Shadow Eyes by Dusty Crabtree


Shadow Eyes by Dusty Crabtree
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational, Paranormal
Length: Full (334 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

Iris thought she could ignore the shadows…until they came after everyone she loved.

Seventeen-year-old Iris Kohl has been able to see both dark and light figures ever since a tragic incident three years ago. The problem is, no one else seems to see them, and even worse…the dark figures terrorize humans, but Iris is powerless to stop them.

Although she’s learned to deal with watching shadows harass everyone around her, Iris is soon forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her world and herself. Her sanity, strength, and will power are tested to the limits by not only the shadows, but also a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows, a new friend with an awe-inspiriting aura, and a mysterious, alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, Iris must ultimately accept the guidance of an angel to revisit the most horrific event of her life and become the hero she was meant to be.

 

Have you ever wondered what unseen forces move throughout our world which we do not see?

Iris Kohl began seeing weird “shadows” that seemed to impact how people relate to each other and the world around them around her fourteenth birthday. Iris mostly just tries to stay away from these strange entities, but when a few very personal events occur, it forces her to re-evaluate what these shadows are and what they want. Within the school year, Iris meets her new English teacher that seems to almost sense these strange figures as well. Iris begins to wonder if there is more going on than she originally imagined.

Shadow Eyes is the initial story in a series focused on Iris and her abilities to see and interact in the world around her. The plot is strong and character development and emotions are right on point. I did find myself frustrated from time to time wondering what happened on Iris’s fourteenth birthday, but this was finally revealed at the end of the story.

Dusty Crabtree does an excellent job of bringing in the reader to the center of the story. The various plot twists and foreshadowing cause the reader to consider and then reconsider what is happening within the story and Iris’s life. While the main story focuses on Iris, the secondary characters including Iris’s close friends and family members each have a strong backstory that is integral to the overall plot in which Iris the focus.

The editing is clean, and the story flows nice without being too descriptive or wordy. Everything that occurs or is described has a place within the story. Aside from the frustration of being left in the dark with events surrounding the fourteenth birthday, this was a nearly perfect read!

If you have ever wondered what lurks just outside our line of vision, be sure not to miss Shadow Eyes!

Day Moon by Brett Armstrong


Day Moon by Brett Armstrong
Tomorrow’s Edge Book One

Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Inspirational, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (376 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

BoM LASR YA copy

In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

In making the world accessible for everyone-sometimes there are those who manipulate that accessibility to ensure their own motives are achieved.

Day Moon is an extraordinarily written book that follows Elliott, a college student, working on adding written books to Project Alexandria, a computer system designed to make all human knowledge accessible to all throughout the world. Through the course of his work, Elliott begins to notice that an original copy he possesses of Shakespeare’s plays is startlingly different than the electronic copy in Project Alexandria. It is not a huge jump to realize that there are those that would alter human records to reflect a different body of knowledge than one currently possessed.

I love the mystery and suspense surrounding Elliott. The plot unfolds so smoothly and seamlessly that it envelopes the reader in mystery and suspense without the overtones of immediate suspense. The strengthening and breaking of friendships between Elliott and his friends throughout the journey also leads to must suspense and suspicion. In a world where science and electronics have all but pushed out religion, Elliott finds himself looking deeper and deeper inward to understand the various riddles within Project Alexandria.

The dialogue is strong and the descriptions are thorough; in fact, some of the best character interaction involves the look or action rather than words. Brett Armstrong shows a definite understanding and appreciation for human communication, especially when cloaked within suspicion. The story is not overly violent or graphic, but finds the right amount of description and suspense to catch the reader and propel them into the story without going over the top.

The reality behind Day Moon is one that should seriously be considered since the similarities with our own technology and records certainly follow a similar path to the one described within Day Moon. The technological impact within the society and culture of the story could very well be on the horizon for our own society as well. While Day Moon is the first of the Tomorrow’s Edge Trilogy, it ends at a point that leaves the reader desiring to go to the next book, but not feeling unfulfilled as some trilogies do. It stops at a point that is perfect to give the reader an opportunity to pause, catch their breath, and then make the move to pick up the next in the trilogy!

If you are into an enveloping suspense story that shows you what could be with just a hint of human manipulation, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Day Moon!

You Are Special by Max Lucado

You Are Special by Max Lucado
You Are Special by Max Lucado
Publisher: Crossway
Genre: Fantasy, Inspirational
Length: Short (31 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 4+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Xeranthemum

Every day the small wooden people called Wemmicks do the same thing: stick either gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty ones–those with smooth wood and fine paint–always get stars. The talented ones do, too. Others, though, who can do little or who have chipped paint, get ugly gray dots. Like Punchinello.

In this heartwarming children’s tale from the best-selling pen of author Max Lucado, Eli the woodcarver helps Punchinello understand how special he is–no matter what other Wemmicks may think. It’s a vital message for children everywhere: that regardless of how the world evaluates them, God cherishes each of them, just as they are.

This tale originally appeared within one of the chapters in the award-winning children’s bestseller Tell Me the Secrets.

This is a special book that speaks to the heart of parents when they read this to their kids. The illustrations are crisp, amazing and engaging.

I’ve read this story to my kids as they were growing up and it never ceased to amaze me that the message is just as relevant today as when the book was written. Kids, like adults, learn to judge others. This simply told yet beautiful tale helps teach kids that there is only one person whose opinion matters, and that’s our Maker. He loves us unconditionally, no matter who we are or what we look like, he loves us and that’s a pretty powerful lesson.

In this short story, the one who loves unconditionally is Punchinello’s maker, Eli. Punchinello is a little wooden man who is sad because others have made him feel like he has no sense of self-worth; he’s unhappy and very lonely. The story, combined with the illustrations, brings that sense of lonesomeness alive in a way kids can relate to. But soon, the loveable wooden Wemmick meets Lucia and something wonderful happens. The story captures a child’s uncertainty. wonder, and tentative hope as Punchinello realizes that things don’t have to stay the way they’ve been. He’s not what others say he is and that realization is grasped with tender optimism and anticipation once he meets Eli. Eli’s kindhearted, caring and gentle confidence embraces both Punchinello, reader and listener alike.

Believe it or not, I read this book every once in a while even though my own kids have outgrown the storybook style it’s told in. The message is something we all have a need to remember, from toddler to senior citizen – we are all loved for who we are, unconditionally and completely by the one who is always there for us – our Maker. Just like Punchinello, we need to visit with Him from time to time to be reminded of that.

This is a wonderful story to share with kids as they navigate becoming more self-aware as they embark on their careers as students, from Kindergarten to second grade. It’s a keeper.

A Heavenly Interception by Eddie Georgonicas

ANGELS
A Heavenly Interception by Eddie Georgonicas
Anarchy of Angels Book 2
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational, Paranormal, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (175 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The Dark One is on the rampage, a demonic beast is on the prowl.

He stalks the boys across two continents unintentionally playing a game of “cat and mouse”.

But of utmost significance is his need to move around the Earth incognito. And what better way than to rid a human shell of its soul and then “step in” to take it over.

Revenge is the only driver that makes this dedicated demonic soldier go to all this trouble.

There is a history that runs deep between them. If only the boys knew!!!

The boys will come to finally meet their demonic stalker and all is revealed.

They will be forced into defending their lives as well as the lives of those innocent souls that are with them.

The final showdown is behind the closed doors of the famous Gothic Church located in the city of Cologne, Germany.

It is here where Angelic Intention, Hellish influence, Earthly friendships, A psychic medium and an innocent German family all link together for one last time.

Angels and demons, heaven and hell with life after death. Quite a combination of events and circumstances to encompass in one book.

Tony and Johnny, two young American men who have been lifelong friends, set out on the holiday of a lifetime in Germany. Months before, they helped the angels in their fight against Lucifer, but they have no memory of this as the angels wiped their memories of the event. Now Lucifer is out to get his revenge on them.

A fake attack on heaven enables Lucifer’s henchman Sebastian, to travel to earth where he begins his evil work with the aim of meeting and destroying Tony and Johnny. A trail of disaster follows him as he makes his way to Cologne.

This is an inspirational book with many aspects of religion. The archangels, Virgin Mary, and souls of the good are all there, but somehow the story didn’t gel together. There was no smooth transition from one scene to the next, the excitement and thrill was dulled by the way the scenes were presented. I also did not understand the reason for the two young German children to be involved with the story.

However, the idea behind the book is brilliant, a truly new aspect of looking at heaven, hell and Christianity. The angels are given a human side, although their basic goodness is uppermost. I found the way the souls were dealt with when they reached heaven was good and kind, what you’d expect from heaven. I believe a little more tweaking would bring it to its true potential and make it a winner.

The Innkeeper of Bethlehem – The Story of Santa Claus by Scott Roloff

INN
The Innkeeper of Bethlehem – The Story of Santa Claus by Scott Roloff
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre:: Contemporary, Historical, Holiday, Inspirational, YA/Middle Grade
Length: Short Story (75 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The Innkeeper of Bethlehem will permit you and your family to enjoy Santa Claus and the other secular customs of Christmas within the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth. For little children, Santa Claus becomes a real person delivering presents to them from Jesus. Each Christmas season, reading a chapter a night will become a holiday tradition for the entire family.

How did Santa Claus happen? Now I’ve read the book I know how the workshops at the North Pole happened.

Each night two children are told a chapter of a story which involves the nativity and Santa Claus. Strange combination? Not really when you consider Santa Claus comes to visit all children on Christ’s birthday.

When Mary and Joseph arrive at the stable in Bethlehem Shai and Adi are sleeping in the stable because they’ve let out all the room at their inn. Adi helps Mary give birth to Jesus and when an angel warns them of the plan to dispose of all new babies, they escape with the new family to Egypt. Shai and Adi stay with the family for the rest of the story and then their own tale begins.

The Innkeeper of Bethlehem tells the nativity and life of Jesus in a fictional way ending with the birth of Santa Claus. Each chapter has a daily date running from December 6th to December 24th. I wish I had a grandchild living nearer to me so that I could read a chapter each night. I’m sure it would encourage a young person to go to bed quickly so the next day and next chapter would arrive quickly.

Well thought out and well written. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it presented facts and fiction in a way bound to interest children.

Hotline Girl by K. Dawn Byrd

GIRL
Hotline Girl by K. Dawn Byrd
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, YA
Length: Short Story (85 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Hollyhock

When the school counselor asks Abby to work a counseling chat line, she begs her to choose someone else. When Race, Abby’s three-year crush, begins using the chat line to talk about his girlfriend problems, can Abby be impartial when she really wants to tell him to dump her?

Race notices Abby after she has a complete make-over. He begins to spend more time with her and feels like a cheater because he likes the hotline girl too. How can he like two girls at once?

Abby is thrilled when Race begins spending time with her, but she’s crushed when he tells the hotline girl that he likes her and wants to take her out. Is he a player? Will he even want to be with her when he finds out that she is the hotline girl and knows all his deepest secrets?

What can you do when the guy you’ve been crushing on forever doesn’t notice you’re alive? How about a dazzling makeover? And if that’s not enough to catch his eye, how about helping him solve all his problems through your school’s peer-counseling hotline? That’s the intriguing premise of Hotline Girl, a short, fun, inspirational read from K. Dawn Byrd.

Abby is the sweet heroine at the center of Hotline Girl. She’s smart and funny but tends to keep to herself, content to watch high school from the sidelines. Once she decides to do something about her crush, though, she ditches her baggy clothes and nerdy glasses and joins the fun, quickly changing from geek to chic. Race, on the other hand, is already part of the in crowd. In fact, he’s dating the most popular girl in school just so he can keep up with that crowd, even though the girl represents everything his faith says is wrong. Confused, he reaches out to the school’s hotline to figure out what he should do. Through their anonymous conversations, Abby and Race quickly find common ground, and I liked how their interaction reinforces their faith and helps them grow as characters.

Although I enjoyed Abby and Race’s story, I think deeper characterizations could have made it even better. Race, especially, seemed inconsistent to me. His actions mostly show him to be a strong, centered young man who’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes, yet he’s dating a girl who makes him miserable just to fit in. I think more characterization to show why it was so important to him to be popular could have reconciled those two different sides of him. The story also felt a bit repetitive at times as the point of view switched between hero and heroine, going over the same scenes from each character’s perspective.

Overall, though, I liked how Abby’s story represents the idea that girls of faith shouldn’t settle for anything less than a special guy who shares their beliefs. I would recommend Hotline Girl to any teenager who’s struggling to balance a desire to be popular with the need to stay true to herself and her beliefs.

Twisted Roots: A Light into the Darkness by Shelly Goodman Wright

ROOTS
Twisted Roots: A Light into the Darkness by Shelly Goodman Wright

Publisher: Tate Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Paranormal, Suspense, YA
Length: Full Length (328 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Jessica’s sole priority for the past thirteen years has been to keep her father alive in the hope he will wake up from his coma and save her. Threatening to cut off his lifeline at any sign of independence, her mother has controlled her life, even to the point of an arranged engagement to Seth, whom Jessica fears even more than her mother. When Jessica accepts this most outrageous demand yet she then discovers her father has “passed away” anyway, she knows she has to escape.

She runs until she is lost and bewildered in a Georgia swamp, where she discovers the existence of the wonderful place her father hinted at to her when she was only a child. In this magical, unreal world, just as she begins to discover the truth about her twisted family roots, three young men set their eyes on Jessica.

One will win her heart, one will try to steal it, and one will try to kill her.

Now that Jessica finally has the power to determine her own path, will she make the right choice?

There are no words to describe Jessica’s situation. Her life is beyond tragic. With her mother, Evelyn, constantly dangling the life of her father over her head, Jessica is forced to submit to outrageous demands, including an engagement to Seth, a man who just might be more nefarious than her mother. After her father’s death, Jessica runs away at the first opportunity. What Jessica finds beyond the walls of her home will challenge everything she’s ever known.

Jessica is a very strong heroine. Despite her rather twisted and sheltered upbringing, Jessica has grown into a fine young woman. I admire her bravery and the strength it took for her to go into the world alone with absolutely no one she could trust. Once Jessica finds her way into the swamp, she comes across a group of people who show her the true meaning of trust and unconditional love. It was a pleasure to watch Jessica gradually let down her guard and open herself up to others.

I also enjoyed watching Jessica come to know Christ through reading the Bible and the gentle guidance of Hunter and Ms. Mabel. As Jessica steps on the path to Christianity, Hunter and Ms. Mable encourage her to ask as many questions as she wants. I liked that they never forced her into anything. When Jessica comes to a pivotal moment in her faith, Hunter and Ms. Mabel are there to support her, but Jessica remains in control of her life. I have no doubt that Jessica will grow into a very courageous woman.

Hunter is exactly the kind of man that Jessica needs. He lends her strength and support when she needs it, but also gives her the tools to stand on her own. Their romance is very touching and moves at just the right pace. I look forward to watching their love continue to bloom in the next book.

I must admit I had a hard time understanding the motives of Evelyn, Jessica’s mother. She doesn’t appear to have any redeeming characteristics. Consequently, she didn’t strike me as a very realistic character. Evelyn’s past is murky, and I’d definitely like to know a bit more about what would drive a woman to treat her only child the way she treats Jessica. Perhaps I will learn more about her in future installments of the series?

Seth is an interesting villain. While Seth is definitely evil, I do believe he has something that resembles feelings for Jessica, no matter how misguided or warped they are. He seems to have been shaped into the evil man that he’s become through some poor choices on his part as well as through the influence of Jessica’s mother. I can’t help but wonder if Seth’s life would have been different if Evelyn hadn’t gotten her claws into him.

Ms. Wright has crafted a wonderful story of love and faith in Twisted Roots. I enjoyed every minute spent reading it and am definitely looking forward to learning more about Jessica in the next book. I recommend Twisted Roots to anyone looking for a different kind of paranormal tale.

Mistaken Identity by K. Dawn Byrd

Mistaken Identity by K. Dawn Byrd
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc.
Genre: Inspirational, YA, contemp
Length: Short Story (110 Pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Fennel

Eden Morgan makes a list of six goals to accomplish in order to have the best summer ever. Getting a boyfriend, which is perhaps the most important goal, becomes complicated when she and her best friend, Lexi, fall for the same guy. Since Lexi is popular, gorgeous, and always gets her guy, Eden thinks she doesn’t have a chance.

Channing Johnson is everything Eden’s ever dreamed of and she can’t believe he just moved in next door. When he starts showing interest in her, she’s overjoyed…until she sees him out on a date with Lexi. He says Lexi talked him into it to repay her for tutoring him. Lexi says they’re in love.

Eden doesn’t know who to believe and is forced to choose between her best friend and the guy of her dreams. Nothing is as it seems and no matter who she chooses, someone will get hurt.

This is an inspirational – with bite. Mistaken Identity deals with faith and friendship. Add in a new boy in town and the faith and friendships becomes sorely tested. In this first effort of genre switch from adult to teen Inspirational the author maintains her fluent writing style, depth of characterisation, and on the edge-of-your-seat action.
By writing in the first person, Ms Byrd allows her readers to get right into her heroine Eden’s head and there you find all the angst and insecurities of the average teen. That said, Eden is no wimp.

When she discovers Lexi, her ‘best’ friend, is nothing of the kind, Eden has choices to make. Does she remain in character or does she make a push beyond her comfort zone and go for what she wants? In Lexi Ms Byrd dramatically highlights the dilemma Christian teens face in today’s ‘because I want it, I can have it’ culture. The tension between Eden and Lexi takes off into the stratosphere when Channing, the new boy, arrives in town.

From a writer as visual as Ms Byrd, it is hard not to imagine yourself there beside Eden, Lexi and Channing. She creates realistic characters and then places them in situations most people can relate to in some form or other, and bingo, the empathy is there between reader and the characters and kept me engaged to the end.

Despite being unfamiliar as I am with the American school culture and atmosphere, I had no problem engaging with her cast.

I’d be surprised if Ms Byrd’s transition to the YA genre does not create a whole new raft of reader/fans for her books. A very good read.