This Body Won’t Break: Part One by Lea McKee


This Body Won’t Break: Part One by Lea McKee
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror
Length: Short Story (110 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The truth doesn’t always set you free.

Orphaned as a child, Joanna has lived her entire life in the care of the New Terra Alliance. On the verge of turning eighteen, Joanna eagerly awaits her release into what remains of society.

It was a beautiful lie.

Joanna was never meant to leave. She is part of the August Harvest, slated to die before the month’s end. With a rogue soldier’s promise to find her a way out, Joanna dares to hope. But if the NTA finds out what she knows, it won’t only be her own life at stake, but the life of the handsome soldier who has vowed to set her free.

Fans of Divergent, The Darkest Minds, and The Handmaid’s Tale will love this dystopian story of twisted secrets, romance, and page-turning suspense.

Killing perfectly healthy teenagers doesn’t make any sense. Then again, many things in this world don’t make sense, and Joanna doesn’t have much time left to figure them all out.

The pacing was so strong that I read the whole thing in one sitting. Every scene made me ask more questions, and I couldn’t stop until I knew what would happen to the characters I’d come to care about so much. I especially liked how much attention was paid to keeping Joanna focused on her goals. No matter what happened, she always pressed forward and kept trying to figure out what was really going on. This made me eager to read the rest of this series once it’s released.

While I appreciated the fact that Joanna had her fair share of flaws, there were a couple of times when the choices she made were so foolish that I had trouble taking her seriously. She didn’t seem to have a lot of common sense even in situations that she should have known were risky. I loved everything else about this tale, so I’m hoping that this will be something that leads to a lot of personal growth for her in the future.

This is the beginning of a serial. There were obviously parts of the world building that are being held back until parts two or later to explain to the audience. With that being said, I was impressed with what was revealed so far. The way this society worked made a lot of sense to me. Yes, the horror elements of the plot made me shudder, but they also fit in well with everything else the audience was taught about who the New Terra Alliance were and how they operated.

This Body Won’t Break: Part One was a wild ride. It should be read by anyone who enjoys dystopian stories.

Incubation by Laura DiSilverio


Incubation by Laura DiSilverio
The Incubation Trilogy Book 1

Publisher: diAgio Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (348 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: Best Books
Review by: Orchid

Bio-chemistry whiz Everly Jax wants one thing: to know who her parents are. Raised with other repo kids in InKubator 9, she has pinned her hopes on Reunion Day, the annual event where sixteen-year-olds can meet or reunite with their parents. When her Reunion Day goes horribly awry, she and her pregnant friend Halla escape the Kube, accompanied by their friend Wyck who has his own reasons for leaving. In a world where rebuilding the population is critical to national survival, the Pragmatist government licenses all human reproduction, and decides who can–and must–have babies. The trio face feral dog packs, swamp threats, locust swarms, bounty hunters looking for “breeders,” and more dangers as they race to Amerada’s capital to find Halla’s soldier boyfriend before the Prags can repo her baby and force the girls into surrogacy service. An unexpected encounter with Bulrush, an Underground Railroad for women fleeing to Outposts with their unlicensed babies, puts them in greater peril than ever. Everly must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to learn her biological identity–and deal with the unanticipated consequences of her decisions.

Bird flu has decimated the world’s population and there are no longer any birds. Everly Jax is a repo kid raised in InKubator 9 where she becomes a bio-chemistry whiz. Ev, her friend Halla and other friend Wyck escape the Kube dome to run from the Pragmatists Government. They intend to travel to an outpost out of the reach of the government, but as none of them have any experience of life outside the dome, they find obstacles in their way that they had never dreamed of.

I started to read this book because I liked the cover but it soon had me under its spell. It’s an extremely well written book with one main plot, which leads to other problems and dilemmas. The three friends have to travel through swamps and ghost towns. At the same time they have to evade the guards who are chasing them and outlaws who want to sell the two women to the breeding labs.

The story is complex but at the same time easy to follow. It was one of those books I started to read and couldn’t put down. By the end of the book I was wondering if the world could actually end up in this situation if a pandemic took place. Highly recommended!

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

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

Dive into a universe of sci-fi wonders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gold by Krista Wagner


The Gold by Krista Wagner
Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (97 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Stargazer

Ten-year-old Amanda is constantly teased and tormented in school. Her home life is less than satisfactory where her widower father, who is often away on business trips, leaves her in the care of her indifferent teenaged sister. Worse, not a day goes by when Amanda doesn’t miss her mom. TO escape reality, Amanda creates fantasy stories, but when she discovers a talking golden pebble, her imagined world turns into a new-fangled reality.

Sometimes you just need to know things will be all right.

Ten year old Amanda moves to Idaho with her family after her mother’s death. While trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, Amanda faces the constant tormenting and teasing that occurs at her school. One day, Amanda finds a talking golden pebble on her way home from school and her life changes much more than she could have ever imagined.

The Gold is an inspiring story that asks us to look at the world with new eyes-open to both the ways that the world impacts us as well as how we impact the world. Each character has depth and a history, even when they appear in a few events. I absolutely loved how the author explained what was going on when Amanda would look away, or how Amanda perceived the stares or the various studying eyes of the other students. I found myself rooting for Amanda to be open to others having a change of heart, but Amanda would often find herself misinterpreting the situation as much more dire than it truly was. The dialogue was smooth and easy to read, and the situations that Amanda found herself in were believable.

Amanda’s relationship with the golden pebble is fascinating on many levels. Simply, Amanda misses her mother and her sister, Jane, who steps in to replace the loss of their mother, ends up being cruel to Amanda without realizing her own internal pain and struggle. As the pebble forces Amanda to examine the world around her, she begins to see more of what is in both nature and human nature.

I found The Gold to be an exciting read for readers of all ages, not just younger readers. The Gold holds the reader to looking at that which is in the world, not just what is in our immediate perception. I highly recommend reading The Gold by Krista Wagner; it will inspire you to take another look at what truly makes up the world!

The Dreaming Spires by William Kingshart


The Dreaming Spires by William Kingshart
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (140 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Aloe

What do you do when the troll at the end of your garden tells you everything you ever believed in is a fantasy and your fantasies are reality?

When Jake moves from California to his new school in Oxford, he knows he is going to a different country, but he doesn’t realize he is entering a whole new world.

His first clue is when Gorm, a nine-foot, three-thousand-year-old Irish gnome, appears at the foot of his garden and gives him three special powers—powers that are of absolutely no use to him—or so he thinks.

But when things start getting really weird and Jake discovers that there’s an ancient prince from Tír na nÓg who is out to get not only him and the girl he is in love with but the whole of mankind, too, he also discovers that the powers Gorm has given him are more useful than he could ever have dreamed possible.

Jake knew that moving from California to England would mean some changes in his life. What he didn’t realize was just how much it would change and what direction that change would make…

The author has a very good imagination and when he introduces a nine foot tall gnome who is always eating while visiting, it’s just the beginning of strange creatures vexing Jake. He’s told he’s a changeling. He’s given a necklace from his mother (the one he never knew), and he’s told about his powers. He’s not impressed by the powers. He can’t turn invisible or anything. But the ones he gets are the ones that will help keep him alive!

The pace of the story is fast and there’s action on almost every page. He has a bully after him, a girl he’s interested in, and a good friend that stands by him in thick and thin. He’s going to need him.

He has more than one quest, he’s facing danger from the fae world, and his fae brother is trying to kill him. In the meantime, he has to convince the powers that be to change their minds and stop drilling in the ocean. The points he makes about the climate changes and the damages humans are doing to the earth are real. With no changes, we might see the type of collapse Jake was trying hard to stop.

It reads fast, is a fun read, has lots of fantastic characters and you find yourself rooting for Jake, even if he is the underdog. Sometimes just sticking with it makes a difference. He’s trying to save the girl he loves, so he has a good cause. Young readers will want to be as good as he is with a sword or bow.

The Rise of the Dawnstar by Farah Oomerbhoy


The Rise of the Dawnstar by Farah Oomerbhoy
Publisher: Wise Ink
Genre: Fantasy
Length: Full (432 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

The seven kingdoms of Avalonia are crumbling and evil is spreading across the land like a plague. Queen Morgana is close to finding a way to open The Book of Abraxas and it’s only a matter of time until she uses the power trapped inside its pages to enslave the entire world.

With Avalonia growing more dangerous by the day, Aurora must travel through war-torn lands and deep into the heart of the fae kingdom of Elfi. Her goal is to find a legendary weapon infused with the last of the realm’s ancient magic—the only weapon in the world powerful enough to stop the queen.

Aurora might have survived her first battle against Morgana, but the true fight to save her kingdom and restore her throne has only just begun…

I love YA fantasy and I was very excited to have the chance to read about a teenage girl who was on a quest to save her world. I could tell from the way it started that it was part of a series, but that was fine. I could pick up enough from what was said to know what was going on without being lost. However, the main character, Aurora, made some odd word choices, given that this was a fantasy world and not technical at all– the words just didn’t seem like they belonged (for example, she talked about “stalking” a guy and then made the comment that she felt like she was in a Disney movie). I did a little research and discovered that, in the first book (The Last of the Firedrakes), Aurora had been kidnapped from our world and dragged through a magical portal into Avalonia. I was then able to settle back and truly begin to enjoy the book.

The author has really done a wonderful job of bringing the various characters together– they are well-rounded and developed. I could so see this as a movie – there are some wonderful scenes, such as the times Aurora is learning to use her glamour. There’s excitement and a dash of romance … also a bit of a triangle forming. Aurora is strong, but has some insecurities as well, which makes her vulnerable and easy to like.

There’s some mysteries that Aurora must solve as she attempts to discover what happened to her mother, and she needs to be careful who she trusts on her journey.

I am looking forward to (1) reading the first book in the series to find out how Aurora got where she is today and (2) read the next book in the series to find out how Ms. Oomerbhoy is going to get her out of the situation she left her in (yes, be warned.. there is a cliff-hanger!) I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a kick-ass heroine.

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Mirror Me by Tara St. Pierre


Mirror Me by Tara St. Pierre
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (188 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Hannah McCauley doesn’t look at herself in the mirror anymore.

After a rebellious past, she now attends a strict private school in a new town, where her recently divorced mother has put her on social lockdown. No driving. No bad grades. No skipping classes. No unapproved friends. No makeup. No boys. And the subject of her best friend from her old school is definitely forbidden.

Hannah is being punished for something that happened a year earlier, something that she would like to put behind her. But strange occurrences frighten her, and she’s accused of breaking rules and doing other terrible things without any recollection of them. No one believes her, so she starts distrusting everything, even her own reflection.

Is she being haunted by her past? Stalked by someone with a grudge? Or is it all in her head? If she doesn’t figure out what’s happening fast, her existence could end up irreparably shattered.

Forgetfulness is one thing. Losing track of huge chunks of time is quite another.

Hannah was a smart girl. I enjoyed seeing how much effort she put into solving all of the problems that came her way. She was persistent even when nothing was going her way, and that made me admire her. Her insistence on figuring out solutions was also a nice contrast to her faults. I wouldn’t have expected someone who was occasionally flighty to also have this side to her personality. It was interesting to see how those parts of her fit together, especially since they ended up working together so nicely.

There were pacing issues. Hannah spent so much time dancing around the mystery of her past that it slowed down the descriptions of what was currently going on in her life. While I fascinated by what she might have done to make her mother so angry and mistrusting of her, I was also frustrated by how much time it took for the plot to move forward or to reveal even small hints about her big mistake.

The dialogue was well done. Hannah and her friends spent a lot of time bantering back and forth. Their conversations often made me grin, especially in the beginning when they talked about light-hearted stuff like what their plans were for after school. They seemed to get along with each other nicely, and that made their dialogue even better than it already was.

I’d recommend Mirror Me to anyone who likes mysteries that take their time to share their secrets.

Jake and the Dragons of Asheville by Brian Kacica


Jake and the Dragons of Asheville by Brian Kacica
Publisher: Magic Penny Press
Genre:: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (221 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Orchid

BoM LASR YA copy

In a small, sleepy town in North Carolina, thirteen-year-old Jake Winston has discovered he carries a unique genetic trait; one that a covert government agency will stop at nothing to obtain. After the tragic death of his father, a local firefighting hero, Jake’s absent grandfather returns and sends him on a journey into the gated forest at the edge of town, bringing Jake face-to-face with a family of ancient dragons thought long extinct.

Determined to grasp the power of the blood flowing through Jake’s veins, the agent from the secret ONX facility begins killing every dragon in his path. This forces Jake in the middle of a battle between the government and the dragons of Asheville, where the true potential of his power is revealed.

Jake Winston adores his father so when the man dies, he is devastated. His grandfather tries to help, but he finds it difficult to explain things to Jake.

Deep in the forest the government is hiding a secret facility where they are capturing and experimenting on dragons. For some reason Jake becomes a person of interest to these experimentalists and he needs his grandfather’s help to escape their clutches.

A good book (of course if must be good if it has dragons as part of the story!), well written and has clues to what is hidden in Jake’s family’s past. I liked the way the story started off as a normal family holiday followed by tragedy. After this Jake is virtually on his own until his grandfather helps him.

A different way of looking at dragons and their interaction with humans. While not a book I couldn’t put down, it was definitely one I had to read to the end.

The Jewel Tree by Lee Summers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Up Neighborlee by Michelle L Levigne


Growing Up Neighborlee by Michelle L Levigne
A Neighborlee, Ohio Novel
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (282 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Lanie was a Lost Kid–a toddler found by the side of the road, with no one to claim her. She ended up in the Neighborlee Children’s Home, where her long journey to become a semi-pseudo-superhero began. She and her friend Kurt, and later Felicity, made up the “rules” for what they were and what they could do as they went along. Most of the time, they borrowed them from comic books.

Lanie could kinda-sorta fly and move things with telekinesis. Kurt could invent and make broken machines work when all mechanical laws said they shouldn’t. Felicity gave off uncontrollable EM bursts and controlled dogs. Where the trio came from and how they got to Neighborlee faded into the background when faced with the really big questions: Why were they the way they were and how could they do the things they did? Were they aliens? Genetic experiments? Mutations? Should they look for a spaceship? Should they fear the Men in Black or the CIA?

Adventures and misadventures tested their imagination, their loyalty, and their courage as they explored their abilities and their world. And one thing became perfectly clear: the Lost Kids were as necessary to guard Neighborlee from the rest of the world, as they were vital to protect the rest of the world from the everyday weirdness and magic of Neighborlee.

Lanie is an orphan being brought cup in the Neighborlee Children’s Home. She has special talents she keeps hidden until she finds she is not the only one who can do special things. Neighborlee is a  ​wonderful place, part magic, part goodness with a dash of greediness. At the heart of the magical part of Neighborlee is Divine Emporium a shop that decides if you are worthy to enter and purchase it’s unusual but exquisite goods. Divine’s is run by Angela who is an enigma.

I love this book. Told in the first person by Lanie, it brings to life a wonderful town and all its inhabitants, both good and, well, no​t​ really bad, just misguided. It also has a twinge of the unexpected. Lanie is found in a lane all buy herself, but obviously has been well looked after. No paren​t​s were found but she discovers she is not the only one of the “lost children”. Some have been adopted but many remain in the Neigborlee location.

This story is wonderfully put together and well written. It is one of those books that left me feeling warm and cozy and wanting to read more. Can’t wait for the next one.