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.

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.

A Taste of Gold by Deryn Pittar

GOLD
A Taste of Gold by Deryn Pittar
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Short Story (95 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Psychic twins with special talents meet two thieves, two Taniwha, and one pretty reporter as they experience the adventure of a lifetime…

On a prospecting holiday, brothers Jason and Levi discover an ancient supernatural creature, a Taniwha named Otanewainuku, who gives them ‘humming stones’ in exchange for their silence about its treasure. They also cross paths with two thieves. Their supernatural abilities to find hidden gems and precious metals help them find the stolen goods and turn them in to the police—twice. But when they meet reporter Abby Hennessy, her story on their good deed attracts the wrong kind of attention.

When the thieves capture Jason to use his talents, Levi has to rely on their psychic link to guide the police while not revealing their powers. Abby wants to help, and she and Levi search for the thieves, not knowing that Jason is going to use the ‘humming stones’ to call on another Taniwha for help…

Road trips are supposed to provide a sense of adventure without actually exposing the people on them to any real harm. Unfortunately Jason and Levi’s trip isn’t exactly following that rule.

As interesting as all of the human characters are, by far my favourite character was Otanewainuku. I’d never heard any legends about the Taniwha before, and it was fascinating to imagine what it would be to meet one of them in person. They are a unique species that fit in well with the rest of the science fiction and paranormal elements of this book.

While Jason and Levi’s paranormal abilities are clearly described early on in their adventures, I would have liked to learn more about the origins of them. The handful of hints about where these powers might have come from are intriguing, but the story would have flowed more smoothly had the author taken the time to explain such an important part of their identities.

The well-paced, exciting plot made it hard for me to put this novella down. It has the kind of worldbuilding I’d expect from a full-length novel, but each chapter was so engrossing that I finished it within a few days. The plot-based narrative introduces background information as needed, and while there were times when I wished certain details were revealed a little sooner I soon learned to appreciate how the author brings up the most important facts in such a fast-paced story.

A Taste of Gold is rollicking adventure that is begging for a sequel. While I don’t know if the author is planning to revisit these characters, I highly recommend getting to know them in the meantime. This is a fun, short tale that this reader had a great time zipping through.

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy
The Blood Guard by Carter Roy
Publisher: Two Lions
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (279 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove’s seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too? His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she’s a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive. Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take, make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he’s never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom’s last words of advice: Trust no one. That’s a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with. But then again, maybe Ronan’s not ordinary at all.

First Ronan’s father was abducted. Now his mother has come and grabbed him from school and they are off on some high speed chase with others after them. What’s going on?

Mr. Roy has created a fast action, dangerous story about good and evil. It’s a fantasy that reads like truth. His main character is thirteen and he makes Ronan a good strong personality. He needs it in this story. The story flows well and holds nothing back. People die in this book so make sure your child is enough to handle that. He also sticks in an ironic ending that shocked me.

After his mother finds some place she deems “safe” for them to stay, she tells him about a knight of the Blood Guard. It’s her job to keep the Pure safe. That’s why he got all that training in self-defense and survival skills, he realizes. When she sends him off to take a train to meet another defender, it doesn’t get easier. Those following him are waiting for him. He doesn’t know who’s good or who’s evil at the stage. And all it does is get worse.

He sees Greta on the train and realizes he knows her from school. He doesn’t like her much. Soon it might not matter how much he likes her. If they don’t stick together, neither one of them will survive. Every time they almost get away, they get caught again…

You won’t be bored reading this one. I’m also sure there will be a sequel. The battle isn’t over yet. And I’m glad because that gives me more to read.

The Unseen Terrorist by Oche Otorkpa

UNSEEN
The Unseen Terrorist by Oche Otorkpa
Publisher: Author House
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (128 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

This book a collection of stories on the lives of HIV carriers was inspired by a taxi driver who once told the author that if he knew one percent of what people infected with HIV go through, he would have done all within his power to avoid being infected

Sometimes fear is worse than the disease itself.

The Unseen Terrorist is divided into over twenty short essays about what it’s like to live with HIV or AIDS. The personal stories are by far my favourite part of this collection because they are culled from such a diverse group of people. After Emeka found out he was infected, for example, his family arranged a marriage between him and a woman who had no idea he was sick. The repercussions of that decision affect two families forever, and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew what happened to him and his new bride.

There are numerous grammar and punctuation errors in the text. Certain words are also capitalized in the middle of sentences for reasons I was never able to figure out. At first I wondered if they were translations of slang terms from the author’s culture that carry completely different connotations in English, but my theory was never confirmed or denied.

This book also includes quite a few charts, graphs, photographs, cartoons, and other illustrations. While the vast majority of them were easy to read, I was never able to figure out the words on the flowcharts that appear to be explaining how quickly HIV spreads from one person to the next. The titles of these charts are clear, but the rest of the writing is blurry due to the quality of the snapshots and how small these pictures are. The ones I was able to read were fascinating because they reveal so much about the cultures of the people who created them. The natural course of AIDS for patients who are not on any medication for it is the same everywhere, but the society they live in has a huge effect on whether they have access to those drugs, who they do or don’t tell about their diagnosis, where they live and work, and a long list of other factors that affect quality of life. I wish I would have been able to puzzle out all of the charts so I could learn more about this aspect of living with HIV because it was such an interesting approach to the disease.

It took me a while to determine if I should recommend this to the 14+ or 16+ age groups. I ultimately decided on the younger age group because so many of the case studies involve people who who had barely reached their teens when they contracted HIV. The inclusion of so many children and young teenagers living with this disease make the lists of statistics come alive. It’s much more difficult to ignore a true story than it is a list of numbers or percentages.

The Unseen Terrorist is a sober look at a disease that affects people from every country in the world. This is something that I’d recommend to adult and teen readers alike.

Fool’s Gold by Lynn Lovegreen

GOLD
Fool’s Gold by Lynn Lovegreen
Publisher: Prism Book Group
Genre: Historical, YA
Length: Full Length (198 pgs)
Age recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Alaska’s gold rush is no place for a lady, but that doesn’t scare Ellie Webster. Ellie travels with her younger brother to the wilds of the Klondike gold rush to save the family farm. She’s prepared for hardship on the trail, but not for the sparkling blue eyes of Duke Masterson, a charming saloon keeper. And Duke is surprised to find that Ellie and her apple pies are more valuable to him than all the gold nuggets in Skagway, Alaska. Now if he could only overcome Ellie’s fear of losing her newly-found independence and win her heart. Together they must defeat the conman corrupting the town and make their fortunes before the last steamship of the season heads south.

Fool’s Gold is a sweet adventure and romance, set in the late nineteenth century Alaska.

Although not set on adventure, Ellie Webster and her brother are forced by circumstances to join the great Yukon gold rush.

Ellie hardly seems the type for such an adventure. She longs to be elegant, to be with the right people, even as she acknowledges she’s heading for a ‘rough place, full of rough characters.’ Duke Masterson is, right off, not the sort of person she plans to associate with – yet she hardly seems to grasp that where she is going is not full of ‘elegant people.’ Whether or not Duke has the best of intentions doesn’t even enter her head. She knows he’s handsome but she has her own goals.

Duke recognizes Ellie’s strength of character…but he knows the challenges they will all face on the trails north.

Their adventures start almost the minute they set off, and their relationship remains a bit rocky. Other characters pose somewhat unpredictable challenges and events change Ellie’s goals and outlook.

Although this starts off a touch slowly, reader’s interest in the characters steadily builds and you will read with greater and greater interest. The setting itself is enthralling, from the seas, wildlife, to Skagway and the very accurate description of The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad.

Teens and young readers interested in the time period will enjoy Fool’s Gold.

The Circle : Book One of The Sidhe by Cindy Cipriano

CIRCLE
The Circle: Book One of The Sidhe by Cindy Cipriano
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Childrens
Length: Full Length (186 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

Calum Ranson is sure of three things: his cousin Finley is alive, Calum will find him, and no one knows Calum and his family are Sidhe. No one until Laurel shows up at his mother’s bookstore wearing a dark clan’s mark.

When Calum learns the details surrounding the disappearance of Laurel’s brother, he suspects the evil Hobayeth clan. Calum and Laurel work together in the Realm of Man and the Otherworld to rescue her brother – revealing a connection between Calum and Laurel that may cost Finley his life.

Sometimes you just know things that don’t seem quite right, aren’t. And sometimes you simply have to follow your gut feeling for no other reason than to find peace. It doesn’t hurt to have a few good friends and a family that isn’t quite human for support and encouragement.

Soon to be sixth grader, Calum Ranson, isn’t so different than any other boy about to start middle school. He’s concerned about getting mean teachers, he totally doesn’t understand giggly girls and he really wishes his cousin Hagen and best friend, Arlen, would find a way to get along. And his magic seems to be weakening. On the bright side he has a new friend who happens to be a girl and she’s not hard to be around. Plus, she apparently has an interest in magical creatures. Now, if he could figure out what happened to his cousin, Finley. It’s a lot for one young sidhe to deal with but Calum is fortune to have a great support group in form of his parents, grand-parents and extended family.

I got a little lost on understanding the whole family dynamic because there are a lot of characters introduced either directly or indirectly in this first book. It’s the book that sets the stage for the rest of the series so that was to be expected. This isn’t a particularly long story so I can see myself reading it again before the next one comes out. I’m sure I missed some important details while following Calum, Hagen and Laurel on their quest to find both Finley and Laurel’s brother, Daniel.

This story is a good easy read. While there is a lot going on, it’s fast paced. Young readers who look for books and characters they can relate to will enjoy this series. Ms. Cipriano did a good job keeping the story light even when the plot goes a little dark. There’s an evil faction to be dealt with in the sidhe world. While I didn’t actually get to meet the big bad in this book, the way he’s described and the people I met that he normally has around him were enough to let me know that he’s going to cause lots of trouble for Calum and his friends and family in the next few books.

I really like how the author built her paranormal world. Words have power and places have meaning. It wasn’t hard to picture myself stepping through the threshold along with the characters. I’m very interested to see exactly how much power Calum’s grandfather, Uilleam, has and what was with the little girl Calum and Laurel meet on their way to the Hobayeth mound. I’m curious about the connection, if there is one, between Laurel and Calum’s cats, too. And then there’s the writing on the stacks. See? So much goes on and it all drew me in to see if this book would have its own conclusion or if it would leave me hanging. It did both. There’s closure for some parts but then also some hanging threads that set up the next book very nicely. I’m looking forward to it.

If you have a young reader who enjoys a good adventure with a little bit of magic thrown in, this is a good book to check out.

Incarnation by Susan Nolan

TEEN
Incarnation by Susan Nolan
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, YA
Length: Short Story (128 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Katherine Blair has no idea she possesses supernatural abilities. Not until Richard St. James, an intriguing and mysterious classmate with powerful skills of his own, initiates her into his world. Wanting to explore her newfound shape-shifting powers, she spends time getting to know Richard, only to find herself increasingly drawn to him as time goes by.

Haunted by dreams of ancient times, she is caught in a desperate struggle against past injustice. The link to this unknown past experience sends her own life plummeting into the dark realms of revenge and murder, as she attempts to reconcile her feelings for the young man she’s come to rely on to protect her and keep their shared secret.

Will Katherine and Richard be able to break the spell that has held her captive through the years, before it consumes her? Can their budding young love survive tragedy, or will they be torn apart?

Katherine’s life has already been marred by tragedy, but is her future destined to be even darker than her past?

Katherine handles her introduction into the supernatural world fairly well considering how much she learns in a short period of time. When she’s having a hard time coping with the news that she is a shape shifter, she does what any good bookworm would do. She goes to the library. I like that she wasn’t content with the information Richard provided and took the initiative to find out more on her own. At first Katherine is fascinated by her abilities as well as Richard’s, but it isn’t long before she learns just how dangerous the supernatural world can be.

I had a very hard time figuring out how to define Katherine and Richard’s relationship. At first they both seem mildly irritated by each other. However, once they start spending more time together, they became fast friends, and I got the feeling that romance might be in the air. It is clear that Katherine has feelings for Richard, but I’m having a much harder time figuring out where Richard stands, especially given how he behaves around Meredith, a girl in his class. When Katherine questions him about his romantic past and what his relationship with Meredith is, he is unwilling to talk about it. I found this odd because Richard professes to care about Katherine, yet he continues to associate with Meredith even though she is openly hostile to Katherine.

I also have the feeling that Richard is hiding things from Katherine. I don’t think he has lied to her, but he is very selective about the information he shares with her. I can’t decide if he is doing this because he is trying to protect her, or because he is trying to keep her dependent on him because she has so much potential. I do think Richard cares for Katherine, but I can’t shake the feeling that he has ulterior motives.

Katherine’s connection to the past is still very murky by the end of the story as is the link between Katherine and Richard’s families. The book felt a bit choppy at times, and I was left wanting more detail. Again, I think this is due to the fact that Richard is hiding something. The conclusion is very open ended and left me with even more questions. I can only hope that Ms. Nolan has plans to continue Katherine’s story in a sequel.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Incarnation. It is a fun, fast paced book for anyone looking for a quick paranormal read to spend an afternoon with.

Besides Naturalization by Isabel Chloe

BESIDES
Besides Naturalization by Isabel Chloe
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (82 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Starting in the twenty-third century, the human race began to immigrate to other planets for the available land. Lily Taylor, among the second generation of immigrants, was going to celebrate her tenth birthday with her family. Her cousins Andrea, Daniel, and Paul were also second-generation immigrants on Hynocripta. Even with all the future technologies making their lives enjoyable, not only their parents, but also they needed to find themselves and their places in this new land.

Technology can change rapidly from one generation to the next. The question is, do people change as well?

Seeing the twenty-third century from Lily’s perspective introduces a lot of wonder into her story. There are many things in her daily life that sent a shiver down this reader’s spine. What made reading about them even more intriguing was comparing her expectations of what a typical day is like to my own. It reminded me of many of the emotions I’ve felt when visiting other countries, and the author captures what it’s like to be exposed to a new way of thinking very well.

There is a subplot in this book that is exceptionally well-suited for readers who are beginning to transition to more mature fiction, but it is not given as much space to develop over the course of the plot as I would have preferred to see. As fascinating as it is to see how the author imagines what human civilization might be like a few hundred years from now, by far my favourite part of this story involves how the relationships between certain characters shift over time. Had more time been spent on this aspect of Lily’s life, this book would have received a much higher rating.

With that being said, the technological advancements in Lily’s time are surprising. It’s difficult to predict what life will be like in the future, but I would be very eager to try almost all of the improvements that Ms. Chloe mentions during the course of the plot. She has a keen eye for the small details that make this reader feel as if I’m personally experiencing everything the characters say or do. Her ability to imagine what we could become will keep me coming back for more from her.

Besides Naturalization whisked me away to another time and place. This is a good choice for anyone who hopes the same thing will happen to them.

Eagle Peak by Elizabeth Fontaine

EAGLE
Eagle Peak by Elizabeth Fontaine
Publisher: Prizm Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (191 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Eagle Peak, population 596, has two bars, five churches, and a vibe (or lack thereof) that couldn’t be more different than Sean’s native Minneapolis. Moving to rural small town Minnesota, Sean must leave his life of acting classes, going to all-ages shows, and hanging out with friends, to enter into a world of pep rallies, pick-up trucks and country pop.

Sean’s inclination for heavy eyeliner, black attire, and surly attitude make him an easy target of suspicion, intrigue, and prejudice in the small town of Eagle Peak. But despite Sean’s growing sense of dread and depression, small town Minnesota also offers a lot of firsts: he becomes the love interest of three classmates of which one is a closeted gay boy afraid of his own sexuality, he is surprised to discover and chant with a Buddhist family in town, and he gets in the middle of an abusive father and his town jock son. Sean’s old life of theater, live music, and diverse friends collides with his new life in Eagle Peak, and Sean is left confused about what he thought he knew about small towns, the world he left behind, and himself.

Sean has a definite opinion about what he thinks it will be like to live in the middle of nowhere, but only time will tell if his first impressions of his new home are correct.

Excellent character development made it impossible for me to stop reading. Sean is a well-developed protagonist whose personal strengths and weaknesses reveal themselves almost immediately. What makes Eagle Peak such a great tale, though, is how this development spreads to the secondary characters as well. The author acknowledges certain stereotypes only to turn them upside down just when this reader thought she had everything figured out.

All of the subplots are handled with sensitivity and humor. Ms. Fontaine tackles a lot of tough subjects during the course of Sean’s adjustment to Eagle Peak, but she weaves everything together so deftly that all of the points of conflict feel like natural extensions of the main storyline. My sole criticism of this story involves the way one of the subplots is resolved. Certain parts of it felt a little rushed due to the nature of the problem and how much it affected the character who was figuring it out earlier on in the narrative. This is a minor criticism of an otherwise well put-together plot, though.

It’s difficult to explain what it feels like to live in a small town if you stand out from the crowd in some way, but Ms. Fontaine accurately captures the positives and negatives of belonging to a minority group while living in a rural setting. This is the kind of book I’d heartily recommend to anyone who is curious about this topic.

Eagle Peak is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt out of place. It captures the maelstrom of emotions that accompanies this experience well and is something I will be rereading again soon.