The Return of Master Fantastic by J.S. Frankel


The Return of Master Fantastic by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (234 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

High school graduate Paul Coleman’s life is anything but ordinary. It has been only a few months since he, Myrna Trillian, his girlfriend, and her father, Montague, an Elementalist/magician, destroyed a demon named Hekla that wanted Myrna for a purpose almost too diabolical to believe. Hekla had used the power of sound to kill Paul’s best friend, and her attack left Paul with very little ability to hear.

Montague is now gone, having died in the final battle against Hekla. His last feat of magic was to open a portal to Vann, a water world, where Paul and Myrna now live. Paul is mostly deaf, and Myrna is totally deaf, having been born that way.

However, things take a turn for the weird when Myrna suddenly starts hearing as a normal person would. She also exhibits the ability to open portals to other worlds as her late father did.

Mystified by her sudden transformation, Paul needs to know more, and so does Myrna. They return to Earth and find it under attack by a group of winged demons from Hekla’s home world, Sithros.

They also find that Monty has somehow been resurrected, and while trying to solve that riddle, they also have to fight against legions of winged aliens who think nothing of slaughtering millions. It will take everything the trio can come up with to fight against an alien horde that will stop at nothing to conquer—and destroy.

Nowhere on Earth is safe anymore.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that described exactly how violent and brutal the winged aliens were. Yes, these passages were the reason why I added the horror tag to this review as the descriptions of those attacks could be pretty detailed at times. They suited the tone of this tale nicely, though, and gave Paul all of the urgency he needed in order to try to stop them before more innocent people were hurt or killed.

After the nonstop action of Master Fantastic, I was a little surprised by the mild pacing issues I noticed in this sequel to it. The occasionally uneven pacing wasn’t distracting enough to prevent me from enjoying the plot, but it did steal my attention away from what was happening to the characters often enough that I thought it should be mentioned in this review. I expected the pacing to be slower in the beginning as the narrator was explaining what had happened earlier on in Paul’s adventures, but I wish it hadn’t happened again after that point.

I was impressed with how much care was taken in showing how Paul’s deafness affected his daily life. It wasn’t something he necessarily thought about every day, but it did change the way he reacted to certain situations. Just like in the first instalment in this series, he encountered some people who understood his disability and others who were jaw-droppingly ignorant about it. Paul’s reactions to the way others treated him suited his personality perfectly. He had excellent reasons for all of the different responses he gave to their kindness, rudeness, and everything in-between those two possibilities.

This is part two of a series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

I’d recommend The Return of Master Fantastic to anyone who has ever dreamed about visiting a distant world.

Cast No Shadows Anthology


Cast No Shadows by Jordan Elizabeth, Derek McFadden, Grace M. DeLeesie, Ashley Pasco, Al Dorantes,‎ Kae P. Quinn, Tracina Cozza, Heather Talty, James McNally, Gloria Slade, C.K. Raggio, A.F. Plant, W.K. Pomeroy, A. Elizabeth Zumchak, Misha Murphy, Joan O. Scharf, Nicole Green, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, Jeremy Mortis, Amy L. Gale, Lisa Oak, Rachel Pond, Grant Eagar, Clare Weze, Molly Jauregui, Christine Baker
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Holiday, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (479 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Welcome to the shadowed woods, where the trees breathe with ghosts and the wind whispers of the past.

Twenty-six authors take you through haunted houses and cemeteries with tales that will chill.

Beware the dark, for the spirits await you.

No two ghosts are like in this anthology! Just like humans, they can be sad, frightening, sentimental, and even kind.

“Ghostly Affection” followed the friendship of a ghost child and a little boy name Tommy she first met when he was sent to live at the foster home she’d been haunting. They grew up together but were always bothered by the fact that Tommy was the only person who could see her and that neither of them ever noticed other ghosts in the same predicament. The plot twists were really well done. I didn’t see most of them coming, and the ones I did figure out in advance still managed to surprise me in many other ways. What made them even better was how they were all resolved in the last scene. It was the perfect ending to something I enjoyed quite a bit.

This collection was uneven. There were stories I loved just as they were and others I thought could have used more polishing. “Moving In with the Ghost” was one of the ones that could have benefited from some extra development. As much as I liked the idea of a family knowing in advance that they were moving into a haunted home and choosing to live there anyway, Daniel and Geri sure didn’t take that warning seriously. These characters weren’t developed enough for me to know if this was unusual for them or if they were unwilling to take advice in general. Not being sure what their personalities were like in general made it hard for me to empathize with them once paranormal things began happening in their new home.

In “Graveyard Dust,” Emma realized she had special powers after both of her parents died. She began to have conversations with her mother’s ghost in the graveyard. Eventually, she began to make plans to attend a dance after getting advice from her mother and the other spirits. What I enjoyed the most about Emma’s life were all of its references to a famous fairy tale that were embedded into it. Seeing how the author reinterpreted those scenes to better fit the paranormal genre made me smile.

If you’re looking for something spooky, Cast No Shadows is a good place to start.

Flux by Lucas Pederson


Flux by Lucas Pederson
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (190 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Bullied teenager Addy Decker has had enough of her miserable life. One night, just as she’s about to end it all, a beautiful boy appears in her bathroom, saving her life. At once intrigued and a little scared, she touches the boy and he opens her eyes to a whole different way of life. Addy finds herself in the presence of the Jaunters, a group of people on a mission to magically time travel to the past and save people at risk, as every life saved brings new life to the dead world of the future. Addy is still wrapping her head around it all when her mom is attacked by a Hell Hound. Alongside her new companions, Addy jaunts to save her, but one of them disappears with Addy’s mom to an unknown destination. Now it’s a race against time, in every dimension, to find the rogue Hell Hound, and Addy’s mom, before a plague is unleashed that will infect the fabric of history itself.

This is an unusual book with an involved story about a young girl who is about to take her own life when a boy arrives in her bathroom to stop her. The second time this happens she follows the boy to a place in the future where young people try to stop evil taking over the world and destroying it.

The girl, Addy, is a strange girl, a mixture of her background and the curves life has thrown at her. Intrigued by the future she still longs to go home.

I’m sure the author knew exactly what was happening, but I have to admit I found this story really difficult to follow. Even though I read through to the end I’m still not sure of the point of the story.

I’ve no doubt other readers will find some depth to the book, indeed I hope they do as the actual writing and grammar was excellent.

Secrets from Myself by Christine Hart

Secrets from Myself by Christine Hart
Publisher: Dancing Cat Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Mystery
Length: Full Length (180 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

BoM LASR YA copy

Twelve-year-old Katelyn has always heard voices and had visions. She’s long suspected she was hearing from past lives. But when she runs away from home and hides out with an old friend in Vancouver, things become more real. She even finds herself writing the words of someone else in a diary – the words of someone whose fate was deeply impacted by the Komagata Maru incident.

As Katelyn learns more about the Komagata Maru and the person communicating with her, she realizes that she has a task to fulfill that will correct a wrong from the past.

Katelyn is a modern twelve year old who has been having blackouts and discovering strange writing in her diary (in Hindi, no less). She is, understandably, interested in discovering why, while her mother is concerned that she’s having mental or physical issues.

Little by little, Katelyn discovers more and more about Akasha and starts to believe that not only is she discovering another life, she begins to suspect that it is her life in a previous existence.

The book is an easy read, and it was fascinating learning about the history the book is based on. The characters are likeable, even Katelyn’s mom. Being a mom myself, I can easily put myself in her place and understand how very worried she was.

The mystery was interesting. Katelyn proved herself to be resilient as well as resourceful in discovering evidence to support her idea. There were a few times when she acted more precipitously than once might have wished, but she is twelve, after all.

The author has done a wonderful job in tying these two facets of history together. Kudos, Ms. Hart!

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If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed by Denise Vega


If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed by Denise Vega
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

If you have a monster that won’t go to bed, don’t bother asking your parents to help. They know a lot about putting kids to bed, but nothing about putting monsters to bed. It’s not their fault; they’re just not good at it. Read this book instead.

It will tell you what to feed your monster before bed (it’s not warm milk), and what to sing to your monster (it’s not a soothing lullaby), and what to read to your monster to send him off to dreamland in no time (the scarier, the better).

Just make sure you don’t get too good at putting monsters to bed—or you might have a BIG problem on your hands!

It’s much easier to get a monster ready for bed if you follow all of these steps.

The main character was such a persistent kid. I enjoyed watching her take her of her pet monster while helping him get ready to go to sleep. They had a close relationship, and it showed in how kind she was to him even when he didn’t want to follow the rules. She clearly loved him a lot. That made me like her even more than I already did.

A few of the scenes in this book were a little too gross for me. For example, monsters need to have a snack before bedtime. While I was expecting the monster to eat something that humans would never touch, the description of the little girl grinding up the ingredients of his snack was really vivid and made me want to turn past that page quickly.

With that being said, I did enjoy the less disgusting bedtimes routines that all good monsters should stick to. The very first scene where the monster hid behind the couch and looked completely uninterested in ending playtime and getting ready for bed made me giggle. I couldn’t wait to find out if he’d be more cooperative once the main character had explained all of the effective methods for encouraging him to calm down and begin to think sleepy thoughts.

If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed was a gently scary book that I’d recommend to anyone who is trying to make bedtime a little spooky.

Dorm Rats by Michelle L Levigne


Dorm Rats by Michelle L Levigne
Growing Up Neighborlee

Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (323 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

Lanie and her Lost Kids friends continue growing into their semi-pseudo-superhero powers and responsibilities, and learn more about what it means to be a guardian of the odd little town of Neighborlee. Sometimes that meant protecting the rest of the world from the everyday weirdness and magic around them.

The transition from high school to college is marked with challenges and mystical, magical attacks from outside Neighborlee’s borders. When the academic game-playing and politics of the local college are used to run a questionable experiment on the entire freshman class, Lanie is there in the middle of it. Sometimes those who realize there’s something strange going on aren’t as enchanted as Lanie and her geek friends, and it takes a lot of fast talking and faster maneuvering to keep the lid from blowing off the entire town.

The threats grow bigger and the enemies grow meaner, but it’s all in a day’s work for the guardians of Neighborlee. This is home, and they’re willing to pay the price. Sometimes, they do. With their lives.

The really big questions remain: Why are they the way they are and how can they do the things they do? At least when they mess up and use their talents in public, most people don’t even notice. It’s just part of the background weirdness of Neighborlee, Ohio.

 

Dorm Rats is the continued story of Lanie, one of the lost kids of Neighborlee. Lanie and her brother Harry have been adopted by the Zephyrs, a hippie style couple who are famous for the books they write about the weird and wonderful. Lanie and her lost kid friends have special powers and these help them in their self appointed roles as guardians of Neighborlee.

The setting and characters have been very well developed, so much so that I read this book in one day. I honestly could not put it down. I liked the way Lanie’s growing from teenager to young woman involved uncertainty and happiness as she and her friends, both guardians and normal people, grew to adulthood. She came across as a real person and her interaction with her fellow guardians seemed to have the usual teasing aspect of people in their teens.

I did have one moment of surprise when the main character was in England and mentioned eating biscuits which are not generally sold in England. Probably wouldn’t mean anything to someone not familiar with the country, but it did interrupt the flow of the story for me and it took me several minutes before I could get back into the flow again.

To finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and felt totally immersed in the story. Definitely a “live inside the story” type book.

Just Another Quiet Little State by J.S. Frankel


Just Another Quiet Little State by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (293 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Teenager Gabe Common and his girlfriend, Millie Themmes, have moved back to Chumsville, the place where the magic that changed them started. Although they attempt to move on with their lives, some forces in the world will not let them. For one, the ambient magic still exists, and this time it has spread across the state of South Dakota. In fear, the president authorizes the military to contain the Changed, those transformed into something other than human. Additionally, civilian militias are out to kill the Changed. Once again, Gabe has to lead the residents of Chumsville and fight the intolerance around them, even at the cost of his life. It comes down to not only a battle for acceptance, but also one of survival. The only question is whether Gabe and his friends can survive the upcoming conflict.

How would you fight a foe who was many times bigger and stronger than you are?

The romantic subplot was handled well. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how Gabe and Millie’s relationship has developed over the years. They have been through a lot together since their bodies were transformed by ambient magic, but every crisis only seemed to draw them closer together. I liked watching them work together so closely, and I was pleased with how well they got along with each other.

This tale would have benefited from having many more details included in it. While the plot was just as fantastic as I would expect from Mr. Frankel, I had a lot of trouble picturing what was happening in many scenes because the narrator didn’t describe the events in them as vividly as he had earlier on in this series. It was almost as though I were listening to him retell it later on instead of experiencing the plot twists alongside him. I desperate wanted to give this story a much higher rating, but this issue prevented me from doing so.

While the world building in this series has always been excellent, it was even better than normal this time around. I especially appreciated all of the references the narrator included to various events that have happened in the United States over the past year or two. They made the plot even more meaningful than it would have otherwise been, but they were also subtle enough that I suspect they’ll still feel fresh and relevant years from now.

This is the third book in a series. It can be read on its own or out of order.

I’d recommend Just Another Quiet Little State to anyone who loves contemporary science fiction.

Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth


Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Paranormal, Historical
Length: Full Length (180 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

Anything can happen when someone gets lost in the woods.

Ms. Elizabeth did an excellent job of blending multiple genres together into one storyline. It was equally a ghost story, a mystery, and a science fiction novel. I honestly couldn’t narrow it down any further than that because of how all of these elements of the plot worked together to show what happened to every character who accidentally or purposefully found themselves in Witchwood Hollow.

While it was incredibly interesting to see how the town of Arnn had changed from one century to the next, I do wish that I’d been able to get to know the characters better than I did. It was confusing to move between three different time periods. Each one of them had a fairly large cast of characters to introduce to the reader, and they all had complicated plots to unravel as well. I met several unique characters in each era, but I felt like I never had the chance to learn more than pretty basic basic information about their personalities and origins. It would have been nice to dive into their lives more deeply.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was how it explored grief. All of the characters had been through some kind of trauma or loss, and all of them were working through the long-term consequences of that. It was fascinating to see how people in different eras thought about their grief and what kinds of coping skills they used to get through it. These scenes were as poignant as they were beautiful.

Escape from Witchwood Hollow should be read by anyone who is in the mood for something thought provoking.

Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan


Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan
Prime Prophecy Series

Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (346 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Poinsettia

On the first day of her new school all that shy, wounded Eden wants is to finish her senior year and escape to college. It can’t be too much to ask for, can it?

Noah has spent two years not knowing why he failed to come of age as every one of his ancestors has. Two years drifting aimlessly, searching for direction…

When the two meet the connection is instantaneous and undeniable. A connection that has Eden running and Noah burning to know more.

A connection destined to be the catalyst for a prophecy that neither knew existed.
A prophecy others are willing to kill for.

As families rupture and struggle to realign, as their hearts connect and ignite, Eden learns to trust. But with their love and life on the line, Eden must find the power to believe.

Prophecy Awakened is the first book in Tamar Sloan’s Prime Prophecy Series. If you enjoyed Stephanie Meyer, Lauren Kate or Maggie Stiefvater, then you’ll love a series that captures their best traits in an epic, captivating story of a love that defies boundaries.

Eden has one goal, survive her senior year.

Eden just wants high school to be over. While Eden is a bright and kind young woman, she’s never been popular at any of the numerous schools she’s attended as her mother moved them from place to place. Eden doesn’t think Jacksonville High will be any different. Eden has no idea just how wrong she is.

Eden is a very likable character. She’s intelligent, considerate, attractive, and deeply cares for animals. Many students want to be her friend when she arrives at her new school. Unfortunately, Eden’s fractured relationship with her mother and her experience at her other schools has made her extremely hesitant to trust others. Everything changes when she meets Noah.

Eden and Noah have an intense connection from the moment they meet. Instant connections can be problematic in that they are hard to believe. However, Ms. Sloan orchestrates the tension between Eden and Noah very well. Eden does everything she can to ignore Noah and the spark of attraction between them. Noah is very gentle and patient with Eden. He knows what he’s feeling is special and he is persistent in his pursuit of her heart without being overbearing and pushy. Once Eden stops fighting her feelings for Noah, I really like that they had time to get to know each other. Even though Noah and Eden are not normal teenagers, I enjoyed watching them do normal things like watching movies and doing school projects. It made the story and their relationship feel realistic. Unfortunately, Eden and Noah’s world is soon rocked by tragedy, and their budding relationship is put to the test. They are both forced to make some tough decisions. Will their relationship survive?

Prophecy Awakened moves at a steady pace as the tension gradually builds. Little by little I learned more about Noah and his family. Eden and her abilities remain a mystery for most of the story. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that Eden has a very special way with animals, one that she doesn’t fully understand. I’m not even sure that Eden’s mother is aware of Eden’s power. I’m definitely curious and hope to learn more in the next installment.

I must admit I was hoping to learn more about the prophecy. There is just a vague hint about it at the end of the book. I did expect there to be some sort of mention about it since the title is Prophecy Awakened. However, this book is devoted to building the relationship between Eden and Noah. I have a feeling that something big is on the horizon for the young couple, and I sincerely hope they are strong enough to survive whatever comes their way.

I enjoyed reading Prophecy Awakened. The characters are solid and likable and the story is compelling. I look forward to reading more about Eden and Noah in the next book.

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!