Horse of Wind and Shadows by L.B. Shire

HORSE
Horse of Wind and Shadows by L.B. Shire
Publisher: Lycaon Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (154 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Evil lurks in the waters off the Oregon coast. A lone girl, a magnificent horse, zombies… Can hope prevail with each hoof beat in the sand?

All Taryn wanted was to have a horse again.

When she spotted the black steed running through the ocean waves, she knew there must be a way to capture the feral horse. Her best friend, Flyn, said it wasn’t possible. Not one to turn away from a challenge, will she risk friendships and love to make her dream come true?

Flyn has been Taryn’s self-proclaimed protector since they were kids. Thrust into a world of unpredictability, he tries his best to keep the strong-willed girl out of trouble. Taryn stumbles upon a horse and decides she wants to make it her own against his growing concerns. Will he be able to keep Taryn safe, or will she be lost to him forever?

Is there any point in wishing for impractical things when there’s no guarantee you’ll live to see tomorrow? Of course Taryn knows how dangerous it is to grow up in a world full of zombies, but she can’t help but to dream of what it would feel like to ride a horse again.

Taryn is one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve met so far this year. Her strengths and flaws reveal themselves early on in her adventures, and she definitely possesses quite a few of each. Sometimes her unrelenting stubbornness made me wish I could climb into the scene and persuade her to listen to other points of view, but her empathy and curiosity kept me rooting for her until the conclusion.

I did notice some grammatical errors in the text as I was reading. There were also a few instances in which the characters’ syntax was unusual. It was never quite clear to me if the author was writing a new type of dialect that was created by the large number of orphans in the plot whose education has been sparse to non-existent or if these oddly written sentences would have disappeared with another round of editing.

Strong, even pacing drew me back into the story. There is little room for sentimentality or nostalgia in this world because the characters are forced to spend so much of their time gathering supplies and outrunning the dead. This realistic look at what it would take to keep a small community functioning under such dangerous conditions when a large percentage of their members are young children and teenagers piqued my interest almost as much as the dilemmas Taryn and her makeshift family face.

The paranormal elements of this tale captured my attention immediately. It’s fairly rare for a zombie novel to include the types of phenomenon that the author inserts into the text, so I was curious to see how everything would tie together. I would have liked to see more time spent developing this subplot. It’s a unique twist, yet the amount of space it was given wasn’t quite enough to explain all of the questions I had in the beginning.

It took me a while to determine the most appropriate age recommendation. Taryn is a few months shy of 16 when the story begins, but her emotional response to her circumstances and her obsession with the horse make her come across as someone who is a few years younger than her chronological age. There is a genuinely innocent and naive side to this character that is often at odds with her surroundings, and it is because of these traits that this story is suitable for high school students of any age.

I’d recommend Horse of Wind and Shadows to anyone who would like to shift effortlessly between genres. This novel is equal parts young adult and science fiction with just enough horror thrown in to remind the reader that there are always zombies lurking beyond the perimeter.

Vessel of Heaven by Jamie Rosen

 

VESSEL
Vessel of Heaven by Jamie Rosen
Publisher: Eggplant Literary Productions
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (106 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

It is a world much like our own, differing in only one small detail: no one has yet pierced the veil of Heaven. Now humans are finally ready to send a manned mission into orbit. To capture the sights, sounds and emotions of man’s first ascent, three artists have been chosen to join the crew: a poet, a painter and a musician. The three of them have to learn to overcome their own fears and their differences to become the crew that will bring a little piece of space back to earth.

When they finally do reach their destination, however, they find a place none had ever imagined. A place where women appear from clouds of insects, where one can meet one’s Muse, and where the laws of Heaven can be broken.

Any explorer would expect to come across a little danger while on his or her mission. Suddenly stumbling into Heaven, though, is another matter entirely.

I was pleased by how quickly I learned to differentiate between the voices of the main characters. Each one is an unique individual whose strengths, weaknesses, and quirks show up almost immediately. It was even more satisfying to see so much character development in such a short amount of space. I connected emotionally with every individual on the mission which isn’t something that typically happens to this reader.

Introducing what is a somewhat large cast of characters for a story this length and setting up all of the background information that is necessary in order to understand what happens later on took up the first several chapters. Everything I learned about the characters and their mission was relevant, but once or twice I wished that the preliminary information could be wrapped up just a little more quickly because I was so eager to find out what happens next.

With that being said, the imaginative twists and turns of this book kept me on my toes. Mr. Rosen has a knack for inserting surprises into his plot that this lifelong fan of speculative fiction wasn’t able to figure out ahead of time. It was especially interesting to ponder what might have influenced the darker and possibly allegorical scenes. I suspect that every reader will walk away with his or her own interpretation of those sections, but I had a wonderful time puzzling out what I think they might have meant. If this is any indication of Mr. Rosen’s writing style, I can’t wait to read more from him.

Vessel of Heaven is a must-read for anyone who loves it when science fiction and fantasy are swirled together. It’s the kind of story that improves with repetition, and I, for one, will be revisiting it again soon.

Hearts Starve by Patricia Russo

STARVE
Hearts Starve by Patricia Russo
Publisher: Eggplant Literary Productions
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (62 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Marleen comes home every night to watch her wife tend a dying father. Corrie spends her days searching for a job, searching for love, searching for a connection. Gil just wants the itching and the screaming to stop. All three want their lives to change.

Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you get what you think you want.

A random encounter with a capricious entity sends them crashing into each other; changing each in unexpected and unimaginable ways. By turns fantastical and horrific, Hearts Starve is a modern day fairy tale in the tradition of the oldest of Grimm’s stories.

It’s easy to have a positive attitude when life is going well. Finding enough motivation to grind through another day is much more difficult when you’re facing the imminent death of a family member or financial ruin. Will Marlene and Corrie’s situations ever improve?

The characterization in this short story is excellent. All of the main characters have well-developed personalities and flaws that emerge slowly as the plot progresses. It was easy for me to empathize with them because I got to know each one of them so rapidly. I finished this tale eager to know what happens next. While I don’t know if the author plans on writing a sequel, I would love to catch up with these characters again soon.

I enjoy a challenge and had a good time piecing together the clues provided in this tale about what was really going on. The author expects a certain amount of intellectual effort from her readers in order to understand the subtler aspects of the plot. Most of the time this works well, but there were a few loose ends that I was never quite able to piece together. I did develop a tentative theory about what those scenes were trying to say, but it would have been helpful to have a few more clues to guide me in the right direction before the thrilling climax.

Strong world-building in this piece made me feel as though I were reading a full-length novel. Ms. Russo did a wonderful job at methodically stitching together a rich tapestry of people and places that appear dreadfully ordinary at first glance. The real magic of this tale, though, is in how their unusual qualities showed up when this reader least expected them.

Hearts Starve is a great choice for anyone who is in the mood to be challenged. This is a clever, complicated short story that I can’t wait to read again.

The Co-Walkers Awakening by Hermine G Steinberg

AWAKENING
The Co-Walkers Awakening by Hermine G Steinberg
Publisher: Prizm Books
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (233 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Could life get any worse for Ashley, Brian, and Matthew? Their father abandoned them, they’ve been shipped off to live with a total stranger, and now they’ve discovered that everything they’ve ever learned about the world is a lie! But to find the truth, they will have to battle evil faeries, risk their lives to claim magical talismans, and earn the respect of Elves who have vowed to kill them. Will they be able to prove that they are the legendary Co-Walkers who are able to travel between the Earthly and Faery Realms? Or are they merely pawns caught in the midst of a dangerous conspiracy that could lead to the destruction of both their worlds? It’s up to Ashley, Brian, and Matthew to discover their unique abilities and restore what magick alone cannot repair.

Deserted by their father at an early age Ashley, Brian and Matthew watch their mother fades away to nothing. When she dies they are devastated, but their father’s sister offers them a home in the country town of Watkin’s Glen . None of them want to go. Where has this aunt been all their lives? They don’t want to leave the comfort of the only place they’ve ever known.

Aunt Elvira is not sure how much of the past she should tell them, but eventually they discover their father is one of the Fey of the Otherworlds and Elvira introduces them to their heritage. They are the result of human and fey and as the Children of the Prophecy they must take the great Journey of Achtain to Tara on the eve of Samhain.

This is a pleasant story if a little confusing at times. There are so many characters, both good and bad, I found it difficult to keep track. Ashley is portrayed as level headed, but she does some silly things, whereas Matthew is a dreamer, but also a very intelligent boy. The warmth of Elvira and her home comes through beautifully and gives the story a lovely cosy feeling.

The idea of the book is excellent, three human half breeds who need to make a special journey to save their world and the Fey worlds. On the whole very good, but a few less characters would have made it less confusing. Their discovery of what happened to their father was great, but could have been developed a little more.

I believe this is the first of a series, as their destiny had not been fulfilled by the end of the book. Would be a good series to follow.

Beauty and the Curse by Cathy Tully and KM Fawcett

BEAUTY
Beauty and the Curse by Cathy Tully and KM Fawcett
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (75 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Cursed by a jealous witch, wealthy recluse Anabel Charming is destined to grow uglier with each passing year. Only by having sex before her twenty-first birthday can this virgin’s spell be broken. Yet no man will agree to sleep with the humpbacked, pockmarked, one-leg-shorter-than-the-other “Freak of Park Avenue.”

When handsome Chase Singleton shows up on a quest to retrieve his grandmother’s long-lost talisman, which Anabel now possesses, Anabel is willing to give up the jewel…if Chase agrees to break her curse. With two days left before her chance at a normal life is lost forever, Anabel and Chase discover the reality of beauty, the power of sexual healing, and the meaning of love.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that sentiment doesn’t work so well for a woman who loses self-confidence every time she develops another disability or disfigurement.

It was interesting to see how the relationship between Chase and Anabel slowly develops. Their lives are so completely different from one another that at first I couldn’t imagine them being friends, much less anything more serious than that. The authors did a great job fleshing out both of their personalities, though, and I enjoyed discovering what they do share in common.

Many of the phrases in this novella were awkward. While none of the sentences contained serious grammatical errors, their words were arranged in ways that sounded odd when I read certain sections out loud. I was never quite sure if they were intentionally worded this way in order to mimic traditional fairy tales speech patterns or if the text would have benefitted from another round of editing before it was published.

By far my favorite character in this story was Chase’s grandmother. Her wry approach to the reality of living in a world full of magic injects much-needed humour into the plot, and her warm, loving relationship with her grandson reveals the tender side of both of their personalities. If the authors ever decide to write a sequel to this novella, I would be quite interested in hearing more about this universe from this character’s perspective. She’s experienced quite a bit in her long life and I get the impression that she has a lot to say about it.

I’d recommend Beauty and the Curse to anyone who loves modern-day fairy tales or a heavy dose of whimsy. There is plenty of both to be found between these pages.

Zylan’s Messengers by Sid Goodman

ZYLAN
Zylan’s Messengers by Sid Goodman
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (300 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Not your run-of-the-mill sci-fi novel.

Three civilizations separated by billions of years in time and millions of light years in distance, come to life as their disparate histories converge to help the human race survive in 2408, when all of their bad decisions come back to haunt them.

Ecological disasters, resource depletion and pollution have finally overcome technology’s ability to cope, as a last minute technological reprieve is offered from one of the alien races … but with a cost.

Zylan’s Messengers reveals how one alien race was the proximate cause of the most destructive event in recorded human history; one that has never been fully explained, and how it forever altered the course of human development.

Zylan’s Messengers is a story of the human condition, and humanity’s unique ability in the animal kingdom to make conscious choices that were bad for their own survival as a species.

Science has cured many diseases and solved a lot of problems. Whether it can change the dark side human nature, though, remains to be seen.

Imagine following the development of three sentient species living on different planets over the course of millions of years. Each race has evolved unique characteristics due to the climate and natural history of their home planet, and yet all three face similar challenges based on the terrible mistakes of their ancestors. Mr. Goodman’s descriptions of these civilizations are so richly detailed that at times it almost felt as if I were reading three separate novellas. What makes this novel even more interesting, though, is how he slowly draws out the similarities among them. Not every character is necessarily likable, but their strong personalities are well suited to the plot, and I was impressed by how much attention was paid to characterization given that this is a heavily plot-centered tale.

Due to a prolonged exposition, the pacing in this book is a little uneven in the beginning. The narrator describes both well-known and somewhat obscure scientific concepts in detail in order to ensure that even people who aren’t particularly knowledgable about physics or astronomy understands why certain phenomenon take place. The pauses in the plot to describe why these things are happening are necessary and valuable, but it would have been helpful for this reader if some of these lessons had taken place a little later on instead. The beginning starts off with a fascinating series of events that I would have preferred to spend more time exploring before the lengthy scientific explanations begin.

As much fun as it is to read about otherworldly gizmos and playful descriptions of what aliens might look like, what I find most appealing about the science fiction genre is that it asks questions about ethics, morality and what our future might look like if we continue on the same path without necessarily providing clear-cut answers for any of them. This story excels at prodding the reader’s imagination and presenting old facts in new ways. If it is any indication of his writing ability I look forward to reading the author’s next book soon.

Zylan’s Messengers is an excellent choice for anyone who enjoys plot-centered hard science fiction. Why not give it a try today?

The Night Man Cometh by Tony-Paul de Vissage

COMETH
The Night Man Cometh by Tony-Paul de Vissage
Publisher: Class Act Books
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (376 pages)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In 1249, Damien La Croix willingly choses Undeath rather than perish of the Plague. Once risen as a vampire, he takes his betrothed into the dark with him, but something goes wrong and Antoinette perishes. Thus, Damien begins a solitary walk down the corridors of time in search of Antoinette’s replacement.

Beginning with Konstancza in 15th century Romania where Damien and his garde de nuit serve Voivoide Vlad Drakula, his search extends into the far future to a fateful meeting in a snow-filled Chicago. Until then, Damien meets, loves, and loses each person he thinks may be the one to replace his Antoinette—Kate in Colonial America, who avenges herself against her rapist but prefers to hang rather than become an Undead; Bess, a 21st century Goth, wanting both an Undead lover and a living one and dying for the wrong choice; Michel, a concentration camp guard where Damien and his kind are imprisoned in the human answer to the Vampire Problem; Alyss – descendant of his beloved Konstancza –lost to a rival vampire’s seduction.

All could be his but all perish, for when the Night Man Cometh, can Death be behind…?

Two questions have been on Damian’s mind since his transformation: will I ever find a second soulmate, and is it really possible to change? Only time will tell if he figures out the answer to either of them.

Damian wasn’t exactly a saint during his short first life, and his thirst for violence only becomes more unquenchable once he begins his Undead one. His severe lack of empathy and self-awareness brings depth to his personality even if certain horrid choices make it difficult to find many positive things to say about him early on. What I found most interesting about Damian’s character development, though, was how slowly it takes place. Centuries can pass between the first glimmer of change and the next step in Damian’s evolution, but because those moments are given so much time to take hold in his mind they always felt genuine to this reader.

I would have liked to see more time spent exploring the personalities and interests of Damian’s potential life partners. Some of them are developed well enough for me to understand his attraction to them, but others were given very little time to express their unique qualities. Even love at first sight eventually needs something to back up that first flush of emotion, and this novel would have easily earned a much higher rating had I better understood why he chose some of his paramours.

From the opening scene Mr. de Vissage kept my interest piqued with strong, even pacing. By covering Damian’s journey through such an incredibly long period of time the author is able to slowly build a complex supernatural society that would have been hard to flesh out in such detail in a shorter story. I found certain subplots even more captivating than the focus of Damian’s mission because of how expertly the author weaves everything together from one millennia to the next.

As someone who has never had any exposure to the French language, it was sometimes difficult for me to determine the meanings of French words and phrases that show up routinely in the first few sections of this novel. Some of them were easy to figure out because their English equivalents were so similar to them, but certain words remained a mystery to me until the end. While I understand why the author wanted Damian to retain this part of his heritage, it would have been helpful to either have had a glossary of the terms at the beginning of the book or more context clues about their meanings embedded in the text near them.

By far my favourite part of this book involves how effortlessly the author brings back the traditional approach to vampire mythology. Damian and his associates are sexually alluring to humans, but they are also extremely dangerous, unpredictable creatures. The horror elements of this tale are ubiquitous and include the darkest themes of that genre.

I would especially recommend The Night Man Cometh to anyone who is a fan of Dracula. Even with its flaws, this is a noteworthy example of what vampire fiction can be.

Fueled by Lust: Severus by Celeste Prater

FUEL
Fueled by Lust: Severus by Celeste Prater
Publisher: Siren Publishing Classic
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (263 pgs)
Other: M/F, Anal Play
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Verbena

Thrown together by the mating of Drusus and Avelina, Severus Faal and Cassie Wells find themselves drawn into a world of corporate espionage when Cassie catches a co-worker planting monitoring devices at her law office. Cassie’s drive to uncover the reason for the infiltration immediately engages Severus’s protective instincts to keep her safe. As they work together to solve this mystery, they begin a journey of self-discovery that raises old ghosts and salts unhealed wounds.

Since Severus refuses to wear his mating necklace, as is the custom of the Insedi male, he relies on instinct and readily dismisses signs that Cassie has triggered his mating cycle. While Cassie has a fearless outer shell, her core is full of shadows and indecision. A troubled childhood stagnates her ability to open her heart and experience a love that could span a millennium.

Book 2 in the Fueled By Lust series delivers heart-wrenching romance, intrigue, hot alpha-males, passion, and scorching, knee-wobbling sex.

Like oil and water, Severus and Cassie just don’t mix.

At least, that was Cassie’s initial thought about the six-foot tall, broad-shouldered giant standing in her doorway. She’s already dealt with far too many men eager to take charge of her life and her body. She doesn’t like being told what to do or how to do it by anyone. This includes the gorgeous eye-candy and self-proclaimed bodyguard who seems insistent in hanging around. From the get go, Severus really pushes her buttons. Yet, despite how annoying he is, she can’t help the subtle reactions her body begins to have around him. Little by little, she notices the other things about Severus that reawakens a dormant desire deep within her. All of a sudden, Cassie realizes she rather likes having a big, brawny man watching over her. His interest in her carnal needs is fine by her as well, especially when he’s so good at pleasing them.

Though he likes his women with a little more padding, Severus can’t help the instant attraction he feels for the sassy spit-fire, wagging her finger in his face without an ounce of fear or hesitation. Everything about her drives him crazy, including the way she manages to attract trouble. He doesn’t know if he should throttle or kiss her. The thought that she might be a compatible mate seems ridiculous and downright terrifying to him. He doesn’t want the heartache of losing another important woman in his life. While he has little difficulty in finding enough willing sex-partners to share his bed, he doesn’t want any of them to share his heart. Not until Cassie. Despite his attempts to thwart the growing suspicion that she just might be his perfect mate, Severus soon realizes she’s too important to him to lose.

Some things just get better and better, especially when it comes to Celeste Prater’s Fueled by Lust series. Book one was a lot of fun to read, so when I saw she’d written a second book based on a couple of characters I’d met in the first installment, I requested to read it without hesitance. From the first page, my eyeballs remained glued to my iPad, my attention totally focused on the plot unfolding before me. I literally read the entire book in one day. I just couldn’t put it down. The characters are dynamic together, the perfect blend of alpha male and sassy female. There’s so much going on that you don’t even notice the plot twist sneaking up from the sidelines. I was left with my mouth hanging open at the climax of the story. The developing relationship between Cassie and Severus, the inclusion of previous characters from book one, and the introduction of new challenges to this sexy race of he-man aliens all culminate into a fantastic tale that left me wanting more. Lo and behold, after a little snooping on the internet, I see Ms. Prater has seen fit to grace us with an upcoming book 3! So now I’m left chomping at the bit and rubbing my little paws together in eager anticipation of what I expect to be another fabulous read.

Fueled by lust: Severus, is a non-stop hoot and a hell of an exciting story. Cassie’s snarky attitude had me laughing my buns off. I fell in love with her right from the start. And Severus is just too sexy for words. He certainly caused a spike in heart rate and gave me something new to dream about. Put them together and you’ve got another fantastic story by Celeste Prater whose hunky aliens are simply out of this world. Oh, and Ms. Prater, if you need a short blonde chic who loves bulging muscles and hairy chests to play the heroine in a fourth installment, I’ll gladly take the part.

Life Eludes Him by Jen Suits

HIM
Life Eludes Him by Jen Suits
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When the desire for life and love surpasses death…

A man finds love anew when he meets a woman several hundred years later. A different time for each, both wrapped up with intrigue for one another. They develop a friendship that withstands their differences. Plagued by his past full of hurt, a local ghost haunts the rooms of a dilapidated mansion set in the recesses far from modern civilization. Plagued by the normal every day humdrum, she takes on a case to survey an old, time worn mansion. Her interest is piqued. Armed with tidbits of the building’s history, she steps over the threshold and into adventure.

One of the things that has always puzzled me about the concept of soul mates is the question of what happens to would-be couples who never end up together. Are people like this doomed to be alone forever?

Claire is an intelligent, decisive property assessor who takes her work seriously. Her no-nonsense approach to her professional life works well with the plot. I quickly grew to like her and root for her success, especially once the paranormal elements of the plot begin to become more visible.

With that being said, there were things about Claire’s personality that I never understood. Her decision-making abilities are tested early on in the plot, and she doesn’t spend much time mulling over the very real risks involved in her options. Her risk-taking tendencies seem to clash with everything else I learned about this character. It would have been helpful if both sides of her personality were given more time to complement one another.

If there’s one thing I learned from Life Eludes Him it is that one should never underestimate the longterm memory of a community. Nearly every small town has its own set of local legends. One of the pleasures of visiting a new place is listening to the locals talk about the people and places within them that outsiders have never heard of, and this book are no exception to that rule. It was quite interesting to piece together what happened in the mansion based on what the surrounding community has remembered over the years.

I also would have liked to see more time spent explaining the science fiction elements of this short story. The paranormal themes are given more than enough time to develop, but I can’t say the same thing about the science fiction themes. What I did learn about them was fascinating, and this tale would have earned a higher rating had the brief allusions to certain phenomenon been explained more thoroughly.

The mansion was described in such detail that it quickly became my favourite part of the narrative. Old, abandoned houses often feel a little melancholy to me, and this one is no exception to that rule. What made this setting even more intruding was how much it has declined since it was abandoned. Even the most beautiful property will decay if it’s not taken care of properly, sometimes to the point that it’s difficult to see potential of it behind the mildew, dust, and broken or missing elements.

Life Eludes Him is a quick, satisfying short story that is a good choice for anyone in the mood for something supernatural and lighthearted.

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler

LIBRARAY
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, YA
Length: Full Length (373 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That–along with everything else–changed the day she met her first fairy.

When Alice’s father goes down in a shipwreck, she is sent to live with her uncle Geryon–an uncle she’s never heard of and knows nothing about. He lives in an enormous manor with a massive library that is off-limits to Alice. But then she meets a talking cat. And even for a rule-follower, when a talking cat sneaks you into a forbidden library and introduces you to an arrogant boy who dares you to open a book, it’s hard to resist. Especially if you’re a reader to begin with. Soon Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, and the only way out is to defeat the creature imprisoned within.

It seems her uncle is more than he says he is. But then so is Alice.

When Alice’s father went down in a shipwreck, she had no idea how she was going to get along. Then she finds out she is being sent to a relative she never heard of before. Any home is better than none, she guesses. I bet if Alice knew what she was getting into she would have run away, though.

This book is the start of a new series.  This is Mr. Wexler’s first children’s book. I read a lot of middle grade/young adult fiction and was impressed with his talent for writing an interesting tale with a lot of action, danger, magic, and fantastic creatures. He melds this all together for a very enticing read and he uses the world of books for his common ground. It’s a very nice job and a very enjoyable story, with a bit of fright here and there.

Alice is impressed by the large library her Uncle has and is disappointed to hear that it’s not available to her unless she is accompanied by an adult. What’s worse than lots of new books that you can’t even read because you need company to go the library? Worse is sneaking in at night and almost losing your life…

Alice doesn’t know she’s a reader and can go inside the book. Books act as prisons for some creatures and if you happen to fall into the book, you must either conquer them or kill them. She doesn’t want to kill anyone, even if they scare her to death. She realizes they don’t have the same compunction, so she has to use her brain to try to overcome them.

The fun part for me was that once she has gotten them to submit to her, she can draw on their strength. She’ll need it for future expeditions and confrontations!

I found this one a fun read and it even has a dragon in it. No one is quite what they seem except Alice. She’s going to have a real challenge keeping up and being safe trying to live her with her Uncle. I’m already ready to read the next series of events in her life. She’s not boring.