Book Review

Unicorn Farmhand – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5 / 5 stars)

Dok Saau always thought of himself as a normal horse…except that he knew how to write, and had the cognizant ability equal to, if not greater, than his owner Chang Gao. After a DNA scan reveals that Dok Saau is not just any old horse though, but an endangered unicorn, his life is turned upside-down. Suddenly, people from far and wide are coming to see Dok Saau – for his writing ability, and his ability to “talk” due to computer implanted horn on his head. But, as Dok Saau’s ability to reason and remember continues to improve, nightmares of those who removed his horn and tortured him as a foal wrap themselves around him. Will they destroy the progress he made? Or risk the life of his owner and family? 

Unicorn Farmhand is an endearing, slice-of-life type of story, mixing elements of fantasy and sci-fi into one book. Dok Saau is an interesting character…after all, he is the narrator but also a unicorn! His understanding of the world is limited by experiences; he doesn’t quite understand the cartoonish unicorns on TV, or why the neighborhood kids behave in certain ways. But that’s okay. He is just trying to take in the world and live his life without trouble. 

As a precursor, the book does have some mention of animal abuse. Dok Saau is a victim of mutilation early in his life, and throughout the book he deals with the fallout of these memories…ones that he had suppressed after joining Chang Gao’s family, until local authorities discovered his true origin. I think this was quite an interesting way to discuss trauma…because despite how much better Dok Saau’s life is with Chang Gao’s, he still cannot shake everything from his past.

While I overall enjoyed the story, there were some things that could have been executed better in my opinion. For me, I felt that the story meandered a little bit in the middle, detailing more about Dok Saau’s life as a tourist attraction, than about finding the men who harmed him. This might have just been personal taste, as I found my mind wandering in parts of those scenes, waiting for the next revelation to come along about Dok Saau’s past. But at the same time, I also wanted to know more about the world: the mix of sci-fi elements and fantasy elements were fascinating. So I can’t say if I think this book needed to be longer or shorter; I guess, as a reader, I wish it went on a slightly different path.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did! I think the author did a phenomenal job blending sci-fi with fantasy, while also showing the naivety of a unicorn (or horse). Dok Saau doesn’t see the world like us, and having a story written from a lost unicorn’s point-of-view is so much different than what we read today. 

So why not take an adventure down to Dok Saau’s farm, learn about his past, and along the way…help him fight and defeat those who harmed him? It’s a fun adventure that I think many people will enjoy!

Note: I received a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for my honest review.

What’s it about?

Every horse has a talent or two. Some can sit, some can jump over obstacles, and some can select a button for a treat. For one particular draft horse, Dok Saau, his talent is in writing. He does not just scribble letters in the ground as a trick, but he also uses his talent to express his own thoughts to his bemused owners.

Surprised by his strange talent, his owner Chang Gao brings him to the Horse Fair, where he beats the other horses by writing proper answers to several questions. After a DNA scan, he is revealed to be a unicorn: even though he was supposed to be released into the wild, the authorities let Chang Gao keep him so that he might become a local attraction.

Yet even as he tries to adjust to his new life as an animal celebrity, every now and then he faces recurring nightmares from his troubled past. As he seeks Chang Gao’s help, will he be there to help him defeat his fears? Or would they instead attract something much worse: something that could threaten his comforts or even his own life?

Book Review

Mockingston Faire – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.75 / 5 stars)

Every year, Mockingston Faire comes to town. A fan convention that wraps around the hearts of many, Victoria, Jack and Ludvig can’t wait to once again be immersed by their favorite fandoms. But, just because the faire whisks them away from the world, it does not mean they can escape the pressure from outside. Can they manage to enjoy the day without a care in the world? Or will the craziness of the convention overtake them?

A heartfelt story about fan conventions, we journey with a fun cast of characters to Mockingston Faire. But, it is not without warning: fandom can be toxic and all consuming. While for the most part, conventions are fun  – with contests, art, panels, and more – the toxicity in fandom remains, and in this case, it puts Mockingston Faire at risk of closing…permanently. This is evident in  the treatment of Ludvig as he performs improv, or Victoria as she dances, or the fighting factions in different sides of the fanbase that might just destroy the artist alleys and the panel rooms. 

The author clearly is writing this from experience, delving into the world of fan conventions through eager eyes. In fact, the concept itself is heartwarming, and will connect with many readers. 

Unfortunately the execution could have been better. In an effort to avoid copyright issues, the author writes about fandoms that exist in the world of Mockinston Faire, sometime in such details that it was hard to stay on top of what was actually happening, and other times without enough, so the plot gets muddled down with unfamiliar terms. In addition, the characters bounce from one event to the next, without giving us a chance to get to know them and their connections. Had we gotten a chance to have a larger bird’s eye view of the convention, or the chance to really get to know the characters and the fandom, then the story might have connected with me more.

I think though that anyone who has been to a fan connection will find a part of themselves in this story. You’ll suddenly be transported back to the crowds, through the vendor booths, and into the panels where people gawk at celebrities. In part, it’s a nostalgia ride, which makes it worth the read for anyone who misses fan conventions…especially during this pandemic.

Note: I received a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for my honest review.

What’s it about?

Three friends — Victoria Hughes, Jack Zhang, and Ludvig Gerald — attend Mockingston Faire, an annual convention where fans meet their friends and favourite characters, buy and sell art, play games, and have a good time. Victoria wants to see Gunfighter III, her anticipated game, and reconcile with Ludvig over what she did last year; Jack wants to get as many pictures of his dearest characters and personalities; and Ludvig just wants to keep away from annoying fans and events who constantly forced him to become an amateur actor.

But the Faire itself has its own challenges. Everywhere they go, they seem to be unable to evade the malcontents of pop culture. From violent brawls between bitter fandoms, to nuisances who hound their every step, the whole Faire seems to descend into chaos.

Can these three make it through this dysfunctional festival with their friends in one piece? Or will they succumb to the surrounding rage, losing their sanity and reputation in the process?

Book Review

Magic at Midnight – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 / 5 stars)

 Amy loved her life on the Pegasi Farm. She was one with the creatures, able to infer their exact desires without much trouble. But one day, she is whisked away by a mysterious lord and thrust into a game to win the prince’s hand in marriage…all because she is the spitting image of Princess Amelia! But soon Amy learns that there is more to these games, as well as her past, than she imagined. Can she figure them out, all while exploring her newfound emotions for the Princess of Hazel Wood? Or will her cluelessness lead to death?

There are a lot of great elements in this book: a sentient castle, herds of pegasi, and an deep understanding of love. Amy is a smart-witted young woman, one whose rationality overshadows most of the other princesses, and allows her to uncover a dark plan brewing in the castle to instigate war. Her kindness moves her to act, determined to stop a war that could harm both her pegasi and newfound friends. 

It was nice as well to see Amy be shown as an individual who is attracted to both men and women; often times this isn’t explored in fiction, especially in fantasy, and we are given a chance to see how this internal struggle helps bring peace. 

While the story itself had a lot of great elements, and even the basic plot was interesting, the execution didn’t work for me. In part, this was due to the pacing. I’m not a fan of fast pacing, where the story jumps from one event the next. In the course of the first chapter, Amy goes from farm girl to a participant in a princess competition, without giving us a chance to really understand her feelings or see how she is transformed. Being a novella, I understand how word-space can be limited. Personally, I feel like there was enough working in the background of this story that it could have been a full length novel! We could have explored the politics more, as well as Amy’s feelings, her magic, and her relationship with the pegasi. Instead, we were told about Amy’s feelings…rather than given them the chance to see them in action. 

While the pacing of this story wasn’t for me, it still has a great plot that I think a lot of people will enjoy! So if you like pegasi, magic, princesses, and LGBTQ+ representation, it is definitely worth the read! 

Note: I received a copy of this book at no cost in exchange for my honest review.

What’s it about?

BETRAYAL.
CONSPIRACIES.
MAGIC.

Amy has only known one life. Now she needs to put it all on the line to save what is precious to her. Can this simple farm girl survive court-life? Can she stop a war from burning down her world? And what of the mysterious princess of Hazel Wood and her covert glances…? Not to mention the prince of Acacia Wood who might or might not be involved with the prophecies ruling their kingdoms. With mysteries and secrets threatening the life she longs to return to, can she separate her feelings from the mission?

TO WHAT LENGTHS WILL SHE GO TO SAVE HER LOVED-ONES?

Book Review

Hollow Road – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★ (4 / 5 stars)

 A soldier, a mage, and a circus archer are sent to deliver the body of their best friend for burial, but discover so-called monsters of legend along Hollow Road as they head back home. Does it sound like a joke? Well, that is exactly the fate of Carl, Finn, and Sinnie as they deliver their old friends’ Theo body back home for burial. When they encounter the Maer, creatures of legend that are said to be ruthless and bloodthirsty, they soon uncover that the Maer are more than they seem. But what destiny awaits them as they return to the Maer’s home? And will they come out alive?

A fast paced adventure fantasy, we are taken on an exciting journey to learn about the Maer and other creatures that live Gheil. Dan Fitzgerald does a wonderful job keeping the pace going, introducing us to the main trio through their talents and perspectives. With them, we meet the Maer, a supposedly terrible group of monsters. But, Carl, Finn, and Sinnie soon learn, the Maer are far more human that they were led to believe.

This novel takes traditional fantasy elements, filled with monsters and legends, and shows us how not everything is as it seems. The Maer just want to be treated as equals to humans, their magic, infrastructure, and hierarchy similar to those in the North. Hollow Road is more than just about destroying monsters, but also about tossing aside preconceived notions, and accepting those who look just a little different.

Fitzgerald also make an applaudable point in using LGBTQ+ representation: Sinnie is asexual, Finn is attracted to men, and Carl finds his own preferences changing. We need more representation like that in fantasy; while perhaps Hollow Road is nothing too unique in its storyline (using tropes that are successful in their own right), adding these type of characters really make the story shine.

I do wish we had some more time to get to know the main trio: I would have loved to see Finn in study, Sinnie as a circus performer, and Carl as a soldier before venturing off to return Theo’s body. I would have liked to see interactions as well, especially among Sinnie and the Maer, rather than being told that they had happened. In addition, questions remain as well: how did Theo die? What is happening in the backdrop of government? I guess that’s all for the sequel. 

I was pleasantly surprised by Hollow Road. While the first chronicle in the Maer cycle came to a satisfying conclusion, there is much more I want to know, and I have full intentions of picking up the sequel in the future. 

What’s it about?

Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits.

It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion.

This is the story of their return.

Carl, Sinnie and Finn, three companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever.

Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted

Book Review

Hazel & Gray – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 / 5 stars)

Hazel and Gray are lost in the woods after a romantic rendezvous. After Hazel disobeys her wicked step-father to meet with Gray, they find their way to a mansion hidden by the trees. In a bizarre turn of events, they are led into a drug and prostitution ring, with seemingly no way to escape. But are Hazel and Gray more connected to this terrible place than they thought? Or did they only wind up here by chance?

In a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, Hazel and Gray is a dark modern twist on the classic tale. It won’t work for everyone: the adults themes will cause some people to squirm. But, what it does do is take the darkest elements from the story – kidnapping, gaslighting, and more – and translate them into something we are all too familiar with. 

Perhaps the story does hit a little too close to reality. In some ways, the short length makes the dark nature even worse. We see only the worse of Hazel and Gray’s life, and even after they, like Hansel and Gretel, find a way to escape, we are only give a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. Could there have been more? Did they end up living their happily ever after? We don’t know.

While it’s definitely a story that made me think and will stick with me. But was it the best retelling? I don’t think so.

Do I regret reading it? No. 

It’s just one of these stories that will get lost in the woods. 

What’s it about?

Two anxious young lovers lost in the woods. A beckoning mansion in a dark clearing. A short modern-day retelling of Hansel and Gretel by the number one New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin.

It’s bad enough that Hazel and Gray have defied the demands of Hazel’s foul stepfather. The Monster has forbidden their romance. Now they’ve awakened in the forest, phones dead, hours past curfew. But not far away is a grand estate in the middle of nowhere. The door is open. In this short story about choosing your own path, the fury of the Monster that awaits them back home may be nothing compared to what lies ahead.

Hazel and Gray is part of Faraway, a collection of retold fairy tales that take the happily-ever-after in daring new directions. Whether read or listened to in one sitting, prepare to be charmed, moved, enlightened, and frightened all over again.

Book Review

A Monster Like Me – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆   (3.75 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★☆  (4 / 5 Stars)

 Sophie has always been different. Cursed by a witch at a young age, she has strange mark on her face that has been there her whole life. Her mom calls it a blood tumor, or a hemangioma. But Sophie is convinced it makes her a monster. While no one believes her, Sophie can see the different paranormal monsters in the world, all thanks to her Big Book of Monsters. Her friend Autumn is a fairy, her mother’s new boyfriend is a demon, and the boys in class are goblins. But she’s convince she’s a monster. Can she find a cure? Or will her mother discover her secret?

In a story that pulls us into a child’s psyche, we see how children often deal with trauma: creating a fictional world that might just seem real. Bordering on the edge of fantasy, Sophie’s story is not one filled with real monsters, but with the monsters we have inside each of us. How do these monsters form? Sometimes its nature, sometimes nurture; and over time, we learn to deal with them or we become them. 

A Monster Like Me has a deep message for all readers, young and old. Creative children will find ways to cope, especially when a parent might suffocate their choices or when marked with something that causes people to bully them. Sophie’s journey is learning to love herself, and understanding the true meaning of being human. It’s heartbreaking, lovely, and is important in so many ways. What is especially significant is how people may choose to interpret Sophie. She’s a child with a different way of thinking,  not just because of her blood tumor, but also how she perceives the world. One message that is ushered through the book is celebrating those differences, rather than alienating them. 

One reason I’m not rating this book higher though is because, frankly, I grew bored in a few spots. Sophie rambles, often in buckets of self pity, that caused my mind to wander. While this is certainly what a child would do, I found myself wanting to hurry along through the story rather than go in circles with Sophie’s emotions. Children repeat themselves, that much is a fact, so I can only judge Sophie’s narration so much. I wouldn’t want to change the narration anyhow, especially since her narration does give us a chance to see her inner thoughts. It was just a small thing that caused me to struggle with this book just a little bit. 

That being said though, A Monster Like Me is such a good story. It brings you back to childhood and will leave you remembering times when fairies were real. Growing up might cause you to leave behind that sense of wonder, but it also is about finding out who in fact is a monster. 

I am happy to have watched Sophie grow up as well. 

What’s it about?

There are trolls, goblins, and witches. Which kind of monster is Sophie?

Sophie is a monster expert. Thanks to her Big Book of Monsters and her vivid imagination, Sophie can identify the monsters in her school and neighborhood. Clearly, the bullies are trolls and goblins. Her nice neighbor must be a good witch, and Sophie’s new best friend is obviously a fairy. But what about Sophie? She’s convinced she is definitely a monster because of the “monster mark” on her face. At least that’s what she calls it. The doctors call it a blood tumor. Sophie tries to hide it but it covers almost half her face. And if she’s a monster on the outside, then she must be a monster on the inside, too.

Being the new kid at school is hard. Being called a monster is even harder. Sophie knows that it’s only a matter of time before the other kids, the doctors, and even her mom figure it out. And then her mom will probably leave — just like her dad did.

Because who would want to live with a real monster?

Book Review

Bo Gunnar Wants to Rule the World – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★★ (4.75 / 5 stars)

When Zelina’s Aunt Sienna dies, she is whisked away to Los Angeles from the Australian Outback to deliver a package to the Wilson family. But the Wilson family isn’t who they seem: they protect a secret that haunts Zelina’s past. Why can’t she remember who she is? Where did she come from? And why does Bo Gunnar want to rule the world? I guess we’ll see!

In the sequel to The Curse of the Amaranth , we pick up one thousand years after Daniel is locked away in the underworld and Zelina is cursed with immortality. Zelina no longer remembers who she is; she constantly has flashes to events that took place long ago, things that she should not have seen in her eighteen years. But, much to her surprise, it is all true. 

This amnesia affect worked really well for Zelina’s character. It gave us a chance to delve into the world of Polaris with fresh eyes. While there is some exposition to fill Zelina in on the details, for the most part the plot moves at a rapid, but satisfactory pace. I loved the way that Polaris is just a historical element of our own world, knitted in with our lore of vampires and immortality. Instead of being transported to a brand new world, we get to explore Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon through the eyes of Zelina and Bo. All these little elements made it for a fun ride that proved just as exciting, although quite different, from the first book! 

My one little tiny hang up (and hence why I rate this book 4.75 stars) is because I wish there was more! I would have loved a chance to get to know the Wilson Family, or see how Bo and Zelina adapted to the modern world. Unfortunately due to the length of the book, we are left using our imaginations. 

Either way, I cannot WAIT to pick up the final book in the series, The Last of Polaris. Will they succeed? Will Zelina and Daniel finally reunite? Or will Bo finally rule the world? I guess, in the words of Bo Gunnar himself…”We’ll see!” 

What’s it about?

A family of vampire hunters and an immortal Princess must stop a sadistic rock star who is hell bent on taking over the world. Will they succeed? Probably not!

Book Review

The Prince and The Troll – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 / 5 stars)

A boy – no, a young man…maybe even a prince – has always lived his life on the road. Literally. The one day, when he accidentally drops his phone under a bridge, he meets an individual covered in mud. A troll, so to speak. After bonding over coffee and sharing a bond as deep as love, all the prince wants is for the troll to be happy. But happiness comes at a price.

Like a lot of people who have read this short-story, I also found myself wonder “what was that” regarding the ending. After pondering it, I think I have an understanding of the allegory the author is trying to make. Personally, I believe the story is about global warming and the consequences of it: a creature stuck in an unfamiliar place, worn away, and at the mercy of man. Is it the right analogy? I don’t know. But perhaps that is the beauty of this story.

I haven’t read any of Rainbow Rowell’s work before. Without a doubt, Rowell is a talent and compelling author with a taste for symbolism. Unfortunately, with so many people unsure about the ending of this story, it reminded me more of an academic short-story than a fun fairy-tale. 

I am glad I read it though. It gave me a taste of Rowell’s writing and a chance to really think. Perhaps you’ll have a different interpretation of it than me.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. 

What’s it about?

A charming everyman and a mysterious something-under-the-bridge cross paths in a short fairy tale by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and the Simon Snow series.

It’s fate when a man accidentally drops his phone off the bridge. It’s fortune when it’s retrieved by a friendly shape sloshing in the muck underneath. From that day forward, as they share a coffee every morning, an unlikely friendship blooms. Considering the reality for the man above, where life seems perfect, and that of the sharp-witted creature below, how forever after can a happy ending be?

Book Review

Quest – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.75 / 5 stars)

 Jemma is a seemingly normal teenager: a bit of an outcast, she has spent most of her life fantasizing over her crush like a woman out of a Jane Austen novel. But when popular and beautiful Veronika coerces Jemma into her clique, it leads to something Jemma never thought possible: a ring transports her to a world parallel to hers…and her crush, Aaron, is also from there. Suddenly, she finds herself having to train for a quest, all while trying to understand this new world, Aaron, and the foes afoot.

Let me start by saying that if you enjoy YA Fantasy Romance, you will enjoy this book. I might have enjoyed it about ten-to-twelve years ago as well, to be honest. But, by the time I got 40% into the book, I knew it wasn’t for me, but I hung on due to some of the good in the story.

I’ll start with the good: Lara Kellett-Smith is a fantastic writer. You get wrapped in Jemma’s insecurities, and understand her feelings for Aaron, as well as her conflicts over him. Kellett-Smith has also spent a good amount of time foreshadowing, wrapping little details in seemingly insignificant events, and building up a world with rules and a hierarchical structure that is often difficult to do in Fantasy. On a fundamental level, it’s a good book.

But it wasn’t my cup of tea. 

In a way, there was something reminiscent of Twilight in this book. Now, this goes back to what I said above: when I was thirteen, I loved Twilight. Now, I don’t. So I am sure that I would have enjoyed this book when I was younger. 

From this point onwards, I’d like to provide a spoiler warning as in order to discuss what I don’t like, I may have delve a bit more into the plot. 

The story starts off very slow. Jemma is describing her life, and I’d say nothing much happens for about 10-15% of the book. When she finally arrives in the Otherworld, she is told she has to go on a quest with five others, as Veronika did not return. In a book called Quest, I anticipated much of the book would take place on the quest. Perhaps this was my own fault. Perhaps I was expecting something different and should have looked at the book more closely. The quest itself didn’t begin until almost 60% of the way through, and it was basically complete by 85%. 

I think I went into this book expecting a Fantasy Adventure with a romantic subplot. The romance itself takes up most of the book though. While I’ll read romance, I much prefer it to wrap more into an actual story. While this book does it better than others, I found myself skimming through wondering when they would get to the quest!

While Aaron as a character isn’t a bad guy (in fact, I understand why Jemma is so attracted him), the elements of this romance didn’t work for me either. Again, this is all a personal opinion and I think some people will find it all very romantic. But a lot of the elements did remind me of Edward and Bella from Twilight. Though, I will admit, Jemma and Aaron’s romance is much healthier. 

To start with, there are multiple times when Aaron sees Jemma naked, mostly non-consensually. While most of this time is for medical or accidental reasons, these are two seventeen year-olds and I’m never a big fan of the trope where accidental touches or glances are used to show sexual attraction. This wasn’t as badly done as I’ve seen, so I let that slide. 

But where it really started feeling too much like Twilight for me was this: Aaron is a shifter, not just any shifter though! He can shift into five animals. So we’re dealing with a situation where the normal girl is in love with a shifter, but also one of the most powerful ones out there! This causes Jemma to act mostly as an observer to most situations, despite training for this quest. Her main role is to provide information or notice things, it seems. Everyone tells her she isn’t useless, but in a way, it falls mostly on Aaron. 

Then, Aaron tells Jemma a few things, all of which made me iffy. One: Jemma’s presence calms his “animal instincts” and his “hot-headedness”, further bringing home the point that she is the one for him. Two: there is an obstacle to their relationship, in that he is “promised” to another, but neither of them actually love each other. This one didn’t bother me as much as I’ve seen it before and don’t mind the trope, but added with everything else, it didn’t work for me. Finally: Aaron tells her that he knows she’s the one, because they mate for life, and he has this inbred animal instinct that tells him that he knows. This is a big revelation for two seventeen year olds. 

The final thing with this romance that really made me uncomfortable was the forced marriage that occurs towards the end of the book. Again, it works in some cases, but these are two teenagers who, for all intents-and-purposes, are from the modern world. Yes, Aaron’s world is a bit different. Not technology like phones or computers, but they’re forward thinking. So they are forced into a marriage, and while even Jemma is hesitant since she is so young, they both ultimately accept. But they cannot consummate due to Aaron’s promised relationship to his betrothed. It just felt a little odd to me.

This all takes center stage, rather than the actual conflict going on where the rulers of the Otherworld are trying to basically usurp authority and change the rules.  While I’m fine with romance in stories, sometimes it helps really make the story work, it was clear that Aaron and Jemma’s relationship was more important to the plot than those background events.

Honestly, this is probably how teenagers would act. Their relationships are more important. But it just didn’t work for me, unfortunately.

I will say though, please don’t let my review stop you from reading this book, especially if you like YA Fantasy-Romance! I think you’ll love a lot of this if that is your cup-of-tea.

It just didn’t work for me. 

What’s it about?

Jemma Alder doesn’t do the outdoors. Her books might get wet. At seventeen, she’s endured more than her fair share of tragedy, and her future is uncertain, but she has her friends, her good grades, her part time job, and her devastatingly romantic daydreams set to sweeping cinematic music – even her loathsome step-father, Lord Robert Clayworth, has treated her tolerably since ‘The Change’ last Christmas.

Then, Jemma’s familiar life deviates. Her best friend falls ill with a mysterious virus; social Queen Bee, Veronika Mason, reels Jemma into her clique; and her crush, Aaron Norling, takes an unexpected interest in her social life.

But even Jemma’s wild imagination couldn’t have foreseen how these events would catapult her into another world, nor dulled the shock of finding Aaron part of the Otherworld family who take her in. Before she can make sense of what’s happened, Jemma’s worst nightmares come true and she’s coerced into joining a team of five other teens on an expedition into the wilderness. But troubles are simmering in this land. The family are keeping secrets and the tribal system is not what it seems.

Soon, a challenging quest becomes a deadly game for survival, as it seems someone does not want the team to return, let alone succeed.

Book Review

Touch – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★☆   (3.75 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★☆☆  (3 / 5 Stars)

Enter a dystopian world where deliberate physical touch is a crime. Kissing, holding hands, hugging – whether by friends, family, or significant others – are all considered heinous acts that can result in at least 10 years in prison. The Seeker has decided that she herself wants to be touched, something denied from her throughout her life. But her mother is resistant to the idea, fearful that the Seeker may become addicted; but the Seeker doesn’t care. But can she resist the temptation to touch again? Or will she be addicted to the touch for life?

This was a fantastic interpretation of a dystopian world. We often take for granted the importance of even the smallest physical contact, and the world of Touch shows how much humanity loses itself without even being able to offer a handshake. People struggle. Touch itself becomes and addiction, no matter the cost.

Briana Morgan is a talented playwriter, able to draw us into this world in one act alone. Through the play,  we’re transported in vessel-like characters, none of whom are named other than with descriptions such as “The Seeker”, “The Dealer”, and “The Cured”, giving us a chance to step into the world with nothing more than the desire to be touched. Even at such a short length, we’re able to understand the impact of the world without touch. We see Addicts struggle, we see the Seeker wanting more, and we see the Dealer in a humane side. 

Yet, the length has some drawbacks. For me, the primary hang up I have is about the Seeker’s relationship with the Dealer. Perhaps I am misinterpreting something (or missed a crucial detail), but it read to me like the Seeker was a naive teenager dabbling in the illegal deed of “touch” for the first time. She falls into the hands of the Dealer, who is portrayed as a man slightly older. So a question raised in my mind…was she a minor getting drawn into a world unknown to her? Or was she older than I interpreted, hence a non-issue? Perhaps if we had spent a bit longer with the Seeker, I might have understood more. Perhaps her full-throttle jump into the world of being touched would have been at a better pace, rather than a one-night stand. That, I suppose, is the flaw in plays or in shorter stories: we don’t get the full picture. 

But nonetheless, I really enjoyed this play! I could picture the scenes playing out on the stage (even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the audiobook narrator), and hung on to every scene, waiting to find out what touch the Seeker sought next. 

What’s it about?

The Seeker has grown up in a world where deliberate physical contact is a crime, and for most of her life, it hasn’t bothered her. But when some of her classmates are arrested for touching, she decides to try the most forbidden of things and touch another person. When she discovers the power of touching, and how it changes her and those around her, will the Seeker be content to return to a life without it? .