Last Voyage a the Vengeferth by G.A. Schindler

Last Voyage a the Vengeferth by G.A. Schindler
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Middle Grade, Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Short Story (130 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

An adventure tale pitting man against nature. The Vengeferth pirates meet a great white shark, then they’re capsized by a rogue wave. Seven crewmen escape the overturned ship to spend months a’ sea in a smallboat. During that time they share stories from their lives. They encounter the Crazy Cousin, a foundering ship with a broken pump and a belly full of water. And she has more problems.

Anything can happen when the only thing standing between you and bad weather is a single ship.

What an adventure this was! The wave that capsized the Vengeferth made me shudder, but it was what happened to her crew afterwards that kept me so interested in the plot. The stories the characters told about their previous lives were just as entertaining as their attempts to live on almost nothing but raw fish for months on end while they waited to be rescued.

I had trouble keeping track of all of the characters. There were a lot of them, and the narrator didn’t spend quite enough time explaining what everyone’s job was on the ship. This made it hard to remember who was who and which backstory belonged to which character. It would have been helpful to have more time to absorb this information before their troubles started. I often had to stop and double-check this stuff to clear up my confusion.

To be honest with you, it did take me some time to get used to the dialect that the characters spoke in this tale. Once I did, though, I really liked how colorful it was. Sailors definitely wouldn’t worry about speaking proper English, so it made perfect sense for them to speak so casually. I’m glad I took the time to figure out what they were saying in the beginning. It quickly became worth that little bit of extra effort.

Last Voyage a the Vengeferth was a wild adventure that I’d recommend to anyone who is looking to sail the high seas.

McSorely’s Evil Tea by Helen Ryan

McSorelys Evil Tea by Helen Ryan

McSorely’s Evil Tea by Helen Ryan
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (160 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The story of an evil tea company and their plot to take over the world!

Sky Swift lives happily with her mother. She enjoys the simpler things in life like drinking tea, munching biscuits, oh and sniffing everything.

One day evil pays a visit. Her world has changed forever. Stalked by an evil tea bag and chased by an evil tea company that will stop at nothing to get her. They want her for their wicked plan.

Sky is in trouble. She needs help. But who can she turn to?

How much mischief could one little tea bag get into?

This was such an entertaining tale. The funniest scenes were the ones that described how evil tea bags think and act when no one is around to observe what they’re doing.I chucked my way through all of those sections. The descriptions of how tea bags behave were just plain silly at times, but they were silly in a good way. I definitely wouldn’t have expected anything less from a book called McSorely’s Evil Tea!

There were many punctuation errors. It was distracting to have to stop and reread sentences so often to figure out what they were trying to say. A few of them could have had so many different meanings that I was never quite sure which one the author was trying to get across to the audience. Had this not happened, I would have chosen a higher rating.

The dialogue fit in well with how the plot was written. All of the characters said exactly what they needed to say when they needed to say it. I liked the fact that there wasn’t any extra padding on their conversations. This was a good choice for a story that moved as quickly as this one does. There wasn’t any need for the characters to speak more than they did, so I’m glad that the author recognized this and allowed them to do other things with their time instead.

I’d recommend McSorely’s Evil Tea to anyone in the mood for something zany.

Alive by Chandler Baker

Alive by Chandler Baker

Alive by Chandler Baker
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Paranormal
Length: Full (368 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Lupine

Stella Cross’s heart is poisoned. After years on the transplant waiting list, she’s running out of hope that she’ll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive. Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred with strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone’s radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi can barely stand to be apart. Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart? After all, the heart never lies…does it?

​This book was an excellent read for me because of the interesting plot, though I did figure it out quickly. The pace never really slowed, which made it enjoyable.

The heroine is a little dimwitted when it comes to piecing things together and questions the pieces of the mystery hanging over her head when it’s blatent what the answer is. I did enjoy her voice, and her strength, to fight through her surgery, and to deal with the pain it causes her, both physically and emotionally. The premise of the book was well done, but I wish it had been​ more of a surprise for me to find out what the cause of Stella’s pain was, because I had it figured out way before she did.

The end was exciting nevertheless, and made up for the anticlimactic plot twist. Overall, ​I felt it was a good read and I think it was worth the whole night I stayed up reading it in one sitting. The friendships were solid, the reality was rough and brought the book into the hard truth of death and life, and the whole thing was a interesting and creepy (in a good way).

Moondust by Neil Wilson

Moondust by Neil Wilson
Moondust by Neil Wilson
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical
Length: Short Story (143 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Ed Frost is testing his brand new telescope on the nearby hills when he spots a shadowy figure. Unusually, the stranger stops walking, leaves something behind and returns the way he came. Ed and his best friend Bertie investigate. They struggle but finally find an old sack. Inside are two terrified Welsh terrier pups, left for dead. Ed names one Moondust and the other Meteor. Moondust soon becomes a much loved member of the family, while Meteor’s life hangs in the balance.

By chance, Ed spots an advert for puppies in the local newspaper. He phones the number on the advert, pretending to be interested in buying a pup. The pups are being sold at a local farm. Ed and Bertie go to the farm on a spying mission. On the way they meet an old foe. He has been upset by his older brother who is renting the farm and selling the puppies in a heartless money-making business. The boys make an unexpected friendship and when they arrive to spy at the farm they are disgusted by what they see – bedraggled underfed pups, kept in dirty and cramped conditions – a cruel death camp for dogs.

A courageous and daring race for life begins. Can they rescue the pups and bring the sinister operator to justice?

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would ever want to hurt an innocent animal.

Ed was such an interesting main character. My first impression of him was of a reserved boy who had a lot of thought-provoking ideas running through his mind that he didn’t always necessarily share with other people. This turned out to be a pretty accurate sketch of his personality. It was nice to learn so much about who he was as an individual right away.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning of this story. The narrator spent a lot of time introducing the main character and his community before moving on to the events that were described in the blurb. While I enjoyed getting to know Ed, having such a slowly-paced plot was distracting. I would have liked to see how he reacted to the abandoned pets much sooner. This scene was the key to everything that happened afterwards, so it felt odd to put it off for so long.

The puppies were definitely the stars of the show. It was especially fascinating to see how Moondust adjusted to life with Ed and his family. Moondust had a rough start in life, but that isn’t something that seemed to slow this puppy down at all. My favorite scenes explored how this dog reacted to an environment that was much more loving and kind than anything that had happened earlier.

Moondust is a heartwarming tale that I’d recommend to kids and kids at heart alike.

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.

Golden Days by Lynn Lovegreen


Golden Days by  Lynn Lovegreen
Publisher: Prism Book Group
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Historical
Length: Short Story (132 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Alaska is a cold place to live until love blossoms.

Elizabeth Robinson travels by dog sled to help her family mind the store in Fairbanks, Alaska. She wants to pursue her drawing and painting, but women artists are rare in 1906, and flood, fire, and a death in the family force her to take charge at home at age seventeen. James Garrett comes north to help his uncle at a nearby gold claim. An awkward eighteen-year-old who is more at home with machines than people, he becomes a man as he falls in love with Elizabeth. When a discovery about her benefactor, the founder of the town, threatens their future, Elizabeth and James find that together they can overcome any obstacle.

Sometimes love shows up when you least expected it.

Elizabeth is a well-rounded protagonist who sprung to life in my imagination before the first chapter had ended. Not only did her personality flaws help me to get to know her better, they also provided a lot of fodder for plot development later on. This is one of the things I look for when deciding what to read next, so I was pleased to see how much time had been spent on describing what Elizabeth’s personality is like and who she is as a individual.

The romance moved so quickly that I had trouble understanding how Elizabeth transitioned from being annoyed by James to finding him handsome and mysterious. They do appear to have a lot in common, but it took a long time for me to see any chemistry between them. Holding off on the romantic elements for a little longer would have given me a better chance to understand why these characters should be together.

All of the descriptions of food in this story made my mouth water. Elizabeth and her family don’t have access to as many different types of food as we do in the twenty-first century, but they’ve certainly learned how to make what they can grow or barter for in Alaska into some unforgettable meals.  I was especially intrigued by chess pie. It isn’t something I’d ever heard of before, but it sure sounded delicious!

I’d recommend Golden Days to anyone in the mood for a sweet, young adult romance.

Everybody’s Daughter by Marsha Qualey


Everybody’s Daughter by Marsha Qualey
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Historical
Length: Short Story (115 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

After a family friend accidentally detonates a bomb during a political protest, the aftershocks continue to roil through 17-year-old Beamer Flynn’s life. The first child born in a commune her parents helped form, Beamer has grown up under the watchful eye of all the people once involved in the now-disbanded commune. They were all present at her birth, voted on her name (Merry Moonbeam), and still feel entitled to have a say in her life.

As those friends (the “Woodies”) gather at her Northern Minnesota home to discuss and deal with the consequences of the bombing, Beamer yearns to escape their constant presence–especially their surveillance of her life, her deepening romance with boyfriend Andy, and her developing relationship with a college student, Martin.

Andy will soon be graduating and heading east to college; he wants more emotional and physical intimacy. Martin wants time together and to become part of the cozy community around the family’s woodstove. The Woodies want updates on every conversation and night out. Beamer wants to escape.

Cross-country skiing, school, snowmobile racing, and winter softball (on-ice) all provide welcome distractions until Beamer comes to the attention of a persistent reporter who is writing about the bombing. When the reporter expands that story to include Beamer, the turbulent winter threatens to explode.

Through her relationship with Andy and Martin, and in the lingering shadow of the distant 1960s, Beamer is finally forced to examine her unusual upbringing and confront the legacy of being Everybody’s Daughter.

The problem with growing up around people who’ve known you all your life is that it can be hard for them to adjust to all of the changes that happen to everyone in high school. Will Beamer be able to spread her wings without forgetting her roots?

Beamer is a girl who is still figuring out what she wants. At first I wasn’t quite sure what to think of her due to her tendency to say anything that crosses her mind without thinking about how other people might react to her bluntness. Once I adjusted to this, I soon came to appreciate her ability to be honest in any situation. There is also definitely something to be said for a protagonist who has real, serious flaws.

The pacing was surprisingly slow for a novella of this length. The introductions in the first chapter piqued my interest, but the lull after that made me feel a little restless. I was curious to know what would happen to Beamer next. Waiting for so much time to find out what was in store for her dampened my enthusiasm during the second half of the plot in particular because it was so drawn out.

I wasn’t expecting to encounter any romantic elements when I picked this book up, but Ms. Qualey integrated it well into everything else that was going on. The characters involved in this relationship have realistic disagreements. and conflicts seeing if their romance would actually work out kept me reading.

There were so many characters in this story that I sometimes had trouble keeping track of all of them. While I enjoyed getting to know the men and women who had once lived with Beamer and her family in the commune, most of them could have been eliminated from the plot without too much effort. Skipping over those storylines would have also helped the main storyline mature more quickly. A full-length novel would have the space to explore these kinds of subplots, but for something this size it can be difficult to keep everything moving smoothly.

Some parents are more embarrassing than others. My favourite scenes show how Beamer responds to the counter-cultural, and occasionally downright eccentric, things her parents say and do. The term weird doesn’t even begin to explain certain rules they’ve made for Beamer and her younger brother over the years. I could have easily absorbed a few more chapters describing all of the conspiracy theories and alternative ways of doing things that Mr. and Mrs. Flynn believe in wholeheartedly.

Everybody’s Daughter was an interesting read. Give it a try if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in a commune!

Out of Left Field by Liza Ketchum

Out of Left Field
Out of Left Field by Liza Ketchum
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (118 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The summer of 2004 is full of promise for Brandon McGinnis. He has a job, a spot on the varsity swim team, loving parents, and loyal friends. Brandon and his dad, ardent Red Sox fans, wonder: could this be the year the Sox finally win the World Series? Then Brandon’s father dies suddenly. His will, signed just before his death, reveals a secret kept for thirty years. As shadows of the Vietnam War bleed into the escalating War in Iraq, Brandon sets out to solve the mystery his father left behind. His journey takes him to Canada’s Cape Breton Island, where he uncovers bittersweet truths about the past, and a family facing their own hidden demons. Brandon’s courageous search throws him into life’s game with its devastating losses, unexpected curve balls, and thrills as wondrous as a home run on an autumn night.

Bury the past as deeply as you dare. There’s still no guarantee the truth will stay hidden.

Brandon is a very sympathetic protagonist. As if his father’s death wasn’t enough of a shock, the things he learns about his family after the funeral made me empathize with his reaction to all of the changes in his life. It was such a natural, realistic response to terribly upsetting news that I completely understood all of his conflicting emotions.

The pacing felt disjointed. The text was regularly broken up into sections that jumped between the past and the present. There were also quite a few transitions from one scene to the next just as Brandon was about to discover yet another clue about his potential half-brother. Drawing the audience’s attention to other things at critical moments in the plot made me suspect that this was written for people who are several years younger than the main character, although I was never quite sure if this was actually the author’s intention.

There’s something fascinating about old letters. The ones in this story genuinely felt like they were written decades ago. Everything from the slang terms in them to the kinds of assumptions they made about the people receiving them worked well for the time period in which they set. I would have liked to read a few more of them, although I completely understand why the author decided to use them as sparingly as he did.

Out of Left Field is a good choice for anyone who likes stories that are heavily influenced by the Vietnam era.

A Heavenly Interception by Eddie Georgonicas

A Heavenly Interception by Eddie Georgonicas
Anarchy of Angels Book 2
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Inspirational, Paranormal, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (175 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

The Dark One is on the rampage, a demonic beast is on the prowl.

He stalks the boys across two continents unintentionally playing a game of “cat and mouse”.

But of utmost significance is his need to move around the Earth incognito. And what better way than to rid a human shell of its soul and then “step in” to take it over.

Revenge is the only driver that makes this dedicated demonic soldier go to all this trouble.

There is a history that runs deep between them. If only the boys knew!!!

The boys will come to finally meet their demonic stalker and all is revealed.

They will be forced into defending their lives as well as the lives of those innocent souls that are with them.

The final showdown is behind the closed doors of the famous Gothic Church located in the city of Cologne, Germany.

It is here where Angelic Intention, Hellish influence, Earthly friendships, A psychic medium and an innocent German family all link together for one last time.

Angels and demons, heaven and hell with life after death. Quite a combination of events and circumstances to encompass in one book.

Tony and Johnny, two young American men who have been lifelong friends, set out on the holiday of a lifetime in Germany. Months before, they helped the angels in their fight against Lucifer, but they have no memory of this as the angels wiped their memories of the event. Now Lucifer is out to get his revenge on them.

A fake attack on heaven enables Lucifer’s henchman Sebastian, to travel to earth where he begins his evil work with the aim of meeting and destroying Tony and Johnny. A trail of disaster follows him as he makes his way to Cologne.

This is an inspirational book with many aspects of religion. The archangels, Virgin Mary, and souls of the good are all there, but somehow the story didn’t gel together. There was no smooth transition from one scene to the next, the excitement and thrill was dulled by the way the scenes were presented. I also did not understand the reason for the two young German children to be involved with the story.

However, the idea behind the book is brilliant, a truly new aspect of looking at heaven, hell and Christianity. The angels are given a human side, although their basic goodness is uppermost. I found the way the souls were dealt with when they reached heaven was good and kind, what you’d expect from heaven. I believe a little more tweaking would bring it to its true potential and make it a winner.

The Revenge Artist by Philip Hoy

Girl writing at her desk at school
The Revenge Artist by Philip Hoy
Publisher: Lycaon Press
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (172 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A bullied teen embarks on a dark journey of revenge when she discovers the power to make bad things happen by drawing them.

Evelyn Hernandez is a high school junior who reads Shakespeare for fun, sews her own dresses, and keeps a sketch journal of her daily life. When varsity quarterback Garvey Valenzuela breaks her heart, she sends him to the emergency room with a busted hand.

Add black magic to her résumé.

The Revenge Artist is the story of a bullied teen who embarks on a dark journey of revenge when she discovers she has the power to make bad things happen by drawing them. The novel explores the emotional pain, isolation, and self-hatred caused by bullying and cyber-bullying in particular as it follows the self-destructive path taken by one teen attempting to defend herself from bullies.

Evelyn is temporarily empowered by her ability to hurt others, “Don’t you know? I’m a witch… a real, honest to God, black-hearted, evil witch!” and this is what keeps her from seeing that her true power comes from her loyal and caring nature, the love and support of her friends and family, and most of all, her intelligence and creativity.

They say karma catches up with everyone eventually, so what’s wrong with helping it show up a little early?

Evelyn’s character development was strong. She has a good balance of flaws and strengths, several of which played an important role later on in this tale. I really enjoy it when authors tie their protagonist’s personalities so strongly to the plot because it leaves a lot of room for the main character to grow emotionally as a result of his or her experiences.

There were some pacing issues early on. Approximately the first third of the book was used for character development as well as setting the scene for everything that happened later on. While all of the background information I learned in this section was important, the blurb lead me to assume that I’d be reading something that moved along more quickly. In some ways these two portions felt like entirely different stories due to how they were paced and the issues they spent the most time focusing on. It would have been helpful to have a few more glimpses of the excitement to come in the first chapter or two in order to bridge the gap between Evelyn’s ordinary life and what happens to her after her big betrayal.

The conversations Evelyn has with her friends sometimes switched from English to Spanish for a phrase or sentence. I recommend taking the time to translate them to anyone who isn’t fluent in Spanish because they were so well written and informative. It was fun to get to know Evelyn and her friends from these brief exchanges as they often showed sides of these characters’ personalities that were otherwise hidden.

The Revenge Artist is an intriguing choice for anyone who knows what it’s like to be teased or bullied in school.