Book Review: The Triskaidek (Camp Fae Book 1) by Basil Sprig

The Triskaidek (Camp Fae Book 1) by Basil Sprig

A Coming of Age YA Fantasy Novel published by CreateSpace (06/13/10)

Summary:

“Fairy magic makes things work in predictable ways, but you can’t always find the line between what is magic and what is just nature.”

On the thirteenth day of the thirteenth month of her thirteenth year, Alley is swept up in the magic of her Thirteenth. Then a magical creature shows up on her doorstep. Then her mom finds her a camp to go to for the summer: Camp Fae. Coincidence or are they related to her Thirteenth?

Keywords:

Magic, Sunbird, Elements, Learning, Fairy, Fae, Summer Camp, Leader, Escape, Evil, Power, Time Travel, Mission, Friends, Friendship, Betrayal, Helping, Together, Crafts

My Review:

Triskaidek is a cute yet full-bodied story with complex characters, a rich magical world, and an overarching plot.

I loved how well-developed all the magic details were in this story. I liked the specificity for learning different types of magic, even though Alley didn’t always follow the recipes. I loved how there are two approaches to magic – through hard work and dedication to the recipes and history and knowledge and then the intuitive type. Some fairies are naturally talented (intuitive) for certain magic, like invisibility, and others have to work and work for years and years on a type of magic in order to learn it (flying). The magic is also quite organic and the fairies are left to learn on their own time in their own way to earn ‘badges.’ To earn a badge is to show proficiency in a specific type of magic (like Flying 1).

I enjoyed all the characters, especially Alley. She is clever but magically ‘clumsy’ since she is new to doing magic. She doesn’t always realize or know the consequences of using her magic prior to intuitively using her magic! This results in problems for Alley and the entire camp. Not only that, but Alley must earn badges even though following a recipe for doing magic doesn’t come naturally to her and she must figure out how to do the mission the Sunbird gave her before going to Camp Fae. I would have liked to see more of Alley’s flaws, but I really liked her point of view.

Anyone who read and loved the Harry Potter series, will definitely enjoy The Triskaidek.

This novel was published by CreateSpace  on 06/13/2010 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: The Pirate’s Booty (Inventor-in-Training #1) by D.M. Darroch

The Pirate’s Booty (Inventor-in-Training #1) by D.M. Darroch

A Middle Grade Action-Adventure-Time Travel Novel published by Sleepy Cat Press (04/19/15)

Summary:

“Angus Clark was an inventor in training. He had a business card to prove it.”

Angus Clark thinks of himself as an inventor-in-training. His newest creation is the Insect Incinerator. His first tests have zapped some cones out of existence. Excited for the implications of his invention, Angus races back to the garage (his lab), but drops his invention and accidentally zaps himself out of his own dimension. Now Angus has to figure out a way to fix the Incinerator and get back to his own house, but he’s out on the water aboard the pirate vessel The Fearsome Flea and everyone seems to think his name is BP. What happened and how did he get there? Also, why is Ivy (a goody goody from school) in this dimension with him? Angus will have to use his inventiveness, along with the help of new friends to solve the multi-dimension problem.

Keywords:

Time Travel, Alternate Dimension, Science, Technology, Invention, Messy, Pirate, Parrot, Problem Solving, Teamwork, Humor, Misadventure, Building, Boat, Motor, Ship

My Review:

This was one of the most exciting middle grade novels I have read in a while. Angus has created quite a problem for himself and must figure out a way to fix it, but along the way meets some interesting characters with their own problems. I really enjoyed how all their problems tied together so that the solution will help to solve all the problems.

I admired Angus and his ability to solve problems. He wasn’t able to fix everything the first time and he wasn’t able to fix everything by himself. This book dealt with problem solving and coming up with creative solutions, sometimes together. I adored the way Angus and the Captain played with toys to figure out the mechanics of a motor. They went about it very logically, tallying the results across several dimensions and using that research to make something else that was the best it could be. Angus isn’t an inventor-in-training, he is without a doubt, a real inventor. The whole time he is positive despite the potential direness of the situation.

I very much enjoyed the parallel story of BP, who Angus bumped out of the pirate ship and transported into his place among the suburbs. BP, a pirate, has to learn a few lessons of his own before Angus has figured out how to put everyone back in their rightful places. Except, in the end, not everyone is in their rightful place and the story must go on! I look forward to reading more adventures with Angus and Ivy.

This novel was published by Sleepy Cat Press on 04/19/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 5.0

Links for more information:

D.M. Darroch’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Sammy and the Devil Dog by Susan Brown

Sammy and the Devil Dog by Susan Brown

A Middle Grade Novel published through Yellow Farmhouse Publications (9/21/17)

Summary:

Sammy can’t seem to get to school on time or stay away from trouble. She can’t let bullies go unanswered. When she finds an abused dog, without hesitation, she decides to save him. The dog is still a puppy, but has a lot to learn to be a nice and good dog. Sammy will go to great lengths to save him.

Keywords:

Dog, Puppy, Dog Training, Aggressive Dog, Animal Abuse, Bullying, Standing Up, Speaking Out, Family, Mother-Daughter Relationship, Friends, Friendship, School

My Review:

Sammy’s faults are her strengths. She doesn’t always fit into society the way she’s supposed to. She would rather save a helpless animal than be on time to school. She is misunderstood by those around her and yet she still sticks up for what she believes in. She is a person and a character that everyone will root for. Her moral code is so strong that she doesn’t think twice about helping someone else, but sometimes those actions can be quite selfish. She can’t help everyone and sometimes in the process of helping one person or animal, she is hurting someone else.

This book showed so many realistic characters and situations. I was right there with Sammy as she found Jack. I was still right there with her when she thought about her mother and what she wasn’t getting from her mother. I felt like I understood Sammy’s perspective so completely, and yet she is still a child with a lot of learning to do. As an adult reading this story I can also understood the mother’s point of view and sympathize with both mother and daughter.

This is a great read for kids and adults, especially if they’re reading it together. The characters showed a lot of growth.

This novel was published through Yellow Farmhouse Publications on 9/21/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.75

Links for more information:

Susan Brown’s Website 

Book Review: Shy Ways by Susan Griner

Shy Ways by Susan Griner

A Middle Grade Novel published through Amazon Digital Services Inc. (08/28/17)

Summary:

“I wanted a day off from being part Japanese, part anything.” (Page 145).

Sarah doesn’t like her new home or her new school. The other kids call her mean names because she’s half-Japanese. She wishes she would stand up for herself and speak up, but every time she doesn’t say a word and sometimes cries instead. When the plant where her father and most of the town works has an accident with a chemical leak, it will affect Sarah’s entire family and the whole town. Sarah will forget all about the mean, ignorant comments at school when her mother falls into a deep depression. Taking charge, Sarah will have to find her voice and help her mother.

Keywords:

Sisters, School, Mean Comments, Bullying, Japanese-American, Bi-Racial, New School, New Town, Small Town, PTSD, Racism, Chemical Pollution, Depression, Mothers, Family, Growing Up

My Review:

The story really picks up after the incident at the plant, but we see such a change in Sarah’s home life from before the accident to after. Sarah herself goes through quite a transformation from the beginning of the book to the end. She grows up a lot for a young girl and learns quite a few lessons – like standing up and saying something when someone says something ignorant and mean. She also learns to embrace her mother and her ethnicity, even though it isn’t a part of her life at all except for her heritage.

Both Sarah and her sister were so true to their ages that I could picture them clearly as the kids they were. The young one blurts out whatever’s on her mind and the older one tries to do what she thinks she’s supposed to or follow social norms.

This is a great example of a book of diversity – drawing on issues that kids face when they grow up as second generation Americans.

This novel was published through Amazon Digital Services Inc. on 08/28/2017 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

Links for more information:

Susan Griner’s Website

Goodreads

Twitter

Book Review: Purple Text Talk by C.Y. Robertson

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Purple Text Talk by C.Y. Robertson

A Middle Grade Novel published by Chizzy Press (2/12/16)

Summary:

Aria doesn’t want to make her family worry any more than they have to. She remains quiet and unobtrusive in the middle of her many siblings as they move mid-year. Leaving her best friend Lily behind shouldn’t be so bad because she can make new friends in her new school, right? Fitting in is hard and maybe not even worth it if Aria has to do and say things she’s not proud of, will she stick with it or stay true to herself?

Keywords:

Texting, New School, New Friends, Travel, Popularity, Best Friends, Talking, Phone Calls, New Town, New House, Bullies, Mean Girls

My Review:

This book felt scattered, just like a preteen. Not only was there text talk, there was text grammar and text style. It was difficult to read because details and transitions were not there, but you get the tone of the novel, the mood of the main character Aria and the big picture for the plot. I prefer books with more to them, but for pre-teenagers who text talk and text read and text love, they will totally get this.

The plot was more scattered than I would have liked, since it was more based on showing a slice of life than on a particular main character goal. I enjoyed the story with Luke even though it felt like a subplot that took over the story in the end. Luke and Aria were very fascinating characters, not the norm for pre-teens.

I wish I had more details on how old the characters were. Aria had too many siblings to keep straight!

This novel was published by Chizzy Press on February 12th, 2016 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 3.25

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: Sara Supernatural-Half a World Away by Tiffany Belcher

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Sara Supernatural-Half a World Away by Tiffany Belcher

A Middle Grade/YA Fantasy Novel published by Tate Publishing (01/19/16)

 

Summary:

Sara is back! She has lots of plans for a summer full of fun with Chris, her magical partner from book one, but alas his family is moving him across the world. An intriguing set of twins Sara’s age moves into Chris’s house and they want to be friends with Sara, but there’s something altogether not right about these two girls. Chris told Sara not to use her magic while he’s away, but she can’t just sit on her butt and do nothing when the twins and Jessica gossip behind her back about her. She must get to the bottom of what is really going on.

 

Keywords:

Magic, wishing, powers, female main character, lessons learned, school, immaturity, selfishness, greed, fitting in, twins, mysterious neighbors, evil plot, friendship, invisibility

 

My Review:

The best part of this story was the mystery with the twins that was continued throughout the book. I wanted to understand what was going on and I was super ready for the big reveal at the end! The twins were dynamic and kept changing their tactics. They were odd, yet almost fit in most of the time. They were socially awkward until they did something exactly like a teenager would, like gossiping and spreading rumors about Sara’s friends.

I loved how Sara was uncertain about the twins. She didn’t just believe their intentions and words, but she didn’t completely disregard them as friends. She kept them at arms’ length the entire time, taking what they said with a grain of salt, just like the clever teen she showed us she was in book one. But Sara isn’t perfect and her fault lies in trying to solve all her problems herself, getting deeper and deeper into trouble.

Sara’s two friends were also well written. The story had less of Chris than book one, but I didn’t mind because I was caught up in the mysterious twins and Sara’s rapidly growing problems.

I was surprised at the amount of dropped and missing words in this book. More than a handful of articles were missing from sentences, but the writing was still very readable, despite these typos.

This novel was published by Tate Publishing on January 19th, 2016 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

 

Links for more information:

Tiffany Belcher’s Website

Book Review: Bread for Pharaoh by Jason Black

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Bread for Pharaoh by Jason Black

A Middle Grade Historical Fiction Novel published by Elder Road LLC (12/02/13)

Summary:

“Have I started to forget that she is a noble? Or was I forgetting that I am just a peasant?” (Page 45).

San is the baker’s son and in Egyptian times that means he is the boy who delivers the bread and is destined to become the baker when his father retires. You would think delivering bread would be boring, but for San, he steps into the middle of a plot to kill high members of the nobility. San is intrigued by more than just plots, he discovers Aja, a girl who wants a friend as much as he does. Together they will have to uncover evil plots and figure out if they can remain friends from different classes of Egyptian society.

 

Keywords:

Egypt, Ruler, Pharaoh, Pyramids, Bread Maker, Messenger, Running, Evil Plots, Power Hungry, Sphinx, Stone Work, Cruel, Priest, High Priest, Family, Friendship, Playing, Children

My Review:

Bread for Pharaoh was a fun and imaginative book that I enjoyed reading. San was a fun character with personality. He was a protagonist that grabbed life and made it what he wanted. Though he came from the peasant class, he didn’t let that stop him from making a friend in the nobility, going out of his way to help those around him and in different classes, taking risks, pretending to be above his station to accomplish his goals, and being an all-around active protagonist. I was pleased to read about him as a character and was extra pleased that though he was a boy, his character and Aja’s could have been gender reversed in the same story. Neither character was ultimately defined by their class or their gender and this makes for a worthwhile read, especially for young impressionable readers.

This book excelled in its simplicity. The setting was simple and geographically enclosed, though the reader got an understanding of Egypt in that time period. The cast of characters wasn’t too large. The events weren’t too out of the ordinary, though exciting enough to keep the reader’s interest. Overall it was a well-done story.

This novel was published by Elder Road LLC on December 2nd, 2013 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.00

Links for more information:

Goodreads

Book Review: Faery Swap by Susan Kaye Quinn

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Faery Swap by Susan Kaye Quinn

A Middle Grade Fantasy Novel published through Createspace Independent Publishing Platform (12/16/13)

Summary:

Finn is the protective older brother, but he can no longer protect his little sister when he’s tricked into the Otherworld by a faery Prince. Zaneyr doesn’t mind humans and performs the soulswap with Finn with little remorse because his plans are to save the human species. Zaneyr is in up to his elbows and the human world is much more complicated than he thought, but his father wants to merge the faery world with the human world and Zaneyr will stop at nothing to keep that from happening. Zaneyr is a warrior but with Finn consumed with getting his body back from the faery, things just got a bit more complicated.

Keywords:

Soul Swap, Exchange, Otherworld, Faery, Dimensional Energy, Warrior, Separation, Body, Self, Other Creatures, Power, Spell, Wand, Two Worlds, Tricked, Friendship, Loyalty, Brothers

My Review:

This book was fun to read, surprisingly fun to read as an adult since it’s marketed for a middle-grade crowd. It had more intent and attempted violence and evil than I would have thought for a typical middle-grade novel, more like a young adult novel actually.

The genre was also not quite a typical fairy fantasy because there were wizards and spells and wands. This book had everything! There were even creatures that were different. The fantasy world was separate from the human world and action took place in both. There was world building but it wasn’t off-putting because much of the action and the beginning of the novel took place in the close to reality human world.

There was only one true female but only because it’s about someone else, she isn’t a strong female type or a damsel in distress. Her character could almost also be another boy, she isn’t gender stereotyped into a female corner.

This book covered a lot in its longer than you would expect for a middle grade novel pages. There was a glimpse at friendship and family dynamics and loyalty as well as grief and emotional turmoil over loss and perceived loss of loved ones.

I liked Finn just as much as I liked Zaneyr and even though the faery boy was doing something seemingly wrong by soul swapping with Finn, I understood and was able to sympathize with his motives later on.

This novel was published through Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on December 16th, 2013 and is available on Amazon here.

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.25

Links for more information:

Susan Kaye Quinn’s Website

Goodreads

Book Review: Don’t Call Me Kit Kat by K.J. Farnham

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Don’t Call Me Kit Kat by K.J. Farnham

A YA Teen Drama Novel published on amazon.com (05/15/2015)

 

Summary:

‘I’m the “kind of sick” that makes you not want to go to school and fake being happy every day. The “kind of sick” that is caused by having your best friends practically disappear from your life—sort of like the way dad up and disappeared when I was little. The “kind of sick” that results from hearing your mother say that your dad never wanted you in the first place. The “kind of sick” that Orchard Hills types of girls with perfect families, clothes and bodies don’t get.’ (Kindle Locations 1538-1541).

Does anybody remember middle school fondly? Certainly Katie Mills aka “Kit Kat” won’t. Unfortunately her problems at school aren’t forgotten when she gets home. Katie has another whole set of personal issues that have nothing to do with school. If only she can be like the OH girls. If only she can be like her older sister Kelsie. If only she could have new clothes, better dance moves, a thinner body, a dad who is there for her, a mom who won’t criticize, and on and on.

Katie is stuck in the middle of her problems with no way to get herself out of them. And then she discovers a way to fix some of her problems, but what will it ultimately cost her?

 

Keywords:

 Teen drama, middle grade, 8th grade, girl problems, bullying, bulimia, eating disorders, hiding problems, evading issues, getting help, friendships, family, body image, recovery

 

My Review:

I like to read books that I can take something away when I’m done. Don’t Call me Kit Kat is more than a story about a girl working through her problems. It is more than plot and structure. This book delves deep into what it means to have an eating disorder. What does it feel like to want to binge and purge? What does it feel like to be so unhappy with yourself that you’ll go to extreme and unhealthy measures to change? What is day to day life like for a bulimic? How can one get better with an eating disorder? K.J. Farnham answers all these questions and more in her book. I got a lot out of reading this novel.

Though it has been some years since I’ve been a teenager, I believe Farnham captures the moodiness and insecurity of being a teenager in a world full of unrealistic expectations. Katie felt very real and the character seemed more than plausible. Her reality was very realistic.

I never thought about food the way Kit Kat does and it opened up my eyes a bit more to a different person’s experience growing up. “The funny thing about food, though, is that I love it as much as I hate it. I love that I can choose what to eat and how much to eat, or even not to eat anything at all. It’s the guilt I feel after a binge that I can’t stand. Because of the guilt, I sometimes find myself wondering if I control the food or if the food controls me.” (Kindle Locations 1516-1518).

The gradual downhill slide Katie fell into was told so well and captured the essence of how any of it could happen in a way someone without any experience with an eating disorder could understand. This book will really make you empathize and understand a world you may not and never be privy to.

Warning to those who read this book: As the narrator of her own story Katie’s experiences may be so close to reality that they cause their own type of trauma. Katie is very body negative, especially in the first half of the book where she gets no help or support. She is very down on herself and quite pessimistic and her feelings are very hard hitting.

 

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

This novel was published through Createspace Independent Publishing Platform 05/15/2015 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

 

Links for more information:

Goodreads

K.J. Farnham’s Website

Book Review: Sara Supernatural by Tiffany Belcher

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Sara Supernatural by Tiffany Belcher

A Middle Grade/YA Fantasy Novel published by Tate Pubishing (10/29/13)

 

Summary:

When Sara makes the wish for her freckles to disappear for the hundredth time, she doesn’t expect her wish to come true. She’s a redhead with freckles and everyone knows that boys don’t like girls with freckles except Sara meets Chris and he likes her freckles. Shoot! Now she needs them back. Sara and her two best friends Ashely and Jessica realize that Sara has the power to wish for whatever she wants, but with this power comes great repercussions. Sara makes a mess of things with her accidental wishes and they aren’t all as easy to fix as wishing for her freckles back.

 

Keywords:

Magic, wishing, powers, female main character, lessons learned, romance, fourteen-year olds, middle school, immaturity, selfishness, greed, fitting in, being the best, cheating

 

My Review:

Sara was a great main character. Though she was only fourteen and in middle school, she was mature and interesting even though she did fall into some typical teenage behavioral patterns. Sara wanted the perfect life and the perfect family, complete with perfect outfits and style. She didn’t try to match her wishes with her reality until she is granted the power to make her dreams come true without any effort. She has only to wish and voile, wish granted. Not every wish should be fulfilled, and Sara learns this the hard way. Sara has the ability to fix her mistakes the whole time, it is learning that she made a mistake and why there are consequences to certain wishes that makes the story.

I liked that the author gives us multiple characters with their own parts to play in the story. There’s Ashley, the picky one, who is not always confident in what she’s doing. There’s Jessica, who grew up spoiled and doesn’t always know how to put others first or to think of someone other than herself. There’s Chris, the boy who was raised to take care of himself.

Any time there’s magic involved, I appreciate a good answer for where and how the magic came to be. Belcher, about midway through the book, gives an explanation for the magic in two levels, where it originated from in the beginning and how Sara got her wishing abilities. The author also quantifies the extent the magic has on altering reality and how far Sara can go in its use, which I really appreciated. Defining the magic made it and the story more real.

The dialogue was a pleasure to read and the author really captured some more witty teenage moments full of snippy sarcastic teen talk without being overly dramatic or too grammatically poor like some teens everyone knows.

I enjoyed this book, though not as much as the intended audience I’m sure and was pleasantly surprised by the ending indication that there will be a sequel with older characters!

This novel was published by Tate Pubishing on October 29th, 2013 and is available on Amazon here.

 

TL;DR Star Rating: 4.50

 

Links for more information:

Tiffany Belcher’s Website

Goodreads