Book Review: ‘Night’s Gift: Of Cats and Dragons Book 1’ by Camilla Ochlan and Carol E. Leever

A brilliant YA fantasy adventure!

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Camilla Ochlan Carol Leever Night's GiftWhat a brilliant read! ‘Night’s Gift’ is a highly original and enormously entertaining fantasy adventure story.

The world building is rich in imagery and sensory detail, enabling vivid and lively visualisation as the story is read. The reader is led from one distinct setting to another, and yet another, each time developing a clear picture of the size, dimension and texture of buildings, streetscapes and scenery.

The central characters of Omen and Templar are both likeable, complex and somewhat rogueish hero figures, each with their own flaws but also possessing good qualities which others do not always recognise. My favourite though, is Tormy— it’s impossible to resist his bravery and loyalty, while his perception and encouragement both add additional dimensions to the way in which Omen and Templar fight against the evil that threatens to destroy them.

There is absolutely nothing to dislike about this book. It has all the elements of a compelling fantasy adventure— danger, challenges, deadly creatures, magic, deception, sword fights, and heroism— bound together with friendship and humour. It leaves the reader both satisfied and keen for the next phase of the story.Acorn Award I Golden

‘Night’s Gift’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Trouble with Antlers’ by A.J. Culey

A fun read for MY and YA readers.

A.J. Culey Shifter High 1‘The Trouble With Antlers’ is the first in A.J. Culey’s Shifter High series. The premise and storyline of the book are fun: what happens when humans move to a town populated entirely by shifters? It makes for an entertaining read, enriched with situational comedy and a good number of lighthearted moments to balance those full of teen angst and embarrassment.

While the series is written for a young adult audience, this book proved to be both enjoyable and interesting for this adult reader. While it may not have the depth and heart-in-your-throat moments that something like Harry Potter has, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: a reader doesn’t always have the energy or the desire to have their heart broken seven times or more in each sitting.
Acorn Award II Silver

If you’re looking for a light read that is fun and engaging, this is a great choice. As such, it has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

Find the series here.

Book Review: ‘Saving Cecelia’ by Elle Botz

A poignant, powerful story.

Elle Botz Saving Cecilia'This story is not long but it sure packs a punch. It is powerfully emotive, not only in the writing but also in its messages about caring for those we love and maintaining our relationships with family beyond what is merely convenient or, worse still, shallow tokenism.

‘Saving Cecilia’ is the story of Cee Cee and her grandmother, Cecilia, and the love between them that endures despite the ravages of grief, time and Cecilia’s dementia.

I found that I could identify strongly with Cee Cee, having cared for my own mother during her own battle with that soulless disease, and having experienced many of the same anxieties and sorrows that Cee Cee did. Her character was very honestly and thoughtfully developed, particularly through her relationship with Cecilia and her thoughts and responses to the events and other characters of the story.

This is a story that everyone from mid-teens and older should read, because at some time in our life, most people will know a Cecilia or a Cee Cee if they are blessed enough to not actually become them.
Acorn Award I Golden

‘Saving Cecilia’ Has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Series Review: The ‘Dragonhall Chronicles’ by Mirren Hogan

A beautifully written and evocative fantasy series.

‘The Dragonhall Chronicles’ consist of three novellas that introduce Hogan’s ‘Reasoner Trilogy’ that takes place in the same world.

Nerra’s Flight’ introduces Nerra, a young adult magin, living in a world in which even the ability to use magic is punishable by death, and tells of her attempt to escape those who would punish her for her abilities. Dragons, suspense and adventure await! The story is engaging and interesting, and the reader quickly warms to both Nerra and her sister. It’s a brief but enchanting introduction to this series of stories, of which I am definitely keen to read more.

More suspenseful than the first novella, ‘Nerra’s Run’ picks up the tale some years later. Children with magical abilities are still being captured and killed, and the authorities are still pursuing Nerra. The author establishes a strong sense of foreboding that continues to build as the story develops. Older and still determined to defy those who want her captured and killed, Nerra remains a character whose bravery and determination are admirable, and with whom the reader can sympathise strongly. She is developed with additional depth in this story in ways which both increase the reader’s affection and support for her, and fill them with anxiety for her future.

The third short story of the Dragonhall prequels to Dragonhaze, ‘Nerra’s Children’ is darker and more sobering than the others. The magin are still being persecuted and put to death, and Nerra faces challenges more heartbreaking than ever before. Although older and less impulsive, Nerra remains the strong, loyal woman that we have seen her become in her first two stories.
Mirren Hogan Reasoner 1 Dragonhaze

The action in each story moves at a steady pace, carrying the reader along as the tension rises.
By the time the reader finishes this third instalment, they are familiar with Nerra and her world, and keen to discover more in the pages of Dragonhaze, the novel that starts the Reasoner Trilogy.

Acorn Award I Golden
This beautifully written and evocative fantasy series has been awarded a Gold Acorn for overall excellence in storytelling.

Find this series, and other excellent books by Mirren Hogan, on Kobo, Amazon, Nook, and other stores.

Book Review: ‘Return of the Sleeping Warriors’ by Petra Costa

A brilliant Australian YA #urbanfantasy read.

Petra Costa Return of the Sleeping Warriors 1The first book in the ‘When Magic Awakes’ series, this book starts by dropping the reader right into a situation of tension and mystery that continues to grow and develop further as the story progresses. One by one, the questions are layered and woven together so that before long, the reader realises that this book simply demands to be read.

Michael and Dana appear to be typical teenagers living in suburban Melbourne. Sport and school consume most of their time, but there’s something else going on that intrigues both the central characters and the reader. Their family seems quite normal and their dislike of the nasty neighbours seems completely natural.

There is, however, much more to both sides of the equation than meets the eye.

As the action of the story progresses, the reader becomes very familiar with both Michael and Dana, their family members, and the flaws and strengths of each. The reader is very much inclined to cheer Michael and Dana on as they confront a set of circumstances that they never expected to meet in suburban Melbourne.

I really enjoyed the typical Australian flavour of the settings in the story and also in the writing. I find that, too often, Australian authors feel they need to sacrifice their ow surroundings and way of speaking in deference to the power of American popular culture. The author has, in this book, not only retained those qualities but also incorporated them as part of the strengths of the settings, characters and story.Acorn Award I Golden

I found this to be an excellent and interesting book, with plenty of action and excitement to engage YA readers and older, so I have awarded it a Gold Acorn.

I have also added Petra Costa to my list of “one-click” authors, whose books I shall buy without hesitation.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Pratima’s Engines’ by S.A. Gibson

A very enjoyable Steampunk short read.

SA Gibson Pratimas EnginesPratima’s Engines is a short steampunk story of conflicted interests and opposing priorities set in post-Collapse India. It is an interesting and enjoyable story, although I would have liked to see the mystery and tension developed more before the story reached its climax.

The central character, Armeena, is very likeable and easily gains the reader’s sympathy as she discovers uncomfortable truths about her own situation. She provides a positive role model not only in her resilience, but also in her loyalty to her friends.

Acorn Award II SilverPratima’s Engines provided a pleasant and relaxing diversion in an otherwise busy day, and is well worth a read. I have awarded it a Silver Acorn.

Get your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Recruit’ by M.M. Cox

The Recruit is an interesting and refreshing change from witches and vampires.

M.M. Cox The Recruit‘The Recruit’ introduces the reader to Cassie, a teen who thinks her biggest problems are not getting along with her mother and not wanting a boyfriend when everyone else seems to. When Cassie is confronted by bigger problems that she hasn’t even realised existed in her life, she is launched on a journey of discovery that the reader follows with avid interest.

This story is really well written. The characters and dialogue are believable, and the story is packed with action, complications and heart-in-your-throat moments that make it hard to put down. Teen and YA readers will relate quite easily to Cassie, Kristen and Landon, and there’s certainly enough complexity and depth in the story to keep older readers engaged, too.

‘The Recruit’ tells a great story, but it also raises some really interesting and thought-provoking questions about the nature of evil, and the balance of good and evil in the world we live in. Readers are challenged to think beyond what they can see and reminded that appearances can be very deceiving.

As a reader who enjoys a variety of paranormal stories, I found this book to be an interesting and refreshing change from witches and vampires.Acorn Award I Golden

‘The Recruit’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn for excellence.
Find your copy here.