Stones Will Sing, The
Cold Blue Press / 2 April 2024

The Stones Will Singby Alanna VanePublished by Cold Blue PressReview by Toby A. Welch  $12.72 ISBN 9781738023301 The premise of The Stones Will Sing seems to be the question of whether music can be a life-changing force. It is a quirky yet fascinating topic to delve into, wrapped inside a fantastical tale of adventure.  The novel opens as the king of the country of Koshluk goes rampant on a quest to quash all the arts. Included in his declarations is that musical instruments are illegal and anyone caught singing will have their larynx removed. You can imagine the chaos that ensues when these rules (among others involving books, theater, etc.) are made known.  On one hand, you have Prince Ash, the second son of King Marcus of Koshluk, who is on a mission to protect the people of his country and their freedoms. Then there is Cedar, a woman who’s drawn to music with an inexplicable force. The duo embark on a journey, both carrying their provisions but also the weight of their secrets. For example, Cedar has no clue that Ash is a prince. Ash’s brother, James, is weaved through the tale as well as many other characters that keep things interesting…

Legend of Sarah, The
Shadowpaw Press / 26 January 2024

The Legend of Sarahby Leslie GadallahPublished by Shadowpaw PressReview by Toby A. Welch  $24.95 ISBN 9781989398494 The Legend of Sarah was first published in 1988 under the title Lore Master. It has now been republished in this third edition by Shadowpaw Press Reprise based out of Regina. Myself and anyone else smart enough to grab a copy of The Legend of Sarah will be grateful that it was chosen for republication. A few minor references were changed to make them more up to date but the novel is otherwise unchanged. The Legend of Sarah is as relevant today as it was 35 years ago. The title character is a 14-year-old who lives a rough life. Sarah survives on the streets of the fictional town of Monn, rigorously trying to avoid trouble. A storyteller she regularly encounters weaves formidable tales, unknowingly providing inspiration for Sarah to aim for a better life. But of course things are never simple. She gets caught up in the crossfire of numerous evil and negative forces that aim to muscle their way into her world, trying to pull Sarah to a darker side. Boiled down, she is trapped between two cultures.  Sarah is an interesting character. She is a tenacious young thing, working hard every day…

Amnesia Project, The
Wood Dragon Books / 24 January 2024

The Amnesia Projectby Payton ToddPublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99 ISBN 9781990863264 Keeping journals and writing poetry are common practices among teens, and I commend them for documenting their lives, even if no one else ever sees the writing. Some of our most exciting and/or trying experiences may occur during adolescence, and writing’s good therapy. What’s highly uncommon, however, is for a teenaged writer to have a book published, and for that book to be a 302-paged, young adult sci-fi novel with a large cast of well-developed characters, a complex and dynamic plot, and a satisfying conclusion. Enter Payton Todd and The Amnesia Project. At age fifteen, the avid writer and student from Wood Mountain, SK won the Wood Dragon Books’ Young Author Competition. After working with publisher Jeanne Martinson on successive edits, the attractive, action-filled novel was released. In an interview with moosejawtoday.com, Martinson said “Wood Dragon worked around Payton’s school schedule, and she lives on a [cattle] ranch, too, so she has a lot of chores and obligations. We’re really proud of this book …” The futuristic novel centres around seventeen-year-old Kole Danvers, who finds himself assigned a new name and position—Beta 9X—at the Pacific…

Daughter of Earth
Serimuse Books / 19 July 2023

Daughter of Earth: Book Four of the Leather Book Talesby Regine HaenselPublished by Serimuse BooksReview by Toby A. Welch$14.95 ISBN 9780993903236 Fantasy books are so hit and miss for me. I either love or hate the world that the author created and I am thrust into. In the case of Daughter of Earth, I love where author Haensel’s creativity took her. The world that revolves around Alizarine and Samel kept me sucked in, eager to keep flipping the pages. As the title points out, this is book four in The Leather Book Tales set. The author best explains this book collection: “The Leather Book Tales is a fantasy set in western North America. Four powers – fire, water, air, and earth – reveal themselves in four young people, triggered and enhanced by a pair of silver bracelets. The young people’s abilities increase as they overcome challenges and collaborate against forces that oppose and threaten them. The Leather Book holds old and tangled tales that connect with what is happening to them, but the stories don’t reveal all that is behind the events. The young people face risks, not only for themselves but also for the world and its people.” A huge bonus…

Ghosts of Spiritwood, The
Shadowpaw Press / 18 July 2023

The Ghosts of Spiritwoodby Martine Noël-MawPublished by Shadowpaw Press RepriseReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$17.99 ISBN 9781989398623 I’ve always loved a good ghost story, and Saskatchewan writer Martine Noël-Maw gives us ghost stories inside a ghost story in her YA novel The Ghosts of Spiritwood. First published in 2010 in French, the book’s now available in English thanks to Shadowpaw Press Reprise, and I’m so pleased. The novel was inspired by Grade 8 French Immersion students at Elsie Mironuck School in Regina, where Noël-Maw conducted six writing workshops. The author’s work’s been recognized with two Saskatchewan Book Awards, and she clearly knows how to write well, beginning with this novel’s opening paragraph: “I still have nightmares about the events that took place in that abandoned country school near Spiritwood. I’d seen disembodied spirits before but never like those.” That’s a grabber. We immediately learn that our First Person narrator is seventeen-year-old Ethan, the son of a Regina psychologist. Ethan and his classmates were to go camping in Spiritwood where they’d “watch the northern lights,” but rather than taking the bus with the others, Ethan and twins John and Reggie, plus Ethan’s crush Alex(andra) and whiny Britney had to leave the city…

From the Street to the Stars
Shadowpaw Press / 26 April 2023

From the Street to the Stars: Andy Nebula, Interstellar Rockstar – Book Oneby Edward WillettPublished by Shadowpaw PressReview by Toby A. Welch$19.95 ISBN 9781999382728 From the Street to the Stars is not my first Edward Willett book. Odds are it won’t be my last, as Willett is constantly publishing (that is a bonus for those of us who love reading the tales that come out of his super-imaginative mind.) Like his other works, this one doesn’t disappoint. It is filled with prose that draws you right in while the characters and plot keep you glued to every page.  While From the Street to the Stars is geared for young adults and I’m approaching middle age, I loved Kit’s story. The tale of a teenager turned rockstar would’ve been enough to keep me sucked in yet Willett takes the plot several exciting steps further. He adds in spaceships, aliens, interplanetary travel, and a few other galactic surprises. While that could’ve turned cheesy fast, in this case it added fabulous layers to the story. New depths are created, especially with the kooky aliens. It was a thrill ride to go along with the cast of quirky characters on their adventures.  One of…

Last Green Dragon, The
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 24 February 2023

The Last Green Dragonby Rud VerhagenPublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle Shaw$19.95 ISBN 9781988783918 The Last Green Dragon is a magical tale of courage, mystery and adventure between two very unlikely friends. Gus is a green dragon who has been raised by a pair of owls since he was a hatchling. Ev is a young girl who was left on the doorstep of a kind old lady named Granny Jenkins when she was a baby. But thanks to a magical opening in Ev’s backyard the two meet and become friends. Although they don’t know it, they are both on a quest and it’s only by joining together that they will each be able to unlock the secrets of their past. Both Gus and Ev are prepared to sacrifice something precious to help the other and they encourage each other when the challenges seem too hard. But just when their friendship seems unbreakable there’s a shocking discovery at the end of the book that threatens to destroy it forever. Fantasy is not usually my go-to genre, but I was absolutely delighted by The Last Green Dragon. Gus and Ev are interesting characters who each have their own personal challenges…

Silencing Rebecca
Thistledown Press / 18 January 2023

Silencing Rebeccaby Nikki VogelPublished by Thistledown PressReview by Toby A. Welch$18.95 ISBN 9781771872263 Silencing Rebecca is a fantastic book that jumps right into the action with a claustrophobic scene that has us questioning what the heck is going on with the main character. The book then goes on to answer that intriguing question. The story of Rebecca, a teenager transplanted from Toronto to Edmonton, starts predictably. She struggles with the upheaval of moving to a new place and starting at a new school, something most of us can relate to. But things quickly take an unexpected turn when Rebecca morphs into a golem.  I had no idea what a golem was. I vaguely remembered hearing the word in an X-Files tv show episode. But that was in the late 90s and my memory was drawing a blank. Vogel described a golem as an ugly monster, a mythical clay creature straight out of Jewish folklore. Still feeling clueless, I had to find out more. Enter Google. Stories of golems go back centuries. While golems started in Jewish mythology, they have morphed into popular culture in Dungeons & Dragons, Pokémon, and many more places. Currently golems are considered robots that operate through…

Shepherd’s Call

Shepherd’s Callby Counios and GanePublished by Your Nickel’s Worth PublishingReview by Michelle ShawISBN 9781988783772 $19.95 Shepherd’s Call is the latest installment in the internationally award-winning Shepherd & Wolfe mystery series, written by Regina-based authors David Gane and Angie Counios. Tony Shepherd is all set to graduate from high school when his best friend Charlie Wolfe suddenly disappears leaving only a cryptic text message on Tony’s phone saying: “Help”. Tony’s search for his friend leads him back into Charlie’s past where he slowly discovers the traumatic events that shattered Charlie’s life. The book is told from both Tony and Charlie’s point of view, so at the same time as we are following Tony’s search we are also following Charlie’s adventures as he attempts to figure out why he has been abducted and what he needs to do to stay alive. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book. The previous book Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing ended on such a cliffhanger and I’ve been desperate to find out what happened to Charlie and Tony. It took me a little while to get into this book because it’s been a few years since the previous book was published. But the chapters are short and the…

Stay
Shadowpaw Press / 27 July 2022

Stayby Katherine LawrencePublished by Shadowpaw Press RepriseReview by Toby A. Welch$12.95 ISBN 9781989398371 What an intriguing book! Geared for young adult readers, Stay tells the story of what Millie, an 11-year-old girl, is going through in her complicated world. Millie’s parents are struggling in their lives and she is an observer to their turmoil. Her closest confidante is her twin brother, Billy, who was born deceased. It is fascinating to tag along with Millie as she journeys through the pre-teen phase in her life.  Millie is an enchanting main character that I quickly fell in love with. She is precocious and daring, I will give her that. She reads her mother’s racy texts and makes no apologies for doing so. She loves chocolate more than anything in the world. Missing her dad after he moved out of the family home, she dots his aftershave behind her ears. She tries smoking cigarettes. Her strongest desire is to have a dog. Millie’s story is captivating! It took me a few chapters to get used to the format of Stay. I typically read traditionally structured books with full paragraphs consisting of complete sentences. Stay is written in a way that comes off as…