Zodiac by Romina Russell

Zodiac by Romina Russell

Zodiac by Romina Russell
Publisher: Penguin / Razorbill
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Length: Full (336 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Lupine

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

This book takes place in another galaxy where the signs of the horoscope are planets. Cancer, Taurus, Gemini, etc. It’s a neat premise that I looked forward to reading about. And, holy wow, the cover was amazing.

I really liked the way the universe was described and I appreciated the way the author made this galaxy come alive. That was wonderfully executed and I couldn’t love it more.

​What I wish had been different was that more time was spent on the real threat and not the gallivanting the lead character, Rhoma Grace, did telling people who won’t believe a word that comes from her mouth about this great evil that only SHE can see and that she can’t prove.

I did like Rho most of the time–she showed a considerable amount of responsibility in stepping up to taking care of her planet, but the rest of the time she was stuck in the YA required love triangle (my least favorite plot device ever), pining over two men or wallowing in a puddle of self pity and tears. The only reason I didn’t get disgusted with that was because she actually had a reason to be upset, and I understood why she was crying and feeling pain. The fact that the author gave her a viable reason to cry was refreshing from the whiny heroines who can’t go five pages without breaking into tears.

The big problem with Rho is that she has no depth. I wish the author had spent as much time creating a three-dimensional heroine as she did on the world-building, which was incredible. Rho is very two-dimensional and identifies solely through her Cancerian blood. Period. No exceptions. That is it. She has no traits outside Cancerian ones, and I find that hard to believe (consider that the horoscope for humans includes other signs in various aspects which affects overall behavior… no two people are exactly alike, despite identical sun signs). The fact that she lacked an emotional depth made it difficult for me to feel attached or to sympathize with her.

There are also multiple times in the book where an idea or a new concept is addressed and there really is no explanation and you’re left scratching your head. I think that these ideas have great potential if developed properly, but as they way they are it’s difficult to understand. Also, after pages and pages of world-building and a slow build to the big conflict … BAM, it’s over.

I’m hoping very much that the next book will be stronger, since the need to world-build will be lessened and the author can focus more on the plot and characters. I saw so much potential here and that’s what was most frustrating…the “what might have been.”

​Still, it’s a worthwhile beginning to a series with great potential. I’ll definitely pick up the next book to find out what happens.

Chaysing Dreams by Jalpa Williby

Chaysing Trilogy Book #1: Chaysing Dreams by Jalpa Williby
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Full Length Story
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Sorrel

Life…secrecy, deceit, danger…No, no! Run, escape!

“Run!” Her inner voice is shouting. She has to run faster! She’s about to get caught! No, no! She has to get away. Please, she must escape! “Run faster!”

As long as Tess Sanoby can remember, she has always had the same nightmares, where the girl in her dreams is running for her life with an unknown force chasing her. Each time, right before the girl is caught, Tess awakens, shaken with fear and confusion. Who is the girl? What do these dreams mean?

Getting through the growing pains of high school with her best friends Jack and Kylie, and then being accepted into her dream college, Tess is excited to start her life of independence. There, she meets the mysterious trainer and mentor, Chris, and she instantly feels a strong connection with him. Unfortunately, Chris wants nothing to do with her. Although Chris continues to give her the cold shoulder, his overprotectiveness and the occasional slips of sensitivity confuse Tess. Not understanding Chris or their relationship, she is on a constant emotional roller coaster with him. Could her best friends be the stable force that she desperately needs?

Unfortunately for Tess, the more she tries to connect the missing pieces of her life, the more obscure her past and future appear to her. To make matters worse, she realizes she has fallen hard for a man who may be her worst enemy. As passion ignites between the two, she can’t help but surrender her heart and soul to him.

Tess is unexpectedly exposed to a world of secrecy, deceit, and danger, causing her to be running for her life, chased by the unknown. Can Tess escape and save not only herself, but also her loved ones? Or, will she be caught, leaving her no choice but to face her worst nightmare?

Chaysing Dreams is the ultimate love story, full of suspense, friendship, betrayal, tragedy, and sacrifice. In this epic tale, you will laugh and cry with Tess–a story full of twists and turns, keeping you guessing until the end.

An interesting twist to an everyday YA contemporary romance.  Tess is almost like any other college student. But there is one difference. This one difference will put a 360 degree spin on her life.

I have always been very particular about the Young Adult books I read.  There were things in Chaysing Dreams that I liked and disliked.

First of all I think it has a very good plot. It was really interesting to see bits and pieces add into the overall plot and enhance it.

But the story felt a little too long because not enough happened at the start.  I wasn’t getting those tidbits and clues I crave in a good mystery.  I love mysteries. But to keep me interested, I need to have answers to questions given throughout the story, not just near the end.  Also I struggled a bit with the point of view choice. The writing style and the POV didn’t mesh together as well as it could have.

However, the premise, the mystery and suspense and a touch of romance played a big part in keeping me engaged. The lead characters had a lot of chemistry and passion between them. Chris understands Tess and is willing to do anything to protect her. The love he has for her does not allow him to be away from Tess for long.  I do think this is a book that would appeal to many YA readers.

Up The Tower by JP Lantern


Up the Tower by JP Lantern
Publisher: Brainstorm Publishing
Genre: Futuristic/Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA
Length: Full (247 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

In the dystopian slum of Junktown, death is commonplace, trust is a liability, and friendship is a curse. But disaster brings everybody together. A cloned corporate assassin; a boy genius and his new robot; a tech-modified gangster with nothing to lose; a beautiful, damaged woman and her unbalanced stalker—these individuals couldn’t be more different, but somehow they must work together to save their own skin. Stranded in the epicenter of a monumental earthquake, there is only one way to survive. These unlikely teammates must go…UP THE TOWER.

Up the Tower offers us the events following a disaster in the future City of St. Louis. There is that which is familiar in any American city – the ordinary lives, the everyday events. Then there are the futuristic elements, like the mega-corp of the police department, and cultural ones, as well. Then, there is the sudden life-altering change, showing us the impact of the disaster on individuals.

The opening sets the stage, from a distant, perhaps arms-length perspective. I felt interested, yet uninvolved. Abruptly–and this author can handle “abruptly”–we plunge into the ‘ordinary’ lives of these future people.

The quick, frank yet conversational style can occasionally become quite confrontational and tense. Yet, some things are reported matter-of-factly; we accept the strict classes of people almost without second thought. You’re a shareholder–in luck! Or no–a gangster, too bad. It’s the luck of draw, or what you can afford to pay for in this not-quite-familiar future world.

We meet ‘Ore’ first – horrible and horrifying as she is, you do kind of feel for her. She’s tough, but maybe she is what her world made her? Even Victor (I mean, he’s an assassin!) manages not to be a simple, black-and-white character. You can understand his effort to avoid thinking of the dead people; we want to believe some part of him cares. All Mr. Lantern’s characters are distinct beings; more than distinct, they are unique and …well… incredibly individual.

There is even a romance mixed in, along with a sense of character’s insecurity- perhaps a sample of the style is the best way to share:

Today was Gary’s day. He could feel it in his bones. Somehow, someway, he’d run into Ana. He dressed with vigor. Form-fitting khakis. A button-down shirt. His hair slicked back into a neato pompadour. Leather jacket hanging loosely around it all, hiding the outline of pudge that had been steadily building ever since he finished high school. He looked killer. He looked hip. He was neato, daddy-o. That was how they said it, right?”

Strange world though it seems, anyone can identify with Gary’s hope, as well as his efforts to fit in.

Events in Up the Tower are important, yet are given less attention. It is the results that are important. Even the disaster at the start is merely reported, not so much lived and felt.  Junktown, within St. Louis, is central, but never well described.

The style is far from my favorite, but Author JP Lantern manipulates readers emotions like a magician. In fact, but for a few moments of confusion here and there, I might well have assigned it five stars. Although listed for young adult readers,  anyone of any age who likes the genre should enjoy Up the Tower.

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Reva’s Quest by Sue Perkins

Reva’s Quest by Sue Perkins
Publisher: Muse It Up Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (74 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Snapdragon

Reva and her garden gnome arrive in Fey to fight the evil, Malice. Joined by three quest companions, they travel across the land to Malice’s lair. Only Reva can rid the world of Malice, but their journey brings danger, and she wonders if she will survive. Malice’s evil has invaded many of the animals and these beasts try to stop them reaching their goal. One of the companions begins to act strangely, and Reva must consider the possibility of a traitor in their midst.

Reva’s Quest by Sue Perkins intrigues and entertains. Unexpectedly, what seemed a light setting with fluff for characters — after all, one of Reva’s companions is a garden gnome — actually presents a thoroughly engaging plot, and believable, surprisingly meaningful characters.

The world Ms. Perkins created ensnares and leaves us forgetting to doubt reality. Grumpy Gareth, an actual griffon, the elves … those into fantasy will delight in the array of creatures they find here, and how completely perfect they are in their roles. And Reva’s knight in shining armor seems exactly right. From the first moment we meet him, we start worrying about how she’ll feel about going home eventually. And will she?

Complaints? Early on, this world’s conversations seem stilted, and it takes a few pages for this work to really find its rhythm. It’s worth getting past those first couple pages. Once through the portal we truly arrive in a different world andstory.

Best: Reva makes friends and experiences a trove a heartfelt emotions, and we are right there with her.

Reva’s Quest is fun and engaging and so worth reading.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (391 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Peppermint

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

This story was so captivating that I had to read it again. While the first installment of this series was entertaining, this was by far my favorite. The introduction of new characters and an even thicker plot line was riveting and made this story truly entertaining.

A the end of The Hunger Games, the characters’ futures seemed to be looking up. It even made me question what the second story would be about, but boy did things change. Katniss and Peeta are presented with all new challenges because, when trying to save their lives, they inadvertently created an uprising within the districts. It was interesting to see how Katniss, along with Peeta, tried to solve a problem they didn’t even know they created. This seems like such a burden for a children to bear, yet they faced each stage head on. In this story, I really got to see Katniss step up and not only protect her sister but everyone else who she cares for no matter the consequences to herself.

Peeta proved to me why he was my favorite character in the first story by being even better this time around. Katniss is really the one facing having to suffer the consequences of her and Peeta’s actions. Yet Peeta still stands by her side even if their relationship is questionable at best.

This story was another gut wrenching plot that left me in tears at times. The new characters introduced in this story far surpassed the supporting cast in The Hunger Games. Although, some of the previous favorites like Gale, Seneca, and Primrose make an appearance as well. New characters are introduced that make this story just plan enjoyable. The twists and turns the author came up with to challenge these characters was inspirational.

You must read the first installment of this trilogy to truly appreciate this story. Trust me, you will want to read the first story as well as the second and the third. I originally read the series then I allowed my ten year old to read them. She asked me numerous times if she could re-read the series. She even finished reading Catching Fire in two days, that is how captivating it was. Do not mistake this as just a young adult novel either, anyone of any age can appreciate this book. So please pick it up today.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Inc
Genre:) Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (374 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Peppermint

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlaying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has also resolved to outwit the creators of the games. To do that she will have to be the last person standing at the end of the deadly ordeal, and that will take every ounce of strength and cunning she has.

This story was truly life changing. The premise of the story alone is enough for anyone to realize this will not be your run of the mill young adult novel.

Katniss and Peeta’s story is amazing. How two children can be sent to compete against other kids knowing the likelihood of them surviving is minimal at best is enough to make any reader lose their breath. Then the relationship development between these two characters really puts the icing on the cake. The story was so well written, I was literally in tears to the point where I thought I couldn’t continue any further, yet I still refused to put the book down. On the flip side, there were moments I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Therefore, if you don’t want people to think you’re losing your mind you may want to find a nice quiet room to read in because you may not be able to control your emotions when reading this story.

Though both main characters were inspiring to me, Peeta was really the standout character within the story. As the son of a baker, he comes off as one of the most unlikely players to make it through the first few minutes of the hunger games. He may not be the strongest or best with weapons, but he has an inner strength and resolution that really makes you rally behind him.

As if creating exciting main characters wasn’t enough, the supporting cast Ms. Collins brings in are just as remarkable. For example, Rue and Cinna are two characters I felt could have had their own stories. They had a star quality. I was eagerly anticipating the next scene to include them. These are only two of the wonderful characters that grace the pages and I am sure you will fall in love with each and every one of them.

I have recommended this book to numerous people including my daughter. She was captivated to the point that she brought the book to read during lunch and recess in school. While this book may not be appropriate for children under twelve due to its dark themes, it is certainly worth an adult’s time to read and then decide whether to share with their child.