Book Review: ‘Sparky’ by Millie Slavidou

A delightful story for children about acceptance and friendship.

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What a delight to discover this original and imaginative children’s fantasy story that is entertaining while embracing important ideas about difference, resilience and acceptance. Just like every child and many adults, Sparky must learn to accept and work with his limitations and his abilities alike. 

The characters in this story are delightful, with Nicky and her grandmother leading the way in showing others that prejudgment and first impressions are unreliable, and in demonstrating openness and acceptance of Sparky while others show fear and distrust. 

The illustrations are charming and highly engaging, and thus add another level of interest and involvement in the story for the children who comprise its target audience. 

This is a great book for both independent young readers and for families to read together. As such, it would make a delightful addition to school, town and home libraries. 

‘Sparky’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn. 

Find your copy here.

Book Review:’Merry Apocalypse’ by C.A. King

A sobering tale set on Christmas Eve.

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.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Swan Princes: A Christmas Tail’ by Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

An excellent 21st Century retelling of an old tale.

This novella is a contemporary retelling of the classic Swan Lake story.

The well known story has been cleverly recreated in a contemporary setting and style, with a variety of great characters that have been developed very cleverly and with good attention to detail.  The best stories have characters that you love and others that you love to hate, and this book does not disappoint. 

It’s great to see this story being given new life in a way that is is well-written and very enjoyable. It blends mystery, fantasy, romance and magical realism quite seamlessly to deliver a story that is very engaging and delivers some strong lessons about family, loyalty, and the power of love. 

‘The Swan Princes’ has been awarded a Gold Acorn. 

Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘The Christmas Will’ by A.S. McGowan

An enjoyable historical fiction with mystery and a hint of romance.

Set in Chicago and Boston in the 1860s, ‘The Christmas Will’ is the story of Ester Woods, who rises above prejudice and discrimination only to have it follow her. It is a story that explores the lot of women in pre-Civil War America, where men made the rules and women bore the consequences, yet it is also a story that celebrates the free thinking women who stood up against such strictures and embraced their intelligence and talents, and who dared to hope for more than just being someone’s wife. 

As an Australian, I found some of the grammar and word choices awkward, although I know that the author has followed accepted patterns of American English, so I was determined to not allow it to detract from the story that was being told.  I would, however, encourage the author to have non-Americans among her editorial team or beta readers, so that matters of local usage are less distracting for readers who are accustomed to more international patterns and usage of English.

 This is an enjoyable read. I do appreciate the way in which the author has blended elements of historical fiction and  mystery to make the story complex and intriguing.


‘The Christmas Will’ has been awarded a Silver Acorn.

 Find your copy here

Book Review: ‘Thorns‘ by Lucretia Stanhope

Another great read in an excellent paranormal series.

This seventh book in the Elemental Witch Trials series focuses on Rose, Brac’s daughter, take over as the main character, Brac still features prominently in the story, while Gwen and other family members continue to take supporting roles. Once again, the author achieves a natural and smooth progression that enriches the series without losing continuity or cutting off the stories of other family members.

Rose is a formidable character, not afraid to use both her physical and inner strengths to achieve her goals. She is complex and conflicted, which adds a very relatable layer of depth to her story.

As with every other instalment of this excellent series, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Thorns has been awarded a Gold Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘Dragon School: First Flight’ by Sarah K.L. Wilson

Compelling YA fantasy that captivates the imagination.

Sarah KL‘Dragon School: First Flight’ is a compelling YA fantasy adventure story. Filled with danger, excitement and discovery, this book introduces Amel Leafbrought, a teenage girl embarking on life as a trainee dragon rider.

Amel does not see herself as heroic, yet she is. She does not allow her disability to limit either her dreams or her determination, nor does she give in to the taunts from those who cannot see past it. She does, however, allow herself to express the fear and misery that is all-too-familiar to those who bear the brunt of discrimination and bullying. The reader develops empathy with Amel not because of the way in which others treat her, rather than because of her disability, purely because while her physical limitations are challenging, they are not the greatest cause of distress to her. The ways in which she responds to both kinds of challenge are generally positive and proactive, and allow her individual qualities to shine. The realisation that she has abilities others do not is a source of encouragement to both Amel and the reader.

The author has portrayed the best and the worst qualities of humanity in the characters that make up the cast of the story. Some are kind, some are hateful, while others are indifferent for various reasons. In this, a fact of life is portrayed quite realistically: each of us has to work out who we can trust, who we cannot, and who are our allies if we are to find our path in life and navigate it successfully.

‘Dragon School’ captivated my imagination as powerfully as I remember Harry Potter doing when I first read it, but it is most definitely not a “copycat” concept.

There are so many elements of this book that work really well. The world building is unique and interesting, the social systems are complex and fascinating at the same time, the complications and challenges are dangerous, and the things for which Amel and her peers must strive are important.

I am excited to see this narrative develop and expand, and to see Dragon School and Amel become the enormous success that it deserves to be.

This series is now on my “one-click”list, and all who love YA fantasy, magic, and dragons should ensure it is on theirs, too.  Acorn Award I Golden

While ‘Dragon School: First Flight’ is only a short book, it is a most excellent one, and most worthy of a Golden Acorn.

Find your copy here.

Book Review: ‘The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce’ by J.S. Frankel

This brilliant book that should be on every teen’s reading list.

Jesse Frankel The Incredible Aunty AwesomesauceWhat a brilliant read! Highly original and very imaginative, the author takes YA sci-fi to a new level by demonstrating how very believable is the concept that we are “not alone” in the universe. By setting this story in our world, he positions the reader to explore thought-provoking questions about identity, self-knowledge and acceptance of others for who and what they are. This story is so engaging and action packed, it was really hard to put the book down once I had started reading.

Sam and Kym are both very realistic and relatable teenage characters. Both have endured bullying in different ways by their peers, and both finding their own ways of dealing with that. Their friendship and the way in which it develops is natural and the pair complement each other really well. The author has made Kym in particular a really strong and proactive character, and it’s great to see that she remains a positive female role model by really taking it up to the antagonists in the story and using her intelligence and strengths to counteract some really negative behaviours and attitudes.

Acorn Award I Golden

‘The Incredible Aunty Awesomesauce’ is a book that should be on every teen’s reading list and in every library, and is fully deserving of a Gold Acorn.

 

Find your copy at Amazon, Kobo, or Nook – if you prefer a different store, it’s probably there, too!