The Youngling gang of supernaturals is back in the second installment of Helena M. Craggs’ series. This time Quinn and his friends are more experienced, more determined, and have even more troubled spirits to clean up after. A wannabe vampire on the loose, stalkerish witches and the pressure cooker of first years of college mean that their break from the supernatural realm has well and truly come to an end.
The Younglings: Fire & Magic picks up from where it left off, continuing the journey of first loves, sexuality, friendship, loyalty and familial unity. The ongoing guidance of demon nanny Mrs. D was the feel-good stability and wisdom that can often lack in the young adult genre.
Narrated predominantly from Quinn’s perspective Helena M. Craggs has done well to maintain his humorous and charismatic character. The addition of storytelling from multiple perspectives created the perfect amount of angst to keep the reader feverishly turning pages and builds upon the logic and reason of characters the reader has already had the opportunity to understand.
The natural progression of the original characters truly shines through in this second installment. Eve and Quinn have matured immensely; tougher and more direct, they set the tone of the novel to be logical and infallible, genuinely growing into the ruling roles so heavily focused on in book one. An outstanding friendship dynamic with purposeful powers and personalities, Craggs has taken her time to evolve relationships through real-life themes young adults face. The romantic subplot solidified this novels place in the workings of a brilliant young adult read.
The Younglings: Fire & Magic is a lighthearted paranormal fantasy that takes young adult readers on an action-filled adventure. The supernatural characters are engaging and will have readers hooked from the start.
Pages: 340 | ASIN : B09YHMTV4Z
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Darke Realms – The In-between is the first book in author Michele L. Sayre’s Arcana series, and it is a solid introduction to the world and some of its major characters. In this story, the first person we meet is Rue Mohanahan, a thirty-five-year-old woman with a secret past, deep trauma, and supernatural abilities. Serendipity brings Rue to a small town, where she meets a local witch and the nearby Nightblood werewolf pack leaders. Unfortunately, Rue’s past doesn’t stay in the past, and she is forced to confront the demons that haunt her. As it turns out, Rue is an Arcana, a human-angel hybrid. While this is the source of her fantastic abilities, it is also the reason she has been hurt so badly. Everything culminates in a battle that can only be fought with the people she met along the way and can only be won using her powers.
One theme that runs through this captivating novel is, belonging. Readers watch as the protagonist transforms from someone who has no home and no family to someone who is important and beloved in her community. As she finds love in many forms: familial, platonic, and romantic, readers will experience her joy and watch her grow into someone more confident. Despite her painful past, Rue is a loving figure to those around her, and through the love she gives, she finds a place where she belongs.
The author weaves an exquisite, well-paced tale with a good combination of world-building and plot building. It is tailor-made for readers who love contemporary fantasy stories with dark and urban fantasy elements. The novel is narrated in first-person from the perspective of three different characters. This approach allows readers to gain a more substantial understanding of the action and the thought process behind each character’s motives.
Sayre uses familiar fantasy tropes, giving readers a sense of comfort with elements that have come to be expected in the traditional fantasy genre. The characters are likable and sympathetic, providing readers with feel-good emotions as they follow their journey. The story sets the stakes high but believable while leaving enough out of the story to set up for sequels.
Darke Realms – The In-between is a riveting dark fantasy novel that gives readers solid and relatable characters in a new world. Using elements of horror and paranormal activities, the author builds excitement for this new series and sets up readers for an action-filled and exciting adventure.
Pages: 319 | ASIN : B09M8BHK3M
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Destined to be Keepers – the Protector of innocents in the mortal realm, Quinn and his team of supernatural friends must safeguard their town of Portaville from all the mystical energies that come their way. When a teacher’s heart is torn out of their chest and students start to go missing, the friends combine forces to reinstate the safety of those closest to them. With their freshly discovered powers, the teens can sense something isn’t all that it’s made out to be. All it takes is Mrs. D – Quin’s demon nanny – to confirm their suspicions and their plan to stop the murderer begins. All while Quinn is coming to terms with the fact that he is the demon king’s son!
Author Helena Craggs expertly crafts a brilliant young adult novel and navigates the reader through first loves, sexuality, friendship, and familial unity. Readers will find the characters in the story to be entertaining, full of personality, typical teenage moods, and dedication to their cause. In addition, the author injects humor in the story which lightens the mood of some of the darker drama that they face, and the twists and turns of the storyline as they discover more information about the town, paranormal activities, and themselves, making this an unpredictable urban fantasy novel.
Craggs has done well to create realistic characters and an easy-to-follow storyline with enough action to keep readers engaged. There is a character for everyone to relate to with demons, angels, ghosts, witches, magic, and teenagers. I enjoyed reading about Quin’s character especially as we followed him on his emotional journey of discovering his own powers and learning the truth about his family.
The Younglings: Shadows & Magic is a fast-paced, jam-packed paranormal fantasy novel that is perfect for younger readers looking to be taken on a fantastical journey that is filled with supernatural beings and teen angst.
Pages: 401 | AISN : B09C6JLDQW
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Grimdark fiction with a paranormal focus can settle like oil underwater when blended with action and gunplay, but Pulling Teeth and Other Stories by Jessa Forest has a balanced blend. Each corner of stark weird or science fiction here is softened by the wolves. Sterile laboratory prison landscapes are brightened somehow with childlike wonder. Bounding through these forests untethered, we find stories of the bond between father and daughter, master and apprentice, trust and honor.
As a collection of novellas and short stories, Pulling Teeth is the beginning of a series about a young hybrid werewolf, Regina Slaughter. Maintaining a similar tone and following in chronological order, each story hits extremes of tension, horror, and the unknown with ease and alacrity.
Regina’s tragic upbringing to the age of nine and the fate of her family unfolds as we follow her from being an imprisoned test subject to her freedom after being taken in by another faction, more of her kind, mercenary werewolves. Considering this is a world where werewolves, magic, parallel dimensions, and vampires exist, in the relatively small space these stories provide, we also delve into friendships, family, loss, and lunacy which is no small feat for a world with such complexity.
Regina was test subject 33 at the HADES facility. After two years of their attempts to control the powers of werewolves with torture and restraint, her rescue comes in a bloody and unexpected ally. Atlas, a werewolf mercenary from a nearby stronghold, becomes her protector and unlikely substitute for her father, who was taken away too soon. Her new pack leader, Thane, who dresses in the hides of mysterious creatures formed into a plague mask, is cold and strict. But, when he unexpectedly takes the feral Regina under his wing, her animal strength and desire to serve her new pack with honor seem to have finally found a place. There are many factions at war or with tenuous alliances in the world that Jessa Forest has created. The world can seem quite complex.
Luckily, we have an introductory short story, Welcome to HADES, that outlines the differences between the organization’s different departments that hunt werewolves, vampires, mages, and other Void creatures in the form of an employee manual. The stories of these animals’ hunters and the hunted unfold in three novellas and two short stories mainly from the werewolf point-of-view. Regina’s Guide to Monster Hunting, later on in the book, serves as a bookend to the first chapter and creatively adds to the readers’ arsenal. Many of our questions are answered as we read on, exploring the world between these two chapters.
The characters of Regina, Thane, and Atlas are broadened expertly in the titular short story, Pulling Teeth. It is somewhat visceral; it reminds us that Regina is the scrappy orphan we envision as a budding werewolf warrior or typical young teen. However, the unexpected change of pace with Demon Tooth reveals that the humans here are largely oblivious to the dark world at their doorstep. Werewolves, understandably, stay within the shadows hiding in the darker recesses of humanity. Inevitably they will cross with this story of bored suburban human teens taunting forces they barely understand, but that Regina knows all too well.
Although we get to know a lot about her past captivity, abuse, and perhaps stunted personality, Regina sometimes comes across as a lot younger than she is. This could also speak to her animalistic and simplistic nature, which may naturally read as a younger girl than 11 years old. This is the only fault in the dialogue or how others treat her; at times, a child is a trusted member of the team. Her attitude vacillating from studious apprentice and bratty teen reads as unstable at times. Ultimately, it is refreshing to see some of the childlike phrases from Regina and see the world through her eyes guide our reactions to those around her to a certain extent.
As with much science fiction or weird tales, it takes a little getting used to the typology, the taxonomy, and jargon. One tactic Forest uses is likening Regina’s situations into contemporary, classic horror, and science fiction films. Without being a casual name-drop, this helps ground readers into the world through Regina’s eyes because she’s watched many films that fans of this literature are likely to have seen.
If anything, we want to find out more about Regina. Although we’ve had a great insight into her past, her future is a mystery. From the human threat to the Void itself, there is peril in our imaginations. The more we understand how she fits within this world, the more we want to see her adapt. As this is the beginning of a series, fans of this first set of stories will eagerly expect the next installment.
Our world of mythology and science blends here as naturally as fur and fang. Definitely a great fit for fans of a strong character storyline, the politics of warring factions, and following guns for hire. And, of course, those who love a new take on monster stories, specifically werewolves and origin stories for all that is dark, occult, and macabre.
Pulling Teeth and Other Stories is a riveting combination of grimdark, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. This collection of short stories will take readers on an unforgettable journey.
Pages: 266 | ASIN : B08M12631P
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The Immortal follows an ordinary forty year old woman, Emma Anderson, who has always put others first. She suddenly finds herself gripped by a midlife crisis and decides to take a break from her technician job. Leaving behind only her two cats, she packs her bags and hops on a plane to French Polynesia. While on vacation, Emma finds her life changing more profoundly than she ever could have imagined. After witnessing a mass murder and fleeing through the jungle, she realizes that she has no choice but to take to the sea with a group of savage Vikings.
The Immortal is a fast-paced fantasy story that I found difficult to put down. Author E.G. Creel captivates her audience from the very first page of the book. Emma is a highly relatable character who is easy to empathize with. She has lived an average life as an x-ray technician who never married or had kids. Her sudden desire to travel and have new experiences comes from the feeling that she has led a lackluster existence. This makes her a character that is easily relatable, and one that readers will easily be able to root for. When she meets Bjorn, the ruler of an ancient clan of Vikings, she finds herself having tumultuous feelings for him, and this emotional-rollercoaster was very entertaining.
As she is whisked away on a journey across the globe to settle an ancient score, Emma realizes that she is capable of much more than she ever thought possible and I really enjoyed how this story slowly evolved her character into being a strong female protagonist. The tension between her and Bjorn is palpable, and the reader is constantly left wondering what is going to happen between them. Their relationship was riveting and one of the main reasons why I kept picking this book up.
This is a relentlessly entertaining fantasy adventure novel with an interesting cast of characters that keeps things fresh and ensures there is never a dull moment. Readers just can’t help but to fall in love with the flamboyant Stacey, a High Priest and quite possibly the most fashionable Viking in history. E.G. Creel’s romance novel tells a tragic and at times heartbreaking tale of justice. The Immortal is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt like they are not living up to their full potential.
Pages: 141 | ASIN: B09HWMP7CH
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The Vengeance of The Morrigan is an epic tale that takes the reader on a journey through the magical world of The Land of Promise. The story is written from multiple points of view, but the most crucial perspectives are from Neala, Eamon, and Lorcan.
As members of the Guardians, also known as the Bards—a group of protectors who have the power of the elements. Initially, the Guardians break through a magical Gate separating the different realms to restore the balance. However, The Otherworld is not a place for Bards, and they are feared, hated, and denied the use of their powers. Each Bard embarks on a journey to discover who they are, who they have been, and who they will become. The Morrigan is returning, and if she has her way, her enemies will be destroyed for taking what she loved most.
The second book in this Stormbringer series by author Amanda Maynard-Schubertcan stands on its own and makes sense without having read the first novel. While there might be some gaps in character development or side plots, it is easy to piece together due to the multiple points of view. This fast-paced novel will immediately pull in readers as it opens with Padraig making a deal with the Morrigan. The rest of the book is the aftermath of said deal.
The diverse characters were all well balanced, with a focus on the main characters, Lorcan, Eamon, and Neala. These three are more developed and complex with detailed backgrounds that readers can connect with. There is a hint of romance with two of the characters that seemed especially well suited to each other resulting in a star-crossed lovers’ situation happening, a possible foreshadowing for the next novel. This page-turning adventure novel will leave readers with a feeling of astonishment and the thought-provoking question of what is truly good vs evil.
The Vengeance of The Morrigan is a thrilling teen and young adult novel for fans of world-building, mythology, and contemporary fantasy. Readers will gravitate towards this paradoxical and imaginative world and be anxiously awaiting the next novel.
Page: 580 | ASIN : B09KC4G488
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Sin Eater follows a woman with an ability to make people forget and who must face her own demons when she returns to her hometown. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Honestly, this story came from a lot of emotional pain I was in a few years ago. I had so many memories that I wished I could get rid of. I thought that if they were gone, I could function and move on with my life. That led to me wondering if anyone would actually do that: let someone erase their bad memories if they could choose. Jayde was already a character that I’d been drawing obsessively for years, so when I thought of that concept and needed a main character, I knew it had to be her. It finally all came together when I heard a song I loved and saw it in a new light. The song described writing down what hurts and then burning it, hence the finishing touch of Jayde erasing memories by letting her clients write them down and her setting them on fire (though I added that she can destroy them in other ways as well).
Jayde is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
A big goal for this book and all its characters was the idea of them having flaws and making mistakes, but it’s relatable or understandable. I wanted Jayde especially to not be the perfect protagonist, to show us that we all have the capacity to hurt the ones we love, no matter how close you may be with them. I’ve heard from close friends that Jayde seems to have some of my characteristics as well, though I didn’t necessarily mean for her to. I suppose I self-inserted in a way. Her character was meant to be somebody you’ve possibly met before, familiar and sympathetic, but you can also see why she regrets the things she’s done.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
Forgiveness: of others, but most importantly for yourself. It’s strangely easier for some to forgive those who have hurt them, but they carry around the guilt of what they’ve done for way too long.
Friendship. I wanted Sin Eater to center around the idea of platonic love, to show how much it matters in our lives. While of course I cherish romantic love, I feel like my friendships will always be the reason I am who I am today.
The power of memories. Often I get lost in my own, almost like I go back in time in my mind. I wondered how much other people do that, so I thought I’d write about characters who let their memories control their decisions and feelings sometimes.
Letting go. It’s really hard to let the past go, fully and completely. That can be an ongoing battle everyday. Sin Eater was a way to vent that feeling into the world, to show the baby steps it takes to look forward to the future.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on a book tentatively titled “Seven Feathers.” I’m not sure when it will be available yet, as I’m still working on the first draft and trying to decide how I’ll publish. I’d love to go through a traditional publisher again, but I’ve also seen the perks of self-publishing over the last few months. I’ll keep everyone updated on its progress!
Posted in Interviews
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I enjoyed how Victoria Pierce’s character evolved throughout the story. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?
Vera/Victoria’s character development were important in many respects primarily to make her believable so as to deliver to the reader the theme below (described below) so the reader would ask, “So this could actually happen?”
The USA is primed for the election of a woman president who will no doubt be a strong woman. What I envisioned years ago with Victoria has now actually happened with Kamala Harris who does not have a clandestine past but could very well succeed to either the president or acting president under the 25th amendment. I had many strong women in my family that informed Victoria’s character.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
The themes that were important to me (besides the 25th Amendment) are the role the press plays in politics under the 2nd amendment. Under the constitutional provision regarding the Electoral College, originally the Vice President was the one who finished second on the balloting. Now the vice president is selected by the party’s candidate. There is considerably more vetting that goes on today than before so the likelihood of selecting a VP that has a clandestine past is now more remote. But, nevertheless, remains a concern as we know that the vice president is really a president in waiting.
My concern about the 25th amendment is the ambiguity surrounding how to proceed against an acting president that needs to be removed from office for wrongdoing or becomes incompetent. There is not a high probability this may occur but the book explores that possibility. There are other themes that will be explored in the sequel such as utilizing the president’s war powers, utilizing prior restraint of the press when subject to impeachment, the role of the press and potential military intervention.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Besides the sequel to MVP (at this point only in outline), I am working on a manuscript concerning the Gospel of John….to be entitled, Reading Between the Lines of the Gospel of Saint John. I am not a theologian so the concentration is dealing with what Christ faced in the real world as fully human, and his human response to those events. But the work is anchored in the actual verbatim scriptural passages that describe the events according to John’s Gospel. I am over half way through the first draft.
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