Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Chosen One

The Chosen One (Teravinea #1) by D. María Trimble (Self-Published, 2012, 210pp.)

Twenty years ago, in the Kingdom of Teravinea, dragons and their human riders once filled the skies and served the royal House of Drekinn. After a violent coup, the ruthless usurper Galtero seized power and exterminated the royal family and the dragons, causing the dragon riders to flee into hiding. Now, school children are taught that dragons were nothing more than mythical creatures—but  15-year-old Amàne soon finds out otherwise when an odd-shaped rock she finds on the beach hatches into one of these noble reptilian steads, and “links” with her. Shortly after she confides in a trusted family friend about her discovery, former dragon riders start making themselves known and start training Amàne and her dragon, Eshshah, for a battle that will unseat the wicked usurper and restore power to the House of Drekinn. Amàne, the narrator of the tale, is a strong heroine, with enough flaws to make her human, but enough good qualities to make her likable. The plot is a tad bit simplistic (evil king must be dethroned), but I get the feeling that the author intends to focus more on Amàne’s evolution as a character rather than Teravinea’s politics. Recommended for younger teens, and fans of Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Sensitive Fable About Grief and Loss

One Stone Left Unturned by Marianna Heusler (Wild Child Publishing, 2013, 230pp.)

Augusta Ashford’s life has become considerably more difficult since her grandmother, Elvira, developed Alzheimer’s. Augusta is already picked on on a regular basis, and now she has to defend her grandmother’s peculiar antics to her bullying mother. Elvira has a habit of taking things that aren’t hers, the most recent of which is a precious tourmaline she found in the basement of a ruined Catholic church—but it isn’t any ordinary stone. Augusta soon discovers that the stone has miraculous healing properties. Meanwhile, almost 100 years earlier, we learn that the young princess Tatiana Romanov also owned the stone, and used it to ease the symptoms of her younger brother’s hemophilia while in her family was held in captivity. Interweaving the two stories of the doomed czar’s family in Russia, and the American teenager, Augusta Ashford, One Stone Left Unturned is both a fresh, suspenseful take on the Romanov murders, and a sensitive fable about grief and loss. Recommended for Ages 12-15.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Interesting Start to a Series, But Still Needs Work

Shadow (The Rex Deus Dynasty #1) by Olivia Cooper (Self-Published, 2013, 113pp.)

Orphaned when her adoptive parents both die within months of each other, 18-year-old Angelina Hathaway is a high-school dropout who works a satisfying, if low-paying, job at a restaurant. Enter Guillermo, a mysterious young man who contacts her with information about her birth parents: unbeknownst to her, her parents were high-ranking members of the Rex Deus Dynasty, an organization dedicated to protecting the lineage of Christ—of which Angelina is the last direct descendant. After she’s almost killed in her apartment by a mysterious assailant, the Rex Deus Dynasty whisks her away to a remote compound in Mendocino, California, where they provide her with a lavish lifestyle and opportunities to complete her education. She is allowed to come and go as she pleases; the only non-negotiable factor in the deal is that she must marry another of the blood and produce as many children as possible. Certainly not the worst fate imaginable, especially since her proposed future husband, Guillermo, is fairly attractive—but to a modern girl like Angelina, the proposition is more than a little creepy. Then, when one of the organization is mysteriously murdered by the same assailant who attacked her before, Angelina realizes that not even her new “friends” can ensure her safety.

Shadow is an interesting variation on a somewhat original premise (Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene!), but at only 113 pages, I finished the story with the impression that both plot and characters were left underdeveloped. So, while I recommend it as an interesting start to a series, I feel that it could still use a little more work. Recommended for Ages 14-Up.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Interesting High School Drama

Paraestrals, Volume 1: A Vampire’s Awakening by Sara Stenner (Self-Published, 2012, 106pp.)

The first part in a serial novel, Paraestrals: A Vampire’s Awakening takes place in a large city in England, and focuses on Samantha LeFay, a vampire gumshoe. Just fresh out of high school, she co-owns the Paraestrals Private Investigation Service with her best friend. As the story begins, she’s wrapping up a case involving child abduction, when she thinks back on her awakening as a vampire. Like most vampires of pop culture, Samantha enjoys super strength and hearing, but that’s about it in terms of advantages. When Samantha turns 16, she suddenly finds sunlight unbearable. She starts sunburning more easily than the average person, and has to wear long-sleeves and sunglasses in the summertime. No glamor or sparkly advantages here. To be honest? I kept expecting a secret vampire society to swoop down any second and say, “You’ve been accepted to the House of Night/Hogwarts/whatever,” but the truth is, poor Samantha’s adventures as a supernatural creature are actually quite lonely. Her newfound strength freaks out the kids at school, and turns her into a social pariah. As for her bloodsucking tendencies, there’s no one to act as her mentor. Her parents are dead, and all she has left is a snarky stepmom and a beloved half-brother. So, kudos to the author for taking the less-trodden path. 

In technical terms, however, the story still needs some work. It suffers from run-on sentences and an overabundance of adverbs, and there are several instances where the author spells a word correctly, but misuses it. (For example, “I was soar” should be “I was sore.” “She gave me a complement” should be “She gave me a compliment.”) Other than that, it was an interesting high school drama that is sure to please readers ages 14-Up.

Click on cover for image source.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Good Second Installment For the Series

Incubus (Daughters of Lilith #2) by Jennifer Quintenz (Secret Tree Press, 2013, 255pp.)

A year after the events that wrapped up Book 1 of the Daughters of Lilith series, evil Lilitu Ais has been defeated in her efforts to open the gateway between worlds and destroy humanity. But now there’s another threat: a rare male Lilitu, an incubus, has been spotted, and the Guard fears that he will make an attempt to finish what Ais started. Having been promised by the angel Sansenoy that there’s still a chance for her to become human, good-girl Lilitu Braedyn Murphy is torn between her duties to the guard, and her desire to carry out a normal life (i.e. being able to have sex with her boyfriend without accidentally killing him). Then, Braedyn hears of a spell that will seal the gate forever, eliminating the Guard’s need for her Lilitu powers. As challenges mount both at home and at school, though, Braedyn finds herself tempted to use her powers in ways both good and bad—and the further she crosses over this line, the less likely she will be allowed to become human. While Incubus’ plot is fast-paced and interesting, the supporting characters aren’t as developed as they could be, and the ending was a little too neatly wrapped up. However, I’m still eager to know how the series will continue. Recommended for Ages 16-18.

Click on cover for image source.