Book Review: The Carrefour Curse by Dianne K. Salerni

Title: The Carrefour Curse
Author: Dianne K. Salerni
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

The Addams Family meets The Westing Game in this exhilarating mystery about a modern magical dynasty trapped in the ruins of their once-grand, now-crumbling ancestral home.

Twelve-year-old Garnet regrets that she doesn’t know her family. Her mother has done her best to keep it that way, living far from the rest of the magical Carrefour clan and their dark, dangerous mansion known as Crossroad House.

But when Garnet finally gets summoned to the estate, it isn’t quite what she hoped for. Her relatives are strange and quarrelsome, each room in Crossroad House is more dilapidated than the last, and she can’t keep straight which dusty hallways and cobwebbed corners are forbidden.

Then Garnet learns the family secret: their dying patriarch fights to retain his life by stealing power from others. Every accident that isn’t an accident, every unexpected illness and unexplained disappearance grants Jasper Carrefour a little more time. While the Carrefours squabbles over who will inherit his role when (if) he dies, Garnet encounters evidence of an even deeper curse. Was she brought to Crossroad House as part of the curse . . . or is she meant to break it?

Written with loads of creepy atmosphere and an edge-of-your-seat magical mystery, this thrilling story reads like The Haunting of Hill House for preteens. Perfect for late-night reading under the covers.

The Carrefour Curse is a delightful book for young teens who loved watching the TV series Wednesday or Lockwood & Co – the book blurb makes references to the Addams Family, and it’s indeed a bit similar, although the Carrefour family tree is a lot more complicated, I have to say!

Twelve-year-old Garnet doesn’t really know most members of her family. Her mother has done whatever she can to keep Garnet away from the Carrefour clan and their magical abilities – although Garnet does have magic of her own. In particular, her mother seems terrified of the house she and her siblings, aunts and uncles, grew up in: Crossroad House.

But when Garnet and her mother get summoned to Crossroad House – actually, magically summoned – Garnet finally gets to meet her family including the dying family patriarch who is downright creepy. The more time Garnet spends at Crossroad House, the more she begins to realize the house is cursed… And it may be up to Garnet to break the family curse.

The book is a bit dark, but then again, I remember my favorite books as a young teen were the stories with a dark edge to them. Here, despite the dark elements, the focus is on family, and you can really feel the love the Carrefour family has for one another dripping from the pages – at least, most members of the family, that is.

I also liked the references to gemstones and their meaning at the beginning of each chapter. It worked really well with the theme of magic throughout the book, as Garnet’s magic and that of some of her relatives, are related to gemstones.

While the book works perfectly well as a stand-alone, I wouldn’t mind if this one got a sequel. I’m definitely intrigued to find out more about the Carrefour family, and I have a feeling they might have more stories to tell.

Book Review and Giveaway Taking Wing

Title: Taking Wing

Author: Clemency Crow
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

12-year-old Freya enjoys karate and is the only one in her class who’s trusted with a part-time job. But everything changes when she meets a boy with yellow eyes. She learns about the guardians, and how an age-old fight has stopped them from fulfilling their purpose. Freya finds new friends in the crow tribe but not everything in the castle is blissful. A destructive shadow lies within her and all she needs to do to summon it is close her eyes. But as the guardian’s war rages on, Freya realises that, although the shadow’s power can be useful, it can’t create peace. Freya and her friends must solve the crime that began the war, but can they bring the guardians together before they destroy each other?

Taking Wing is an intriguing middle grade adventure featuring 12-year-old Freya, a girl who is so much more than she seems at first glance.

The book actually begins with a chapter set in 617 AD, where the reader witnesses the funeral of Edweth, and a man named Raedwald who vows to avenge her death, which he believes was due to her being murdered by someone from the Crow tribe. The book then jumps to the present day, where the reader is introduced to Freya. Despite being only twelve, Freya holds a part-time job in a shop after school. The reader is thrown into the action right away, as Freya feels someone is following her while she’s walking to her aunt’s house–the follower turns out to be a boy with yellow eyes and a long, hooked nose, almost like a bird’s nose.

The boy, Enna, turns out to be much more than he seems at first glance but it’s when his friends turn up that the action really picks up, and they take Freya to the home of the Crow tribe. As she meets the others of the Crow tribe, Freya makes new friends but soon realizes that not everything is at she thought it was, and that the war between the tribes can only be solved with Freya’s help. But can Freya accomplish this task, especially when she discovers that there’s something hidden deep within herself, a shadow, that has tremendous power?

I actually really liked Winnie. She seemed like such a genuine person, and her personality worked rather well. Most of the characters in the book feel like genuine people, with fitting personality traits, and with some little quirks and things that set them apart from others. The author did a really good job portraying all these different characters throughout.

The plot was excellent too, with some unexpected twists and turns that I hadn’t seen coming. There was never a dull moment, and the pacing moved along nicely. The book is clearly aimed at middle graders, but even an older audience will enjoy this book. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, as I suspect there will be a sequel.



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Book Review The Sacred Artifact

Title: The Sacred Artifacts
Author: Caldric Blackwell
Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Determined to uncover the secrets of a mysterious artifact, fourteen-year-old alchemy student Craig Pike and his teacher, Cornelius, journey to the birthplace of alchemy to seek the advice of a wise, ancient alchemist named Quintus. With the help of a witty archer, Audrey Clife, they trek across dangerous lands, compete in a cutthroat tournament, and reunite with old friends. They soon find out the artifact is more powerful than anticipated, and they aren’t the only ones seeking to discover its secrets….

In this adventurous middle grade novel, The Sacred Artifact, Craig Pike and his teacher Cornelius are looking to uncover the secrets of a mysterious artifact. Doing so takes them on a fantastical quest, along with the young but resourceful Audrey Clife, an archer who was actually my favorite character of the entire book!

The quest reminded me a little of Frodo’s journey in Lord of the Rings – while traveling, Craig and his friends encounter enemies at just about every corner, and even though they also meet up with some old friends, there’s an inniment danger lurking at every turn of the page.

I like middle grade books because of the level of imagination that goes into writing them, and this book is no exception. Although I struggled a bit at the start, with the book being the second book in a series, and me not really knowing the characters yet, but after a few chapters, I got the hang of it.

If you enjoy middle grade fantasy books, then I recommend you check out this series.

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Book Review: From Frights to Flaws by Sunayna Prasad

Title: From Frights to Flaws
Author: Sunayna Prasad
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon

Originally published in 2013, the book has been updated to its full potential with edits, while keeping the storyline the same.

Twelve-year-old Alyssa McCarthy longs for a better life. She lost her parents at age seven and her aunt at nine. Her uncle also enforces unfair rules. But Alyssa discovers something she has never thought existed before… magic. A wicked sorcerer hunts her down. He kidnaps her from her ordinary New Jersey town to Yanowic, an enchanted island in Fiji.
Alyssa is trapped in the country due to a giant shield covering it. She must defeat dangerous creatures and the evil wizard in order to leave. But with sorcerers and enchanted technology getting in her way, can Alyssa succeed?

Let me start by saying that I read and reviewed From Frights to Flaws before. However, the book has been re-edited, and has received a brand new cover when its updated, second edition was released. So, I decided to read and review again!

The book still holds all the magic and mayhem of the first book (for a more detailed review of the plot, check out my first review) but some of the hiccups in the first book have been removed or rewritten, and overall, the book reads smoother. Some grammar/spelling issues I noticed during the first read were fixed in this second edition.

Overall, the updates fixed a lot of minor issues and made the story overall better, although the storyline itself stays the same. I enjoyed this re-visit to this world and these characters, and I recommend this book to middle graders who enjoy fantasy stories and intriguing characters.

Book Review: The Five Shields: The Lost Souls

Title: The Five Shields: The Lost Souls
Author: Ilan Dvir
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Imagine discovering a baby with a mysterious gem on your doorstep!

A sharp knock in the middle of the night awakens Henri and Aline. They discover on their doorstep a swaddled baby with only a mysterious ring wrapped in her blankets. They decide to keep their find a secret and tell the world she is theirs, not knowing that every secret comes at a price. They name her Rose.

Five teens from across the world discover shared hidden powers and a deadly mission

On their thirteen birthdays, Rose and four other teenagers from across the globe discover that they are The Five Shields, tasked with protecting the world’s fate and the balance of good and evil. All they have in common is a mysterious, powerful gem. On a life-changing journey, they discover untold powers hidden within them.

Can the Five Shields save a world threatened by total darkness?

The Five Shields must fight to free the lost souls before it is too late. But first they must defeat sinister, dark forces hell-bent on their total destruction. If the Shields succeed, light will triumph; if they fail, darkness will reign. Who will prevail?

In The Five Shields: The Lost Souls, Henri and Aline discover a swaddled baby on their doorstep with a mysterious ring wrapped in her blankets. They decide to pretend the baby is theirs, and name her Rose. On her thirteenth birthday, Rose realizes she’s one of the Five Shields, tasked with protectin the balance of good and evil. Along with four others, she has to save the world.

The plot is very fast-paced and although not that original (in parts similar to a variety of other young hero / chosen ones stories out there) it is entertaining, and we dive into the action right away. It’s ideal for middle graders and young adults, but even adults will enjoy the imaginative tale.

Book Review: One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

Title: One for Sorrow
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
Genre: Historical, Middle Grade, Ghosts
Age Group: Middle Grade
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Against the ominous backdrop of the influenza epidemic of 1918, Annie, a new girl at school, is claimed as best friend by Elsie, a classmate who is a tattletale, a liar, and a thief. Soon Annie makes other friends and finds herself joining them in teasing and tormenting Elsie. Elsie dies from influenza, but then she returns to reclaim Annie’s friendship and punish all the girls who bullied her. Young readers who revel in spooky stories will relish this chilling tale of a girl haunted by a vengeful ghost.

One for Sorrow is an another addition to Mary Downing Hahn’s ever-growing oeuvre, and it’s a solid one, although perhaps not as refreshing or as creepy as I had hoped.

Against the influenza epidemic of 1918, Annie is a new girl at school. She’s immediately claimed as best friend by Elsie, a bossy tattletale classmate who Annie somewhat sympathizes with because of her horrible situation at home. Yet Elsie easily distances Annie from the other classmates, destroys her favorite doll, and soon turns out to be the worst friend in history. When Elsie is ill for a week, Annie makes new friends, much to Elsie’s dismay.

Then, the influenza epidemic strikes, and Elsie grows ill and dies. She returns from the dead to haunt Annie and her new friends, and to make Annie believes she’s responsible for Elsie dying. She makes Annie’s life a miserable, going so far as to get her locked up in an insane asylum. Annie must find a way to fight back against her unwanted ghostly companion.

It’s old school horror, but doesn’t have any of the delicious eeriness that usually accompanies those stories. The historical setting works, the writing is excellent, the children are cruel and wicked, but it’s still missing something. Elsie’s ghost isn’t particularly scary. She lets Annie do wicked things, but it’s not scary, not creepy, not eerie.

Also, all the characters are horrible. Even Annie. She decides to hate Elsie right away when it’s obvious and should be obvious to her that Elsie has a horrible childhood and could really use a friend. Maybe Elsie should temper it down somewhat, but she could still use a friend. I found it downright cruel how even the adults were mean to Elsie. That’s terrible. All the girl characters were nasty and spoiled, and the adults weren’t much better.

I was also rather annoyed by Annie not being able to do anything on her own. She wanted to get rid of Elsie’s ghost, but she didn’t really do anything about it. She didn’t try research, or try to contact anyone who could help her. She was very passive, and just let things happen to her.

Anyway, it’s a good story for middle graders, but not the best, although I did enjoy the writing and pacing, and the historical setting. The characters just weren’t very likeable, and the story wasn’t creepy enough.

Book Review Laura Monster Crusher

31147002Title: Laura Monster Crusher

Author: Wesley King

Genre: Children’s Books

Age Group: Children / Middle Grade

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Lord of the Rings meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Duff in this funny, fast-paced tale of middle-school monsters, self-image, and, oh yeah, actual monsters that want to kill everyone.
Laura Ledwick is… well… large. The kids at school don’t let her forget it, and call her by various names: Laura Largebottom, Laura Lardo, Lots of Laura–you get the idea. When Laura’s family moves to the next town over before eighth grade, she expects more of the same. What she doesn’t expect are the snake-like yellow eyes watching her from the forest. Or the mysterious rattling in her closet. Or finally making real friends for the first time. Or handsome uber-nerd Liam R. Kelp, who might just be the cutest boy to ever wear a Science Is Cool T-shirt. But when Laura finally discovers the source of the rattling, things take on a whole new level of weird. It turns out Laura has just been given the most important job in the world: Monster Crusher. Her role is simple: protect the earth from the horrors beneath their feet. Eighth grade is about to get a lot more interesting.

In Laura Monster Crusher, Laura struggles with being bullied at school because of her weight. When her parents move to another town before eighth grade, she expects she’ll just get bullied again in her new high school. But what she doesn’t expect is she might actually make some friends. On the downside, though, she actually makes some enemies, of the supernatural kind. She discovers a portal to another world, where she will be trained as a Monster Crusher, and learn to protect the earth from the horrors underground – the monsters. No, eighth grade will be a lot more interesting than she ever could’ve imagined.

I absolutely loved Laura. Her struggles made her sound all the more realistic, especially how she struggles with her weight and being bullied. I also loved her sweet crush on Liam R. Kelp, who is nerdy but lovely, cute and respectful too. Laura sure knows how to pick them! Laura also doesn’t really lose weight – her training might help her shape up a little, but she doesn’t magically transform into a skinny girl. In a way, the book is all about fat acceptance and positive body image, and I totally support that. Laura gains independence and self-confidence as the book progresses, and I felt so proud for her.

The writing was good, and although some parts of the book dragged (especially in the middle), I really enjoyed it. It’s a wonderful, positive, imaginative middle grade book.


Book Review: The Journey to Magmatic by Ya’akov Halevy

Title: The Journey to Magmatic
Author: Ya’akov Halevy
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

An adventure beneath the earth’s surface

An ancient legend tells of a long-gone continent called Magmatic, buried in a volcanic eruption due to human greed and environmental destruction. Tulip and her little brother Noonie heard the fable from their father, a scientist who anticipates earthquakes. They’ll soon find out that the legend is real.

An adventure packed with thrills, humor and surprise

On a field-trip to an advanced scientific pod, Tulip and Noonie find themselves beneath the earth’s surface. Deep underground, they slowly uncover the true source of earthquakes, and how the ancient legend is linked to the real environmental dangers facing the planet.

A fantastic voyage into the earth’s belly

In their journey they encounter mythical animals, magnificent sights, great dangers and a world that blends imagination and reality. Together with their companions – a kind-hearted crustacean and a humanoid mindreading computer – they must learn to cooperate and rely on each other if they want to survive… and save the world.

Two children on a mission to save the planet

Will Tulip and Noonie overcome the dangers lurking in the Magma Sea, deep in the belly of the Earth? Will they escape the Monster Crab and the cruel mutants? How will they decipher the ancient prophecy and silence the deadly drill? And will their love for each other survive the voyage? A fantastic adventure about friendship, courage and environmental responsibility. You’ll read it with bated breath.

Get your copy of The Journey to Magmatic now!

The Journey to Magmatic reminded me of a movie I’d seen when I was a kid, about scientists having to travel to the earth’s core. In this book, two kids, Tulip and Noonie, finds themselves beneath the earth’s surface on a field trip to an advanced scientific pod. Underground, they uncover th true source of earthquakes, a long-lost continent called Magmatic and mythical creatures they never knew existed.

This book is a delight for middle graders and young adults. The author has a vivid imagination, mixing myth and legend with science fiction-like mutant creatures, and combining technology and the legends of old in an exciting tale. Tulip and Noonie are two intriguing protagonists as well. They’re siblings, and their love and friendship is at the core of this book.

Young teens and middle graders will love this amazing adventure beneath the earth’s surface.

Mini-Reviews: The Lonely Ones, City of Shadows, The Spirit Chaser


Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

The Lonely Ones

Tite: The Lonely Ones

Author: Kelsey Sutton

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

When your only friend is your own endless imagination, how do you escape your mind and connect to the world around you?

With parents too busy to pay her attention, an older brother and sister who would rather spend their time with friends, and peers who oscillate between picking on her and simply ignoring her, it’s no wonder that Fain spends most of her time in a world of her own making. During the day, Fain takes solace in crafting her own fantastical adventures in writing, but in the darkness of night, these adventures come to life as Fain lives and breathes alongside a legion of imaginary creatures. Whether floating through space or under the sea, climbing mountains or traipsing through forests, Fain becomes queen beyond – and in spite of – the walls of her bedroom.

In time, Fain begins to see possibilities and friendships emerge in her day-to-day reality. . . yet when she is let down by the one relationship she thought she could trust, Fain must decide: remain queen of the imaginary creatures, or risk the pain that comes with opening herself up to the fragile connections that exist only in the real world?

Told in breathless and visual verse, THE LONELY ONES takes readers through the intricate inner workings of a girl who struggles to navigate isolation and finds friendship where she least expects it.

Review: Fain knows what loneliness looks like. What it feels like. But when a group of monsters befriends her, she is no longer lonely: now she has friends to go on adventures with. This is a beautiful story of a girl’s journey of self-discovery through her imagination.

City of Shadows

Title: City of Shadows

Author: Pippa DaCosta

Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Alina knows she is not real – the fae queen spun an evil web to create her – but she wants more than to spend her days feeding off humans’ energy to survive. She isn’t content to lose herself in the dangerously attractive Reign. She wants a life of her own making.

Desperate to help the man who saved her life, Alina vows to find his missing sister. Alina is convinced that the general of the Fae Authority plays a part in her disappearance. She infiltrates the organisation and gets close to their strongest fighter. But while Samuel’s tormented soul and masterful touch stirs in Alina a feeling of being human again, her loyalty to Reign makes her Samuel’s enemy. Who should she trust?

This New Adult urban fantasy is packed with action and suspense and will have you yearning for more forbidden fae romance.

Review: I absolutely loved this book. Alina is a construct, something made by the fae queen, and she only has limited time left. All the characters were amazing, especially Reign and Alina! This was the second book in a series, and I didn’t read the first book, but I wanted to ever since I finished this one. An excellent read.

The Spirit Chaser

Title: The Spirit Chaser

Author: Kat Mayor

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Some places are too evil. Some places should be left alone.

Austin Cole has it made. Star of the hit television show Spirit Chaser Investigations, he has become the world’s most famous paranormal investigator. Although hard work, a talented investigation team, and favorable genetics have something to do with it, it’s his lack of fear and willingness to take risks no one else will that make Spirit Chaser Investigations cable’s number-one show. When a ghost-hunt-gone-wrong seriously injures his best friend and lead psychic, Austin is forced to find a replacement for a team member he considers irreplaceable.

Casey Lawson can’t catch a break. She’s been on her own since she turned eighteen and is scraping by as a part-time psychic and cashier at a New Age store. When a desperate Austin Cole calls her up and offers her a position on his team, has her fortune finally changed?

He’s a control freak; she’s stubborn and opinionated. It takes time, but when they finally realize they’re working on the same side, everything clicks, both on and off screen.

Just when things are looking up, a new threat emerges. Over the years, Austin has angered plenty of demons, and one of them has set her sights on him. Now he’s the one in danger, and it’s up to the team to rescue him from the riskiest investigation of their lives.

Review: This book had everything I loved: ghosts, a paranormal show, romance. Unfortunately, it all felt rather bland, mostly due to the writing style, which was mechanical and boring. The first few spooky scenes were creepy, but it went downhill from there.

Book Review The Sailweaver’s Son

front-coverTitle: The Sailweaver’s Son
Author: Jeff Minerd
Genre: MG/YA Fantasy
Age Group: Middle Grade and Up
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

The Sailweaver’s Son combines traditional fantasy with a dash of steampunk and takes young readers to a unique world—Etherium. A world where mountains rise like islands above a sea of clouds and adventurers travel the sky in sail-driven airships.

When fifteen year-old Tak rescues the survivor of an airship destroyed by one of the giant flammable gas bubbles mysteriously appearing in the sky of Etherium, the authorities react like a flock of startled grekks.

Admiral Scud accuses Tak of sabotage and treason. Tak’s father grounds him for reckless airmanship. Rumors spread that the bubbles are weapons devised by the Gublins, a race of loathsome but ingenious underground creatures. The King’s advisors call for war, hoping to win much-needed Gublin coal.

To clear his name, solve the mystery, and prevent a misguided war, Tak must do what anyone knows is suicide—visit the Gublins and find out what they’re up to. When the wizard’s adopted daughter, an oddly beautiful and irksomely intelligent girl from the Eastern kingdoms, asks Tak to help her do just that, he can’t say no.

The adventure will take Tak from the deepest underground caves to a desperate battle on Etherium’s highest mountaintop. It will force him to face his worst fears, and to grow up faster than he expected.

When I was a child, I once read a fantasy book about airships. It was amazing, and for years afterward, I fantasized about a vast world where people could travel in airships, and cities existed in the clouds. The Sailweaver’s Son brought those memories back to me, and reminded me of that fantasy world I had once imagined – except this time around, it has some steampunk elements, and it’s called Etherium.

World building is one of the toughest aspects about writing fantasy novels. The sky is the limit, but if you provide no science as to why suddenly ships would be able to sail on the air, or why empires in the clouds exist, that will leave a void in your book. The author handles this well here – the reasons are explained without being too scientific. It’s kept simple and understandable, and gives the world, despite being a fantasy world, a certain sense of realism. The author also provided sufficient background on the history of Etherium without straying too far from the story.

Tak is an intriguing character. He’s accused of sabotage after an airship gets destroyed. If he wants to clear his name, Tak will need to visit the Gublins, ingenious creatures who dwell underground, find out how they’re involved in the air crash he got accused of, and what their ultimate plan is. Luckily, Tak isn’t alone on his journey, but it will force him to face who he truly is, and what choices he’s capable of making.

I liked Tak, but I also enjoyed the secondary characters, in particular Brieze. The writing was fluent, the story creative and imaginative, and I would definitely recommend this book to all middle graders, young adults, and even adults who enjoy fantasy fiction.