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The Younglings: Mayhem & Magic

Helena M. Craggs’ third installment in The Younglings series welcomes back the gang of supernaturals who continue to fight for a safer world for both humans and magical creatures. In The Younglings: Mayhem & Magic, the same team of supernaturals find themselves in college and embroiled in action from the beginning. Rhys, the vampire-tracker and personal favorite of many readers, has caused mayhem by alerting the world to the existence of vampires, resulting in the death of two hundred people and videos of the Younglings using their powers flooding the internet. Meanwhile, the group travels through time to 1612 to ensure that the Veil of Souls grimoire remains intact.

This installment is narrated from various characters’ perspectives, which satisfies the readers’ desire to dive deeper into their minds. Rhys, in particular, is a complex anti-hero who adds drama and tension to the plot. He is fiercely jealous, bitter, and determined to have Eve as his Queen, and he is willing to eliminate the Younglings to achieve his goal. Craggs’ writing is quick-witted, adding an excellent flow to the novel. The alternating time periods are extrinsically described, allowing the reader to travel alongside the Younglings as they master their powers and navigate relationships, family, and schooling. It was heartwarming to see original protagonists like Quinn maintain their personalities throughout the series. One of the highlights of this novel is Quinn’s relationship progression with Eve, as well as the evolution of his relationship with his father. While these themes may be overlooked, readers who have followed Quinn’s background since Book 1 will appreciate the underlying message of the importance of family bonds and trust.

The book is well-written, the plot is captivating, and the characters are well-rounded and memorable. This installment of the series is a testament to Craggs’ skill as a writer and her ability to keep the story fresh and exciting. If you are looking for a great read combining action, romance, and magic, then The Younglings: Mayhem & Magic is worth your time.

Pages: 312 | ASIN : B0BTMB8FXB

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The Skin Thief

The Skin Thief, a thrilling work of fiction with paranormal elements by T.E. MacArthur, follows the story of Agent X138, an intelligence operative for the Athenaeum Intelligence Agency. X138 embarks on a mission to determine the fate of two missing agents in Southwest Colorado. At night, he ventures into the ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa de Los Muertos and mysteriously vanishes. Agent Tessa Wells-Lancing is subsequently dispatched to continue the investigation. Determined to succeed, she enlists the help of a man from her past who is not affiliated with the agency. Together, Tessa and Jack endeavor to uncover the truth behind the strange occurrences on the mesa. Is there really a supernatural force responsible for the deaths of the agents, or is there a more mundane human explanation?

The author’s writing style in The Skin Thief is exceptional. It captivated me from the opening line, “Agent X138 refused to believe in ghosts, despite the gnawing premonition he was about to become one of them.” The vivid descriptions, particularly of the eerie settings, allowed me to visualize myself in the character’s shoes, and the suspenseful plot kept me engaged throughout the book. I enjoyed piecing together the mystery and attempting to unravel it before the characters did. Moreover, the book’s inclusion of the history of the ancient native people who inhabited the Southwest desert thousands of years ago was a nice touch. The interactions between Tessa and Jack were fascinating, and I appreciated the scenes in which they worked together. Nevertheless, the book left a few unanswered questions, which I hope will be addressed in a sequel featuring Tessa and Jack as partners investigating a new case. The twist at the end of the book, which I failed to predict, was a pleasant surprise. However, the twist resulted in some plot holes in the story, and some events earlier in the book did not align with this new reality.

Overall, The Skin Thief is an entertaining paranormal thriller that will keep readers hooked until the end. With moments of suspense and romance, there is something in this gripping novel for everyone.

Pages: 368 | ASIN : B0BWK45577

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Tales From An Odd Mind

Tales From an Odd Mind is a collection of somewhat strange short stories and poems that may seem to have little in common at a glance. Still, on deeper examination, they explore the same overarching theme of death and present an emotional portrait of humanity in all its effervescent diversity. The author chooses to write anonymously, under the name of ‘Nom D Plume,’ literally meaning pseudonym or pen name, but is known to firmly deny their works from having any autobiographical elements. So, it is interesting to note how personal and intimate each character appears to be, with detailed habits and traits established well within the short stories despite their brevity.

The most attractive feature of these stories is their unpredictability. Every dialogue or plot detail gives the illusion of leading us somewhere, only to surprise us with a sudden turn of events that is totally unanticipated by the reader. In the first story, for instance, we never expect the introduction of a new character towards the end of the story, but what makes it even more intriguing is how the ultimate effect of the story is never compromised. This deliberate way of an absence of foreshadowing gives the pieces their distinctive mysterious, and enigmatic nature.

However, as a reader, we are often left wanting more. Each story begins with a lot of promise and then collapses in on itself. Although deliberate on the author’s part, one must admit that the stories seem a little incomplete, given their abrupt endings. Are they written only as a means to an end, experimentation with the form of writing, with no interest whatsoever in the several different character developments that take place? Do they simply follow a preordained series of steps that build up with no goal to reach and no message to be delivered?

Perhaps, that is where the beauty lies, in trying to find meaning where there might not be any. Particularly poignant to this context is the back-and-forth dialogue between origin and dandelion; we struggle to understand the depth of their conversation, which is peculiarly reminiscent of pre-programmed responses of a chatbot or AI entity. Dabbling with various genres, this collection has some really powerful and compelling narratives. Recommended for all those who like reading fantasy, science fiction, or tales of reunion beyond death. 

Pages: 148 | ASIN : B08CZSX412

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Ghost Mark

Jane Walker is a tough yet gentle woman trying to live an everyday life despite her paranormal ability. Ethan Bryce is a bartender with a chip on his shoulder that loves his girlfriend, Jane Walker, and is coming to terms with Jane’s ability. Sadie Prescott is Jane Walker’s best friend and might or might not be missing her former hooker life. Jane runs into an old friend, Dylan O’Brien, but he claims to not know her. Jane is surprised by the brush-off but lets it go. However, it’s not long before Dylan becomes an integral part of Riptide, a club Ethan works at, but Dylan is not the sweet and bright friend Jane remembers.

Ghost Mark by JP McLean is a gripping story many urban fantasy lovers will enjoy. The lead character Jane is tenacious and kind, and her dilemma is fascinating and never boring. Ethan, Jane’s boyfriend, is tough, too, but his kindness and compassion are apparent throughout the story. Sadie, Jane’s friend, has a narrative that is interesting and compelling to read about. The character’s development throughout the story is beautifully crafted and well thought out. The way the characters interact with one another is realistic, allowing readers to be drawn into the world created by JP McLean. This makes for excellent reading.

Ghost Mark by JP McLean is a thrilling occult horror story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The crime constructed throughout the novel is fundamental to the plot and is setup in such a manner that you feel compelled to see where things end up. The action is set at a pace that never lets up. The world-building is expertly done and is commendable. Many moments in the story have you wondering what could possibly happen next, and it delivers at a satisfying pace. The author has provided an intense, riveting, and fast-paced novel.


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The Wizard of Grimmer’s Wharf

The Wizard of Grimmers Wharf by GJ Scherzinger is a fantasy about Padison, who was once Pacolorius, a bright upcoming wizard in a mystical order known as the Greycloaks when a rival fearing his power had him kidnapped and locked away. A fortuitous event frees him from his prison and onto the sea. Since that time, he’s made a quiet life for himself in Grimmers Wharf, until one night, he finds a mysterious woman on the water clinging to life. Padison now not only has to help the woman regain her memories but keep her away from those who would cause her harm. As her secrets come to life, he may find the key to exacting revenge on his old foe.

Scherzinger paints an alluring picture of this world and beyond. He captures this seaside town in whimsical descriptions. Even the realms of mind and spirit are beautifully written, giving readers a vivid image in their minds. In addition, there are some colorful characters that readers will be instantly drawn to that provide the storyline an enjoyable twist, such as Sallen. She is a forceful but loving woman who runs the local eatery that Padison lives above and who aids in keeping the girl’s pursuers at bay.

This engaging book presented a thrilling mystery from the opening pages. There is no slow build-up before our main character is thrown headfirst into the action. Instead, it was expertly communicated and hooked readers to the end. I also like that we get into the heads of not only one of the villains but a lackey as well; these multiple points of view give readers the full story from all sides. Unfortunately, the woman’s attempted killer is kept in the shadows, and readers are left waiting for the reveal till the end.

There were a couple instances where the speaker would say there’s a character coming this way, only to have the fact reiterated in the description of the scene. I felt this made for a repetitive read at times. Nevertheless, this original book is a fun escapade into the fantastic world of Terranova. It has an intriguing mystery with themes of betrayal, politics, and reclaiming your life after darkness. I would recommend this to anybody who wants to be absorbed in an engrossing fantasy adventure.

Pages: 286 | ASIN : B0B672XY87

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Ashes, Ashes

Jessica Goeken’s Ashes, Ashes centers around teenage monster slayer, Adrienne Young, as she navigates family drama, high school crushes, and magical responsibilities. Adrienne has more on her plate than your average seventeen-year-old — trying to strike a balance between attending classes and battling creatures from the Shadow Plane isn’t easy. But when her guardians come under attack by an unknown entity, Adrienne must put her life on the line to save them. With the help of her adoptive siblings, Adrienne is duty-bound to solve the mystery surrounding her guardians’ disappearance, alongside the death of several schoolgirls — and it’s going to take all her strength to do it.

Reminiscent of young adult adventure stories like the Percy Jackson series, Ashes, Ashes is an action-packed rollercoaster filled with fights, tears, and humor. While some may find the high school romance plot less compelling than the magical battle Adrienne becomes embroiled in, overall this novel strikes a balance between high-stakes conflict and more lighthearted concerns.

This story does make use of some well-worn tropes, such as the popular boy falling for the outcast girl (who, we are led to understand as readers, is beautiful but unaware of it). However, the world-building is immersive and exciting — the author has clearly put a lot of thought into the existence of her magi, with their uniquely turbulent lifestyle and varying skills and abilities.

The concept of creatures existing within different planes, and the relationship between our world and these planes, is also intriguing and employed to good effect. It is both thrilling and amusing to watch Adrienne leap between fighting malevolent creatures and returning to the Mortal Plane in time for school. I would recommend this book, particularly to any young adult who enjoys a mixture of supernatural horror and teen drama, as life-threatening events coincide with the typical trials and tribulations of growing up.

Pages: 344 | ASIN : B09YY333XL

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The Younglings: Fire & Magic

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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The Yellow Sign

After what FBI Agent Erica Blaine has gone through, you’d think she deserves a long and restful vacation. After fruitless therapy sessions, copious amounts of booze, and her gloves that cover her scars, it’s only logical to give her all the time in the world to recover. But when her old army buddy, Dr. Feinstein, goes missing without an explanation, she packs up the flask and goes undercover to uncover the secrets of The Yellow College, where Feinstein was last seen. Thus begins The Yellow Sign, a novel of occult and cosmic horror by James Hodge.

The Yellow Sign has a straightforward plot that allows the readers to follow the character’s actions without keeping track of an assortment of subplots. As a plot-focused novel, the narration marches on at a smooth pace. Blaine, as a character, is easily a relatable hero with just enough personality for readers to root for.

Readers will immediately be immersed in the horror of this novel, making it hard to put down. The reader is constantly reminded of a traumatic event in Erica Blaine’s past, but we are never given more than a subtle glance. I feel that the theme of overcoming personal demons through facing actual monsters is a horror trope that is acutely utilized in this novel. However, genre veterans will love how Hodge brings the situations to life with his graphic details and impressive worldbuilding.

The Yellow Sign promises a dark descent into the depraved world of a mysterious cult, and it delivers. You’ll find yourself zipping through the pages, wanting to get to the flesh and bone of things. This all begins in the prologue, with the deliciously pulpy encounter between Dr. Feinstein and Alice. There also seems to be a charming encounter with her henchmen, the humorously named Thin and Thick.

The Yellow Sign is a good place for readers new to cosmic and occult horror to start reading and get a feel for the genre. The charismatic characters and the strong plot will give readers a great novel to segue into darker occult fiction.

Pages: 242 | ASIN : B09VWY7D9Y

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