She’s Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci


She’s Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (299 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

“The summer I turned ten, my life took a fairy tale turn.” So begins Reema Ben Ghazi’s tale set in Morocco. Reema awakes one morning to find her skin has changed from whipped cream to dark chocolate. From then on, every few years she undergoes another metamorphosis, her color changing successively to red, yellow and ultimately brown. What is the cause of this strange condition and is there a cure? Does the legend of the White Buffalo have anything to do with it? As Reema struggles to find answers to these questions, she confronts the reactions of the people around her, including her strict and unsympathetic mother, Lalla Jamila; her timid younger sister, Zakia; and her two best friends, Batoul and Khalil. At the same time, she must deal with the trials of adolescence even as her friendship with Khalil turns to first love. One day, in her search for answers, Reema discovers a shocking secret – she may have been adopted at birth. As a result, Reema embarks on a quest to find her birth mother that takes her from twentieth-century Rabat to post-9/11 New York. Reema’s humanity shines through her story, reminding us of all we have in common regardless of our particular cultural heritage. SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW, which will appeal to Teens as well as Adults, raises intriguing questions about identity and ethnicity.

 

As soon as Reema adjusts to one new skin color, her complexion changes yet again. Will she ever discover why this is happening?

While this book had a large cast of characters, I never had any trouble remembering who was who. I appreciated how much attention Ms. Colucci paid to all of the small details of her characters’ lives. She made them come to life so vividly in my mind that I was able to keep track of everyone even when multiple new people were introduced at the same time.

The pacing was slow. As fascinated as I was by the premise, it was difficult for me to stay interested in the storyline at times because it took so long for the main character to find any clues at all about what was happening to her skin or whether or not she had actually been adopted. It was interesting to read about the ordinary details of her daily routine like what she ate for meals, but there were so many of these scenes that they slowed down the plot and distracted me from the mysteries of this character’s life.

Reema had a complex and difficult relationship with her mother that included a lot of conflict between them as she was growing up. Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that showed how this relationship evolved as the main character began to make her own decisions in life. I found it intriguing to see how things changed between mother and daughter over the years. Watching Reema attempt to understand why this part of her life was so complicated was one of my favorite parts of this tale.

I’d recommend She’s Like a Rainbow to anyone who is in the mood for something thought provoking.

Soul Siphon by T.L. Branson


Soul Siphon by T.L. Branson
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (20 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by Astilbe

Alexander Drygo, king of Sunbury, is reeling from the loss of his wife. Despite his best efforts using an incredible power, she is no longer among the living.

When a rival kingdom seeks to take advantage of this delicate time in Drygo’s life, he is thrust into a battle for the future of his kingdom.

Can he save his people where he could not save his queen?

There’s no room for hesitation in a battle for your city and your very life.

This was a beautifully descriptive story. The author showed the characters and setting in such vivid detail that I couldn’t stop reading it. At times it felt like I was watching a movie play out in my mind instead of reading words on a page. I happily lost myself in the plot as I waited to discover what would happen next and whether the main character would successfully beat back his enemies.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent on character development, especially when it came to everyone other than Alexander. While I was quickly able to figure out what a brave and stubborn man he was, it was more difficult for me to determine what the personalities of the people around him were like. Had the plot given me a few more clues about their personalities, this tale would have easily earned a much higher rating from me as I loved everything else about it.

The battle scenes were fast-paced and exciting. Alexander was clearly skilled in sword fighting, so I was eager to see how he’d handle both the easier fights in the beginning as well as the big one he’d need to win to defend his city and his people. The more I saw of his swordsmanship, the more respect I had for him as a king as well as a person. He knew exactly what he was doing and what he’d need to do to win.

Soul Siphon kept me glued to my seat until the final scene. This is a fantastic choice for anyone who is in the market for a spellbinding adventure.

Ivy Introspective by Kellyn Roth


Ivy Introspective by Kellyn Roth
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (197 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

Trapped in a world where she doesn’t belong, twelve-year-old Ivy Knight struggles to keep her head above water as her simplicity is brought to light by her new position as a young lady growing up at Pearlbelle Park.

Worried about their daughter’s inability to fit in, Ivy’s parents decide to send her to McCale House, a boarding school in Scotland for boys and girls like her. However, alone and frightened without her beloved mother, sister, and nurse, Ivy can’t seem to focus.

Will Ivy ever learn what Dr. McCale is trying to teach her? Or will she remain lost in her own mind forever?

Imagine living in a world where you don’t feel you belong at all, very little makes sense and even your twin sister barely resembles you, both physically and mentally. This is Ivy’s life.

Ivy Introspective is a fascinating look inside the mind of a young lady that tries as hard as she can to fit in, but finds that she often just can’t make the connections to what is happening around her. Ivy feels that she is more of a bother and a frustration to those around her than she intends. Ivy Introspective is the second in the series of books by Kellyn Roth featuring Ivy and her sister, Alice, and I was glad that I was able to catch up to Ivy and her adventures. The Lady of the Vineyard is a novella featuring many of the same characters and timeframe in which Alice and Ivy live.

The writing style that Kellyn Roth utilizes is one that I enjoy, and I can see in Ivy Introspective how she has grown as an author. The focused dialogue and deep character history is very enveloping to the reader. The secondary plotline with the father-daughter relationship focused on Posy within Ivy Introspective offers another fascinating look into the world that Kellyn Roth brings to life. The deep research and great understanding of psychological growth of children within the historical period also shows the author’s understanding of how to incorporate the reader into the realism of past events. The editing is clean and the grammar usage is great since it incorporates both what the reader expects as well as the historical time period that the characters reside in.

I found the historical time period the Kellyn Roth wrote very inviting and perfect for the events that occur through the chronicles. I also enjoyed how the reader can begin to understand the views of the world the Kellyn Roth holds, especially from the perspective of both Posy and Ivy. I feel honored that I was able to review, Ivy Introspective since it brought to life many of the views of children and incorporates the deep values of faith and the psychological perspective that we need to work to reach out to those that are different from ourselves and from mainstream society.

I highly recommend that you take a journey with Alice and Ivy and make sure you don’t miss Ivy Introspective!

Brave New Girls: Girls Who Science and Scheme Edited by Mary Fan and Paige Daniels

Brave New Girls: Girls Who Science and Scheme by Edited by Mary Fan and Paige Daniels
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (423 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Dive into a universe of sci-fi wonders.

This collection of sci-fi shorts features a variety of brainy young heroines—girls who engineer, tinker, experiment, and more. Voyage to far-off galaxies with girls who use their science savvy to fix rovers, rescue friends, and protect alien critters. Visit steampunk realms where young ladies put their skills to the test building mechanical wonders and solving mysteries. Trek across sci-fi landscapes with girls who save androids and repair robots. Journey to post-apocalyptic futures where heroines use their tech know-how to bring down overlords and spread the most dangerous thing of all… knowledge. And drop in on a few near-future heroines who use their smarts to take down supervillains and bring a little more understanding into the world.

Proceeds from sales of this anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers. Let’s show today’s girls that they, too, can be tomorrow’s inventors, programmers, scientists, and more.

STORIES BY:
T. Eric Bakutis, Elisha Betts, Steph Bennion, Bryna Butler, Margaret Curelas, Paige Daniels, Kay Dominguez, Brandon Draga, George Ebey, Mary Fan, A.A. Jankiewicz, Evangeline Jennings, Jamie Krakover, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth, Stephen Landry, Karissa Laurel, Michelle Leonard, Meg Merriet, Jelani-Akin Parham, Josh Pritchett, Holly Schofield, and Lisa Toohey.

Featuring artwork by Hazel Butler, Sonya Craig, Ken Dawson, Evelinn Enoksen, Ben Falco, Kathy Ferrell, Christopher Godsoe, Evangeline Jennings, Deanna Laver, Jennifer L. Lopez, Jelani Akin Parham, Josh Pritchett, Emily Smith, and Jennifer Stolzer.

There’s no such thing as too much science in these universes.

Morrigan and her niece, Cethlenn, struggled to avoid getting sucked into a black hole in “The Non-Existence of Gravity.” While I can’t say why they ended up in such a predicament in the first place without giving away spoilers, I can say that their reaction to such a dangerous fate made it impossible for me to stop reading. They were so brave and quick-thinking that I simply had to know what would happen to them next, and I was quite pleased with how they reacted as soon as they realized something was terribly wrong.

As much as I enjoyed all of the storylines, there were a few sections that could have benefitted from more development. For example, the premise of “In A Whole New Light” caught my attention right away. Nina, the main character who was biracial, tried to figure out how to make her cousin stop mocking her for her race and interest in the Black Lives Matter movement. Her life was full of many interesting ideas that could have easily been expanded into a full-length novel, although it worked quite well at its current length, too. What I would have liked to see done with Nina’s adventures, though, was to spend more time on how she came up with her futuristic plan to change her cousin’s opinion of black and biracial people. Her solution was brilliant, but it wasn’t exactly something I’d expect the average 15-year-old to pull off. If that part of the plot had been given more time to shine, this would have easily beaten “The 17th Quadrennial Intergalactic Neo-Cultural Expo and Science Fair” as my favorite tale in this collection.

In “The 17th Quadrennial Intergalactic Neo-Cultural Expo and Science Fair,” Alice, Jay, and Hayden were putting the finishing touches on their science fair project when the life support system on their ship suddenly failed. They only had about 40 minutes to figure out what to do before they ran out of oxygen, and none of the adults in their community were around to help them. What an exciting premise that was! These characters had to think hard in order to make any progress at all at reaching their goal to save themselves and everyone else. I spent most of their adventure seriously wondering how they were going to survive and if they would fix their ship in time. It was so interesting to see how the plot unfolded.

I liked this anthology even more than I did the first one in this series, Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets. While they definitely don’t have to be read in order, I would recommend checking out the first instalment to anyone who enjoys this one.

Brave New Girls: Girls Who Science and Scheme was a creative collection of short stories that should be read by both young adult and adult fans of science fiction.

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.

The Jewel Tree by Lee Summers


The Jewel Tree by Lee Summers
Publisher: SevenOaks
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (90 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

At the heart of THE JEWEL TREE is an heirloom so precious that the last remaining members of the Ryder family will do almost anything to keep it in their possession.

But how long should a young girl work to earn back the emblem of her mother’s soul? And is any task to menial?

When Leda sees the hummingbird charm dangling from wealthy Lord Caitiff’s shriveled earlobe, she swears she will labor a year and a day to reclaim it. She is prepared to do whatever the old man asks–until the day he asks too much.

In a world of dark curses and ancient grudges, Leda and her handsome young uncle are sometimes hard pressed to distinguish between appearance and reality. Not all that glitters is gold–and gold is never worth more than flesh and blood. This mini-novel about the redemptive power of love will delight readers who appreciate a little magic in their lives.

Magic is everywhere if you know where to look for it.

Ms. Summers has a beautiful writing style that works perfectly for the fantasy genre. Her descriptions of the scenes were so vivid that I almost felt as though I were working next to Leda and her uncle, Alexander, as they attempted to earn back the charm that had been created in her mother’s honor. I also appreciated how much time this author put into showing the audience what Leda and Alexander, were experiencing and why the acted the ways that they did. All of those little details she added to her story made it come alive for me.

The ending felt rushed. So much time was spent building up the conflicts that I was surprised to see how quickly they were resolved. It would have been nice to watch the characters struggle more to find the solutions to their problems, especially when it came to the curse and how that affected everyone. If not for this issue, I would have chosen a much higher rating as I loved the storyline up until the last scene or two.

The character development was well done. Everyone changed in important ways between the first scene and the last one. It was interesting to see how and why they grew as a result of the things that happened to them, especially since their transformations were explained so clearly. I can’t say much else about this without giving away spoilers, but it was one of my favorite parts of this book.

The Jewel Tree should be read by everyone who enjoys fairy tales.

A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley


A Merchant in Oria by David Wiley
Publisher: Willow Wings Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (56 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Firion is a young merchant descended from generations of merchants. His first big break comes along when he sets out to trade with the wealthy dwarven kingdom of Oria. He has always dreamed of visiting this grand kingdom, having heard his father describe it in detail a hundred times while he was younger. But when Firion arrives in Oria, he is jarred by the details present that contradict with the image etched into his mind. Something dark and sinister seems to be afoot in Oria, but Firion knows he is no hero. He is just a simple merchant, and what can an ordinary person do in the face of danger and deception?

You’re never too young to make a difference.

The world building was fantastic. Everything from what it was like to meet a dwarf to how Firion reacted when their village didn’t match his expectations of what dwarven society was supposed to be like made me want to know more about what was happening in this world. There were so many small but vivid details included about the characters and settings that there were times when I felt like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book.

I was disappointed by the abrupt ending. The beginning and middle were so exciting that I was surprised to see how the author wrapped everything up. There were some issues I was expecting to be difficult to solve based on how they were written about earlier on, so it came as a shock to me to see how they were resolved. If not for this, I would have chosen a much higher rating as I really enjoyed the beginning of Firion’s adventures.

This book was pretty funny. No one was safe from the narrator’s quick wit regardless of what role they played in the plot or how much the audience liked them. That made this something that I didn’t want to stop reading. It was amusing to see who would be gently ribbed by the narrator next, especially when it came to characters who generally play serious roles in this kind of tale.

A Merchant in Oria should be read by anyone who loves fantasy stories set in the distant past.

A Poem for Britain by S.W. Wilcox


A Poem for Britain by S.W. Wilcox
Bards of Fantasia: (Book 1)

Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (124 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

IF YOU EVER WONDERED how future teens might interact with Arthurian figures, in terms of intellect and technology…

Two lab partners trek the coasts of the United Kingdom in 635 AD, encountering prototypes of the King Arthur myths. Their time-travel mission? Change the past just enough to forestall a 22nd century nuclear war. Their main weapon? Music. To meet the greatest Dark Age legends face to face is something any can dream of but few may hope to see.

Yet for young Skall & Dor, the chance of a lifetime is their sole alternative to chaos and despair. But history is a lonely place to pursue justice! Their compound’s fuel all but gone, the two youths are equipped only with their portal-opening device & guitars. The duo then bravely leap into a time gate before school-turned-fortress can cut power to the lab.

Time travel is only for the bravest souls.

The gods and other mythical beings in this tale were a lot of fun. As Dor said, “Gods: first uncaring as stone and then a wreck like teens in love – a mystery for the ages.” I never knew what to expect from them next, and that made me keep reading to see what zany things they’d say or do when or if the main characters crossed their paths again.

This story didn’t include enough details about what was happening in it. I had trouble immersing myself in the plot because of this. It was hard to imagine what the settings looked like or what it would be like to meet the characters because there were so few references to stuff like that. While I enjoyed the fast pacing in general, I needed a lot more information about what was happening with the characters so that I could get to know them well enough to worry about them when they found themselves in danger.

The dialogue was written well. There were a few different times when one of the characters came up with a coy response to something someone else said that made me laugh out loud. I also appreciated the fact that all of the main characters had such unique voices. It was easy to tell who was speaking because of how differently each person spoke. Skall used words in ways that Dor never would, and vice versa.

I’d recommend Bards of Fantasia: (Book 1) A Poem for Britain to anyone who really likes time travel.

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.

Last Voyage a the Vengeferth by G.A. Schindler


Last Voyage a the Vengeferth by G.A. Schindler
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Middle Grade, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (130 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

An adventure tale pitting man against nature. The Vengeferth pirates meet a great white shark, then they’re capsized by a rogue wave. Seven crewmen escape the overturned ship to spend months a’ sea in a smallboat. During that time they share stories from their lives. They encounter the Crazy Cousin, a foundering ship with a broken pump and a belly full of water. And she has more problems.

Anything can happen when the only thing standing between you and bad weather is a single ship.

What an adventure this was! The wave that capsized the Vengeferth made me shudder, but it was what happened to her crew afterwards that kept me so interested in the plot. The stories the characters told about their previous lives were just as entertaining as their attempts to live on almost nothing but raw fish for months on end while they waited to be rescued.

I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters. There were a lot of them, and the narrator didn’t spend quite enough time explaining what everyone’s job was on the ship. This made it hard to remember who was who and which backstory belonged to which character. It would have been helpful to have more time to absorb this information before their troubles started. I often had to stop and double-check this stuff to clear up my confusion.

To be honest with you, it did take me some time to get used to the dialect that the characters spoke in this tale. Once I did, though, I really liked how colorful it was. Sailors definitely wouldn’t worry about speaking proper English, so it made perfect sense for them to speak so casually. I’m glad I took the time to figure out what they were saying in the beginning. It quickly became worth that little bit of extra effort.

Last Voyage a the Vengeferth was a wild adventure that I’d recommend to anyone who is looking to sail the high seas.