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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

The People That Fall Out of Pictures by Anne Wentworth


The People That Fall Out of Pictures by Anne Wentworth
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (171 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Every family has at least one secret, right? Jolene Poetic has just completed seventh grade and thanks to Billy Marsden, is now looking ahead to a rather lonely summer. Jolene has a couple of strikes against her when it comes to making friends. Her Aunt Agatha is mentally ill and her family are considered poor. What Jolene doesn’t know is that this is going to be the most amazing summer of her life and it has to do with the ancient painting on their wall. She is about to be told the family secret and meet The People That Fall Out Of Pictures. Her life and how she sees things will never be the same again.

If Jolene can somehow avoid being bullied again this summer, she just might have a nice vacation.

I loved the way the plot talked about mental illness. Aunt Agatha’s illness was part of who she was, but it wasn’t the biggest or even the most important part of her life. She also had many interests, habits, flaws, and quirks that made her feel well-rounded and like a real person to me. This is something that I’d specifically recommend to kids who have a personal connection to this topic because of how well it explains what it’s like to live with this sort of condition and well as what it’s like to care about someone who is dealing with it.

This book asked many questions about the identities and pasts of certain characters that it either never answered or only answered in part. I enjoyed all of clever hints about theses topics that other characters dropped in the beginning, but I would have liked to have much more information about them eventually. It was disappointing to have so many loose strings left hanging at the end.

The magic in this universe was unpredictable in a good way. It regularly moved back and forth between silly and serious topics. I especially enjoyed the scenes that showed how Jolene and her family lived ordinary lives that were occasionally interrupted by things that could never be explained by logic or science. This was a fantastic choice for a tale that would joke about eating lots of sugary snacks one minute and then switch to discussing something hard like grief the next.

Give The People That Fall Out of Pictures a try if you like magical stories that are set in the present day.

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!