Otherworld: A YA Fantasy Adventure by Evan Ronan ~ Review~

Otherworld: A Young Adult Fantasy Adventure by Evan Ronan

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” –Albert Einstein

“Everybody knew I was the biggest daydreamer in the whole school.”

When you’ve been gifted with a wild imagination, anything can happen. This book is aOtherworld great example of where an abundant flight of imagination can take you. Readers are introduced to Aoife Finley, pronounced Eef-uh, daydreamer extraordinaire. The extraordinary events in the book all started when Erica saw the Lady in Green. No one was supposed to see the Lady in Green because she was a product of Aoife’s imagination. That was the first inkling that something was very wrong in Paxsum, Aoife’s imaginary world.

Aoife created Paxsum probably when she lost her mother many years ago. It was her
way of coping with sad reality, but was also a way to connect her to her father, who
wisely encouraged Aoife to use her imagination. Imagination created her first group of friends…Al the industrial-sized recycling container in her yard, B the barbecue on the back deck, and Rosie the sled. In the early days of loss, she talked with her friends daily.Otherworld quote1

Now that she was a little bit older, some of her classmates in school were her friends. Slob, a.k.a Sam, was her best friend. They could talk about anything, and he even understood her imaginary world and her imaginary friends because he was also fluent in imagination. His imaginary person was Steel Sunday, a structural engineer who went on adventures as if he were another Indiana Jones. Slob (a name given to him based on Bob the Builder) spent most of his waking time building things from blocks. He understood Aoife and so they spent time together, sometimes in silence that was comfortable. Others in her class were mostly annoyances such as Erica (nicknamed The Bank of Erica), Nestor (nicknamed Binky), Kris Miller (nicknamed Killer), and Robin (nicknamed Snail-smeller). Erica used to be a close friend, when suddenly she turned her back and became Aoife’s arch enemy. But it was these friends, when push came to shove, that saved not only Aoife’s imaginary world, but also the real world around them.

This book is one designed for the YA category. Because of some serious threats to
children in the imaginary town of Paxsum, I do not recommend reading this to children younger than 4th grade. It also may not appeal to upper age teens or older because the classroom scenario seems to center around 5th or 6th grade age-range interactions. I used to teach middle school age YA, and I believe this story is perfect for that spectrum. However, upper age students such as those who need lower reading level, high interest material would find this perfect as well.Otherworld quote2

Not only is this book about the imagination, it also features how friendship develops, what it is and what it is not, its imperfections, and its character. For the young readers, there’s a lot of action, imaginative events, suspense, and a little bit of danger. The author’s sense of humor adds a lot to this story. I loved the giggles and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read this story all the way through. It was that good.Otherworld quote3

The one thing I loved most about this book is that it is not entirely dark in nature. So much of today’s literature is so dark, even among children’s books, that I’m happy when I run across something truly light-hearted and “childish”. Yes, there were characters with bad attitudes, but they changed eventually. Good characterization is also a hallmark in this book. Aoife especially had some life lessons to learn, but the way it happens is entirely painless to the reader (No groaning in the peanut gallery, please. I really do love books with substance). Two thumbs and two big toes up for this first work from the pen of Evan Ronan. I sincerely hope he has many more books like this to offer us!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade
Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and
Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagan ~Review~

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagan

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle

What a delightfully fun book! Filled with adventure, legends, evil vs. good, villains, quests and young heroes, this book is a great read for both guys and gals.

Gabriel Finley’s world was a normal human world just like yours and mine (almost). There was really nothing extraordinary about it at all (that he knew of). Gabriel lived with his Aunt Jasmine in a classic old brownstone house in Brooklyn. It had belonged to his grandparents and was filled with odd-looking furniture and pictures of odd-looking ancestors, including a creepy picture of his Uncle Corax. Gabriel didn’t remember his mother because she disappeared when he was very little. But he remembered his father very well. He had only gone missing three years ago, leaving behind a mysterious note Gabriel’s Aunt Jaz had found. He and his friends walked to school every day. Gabriel wasn’t exactly hero material. He was even bullied once in awhile at school. He had no special talents except for one…he loved riddles. It was something he had in common with his father, who always said riddles were good for the mind.

It was one of those normal days where Gabriel was trying to get more information about his father’s disappearance from his Aunt Jaz when she finally relented and gave him his father’s diary, called the Book of Ravens. Reading it was an eye opener because it related an experience his father had when he was Gabriel’s age. Unknown to most humans of the day, ravens and humans had a history together. At one time, they were close friends. They spoke together as equals. Ravens sang lullabies to their friends’ babies and accompanied their amicus everywhere. They even went to war and served as look-outs.

But then something horrible happened to change the camaraderie to fear. It started with one bad raven who recruited other ravens to the same evil fate he suffered through temptations to become like him. Since then, there have been two types of ravens, the good ones and the evil ones. The evil ravens, called valravens were doomed to eternal torment and inner coldness, unable to die. To tell them apart, ravens would ask a strange raven a riddle. If the unknown raven laughed, he was accepted. Valravens never laughed. Their world was miserable, dark and humorless.

Most of what he read didn’t seem real to Gabriel until one day a raven chick asked him a riddle and he answered it. Then its next cryptic statement brought to focus all he learned in this father’s diary, “Corax must not find the torc.” It seemed the young bird, Paladin, Gabriel and his friends were destined for a long and dangerous adventure.

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle quote1

As a parent, an elementary teacher, and a tutor, I know this would be a book that would appeal to most boys and girls and young teens. It begins with humorous adventures as we become acquainted with Gabriel, Abby, Pamela and Soams. Then the story moves more into the fantasy arena when the young people begin to interact with ravens and those who befriend the ravens. Finally, we catch a glimpse of a grander scheme–the quest to keep a valuable and deadly item, the torc, out of the hands of Evil, and the rescue of Gabriel’s father. The story moves from light and entertaining to more serious and intense activity. There is darkness, but never despair and hopelessness. The story moves along at a quick pace, and tension intensifies in the final third of the book. I would recommend this adventure for fourth graders up to young adults, although I enjoyed it myself. The caveat I have to mention is that the valravens are referred to as ghouls and they do participate in some ghoulish behavior. This may disturb more sensitive readers. However, there is no crude or lude language, no swearing or major moral complications. It is a great epic adventure.

In fact, Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle is a book with potential, in my opinion, to become a classic piece of literature. Not only does it read like a classic, I believe this book would make a wonderful children’s cartoon movie. In its sweeping epic theme, we find the time-honored clash between good and evil, opportunities for young heroes to rise up and save the world, and a classic scary villain. There are world shattering stakes involved and lots of adventure, magic, and character building events. All the right elements are present. The scope of the story reminds me of the movie, “The Legend of the Guardians.” I think this tale could become
a similar type of movie.

From what I read at the end, I believe there will be more to this book in a series. If so, I’m looking forward to reading it.

Visit George Hagan’s website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Children’s Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson ~ A Review

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

Mark of the Dragonfly

If you lived on the world of Solace, being a scrapper put you among the dregs of society among the kingdoms. In fact, if you lived in a scrapper town, it didn’t even merit a name, just a number. Piper, Micah and Jory were scrappers, living in shanty town #16. Piper was an orphan, and the two boys had parents who were gone on fishing expeditions most of the time. They and the rest of the population made a living scavenging debris from the meteor ravaged fields. Meteors rained down from the heavens regularly, and the interesting items found in those fields allowed scrappers a meager existence through their exchange for coins. One day after a severe meteor storm Piper found a girl unconscious in a caravan too near the scorched fields. The girl, Anna, was the only apparent survivor. Piper took Anna to her home in an effort to help her. When the girl woke up without her memory everything in Piper’s little world was turned upside down.

On the journey to solve the mystery, Piper and Anna sneak aboard a train to hide from pursuers who terrified Anna. The crew of the train at first become antagonists, but when they see the dragonfly tattoo on Anna’s arm, things turn around and they treat her like royalty until events force them all to bond as a family of sorts. The author has woven a vivid world of sarnuns, chamelins, synergists, kingdoms, magic, mysteries, danger, adventure and communities that are universal in nature. Friendship is just as human in this world of adventure as it is in our own world. The author has created unique voices with distinct qualities and lovable people we care about as we read. Each of the main characters are well developed and three

The book is intended for middle grade readers, both boys and girls. There is a great adventure theme as well as some moments of reflection on the state of the world, warfare, invention, exploration and the neglect of society’s poorest peoples. It is family friendly with no foul attitudes and language, and would be interesting even for younger ages as a read aloud book. Additionally, I think teens and adults of all ages would enjoy reading this fantasy/science fiction pick. The first five chapters provide a background and setting, so the story line starts out a bit slow. But once the girls reach the train the action is practically non-stop. There’s plenty of nail- biting suspense and even a slight touch of romance. The events at the end provide more than one unexpected twist.

progress, not perfectionI enjoyed reading this tale so much. Ms. Johnson’s writing style is smooth, seemingly effortless and pleasant to read. I hope this author has more books to read. I will definitely be looking for more of her work.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Children’s. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Martyr’s Fire (Book 3 of Merlin’s Immortals) by Sigmund Brouwer ~ A Review

Martyr’s Fire (Book 3 of Merlin’s Immortals) by Sigmund Brouwer

Martyrs Fire

Martyr’s Fire is the third book in the Merlin’s Immortals series. It is a revised and expanded version of The Winds of Light series. I do not know how many books there are in the series, but this is definitely not the final book. While it is an integral part of the whole, this book can be read independently. I have not read any other books from this author as of yet, nor have I read any of the other books in this series. Obviously, there are important events in the first two books that provide a much needed background to fully understand the overall theme. These are alluded to in the Martyr’s Fire, but I was still able to discern enough for this tale to flow smoothly. In addition, I am impressed enough with the author’s writing style that I intend to look for the rest of the books and read them as soon as possible.

The series, Merlin’s Immortals, seems to contain a story within a story. The immediate tale is about Thomas, who is ruler of the city of Magnus; the reader learns later that this city is a lynch pin in the events of the broader story. But Thomas has only ruled for three seasons when a small ragtag group of priests claiming to be the Priests of the Holy Grail enter the city and eventually use
psychology and the superstitions of the uneducated populace to grab the reins of the city from Thomas’ grip. He barely escapes with his life. Before he leaves Magnus, a wizened adviser gives him cryptic instructions to aid in his search for answers to his questions.

Setting out on this quest for information, Thomas is unaware of being watched by two groups of people representing two opposing factions that date back to the time of Merlin. Members of both groups want Thomas to join them, yet at the same time he is not completely oblivious to their presence and the undercurrents of tension. However, sometimes the course of events leave him baffled. Thomas’ fighting skills, previous education and training, the assistance of unseen friends and watchers, and even just dumb luck makes this an intriguing adventure.

I enjoy how the author gives the reader just a tiny bit more information than Thomas has. We get to view his predicaments with a different point of view while admiring how well he extricates himself from one mess after another. Yet we are not given enough information to know all that is occurring. The reader is left trying to understand the undercurrents, just as Thomas is doing. This is all part of great plot and character development; we see Thomas maturing through his ordeals.


I would recommend this book for a wide range of ages. For example, the author employs short chapters and fairly simple vocabulary (about fourth grade level) which makes this book a good choice as a read aloud chapter book for group use such as the classroom, library story time, or family story time. Good readers in the middle grades may like this selection, especially those who would enjoy medieval themes and adventurous activity.

While there are elements of warfare and violence, none of it is grossly graphic. At the most, I would say it could be rated PG. It is a family friendly series, with emphasis on the importance of education, training, inner discipline, mentoring, and the love of God. The pace is quick and would appeal to older readers as well as middle grade readers. The book is less a historical fiction piece and more a tale of fantasy. And finally, because of the complexity of multiple story threads, young adults may find this series appealing. I know as a person that’s young at heart, I enjoyed it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Waterbrook Press and the website, Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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