The Star Catcher by Molly Dean

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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 Goats of Santo Domingo by Robert McEvilla

Cover_The Goats of Santo Domingo
The Goats of Santo Domingo by Robert McEvilla
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Historical, Mainstream
Length: Full (222 pgs)
Heat: Sweet
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

Whenever John Romero was asked if he was wounded in Vietnam, he always got a confused look when he replied that his eye was lost in Santo Domingo.

A former baseball player with just six weeks left to serve in the army, John’s plans for making a comeback are interrupted when his unit is deployed to the Dominican Republic, and he finds himself in a combat situation. While dodging bullets, he meets a beautiful Dominican woman, the aloof, Ramona. She inflames the private passions of the paratroopers that view her from their command post. Romero plots a course to win her affections, but the political intrigue and the carnage in the streets of Santo Domingo conspire to thwart his every move, forcing him to make a drastic decision.

John Romero’s plans to return to the United States and once again take up his career as a professional baseball player are thwarted when his unit is deployed to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to aid in the military action. While he’s there, he’s intrigued by Ramona– a Dominican woman who sits in front of her house daily and reads.

The book is told from two points of view–and the voices are well-writen enough that the transitions are clear. I have to give the author credit there. When the segment is in John’s POV it sounds very different than when the story is being told from Ramona’s POV.

I can’t call this a romance, however, even though that’s the category the publisher puts it in. Yes, the characters have an interest in each other–they may even love each other. But, for the majority of the book they are apart. There are two brief scenes with them together and, even then, they don’t interact much. The ending is a bit atypical of your regular romance as well.

The writing is good and the story kept me interested. If you are like military novels, this may be the book for you because the detail about the military action and the men John serve with are really well-done. I could see this as a movie–and would enjoy it as a war movie. The scenes played out clearly and were well described.

There’s a bit of a mystery involved as well as one of the men John serves with is killed just before he’s to be sent home and there’s some fear on John’s part that he might be implicated.

Rather than romance, this book is more a “slice of life” look at one man and one woman caught in a moment of time affected by war–and the devastation it can wreak on people’s lives. Go into it expecting that, and you won’t be in the least disappointed.

Copper Cauldron by Terri Talley Venters

CAULDRON
Copper Cauldron by Terri Talley Venters
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (102 pgs)
Heat Level: sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Water Lily

Penelope Manchester, a good witch with one green and one blue eye, awaits her destiny: a warrior of God with the face of an angel, the heart of a saint, and eyes which match her own. St. Michael the Archangel flies into her life and sweeps her off her feet. Meanwhile, an evil sorcerer captures witches, steals their powers and most of their nine lives, and shrinks them to the size of dolls – Nürnberg dolls. But when he turns two of the Manchester witches into dolls, the Manchester clan fights back with the help of St. Michael, and divine intervention. Armed with the legendary copper cauldron, a fire-breathing dragon, and an arsenal of spells, good battles evil.

The Copper Cauldron is a light, quick read—an interesting blend of a variety of traditions ranging from magical and Hindu to classic Christian. With so many diverse elements, I was looking forward to seeing how Ms. Venters would weave this story. All the elements are there. There’s a prophecy of true love to be fulfilled, witches to be rescued, there’s a handsome angel, a beautiful witch, an evil sorcerer… there’s even a fire breathing dragon.

Unfortunately, deep characterization is lacking…something which can happen in a story of few pages. The reader is told what the characters think and feel rather than getting to experience it. The characters never came alive for me.

Penelope doesn’t possess the poise, intellect or integrity I expected in a twenty-nine year old woman an immortal angel would be attracted to. She causes pigeons to poop on people, sells curses, tries to poison an innocent man and swears. St. Michael the Archangel is a cardboard cutout rather than a divine being.  Interestingly, he seems to believe in karma rather than faith or even divine intervention.

At 102 pages, it can be read in one sitting. The plot of this story was clever and unique and I would have really raved if I’d connected a bit more to the characters. Still, this might be me and not the story, and that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Copper Cauldron. It is clear that Ms. Venters has a great imagination. Copper Cauldron has a good premise and a fast-paced storyline.

Medicine Man I: The Chief of All Time by SR Howen

Medicine Man Cover
Medicine Man I: The Chief of All Time by SR Howen
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full (219 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Poppy

Shannon Running Deer is American Indian by blood, but he has forsaken his people’s ancient ways to embrace the “modern” world as a wealthy, highly successful trauma surgeon.

His comfortable existence begins to unravel when, seemingly by chance, Shannon finds himself gradually drawn into the past. Pursued by an ancient evil, he knows he can change the future, if he can survive the past.

In the tradition of Diana Gabaldon, S.R. Howen’s MEDICINE MAN is a distinctive and atmospheric novel full of spirituality, mystical time travel, romance, passion, and suspense.

Depth of character and a complex plot make this book an intriguing read.

I enjoyed watching as Shannon Running Deer is pushed outside his comfort zone. He’s a practical man, a trauma surgeon, with a strong foundation in logic … until things most illogical begin to happen to him. He reacts as most of us would, and I appreciated that he didn’t respond without motivation. It made him a character I could enjoy and identify with.

The author’s way with words made some of this book nearly lyrical. I enjoyed her description and clear characterization. Her book was populated with real people, clear and believable. Good characters keep me reading, even when the plot slows.

This book has a little something for everyone: romance, mystery, paranormal and mystical aspects and more. While I wasn’t mad about the heroine, at least not at first, and sometimes found myself confused as to what was real and what wasn’t, I still enjoyed reading. This isn’t your typical book…it’s a little bit “more” and the depth was intriguing.

If you’re looking for a well-written book with ancient mysticism mixed with current times, peppered with visions and romance, I’d suggest Medicine Man I: The Chief of All Time. Ms. Howen has done a very good job with this one, and I’ll happily select the next volume in the series to read.

Carbon Copy by Terri Talley Venters

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Carbon Copy by Terri Talley Venters
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (202 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sage

Lilly Allen has brains, beauty, and a trust fund. She’s living in New York City and her career as a reporter is taking off. She’s hoping the love of her life, Grier, will propose soon. She has it all, or so she thinks.

Grier Garrison, Create Life executive, is running the company while his father, Dr. Michael Garrison, is in the ICU awaiting a heart transplant. Grier knows the truth about Create Life and its shady side business. He fears Lilly and her twin brother, Luke, are in danger.

While working on two unrelated stories, stolen newborns and cloning, Lilly discovers a shocking connection. Horrific things are happening, but who is behind it all?

Lilly Allen is working on a story that can make her career, but this story is about to become personal.

Lilly’s life is perfect. She has money, a great boyfriend (who she hopes will become a fiancé soon), a good job, and a loving family (even if her mother is a tad bit annoying). What more can this girl ask for? As heroines go, I found Lilly to be very realistic. She did have flaws and character quirks, some of which annoyed me, but it made her even more realistic. My one complaint about her was that she was a bit on the spoiled side.

Grier, the hero, was yummy. He was supportive, loving, and really all a woman can ask for. What I loved was that he didn’t spend every single waking moment with Lilly and that he had a fully developed life of his own. While the whole story was written from Lilly’s point of view, we got to live some of Grier’s life too.

Luke, Lilly’s brother, stole the show for me. I actually liked him more than I liked the hero, and I really wish to see him get a woman in his own book. (Please, can Luke get a book?)

Now the plot: I love genetic engineering plots, and this was no exception. I don’t want to reveal more or give spoilers away, but this plot had evil, sinister villains who had me on the edge of my seat. This plot had me completely intrigued and I hope other readers will enjoy it as much as I did.  I recommend this one for fans of fast-paced romantic suspense.

In the Name of Freedom by Carol Marvell

In the Name of Freedom by Carol Marvell
Slave Trader Book One
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (321 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

For the past three years, young prostitutes and destitute women have been vanishing without trace. The only common links to their disappearances are their good looks and prison records.

Never before has a cop been taken.

Detective Billie McCoy, a member of an elite undercover squad, is on assignment when she stumbles onto a slavery racket that goes deeper than she could ever have imagined. Plunged into a web of corruption and evil, not only does she have to contend with the slave traders, but also her fellow prisoners – all who hate cops.

Stretching from the streets of Sydney to the rainforests in far north Queensland, it’s a race against time. Filled with determination, disappointment and twists, the story follows Billie’s fight for freedom and her greatest ever challenge. She will need all her cunning and skill to get out alive and see justice done.

Blood will be spilt, hopes will be destroyed – all to uncover a plot so unpredictable that only fate can decide . . .

A split second decision changes Billie’s life forever.

While on a standard undercover mission, Billie hears a woman in distress and decides to stray from the task at hand. Though Billie puts up a good fight, she soon finds herself caught in the clutches of a ruthless slave trader. Even if Billie can free herself and the other prisoners, her life will never be the same.

Billie is certainly a skilled fighter who has no qualms about taking on enemies twice her size. Even when she’s out numbered, Billie often makes a stand and manages to make her captors wish they’d never laid eyes on her. I admire Billie’s confidence and the fact that she keeps a positive attitude no matter how dire her situation appears. I have no doubt that her refusal to accept defeat will keep her going through her ordeal. Not only is Billie a tough as nails cop, but she is a compassionate person as well. Billie has every intention of escaping and she won’t leave any of the other prisoners behind when she does, even though the other women have made it clear they hate her. I really respect Billie’s determination to do the right thing, especially when she is face with such animosity.

Billie is the only character I really got to know with any depth. The other prisoners are basically stereotypes. They are women who have had rough lives and have a chip or two on their shoulders. They act tough, but are much more vulnerable than they let on. I didn’t learn much about the other women’s lives until the very end of the story during a scene where they are all sharing their “stories.” While it was nice to finally learn a bit more about each of the women, I felt that the scene had an awkward feel to it because so many details tumbled out all at once. I think it would have been a bit more realistic if the flow of information had been spread out through the story a bit more.

I must mention that there is a lot of fighting in this book described in blow by blow detail. In fact, the fight scenes make up a majority of the content in this suspense. While the action seemed realistic, it became a bit much after a while, and I could have done with less description on some of the more minor fights. I also couldn’t believe the amount of fighting that went on between Billie and the other prisoners. It was very counterproductive, especially after Billie went out of her way to help the other girls a couple of times. Billie could have simply looked after herself, but she repeatedly put her life on the line for women who clearly didn’t appreciate her efforts. I think Billie’s actions would have warranted more respect from her fellow prisoners much sooner in the story. I also question how Billie was able to continue fighting at such a high level given the sheer number of battles she found herself in and the fact that she wasn’t getting very much good food or sleep.

The ending of Slave Trader is very hard to swallow. Knowing this book was the first in a series, I anticipated an open ended conclusion. However, after everything that Billie and the other women had been through, I thought they would have been in a better place at the end of this installment. I was left feeling that everything Billie and the other women had gone through was all in vain. I certainly hope Billie’s situation improves drastically in the next book.

Overall, I thought Slave Trader was a good read. Billie is an admirable character and she and her fellow prisoners have attitude to spare. Anyone looking for a suspense loaded with action and fighting might want to give Slave Trader a try.

The Curse of King Ramesses II by Victoria Roder

The Curse of King Ramesses II by Victoria Roder
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (57 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One fateful night, Mia and her best friend Jody stow away in the Bradford Museum to investigate the mysterious mummy exhibit from the Cairo Museum. Rumors of the Curse of King Ramesses II have surfaced. It’s believed that due to the king’s tyranny the Egyptian people vowed to rise up against him. In revenge, Ramesses II vowed he would never rest until all of the perpetrators against him and their ancestors were brought to justice.

Now, spend the night in the dark, deserted museum. Experience the roar of the dinosaurs, the cold blast of the arctic, and always run past the wall of skulls. Be prepared for a night of heart-racing action as the girls dare to solve the ancient Egyptian curse of King Ramesses II. Will Mia and Jody survive the investigation or will the mummified king’s revenge be fulfilled?

There’s something a little creepy about displaying mummies in museums. How can the dead find rest under fluorescent lights and the curious stares of the living? Mia is just as uneasy around mummies as am I and she’s sure something funny is happening on the third floor of the museum where her mother works.

Thirteen is a tough age. It’s too old to get away with acting like a child but is not quite old enough to blend seamlessly into the world of adults. One often desperately wants to grow up but does not yet have the life experience or wisdom to understand things the way you will in a few short years. Jody and Mia were written so realistically that I experienced a flood of memories from that time in my life.

The mystery of what is actually happening with King Ramsesses II’s mummy and personal possessions drew this reader even deeper into the plot. Every chapter introduced new clues and I found myself quickly discarding old theories and adopting new ones. The ending turned out not to be much of a surprise for me but it was well-written for the age group for which this story is intended.

I would have preferred to see a more detailed explanation of how Mia and Jody evaded the security system in the museum overnight. It seems unlikely that two teenagers with no special training could pull something like this off. Wouldn’t most modern security systems be equipped to automatically notify the proper authorities when unexpected movements or sounds are recorded?

Have you ever wondered what happens after hours at your favorite institution? The Curse of King Ramsessses II is a playful romp through the Bradford Museum and is the perfect book for anyone wanting a peek at what might be going on behind those velvet ropes.

Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit by Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows

Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit by Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (112 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Alexander Drake is a curious young man. He lives in a drab, oversized mansion with his secretive father and spends his days playing alone. Where is his mother? And why is his father so tight-lipped about the past?

But secrets have a way of getting out. And a stay at his grandmother’s cottage provides strange clues to his father’s past. A past Alexander is determined to find out about.

With a mysterious key and several maps in his pack, he sets off on an innocent search for answers about his family.

The discovery of a secret passageway opens the door to dangers, and wonders, unimaginable. And each answer leads to more questions and the journey of his life.

Join Alexander for a thrilling adventure in Azra’s Pith, a place of beauty and magic… but beware–something evil lurks in the shadows.

A lonely boy, out of place in school, lives with a cold, silent father. Alexander Drake is unhappy. He longs to know more about his mother, but his father won’t talk about her. An unexpected visit to his grandmother supplies some of the answers to his questions when he finds articles and maps that belonged to his father, presumably from when he was younger.

The maps lead him to a strange word of magic, unusual creatures and danger. He must go on a journey to his grandfather’s castle but the route is dangerous, with flying merks trying to catch him and take him to the dreadful Imperius who has been confined to absolute darkness.

This book was a pleasant read. The excitement and adventure were muted, but the story itself was smoothly put together. Alexander’s character is well portrayed with the usual fears and self importance of boys of his age. The land of Azra’s Pith is well developed and provides Alexander with some interesting obstacles to overcome.

Alexander’s initial interaction is with talking animals and these show sagacity, humor and loyalty, just as a human would. I did enjoy reading the book, just wished there had been a few more highs and lows. Apparently this is the first of the series so there will be more mysteries to look forward to. A book gripping enough for 10 years and upwards, but without any scenes an adult would object to.

Dog Head Code by Maggi Andersen

Dog Head Code by Maggi Andersen
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (66 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

After inheriting an old book containing a map from his Great Uncle Jake, Joe Jones travels to Dog Head Island, keen to find buried treasure. But in this isolated, inhospitable place, nothing is as it seems. Nothing, but the snakes that inhabited it. And Jake has a strong aversion to snakes!

Something more sinister than snakes is lurking on Dog Head Island.

When Joe inherits an old book from his great uncle, he has no idea that the adventure of a lifetime is waiting just around the corner. With the help of his mother, his friend Annie, and his teacher, Mr. Grant, Joe slowly begins to unravel the secrets of Dog Head Island. Will they uncover an ancient treasure or something else entirely?

Ms. Andersen put together a very interesting mystery. The code in the book was intriguing, and I liked the fact that Joe and Mr. Grant spent months trying to crack the code rather than somehow figuring it out instantly. Mr. Grant and Joe are smart, but they aren’t experts by any stretch of the word, so their slow but determined process was very believable. Once Joe and his friends arrive at Dog Head Island, the atmosphere definitely becomes creepy. The island is uninhabited, overgrown, and teaming with snakes. The remoteness of the island coupled with the strange things Joe sees and hears really add to the suspense of the story.

Joe is an easy character to like. He’s a very mature and caring young man. He’s thrilled at the prospect of cracking the code in the old book, but even more excited about the prospect of finding treasure. What is most touching about Joe’s desire to find a fortune is his concern for his mother. Joe and his mother have been on their own since his father died, and while they are doing okay, Joe wishes he could do more to help. Joe’s protective streak also comes out when he’s around Annie, a beautiful but lonely girl who is somewhat of an outcast at school. Joe’s friendship with Annie is sweet and definitely has the potential to develop into something romantic. Given their young age, I think their relationship moves at just the right speed. I can definitely see them as a couple when they are a little older.

While Joe demonstrates maturity beyond his fourteen years, he also has moments that prove he’s still a young teenager. In his determination to discover the secrets on Dog Head Island, Joe throws caution to the wind and gets himself into a couple of scrapes that nearly cost him his life. I eagerly flipped through the pages wondering how someone so young could possibly get out of such a precarious situation. However, Joe proved to be a very brave young man with all the makings of a hero.

I do wish Joe would have spent more time on Dog Head Island. It takes months for Joe, his mother, Mr. Grant, and Annie to get to the island. Once there, everything happens so quickly that it seemed like the tale was over just as I was sinking my teeth into the meat of the mystery. I think there’s so much more to explore concerning the code in the book and the secrets of Dog Head Island. I really wasn’t ready for the story to end.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to read Dog Head Code. It’s a quick and fun book that can be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good suspense. Do Joe and his friends find riches on Dog Head Island? There’s only one way to find out. Pick up a copy of Dog Head Code.

Wizards, Woods, and God: Tales of Integration F.T. McKinstry

Wizards, Woods, and God: Tales of Integration F.T. McKinstry
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (122 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In worlds where the veils are thin, the forces of darkness and light blur to twilight gray. Eight tales of magical gardens, lost temples, cosmic alignments, immortal predators, shapeshifters, wizards and gods will transport you to realms where the rules are different, nothing is as it seems and the heart keeps the balance of ages. Told on a rich tapestry of tree and animal lore, romance, dreams, visions and verse.

Let’s take a walk in the woods. When you come back out, you won’t be the same person you were when you went in.

This book contains eight short stories about the wild side, a world full of magical and mythical beings, and the odd creatures that live in the dark shady places. All the stories are interesting and fun to read. This author gives his stories depth and gave this reader the feeling I was actually in that time and place. I had two that really appealed to me.

The Trouble with Tansy is the first. If you’ve ever grown a garden in the northwest, you have to watch for tansy. It will take over your garden space and is impossible to kill easily. You have to dig it out. This tale is about a young witch caring for her garden and a wizard’s apprentice who wants her. He starts by taking half a rose bush, then plants tansy in her garden plot, and then he changes the weather to kill ALL her plants. She goes to visit the Old One to get help. The girl just wants to be left alone. The Wizard’s apprentice is a bit full of himself and determined to get what he wants. The ending is quite ironic.

My other favorite is Eating Crow. It’s about a shapeshifter and has lots of action and an interesting ending.

I like reading short tales. A writer must be more precise and able to express himself in few words if he wants to get his point across. All these stories were well-done. I also enjoy the bit of fantasy.

Shapeshifters, gods, witches and more live in these pages. Are you brave enough to wander through the woods with them?