‘Sentinels of Oz’ is Book 1 of the Emerald City Academy series, a reverse harem adventure set in the not-so-wonderful-anymore land of Oz.
Francesca and Saffron, daughters of the witches of the East and the West, embody the struggle of those who deal with notoriety in the family and trying to claim what is rightfully theirs, despite the prejudice and judgement of most of the populous. In this, the author gives the readers an intriguing perspective, from which Dorothy and her friends are not necessarily heroes they have been made out to be.
The characters are quirky and highly individual, but also relatable to readers. Each has strengths and flaws, motivations and priorities. The central characters also share a mission and a desire for justice, which binds them together and positions the reader alongside them. I really enjoyed the snark and sarcasm of Francesca, and I appreciated the fact that even though the four central characters had known one another all their lives, they could still disordered other.
The story is a highly engaging blend of fantasy and mystery which draws the reader in and keeps them guessing to the end.The ending balances the resolution of some questions with the development of others, making the reader both satisfied with the conclusion and keen for the next book in the series.
This book should not, however, be mistaken for a children’s story. The story contains adult and sexual content which is definitely not appropriate for younger readers.
This is an intensely suspenseful story that strikes dread into the heart of the reader right from the first moment of foreboding. As the tension and desperation of the story builds, so does the reader’s sense of hopelessness for the protagonist, whose innocence reinforces the positioning of readers against The Creep.
The story is well-written and developed. The characterisation is effective and the detailed descriptions add depth and power to the the chilling effect of the story.
While the story certainly has its macabre moments, the story is centred more on the psychology of fear and revulsion. The Creep is a very real and twisted monster in his own right, and the author subtly plays on the reader’s sensibilities to unsettle and repulse them.
Small towns often seem quiet, as though nothing interesting would ever happen there.
Larkin’s Landing is not that kind of small town. Full of old secrets and strong prejudice, it’s a community that is bursting at the seams with lies, deceit and mystery.
This excellent blend of contemporary mystery and family drama keeps the reader guessing right to the end. The central characters are likeable, regular people who find themselves in the middle of a web of intrigue that they must undo before it undoes them. The story is well developed and suspenseful, taking the reader on a rollercoaster ride of anticipation and discovery as the mysteries of Larkin’s Landing unfold.
There are elements of the story that some readers will find very confronting. It is a story that exposes the horrors of domestic violence and emotional abuse, and demonstrates very clearly that nobody should ever tolerate or excuse such reprehensible behaviour. There is also some adult content, so this book is not recommended for younger readers.
It is, though, a story of the importance of resilience, the healing power of acceptance, and the life-changing difference that true friendship makes. Overall, the story delivers a positive message and a satisfying sense of justice having been done.
This is a good short story for October and Halloween reading. What starts as a sinister and tense story develops into a tale of fear and flight before growing darker and more horrific.
The tension and sense of dread grow steadily, making both the main character and the reader increasingly uncomfortable before the true horror of the forest is revealed. The author combines elements of foreboding, macabre, revulsion and fear to influence the reader’s feelings and reactions.
Even though the title gives away the fact that there’s something lurking in the woods, this story is quite original and well written.
There is some adult content, so it’s not recommended for kids.
What happens to a world where things are valued more than people? In the midst of songs and stories about jolly old Santa comes a tale of foreboding and darkness that speaks to a materialistic and selfish world.
The story immerses the reader in an environment where “naughty” far outweighs “nice”, and where the consequences affect all of humanity. Yet still, even in the depravity and darkness, a small flicker of hope survives— perhaps just for one more night.
‘Merry Apocalypse’ is a well-crafted short story with a powerful message. We may not be experiencing the apocalypse, but its warning is relevant and timely.
‘Merry Apocalypse’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.
A great holiday read for anyone more interested in “boo” than “ho ho ho”… but definitely not for kids.
What if your most basic assumptions bout Santa turned out to be wrong?
Is he just a jolly old fat guy who delivers presents, or is there much, much more to his story?
Claudette Melanson presents a somewhat different version of Santa in these twelve stories, which are well-crafted and well told. There is some lovely connectivity between the stories, which is sometimes quite overt and at other times sneaks up on the reader and takes them by surprise.
This is a great holiday read for anyone more interested in “boo” than “ho ho ho”. Do take the title seriously, though: this book is definitely not for kids, as there is some quite graphic content.
‘The 12 Terrors of Christmas’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.
Book Squirrel Review: ‘Forest of Ancestors’ by K.A. Denver
This is a great story which holds a good level of mystery and intrigue that develops at a good pace as the plot progresses. The differences between light and dark magic, and the ways in which each character uses their magic, add interest and complexity to the story. The central characters are varied and quite well crafted although, as a reader, I didn’t really feel as connected to most of them as I would have liked to.
I really like the concept of the forest of ancestors as a place of memory as well as of magic, and the ways in which that setting is portrayed and developed in the story. The images were formed quite vividly in my mind as I read, and it was good to see the characters fully engaging with, and responding to, this special element of their environment in personal ways.
My one criticism – and it is a real annoyance as a reader – is that there were places in which the writing really needed more thorough editing to remove quite obvious errors that remain in the text. A less fastidious reader might not notice all of them, but a couple of them were quite glaring and should never have made it to the final manuscript.
Overall, though, I did enjoy this book. It has some quite original elements and surprising turns that complement the strong storyline.
I’ve awarded ‘Forest of Ancestors’ a Silver Acorn because, despite its flaws, it is a great read.
This is a complex and powerful story of love and hatred, desire and repulsion, truth and deceit that are inextricably interwoven.
In a world of enmity, fear and suspicion, not every Dungari is the enemy.
This is a complex and powerful story of love and hatred, desire and repulsion, truth and deceit that are inextricably interwoven. As layers of deception are uncovered and characters learn truths about themselves and others, the reader is steadily drawn deeper into the story.
Action, danger, and desire combine to deliver a story that is thrilling in every sense of the word.
While this is a cleverly crafted dystopian/post-apocalyptic story, it also carries an important message against bullying, exploitation and abuse that is most appropriate to the world we live in today. As ‘Dungari Rise’ contains erotica and some quite graphic violence, it is suitable for adult audiences only.
It’s a pleasure to give this great read a Gold Acorn.
This book is full of discord, anger and tension, experienced through immediate immersion in the life of the main character, Nevaya. The reader experiences her anger, her disadvantage, and the acid burn of prejudice and discrimination on her soul.
Russell’s portrayal of Nevaya is confronting, yet the reader cannot help but feel empathy with her, despite her cynicism and anger at the circumstances of her life. Her character is developed through her thoughts and responses far more than her words or behaviours, although those are as bold and defiant as her thoughts and attitudes. Her language is powerfully written in the gangland style of North Philadelphia – the writing is so sharp and cutting, one cannot avoid reading this book in Nevaya’s voice. The reader is strongly positioned to see her point of view and develop a strong sense of identification with her, despite her rough edges, and (in my own case) having no experience whatsoever of the kind of life she has lived.
The reader also gains insight into some of the reasons for the failure of schools and social authority structures to understand the motivations and actions of young African-American people, or to meet their needs in any real way: the cumulative effect of decades’ worth of disadvantage and segregation, even within their own communities, is too great to be overcome. Russell delivers this message powerfully through this fringe-of-gangland narrative.
The most uncomfortable part of this story for me, however, was not in the brutal violence or raw language. I found it incredibly difficult to stomach the actions and self-justification of those authority figures who should have been looking to protect and nurture the kids, but instead were only seeking to serve themselves. Had it not been for the perspectives of the two teachers who really did nurture their students and seek to improve their chances in life, the picture would be very bleak indeed.
Brilliant work, Ms DalRae. I already want the sequel.
If you love a riveting read, and you’re not averse to a little paranormal romance, this book has it all: jealousy, love, rage, angst, mystery and intrigue, and some breathtakingly hot moments without being gratuitous or needlessly graphic.
The plot is as intriguing as it is complex, although as one is reading, it does seem straightforward. Such is DalRae’s genius at weaving plot, sub-plot and backstory seamlessly together.
The characters are believable and engaging, yet at the same time vivid and unique.
And that “penny drop” moment at the end? Nothing prepared me for that.
Brilliant work, Ms DalRae. I already want the sequel.