Review: No Place Like Home (Resident Witch #4)

no-place-like-home-kindleNo Place Like Home (Resident Witch #4) by Angelika Rust

In less than a year, main character Alice Adams has grown from a shallow, mindless member of the popular, mean-girl clique into a hardworking Resident Witch-in-Training who takes her responsibilities seriously. Still grieving the loss of her parents, she’s trying to move forward with the next steps toward adulthood. And also find a name for her band. Of course her relaxing spring break will be interrupted with monsters and mayhem, because for some reason, her small pleasant town is a magnet for that sort of thing.

I love the mix of comedy and heartbreak in this series. Most of the characters have suffered terrible losses and have heavy responsibilities, but they still joke around in a way that is unforced and natural. The theme of terrible band names woven through serves to lighten the mood. (My favorites are Shit Magnet Theory and Resident Nuisance.) Most of the established is cast is back, though several characters are out of town or otherwise engaged and participate mainly by text, hinting at the near future when they will graduate and go their separate ways. I was pleased to see side character Finn take a larger role this time out. He plays the part of Sassy Gay Friend to a T, but proves a loyal friend to Alice while revealing his own deep longings. The introduction of a new character, Bastian Wolfe, helps explain why this small town attracts so many baddies while also adding another tool to Alice’s magical toolbox, not to mention a fairy tale ending for a beloved character.

Another aspect I like is that our heroes, for all they mean well, make plans, and work hard, are capable of monumental, boneheaded mistakes for the same reasons any of us are: overconfidence, too little sleep, forgetting to eat. And they don’t just brush it off. They have to learn to forgive each other, and themselves. The ending promises “to be continued” but like the young characters, the series has matured. I expect it will grow and change as it proceeds. To get the full effect, I recommend that readers start with book 1 and read the whole thing to get the full flavor. The characters and their relationships are so lovable, it would be a shame to miss out.

Get the book an Amazon

Wizards Can’t Go Home

My novel Daughter of Magic released on May 22, 2018 from Not a Pipe Publishing, which accepted Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 The Year of Publishing Women and will publish nine books by seven women this year. They are also accepting submissions of short stories by women to be published weekly online.

“Wizards Can’t Go Home” comes from even deeper in the backstory of Daughter of Magic than “Crane’s Fire.”

fantasy-watermill“Wizards can’t go home.”

When Master Ordahn spoke those words, his apprentice thought he meant home would feel too tame, or the wizard would be too changed for home to seem like home anymore.

He didn’t know it meant home would cease to exist.

The young wizard glanced at the dripping sky, then pulled his hood forward and sank onto a fallen log with a dejected sigh. “Now what?”

He called himself The Crane, a name he’d given himself as a boy—the last of many. He didn’t remember what his mother called him. Both his parents had died when he was very small. They had died here. He wasn’t sure he could even find their graves.

(Read more here.)

Crane’s Fire

My novel Daughter of Magic released on May 22, 2018 from Not a Pipe Publishing, which accepted Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to make 2018 The Year of Publishing Women and will publish nine books by seven women this year. They are also accepting submissions of short stories by women to be published weekly online.

This week’s story is “Crane’s Fire,” from deep in the backstory of Daughter of Magic.

Hand-on-Fire-Wallpaper-For-Free

CRANE’S FIRE by Karen Eisenbrey

Crane was bursting to tell, but he couldn’t. Not while Soorhi watched. The teacher might have been old as dirt, but he didn’t miss much. Crane fidgeted. A breeze blew through the open windows. It smelled like apple blossoms. Like spring. Why were they inside on such a day? The eastern window framed a view of open country—grassland and rippling green wheat fields, broken here and there by splotches of purple or yellow where wildflowers bloomed. To the west lay the village of Deep River, though Crane could see only one house and part of another, built of gray river rock like the schoolhouse. Between them, he caught glimpses of a distant snow-capped mountain, and the dry gully that gave Deep River its name.

(Keep reading here.)

Review: Shadow Girl

Shadow GirlShadow Girl by Kate Ristau (Not a Pipe Publishing, February 2018)

I received an advance review ebook from the publisher.

This book begins in a strange place. No, literally, with main character Áine (pronounced ON-ya) crossing from the world she knows into the mysterious and dangerous Shadowlands. I didn’t know where I was or what was happening, but Ristau’s writing is so assured that I could relax and enjoy the ride.

In a neat reversal on the usual fairy story, Áine comes from the Aetherlands, a place of magic and immortality where Oberon and Titania are real, and her crossing brings her into 21st century Ireland, the land of her long-ago birth. She’s searching for answers about her parents and the traumatic events that led to her own disappearance from the human world. That part of the story is serious, sad, and scary. The mood is lightened by Hennessy, the human girl who attaches herself to Áine as sidekick, tour guide, friend, maybe more than friend. There’s a lot of humor to be had in the person-from-another-world plot, but it’s not overdone. The growing affection between the two girls is touching and real; they have chemistry, above and beyond their willingness to sacrifice for each other. This budding relationship is complicated by Áine’s loyalty and fondness for her childhood friend Ciaran, who makes his own dramatic entrance into the story.

Ristau writes dialogue without explicit dialect, yet I could hear the Irish in it. That’s a magic touch. She brings folklore to life in the experiences of a character who feels like a real person. Áine has magic, too, but it’s not reliable and she has to work at it, which adds to the suspense. I was not ready for the (cliffhanger) end to this book and look forward to the next exciting episode.

Available in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover here.

Review: The Staff of Fire and Bone

The+Staff+of+Fire+and+Bone+hardcover+front+coverThe Staff of Fire and Bone by Mikko Azul (Not A Pipe Publishing, January 2018)

I received a review copy of the e-book from the publisher. It will be released January 30, 2018 and is available for pre-order now.

The Staff of Fire and Bone is a thrilling tale of a misfit with a destiny to save the world of Muralia—and the power to destroy it. Cedron is the son and presumptive heir to the Regent of Dulnat, but he is hated for his mixed parentage in a world where the four peoples prize racial purity. It doesn’t help that he has recently manifested uncanny and barely controlled magical power. When he is blamed for a disaster during a festival, Cedron escapes the city pursued by enemies, but soon gains allies—and knowledge of his destiny to right an ancient wrong, a destiny that requires the very lack of racial purity for which he has always been hated.

Cedron is an appealing hero. He wants to do the right thing, but he’s young and doesn’t understand his power. He can be a hothead and makes terrible mistakes as he learns to use it without letting it use him for darker deeds. His quest for the sacred stones that will help him save the world involves narrow escapes, battles with enemies (and future allies), heartbreaking losses, and courageous sacrifice. But it’s not all dire. There’s plenty of the kind of comic business to be expected when adolescents have an adventure, as well as philosophical reflections on what power is for and what destiny really means.

Like the best fantasy settings, Muralia feels both familiar and deeply strange. Its mountains, plains, and sky are full of colorful giant birds and tusked herd beasts. The deities of sun, moons, and earth literally inhabit those orbs, and sometimes appear to Cedron in times of great need. Cultural practices of the various peoples feel rooted in long history.

My one (admittedly minor) complaint is that characters are constantly noticing, realizing, and deciding things. I’d rather these verbs were reserved for occasions when a character at long last makes an important decision, or notices something crucial for the first time, or finally realizes a critical truth that has been overlooked till now. The rest of time, don’t tell me he noticed; show me what he noticed; don’t tell me he decided; show me the action. This is my own pet peeve, so it stood out in any otherwise well told, imaginative tale.

But for the staff of the title, I would award 5 stars even if not for anything else. I can’t say much without spoiling, but it is the most shocking and beautiful magical object I have encountered in 40+ years as a fantasy reader.

Pre-order your copy from your favorite independent bookstore by asking for it at the front counter, or order it from one of these fine online booksellers:

Powell’s HERE

B&N.com HERE

Amazon HERE

Kindle HERE