Tag Archives: Young Adult

Too Old for Santa: A Review of Christmas Presence

Book cover for Christmas Presence by Tony Bertauski. Image on cover is a closeup of a man who has a white beard and moustache and is  wearing a wool hat.Title: Christmas Presence

Author: Tony Bertauski

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Holiday

Length: 25 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Worst Christmas ever.

Christmas was about traditions. Currently, Zay and her mom had about five traditions, things like gingerbread cookies and tree decorating. Not going to work.

Zay has to stay home. On Christmas. Alone.

Mom said her boss felt real bad about the whole thing so he was sending a nanny. It just keeps getting worse. She’s fourteen years old. She doesn’t need a nanny. But then the nanny shows up. She’s not really a she. Or a he.

More of an it.

The nanny shows her that it’s not really magic that makes Christmas special. It’s the adventure. And when it’s all over, she’ll never forget.

The best Christmas ever.

Review:

Teenagers don’t believe in magic, right?

Fourteen is a tough age. Zay was too old to truly get into many of the Christmas traditions she enjoyed as a little kid, but she was also a bit too young to understand why some adults get so excited to keep them going. Mr. Bertauski did a wonderful job of capturing this confusing stage of life and how it can affect not only the teenagers going through it but also everyone around them as well. I had compassion for Zay as she decided how to respond to her mother’s love of the Christmas holidays.

This short story was marketed as an introduction to a new series about retelling of classic holiday legends. Even though it was the first instalment of this series so far as I could tell, I still struggled to understand what was going on at times. There was never quite enough information about the nanny who showed up to entertain Zay or why he was so different from what she was expecting. While I did understand some parts of this universe, other portions were never quite clear to me.  I would have happily gone with a much higher rating if these things had either been explained in greater detail or if the blurb had been clear that this wasn’t necessarily something that was supposed to be a standalone read.

I was a huge fan of the author’s reinterpretation of Santa Claus as an individual as well as a mythical figure. This was where the science fiction elements of the storyline shone the brightest. They made me perk up and wonder how everything worked, especially once Santa began to reveal a little bit more about himself. There was so much creativity in these passages. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what the author comes up with next based on how much effort he put into rethinking this classic character.

Christmas Presence was a lighthearted read that I’d recommend to anyone who is either currently a teenager or who has a teenaged loved one in their life.

Quiet Lessons: A Review of Foresight

Book cover for Foresight by Matilda Scotney. Image on cover is a planet with rings around it and three golden moons in orbit around it. Title: Foresight

Author: Matilda Scotney

Publisher: Off the Planet Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Length: 61 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

 

Starlight, star bright,
The very first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish, I wish tonight.

A metaphysical tale…

Review:

Not only are there two sides to every story, sometimes there are far more sides than that!

The subtlety of the first scene made me smile. There are precious few tales out there that are set in December but are purposefully not about Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or any other holiday that occurs during that month. I was impressed by the way the author captured the beauty that can be found at the end of the year, from the crisp, clear skies to the sharp nip of the wind as autumn slowly turns into winter. These descriptions might not seem to be related to the themes of later scenes at first glance, but give them time to grow. They have a message to share with any reader who is patient enough to keep going and to avoid making assumptions about what might happen next.

I would have liked to see more character development in this short story. It included such a large number of characters that it was difficult to get to know anyone well, much less to spend enough time with them to take note of the ways in which they were changing as a result of their experiences with the alien vessels. There was so much more space here to explore all of their personalities and backstories. If that had happened, I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating.

With that being said, I was delighted by the wide variety of perspectives the author included. I can’t say much about the alien vessels the characters were discussing without giving away spoilers, but it was fascinating to see how differently everyone reacted to them. Some characters viewed them as a threat while others had much more creative reactions to the idea that humans might not be alone in the universe after all. Absorbing everyone’s reactions to them was just as interesting as listening to the the reasons they gave for believing these visitors were anything from a security threat to a muse for creative expression.

Foresight is a must-read for anyone who appreciates thoughtful science fiction.

Family Business: A Review of Inheritance 

Inheritance - A Halloween Urban Fantasy Short Story by Zoe Cannon book cover. Image on cover is of a crow sitting on a pumpkin next to a lit candle. There is a bare tree in the background. Title: Inheritance – A Halloween Urban Fantasy Short Story

Author: Zoe Cannon

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 23, 2020

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary

Length: 20 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author. 

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Lena’s grandmother defended her small town against the supernatural. So did her mother. Lena should be next in line. But her autism makes that impossible. At least that’s what her mother has always said. Lena couldn’t even get through college—what makes her think she could wield a magical sword and banish the undead?

But now her mother is gone. And Lena’s little sister is in danger. It’s time for Lena to take up the role she was born for… or lose the last of her family forever.

This #ownvoices short story is 6,500 words long, or approximately 20 pages.

Review:

What better way is there to spend Halloween than trying to banish the dead? 

Halloween has many different meanings. In Lena’s case, her understanding of and response to it changed quite a bit over the years. I found it interesting to see how those things evolved as she grew older and was better able to communicate what she did and didn’t like about this holiday. She had excellent reasons for all of ways she reacted on Halloween over the years. 

There were quite a few time jumps in this story, and I occasionally found them confusing. No sooner would I get invested in one particular part of Lena’s life than the plot would suddenly jump to years before or after that event. While I understood why the author wanted to show this character at so many different points in her development, it would have been helpful to have more of these scenes in chronological order so I could understand them a little easier. 

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored Lena’s complicated relationships with her mother and younger sister. They both struggled to accept Lena’s autism at times, especially when it came to the ways this diagnosis shaped the course of the main character’s life. I liked the fact that this was an Own Voices story and that the characters were given so much time to work through their conflicts. 

Inheritance was a thought-provoking Halloween story that I deeply enjoyed and would recommend to anyone reading this review of it. 

The Loyal Companion: A Review of The Origins of Constantine


Book cover for The Origins of Constantine by D.C. Gomez. Image on cover is of a cat hovering above a pyramid. Title
: The Origins of Constantine

Author: D.C. Gomez

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 27, 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 87 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

When the god Anubis needed a friend, the universe sent him the most unlikely companion: a feisty little cat.

Discover how the infamous five-thousand-year-old talking cat, Constantine of the Intern Diaries, became a permanent fixture in the life of Death.

This fast-paced, action-packed Novella will have you turning the page and falling in love with the most unlikely of duos.

Review:

Content Warning: Tuberculosis and the death of a pet. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Even Death himself can get lonely sometimes.

The character development was handled nicely for everyone from the protagonist to the kind friends he relied on as he adjusted to being the right hand cat of Death himself. I enjoyed peeling back all of the layers of the characters I met. My first impressions of many of them were quickly adjusted as I learned new things about them that I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed in advance. Other characters were more forthcoming with their personalities, but I still had a wonderful time finding additional examples of their kindness, courage, and other positive traits as time went on.

I would have liked to see a little more time spent on the world building. The author provided tantalizing hints about this version of ancient Egypt that I kept hoping would be explored in greater depth than they were. It did make me wonder if the full-length novels in this series had the space to dive further into this time and place, though, and it was a minor criticism of a novella I otherwise really liked. Based on my first taste of this world, I’m definitely curious to learn more about it!

Ms. Gomez had a playful sense of humour that worked perfectly for this setting and these characters. There were multiple times when the dialogue made me chuckle out loud, especially when Constantine made another one of his wry comments. Her characters knew exactly how to gently goad each other into doing the right thing even if it wasn’t always necessarily for the right reason. The juxtaposition of their occasionally mixed motivations and their often surprisingly wholesome life choices was delightful. I love meeting nuanced characters like these who can find the funny side of even the most serious topics.

This is part of a series, but you don’t have to be familiar with the previous works to enjoy it. I had no trouble jumping straight into this world as a brand new reader.

I’d recommend The Origins of Constantine to any teen or adult who likes alternate history.

 

 

What a great sense of humour this book has.

 

CHARACTERS

Constantine – the cat. Five-thousand-years old and right hand man of Death (Anubis or Anpu, although he hates the latter name). Also the guardian/trainer of all the Interns that worked for Death.

Bob – his human in present day

Isis Black – Bob’s friend who saved him from being sacrificed by volatile witches. Can see the dead.

 

Camaro – aka the bumblebee.

 

Constantine grew up in Memphis, the first capital of the United Kingdom of Egypt in 3100BC. It was the pride of Menes, the king who united Upper and Lower Egypt.

 

3140 B.C. Is exactly when this tale is set.

 

Cats were worshipped in the Hiku-Ptah or the Inbu-Hedj (city where Constantine lived).

Ammon – head of the house. Took in kitten Constantine saved.

Saqqara – the necropolis of the Inbu-Hedj.Where Constantine went to escape the roaming gangs of cats looking for him.

 

Bastet – another god.

Moses – kitten Ammon took in and saved.

Pilis – Ammon‘s best friend. An orphan. Spends most of his days with Ammon and his sister and mom.

 

Taweret – god of healing.

 

”You are too obsessed with this god of death thing. We need to work on your identity.”

 

 

A Review of Lux Terra – An Origin Story

Lux Terra an Origin Story by Zachary Hagen book cover. Image on cover shows a young man wearing a letter jacket and jeans staring straight ahead at the audience. Title: Lux Terra – An Origin Story

Author: Zachary Hagen

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

This is a prequel and origin story for the world of Lux Terra featured in the upcoming novel, Eternity’s Well, set to release August 2021. Please enjoy this look into the lives of Elior, Eliam, and their mother on a rainy morning in their home.

Review:

Rainy days were made for telling folktales.

The warm, positive relationship between the main characters and their mother as they drank tea and listened to her stories was refreshing. Too often parents in the young adult genre are either no longer present in their children’s lives due to death or abandonment or are wildly out-of-touch with what their kids are getting up to. It’s always nice to see authors break these tropes, and I hope Mr. Hagen will continue to do so as Elior and Eliam have further adventures.

While I certainly wouldn’t expect an origin story to contain as much conflict as the books that are meant to come after it, I did have some trouble paying attention as I was reading because of how little conflict was present here. It would have been helpful for this reader if Elior, Eliam, and their mom Emily needed to face some sort of obstacle or disagreement as they decided how to spend their time while the summer storm raged on outside.

I enjoyed the author’s measured writing style. He always seemed to know exactly when to describe something in great detail versus giving the audience the basic gist of it and then expecting us to fill in the rest with our own imaginations. Fantasy is one of those genres that can really benefit from expecting the audience to do some of their own legwork in imagining fantastical places in my opinion, so this was a great choice.

Lux Terra – An Origin Story is a good pick if you’d like a sneak peek at a new fantasy series.

Bedroom Battle: A Review of The Teddy Bear’s War

Title: The Teddy Bear’s War Author: Alex Cross Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: January 17, 2021 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary Length: 9 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Every little kid is afraid of the dark in some way. The unknown scares us all to some extent.… Read More

The Last Minute Decision: A Review of Clocking Time

Title: Clocking Time Author: Mark McClure  Publisher: JFR Publishers  Publication Date: October 31, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult  Length: 31 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Two teenagers share a secret superpower: clock jumping. Confined to his house by the authorities, remote viewer Briann enters into… Read More

Lost but Not Alone: A Review of Boo and the Boy 

Title: Boo and the Boy – A Ghost Story Author: Wayne Barrett Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 23, 2020 Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary  Length: 24 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author.  Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: In the heart of the Mojave Desert, a little boy wanders, lost and… Read More

A Review of A Fictional Fable of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch

Title: A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch (Fictional Fables Book 1) Author: Berenice Corney-Thompkins Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 17, 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Length: 20 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: A charming tale of two frenemies and their one-upmanship, A Fictional Fable… Read More

What Bears Do in the Woods: A Review of The Ursus Verses

Title: The Ursus Versus Author: Nathan Waddell Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 29, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult Length: 66 pages Source: I purchased it. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking… Read More