Book Review: ‘Not Your Abuelita’s Folktales’ by Maria J Estrada

This book contains four unique young adult short stories that are full of the colours and textures of Southwestern America.  

These are very entertaining and interesting stories, populated by a variety of diverse characters who all face various challenges common to youth, from issues of cultural acceptance to boys manipulating girls to get what they want. The challenges faced by the characters are often complicated by differences of culture or understanding that set them apart from those around them. 

All four stories have quite thought-provoking elements that pique the reader’s curiosity and invite them to engage in the story at a deeper level. By making the reader intimately familiar with each main characters’ thoughts and responses, the author cleverly immerses the reader in each story and leads them to feel as though they are watching over the characters’ shoulders as a silent eyewitness to the events that unfold. 

Magical realism and paranormal elements create additional layers of mystery and intrigue within each narrative. Because some of the protagonists are not human, the stories are highly original and their outcomes are not predictable. 

This is a most enjoyable and diverting book with a fresh perspective on YA literature. 

New Release: ‘The Next Phase Outcasts 2’ by J.S. Frankel

The Next Phase: Outcasts 2 is the sequel to J.S. Frankel’s YA urban fantasy novel Outcasts. The same characters return in another adventure in which they must fight for their lives.

If Frankel’s previous novels are anything to go by, readers can expect a great story full of action, suspense, danger, and surprise. 

Mitch Kessler, gargoyle, is back, along with his girlfriend, Callie, a former gender shifter, his best friend, Joe Chambers, a spinning top, and Neil, their rock-man sometime ally. 

Mitch and Joe help the police force of Independence, Oregon, fight crime, but their efforts go totally unreported by everyone. While that bothers Mitch, what bothers him more is his best friend’s rapid aging. Joe is dying, and no one seems to know how to stop it.

Except one person—Harmon Carson, an army general. Carson promises Mitch, Neil, and Joe, a cure for their condition, contingent on them finding a renegade scientist who carries the secret with him. The four volunteer, but soon find out that Carson has his own agenda going on—and it is not a friendly one.

With time running out, Mitch has to find the scientist who may be able to help them, assist another mutant called Niles, rescue his girlfriend, and fight the hordes of the unholy that Carson calls forth. Once again, the Outcasts are the underdogs, and only time will tell if they can prevail.

Outcasts is available on Amazon or via the Devine Destinies website.

Book Review: ‘The Glass Runner: Versatile Layer Book 2’ by Thomas Davis

‘The Glass Runner’ is a science fiction book with a decent storyline, interesting characters, and some good action sequences. Moments of humour break the tension of battle and conflict, and an air of mystery surrounding some of the characters adds an element of intrigue. 

The central characters are varied and interesting, with personalities and qualities that make them likeable and engaging.  While recounting the conflict between the Terrans and the Arez, the story provides a coming-of-age for Chase as he fights to overcome those who not only threaten the future, but also plague his past. 

This book is, however, rather in need of a good edit. Correcting the too-frequent errors and polishing the storytelling would raise the overall finished quality of the book and make it more appealing and satisfying to readers. 

‘The Glass Runner: Versatile Layer Book 2’ has been awarded a Bronze Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

New Release: ‘What The Gods Allow’ by J.S. Frankel

Jesse Frankel and his books are no strangers on this blog. Ether and The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce both won Golden Squirrel awards last year, and a variety of Jesse’s books have received Gold Acorn reviews.

In fact, I’ve never read a J.S. Frankel book that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

That’s why I am so excited about this new release. Written for a Young Adult audience, it’s a blend of paranormal, urban fantasy and horror.

This promises to be another fantastic read from this outstanding author.

Medusa, the Gorgon, is free—temporarily. Penned up in Tartarus, the gods—Zeus and Hera—show her mercy. Medusa is given two weeks in which to track down their wayward daughter, Eris. Transformed into a beautiful young woman, Medusa is given only one warning: not to use her powers of transforming those to stone. 

She agrees and adopts the name Meddy Gorgonne. In a stroke of chance, she finds lodgings with the Goldstein’s, Sam and Trudy, and tries to figure out how modern Portland works. Cars, showers, television—all are mysteries to her at first, although she adapts.

Meddy is somewhat naïve about life and especially about love, as she slowly falls for Sam, a teen who is suffering from Usher’s Syndrome, a disease that will blind and deafen him in time. What is more troubling to Meddy is that her powers of turning people to stone have returned, and she is at a loss as to why. 

With the police slowly closing in and time running out on how to get Eris to return to Olympus, Meddy discovers that sometimes old is new, and that time-worn traditions can surmount modernity.

But will they be enough for her to stay with Sam, or will she be forced to return to Tartarus for eternity?

***

Find your copy of ‘What The Gods Allow’ at Amazon or Devine Destinies.

Book Review: ‘The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ by Claire Buss

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ is a prequel to The Rose Thief’, Claire Buss’ first novel to feature Ned, Jenni, and the rest of the Thief Catcher gang.

It is a wonderfully quirky fantasy story, full of rich and diverse characters that all have their own priorities and vested interests in catching the murderer.

It’s written with humour and warmth that infuse the story with a genuine feel-good tone, despite the multiple deaths, general trickery and deliberate obfuscation by some, and the presence of some rather sinister characters. 

This novella-length book can easily be read in a couple of hours, and would best suit a YA-and-older audience. I found it to be a great diversion on a quiet afternoon, and thoroughly enjoyed the story. 

’The Interspecies Poker Tournament’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Betwixters: Once Upon a Time’ by Laura C Cantu

What a wonderful, spellbinding story! 

‘Betwixters’ has just the right balance of friendship, danger, adventure and magic to make it a highly engaging and memorable story that draws the reader in right from the start. 

Noah, Skye and Ethan are three regular kids who find their courage and friendship tested by the most unique circumstances, but it is those same qualities that they rely on to find the solution to their problems. They are realistic and relatable characters, brought to life in a really vivid way. The wider cast of supporting characters is similarly true to life, 

The story is wonderfully written, infused with suspense and tempered with humour, and frequently evoking a warm and positive tone that provides a very good balance for the darker elements of the story.

A great story for all ages from middle years up, ‘Betwixters’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘These Savage Bones’ by Kaitlin Hillerich

The problem with committing to a relentless quest for truth and justice is that sometimes you get exactly what you wanted. 

When the ssudden, tragic loss of her beloved uncle unleashes a chain of events in Esperanza’s life that she could never have foreseen, she is confronted by a web of lies that challenges everything she thinks she knows. 

Esperanza is smart, fiercely independent, and headstrong, a young woman way ahead of her time and society in Mexico, 1875. Her spirit and loyalty are admirable, yet they can also be seen to cloud her judgement and cause her to overlook things in her life which she has always taken at face value. 

This story leaves the reader considering not only the unintended consequences of the characters’ actions, but also the difficulty of what to do with the calaveras that tumble fromthe family closet once the door is opened. 

A blend of mystery, historical fiction, and a bit of romance, ‘These Savage Bones’ is an interesting and thought-provoking tale that can be enjoyed in a couple of hours. 

This book has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here