, and if the men they adore will still love them.

From the award-winning author of WhipEye Chronicles comes the new epic fantasy series, Divided Draghons—an action-packed thriller with mystery, romance, and battles set in a world as beautiful, dangerous, and mysterious as the three heroic women—Famere, Jennelle, and Camette—who must fight for their people’s survival and the men they love.

The debut fantasy book from Geoffrey Saign, Wyshea Shadows, is a new addition to the great epic fantasy tradition of Dean Murray, Marc Secchia, and Ava Richardson.

When Famere unexpectedly becomes the Wyshea Guide instead of her proposed bond mate, she also bonds with the shadows who have returned after many decades away. With their help she leads her people to war, earning herself the nickname of Wyshea Butcher.

Jenelle becomes the leader of the Northerners after her father is killed by Famere. These two very intelligent women are the main pivot of the story, each a leader of her people, neither willing to allow the other races of the world to overrun their domains.

There are good books and there are great books, Wyshea Shadows is a great book. It’s too long to read all in one go, but I would have done this if it had been possible. There are male characters in this story, and they play strong roles, but the females are not overshadowed by them. The weaving together of males and females, the different races, magicians and wyshea is skilfully done. This is well crafted with a good flow between the different races and a strong story which is a pleasure to read. Excellent.

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

The Magician’s Workshop: Volume One by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr
Publisher: Wondertale
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (250 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is awarded the title of magician and given fame, power, riches, and glory. Journey with a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.

Everyone in O’ceea has magic, but not everyone is allowed to use it.

Mr. Hansen and Mr. Fehr have done an excellent job building O’ceea. It is a very well thought out world filled with magic and a host of interesting characters. Everyone in O’ceea has the ability to make projections, which I think is a very intriguing concept. Projections are magical illusions, and the more skilled a person is, the more realistic their projections are. Projections can’t hurt people, but they can destroy other projections, which can be quite expensive. Consequently, there are restrictions on who can make projections and at what level.

Only the best of the best can study at the Magician’s Workshop, and to even have a chance at entering the workshop a person has to have a color, which seems to be something internal that a person is either born with or not. When a person turns 16, they attend the Color Ceremony where they stand before a puller and it is determined if they have a color or not. Their entire future pivots on that moment. I’m not sure if having a color makes a person’s projections better, and even in O’ceea this seems to be up for debate. I found this all extremely fascinating, and I couldn’t wait to learn more.

I must inform readers that this story is told from the viewpoints of six main characters. Please don’t be intimidated by this. When the viewpoint changes, it is clearly marked and each character’s story is unique. I had no trouble keeping them separate, and I never felt confused or lost. I think telling the story in multiple viewpoints is a great way to expose the readers to different parts of O’ceea without resorting to exposition. The details of O’ceea and the people who live there are woven seamlessly into the plot of each character. As a result, the pacing never suffers.

When I finished reading, I was surprised to discover that I’m attached to all six of the characters for various reasons. I enjoyed getting to know each one as they prepared for the Color Ceremony. Some characters want to have a color. Others would be fine if they were found void. This installment of the series ends on the cusp of the Color Ceremony, and I desperately want to know what will happen to each character.

I enjoyed reading The Magician’s Workshop immensely. I had so much fun exploring the world of O’ceea, and I can’t wait to read the next volume.

Cutting to the Chase by Rose Phillips

Cutting to the Chase by Rose Phillips
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (146 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: Five Stars
Review by: Stargazer

How do you fix something you didn’t break? Lizzy certainly doesn’t have the answer. All she knows is that she needs to survive senior year, then get as far away from her dysfunctional family as possible. In the meantime, when she can’t take the pressure, she eases it with the sharp edge of a razor blade. But, she’s been cutting deeper and her thoughts are growing darker. Until she meets Michael. With him she finds relief. Now, maybe—just maybe—she can make it.

There are some stories that resonate with you and cause you to look at your own life in a different light, this is one of those stories.

Lizzy is just short of graduation and is trying to keep it together in her senior year. Life at home keeps falling apart more each day and to ease the pain and pent up emotions, she has taken to cutting to let out the emotions. In unmistakable ways, it seems like life might just give her a break when she meets Michael. When things suddenly start to fall into place and she has her cutting under control, Lizzy’s life suddenly spirals out of control into complete chaos.

The story is told from the first-person perspective of Lizzy. The author, Rose Phillips, has an astonishing knack for showing the inner emotions of Lizzy and when Lizzy is being defiant, the reader can understand and empathize with everything going on in the character’s life. The reader expressly experiences the highs and lows along with Lizzy-from the romantic date with Michael to the partying friends and the bad choices.

When several events occur that turn Lizzy’s world upside down, the reader is able to relate and experience the same emotional upheaval. With each cut comes the release of emotion and the reader is taken on a journey to understand the inner dynamics of Lizzy’s mind and how it relates to the chaotic and ever changing world around her. The dialogue is crisp and the setting will be familiar to many readers. The reader is able to be drawn in and enveloped by the life and times of the characters and as such, because to understand the deep back stories of each supporting character. From Mags, the always happy old friend that is always there, to Becky the friend with an insatiable party appetite but has experiences more than her own share of worldly burdens.

Cutting to the Chase is a deep story that is sure to reel you and in and cause you to look at your own life as well as the lives of those around you in a very different way!