Regen by Cassie Greutman


Regen by Cassie Greutman
Publisher: Greutman Media
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (326 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Life is finally shaping up for Trisha. For the first time, she’s with a foster family she doesn’t hate. Her new school is decent, and she even has a boyfriend. Until the night she finds herself waking up in the woods covered in blood, a bullet hole in her dress. Without her fae abilities, she’d be dead, but now the Faerie Council has given her an ultimatum. She has to help find an escaped fugitive, or be taken to Faerie, a place her missing mother told her horror stories about. Now, Trish has to keep her day job a secret from her foster parents, join forces with the ex-boyfriend who killed her, and hunt down a dangerous criminal before he comes into his powers. Should be a piece of cake.

Trisha has been abandoned by her mother and gone through a multitude of foster homes – and she actually likes her latest foster parents. Her dark secret is that she is a fae and part of being fae means she heals really quickly, although now she has been killed. To her surprise she regenerates. I presume this is where the title of the book comes from, although it is not very clear at first.

The book is reasonably written and the story flows well although there are a few unbelievable events when her foster parents read her the riot act, then give in without a murmur. The ending left a lot of loose ends which I found very irritating. The idea is a good one, but it did not go deep enough or follow through on hints about her past which makes it an incomplete story.

I liked the theme of the story, quest to find a criminal; only Trisha can help; several false leads. On the whole, it was pleasant read and quite a good story.

Black Panther Little Golden Book by Frank Berrios


Black Panther Little Golden Book by Frank Berrios
Publisher: Golden Books
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (24 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Marvel’s Black Panther springs to life in his first ever action-packed Little Golden Book!

Meet Marvel’s Black Panther! As an Avenger, this super hero uses his strength, speed, and unbreakable claws to pounce evil-doers! Boys and girls ages 2-5 will love this action-packed Little Golden Book as they learn about the Black Panther–from his Wakandan origins to his powers as well as his friends and foes.

Whether you’re visiting Wakanda again or for the first time, now is always the right moment to explore it.

My favorite scene was the one that showed how Black Panther rescued innocent people who were in danger as a result of the dangerous decisions his antagonists made. One of the reasons why I like this superhero so much has to do with how hard he works to save everyone who crosses his path even if he has to put himself in serious danger to do it. That’s an admirable thing to do, and it was explored well in this storybook.

I would have liked to see more time being spent developing the plot of this story. It did an excellent job of describing who Black Panther was and why he was so powerful, but there wasn’t a lot of energy being devoted to giving this character a villain to fight or a problem to solve. I started reading with the assumption that I’d love this tale just like I loved the film, so it was disappointing to have so little substance to work with.

The best section was the one that described where Black Panther’s abilities came from. They weren’t something he was born with or developed after being bitten by a radioactive spider, so finding out that piece of his past was a little more involved than it would be for some of the other super heroes out there.

Black Panther Little Golden Book is a thorough introduction to this superhero for readers who don’t know anything about him at all.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer


Fairest by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles 3.5-Levana’s Story

Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (220 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Poinsettia

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death.

Who is Queen Levana?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Levana as the woman who terrorizes Cinder and her band of heroes in her pursuit of world domination, but who is the woman behind the veil? What is her story? Was she always so cruel? The first three books in the series provide very little insight into Levana’s character, but Ms. Meyer drops tantalizing clues throughout the series concerning Levana and her history. My curiosity was piqued and I jumped at the opportunity to read more about this enigmatic character.

I knew before I began reading that Levana’s tale would not be a happy one, but I had no idea just how tragic it would be. Her parents neglected her and her monstrous older sister, Channery, abused her. Even after I learned this, I still have little sympathy for Levana, but I have a better understanding of her motives and the dynamics of her relationships with other characters in the series. Reading this book made Levana more than just a typical evil queen. It made her very realistic.

It is rare to come across a villain as complex and developed as Levana. She is a truly twisted individual who uses her exceptional talent with glamor to manipulate and control those around her, even those she professes to love. There are many times in Levana’s life when she was at a crossroads, and she consistently made bad decisions. Levana deludes herself into believing she is better than Channery. However, I think Levana is actually worse in some ways. At least Channery didn’t try to disguise her actions under the guise of being for the greater good.

It was interesting to finally learn more about Lunar culture, and I have to say it is pretty disturbing. I understand how villains like Levana and Channery could emerge from a world like that. I still would like to know more about the origins of the Lunars’ power and why some are born without it as well as how Lunar society developed.

I highly recommend fans of the Lunar Chronicles read Fairest. Levana’s story is intriguing and adds depth to this captivating series.

Ebba, the First Easter Hare by Leen Lefebre

 
Ebba, the First Easter Hare by Leen Lefebre
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Holiday, Historical
Length: Short Story (80 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

King Stern rules over a dark empire of hares. His brother Atta leaves. Before his love Hulde gives birth to their first child, he wants to find a field of his own, bathing in light. Every day Hulde runs to the frontier, where she stands on the lookout for Atta. But then the baby arrives, too soon.

At a rapid pace, Princess Ebba grows into a smart child. Hulde notices that this curious girl resembles Atta more and more – and that is not a gift. When they discover an abandoned bird’s nest in a rabbit cave, Ebba wants to go on a trip just like her father. But, is she as brave as him?

No one is ever too small or too young to make a difference in the world.

Ebba was such a compassionate and brave character. She lived in a world that was full of danger for hares and other animals, and she knew the risks she was taking when she decided to break the rules of her society. I liked her as soon as I met her, but seeing her decide to break those rules no matter what the consequences would be made me like her even more than I already did.

This story had a slow beginning. Roughly the first third of it was spent introducing the characters and exploring the world they lived in. As interested as I was in what it would be like to be part of a hare kingdom, this didn’t leave enough space for Princess Ebba’s later adventures once she grew old enough to leave her mother. It would have been nice to have more time to get to know Ebba after she discovered what was in the next and decided how she was going to react to it.

The ending made me smile. Not only did it fit Ebba’s personality perfect, it tied up all of the important loose ends of the plot that hadn’t been resolved yet. While I would like to know what happened next in her life because of how much I liked this character, I was also satisfied by what the narrator shared about what happened to her as she grew older.

I’d recommend Ebba, the First Easter Hare to anyone who enjoys fantasy adventure tales.

Cress by Marissa Meyer


Cress by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles Book Three

Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (550 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Poinsettia

In this third book in Marissa Meyer’s bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Is Carswell Thorne the hero Cress has been waiting for?

Born a shell, a Lunar without power, Cress was given up by her parents when she was only days old. Sybil, Queen Levena’s second in command, imprisoned Cress on a satellite orbiting Earth and uses her hacking abilities to manipulate and spy on the governments of the planet. However, Sybil never counted on Cress caring for the Earthens she spends her life watching.

Cress is one of the sweetest heroines I’ve come across. Her harsh upbringing could have left her feeling bitter, but while she certainly does resent the way the way she’s been treated, she is remarkably optimistic about the world. Unfortunately, most of what Cress knows about Earth is from the shows she watches on her net screens. When she learns about Cinder and Thorne’s escape from prison, Cress immediately develops a crush on Thorne. She learns everything she can about him and imagines him as a misunderstood hero destined to rescue her. When Cinder and Thorne finally do rescue Cress, it is a dream come true, but can Thorne ever live up to Cress’ fantasy?

Cress is very naïve about love, but this feels realistic considering how long she has been imprisoned. Watching her discover how things work in the real world was bittersweet. I loved seeing the world through her fresh eyes. Everything was new and interesting to her, but the harshness of reality was understandably shocking to Cress at times. However, Cress is stronger than she looks, and I think she handles it all very well considering her situation.

Cress and Thorne make an interesting pair. Thorne has a roguish reputation he gleefully perpetuates, and he’s a wonderful character with a great sense of humor. However, something changes when he meets Cress. She sees him differently, and I think for the first time in his life, he wants to be better and desires to be the hero Cress believes him to be.

The pacing gets faster with each book in this series. Cinder’s team mismatched team of heroes is really starting to come together. The conflict between Earth and Luna is escalating, and Cinder and her crew come up with a daring plan, one that will surely awaken Levena’s wrath.

Cress is a thrilling addition to this series! I’ve come to care about Cinder, Kai, Iko, Scarlett, Wolf, Cress, and Thorne. I’m completely hooked on The Lunar Chronicles, and I can’t wait to find out how it will end. I’ll be reading the next book immediately.

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan


Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Dad has warned Henry and Eve: If you whine too much, monsters will eat you. Henry and Eve don’t listen, of course. The only problem is, when the monster comes, he can’t find the right recipe for whiny children—and neither can his monster friends! A whiny child salad doesn’t work because there’s paprika in the dressing. A whiny child cake won’t do because the flour spills all over the floor. And whiny child burgers are out of the question because the grill is too hard to light up. Arguments and hilarity ensue. And just when our persnickety monsters decide on the perfect dish…the worst thing of all happens….

Sometimes deciding what to make for dinner is the hardest part of the day. This is true even for monster who are planning to turn human children into the main ingredient of it.

The premise of this tale caught my attention immediately. I’ve always loved children’s fiction that has a dark side, especially if it includes the horror genre in a playful way. The best moments of Eve and Henry’s adventures were the ones that showed what can happen to kids who refuse to stop whining. Not only were they funny, they taught an important message about communicating your needs without whining.

Most of this jokes in this book seemed to be geared to adults instead of kids. For example, one of the monsters decided against baking the children into a cake because she was worried about her bottom being too large and she didn’t want to gain any more weight. This isn’t something that most children think about at all, so it was strange to me to see it included in something that was otherwise written for them.

All of the kitchen accidents made me giggle. Cooking, baking, or grilling a delicious dinner isn’t always as easy as it may seem. It turned out that monsters are no better at any of this stuff than the average person is, so there were plenty of mishaps along the way as they decided how they should prepare the human children they’d just caught.

Monsters Eat Whiny Children is a good choice for anyone who loves snarky fiction.

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.

The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith


The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (64 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The Fox and the Star is the story of a friendship between a lonely Fox and the Star who guides him through the frightfully dark forest. Illuminated by Star’s rays, Fox forages for food, runs with the rabbits, and dances in the rain—until Star suddenly goes out and life changes, leaving Fox huddling for warmth in the unfamiliar dark. To find his missing Star, Fox must embark on a wondrous journey beyond the world he knows—a journey lit by courage, newfound friends, and just maybe, a star-filled new sky.

Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and the art of William Blake, The Fox and the Star is a heartwarming, hopeful tale which comes alive through Bickford-Smith’s beloved illustrations, guiding readers both young and grown to “look up beyond your ears.”

Sometimes best friends come in the most unusual combinations. For example, a little fox can meet up with the star who shines on him every night to explore the forest and spend quality time together.

Fox’s friendship with Star was well-developed and beautiful. I’d never imagined a wild animal paying any attention to the night sky before, so I was curious to see how their connection worked and what would happen to them next. The more I read about their unique bond, the more I wanted to know. Ms. Bickford-Smith included a lot of emotion into those scenes, and that made this friendship something I want to read about over and over again.

There were a few things about the plot that I never quite understood. For example, where did Star go when Fox could no longer find his friend? The narrator danced around this question a lot, and the answer that was provided didn’t satisfy me. I would have preferred to see more time spent exploring this because of how important it was for Fox’s quest to figure out what happened to his buddy.

The ending was perfect for this whimsical story, though. It was every bit as poetic as the beginning and the middle had been, and that made me smile. I felt like it was written for adults just as much as it was for kids. That’s something I always like to see in children’s books. There’s nothing like being able to reinterpret the same scenes in different ways as a reader grows older.

The Fox and the Star should be read by anyone who loves fairy tales.

What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter


What Time Is It There? by Christine Potter
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full length (167 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

Just over a year ago, Bean and Zak headed for colleges two thousand miles apart, promising to write, but to see other people … until Bean fell for the wrong guy and Zak fell off the planet. Now, Bean’s got two weeks’ worth of Zak’s year-old letters that she still can’t bear to open—and a broken heart. Her new best friend, a guy named Amp, wants her to read the letters and be done with it, but he may have his own reasons for that. When Sam shows up at Bean’s school unexpectedly and Bean tumbles into the 19th century from the cellar of a ruined church, things start making a bizarre kind of sense. That is, if she can just fit all the pieces together again…

On the surface Bean seems like an ordinary college girl, but she has a secret. She can travel in time. During her first year in college new events and people make Bean forget the love of her life and now she regrets it. Unfortunately Zak has now disappeared, although she sees him when she travels.

I found this story fascinating. What at first seems to be a straightforward tale of time travel turns out to be far more sinister. I love the way Bean’s friends play a major part in the story, those from her past and the present. From day to day events, to Thanksgiving and Christmas I followed Bean and her friends as they tried to work out where they were going with their lives. Bean has the added problem of where is Zak?

A good story, a little slow at first, but intriguing and fast paced once it gets going.

Master Fantastic by J.S. Frankel


Master Fantastic by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (226 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

High school student Paul Coleman’s life is an ordinary one. His existence takes a turn for the extraordinary when he and his best friend, Rory, are attacked by a winged demon one day. The demon, which calls itself Hekla, possesses the power of sound, and kills Rory with its scream. Paul survives, but the force from the blast has left him mainly deaf. A year later, Paul is out of school, working part-time, and is fearful of going deaf forever. Although he has learned sign language well, he wonders where his life will go. All that changes when Montague (Monty) Trillian, also known as Master Fantastic, enters his life and requests his services as a sign language teacher for his daughter, Myrna. Paul accepts, and soon finds out that Trillian is not just any magician, but an Elementalist, one capable of wielding the four elements of Earth with ease. He can also open portals to other worlds, and often does so, visiting those of earth, water, and fire. Many adventures follow, and Paul and Myrna grow close, but Hekla returns and demands Myrna be given to her. It seems that Myrna is the product of a union between Monty and Hekla, and like all mothers, she desires to protect her own. Now, Paul must do everything he can to save Myrna from being used for a fate far worse than death, and only the abilities of Master Fantastic can save them all—or can they?

There’s more to magic tricks than you might think.

This book had one of the most attention-grabbing beginnings that I’ve ever read. The demon’s attack on Paul and his friend was terrifying and life changing. Yes, there were grisly moments to it, too, but the gore had a purpose and it fit into the rest of the storyline beautifully. What made this scene even more powerful was how severely it affected Paul’s life long after that day ended. He reacted with just as much trauma as anyone would after seeing the violent death of a friend. As difficult as it was to see this character in so much emotional pain, it also pulled me into the plot and made it impossible to stop reading.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the romantic subplot was how much the characters involved in it had in common. I can’t remember the last time I read a tale about two deaf or hard-of-hearing people falling in love, so it was nice to see it happen here. The similarities between these characters didn’t end there, though. Everything from their senses of humor to their ideas about how to spend their free time was so complementary that I wanted them to end up together as soon as I realized there was a spark between them.

The world building was fantastic. This was true not only for Earth but also for the other places that Paul and his employers explored every time a portal opened. Every single setting was described in such great detail that I felt like I’d been there myself once I finished reading about them. Any one of them would have made me want to give this story a five star rating. The fact that this happened so many times made it impossible for me to pick any other rating!

Master Fantastic is a must-read for anyone who loves magic in any form.