Coming of Age

The Disenchanted Pet

The Disenchanted Pet
Aliens called ShaZha rule future Earth and struggle with capricious humanity. Zarah wants to prove humans can be civilized, but discovers a hidden people and must acknowledge her true status. Far into the future, the Earth is ruled by the ShaZha, a hyper-intelligent race of alien beings who are plagued by the violence and volatility of the human race. Supposedly intending to repair the broken societies and polluted planet, they have found the Human problem to be much more complex than they ever imagined. Zarah is a Prodigy, an obedient human, with a caring ShaZha master. Zarah wants to prove all her master’s hopes that humans can be civilized and responsible. When she is lost by her master and exposed to the other side of humanity, she must confront the possibility she might be not a valued citizen, but a pet.

 

Pieces of Love

Pieces of Love
Sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to smoke pot and play guitar. Getting high and escaping into her music seems the perfect solution when her world is shattered by her sister’s death. But when she’s arrested for possession a second time, life couldn’t get any more complicated. Her mother’s breakdown is the final straw that forces Lexi to spend the summer on the West Coast with her grandmother, Maddie. When Lexi steps over the line one too many times, she’s certain that she’s destined for juvenile detention—until Maddie decides that desperate measures are called for. A three week Mediterranean cruise—for seniors. Eighteen year-old Ethan Kaswell, the poster child for good sons, is stranded on the cruise when his father, a famous heart surgeon, is called away. With his own life perfectly mapped out, Ethan finds Lexi’s unpredictability irresistible. Although he’s smart enough to see that there is no future in falling for a “vacation crush,” Lexi’s edgy dark side draws him like an anchor to the bottom of the sea. As the two embark on the journey of a lifetime, will Lexi finally learn to love someone—even when she has to let them go?

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

‘Pieces of Love’ by PJ Sharon is the story of a grief-stricken, grumpy and slightly wayward teen sent to her grandmothers for the summer to keep her out of trouble. Lexi has been busted twice for weed possession and her mother is in hospital due to a nervous breakdown, so her stepfather sends her off to give the couple time to get things on an even keel without having to worry about her.

Grandma decides to take Lexi on a cruise around the Mediterranean, and Lexi isn’t pleased about it, not only because she’s going to be stuck on a ship with a bunch of old people, but also because she suffers from motion sickness. But this is a romance, so, enter the handsome young man and things turn out better than expected.

This is a character driven story. Unlike Sharon’s dystopian series, you’ll not find much action, but you’ll find character depth and growth, as Lexi’s relationship with Ethan and her don’t-call-me-grandma-call-me-Maddie grandmother deepens, forcing Lexi to face things she’s buried in a haze of pot smoke.

Lexi’s family has been shattered by two deaths, her father and her sister, both for alcohol-related reasons, and—though not to blame—Lexi carries a lot of guilt over her sister’s death. She needs to move on and the events in the book help her to do this. This is a teen romance, so expect the usual sensuality in the descriptions of the kiss and their physical attraction, but it is not overdone.

PJ Sharon has great expertise in portraying young people and the issues facing them. This is a very real story. It doesn’t skirt the difficulties, but it does leave readers with a sense of hope. The author has the confidence that comes from authors with several books under their belt and knows how to pull together the elements required for a good read. Though not racy, the pacing keeps you reading by doling out just enough tension in the relationships at the right time. The cruise ship setting also adds an exotic touch and the drama at the end is a clever and very realistic catapult for Lexi’s growth.

Overall, the book is well enough written in plain language very suitable for the young adult reader, and it deals with relevant issues in a skilful way. Highly recommended.

The Clock Of Life

The Clock Of Life
To Kill a Mocking bird meets the Civil Rights Movement.  This southern tale is a coming-of-age story about doing right just because it's right. In the small town of Hadlee, Mississippi, during the 1980’s, Jason Lee Rainey struggles to find his way amongst the old, steadfast Southern attitudes about race, while his friendship with a black boy, Samson Johnson, deepens.    

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

Truly Excellent & Thought-Provoking

The Clock of Life by Nancy Klann-Moren is a Southern USA coming of age story about a boy called Jason Lee who lives with his widowed mother and his uncle, who was injured in Vietnam and still suffers from the remains of shrapnel in his brain. The book details Jason Lee’s emergence from innocence as he finds out the truth about his father’s death in the Vietnam war and, more significantly, about his civil rights activities in the sixties.

The story begins in 1974 when Jason Lee begins school. He meets his best-friend-to-be Samson, an African American boy, and Culver and Eugene Chubb call him a nigger-lover for the first, and not the last, time. J.L soon becomes aware of the racial prejudice that surrounds him and of its damaging effects on people. When he discovers his father’s journal about his role in the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march, he feels a sense of pride and rightness in his father’s actions. His father’s story helps to give him the courage to stand up for what is right and is the beginning of J.L working out what he believes is important and what he wants to do with his life.

The story takes a leisurely pace but moves steadily, building up the background of and our connection with the characters. J.L narrates his story in a simple, matter-of-fact way so that we get a real sense of him and his life and, in particular, how he is changed by what happens to him. He doesn’t tell us about the characters around him, he shows their characters by describing what they do and say. I felt as if I sat on that porch with him and his Uncle Mooks. J.L’s life seems very ordinary, so when the unthinkable shatters it, the event has more power than it would in a story full of dramatic events.

The story is unassuming but powerful. It shows the continuing ravages of the Vietnam war on those who fought in it and on the wives and children of those who died in it. Uncle Mooks says they called the Vietnam war a conflict, but conflicts are for solving by talking through, not by fighting. This simple but profound statement by Mooks is characteristic of this otherwise damaged man, and the book has many little gems like this. J.L has always thought of his father as a Vietnam hero, but he comes to see that the more important fight was and still is the one for civil rights and racial equality. He realises that his father’s action in marching with his black brothers is what makes him the real hero.

As his mother says, his father fought so that Jason Lee and Samson could be friends. This honoring of the bravery of those early civil rights activists and drawing inspiration from their actions is the second theme that weaves through the pages of this fine novel.

Technically, as far as I could see, this novel is flawless. It has a strong voice, well-drawn characters, a realistic and moving plot, and important, well-expressed themes. The editing is of a high standard, and the writing has the occasional gem like this one: Her handwriting looked like a delicate thread had broken off its spool and spilled onto the paper.

The story is enjoyable, moving and informative, shedding light on a period of US history as experienced by those who were either directly involved or who lives were affected by the events both at the time and for years after.

All up, this is a truly excellent and thought-provoking book. I highly recommend it.

5 stars.

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Magic

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Magic
Colleen is a normal girl. She loves shoes, chick flicks, and cute clothes. The only thing abnormal about her is that she’s just become a magician; not the disappearing bunny kind, but the power-shooting-out-of-your-hands kind of magician. Her problem now is that she doesn’t believe in magic. Well, she believes in it. She’s seen it shoot out of her own hands, but she opposes it in a moral sense; no hexes, no spells, no incantations, no potions, no amulets, no tomes, no casting circles, no eye of newt, none of that. She has to be very clear because people pressure her about it. Whatever they say about “how it’s done,” this is a morality issue for her and she will not cave in to their pressure. Join Colleen at Seattle Pacific Regional University, where she becomes a part of The Convergence. She’ll learn the freaky side of Work Study, Financial Aid, and Vyxhepiocht. Seriously, she’s never seen so many hot guys. It’s going to be wild!

Reviewed by Meredith

This was an enjoyable book for the most part – it made me laugh and smile a fair amount. It’s very light – not for someone looking for deep subject matter.

This story at first reminded me of K.M. Shea’s “My Life at the Magical Beings’ Rehabilitation Center” because of the age of the main character, the light/witty inner commentary, and having to learn the rules of a magical society. But that similarity only lasted so long – my one complaint about the book is that it quickly becomes focused almost solely on which guy the heroine will choose….there’s not much else driving the plot. Which is disappointing because I think there’s a lot that could have been made of this set up. That said, I truly did enjoy it. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next one or not.

Note – I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

White Chalk

White Chalk
Chelle isn’t what most people consider a typical 13-year-old girl — she doesn’t laugh with friends, play sports, or hang out at the mall after school. Instead, she navigates a world well beyond her years. Life in Dawson, ND spins on as she grasps at people, pleading for someone to save her—to return her to the simple childhood of unicorns on her bedroom wall and stories on her father’s knee. When Troy Christiansen walks into her life, Chelle is desperate to believe his arrival will be her salvation. So much so, she forgets to save herself. After experiencing a tragedy at school, her world begins to crack, causing a deeper scar in her already fragile psyche. Follow Chelle’s twisted tale of modern adolescence, as she travels down the rabbit hole into a reality none of us wants to admit actually exists.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

September 16, 2013

The writing is exceptional.  Pavarti Tyler brings the main character, Chelle, a thirteen year old girl from a dysfunctional family, who turns fourteen during the book, to life in this disturbing novel told from her point of view.  She bares her soul in this book, and I really felt for her as she struggled to navigate an existence that no one would wish on any teenage girl, yet is undeniably real for some.  This is not a book for the faint-hearted.  It deals with complex, tough, even taboo subjects, and it does so extremely realistically.  Chelle makes some bad choices, but from her viewpoint, her emotional outlook and need, they make sense in a rather disturbing way.  That made White Chalk a compelling read, and a story and character I won’t ever forget.

The other characters in the book are also well-portrayed, and as the story is from Chelle’s point of view, the reader must wonder at their motivations.  Some of them take advantage of her;  some seem to want to befriend and help her.  It all adds to Chelle’s emotional confusion and self-doubt, and to my experience as a reader, because I had strong feelings about some of them.

I do not want to add any detail of the plot because that would spoil the story.  White Chalk is for readers who want to be challenged emotionally and idealistically, mesmerized by great writing and a unforgettable characters, and be drawn deeply into a disturbed teenage girl’s life as it falls apart around her.  I highly recommend it.

5 stars.

Lethal Inheritance

Lethal Inheritance
A scream pierces the night. Ariel jolts awake and watches in horror as demons drag her mother into a hidden realm. She finds help and sets off on a rescue mission. But to defeat the demons, who feed on fear and seek to enslave the human race, she must learn a secret esoteric wisdom to awaken the dormant, but potentially explosive, power of her mind. Walnut, a quirky old wise man, guides her through treacherous inner and outer landscapes, and Nick, the powerful Warrior who travels with them, proves a dangerous attraction. Can Ariel defeat the sadistic demon lord before he kills her and enslaves her mother? The stakes are high, death a real possibility. Fail now, and she fails humanity.

Reviewed 

November 13, 2012

Lethal Inheritance is an action-packed YA fantasy adventure.  The action and tension in the story start quickly with the abduction of Ariel’s mother by a demon, and her own narrow escape, followed by her quest to rescue her mother.  She is guided by knowledgeable and likeable characters who teach her ways to learn self-control and master physical and mental techniques  to find and overcome the demon who kidnapped her mother, Nadima.  Along the way on this journey of self-discovery, she and her companions / guides meet with various adventures and a variety of the demon’s minions, leading to plenty of action, great interaction between the characters themselves, and a bit of romance.  Most of the story is told from Ariel’s point of view, but in other places, the point of view switches to one of her companions, Nick.

Reading this story reminded me of two other books in particular (both very good ones):  Running With The Demon by Terry Brooks, because that also has a young female protagonist hunting a demon and other similarities, and The Lord of the Rings, because of the fantasy quest and the good against evil theme.  However, Lethal Inheritance has a unique blend of spirituality, philosophy and magical realism (or realistic magic) that the author has used to great effect in other books such as You Can’t Shatter Me.  It is these elements that make the story different and engaging to read.

The book was a fun read, seamlessly layered with philosophical themes adding depth to the adventure, with engaging characters and evil antagonists, a bit of humour and romance and great action sequences.

Lethal Inheritance is the first of a series, and I look forward to reading the others.

Reviewed by Richard Bunning 

May 11, 2015

5 Stars

Putting on young shoes, this is definitely a 5 star. Slopping in my comfy middle-aged slippers, this is definitely a 5 star. The writing is every bit as good as any hunk of Rowling’s fantasy, and if anything the plot has more originality. I have to admit to being a bit of a long-term fan of books that can mysteriously pluck me from everyday life and plunge me into the realms of fantasy. The escape into otherness, away from this all too real existence, to weird places that night’s illusions so often strive to go, is done very well in “Lethal Inheritance”.
If we wish we can explain everything as delusion, or the stuff of nightmare, or of chemical concoction, possibly as shadows on the edge of perception, or simply consider this fantasy as metaphor for some deep, private, spirituality. I can’t be bothered to dwell for long on such particulars, preferring to just get on with enjoying a very good tale told very well. Newland effortlessly draws us out of a suburban bedroom window to follow Ariel on the quest demanded by her destiny. Mental strength is the key to success, belief in one’s self, the learning to live with one’s fears and succeed despite them. The Serpentine, the snaking “river” of evil, may well have flowed into Australia through a gap in understanding that separates the land of “Dreamtime” from “La Serpentine” Mountain in the distant European Alps. Certainly the story, the invention, comes from a breadth of cultural mythology as wide as the physical distances between the Earth’s diverse landscapes. We all have to fight the snaking terrors that pollute life, some are fantasy and some real. Newland had my attention, possibly spellbound, held down by the demons, to the very last words, and now I have a sequel nipping at my ankle like a gimp. I don’t thing anyone is ever tot old and not for long too young,to enjoy this fantasy. We have romance, the swish of swords, the light of wands, the chill of fear, heroes and heroines, monsters in the dark, and always a connection to the city we know, just down the hill.

Reviewed by Katt Pemble

4 Stars

I can’t post my review here because it has gifs in it. If you want to see my review: click here

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