Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Coming of the Spirits: the ghostly conclusion to a delightful journey

 Title: The Coming of the Spirits
Series: The Spirits series
Author: Rob Keeley
Genre: MG Fantasy
Pages: 144
Published: 2018
Buy The Coming of the Spirits
Buy Childish Spirits (#1 in the Spirits series)

What Goodreads has to say:

The final book in the award-winning Spirits series.

Sequel to High Spirits – Georgina Hawtrey-Woore Award winner 2018.

Rob Keeley is back with the fifth and final instalment in his award-winning Spirits series. The series allows young people to learn more about other times, as well as the time in which they live.

“Nazis alone were dangerous enough, but Nazis with the powers of ghosts... of evil spirits...”

Britain. The present day. The world we know. Ruled by the Nazis.
Victorian England. Edward Fitzberranger is soon to become ill and die. But could there be another way?
The Middle Ages. Sir Francis Fitzberranger is about to marry... but finds himself shifted in time.

The barrier into the spirit world is finally breaking down and no one in the mortal world is safe. History must be set back on course and prophecies fulfilled. The Grand Defender is needed.

As Ellie works with an underground resistance movement and with the spirit world too, she is about to discover her true destiny...

What I have to say:

Here we are at last: the final book of Rob Keeley's thrilling and adorable Spirits series. True to form, I read this in one sitting. These books are like shot glasses. You down them fast because they're so good and so compelling. And just like its predecessors, The Coming of the Spirits is a page-turner, full of charm, adventure, and countless surprises.

When I say surprises, I mean all the surprises. There are so many twists and turns in this story, I never guessed what was coming next. Well, OK, I did guess one thing right, and that was regarding my favorite character in the series, Edward Fitzberranger. Happily, Edward has a significant role to play in this story, and I very much enjoyed that.

But on the whole, it was full of as many surprises and plot twists as you can hope for in a series conclusion. I was on board for almost all of them, though I found the ending a little jarring. That may have just been me. I also found it heartbreaking, which is a measure of just how attached I've become to Rob Keeley's wonderful characters.

But let's back up. The beginning of this book is pretty epic. A mysterious figure gathers all of Ellie's ghostly friends (and one corporeal one) from the previous books to assist in a crucial mission. We don't know what that mission is, and neither does Ellie. She just wants to live a normal life and maybe go on some dates with her friend Luke, but alas, book heroines never get to lead a normal life, and boy am I glad of that.

As usual, I found the characters, both old and new, fun and charming. Not to sound like a broken record, but I was absolutely gleeful when Edward made his dramatic appearance. Even if I was expecting it, it was nonetheless awesome. And now I'll try not to talk about Edward for the rest of this review.

This is definitely the most dystopian of the Spirits novels. We're in a new world ruled by Nazis where no one is safe, and to make matters worse, evil ghosts get loose about halfway through, and then everyone's pretty much just a dead man walking... unless Ellie can fix things. 

There are also some complicated moral dilemmas in this book, for example, is it OK to steal money from your friends if you're going to use it to save the world? So things get pretty intense. In fact, this is definitely the most intense of the Spirit novels as well. Things may have been a little spooky before, but now Ellie's really in trouble and there's probably no going back.

I never imagined where this series would lead when I first found myself riveted and charmed by the delightful Childish Spirits. Looking back, I think that first book is still my favorite, simply because it was perfect. But I've enjoyed the whole journey with Ellie and her friends, and I'm glad I got to ride this ghost train to the end.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

"Kill Order" a Short Story prequel to "Death by Midnight"

 Kill Order

by Nicole Nadeau

Kill Order by Nicole Nadeau is a short story prequel to her novel Death by Midnight. The story gives the reader a front row seat to Ivan Komarov's inner turmoil over being the son his father wants, and being himself. 

The story begins with Ivan trailing a woman through the streets of a town in Siberia, Russia on December 23rd. He feels nothing as he tracks her movements, and eventually aids his father's goons in her kidnapping. To him she's just another jump he has to make to please his father, until he's asked to end her life. Suddenly Ivan isn't sure about his father's rules, the gun feels heavy and cold in his hands, and he stares with numb horror at the woman sobbing on the ground. It's at this pivotal moment that Ivan chooses himself over his father's commands. He lowers the gun, only to watch the woman be murdered by his father. 

The narrative continues as Alexei (Ivan's father) advances with his plan - a meeting with a blackmailed doctor who believes he is getting his wife back in return for a briefcase filled with an unknown item. The switch takes place on Christmas day, illustrating just how little Alexei cares for others, including his own son. While Christmas is usually a time for family and joy, the Komarovs' is filled with death and deceit, anything to bring Alexei closer to his revenge. 

I thought the story did a good job of further showing how different Ivan is from Alexei. They may be related, and have many of the same ideals, but Ivan is not his father. Ivan has not yet murdered an innocent in cold blood. Even though he has been raised to be a carbon copy of his father, Ivan is not. He is uniquely himself, and he can be redeemed. 

Ivan definitely has some Draco Malfoy vibes going on, although I feel that Lucius is a much better father than Alexei, which is saying something. Maybe having a living wife helps. 

Rating: 4/5 trees. An excellent prequel to an excellent story.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

When you read a book in one sitting: Rob Keeley's MG thriller 'High Spirits'

Title: High Spirits
Series: The Spirits series
Author: Rob Keeley
Genre: MG Fantasy
Pages: 129
Published: 2017
Buy Childish Spirits (#1 in the Spirits series)

What Goodreads has to say:

“Millions of people will die in the war, Ellie. And it’s our job to make sure it happens. That’s why our work isn’t easy.”

It’s been two years since Ellie last spoke to Edward. She thinks she’s left the spirit world behind. But the spirits won’t take no for an answer... When Ellie’s Mum returns to Inchwood Manor, Ellie finds herself going too... and is transported back to the 1930s, discovering a plot to impersonate the King of England.

With the Second World War coming, and the first evil spirits starting to escape into the mortal world, Ellie is fighting alongside some unexpected allies...

Rob Keeley is back with High Spirits, the fourth instalment in his multi-award-listed Spirits series. The series allows young people to learn more about other times, as well as the time in which they live.

What I have to say:

Have you ever started reading a book, and it's so fun and riveting that you just keep reading, and before you know it you've read the whole book and you haven't left your chair for like 3 hours?

Well, now I can add High Spirits to the list of books I've read in less than 24 hours. It's actually a pretty short list that includes Ella Enchanted, The Titan's Curse, and Gloria Whelan's Burying the Sun

Now, admittedly, High Spirits is not a long book, so it's not like it took me more than a few hours to read. But I've read books of the same length that took me forever to get through, so this is still an accomplishment.

As usual, Rob Keeley's absolutely perfect storytelling, quick dashes of humor, and ghostly surprises made this a joy to read.

In High Spirits, Ellie has to repair the damage she did trying to save her friends in the last book. She's gotten involved in the world of spirits, and now she has to see things through to the end. This time, that means saving England from falling into the wrong hands. As in all the Spirits novels, there's a lot at stake here, but possibly more than ever before. If Ellie fails, England will fall to a pair of shapeshifting spirits and German Nazis will take over the world.

OK yes, Nazis taking over is not exactly the most original plot line in the history of the world, but this is definitely a new spin on it and after all, when you need some token bad guys, who's better than Nazis? 

Luckily, this story is told in such a fun way and the action is so non-stop that I never felt like the plot line was stale or overdone. It introduces us to some new characters--well, new after a fashion. (Is it a new character if it's just a younger version of a character we've already met in the present?) My favorite was Clara Harvey, an outspoken young girl from the 1930s. I also liked her brother Tom. There's not much of my favorite ghost child Edward Fitzberranger in this one, but since I'm sure that will be rectified in the next novel, I won't lodge a complaint at this time.

And, typical of Rob Keeley's Spirits novels, High Spirits leaves off with a major cliffhanger, though this may be the biggest one to date. History has been rewritten, and once again, it looks like Ellie is the only one who can set things right. I'm excited to continue this delightful story in the final novel, The Coming of the Spirits.


Not sure how I could not give it 5 stars after admitting that I read it in one sitting.

Until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Guest post from Sharon C. Williams, author of 'Jasper the Amazon Parrot'

Hello readers! We hope you're staying healthy and sane during these crazy times. If not, pick up a book. It usually helps. (:

Today, we have a guest post from author Sharon C. Williams. She's here to talk about what it's like living with the main character of her book (hint: he's a parrot).

I live with my main character: The ride of a lifetime

Compared to the writers in my area, I come to the writing game late in life. I only started to write when my husband told a family friend that he felt I wrote well. She passed that on to me. I mulled that over for a few months.

Having two surgeries coming up soon I knew I would have a lot of down time. So, I looked around my house for ideas on something I could write about. Something that I could write a book around.

My eyes landed on Jasper, our Yellow Cheek Amazon parrot.  We rescued and adopted him in 1999 at the age of five. This was just a year after I started to rescue birds of any kind. At that point he had been with us for 10 years. 

Wanting to learn as much as possible about him, I started to research his home and what he would see. I wanted to better understand this amazing animal who was now with us. What I came across was the issues that plague this region. The more research I did the more I got a better understanding of what he could lose if he was still there.

That got me thinking. It lead me to want to write a book that was educational and entertaining for this age group. A book that would make them appreciate, learn and perhaps become advocates of the animals and what they face. Being an avid reader, since forever it seems, I was fortunate to come across books by wonderful authors who made my love for reading just grow. If I could accomplish that for children I would be very happy.

Inspired to try my hand at a children’s book for any future grandchildren, I made the leap and started with volume one to my Jasper, Amazon parrot series.

I had an advantage from the start. Being around Jasper as long as I have, and at this point it is 21 years, we have seen how intelligent and adaptable he is. But not only that, his ability to learn and grow is remarkable. I would not have known this prior to rescuing him. Also, I could not have possibly imagined how to write it.

Fortunately, inside my series are scenes that have actually played out with us. One certain situation in one volume has ants on Jasper. He has to figure out how to get rid of them without getting bit.

One day an ant crawled onto Jasper’s beak. First, he called for help. Then, he tried to figure it out. Watching him go through that gave me the perfect way to describe it to the tee.

Another example is how Jasper is around my other birds. While he is not a fan of some of them, if anyone or anything tries to mess with them he is all into your business. His mannerisms, time and time again, have given me insight into writing how Jasper takes care of his brother Willie in the series.

It’s little things like this that make this series special. I have actual insight into his mood and how he works things out. All I have to do is observe and pay attention. 

Living with my main character is a joy. Not many people can say this. It has given me an invaluable information that I could not possibly understand or view if he was not right by my side. 

It is only fitting that my book and series is wrapped around him. I could not ask for a better companion to help me write my books.

Want to learn more about Jasper the Amazon Parrot? 

Get the book on Amazon!

Listen to it on Audible! or iTunes!

Lastly, check out the author's website.

Happy reading,

Erin & Anna

Thursday, September 24, 2020

A spunky heroine, a cursed sword, and a lost knight: Rob Keeley's The Sword of the Spirit

Title: The Sword of the Spirit
Series: The Spirits series
Author: Rob Keeley
Genre: MG Fantasy
Pages: 128
Published: 2016
Buy Childish Spirits (#1 in the Spirits series)

What Goodreads has to say:

Following the success of his award-longlisted Childish Spirits and its sequel The Spirit of London, prolific children’s author Rob Keeley is back with The Sword of the Spirit, the third instalment in his thrilling and suspenseful Spirits series.

“There are truths which must be revealed before the battle may commence. You do not yet know the meaning of the sword.”

Ellie’s investigations into the spirit world have reached a medieval castle, where archaeologists are digging for the fabled Sword of St Merrell. But she didn’t expect to meet a real medieval knight. Nor was she expecting him to be an ancestor of Edward Fitzberranger. Ellie discovers that behind a legend of chivalry and bravery lies a dark and nasty truth. And worse is to come. Ellie’s meddling has consequences she could never have foreseen. This time, she may have gone too far...

What I have to say:

The third novel in Rob Keeley's Spirits series is just as mesmerizing, just as suspenseful, and just as much fun as the first two. At this point, did I expect anything less? Of course not.

Ellie has a new ghostly mystery on her hands: a cursed sword, a knight who's traveled forward in time, and an enigmatic woman telling her not to meddle in what she doesn't understand. Not that Ellie has ever listened to warnings like that in the past. Now, it's up to her to solve the mystery and return the knight to his own time period before the curse destroys everything.

As usual, the narrative voice is charming. It makes me feel like I've snuggled up on the couch with a warm blanket and a cup of tea. The good characters feel like friends, while the villains are spooky and/or intriguing. Edward makes a brief appearance, and of course Ellie's mom and brother are still here, as is Marcus. But we're also introduced to new characters, like Sir Francis the knight, who are delightful and fun, if not quite as endearing as the mischievous Edward (I love him and will accept no substitute.)

The mystery is riveting, and the action perfectly paced. Just as in the first two novels, I was eager to find out how all the threads connected, who was really guilty and who was really innocent, and how Ellie would solve this latest puzzle. Speaking of which, Ellie is just so fantastic. 

She's a preteen English girl whose pastimes include painting, writing poetry, and befriending spirits in need. She's adventurous, always up for anything, and indisputably good. She cares about people and her role as a protector and helper of spirits is so cool!

Without spoiling the ending, I loved how fearless and decisive she was at the climax. (It involves wielding a cursed sword before a demon.)

So yeah. Ellie is awesome. This series is awesome. Rob Keeley is awesome. If you want a supernatural story with a mildly creepy vibe and a spunky, heroic in her own way main character, get yourself over to Amazon and buy all the Spirits books. 

The Sword of the Spirit could stand alone, as it contains its own story without relying too much on the previous books, but I don't know why you'd want to rob yourself of the marvelous and adorable first novel Childish Spirits.

I'm sure Ellie will get into plenty more trouble in the next two books, and I am here for it.


Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Review: Hûw Steer's 'Ad Luna' brilliantly reimagines the first science fiction story

Cover of Ad Luna
Title: Ad Luna
Author: Hûw Steer
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 424
Published: July 4 2020

What Goodreads has to say:

The Moon is on the brink of war.

Alexander Dio, an officer of the Vulture Dragoons, flies in defense of the Lunar people against the monstrous armies of the Sun. He is ready for war - or at least he thinks he is.

But when Dio's patrol finds a crashed ship out in the Sea of Tranquility, his life is turned upside-down. Because the ship is not from the Moon, and its captain is unlike anyone he's ever known.

His name is Lucian, and he comes from the Earth.

Based on the ancient Greek story by Lucian of Samosata, this epic voyage of discovery goes back to the very beginning of science-fiction.

What I have to say:

Back in the second century AD, this Greek guy named Lucian of Samosata wrote an outlandish story about a trip to the moon. 

OK, so he wasn't just some Greek guy. He was a pretty cool dude who was also a scholar, politician, teacher, and first-class satirist.

He wrote A True History to poke fun at historians and travel-writers who would write "true," in-depth accounts of places they'd never visited. To one-up them, Lucian wrote a story about his voyage to mythical islands, the sun, moon, and stars. In doing so, he unwittingly created the first science fiction story.

Hûw Steer, author of The Blackbird and the Ghost, admits to wishing Lucian's book was a little longer. (It's only 53 pages). So, as you do, he wrote his own, longer version.

And folks. It. Is. Epic.

Imagine battles atop giant three-headed vultures, fire-creatures who live in the heart of the sun, and massive space spiders that spin new worlds, and you'll have a little bit of an idea how awesome Hûw Steer's imagination is. 

Couple that with engaging characters, weighty dilemmas, and a great prose style, and you might see why I enjoyed this book so much.

Let's be honest, though. I also liked it because it combined three of my all-time loves: classic lit, Greek stuff, and space. 

Our main character is Dio, a young lieutenant in the army of Lord Endymion, ruler of the moon. The enemy is Phaethon, ruler of the sun and its race of Solars. Both the Solars and the Lunars (Endymion's race of moon-dwellers) are bent on settling the Morning Star, and the result is a long-standing war between the two peoples. 

Things get more complicated when a guy named Lucian of Samosata (hey) shows up with a ship of earth-dwellers who've accidentally landed on the moon. Now, Dio has to balance fighting for his people with entertaining a group of alien tourists. 

From there, there's intense battles between the Solars and Lunars, a fiery prison located on the sun, and a lot of tense, life-or-death negotiating. It's a ride. (Like, one day I just camped out in my yard and read this book for several hours until I finished it, because I couldn't stop.)

I haven't actually read A True History (now on my to-read list), so I can't say how the two stack up or how faithful Ad Luna is to the original. It's certainly an interesting thought experiment to see things like centaurs, dryads (or something similar, anyway), and mythical spiders translated into the medium of space. 

It's equally intriguing to see how Greco-Roman hot button topics like slavery play out on alien planets, and it's fun to think about the mythical Endymion becoming Lord of the moon and leading a whole race of alien people when, according to the Greeks, he's just locked in eternal slumber.

In the end, I'll fall back on what Lucian tells Dio when the latter remarks that neither of their races will believe the stories they tell: 

"It does not matter. Whether a good story is true or not, it is still a good story."

Since this is a heck of a good story, I think Lucian of Samosata would approve.


Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 31, 2020

GIVEAWAY: KindleFire and 17 YA Fantasy Books Contest with 4 Chances to Win

Hey readers! We heard you like giveaways, so we thought we'd let you in on this one.

For the whole month of August, author Abby Arthur is running a giveaway with multiple prizes, including a Kindle Fire. 

Enter here.

Every entrant receives a free copy of Abby Arthur's Twins of Shadow

Twins of Shadow book cover

Then, on August 7th, a winner will be drawn for hardcover copies of Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes series, which includes:
  • An Ember in the Ashes
  • A Torch Against the Night
  • A Reaper at the Gates
Total value is $60.

An Ember in the Ashes book covers

On August 14th, a winner will be drawn for three books by New York Times Best Selling Authors:
These will be hardcover copies with a total value of $80.

Book covers for 3 titles

On August 21st, a winner will be drawn for Holly Black's series Folk of the Air.
  • The Cruel Prince
  • The Wicked King
  • The Queen of Nothing
These are hardcovers with a total value of $80.

Folk of the Air book covers

On August 28th, a winner will be drawn for the grand prize, which includes a Kindle Fire 7 and eight eBooks at a total of $150.

  • Kindle Fire 7
  • A Song of Wraths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown
  • The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
  • Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
  • The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Image of a Kindle Fire and 8 book covers

Feeling lucky? Starting August 3rd, you can enter here.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Erin & Anna