Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal Young Adult

ARC Review: The Door to Inferna by Rishab Borah

Thank you so much to the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Door to Inferna
  • Series: Elkloria #1
  • Author: Rishab Borah
  • Publisher & Release: Three Rooms Press, October 2020
  • Length: 236 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for the middle graders!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Fourteen-year-old Khioneus Nevula is beginning to realize something strange is going on. Adopted from unknown parentage, he has always been marked as different by his purple eyes.

Now a winter break that should have been nothing but goofing around with his best friends is haunted by some other presence—ghostly apparitions appear to him in the dark of night, the surface of his mirror ripples like a pool of water, and he dreams of a girl with a long blue braid who invents fantastical devices.

Drawn into a mystical land, he meets his twin sister, a proficient mage, a slightly mad scientist, and a princess. In this land where he is a prince, he finds himself and his friends caught in a war between the inhabitants of Elkloria and an ancient and powerful evil.

I am extremely impressed that a tween/teenager wrote this book.  He started when he was 11 and is now 16 so thats a huge accomplishment. That said – I can tell it was written by a youth, and, I think he did an absolutely phenomenal job. The story is nothing new, a teen gets whisked away to an alternate universe and finds out that he is more or less a “chosen one”.

That said, I like how he took an interplanetary and inter-dimensional route with the story line. I think the universes and dimensions and layers folded on top of each other (hints of a Wrinkle In Time almost) are super interesting. The transporters make things a bit convenient but hey – it’s for middle grade.

I think Borah does a pretty good job with world building too, the gadgets and architecture and spells and those talking doors are all pretty cool. I liked that we hear about the food, natives, some lore, and some of the religion / myths of the world too, it gives it depth.

The characters are pretty standard.  There are strong friendships, trust shown, also mistrust, overcoming that – and one awkward moment where one character had to put down a romantic awkwardness. I liked the found family element and how close the group of friends are though. Honestly the last page was the only part that threw me off, since at no other point was Khi worried about being or sounding truthful and that last paragraph just came out of nowhere.

Anyway – I 100% recommend for middle grade readers. Totally age appropriate, good descriptive language, easy to picture scenery, and a moderately diverse group of friends make this a great fantasy read for the age group. I think if he keeps writing, and I hope he does, that he’ll put out some great fantasy some day!

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Book Review: Protagonist Bound by Geanna Culbertson

     Thank you so much to the author for a review copy in exchange for an honest review! A while back I won a hard copy of the second book in the series in a giveaway, and she was nice enough to provide the prior novel too!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Protagonist Bound
  • Series: Crisanta Knight, #1
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing – 2016
  • Length: 462 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for middle grade/YA and fans of good clean fantasy fiction and fairytales

Here is the synopis:

The next generation – the children of Snow White, Cinderella, and others – have lives and stories of their own. And not just long ago and far away but (sort of) here and now! Enjoy!

I was going to be a great protagonist. At least that’s what my mom, Cinderella, kept telling me. I, however, had my doubts. Unlike most main characters at Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists, I was opinionated, bold, and headstrong. Moreover, for a princess, I had a lot of issues. I’m talking vicious nightmares about people I’ve never met, a total stalker prince, and a Fairy Godmother for an enemy.

But I digress. Because here’s the thing about living in an enchanted realm of fairytale characters, crazy junk you never planned on happens all the time. One minute you could be practicing fainting exercises in Damsels in Distress class, sword fighting in a field, or flying on a Pegasus, and the next, BAM! Your book has begun and you’re saddled with a prophecy that changes everything.

I still don’t know if I will be a great protagonist one day. But I know one thing about my fate, for certain. Despite what The Author and the antagonists have in store for me, whatever it costs. . .I’ll be the one taking charge of my own story

     I think the synopsis says it all.  The children of our favorite fairy tale characters are learning how to be protagonists.  The females don’t have great prospects as far as Crisa is concerned, and she is determined to write her own fate and be something more than a legacy character.

     It’s a good concept and there is plenty of world building to set the stage for the series.  Descriptions of the land, food, societal expectations, and animals are awesome.  We even get a peek into some of the other kingdoms and I like the world of Book so far.  If flying horses and a fairy godmother agency aren’t enough to interest you, maybe the mysteries and antagonists are?  I’m quite curious about them since we only got a glimpse in this first installment.

     The characters are a tight group of friends who each have their elements of surprise too.  SJ is brilliant at potions, Blue is a daring young lady, and Crisa just wants to be her own person.  I liked the teamwork and banter between the friends.  There are some boys in the group who seem to act like pretty typical teenage boys, and I’m curious to learn more about the new boy in the group, Daniel.  Crisa got to learn all about how frustrating teenage boys can be🤣  Thankfully without the romance elements.  Crisa’s romantic prophesy sounds terrible to her so far, so we’ll see how that turns out.  

     For a good, fairly wholesome, clean read that I would happily recommend to any age group at all, definitely check out this series.  The series and its various books have been recognized by a number of independent book awards for everything from girl-power to excellence in young adult literature, and I think it’s all well deserved.  I am told that each book holds more action than the prior so I’m excited to read the next one soon!

Thank you again to the author for my review copy, all opinions are my own

Categories
Contemporary Fiction Middle Grade Mysteries

Book Tour And Giveaway! The Wild Path by Sarah R. Baughman

Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours for having me on the tour for The Wild path!! I will share the synopsis, a quick review, and my favorite quotes from the book mixed in!. I will start by saying that this book has a huge 5 star 🐴🐴🐴🐴🐴❤❤❤❤❤🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating from me as a horse person with questionable mental health at times, just so timely and perfect.

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal

Audiobook Review: Star Stable – Jorvik Calling by Helena Dahlgren

  • Title: Jorvik Calling
  • Series: Soul Riders #1
  • Author: Helena Dahlgren (Star Stable Entertainment AB)
  • Narrator: Jennifer Jill Araya
  • Length: 5 hours 38 min (192 pages)
  • Publisher & Release: May 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: YES for the middle grade age group

Thank you so much to Andrews McMeel Audio via NetGalley for the free audiobook in exchange for an honest review!  I love audiobooks and have listened to a ton of them but have yet to actually review one, so bear with me! Feedback is appreciated!

First off here is the description of the story from GoodReads:

Step into the universe of the massively popular online MMORPG game Star Stable, and follow four friends who discover their magic powers and learn that every girl can be a hero in this fantasy trilogy.

Soul Riders tells the heroic tale of four young girls who have been chosen by destiny to save the world from the ancient demon: Garnok and his band of dangerous Dark Riders. Lisa is a teenage girl who is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of her mother in a riding accident and has sworn never to go near a horse again until she met Starshine, a mysterious blue-maned steed who comes to her in dreams. New on the island of Jorvik, Lisa befriends Alex, Linda, and Anne. Under the guidance of mystical druids, they discover they each have a special bond to their horses that gives them magical powers. While trying to balance school, family, and friendships they have to figure out what it means to be a Soul Rider. They are attacked by the Dark Riders and the mysterious Mr. Sands, discovering that their horses are in danger. Instead of relying on their combined strength, they decide to split up on their quest to find answers and learn to fight back against their enemies. However, will it be too late before they realize their mistake?

Jorvik Calling is the first installment in the epic, fantasy trilogy, Soul Riders, about magic, friendship, and horses bound to thrill all young equestrian fans

I have not played nor even heard of Star Stable before, and I don’t think that affected my enjoyment of this book at all.   As a lifelong rider I definitely connected a bit with the young girls, especially Alex, who likes to ride super fast on trails and seems fearless.  The other characters and their horses each have interesting stories that I think will be thrilling to girls in the target age range for the books.  Speaking of, do you even see this cover?? It radiates magic!

Jennifer Jill Araya seems like the perfect narrator for the book as well.  She clearly differentiates between the girls’ voices, and does a decent job with the male voices as well.  She portrays excitement and fear and sadness through her voice and I enjoyed listening to her.  The music seemed super cringey for someone my age but was honestly really well done, with full songs composed and included within the story and as bonus content at the end.  It definitely will add to young listener’s experience.

I also feel like the book is entirely appropriate for young girls.  There is no profanity, no romance, and the scary parts are suspenseful but not overly terrifying.  I would have NO problem handing this to any child capable of the reading and listening level.  The emphasis on friendships,  building trust, and self confidence are great themes for young readers.  There is the theme of grief related to parental loss but nothing else too strong.  My only qualm is that Lisa probably should have been more worried when her father didn’t return her text messages in a reasonable time frame.  He just literally stays gone forever and I found that a little odd.

I was also surprised to find that this ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, I was expecting each book to wrap itself up like, for example, Saddle Club but with a fantasy twist.  Man do I love reading about horses though, especially magic ones.  Even as an adult.  This is a really good building block for girls trying to get into fantasy as well, such as the Green Rider books for young adults.

Again I would fully recommend this to any age level of listener or reader.  I thank the publisher and NetGalley again for allowing me to review the audiobook! All opinions are my own.

Have you read or listened to this book? Want to discuss what makes a good audiobook review? Drop a comment below!

 

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

Book Review: Na Cearcaill by Alpha Four

  • Title: Na Cearcaill
  • Series: Far Forest Scrolls #1
  • Author: Alpha Four (A4)
  • Publisher & Release: Far Forest Scrolls – August, 2018
  • Length: 292 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fantasy fans

Thank you so much to We Read Fantasy giveaways, Presstinely, and Far Forest Scrolls for my copy of Na Cearcaill!  I have been spamming these books all over Instagram and it’s way, way past overdue to make it to the blog!

Here is the description from Amazon:

Decades after invaders led by the White Wizard stormed across the Dark Sea and ravaged Verngaurd, the world is once again on the brink of war. Yet, this time, something is different. An evil is leaching its way across the land precisely as magic is waning and time-honored alliances are fracturing.

A dusty prophecy whispers a glimmer of hope, a soft rustle against an avalanche of darkness. With the world engulfed in war and chaos, a small group of friends set off on a quest to discover the source of all magic, the key to stopping the advancing evil. The voyage proves much tougher than they could have ever imagined.

The overwhelmed band of heroes find themselves spiraling down an insane quest as the world around them crumbles. If the terrifying trials meant to protect the ancient scrolls don’t kill them, the eccentric and unimaginable guardians just might.

This is an interesting take on the Chosen One theme with a heroic young girl that can talk to animals.  The full description confused me a bit because I didn’t really see much by way of a search for any source of magic, but there was a solid introduction to the Knights and their squares and the political machinations in play in the empire.  Once a quest does take off it is absolutely action packed…..with an abrupt ending that made me glad I had book 2 on standby!

There are all the proper fantasy elements like elves, knights, dwarves, dragons, and all sorts of other monsters, ghosts, and wights, all with the author’s twist. The book has funny bits like an insane fat guy eating belly button treasure and a corpse falling down stairs, managing to  carry a lighter tone throughout despite heavier subject content and a ton of sage wisdom.  There are some darker themes too like orphans, splitting alliances, deaths and devastation, with the overwhelming evil threatening to start another cycle. I think older readers will enjoy the philosophical parts.  There is really a little bit of something for every fantasy fan too.

One of my favorite parts are the illustrations – there are so many hand drawn pictures by the author, plus tons of the more traditional kind.  The printed images are absolutely stunning too, I spent so much time staring at them! One can tell how much love and thought was put into the visual presentation of the book.

There are quite a few characters that once again, hold a little bit of something for everyone.  The young chosen one is (probably) Bellae, a seven year old with the ability to communicate with animals.  Her brother is a bit of a jealous twit, and her best friend is a bullied oaf that everyone in the group loves.  There are a lot of characters with some funny, some stern, some wise, and it was a little hard for me to keep them all apart but the pictures helped a lot.  The teamwork is awesome.

Battles, intrigue, friendship and one epic quest are found in this book and it ended way too soon.  The book is pretty entirely appropriate for middle grade and young adult as well – there is one scene where a brain was sucked out Starship Trooper style but otherwise the entire book was extremely benign.  Would highly recommend for fantasy fans!

Categories
Middle Grade Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

  • Title: Catalyst
  • Series: The Catalysts, #2 (reads as a standalone though!!)
  • Author: Tracy Richardson
  • Publisher & Release: Brown Books Publishing Group: June 2, 2020
  • Length: 248 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for younger readers

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my advanced copy of Catalyst by Tracy Richardson!  This is the second book in a series but reads as a standalone with no spoilers, so no worries there.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained – an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.

This book contains a lot of really great messages for young readers, first and foremost the environmental consequences of our actions.  Marcie and her team are dealing with an energy company that wants to expand fracking in the area, and there is a great amount of info about that and other environmental disasters.

Marcie has an interesting character arc as well.  She knows there is something about the world that she can sense, but isn’t sure what it is.  With the help of Zeke and Lorraine, two grad students on the dig, Marcie and the other teens learn about the Universal Energy Field and the implications of the fourth, fifth, and dimensions beyond.  Leo is the other main character and provides the opposing point of view on fracking, as his father works for the energy industry.   Their relationship is interesting because it pretty accurately portrays how teens have trouble with opposing viewpoints, and how to talk around issues and make compromises. I really shipped them.

I’m also Greek and ran cross country and share a name with the alien space ship…so…yeah, there are those things too.  I liked Marcie a lot.  The book reminds me of The Celestine Prophecies, which I was obsessed with in high school, and I’m really glad that this generation of young readers gets a book like this too.

The book turns from fairly normal, to paranormal, to sci-fi Jesus in a spaceship REAL quick, and I loved it.  I thought the context of spiritual leaders made sense, since it would be pretty egocentric to assume that the gods and goddesses and religious leaders are only dedicated to one planet.  The sci-fi element is definitely a bit out there in left field but it worked for me.

The book is relatively short at 248 pages.  The pacing is pretty even and I’m sad that it took me so long to start because once I did, I read it in two sittings.  I was never bored at all. I would totally and fully recommend this for teen readers as an environmentally and self-conscious read that has some great examples of conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships within the team.

The paperback releases on September 22nd, while the Kindle version released on June 2nd.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Let me know!

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: Dwarf Story by Professor W.W. Marplot

  • Title: Dwarf Story
  • Series: no – stand alone
  • Author: W.W. Marplot (G.D. Marplot)
  • Publisher & Release: Waxing Gibbous Books – June 30, 2020
  • Length: 404 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for younger readers!

“I found a dwarf, and there is something funny growing in my yard”

So begins the story of Arty & Co! Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

First, Arty finds a sweaty, bearded ax-swinging warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry, and other middle-school friends also find fairy creature—Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon—crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays

Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that ax sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin? Arty, with his friends—and spying jerks and questionable strangers with long names—follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous. The mythical beings take sides.

The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan that will turn the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground.

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my copy of Dwarf Story! Arty woke up one morning and found a dwarf, thus starting a scientific adventure. Or an artistic adventure if you ask Emma. An awesome adventure if you ask Cry. The three friends each find their own fairy and have to navigate a war as an ancient force returns to reclaim Long Island!

This is a super cute middle grade fantasy, mixing modern with fantastic. There are dwarves, pixies, libraries, old books, giants, cell phones and a bit of everything for every reader.  The advertised age range is 9-14 and definitely qualifies as a “clean read” – AKA something I would personally hand a Catholic 10 year old.  There is also a good amount of basic learning in the story, an intro to some of  the Irish legends and fairy folklore in general.

Arty and Emma are the two main characters.  Arty is more scientific, and Emma artistic.  The book includes a lot of learning and more informational bits that are well tuned to younger readers.  Arty spends a lot of time reading books as he is putting the pieces together to learn about what’s happening with the fairy folk.  Some parts of this honestly might drag for some kids, and there are whole chapters where literally nothing happens, and the characters are complaining of being bored.  Generally with younger kids I would say axe all of this “boring” content, but it still reads quickly with short chapters, even at over 400 pages.  This is where I knocked the stars off the rating – a slightly older kid would be more tolerant of this where I can see a 9 year old maybe flipping until something exciting happens.

Despite the lulls in action, the pace and exciting bits are pretty well even throughout the book.  The end was a bit anticlimactic, with the biggest battle occurring mostly off-page, and the ultimate fight almost entirely glazed over in another characters recap of the action.  I understood how we were mostly just following Arty’s role, and the puzzle involved, but I would have liked to be in on more of the battle action even as a bystander, or another “Mary” chapter.

The characters split the chapters to tell what happened throughout, and I did like them all.  It was told in a 1st person POV but they were talking directly to the reader at times.  This is a great format for engaging kids too.  The other thing I liked is that the kids really did seem to act their ages (around 13) and I would recommend most for that middle-school aged group.

Overall I think kids will enjoy this, and it is entirely age-appropriate for any reader.  A great intro to fantasy and fantastical creatures that could really encourage kids to keep reading in the genre.

Thank you again to Books Forward for my advanced copy!! The book releases on June 30th and I would preorder now if I had kids!!

Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: The Words of the Wandering by D.E. Night

  • Title: The Words of the Wandering
  • Series: The Crowns of Croswald #3. Will not read as a standalone.
  • Author: D.E. Night
  • Publisher and Release: Stories Untold Press, May 30, 2020
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate and Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ YES read the series

Thank you so much to D.E. Night and Stories Untold Press for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Here is the description from GoodReads:

Ivy Lovely needs to look to the future but keeps being pulled back into the past…

As Ivy’s power grows, so does the Dark Queen’s intent to destroy her. Ivy has no idea where to find the third segment of the Kindred Stone, the stone which will restore all her queenly power. A circus ends in chaos, an enemy turns over a new leaf, a protector can’t be trusted. Can Ivy work with friends––new and old––to recover what was lost?

The stakes have never been higher.

It’s hard to talk about a third book in a series without giving away spoilers for the rest, so a I will just talk about this book’s unique aspects with no spoilers!

There is more world building from a historical standpoint in this third novel, as Ivy is teledetecting through a book sketched by her family’s scrivenists. I think it’s cool how art comes to life more too, sketching is a huge part of scrivenry but it takes on a new meaning with teledetecting, or interacting with the scene. The circus was a treat too and definitely one of my favorite scenes, but my top favorite favorite were the parts about coming home.

There are more magical creatures too, dragons play a larger role and some truly terrifying monsters. The invisitaurs come back too in a big way.

The pace is so much slower though than the prior novela, we see a lot of Quality Quills Club team building and new friendships forming. No quogo this time.

A lot of time is spent kind of growing Ivy up and making her stronger. The pacing took it’s time until the last 14% when the plot took off running and dropped an unbelievable cliffhanger. I neither love nor hate cliffhangers but feel like one or two more chapters would have been ideal?

My only other issue was the total lack of Fyn in this book, I am honestly shipping Glistle and Ivy at this point. ((((And seriously how did Fyn not know the thing…or does he? How did he show up right then unless he….??))))

I do like that this is a very clean read, there in one quick peckish kiss between characters and that’s about it!

Definitely 100% recommend this series to any fans of magic worlds. Totally appropriate for middle grade readers as well, I would happily hand this over to kids everywhere.

On a side note I will bring over my reviews for books 1 and 2 soon too, I just realized they never made it to the blog!