The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr


The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr
Publisher: Wondertale
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (191 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Return to the world of the Magician’s Workshop: Where Dreams Become Reality.

In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?

Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.

After the Color Ceremony, life will never be the same.

First, it is absolutely imperative to read Volume One before reading this installment of the Magician’s Workshop series. Volume Two picks up exactly where the previous book ended, right before the life altering Color Ceremony. After reading Volume One, I desperately wanted to know how the Color Ceremony would go for Kai, Talia, Weston, Kalaya, Kaso, and Layauna. The course of their futures would be determined in a single moment. Each of these characters have grown on me, and I must admit I felt nervous as each of them stood before the puller. Who would have Color? Who would be void? I had to stop myself from rushing ahead to find the answers, and I discovered the truth is much more complicated than I ever could have imagined.

The more I learn about Color, the more convinced I am that the system is flawed. I won’t reveal any names, but some very talented characters are found void. Each time a promising character was found void, it was a breath-stealing blow. I couldn’t believe how unfair it was. However, the more I read, the more it became clear that there are big changes on the horizon for the inhabitants of O’Ceea. Some people are beginning to believe that having Color isn’t nearly as important they have been led to believe. Again, I can’t give too many details, but Layauna’s story convinced me that Color is not the only expression of power and talent. Her experience with the puller and indeed her entire storyline is by far the most disturbing and clearly illustrates that something needs to change. I fear that Layauna, Kai, and the others are pawns in a larger scheme that has yet to be fully revealed. Will the change be for the better or worse?

As I mentioned in my review of Volume One, everyone in O’Ceea has the ability to make projections, which are essentially magical illusions. They aren’t real, but in this installment, there are rumblings of people who’d like to make projections into reality. Most people think this is impossible, but I’m not so sure. I look forward to seeing how this particular plot thread develops.

The Magician’s Workshop: Volume Two is an absolutely delightful addition to the series. The more I read, the more intrigued I become. I am thrilled I had the opportunity to read this installment, and I’m eagerly anticipating the release of Volume Three.

Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison


Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Orchid

When eighteen-year-old Aubrey Dale’s cousin is diagnosed with leukemia, Aubrey volunteers to in-vitro fertilization in order to become a vessel for the donor that will save her life. Now this clean-cut high school student must learn to adapt to life as a pregnant teenager, despite still being a virgin. Things only get more complicated when she falls in love with her best friend, Eli Calhoun, who has just returned from the penitentiary. Rumors soon spread that the insemination story is only a cover up. That’s when the anonymous threats begin. Someone in her small town disapproves of this so-called abomination. The psychological games soon take a twisted turn, putting Aubrey and her unborn child’s lives in danger. Aubrey and Eli race to uncover the horrible truth before it destroys everything.

Aubrey lives with her father and sister. Her mainstay in life is Kailee, her cousin, who has been there for her in all the years since her mother left. This summer a lot happens to Aubrey. Eli, a friend who has been in prison for several years, returns to the town and the friendship threatens to become a deeper relationship . Kailee arrives for the summer, and Brey finds out her cousin has leukemia. Brey offers to be a bone marrow transplant donor but unfortunately she isn’t a perfect fit. She takes the next best option and agrees to have a child with a donor to provide the stem cells needed for Kailee’s recovery.

At first I thought this eighteen year old was being brave in her wish to help her cousin. As the story progresses it becomes apparent she hasn’t really thought things through. One major result will be what to do with the baby when it’s born. At least one lady at her church has definite, but unwelcome, ideas about what will happen to the child.

The attitude of her fellow students at high school make her life more insulated. New students at the school, demean her for their own pleasure, and danger and intrigue from an unexpected source make her life scary and hazardous.

There are several sub-plots to this story which make it all the more intriguing and fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Woofed Cookies by Greg Bauder


Woofed Cookies by Greg Bauder
Publisher: American Star Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (20 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A boy, Peter Moon, gets a puppy for his birthday that has an unusually sensitive stomach. Time and time again the puppy comes through for him in tight and often frightening situations. The story is spiced with humour and shows how resourceful the boy is by using his dog’s special attributes.

A little vomit can go a long way.

Peter acted exactly how I’d expected a boy in his early teens to act. Everything from his obsession with getting a pet dog to how annoyed he was when his mom asked him to do chores was spot-on. He was silly at times, too. Watching him bounce through all of those moods gave me a very clear image of what kind of person he was in so many different ways.

This story told the audience what was going on instead of showing us what was happening in them. It would have been helpful to have more detailed descriptions of Peter’s adventures with his dog. They got into all kinds of mischief together, but I had trouble picturing what was happening to them because everything happened quickly and with so little time spent describing what it would be like to actually be part of those scenes.

The dialogue was nicely written. I liked the fact that every single character had such a unique way of speaking. No two people in this book sounded alike, and that made their conversations a lot of fun to read. It was easy to pick out who was talking when a new scene began, and it was also easy to make good guesses about the kinds of things they’d say once I got to know them better.

I struggled when it came to picking the right age recommendation for this tale. Some of the trouble Peter got into sounded like stuff a much younger boy would do, but there were also some scenes where he experimented with certain things that are much more common for teenagers to try. Fourteen seemed like a good compromise between the mature content in those scenes and the goofiness of the rest of the storyline.

Woofed Cookies should be read by anyone who has ever been surprised by what their pet is willing to eat.

The Separation by Stormy Corrin Russell


The Separation by Stormy Corrin Russell
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full (206 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Orchid

In a world where men and women live on separate sides of a massive wall, seventeen-year-old misfit Eroyn Fairchild has always been too busy with her broken family to wonder why they live the way they do. When a man from the other side breaks through, Ero holds him hostage, hoping for a ransom large enough to pay for her Elder Grace’s treatment. Things get more complicated as the man is followed by two others who make Ero question everything she’s ever known about her life. As Ero searches for the truth, the lines between right and wrong blur, leaving her to choose between saving her city and saving herself.

After the war between the sexes, men and women live in separate conclaves. Ero works as security on the fence between the male and female compounds and one night discovers two men have broken through to the female side. One of these men is her brother and together they find out all they have been told is a lie.

It was interesting to read the author’s concept of this world with men and women living separately and babies being conceived by IVF although it appears records are kept of the fathers of each child. It’s amazing how different history to the truth can evolve when the descendants are not told the truth. This world is well built with rules, ceremonies and procedures which must be obeyed and apparently the only contact between the to halves of the compound are through special liaison people.

This is really Ero’s voyage of discovery finding out about her world, the men’s world and the true history of the past. There is a budding romance, but this has not developed by the end of the book. I liked how the original horror of males – instilled in her by her upbringing – is gradually replaced by acceptance that they are not the monsters she’s always believed. A good, different, book with a lot of tension throughout.

The Coterie Declaration by Richard C McClain II


The Coterie Declaration by Richard C McClain II
Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (161 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Arrested for hacking, socially awkward and speech-impaired sixteen-year-old Dakarai Holt is sentenced to two years at Sheffield Academy, an exclusive juvenile rehabilitation facility. Within the first two hours, Dak is subjected to mandatory brainwashing. The academy’s enforcers, the R.A.T. SQUADS, patrol Sheffield to ensure each student’s full compliance. Gacheru, Dak’s roommate, pressures him to drink a tonic that conspicuously counteracts Sheffield’s indoctrination. This places Dak in the middle of many adversarial and explosive situations. Additionally, Dak becomes knotted in a clandestine plot involving the Secretary of State and a mysterious group who goes by the name, The Coterie. While at Sheffield, Dak must find a way to survive the R.A.T. SQUADS’ terror, the annexation of a remote island, and battle his own inner demons.

Dak is the son of a wealthy man but this can’t help him with his anthropophobia which developed at the age of 5. In fact he hasn’t spoken since then. His world consists of hacking large amounts of money in a Robin Hood style of theft. He is eventually caught and sent to Sheffield, a weird place of detention which seems to be run by ex prisoners trained as guards. All the inmates wear headphones which are meant to brainwash them. Dak becomes aware that something is going on in the background, something illegal and possibly highly dangerous.

This is a science fiction book with a deep down mystery woven into the story. For a sixteen year old Dak is very computer savvy and it’s only when he’s set up by the FBI that he gets caught. Most of the book consists of Dak’s internal thoughts and how he interacts with the world and those around him. This sounds as if it would be boring, but it’s definitely not. The plots and sub-plots took me to many different scenarios and each time I thought I’d discovered what the end would be, another sub plot came along to drag me in another direction. I’m normally a fantasy addict but this science fiction book certainly intrigued me.

What Every Girl (except me) Knows by Norah Raleigh Baskin

What Every Girl (except me) Knows by Norah Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (125 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

I’m assuming I’ll turn into a woman someday whether I know anything about being one or not. But being womanly is something you definitely have to learn. Girls probably don’t even know they’re learning it. But one thing for sure is that it has to come from a mother.

And a mother is one thing I don’t have.

***

Unlike most kids faced with the prospect of having a stepmother, Gabby Weiss isn’t the slightest bit resistant to the idea. Gabby wishes her father would hurry up and marry someone who knows more about womanhood than she does, someone who understands her obsession with all that is happening (and, worse, not happening!) to her body. For a while, it seems as though her father’s girlfriend, Cleo, might soon be filling the role of mother, but when things fall apart, Gabby has to find her own solution. So she travels to the last place she remembers seeing her mother, searching for a memory. But what she finds is something even better.

 

There isn’t an official handbook for growing up, so Gabby might have to make one up as she goes along.

Gabby’s character development was nicely done. She matured a lot from the beginning of this tale to the end of it. I especially liked seeing how she slowly began to understand certain things that had completely flown over her head in the first few chapters. This was such an interesting way to show how this character was changing because it focused on both the small and the big signs that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

The only thing holding this story back from a higher rating was how many characters were included in it. There were so many different people to get to know that I often accidentally mixed them up. This was especially true when it came to Gabby’s classmates. Most of them didn’t play a big role in the plot so it was hard to keep all of them straight.

The relationship between Gabby and her older brother, Ian, was wonderfully complex. I really enjoyed seeing how they reacted to each other. Sometimes they argued like all siblings do, but at other times they were surprisingly sweet. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones where these two characters danced around the topic of their mother’s death. While I can’t say much more about that without giving away spoilers, it was fascinating to see how Gabby and Ian handled their grief so many years after losing their mom.

What Every Girl (except me) Knows should be read by anyone who suddenly feels like they’re growing up quickly or who remembers what that stage in life is like.

Car Trouble by Jeanne DuPrau

Car Trouble by Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (83 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Duff Pringle has bought his first car. (Used.) He’s got six days to drive 3,000 miles cross-country to California and start a new hi-tech job that will make him wealthy. (Sort of.) Nothing can stop him. (Or can it?)

Uh-oh . . . CAR TROUBLE.

Duff’s Ford Escort barely makes it a hundred miles from home before breaking down. What’s he supposed to do? He’s promised his new boss he’ll be there by Monday. But he’s also promised himself that he’ll make this journey by car, so he can really see the country. Using his laptop and some quick thinking, he pieces together a way to continue his trip. What he doesn’t plan on are the people he meets along the road. There’s Stu, a hitchhiker with a secret; Bonnie, an aspiring singer with a con artist for a mother; two thugs looking for a trunkful of cash; and Moony, the terrier prone to carsickness.

What could possibly go wrong on a simple road trip?

The dialogue was nicely written. Every character had a unique voice that suited him or her well. I had no trouble telling who was speaking because of how much time the author put into showing the audience the differences between how everyone spoke and what kinds of things they generally did and didn’t say. This made getting to know the characters easier than it might have been otherwise. It also gave me a good idea of what kinds of people they were because of what they liked to talk about and how they treated each other with their words.

Duff made a lot of bad decisions in this story. He was described as someone who was intelligent and resourceful in the beginning of it, so I had a tough time understanding why he kept making choices that I would expect any smart person to recognize as dangerous. Had this happened once or twice it would have been understandable. The fact that it happened over and over again, though, strained credibility.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy this book’s sense of humor quite a bit. Duff’s naive approach to life provided plenty of opportunities for laughs. He was so good at misinterpreting signals and small signs that something was off about a situation that I looked forward to seeing what he would misunderstand next and if he’d finally catch on to what was really going on around him.

Car Trouble should be read by anyone who is looking for something humorous.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (253 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Aloe

BoM LASR YA copy

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the thrilling first installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure. This first installment of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series introduces Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot with her own De Havilland Beaver seaplane and a nose for mystery and intrigue. A cross between Amelia Earhart, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, Kitty is a quirky young heroine with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into all kinds of precarious situations.

She’s been flying since she was a baby so she thinks nothing of taking off in her plane to study humpback whales. She wrote a convincing enough project she got funded. She has friends to stay with. All she needs to do is follow the whales, mark their routes, and take photos. That does not include snooping around a campsite of strangers…

Mr. Reading offers you a look at the past and the present. She’s in an area close to the gold rush days of Alaska. He ties that into the story very successfully and the facts are good. Having read Yukon gold history in the past, what he offers is true look at how awful the conditions were everyone was trying to get there first.

Since Kitty has met several new friends in Alaska and she hears the tale of the boat that burned, blew up and sunk near an island. It was supposed to have a load of gold on it and many people are still trying to find that. When she sees men near the area, she wonders if they are looking for the gold. She should have left well enough alone.

This story flows well, Kitty is a good strong young lady who need all her skills and judgement to get out of the situation she’s in. As she travels with the band of brothers who captured her, she learns about Jack London and other Alaskan gold miners.

It kept my attention and made me wonder what the author would share with us next. It was a very good read and he gives you more reference information at the end of the story. If you haven’t heard of all this history, it should lead you to reading more. That’s a good thing. All in all, the story won’t bore you.

Don’t Tell Jessie by Traci Jo Stotts


Don’t Tell Jessie by Traci Jo Stotts
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (175 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Jessie tries to make the most of her senior year while dealing with the recent loss of her mother. She spends most of her time taking care of her dad, who has turned into a workaholic, and spending time with her best friend Stef who is getting over his own tragedy, his boyfriend’s suicide. The only thing bringing a smile to her face is Derek Stevens. He’s just been dumped by the head cheerleader and Jessie’s dreams come true when he asks her out. Stef warns her that Derek might be using her to get his ex-girlfriend back, but she falls for him anyway. Life is good until a secret turns her world upside down. Now, Jessie must choose between her own grief and salvaging her tarnished relationships.

Whoever said high school was supposed to be the best time of your life clearly doesn’t know just how many things can go wrong during those four long years.

This is one of the best books about bullying and betrayal that I’ve ever read. All of the characters had complex reasons for behaving the way that they did. Not only did that make them fascinating to read, it gave satisfying answers for why they behaved the way that they did. Some of the scenes were pretty painful for Jessie, so having such detailed reasons for why certain things happened to her were quite helpful.

Speaking of the main character, I absolutely loved her as an individual. I was also a huge fan of the strong character development she showed as a result of her experiences. Her stubborn, feisty personality made itself known from the very first scene, so it was great to see how such a well-rounded character responded to all of the plot twists that were thrown her way.

Stef and Jessie’s lifelong friendship was a highlight of the plot as well. I really liked how supportive they were of each other when it came to getting through their final year of high school, making plans for the future, or dealing with the guys they wanted to date. They genuinely cared about each other, and that made me want to see what would happen to them next.

Another thing I adored about this story was how thoroughly the main character’s strained relationship with her dad was explored. I quickly became engrossed in figuring out why their relationship had soured and why neither one of them seemed that interested in doing anything to fix it. She clearly had issues with him that had been going on for years, so trying to untangle how things had gone so wrong with them was rewarding.

Don’t Tell Jessie is a must-read for teens and adults alike!

The Sixth Event by Kristen Morie-Osisek


The Sixth Event by Kristen Morie-Osisek
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: 291 pages
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

Eighteen-year-old Raquel isn’t eighteen anymore…

During Raquel’s first semester of college, she witnesses the end of the world, only to wake up in her old room at her parents’ house two years in the past. Even worse, it seems she’s the only one who remembers—until Chris Lyley, a boy Raquel always thought was a loser, tells her he remembers the catastrophe.

Before long, they both discover new abilities. They’re able to understand any language and teleport through time and space. If Raquel and Chris can figure out what caused the end of their world, maybe they can stop it.

What if you knew the world would end, but saving it you would have to give up everything you knew? Could you do it?

The Sixth Event by Kristen Morie-Osisek is a wild adventure from the point of view of Raquel, a freshman college student who witnesses the end of the world. After the world ends, she is transported back in her life two years before the final event occurs. She, along with others who have witnessed the same event find that they are tasked with saving the world from the end that they witnessed.

Raquel begins to have feelings for a boy from her high school that she used to steer clear of since they hung out in different circles. She begins to see past her old high school ways and realize how she has grown in maturity, but how her teenage hormones have jaded her ways of thinking. Keep in mind, this is all against the ticking clock of the end of the world!

Kristen Morie-Osisek does a wonderful job of balancing Raquel’s eighteen-year-old mindset against the role of teenage hormones that were in full effect merely two years before. This is a fascinating look at the psychological world that teenagers face, yet is often overlooked by many authors.

The dialogue that Kristen Morie-Osisek utilizes with the characters is smooth and believable. The reader is drawn into the events as they unfold and begins to see the world from the point of view that this is something that could have occurred of is currently occurring. The end of the book is satisfying and leaves the reader feeling fulfilled.

This is one adventure that you do not want to miss. I cannot wait to see more work from this wonderful author!