I’m Not Afraid of This Haunted House by Laurie Friedman


I’m Not Afraid of This Haunted House by Laurie Friedman
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Genre: Children’s, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Simon Lester Henry Strauss is not in the least afraid of any haunted house, but there is something else that terrifies him.

Not everyone is afraid of the same thing, but just about everyone is frightened by something.

I really liked the balanced way the narrator handled fear. None of the characters were ever treated poorly because of what scared them. Their fears and their emotions in general were treated like the normal part of life that they are, but there were also examples of characters facing things that others found too alarming to deal with. It was interesting to see how all of the characters responded to scary things and what happened when they disagreed on how they should respond to certain experiences.

The imagery was a little scarier than what I’d typically see for this age group. There were references to stuff like blood, guts, and veins. While none of the illustrations for those sentences were gory, this would make me a little cautious about who I handled this tale to. Some kids would love it. Others might find it too frightening, though.

The ending was fantastic. I was expecting there to be a twist in it based on how the main character reacted to the monsters in all of the earlier scenes. It was interesting to see if my theories about what that twist would be turned out to be correct and what would happen to the characters next. This is something I wouldn’t mind reading aloud over and over again. That’s always a nice thing to find in picture books.

I’m Not Afraid of This Haunted House is a good choice for young fans of the horror genre.

Halloween Night on Shivermore Street by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso


Halloween Night on Shivermore Street by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: Children’s, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (33 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

There’s a Halloween party on Shivermore Street, and everyone—from dancing mummies to musical witches—is coming. There’ll be whipped-cream-covered ants, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, and a special surprise when the masks come off at the end of the night. This is a party you don’t want to miss!

Anything can happen on Halloween, especially for kids who’ve stumbled upon a special party being thrown for it.

The descriptions of the party these characters attended were fantastic. The food was every bit as odd as I’d expect for something thrown for witches, ghosts, and werewolves. In fact, the only part of it that I liked more than the descriptions of what they ate were the games they played. With such a wide variety of magical creatures hanging around, there had to be something for everyone to enjoy. Luckily, there was!

I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to the rhyme scheme. There were a few times when narrator tried to get words to rhyme that didn’t quite fit together or that were slightly off beat for what was going on in that scene. The plot would have worked even better if the authors hadn’t stuck to this pattern so firmly, although this was a mild criticism of a story that I otherwise enjoyed quite a bit.

Wow, the ending was fantastic. It matched the tone of the rest of the book beautifully. The twist in it made me grin, especially once everything was revealed and the characters reacted to what had just happened to them. This is the sort of book I’d love to read to my young relatives because of how much fun it would be to see their reactions to the final scene.

If you’re in the market for something deliciously spooky and creative, Halloween Night on Shivermore Street is a great choice.

Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer


Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Within the walls of the Bastion, it’s an honor to become a host for an Unending—the bodiless, immortal spirits who rule the country. But for Faye, it meant her sister would have to die. When Faye sneaks into the Mother Duchess’s manor, she just wanted to see her sister one last time. Instead, Faye finds a manor in chaos, a murdered man, and an Unending assassin named Aris who needs a new body—Faye’s body—to bring the Bastion to its knees. Now Faye’s harboring the Bastion’s most wanted criminal. And if she wants to live, she’ll have to escape the Duchess and her immortals, all while keeping Aris from harming anyone else. There’s just one problem—Aris is not the villain. And now Faye is the only one who can help her stop the Duchess before anyone else—and especially Faye—has to die for the Unendings’ whims.

Faye just wanted to say goodbye.

The Unending rule Faye’s world, but she never imagined that her sister would be claimed by one. Everything happens quickly and Justine is whisked away before Faye’s had a chance to properly say goodbye. Sneaking into the manor brings her face to face with Aris, the mad immortal. Is Aris really the villain, or is something sinister going on in the Mother Duchess’ manor? Will Faye discover the truth or is she simply a pawn in an ancient feud?

Faye is a very likable character. She’s very willful and stubborn, which isn’t always convenient for those around her, but I count this as her greatest strength. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, and her determination to stand up for what she believes is impressive. I do wish that Faye had been more willing to listen to Aris. They were sharing the same body, but Faye seemed determined to close herself off from Aris as much as possible. I think they could have avoided a lot of trouble had Faye been willing to listen. On the other hand, I also believe that the journey Faye and Aris take helped form their bond and understanding of each other. The glimpses into Aris’ past were particularly interesting, and I believe that as Faye learns more about Aris, they will be a great team.

The secondary characters definitely have potential, but haven’t been developed fully. At this point, they are mostly a background to Faye and Aris and I never felt that I got to know any of them well. The villains are also interesting, but I would like to know more about them and their motivations as well. The Mother Duchess in particular has piqued my curiosity. She seems to have had good intentions at one time, but her own wants and needs have blinded her to the horror of the society she has created.

I thoroughly enjoyed Justice Unending. The main characters are realistic, their story is compelling, and the pacing is excellent. I sincerely hope that Ms. Spencer has plans for a sequel because I would love to learn more about Faye, Aris, and the Unending.

The Lyons Orphanage by Charlie King


The Lyons Orphanage by Charlie King
Publisher: New Generation Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, paranormal
Length: Full (220 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Orchid

Sam Watkins, an orphaned young teenager, possesses the ability to read the minds of almost everyone he meets.

Howard Lyons, the owner of the orphanage where Sam has lived since he was a baby, has been reluctant to let Sam leave the orphanage.

Unable to read the mind of Mr Lyons, he takes it upon himself to investigate the reasons behind the owner’s decisions and learn more about the origin of his ability, his parents and the potential of his power.

However, Sam’s investigation and mind-reading abilities reveal a power struggle at the top of a faltering orphanage between Mr. Lyons and his assistant Natalie.

Sam’s involvement in this conflict leads him to look for ways to save the orphanage and uncover the true motivations of both the owner and his assistant while trying to learn about his past.

Lyons Orphanage was a good place for parentless children to live, until it started going downhill. Mr Lyons was the owner and operator of the orphanage, with Natalie his second in command. One of the orphans is thirteen year old Sam. This boy who has a secret…he can read minds.

As the year progresses Sam and his friends realize all is not well with Lyons Orphanage and they set out to solve the problem.

This story is very intense in its delivery. Told from Sam’s point of view, at times it makes the orphanage appear like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, at others a modern place. Mr Lyons Is a secretive man who won’t tell Sam about his background and prevents the boy from finding foster parents. Other children come and go, but Sam stays in the orphanage.

I liked this book, but didn’t get enthralled by it. The story didn’t really get exciting until near the end so it took perseverance to continue reading. Worth the read to the end.

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.

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

BoM LASR YA copy

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!

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.

Gargoyle Redemption by Isabel Castruita

unnamed

Gargoyle Redemption by Isabel Castruita
Gargoyle Redemption Trilogy – Book 1
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (163 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

18 year old, Shinka Fox moved to California to pursue her music career, her mother Bru Fox is a famous artist traveling the world. Infatuated with a boy named Abel Lapis at her new school Shinka is surprised when the young man always seems to be around when she’s in trouble. A group called the Hunters is out to kill Shinka. But Abel has a secret, he’s a gargoyle. Will Abel rescue Shinka in time or will the Hunters reach her first?

Shinka Fox is about to launch her music career and also attend the private school called Fusion Academy. From day one things go wrong and she has to rely on fellow student Abel Lapis for support and protection. Her faith in him is shaken when she discovers he is half gargoyle and the statues on his balcony are his family. The Hunt is after the gargoyles and Shinka becomes involved in the conflict.

Both main characters are captivating although Abel seems to be a bit “on again” and “off again” with his interaction with Shinka. Danger comes in the form of the hunt whose members are the most unlikely people. A third paranormal element is also introduced which adds spice to the tale.

The only problem I had was with the continuity of the story. At times there seemed to be no depth to the characters. At one stage Shinka is captured by people who want an item which is in her possession. Despite the fact the object is with her, the captors don’t take it and return her with the item still in her possession. Very unsettling and made me question the reasoning behind the story.

A wonderful idea and fairly well executed. The book marries gargoyles with modern day teenage life and this makes it all seem believable.

Curse of the Moon by Beth Trissel

curse-of-the-moon-by-beth-trissel
Curse of the Moon by Beth Trissel
Secret Warrior Series
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (182 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

The bad news? Morgan Daniel’s wolf is out of control. The good news? There’s a treatment. She just has to get a potion from a lizard shifter witch–without looking into the witch’s eyes. Easy, right? But when the witch puts a spell on her younger brother, Morgan has to do the witch’s bidding to save him.

Fortunately Morgan isn’t alone. She has Jackson to lean on, a few witches coming into their powers, a secret warlock, and the always mysterious Chief Okema. What could possibly go wrong?

Morgan is a teenager with a young brother but she’s horrified when she discovers she is also part werewolf. Help is offered by Jackson and his Native American tribe. Morgan’s transformation is particularly strong and painful and a potion is needed to calm things down. Unfortunately the only person with the potion is Lilith, the Lizard lady and when they go to her for help she puts a spell on Morgan’s brother.

Werewolves, shape-changing panthers… this book has it all, and just when you think you’ve got it sorted, another unexpected shape changer arrives on the scene. The budding romance between Morgan and Jackson, plus the danger not only to Morgan’s brother, but the tribe as a whole gives the tension and flow to make this a good book.

The story weaves between modern day and myths and legends, providing an exciting and compelling read.