Rosi’s Time by Edward Eaton

ROSI
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

CASTLE
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
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

STAR
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

BED
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

CIRCLE
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.

Chicken River Dance by A.N. Irvano

CHICKEN
Chicken River Dance by A.N. Irvano
Publisher: Falling Horse Books
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (242 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Young members of Ryan’s family are killed and he follows an inherent need to crush the crooks that run the killings. He is aided by Cecilia, a girl he has been getting to know for months and her mother, a shaman. Life in the Oakland projects can not move on until the extraordinary and unreal events are able to be questioned. Buoyed by the cultures, conversations, and characters of the people in it, small cultures can survive when small criminals exist.He lets his life’s losses carry him to find that not everything, if anything, can be revolutionized or bettered in this life and time of the American West.

Justice doesn’t always happen automatically. Sometimes you have to seek it out.

At first I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of Ryan. His emotional response to a family tragedy early on in the plot wasn’t at all what I would have expected from anyone who had just experienced such a terrible event. He was clearly incredibly smart and thoughtful, but it wasn’t until the author explained the reasons behind his reluctance to express his feelings that I really came to like this character. Every question I had about him in the beginning was answered in full, and I enjoyed watching his development over the course of this novel.

It would have been helpful to have more detailed introductions of the secondary characters. The actual number of them was just right for something this length, but so little time was spent explaining how everyone was connected to Ryan that it took me a while to put all of the pieces together. It was most confusing when I was trying to figure out who was and was not related to him.

The romantic subplot caught me by surprise due to how quickly it happened. The chemistry between the characters involved in it was strong, though, and seeing how both of them reacted to falling in love added depth to their personalities that would not have otherwise been there. It ended up working quite well with everything else that was going on in this tale.

I would have also liked to see more differentiation between the voices of the various characters. Everyone tended to use the same patterns of speech no matter who they were or what circumstances they found themselves in. The dialogue itself was often poetic. It was especially well suited to Ryan’s personality when he was describing his surroundings or remembering something, but the formality of it was out of place during the most exciting scenes.

Some philosophical questions are much easier to answer than are others. Ryan’s startling self-awareness for someone his age lead to a much deeper analysis of the meaning of life than I was expecting when I started the first chapter. It was especially interesting to see what Ryan had to say about social justice and the tension between the needs of individuals versus the needs of their communities.

Chicken River Dance is the kind of story that I’d recommend to teens and adult readers alike.

Glodwyn’s Treasure Chest by L. Sydney Abel, Helen Alexander, Janice Clark, Penny Estelle, Mary Filmer, Elizabeth Grace, Vincent Noot, Esma Race, Wesley Tallant, Michael Thal, B. Well, Gary Winstead

CHEST
Glodwyn’s Treasure Chest by L. Sydney Abel, Helen Alexander, Janice Clark, Penny Estelle, Mary Filmer, Elizabeth Grace, Vincent Noot, Esma Race, Wesley Tallant, Michael Thal, B. Well, Gary Winstead
Publisher: Crimson Cloak Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (39 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Glodwyn’s Treasure Chest contains twelve charming short stories for children, collected by a gnome.
With fairy stories, “dragons” and alligators, time-travelling children, a Firehouse Dog and a Pony which refuses to be ridden, there is something for everyone in this gem of a book.

It began as a way for authors to introduce people to their work, and was intended to be distributed free. In order to reach catalogues which do not accept free books, it was decided to make a charge on such platforms but donate all monies received to charity. The charity chosen for “Glodwyn’s Treasure Chest”, was the World Literacy Foundation (http://www.worldliteracyfoundation.org/) They are an international charity which recognizes the link between literacy and conquering poverty, ill health and practices such as child marriage, and seeks to help with basic literacy skills through clever use of modern technology and cloud computing. Why not download the book and enjoy these charming stories, then donate to the World Literacy Foundation’s work and help children around the world to read themselves towards a better life!

Story time is one of the most relaxing parts of the day.

One of my favourite selections was “The Dragon Said Moo.” In it a boy named Daniel must entertain his two young, impressionable cousins on the family farm while their parents discuss adult matters indoors. Daniel’s solution to this problem is incredibly creative and memorable. I really enjoyed this one and could see it becoming part of a series if the author has any interest in expanding it.

There were a few missteps along the way. “Curiosity and the Two Princesses” begins with a girl named Viola who is reluctantly being taken to a playdate with one of her classmates, Curiosity. The premise of their adventures is well-developed, but the plot soon takes a turn that I found far too dark for the age group for which it was intended. “The Cute Family Go Ballooning” also needed to be adjusted. The illustration that accompanied it was bright and colorful, but the plot itself was barely developed at all. It felt like the description of a children’s book instead of a complete short story.

“The Pony No-one Could Ride” shows one family’s attempt to tame a pony for their son. The descriptions of daily life on a ranch used just enough detail to sketch out the hardships of working outdoors with large animals over many years. What I liked the most about it, though, was its incredibly wide range of appeal. The conflict is serious enough to keep the attention of older kids and adults, but it can also easily be shared with preschoolers.

It was difficult to pick an age recommendation for this anthology because the tales in it are written for children as young as two and as old as six or seven. The wide range of styles and topics is fascinating, but there is material here that is too scary for preschoolers. It would be a good idea to preview the longer ones in particular before sharing them with very young or sensitive children.

Glodwyn’s Treasure Chest is a unique collection that I’d recommend to anyone who is interested in a book that will grow alongside a family for several years.

The Mysterious Mandolin by Aneta Cruz

MANDOLIN
The Mysterious Mandolin by Aneta Cruz
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (137 pages)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Mysterious Mandolin is a tale of two stepsisters whose love for one another must overcome death, wickedness of dark magic, and bullying. This fairy tale juxtaposes the light and the dark side of characters and settings, while it examines the lengths to which people would go in order to achieve what they most desire.

Magic is many things, but it isn’t always predictable.

The premise caught my attention immediately because I’m a lifelong fan of anything that could be said to begin “once upon a time.” Within a few pages I was hooked and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. The writing was crisp and clean. Given that it was divided into short chapters, I think this would be a good book to read aloud. I enjoyed it so much that I actually read the whole thing over the course of a single day!

The characters were all two-dimensional. While I completely understand that fairy tales make sharp distinctions between right and wrong, this story would have easily earned a much higher rating had the narrator attempted to explain why someone who is surrounded by nothing but negative influences would choose to be good. This would have fit in beautifully with the other messages that are woven into the plot as well.

The metaphors were a lot of fun. Ms. Cruz has an incredibly imaginative approach to describing what are usually completely ordinary experiences. Her writing style is well-suited to this genre. If I had to pick only one of her metaphors as my favourite, it would be the one she used to describe one of her characters trying on a dress. The dress slipped on “like butter onto a hot pan.”

It took me a while to figure out the best age recommendation due to some potentially frightening content. While the violence is written in the highly stylized manner I’d expect to find in this genre and mostly happens offscreen, it was described in just enough detail that I raised my original recommendation by a few years. Some children in early elementary school may be perfectly comfortable with what happens, but this is something that parents and teachers should decide on a case-by-case basis ahead of time.

The Mysterious Mandolin is a good choice for anyone who loves traditional fairy tales.

By Starlight by Nancy Lindley-Gauthier

STARLIGHT
By Starlight by Nancy Lindley-Gauthier
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (194 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The night my best friend Gracie disappeared, I had a nightmare.

A monster loomed from the shadows around the campfire. I ran. The thing stretched after me…

I woke gasping, afraid it might somehow be true. Gracie could always make me feel better – but she didn’t respond to my email. Not that night; not ever.

That’s what lead to my summer camp counselor job here near Gracie’s home. Hiking and canoeing fill every moment but I don’t forget why I’m here. I’m going to find Gracie.

The camp-owner, a famous Native seer, isn’t any help. Her herbal healing and Spirit Bear talisman won’t help find Gracie.

There’s the local ranger and my campers, but will they believe me? I’m alone with this. Somehow, every step toward Gracie takes me nearer to something scary. This is a mystery I must solve.

If the police can’t solve the mystery of her friend’s disappearance, what chance does Kitsai have of doing it?

Kitsai intrigued me from the beginning. She wavered between acting much younger than her chronological age and understanding the mystery of what happened to her friend better than any of the adults around her. The mixture of maturity and immaturity kept my attention focused on this character even when I didn’t necessarily like her as an individual. She isn’t the kind of person who is easy to figure out. To me that’s a good thing to experience while getting to know the protagonist. A little uncertainty goes a long way in keeping my attention.

With that being said, Kitsai’s character flaws were too serious for this particular tale. She makes decisions that should have never been an option for someone in her occupation. Her lack of insight into why these choices were so potentially dangerous made it hard for me to believe that no one else noticed what was going on. The plot’s explanation for it was partially satisfying, but I would have preferred to see way more time spent exploring why she was so often left to her own devices and poor judgement.

The mystery itself was gripping and well-paced. As someone who once lived in British Columbia, it was eerie for me to pick up on the similarities between this piece of fiction and the real life missing person cases from that province that still remain unsolved. In no way it is necessary to know anything about those cases in order to enjoy this story, but I do think it will be a fun bonus for readers who are familiar with them.

It was never clear to me why the romantic subplot was included. There were so many other, more pressing matters for the characters involved in it to address that the romance felt out of place. This would have made good fodder for a sequel if the author ever decides to write one, but it wasn’t a good fit for this particular adventure.

Some people like to live without any modern conveniences when they go camping. Others are much more comfortable having at least occasional access to air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and the Internet. Seeing what happens when various characters get much more or less than they were expecting in these areas provided some much-needed levity in otherwise tense scenes. Including this minor conflict was a good idea.

There are paranormal elements in this book, but they don’t show up right away. The overall themes and tropes are much more heavily weighted toward what one generally expects to find in mysteries and young adult novels. This is the sort of thing I strongly prefer to know ahead of time when deciding what to read which is why I’m mentioning it in this review.

I’d recommend By Starlight to fans of the mystery and young adult genres alike.