Young Adult (Usually Fantasy)

Ash & Bramble, Sarah Prineas (Harper Teen, 2016): When Story takes on a life of its own, Pin sets out to break free and brings Shoe along with her. But if she can’t remember her Before, how will she know when she finds the ending she wants for herself? Mild romance included, no stronger than some kisses and feelings of love/desire.

Darker Still Cover

Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul #1, Leanna Renee Hieber (Sourcebooks fire, 2011): In this YA Gothic historical (or paranormal) Teenager Natalie may be unable to talk, but that won’t stop her from convincing her father to allow her to work at the museum so that she can investigate the mystery of Lord Denbury’s painting. She alone knows the dashing young man did not commit suicide, but is instead trapped in the painting. If she can’t rescue him, turn-of-the-century Manhattan may find itself controlled by the darker sides of the occult.

Tempest Rising, Tracy Deebs (Walker & Company, 2011)

Book one of the Tempest Trilogy , 341 pp. At the time of this review, it holds a 4.1-star review on Amazon.

YA, Paranormal romance

Reviewed 12/13/16, checked out from the library

From the jacket:

The land is her comfort,

Yet it can’t satisfy her.


The ocean is dark and dangerous,

Yet it beckons her home.


Her heart is torn in two,

Yet it pulses stronger than ever.


Better take cover.

A tempest is brewing…


Inside jacket:

On land… Tempest Maguire loves her California coastline home. Surfing the killer waves. Taking care of her brothers and dad. Loving her longtime boyfriend, Mark. But the weight off her secret is pulling her under, toward the ocean’s ever-growing call.

Among the waves… Tempest’s secret? She is half mermaid, a legacy left by her absent mother, who returned to the ocean many years ago. And now Tempest has her own choice to make. Complicating matters is Kona, an enigmatic newcomer whose otherworldly abilities hint at a shared passion and common secrets.

Beyond the sea…But there is more at stake besides Tempest’s heart and her identity—her life may be in danger too. Because the waters hide a mysterious and dark secret world of their own, one full of sweeping romance and thrilling adventure—but one where nobody, least of all Tempest, is safe.”



Tempest Rising is book one of the Tempest Trilogy by Tracy Deebs, a NYT and USA Today best-selling author writing under multiple pseudonyms. As YA paranormal romance, it’s full of yearning, kissing, full- body contact with clothing on—but nothing racier than that—and decisions that change as often at the odd-numbered pages. Deebs captures a maturing teen’s hormonal mood swings, yearning to be both on her own making decisions, and in the comfortable arms of her surfer boyfriend Mark and her family, then into Kona’s embrace. She serves as mother to her two pre-teen brothers, while her dad still holds out hope his wife will return from the sea. Now it’s more important than ever that the mother mermaid return to be a mentor, as Tempest is days away from the fateful seventeenth birthday. That’s when her mermaid form will begin to emerge and force her into the same choice her mother made—the life she’s formed on the land, or the ocean life tugging at her with the power of a riptide. But something in the water wants Tempest, and this isn’t the first time it’s tried to take her.

As her body turns wonky earlier than promised, Tempest fights symptoms Deebs describes well. From being inconvenient to dangerous to uncomfortable, those symptoms amplify the difficulty of the teen years. They are not what necessarily make her have so many issues with her boyfriend Mark, but the secrets she keeps from him may, in turn, make things harder.

Early surfing jargon didn’t interrupt the story too much when Tempest finally grabs her board. I’d have enjoyed the surfing more if I’d been better able to visualize what that jargon meant; but other paragraphs, I did get the emotional boost that Tempest enjoys while surfing. The water should give Tempest freedom, but now she fears it with her approaching “mermaid” problem.

Deebs builds tension all novel long. She mixes together ingredients like Tempest’s confusion, torn between two men (Mark, a long-standing on/off relationship, and Kona, the new surfer); her anger issues with the mother who abandoned her; the mother role she’s been in so long; and mysterious, nearly magical Kona to the mix at the most inconvenient time. This recipe creates a dish easy to devour, if you’ll forgive some of Tempest’s behaviors; and Kona’s, too. I allowed willing suspension of disbelief to rule.

Kona surfs the waves as if he’s born to them…. But Tempest is born to them, so what does that make Kona? He’s a mystery, and he’ll be happy to tempt Tempest without giving her much information. He excels at “answer a question with a question” or changing the topic without an answer. Both bug me as much as Tempest. It didn’t stop me from reading, but those sections marked where I’d shift into a faster “scan” mode rather than reading. I also read faster when she’d lash out at Mark. Given how Tempest waffles between Mark and Kona, I felt bad for both characters while losing some of my sympathy for Tempest.

With all her interior monologues in this first-person prose, I certainly agonized along with Tempest as she fought the instincts pulling her in two directions. Her sea-longing grows; and the danger lurking in the ocean surfaces. Conflict is not lacking in this book.

The cast rounds out with a few good high school friends—other surfers, and the best friends who know something’s wrong in Tempest’s world. Her long-suffering father, part beach-bum and part pragmatic hopeful, knows what Tempest is, and he’s there to support her. None of the secondary cast get much development. Again, that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story—for this is Tempest’s story, and Deebs keeps the focus there, and on her relationship with Kona and Mark.

Tempest’s mother gets minimal story time. For as important as her absence is in Tempest’s life, that decision surprised me. The evil underpinning the arc of the story, Tiamat, gets page time at several key points, but likewise doesn’t get as much time as I would have expected. Then again, this is Tempest’s story, and that’s clear from every decision Deebs makes in writing it. Tempest is on her own, and not shy about fighting for what she wants, from information to a meeting with her mother.

This novel’s yin-yang—should and should-not, home here and home there, wanting this though it conflicts with wanting that—echoes a teen torn between the world of childhood and becoming an adult, of hormones dictating one thing, while mind says another. The pace hummed along the whole book, with good hooks at chapter ends to make me want to know what came next. The book provides a semi-satisfying ending to allow it to stand alone, while building room for the next parts of the story that Deebs did go on to write.

You can learn more about the next two volumes of Tempest’s story, and the author’s other works, at her webpage; her blog hasn’t been updated since 2014. Deebs writes her adult romance under the name Tracy Wolff.


The Shaman Within, by Gary Wedlund (Loconeal Publishing, 2011)

Reviewed 2014ish, copy purchased from Amazon. I know this author through his wonderful work with the North Columbus Fantasy and Sci-Fi Writer Group.

This is book one of Hidden Shaman. Turning 16 is hard enough in a world that treats women as little more than chattel. For Abi, hard becomes impossible as she struggles to keep her education secret while protecting herself and her mother from the actions of her brigand brothers and their cruel father.

With creative twists, author Gary Wedlund sends Abi on an imaginative journey of self-discovery and seat-of-her-pants survival. One step away from being a witch, Abi will have to be careful—but “careful” isn’t in Abi’s vocabulary.

While keeping the overall pace of the novel fast, Wedlund sets the scene of this feudal fantasy world as Abi trades her crop fields and illicit lessons in combat for the destiny her Goddess wants her to claim. He makes you care about Abi as well as the friends and enemies she makes along the way. The first-person narrative pulls you into Abi’s struggle between the capricious God she’s expected to worship and the Goddess who has taken a keen interest in her.

As Abi grows up, faster than any girl should have to, how will she be able to hide her identity when the Goddess seems determined to set her on the path to war?

Whether young adult or adult, you won’t want to put this book down, eager to discover how Abi will survive, and whether she’ll ever be able to return home. Don’t just buy this book—buy the sequels as well. Look for them in your local library; and if they’re not there, request the librarian to add them to their collection, so many others can enjoy this story, too.

Learn more about Gary and his titles from his site, or this site about authors. Are you an aspiring science fiction or fantasy writer yourself? You might benefit from joining North Columbus Fantasy & SciFi Writers, a writer group Gary founded (or maybe co-founded). The group meets typically twice a month, choosing the location shortly ahead of the meeting. You submit your chapter or short story in advance; you critique other members’ material, and you grow in the process of critiquing and being critiqued.