Dying Thoughts by Joey Paul

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Dying Thoughts is a young adult mystery at its heart, but Joey Paul has made it so much more. It is a funny and entertaining story of young Tara’s ‘gift’, though she doesn’t consider it one. The first person narrative is neatly done and takes us on this journey in a sixteen year old’s shoes remarkably well. Tara’s introspective conversations are witty and does not grate (I’ve found that if not done well, it can ruin a book for you. It has ruined quite a few books for me.) But Joey has done a great job. Tara herself is very endearing and her relationship with her father seems very real. The mystery itself serves as a backdrop to Tara’s journey of self discovery, but is suspenseful and keeps you turning pages.

I think this book serves as a great introduction to Tara’s gift and how she realizes that she could be in a position to help people. I see there are more books about Tara Leverton’s adventures. I look forward to reading them. Five stars, Joey Paul!

The dry by Rebecca Nolen

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I haven’t read a book that kept me glued to it, in a while. This one did! The Dry was like an exciting combination of Stephen King and Tolkein. It reminded me a lot of the “The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King, but in a style that children and adults could understand and enjoy.

The setting of the book is fantastical and the description, detailed. You can visualize and feel “The Dry” ambience, which permeates the book. This is not just a quest, it is also a coming of age portrayal of Elliot Sweeney, and how he learns, adapts and becomes stronger with each new monstrosity that threatens him. His little fellowship is quirky and endearing and you can’t help but fall in love with each of the characters. Even the bad guys (bugs or worse) have well developed personalities.

I am in awe of the creativeness of Rebecca Nolen’s mind. To create a fantasy that is terrifying but believable is true genius. An exciting read and a wonderful adventure!

A lovely review for Circle of Five by Marcha Fox

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“A Circle of Five” kicks off the “Pha-yul Trilogy”, a Young Adult fantasy series. Rather than plunge the reader abruptly into a fantasy world, however, the author slowly transitions to other realms from the daily routine of five “normal” teenagers as they confront challenges encountered following a literal lightning strike which occurs during an after school detention session overseen by the school’s football coach.

The author did an excellent job naming the characters such that they stand out as individuals within a variety of races, ethnicities and financial situations. By the end of this volume you feel as if you know each of them inside and out which is accomplished through the omniscient viewpoint handled in such a way that, to the author’s credit, was never confusing.

Each of the five has his or her own problems, mostly related to their family situation. The details provided for each accurately demonstrate the insecurities and personality issues which can arise from a person’s home environment. These are ordinary teens living anything but a charmed life, other than the fact that most of their parents are affluent or were at some point. Just about everyone should be able to relate to one or more of the situations described from sibling rivalry to neglectful, disinterested or inebriated parents. This factor alone makes this story relevant to both teens and adults, specifically parents, who may see a bit of themselves from the perspective of teens. Life at that age can be overwhelming enough as they try to figure out who and what they are, much less having to do so with a lack of parental emotional support. In today’s world where most homes require two incomes to survive, to say nothing of the financial and emotional struggle of single parents, this situation is probably far too common.

These distinct individuals are not even friends as the story begins. In fact, some of them overtly dislike each other, contributing to plenty of conflict as each character struggles with their own personal issues, dealing with classes, plus being thrust into this exclusive group which involves grueling training they must undergo before and after school. Furthermore, all of this is required without knowing the whys or wherefores of where these abilities came from. While they get a glimpse of what these talents are they cannot control them at will, thus necessitating the training. About all they’ve seen was a quick flash trip to Tibet where they discover the coach is clearly an important figure who reports to a woman even higher in status in that world.

This story is the antithesis of waking up with superpowers and instinctively knowing how to use them, showing it may not be the bed of roses most would expect. The idea that development any skill to a high level requires discipline and hard work is an important concept and life lesson nicely woven into the plot. The teens’ struggles with their daily routine, personality conflicts and typical high school situations brought the characters to life. Their mundane challenges were detailed, realistic and relatable, lending realism to the story but somewhat understating the fantasy element, which the cover and prologue imply. Thus, anyone expecting the book to be heavy on the fantasy side could be disappointed since there is far more reality within the pages than escaping to another realm. The characters as well as readers are left in the dark with regard to various details with a few revelations in the final chapter. Nonetheless, as the first book in a series these questions will most likely be addressed in the sequels which have the advantage of being populated with fully developed protagonists.

Initiation Rayna Noire

Pagan Eyes: Initiation

This is the second book on Pagan culture that I’m reading, so it’s not a new topic. And since I’m already familiar with the Wiccan culture, I was able to appreciate the research that has gone into this book, about the present and the past. To be historically and culturally accurate while spinning a fantastic tale is indeed a work of art. Initiation is a fascinating read, well embellished and nicely crafted.

I like the subtle personality differences between Leah and Arabella and how Leah has to change to cope with the past and all that it brings. This is the first book in this series and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. A great read!

Eli Arnold and the Keys to forever Book 1

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A quest with a twist! Eli Arnold takes a journey through time on his quest to find the things he needs to save the world. This book is engaging and exciting and a great read. I loved the quirky personality of Eli Arnold, his irreverent and heartwarming relationship with his brother and all the fantastical characters he meets on his adventures. It’s tagged as a book for children, but I think adults would enjoy it too. I did! Waiting to find out what happens next!

Gran-sdur: The Games by Jan Raymond

Yup, my second book. It’s time for another review of mine. This a favorite written by one of my favorite authors, Christoph Fischer.

“Gran-sdur: The Games” by Jan Raymond is the second book in her magical and beautiful Pha-yul trilogy. This book follows the well established circle of five youngsters from volume one to new adventures and more training of their superhuman skills. The series reminds me in some moments of Enid Blyton’s charm with its wonderful sense of adventure and the likeable and well drawn characters. Only, our heroes are part alien and have powers such as tele-porting and they have a man who trains them to master their powers.
As the title suggests, this instalment concerns a competition which is held at Pha-Yul. What starts out almost like a summer camp for teenagers turns into something more serious. The group of five have all quite different and well drawn family backgrounds. Then there are the individual friendships and some courting which brilliantly come into play in the changing group dynamics and character development. Mastering the games together and overcoming their issues at the same time is the dual challenge.

This is a great second book that can build easily on the solid ground work of its predecessor. Apart from the action and adventure there is a lot of emotional wisdom in the book that makes watching those youngsters and following their progress such a rewarding reading experience. Thoughtful and with some great messages about being your best this should be popular with young readers and their parents.

Highly recommended.