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. 

Book Review: ‘Highland Raven’ The Celtic Blood Book 1 by Melanie Karsak

Historically, very little is known of the early life of Gruoch, later known as Lady Macbeth. Immortalised by Shakespeare as a conniving, power -hungry shrew, audiences have been fascinated by her for centuries. 

Karsak weaves a kinder tale of the young Gruoch in this excellent work of historical fantasy. History, magic and fantasy combine to tell a story of a young woman searching to discover her destiny and calling in life, while still learning who she is and the power she holds over men. 

This story is so powerfully and beautifully written that it is easy to forget that this is fiction, and to believe that this really is Gruoch’s story. We see Gruoch’s strengths and vulnerability, her loyalty and hatred, her past and glimpses of her future. As readers, we love those she loves and despise those she hates, and we become deeply invested in her hopes and dreams. 

The author has also incorporated some lovely nods to Shakespeare’s play, littering quotes and references to the text throughout the narrative. This very cleverly lends credibility and legitimacy to Karsak’s story, reinforcing that sense of reality and closeness to Gruoch that the reader feels from almost the first page onwards. 

The story delivers a fascinating blend of mystery, fantasy, romance, and adventure in an expertly crafted package that is almost impossible to put down once started. 

‘Highland Raven’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Gates of Golorath’ by R. M. Garino

‘Gates of Golorath’ is book 1 of the ‘Chaos of Souls’ fantasy series by R.M. Garino. It is set in a world somewhere between earth and the realms of heaven and hell, populated by a variety of angelic races – fallen and otherwise – and various other races and monsters.

For the initiates at the Gates of Golorath, there is much to be learned and much to be gained— but there is also much that might be lost if they do not successfully overcome the challenges with which they are presented. In that sense, this is an epic coming of age story, but it is also one of complex relationships fraught with obstacles and difficulties that must be met and endured if friendships and romantic attachments are to survive. 

The characters are varied in terms of heritage, rank and personality, giving the reader a good sense of the social structures of the civilisation in which they live. The main characters, Arielle and Angus, are engaging and likeable, and although I did not always like the things they do, I did become quite invested in their story and the outcomes that awaited them.

This is a gradually-but-steadliy developed and very detailed story that will appeal more to dedicated fans of military fantasy adventure than to those who prefer sword and sorcery or pure magical fantasy, but it is an interesting and enjoyable story.

I enjoyed the action scenes and the banter between different characters, but what I appreciated most was the imagery and energy of the writing. While the world building and orientation at the beginning of the book might be a little slow in terms of story development, it is rich with powerful images and expressive writing that I found to be very appealing. 

‘Gates of Golorath’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here or visit the author’s website.

New Release: ‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance: The Dragon’s Heir Trilogy Book 2′ by JB RIchards

‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance’ is the second in The Dragon’s Heir Trilogy fantasy series by JB Richards. The stories of Kirin, Tyriel and the Fabiosa sisters are continued from ‘The Curse of the Dragon Stone’, the first exciting novella in the trilogy. 

As a terrorist threat looms in the distance, Ejaenin falls victim to a deadly curse. Her sister-witches are scrambling to find a cure, but time is running out.

Kirin and Tyriel strive to help the Fabiosa Sisters with their plight, even as they try to convince The Wolf that they share a common legacy.

Meanwhile, the Sorceress, Zorella, schemes to destroy the Fabiosa Clan in a terrible plot that will allow her to seize control over the entire Realm and take vengeance on the man who spurned her and her child!

Book 1 of the trilogy is ‘The Curse of the Dragon Stone’. Read the review or find your copy here!

Find your copy of ‘The Sorceress’ Vengeance: The Dragon’s Heir Trilogy Book 2′ here.

Book Review: ‘Bitter Prophecy’ by S. Tilghman Hawthorne

‘Bitter Prophecy’ is a short story full of mystery and adventure. It explores themes of good and evil, and of the ways in which temptation and obligation influence a person’s actions.

The story is well written, with an easy flow that makes it a very comfortable read. There are some really good moments of tension, and a couple of great twists that keep the reader engaged right to the end. 

It’s a very enjoyable short read that can be finished in about half an hour, so it fits well into a lunch break or at the end of a busy day. 

‘Bitter Prophecy’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here. 

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