November Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA, Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll

Ennara and the Book of Shadows by Angela Myron

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Ennara and the Book of Shadows by Angela Myron
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (156 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When strange accidents start happening around thirteen year-old necromancer Ennara and her friends, she must search for the mysterious stolen artifacts causing the attacks while learning the highest form of magic–the spells that could prevent the fruition of a terrible prophecy.

Most people worry about making new friends or accidentally wandering into the wrong classroom on their first day of school. If only that’s all that was on Ennara’s mind.

Being introduced to new mythical creatures is one of my favourite things about reading young adult fantasy novels. Ennara meets some very cool ones during the course of her latest adventure. It’s hard to go into detail on this topic without giving away spoilers, but I really enjoyed how Ms. Myron described the beasts in her story. Some of them were silly. Others were scary. All of the original ones were creative.

I had a hard time figuring out the best age recommendation for this story. The first book in the series was clearly intended for a middle grade audience based on its subject matter as well as the interests of the main characters. This one seems to straddle the divide between novels for preteens and ones intended for a slightly older audience. The pacing and style of the plot seems like its written for the 10+ age group, but the romance feels more appropriate for the 12+ one. I completely understand why the tone would begin to shift as Ennara matures, but this tale would have easily earned a much higher rating if it had been more clear about which age group it was intended for. As it is, the age recommendation is flexible.

The plot jumped into Ennara’s quest to find the stolen artifacts almost immediately. The most important information about her backstory as well as the society she lives in is shared as it becomes relevant to what was currently going on. This was a good choice given the urgency of the situation. I had no problem at all following along with the new information about this universe that is provided later on.

While this is a sequel, it can be read out of order or on its own. The most important details of Ennara’s first adventure are recapped early on. There is great worldbuilding in Ennara and the Falling Druid, but this plot can be understood without any knowledge of the first book. It was interesting to read them in order to see how Ms. Myron has grown as a writer though!

Ennara and the Book of Shadows was a magical ride. This is a good choice for anyone who has ever wished they could attend a school for future wizards.

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Invisible Children’s Book Instruction Manual by Nicholas Alan Tillemans

Invisible Children’s Book Instruction Manual by Nicholas Alan Tillemans
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (35 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this concise, no-nonsense introduction to invisible children’s books, Nicholas Alan Tillemans walks the reader through all aspects of invisible book ownership, reading and care.

Some books tell the exact same story every time you open them. Others most definitely do not.

The creative premise caught my attention immediately. It was just as much fun to read as I thought it would be! What I liked the most about it was how easily it shifted between describing things that kids find humorous and tossing in a few jokes that were definitely intended for the adults who are reading this aloud. There were a few words that might be too difficult for young readers, but this is also something that I’d give to kids who are slightly older or who have strong vocabularies.

Figuring out the most appropriate age recommendation wasn’t easy. There is nothing here that is inappropriate for kids in early elementary school, but the writing style and types of humor that were used used seemed to be more geared towards adults and slightly older kids. I ended up choosing the younger age range in order to include as many readers as possible. Had the intended audience been more clear, I would have easily given this book a much higher rating.

One of the things I like the most about trying new authors is being surprised with what they’ve created. This was my first introduction to Mr. Tillemans work. His writing style is playful and conversational which is a good choice for the age range he seems to be targeting. It’s the sort of thing I’d feel just as comfortable sharing with my nieces and nephews as I would with their great-grandparents.

I’d recommend Invisible Children’s Book Instruction Manual to anyone who has ever grown even slightly weary of reading the same thing over and over again at bedtime.

Rosi’s Company by Edward Eaton

Rosi’s Company by Edward Eaton
Publisher: Dragonfly Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Stuck in the Revolutionary War and reeling from a recent defeat by the British, Time Guardian Rosi Carol must rally a group of fugitives and prepare them for a final desperate battle. Outnumbered and outgunned by a merciless enemy, outsmarted at every turn by and increasingly wicked Kirk, Rosi must marshal all of her wits and her experience to reverse the course of events, save herself and her few remaining friends, and perhaps find a way home.

It’s much easier to make a plan than to actually carry it out. If only Rosi had more time to hammer out the details beforehand. Of course, that’s not how adventures work.

Rosi’s Time started with quite a bit of backstory, so I was pleased to see this story jump straight into the action. It felt good to keep following the characters on their mission since I was already so familiar with everyone involved. The pacing remained strong from beginning to end. At times it was so exciting that I couldn’t stop reading until I finished just one more chapter.

Once again the character development in this series was not given much attention. Rosi has barely changed at all since I first met her despite experiencing a wide range of things that sure seem like they would have an effect on how most people behave. I grew to like her quite a bit as an individual, but I found it hard to believe that she could remain almost exactly the same person after all she’s seen and done.

There’s a big difference between what it was actually like to live in a specific era and what people remember about it several hundred years later. The most interesting parts of this novel explore some of the assumptions that people living in the twenty-first century make about the past in enough detail that I was curious to see what else I’ve been mistaken about in this time in history. By far the most interesting snippets involved how fast wagons are actually able to move.

I recommend catching up with the beginning of this series before jumping into this one. The storyline is so entwined with book two in particular that it works much better if the reader already knows who is who and why these characters have been thrown into the past.

Rosi’s Company is a good choice for anyone in the mood to dive into a young adult trilogy that’s already been completed.

Rosi’s Time by Edward Eaton

Rosi’s Time by Edward Eaton
Publisher: Dragonfly Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (246 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Rosi Carol has managed to settle into her Uncle Richard’s New England castle, despite having her family’s so-called gift thrust upon her. Rosi has the ability to step through time, which means she also bears the responsibility to be time’s Guardian. Or rather Apprentice Guardian, as her Uncle Richard keeps pointing out. When she and her friends are dragged through a time portal into the past, Rosi must determine not only where they are but when they are and how to restore the timeline.

It’s one thing to read about the past. It’s quite another to suddenly be sucked into it.

Uncle Richard plays a slightly more prominent role in this plot. He was such a mysterious and aloof figure in Rosi’s first adventure that I was pleased to get to know him a little better. The relationship between these two characters seems like it is terribly complex for reasons that have been hinted at along the way. I would have liked to have even more information about Uncle Richard’s gruff persona and why he made certain decisions, but I was glad to finally have answers to some of my questions about him.

Rosi hasn’t grown or changed at all since I first met her. The first novel in this series sets up her personality and history so well that I was sure she would have had a chance to correct — or at least acknowledge — some of her faults along the way by now. By no means do I expect her to be perfect, but it was disappointing to see that she was as self-centered and critical as ever given all of the opportunities she’s had to learn from her experiences.

Some of the most interesting scenes discuss the differences between linear and non-linear time. This concept was addressed in detail in Rosi’s Castle, but I was glad to see them brought up again. I’m so used to thinking about time as something that is measurable, concrete and not able to be revisited that the refresher was helpful.

The pacing was slow at first. It would have worked better if this my was first introduction to Rosi’s world, but as someone who was already familiar with the background information I was antsy for the introductions to wrap up so the real action could begin. Approximately the first quarter of the plot is focused on this material. For me that was a little too much.

While I would have preferred that the most important details from Rosi’s Castle were recapped more quickly, writing it this way does make it convenient to read this book out of order or on its own. The reader doesn’t need to know anything in advance. That is a good thing for this particular series, and I would suggest going back to the beginning to catch up on previous events to anyone who enjoys this tale.

I’d recommend Rosi’s Time to anyone who like time travel stories.

Rosi’s Castle by Edward Eaton

Rosi’s Castle by Edward Eaton
Publisher: Dragonfly Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (200 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Orphaned, Rosi Carol is sent to live with her mysterious Uncle Richard in his eerie castle on the New England coast. Rosi feels even more of an outcast when she discovers the townspeople believe the Carol family has some kind of magical hold over New Richmond. Even her new friends are afraid of her. She soon discovers there may be some truth to the rumors. The castle seems to have a mind of its own with lights turning off and on and doors locking and unlocking with no one in sight. A strange dark cloud has dogged her since the train station. The ghosts of the Widows from New Richmond’s past blame Rosi for their husbands never returning from the sea. Her only allies are a Girl in Black (gone as suddenly as she appears) and Jesse (a paranormal reporter no one else can see). Can Rosi discover what the Widows want? What about the Girl in Black? Can Jesse help her find the answers or is he another big mystery? And why can’t her watch keep proper time?

The nice thing about moving to a new town is that it usually offers the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. If only Rosi knew why all of her new neighbours were acting so strangely around someone they’ve just met.

Rosi has several serious personality faults that reveal themselves early on in the plot. Her strengths were a little more challenging to figure out because they weren’t highlighted quite as much. I’ll admit that it took me some time to warm up to Rosi due to her tendency to judge things before gathering all of the facts, but once I got to know her better I was curious to see what would happen to her next.

It took me a long time to begin to figure out what was going on with Rosi’s uncle and his property. I understand that this is the first book in a trilogy, and I definitely wouldn’t expect the author to give away all of his secrets about the characters so early on. Having a few more clues early on about what Rosi was up against would have been incredibly helpful, though, due to the large percentage of the plot I spent feeling confused.

The atmosphere was deliciously spooky. One of the things I like the most about paranormal stories is how they bend the rules of physics in ways that don’t immediately make sense. Figuring out how and why those rules have been shifted is almost as interesting as learning what lead them to be altered in the first place.

Rosi’s Castle is a good choice for anyone who likes paranormal, young adult fiction.

Baymo by Seth C. Kadish

Baymo by Seth C. Kadish
Publisher: LadyBee Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (74 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Baymo” is the story of a young dog who longs for the freedom and excitement of human life without comprehending the responsibility and worries that go along with such a life. Through a bit of magic from Father Moon, Baymo’s wish comes true – he becomes a man – but his subsequent misadventures teach him that being a man has its price.

But he was a man, a man, a man! Baymo was in a state of bliss, filled with joy and radiant. He stood, he fell, he pushed himself back up again. Tottered, veered, spun, teetering, toppling, a spinning top, out of control, overcome with pleasure.

He was so involved in this new game that he did not notice Spike enter the yard. The little pug stared at him with pop eyes, amazed at the sight of a tall, wobbly, naked, golden-haired man, wearing a grin, weird noises bursting out of his mouth. Spike was so startled by the bizarre apparition that he forgot to be scared.

That is, until the naked man took a step towards Spike and smiled. Spike gave a nervous bark. What to do? And where was Baymo to tell him what to do? Where was his best friend, the golden dog?

Baymo teetered and tottered toward Spike, croaking with pleasure at his newfound manhood. To his amazement, the little dog raced back to the safety and sanity of his house, an escapee from the clutches of the horrible stranger.

If wishes were dog bones, Baymo’s stomach would be filled to the brim.

Strong character development is one of the most important things I look for when reviewing a book. I love connecting with the protagonist so deeply that I feel like I’m experiencing their world alongside them. Baymo amused me from the beginning, but it was the way he reacted to everything that happened to him that captured my attention. He was incredibly well-developed. His personal evolution was so gradual and tied to the plot that I was actually caught off-guard by how much information the author was able to pack into something this length.

The vast majority of the plot seemed perfectly suited for kids in early elementary school, but there were a few scenes that made me hesitate. The violence in them wasn’t graphic, but it happened often enough that I raised my age recommendation by two years. It’s definitely something that should be screened beforehand by parents or teachers. If these scenes had been toned down, I would have chosen a much higher rating for this tale.

This was my first introduction to Mr. Kadish’s work. I enjoyed his storytelling so much that I actually read all of Baymo’s adventures over the course of a single afternoon. While I don’t know if the author has any intention of writing a sequel, there is certainly room here to do so. If he does follow up with these characters again, this reader would be quite curious to see what happens next.

I’d recommend Baymo to dog-lovers of all ages.

The Star Catcher by Molly Dean

The Star Catcher by Molly Dean
Publisher: Wild Child Publshing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery, YA
Length: Full Length (239 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

When fifteen year-old Hawke feels fed up with not being able to walk, he escapes in his mind to a misty island filled with moorlands, ancient forests, and monolithic stones: a place where he can move and run and accomplish heroic quests.

His life is turned upside down, though, when he’s thrust into this dream world and finds it real! He becomes ‘Star Catcher.’ The job? Track and collect shooting stars or meteors sent from a more advanced civilization, which have powers that protect the island from approaching evil. He finds many helpers along the way: a serving girl who can communicate with animals and create light, an alluring mermaid, a savvy one-eyed crow, and an old farmer with a secret.

Hawke must also discover what’s going on inside the imposing mansion called Moon House. Why do rooms change? Why do objects mysteriously shift? Who lives inside the old forest behind the place—and why is the Star Catcher forbidden to enter it? And most importantly, who are Hawke and his stars really battling against? An evil genius? A pirate-like group called the Shrikers who have taken over the island? An Ancient Magic? Or, maybe an aspect of himself?

Hawke’s life sucks – his legs are paralyzed, he’s confined to his bed, his father has left, his mother is unhappy and trying to find solace. Hawke escapes the real world and dives into a world of dreams where he becomes the star catcher. He has to catch five stars as they fall from the sky – one every other day – and when he has caught the last star the magic will return to the strange land.

The world of Hawke’s dreams is very well thought out and each trip to find a star is like a different jewel in a necklace. Similar but each an individual in its own right. Hawke is typical of a young teenage boy but Emma, the girl servant at the Moon House, has several different facets to her character. Evil is easy to recognize as it comes in the guise of the Shrikers and Facsimiles but working out who the good guys are takes a little more time.

This story has a smattering of various animals, humans and mythical creatures. They confuse, assist or act against Hawke and as the reader I never knew which way each character would go.

I found this book to be very attention grabbing. At first it dragged a little but once Hawke started his travels in the other world I had to keep reading to see what happened next. While not the usual mystery and adventure, this fantasy certainly has a hint of magic, mystery and adventure. All make this a worthwhile read.

The Monster on Top of the Bed by Alan H. Jordan

The Monster on Top of the Bed by Alan H. Jordan
Publisher: Jordan Press
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (36 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Both Karrit and Suzy want to go to bed without being afraid, but when the lights go off at bedtime, the world is a scary place.

Then, Karrit visits Suzy . . . to make friends with “the monster” that had been scaring him.

Suzy is scared, but treats him the way that she would like to be treated. They both use Suzy’s grandmother’s mantra:
You’re welcome to stay, until I say “nay” Then, you’ve got to go, and You can’t say no.

There are no scary Halloween monsters in The Monster on Top of th Bed, and it doesn’t have destructive aspects like a monster truck jam. It won’t make your kid stay up at night like monster energy drinks. In fact, The Monster on Top of The Bed quells night fears, and makes it easy for children to fall asleep, unafraid. Karrit, the monster below the bed, doesn’t look like it, but he’s a substitute for a bedtime bear.

It’s hard to go to sleep when you hear funny noises coming from underneath the bed.

I’m a big fan of puns, alliterations, and other forms of wordplay, so this story was right up my alley. By far my favourite section involved what Suzy says to Karrit just after they meet for the first time. The rhyming schemes were all so much fun that I actually ended up going back and rereading the whole thing. It worked just as well the second time around.

This picture book switches among a few different fonts as the plot progresses. Most of them were easy to read and worked well with the illustrations, but I did have occasional trouble figuring out where one word ended and the next one began with the most flowery of the fonts. It was visually interesting, but a simpler style would have worked better for reading everything aloud.

The discussion questions at the end are well worth checking out. One of them pointed out a detail in the plot that I’d overlooked, and another one made me flip back a few pages to see if my response to it was correct. It was also amusing to think about potential answers to the questions that were open-ended. I’d imagine that the response to them could change every time, which would make rereading this tale even more rewarding for families that revisit it often.

The Monster on Top of the Bed made me smile. This is a good choice for anyone in the market for something fun to read at bedtime.

Silent Circle by Cassandra Larsen

Silent Circle by Cassandra Larsen
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Short Story (138 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

“Most teens get a car for their seventeenth birthday. Me? I get inducted into a freaky coven of witches.”

When Emerson wakes up on her seventeenth birthday, she has no idea that her life will change forever.

After her mother’s inexplicable suicide three years ago, she’s gotten used to the scorn and sideways looks of her classmates. She knows everyone thinks her mother was crazy, and that it’s only a matter of time before Emerson cracks herself. So when Emerson starts seeing things and hearing voices, she begins to think that the rest of the town may be right. That is, until Caiden, an enigmatic guy from her class, tells her that she’s a witch, just like her mother.

But when Emerson nearly kills a girl at a party, she discovers just how dangerous these powers can be. Now it’s up to Caiden to train her before she hurts anyone else.

Most teens get a car for their seventeenth birthday. Me? I get inducted into a freaky coven of witches.

The first sentence of the book describes the story perfectly. First in this series the scene is set, and the characters are truly believable for the setting. There was enough mystery to attract my interest and Emerson, the heroine and trainee witch, had the usual angst of a seventeen year old. What she really needs is to find out why her mother committed suicide. Or did she?

Sebastian, her boyfriend shows jealousy but something about him doesn’t seem quite right. Is he hiding his true self? I believe I solved this by the end of the book, but won’t give my solution here as it would be a spoiler.

Caiden, the witch trainer, is the cause of Sebastian’s jealousy and Emerson feels her boyfriend’s being unreasonable. Caiden could be a love interest, but Emerson has too much going on in her life to concentrate on anyone but Sebastian.

So why do I only give this a 4.5 rating? This is due to the missing words in the text and incorrect grammar throughout the book. If this could be sorted out with a good editing I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a five.

Well done Ms Larsen, I look forward to reading the second book which you gave a preview of at the end of this one.