Lavalieres by Nicholas Milano

Lavalieres by Nicholas Milano
Gem Haven Volume 1
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full – 151 pages
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Orchid

Amid the drama of high school exams, social cliques, and personal relationships, Milo Sylph prepares himself for the biggest test of all. Lavaliere testing has begun and at the end of the day, only a select few will bond with a gem to harness their hidden potential. Each bond bestows a unique set of abilities on the user. Milo wants nothing more than to be one of those select few, a Lavaliere. However, desires often come with a price, and the true test will be far more difficult. His friendships, willpower and sense of self hang in the balance. As he strives to stand out from the crowd, will he lose himself along the way?

Milo gets into a fight immediately before the Lavaliere testing. He is unaware that this will change his life. His test goes off the scale and he bonds with a bloodstone, a rare bonding gem. Milo is unable to control the stone and this leads to him alienating his friends.

The successful Lavaliere candidates are taken to Gem Haven where strange things begin to happen.

There a few continuity problems, but they don’t detract from the story as a whole.

This book is magic with a twist. There is good and evil and all revolves around the Lavaliere gems. The new wielders of the gems must learn how to control them, but poor Milo finds his gem is controlling him. Hidden rooms, magic gems, battles, this book has it all. A good read.

Curse of the Moon by Beth Trissel

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

BoM LASR YA copy

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

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

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

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

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

Pandora’s Jar by Sharron Riddle

Pandora’s Jar by Sharron Riddle
Veil Walker, Book One
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, YA
Length: Full Length (312 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

It’s hard enough being a seventeen year old Veil Walker, but when your boyfriend’s a demigod and your mom’s dating a soul sucker, things can get a lot worse.

Pandora has seen ghosts since she was a kid, and now she learns she can bring back the spirits of the dead. Why would she do that? She has enough trouble getting rid of the ones stuck on this side. One annoyingly perky ghost wants Pandora to find her killer, but Ukwa, her super-hot boyfriend, doesn’t like the idea.

When trouble finds her, will she discover the true strength of a Veil Walker or, like the others, will her soul be trapped in her own Pandora’s Jar forever?

Is ignorance really bliss?

I truly feel sorry for Pandora. She knows very little about her abilities as a Veil Walker. With no one to teach her about her power, every day is a struggle, and Pandora constantly lives in fear of accidentally acknowledging a ghost in front of others. Consequently, Pandora has no close friends. A particularly bad encounter with a ghost followed by an argument with her father prompts Pandora to go and live with her mom in Florida. Pandora is hoping for a fresh start, but she soon learns that she can’t hide from her problems.

Pandora’s relationship with her parents is beyond messed up. It is clear that her parents love her, but neither of them really act like parents. While it is understandable for parents to have interests and lives outside of their children, Pandora’s parents have taken this to the extreme. They are so self-involved that they completely ignore their daughter at times. I found the whole situation quite disturbing, especially when Pandora’s dad makes a particularly shocking revelation toward the end of the book. Honestly, I’m amazed that Pandora is sane given the nature of her power and the complete lack of familial support.

Pandora is very strong and she has managed to hold herself together without help from anyone else for a long time. However, I really enjoyed watching her blossom when she made some friends at her new school. In a short time, I saw a lot of positive changes in Pandora. She still has some issues to work through, but having others to confide in has gone a long way in bringing Pandora out of her shell.

Pandora’s connection with Ukwa is intense and complicated. They have excellent chemistry, but his refusal to give her straight answers about her power is very annoying. While his intentions might be good, he ended up treating her like a child. I think it would have been more effective if he would have respected her and had an honest conversation with her right from the start. Despite this issue, Pandora and Ukwa make a wonderful, if unusual, couple. Even though they find themselves in some intense situations, I really like that they make time to talk and really getting to know each other.

Nancy, the ghost, is definitely my favorite secondary character. I could clearly picture her flitting around, laughing, causing mischief, and playing with Pandora’s dog. Nancy’s perky attitude was a nice contrast to Pandora’s more serious moods and the darker events of the story.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to read Pandora’s Jar. I found the concept of a Veil Walkers very intriguing, and I still have a lot of questions buzzing around in my head. I certainly hope that Ms. Riddle has plans for a sequel soon so I can satisfy my curiosity. Fans of paranormal romance won’t want to miss Pandora’s Jar.

A Girl, A Guy, And A Ghost by Sherrie Kelley

A Girl, A Guy, And A Ghost by Sherrie Kelley
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 12+
Pages: Short (140 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Poppy

A GIRL: Traci Nettleton is in seventh heaven when Brad Davidson, the gorgeous quarterback on the football team asks her out. Then she gets a mysterious e-mail that threatens to ruin everything.

A GUY: Brad loves hanging out with Traci. She’s cute, smart, and funny. But she seems a little jumpy around him lately. Is she hiding something?

A GHOST: How can Traci be getting e-mails from her best friend who died two years ago? Is someone playing a cruel joke, or does Corky really need her help? Traci plans to find out – her new romance with Brad depends on it.

I loved the premise of this story. I’ve only just started reading much YA and jumped on this one the moment is was offered. I wasn’t sorry I did.

The author has a great voice for YA. Her teen characters were perfectly drawn, and believeable. I do have to admit that Brad was a little too perfect, but what a dreamy guy to have as a hero.

Traci is already having a rough time–Her mom and dad have divorced and her mother embarrasses her on a regular basis. Her best friend is a little on the silly side, her previous best friend drowned just a couple years before and she has a crush on the quarterback.

But when weird messages start showing up on her computer that can only be from her long-dead friend, Corky, it really sends her into a tailspin. Worse, there are dozens of messages and they all say the same thing: Can you come over today?

Scared? Traci was…

I had such fun reading about Corky’s pranks and ‘big brother’ protection of Traci, of Traci helping Corky with the problems he was facing, and of Traci trying to establish a relationship with Brad while Corky watched (and sometimes did more than watch!).

I did feel like the reason Corky’s dad had left the family was a little over the top for such a light, fluffy book, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment one bit.

Sherrie Kelley has a great voice for YA, and I hope she decides to write more. I’ll be on the lookout.

Love Thy Sister, Guard Thy Man by Kimberlee R. Mendoza

Love Thy Sister, Guard Thy Man by Kimberlee R. Mendoza
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full (204 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Suns
Review by Tulip

While camping in the Cuyamaca Mountains above San Diego, shy Melena Harrison meets surfer Dylan Hart and is floored that an attractive man would actually fall for her. Especially since she hasn’t had a date since, well, birth.

They share a romantic late night hike, trips to the beach and chemistry that can’t be bottled—everything is going great. That is until Cassi, Melena’s spoiled sister, falls for Dylan, too. And what Cassi wants, she usually gets. Manipulation, sordid tricks and revealing clothing—Cassi will do whatever it takes to get her man. Even if Melena is left heart broken.

Can Dylan and Melena’s budding relationship survive Cassi’s vindictive meddling?

I’m full of praise for Love Thy Sister, Guard Thy Man. I blame Ms. Mendoza for causing my lack of sleep because I just had to know what would happen next. Every page screamed “read me!” and it took incredible effort to stop pushing myself. I finally relented and went to bed so that I would be able to wake up the next morning to go to work. I wish I could quit my day job and read engaging books like Love Your Sister all day, every day.

Melena Russell spends a week of summer vacation at a youth camp with her best friend, April. She is beautiful with an athletic frame, but utterly shy and blushes easily. And, get this – she has never dated. She meets Dylan Hart at camp and develops a deep crush on him. The mere thought of him makes her cheeks go crimson. It turns out that Dylan likes her, too. Soon, they begin seeing each other. Then, Melena’s bratty younger sister, Cassi, comes into the picture. She is determined to snatch him from right under Melena’s nose.

The whole novel is fun, and there are lots of laugh-out-loud moments. It’s interesting to see how Cassi is so determined to cause misery to her older sister, plotting and scheming. A huge misunderstanding ensues and Cassi hangs around Dylan every chance she gets.

There are huge lessons to draw from the story: friendship, family, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and relationship with God. Another clear lesson is to not jump to conclusions. It causes unnecessary heartache for Melena and Dylan. Melena, when faced with difficult situations, turns to God and asks for His guidance. The thing is, she is also human and at one point, got into a fight with Cassi and causes a scene at – of all places – a party organized by their pastor.

Ms. Mendoza penned an edifying story with highly likeable characters. Natural dialogues, clever and witty conversations — things just seem to flow effortlessly. All you need to do is just go with the flow. I felt connected with the characters as I devoured the novel. It is definitely an easy-to-read treat and I am already looking out for more of her novels. I highly recommend this!