Book Review: Ezaara, by Eileen Mueller

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_ezaara.jpgEzaara lives a relatively peaceful life in Lush Valley, learning swordcraft with her brother and collecting herbs for her mother. But things change when the dragon appears, and carries her away into a life she has only ever dreamed of. It is a life of danger and excitement, of intrigue and tangled politics, and Ezaara must prove her worth not only to the dragon council, but also to herself.

Written in an eloquent and gripping style, Ezaara intrigued me from the start, but it was only when our, relatively naive, heroine was thrust into the midst of conspiracy and corruption that it really clutched me tight, and kept me reading far too late into the night! Along with her relatively rural upbringing, Ezaara has a strong heart and fiery determination, but will she prove a worthy companion for the queen of the dragons? Her wits and skills – and also her emotions – will be tested to their limits, carrying the reader along, on an emotional rollercoaster ride of their own!

For the young adult market – and anyone who has ever wanted to befriend a dragon – Ezaara is a spell-binding tale of friendship, courage and determination.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

by Eileen Mueller
Published by Phantom Feather Press
ISBN 9780995115200

Book Review: At the Edge, edited by Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_at_the_edgeAt the edge of reality, the edge of sanity, things get darker, grimmer and a little bit strange. This is a collection of such tales from a selection of New Zealand and Australian authors. Beautifully, lyrically written, these are not stories for the faint of heart. From the realistic to the surrealistic, within these pages you’ll find a mix of horror, science fiction, dystopia, post-apocalyptic; stories to keep you reading far into the night, stories to haunt your dreams.

Here are a few of the stand-out tales, in my opinion:

‘Hood of Bone,’ by Debbie Cowens, is a tale that borders the realms between reality and horror, and sent shivers down my spine. Decidedly unsettling; a women drags her dog away from a rotting fish and is confronted by a madman. But is it merely dementia, or something far more horrifying?

We also have ‘Crossing,’ by Anthony Panegyres, a ghost story with a difference. Poignant, bittersweet and something of a lesson in letting go of the past, it tells of Jane Self, separated by a cruel twist of fate from her husband and desperately seeking closure.

The lines between reality and unreality become very blurred in ‘Narco,’
by Michelle Child. A woman is unable to stay awake on a train through the night. What is real and what is a dream? What happens when awake and asleep blur into one? This is a chilling short story that will make you think twice before travelling alone.

Although still quite brutal, there is dark humour in ‘Street Furniture,’ by Joanne Anderton. Have you ever wondered why furniture gets left out on the street? Well, goblins are real, and they can grant wishes – particularly those requiring unpleasantness – if paid accordingly. Wishes, such as the removal of an unpleasant step-father. But such debts are not to be taken lightly…

‘Call of the Sea’ by Eileen Mueller is beautiful and tragic. Reality and surreality merge in this tale of loss, as a child is snatched away by the ocean. Heart-breaking, haunting and eloquently written.

The odd, but engaging, ‘Responsibility,’ by Octavia Cade is the tale of two sisters – one who brings life and one who brings death. What happens when the life-sister must look after her death-sister’s house and collection of zombie critters? With all the bleakness and tragedy, it’s nice to have something that feels a little lighter, even if there are still shadows of decay creeping around the edges.

This is a well-compiled collection of memorable tales, and well worth the read for anyone who enjoys the many facets of speculative fiction and likes their stories dark and, yes, edgy.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

At the Edge
Edited by Lee Murray & Dan Rabarts
Published by Paper Road Press
ISBN  9780473354152

Book Review: The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, edited by Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller and A. J. Ponder

Available in selected bookstores nationwide.

cv_the_best_of_twisty_christmas_TalesThis delightful collection will certainly awaken your child within and spark your Christmas spirit. There are around 30 stories from an eclectic array of authors: familiar names like Joy Cowley and David Hill, along with a number of rising talents. The stories are charming little bites, perfect for a younger reader, or to read aloud with your family. Christmas is truly brought to life. Stories are based in the cold clutches of Antarctica, in places out in space, and in various fantastical realms, but the New Zealand flavour is alive and well in these tales.

In “Cole’s Christmas Spirit,” by Shelley Chappell, a young English boy is shown the joy of a summery Christmas. Within A.J. Ponders “Dear Santa”, a homeless boy sends letters to Santa, his hopeful innocence simple, yet heart-breaking and bittersweet. We meet “Bandit” in Lorraine Orman’s tale about a mischievous cat, whose thievery turns him into an unlikely saviour. David Freer’s “How to Train Your Princess” is cheeky and smart. And if you like dragons, there are many in Eileen Mueller’s “Rumbled”. Joy Cowley lends a kiwi edge to the classic Nativity story in this reprinted version of her picture book “A Kiwi Christmas”.

Other favourites include, “Bells” by Lee Murray, an amusing tale in which the police get involved. And in “Santa’s Sack”, Simon Fogarty channels the spirit of Roald Dahl with a wickedly twisty tale about a bratty sister getting her comeuppance.

Some of the stories are short and sweet, others twisted and fun. Some will make you laugh out loud, others give you a warm and fuzzy fluttering feeling. It all comes packaged up in a neat little paperback, with a colourful and quirky-fun cover, interspersed with wonderful illustrations. Not only that, but by purchasing a copy, you are helping support the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand, and discovering some rising new talents.

Overall, an awesome Christmas gift for the child in your life.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales
edited by Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller, and A.J. Ponder
Published by Phantom Feather Press
ISBN  9780994115508