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.

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.

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.

Battlefield by J.S. Frankel


Battlefield by J.S. Frankel
The Titans of Ardana 2

Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (235 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Martin Calder and his girlfriend, Dana—no last name given—are back. Possessing superpowers, Martin joins up with Dana to fight crime throughout their adopted city of Baltimore. Fighting crime on Earth is easy, but when an old enemy from Dana’s world, Ardana, returns to wreak havoc and seek vengeance, it will take more than anyone can possibly give to defeat him. Sometimes, though, giving everything isn’t enough.

Every day is a new battle when you’re fighting an impossible strong alien.

My review of the first story in this series talked about Martin not having much character development in it. It made me happy to see how much he grew in this sequel. His basic personality remained the same, but he matured in all kinds of wonderful ways. It was especially intersting to see how he changed as a result of some information about his past that came to light. I can’t say anything else about that part of the plot without giving away spoilers, but I liked how Mr. Frankel connected this character’s past and present. Martin’s evolution made perfect sense because of it.

I would have liked to see Dana get more attention from the plot. She was such a strong presence when they first met that I was a bit surprised by the less active role she played this time around. If these characters get the chance to share more of their adventures, I hope she’ll be given more chances to shine. Dana has a lot of talents, and I’d love to see her show them off. With that being said, this is a minor criticism of something I otherwise enjoyed quite a bit.

One of my favorite things Mr. Frankel’s writing style is how well he writes action scenes. He has a way of drawing a reader into the middle of a battle so completely that I can never stop reading when one of them begins. I simply have to know how it ends, and there were a lot of those moments in this tale! It was especially interesting to see what kinds of weapons the aliens used. Some of them were nothing like what humans have. They made the fight scenes even more exciting than they already were.

This book is the second in a series. It can be read a standalone work, although I would also recommend checking out The Titans of Ardana if you had a good time with this one.

If you like adventure, take The Titans of Ardana 2: Battlefield for a spin.

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 Tick Tock Man by R.M. Clark


The Tick Tock Man by R.M. Clark
Publisher: Month9 Books
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Action/Adventure Contemporary
Length: Full Length (237 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

When the clocks in town stop, thirteen-year-old CJ discovers an unusual “clock world” where most of the citizens are clock parts, tasked with keeping the big clocks running. But soon the seemingly peaceful world is divided between warring factions with CJ instructed to find the only person who can help: the elusive Tick Tock Man.

With the aid of Fuzee, a partly-human girl, he battles gear-headed extremists and razor-sharp pendulums in order to restore order before this world of chimes, springs, and clock people dissolves into a massive time warp, taking CJ’s quiet New England town with it.

Who would have guessed that clocks could be such a big source of conflict?

As someone who knows very little about how analog clocks work, I was surprised by how easy it was to understand and remember all of the timepiece references in this tale. They were all described so clearly that I could picture them as soon as the characters talked about how certain pieces of a clock fit together or what function they serve. This was something I was expecting to possibly struggle with, so it was nice to have it all explained so fully.

There were pacing problems. I especially noticed them in the beginning when CJ was preparing for Thanksgiving dinner by winding up and setting out many different clocks at his house. It was interesting to read about that tradition, but it did slow down the plot because of how much time was spent discussing it without really mentioning why this was so important to him or to his family. I would have liked to have at least one hint early on about what was going on there. Those scenes felt out of place to me without it.

With that being said, the world building in this books was really well done. It only became more complex over time, and that made me eager to see how everything would connect together by the last scene. The author did a nice job of slowly revealing each layer to what was going on in Furtwangen, the clock world, and why some of the things that were shared early on could be interpreted in all kinds of ways depending on how much you knew about them.

The other difficulty I had with the storyline had to do with how many new terms were thrown at CJ. There were terms for the various factions in the clock world who were at war with each other, and there were also terms for people who had certain powers or identities there as well. I found it confusing to keep up with all of these terms because of how quickly the main character was introduced to them. Many of them were introduced at once, and not all of them were explained right away. This made it hard to remember what they all meant.

Fuzee was so brave and kind. I liked the fact that she was the first person CJ met when he travelled to Furtwangen. She balanced out his cautious and sometimes less trustful personality nicely, especially once the plot sped up and both of these characters began to find themselves in dangerous situations. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones where CJ and Fuzee simply showed the audience their unique responses to all of the unexpected things that happened to them. Her personality complemented his perfectly.

The Tick Tock Man was a wild ride. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for an adventure.

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.