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The Lost Branch


Here, Learn some more about this book:


The 1-line Review:

What can I say, I loved this book just as much as the first. The magic gets even better, the plot lines are deep and woven, and we get a great story line into the history preceding the main trilogy story line.

The longer review

Marcellus, Nicolai, and Corren have to handle new roles as King, Prince, and Head of the order. The Norther magical guild, The Osiris Colony threatens the balance of the realm with a claim to the powers of the Phoenix. The earth faeries face a challenge that will challenge their way of life. Can the new king and his brothers safeguard the realm of humans and fairies before the land they know is destroyed?  (you should read and see)

The magic continues to impress from the first book. The book dives into the history of the  Mapmaker and the earth fairies that added a great depth of knowledge to the character of Salerno as well as the origins of The Order.  There is still much to learn about the order, leaving mysteries for the next installment.

The Lost Branch matches the great depth the first book, Gift of the Phoenix, contained . Again the layers of major and minor plot lines are woven together so intricately, and feel separate but connected at the same time  I felt like there were several “mini ending” throughout the story that gave me a satisfying sense as each perspective plot line came to a close.

The main character of each chapter rotates among Marcellus, Nicolai, and Corren, with occasional chapters and excerpts centered around pro and antagonists. Each chapters grips and pulls you into a story line, only to be switched back into another characters story pages after. It ends up creating quite the page turner as you constantly are reading to get back to each character to see what happens next.

Bottom Line:

 I can’t wait for the next! this series is truly one of the great ones.

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The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann – Review


The Quick Review:
Why are there so many haters of this book! The Goodreads and Amazon review have some tough critics on this one. I Loved The Unwanteds. It is a real page turner. Like the cover said it is a mix of Harry Potter and Hunger Games; The Unwanteds is a little less intricate and in-depth as those series. Because of that it fits well in the Juvenile Fiction genre. It is a really fun Dystopian-Magic fantasy that is well suited for 8-12.

The Longer Review:
I think it is great that McMann mixed 2 popular YA sub-genres into one story. A magic dystopian novel is not something you come across often. I think it is very original and executed decently. The magic is performed by using art techniques, rather than the usual wand or staff. A lot of the magic used creates technology, like talking TV’s; a nice twist compared to Hogwarts, which contained no technology what so ever.
McMann took a pure form of child imagination and brought it to life. Reviewers complain that the lack of math and science in the magical realm is unrealistic. Let’s not forget that Harry Potter learned no math or (muggle) science at Hogwarts. As a child, you do not imagine a magical world where you can do math and science, you imagine a world where you can do magic and fly and defeat evil.
The differences between Quill (the dystopian world) and Artime (the magical free realm) are completely black and white. Some readers don’t like this. I enjoyed the concept, not every story needs a grey area or ambiguity. Some young readers (like me when I was young) tire of a large novel like Harry Potter. This novel gives you all the magic and adventure you need for children with shorter attention spans or children who are not avid readers.
My one major critique is that there was not enough back-story to why Quill was so bland and structured. From what the book says it went from a normal country to a fascist, oppressive government in one lifetime. I know this has happened in actual history, but it wasn’t explained enough for the land of Quill. And the story makes it seem like there was no opposition or resistance to the oppression what so ever.

My other minor critiques were the varying levels of character depth and that there was a lot of explaining, rather than action. More on these below.

The Writing:
The story is written in the third person. There is a lot of explanation mingled with conversation. The book was a little heavy on explanation, but it wasn’t too much of a detractor. The story had minimal foreshadowing; most of the time you can figure out what is coming. However, this might be on purpose based on the transparency and honesty of Mr. Today, Artime’s ruler.  And a 10 year old wont read into a foreshadowing like an adult reader would.

The Characters:
I thought Alex, the main character, was well developed. His Reponses to the situations he was put in seemed real and appropriate. I thought his progression through Artime was great because it didn’t fit the common mold of a main character. He actually had a stressful and hard time after arriving in the free and magical world of Artime; almost forcing him to wonder about life before Artime.
Alex’s twin brother Aaron could not be more his opposite, and it was hard to see why at times. They both had the same upbringing, but Aaron is portrayed as power hungry and conniving from the start. What was the spark that created this drive in him? I cannot say.
The rest of the cast have varying depths of character. I would not say they were one dimensional, but not fleshed out either. I hope they become more developed in the second and third book.

Definitely a read for middle school boys and girls. I think McMann wrote it very appropriately for the intended audience. More experienced reader might find The Unwanted too juvenile, I still found the book to be an exciting read.

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Interview with Claribel Ortega- Author of The Skinwalker’s Apprentice

Everyone ready to get into the mind of Claribel Ortega? I had the chance to ask her a few question after reading her debut novella, The Skinwalker’s Apprentice. This debut novella is the prologue to her upcoming Empire Witch Series.

Ortega introduces us to the pink haired upstart Emerald Kipp to our left over hear. Emerald is a great new female character who should turn out to be a great new which, but breaks the mold of today’s Hogwarts wizards.

Everyone stop by Claribel Ortega’s website. Get updates on her new series, and maybe the chance to win a signed copy to. You can also talk to Claribel on Twitter and ask her about The Skinwalker’s Apprentice yourself!

Original review here.

Lets start off with a fun question; if someone spotted you eating your favorite food while watching your favorite TV show, what would each be?

It would be pizza, for sure and I am currently watching Sherlock on Netflix and I love it!

Pick you favorite heroine from any book you have ever read, and convince us why they are the best heroine ever?

My favorite heroine is Lisbeth Salander from The Millennium Trilogy. She’s a hacker, she’s super smart, and she’s resilient. Her character goes through so much and she is able to pick herself up from devastating circumstances, and really kick butt. She has her own moral compass, which might not necessarily line up with the rest of society, but that’s what makes her so cool. She is loyal, intelligent and independent, and she’s someone you find yourself cheering for even if she also scares you just a little.

The YA genre has hundreds of possibilities, what compelled you to write a magic series?

Claribel Ortega

Author Claribel Ortega

Magic and fantasy has always fascinated me. The Hobbit, LOTR and Harry Potter as well as The Chronicles of Narnia are amongst my favorite books/series. I also really like Sci-fi and crime novels, but Emerald’s story just came to me first, and once I started writing it was like an avalanche.

Your first series is all about witches and magic, what will make The Skinwalker’s Apprentice and Empire Witch series stand out from the rest?

I think there are a few things that make it different. First, my books have strong historical roots. From the settings, to the characters, there are many aspects of the series that are inspired by real life NY residents and occurrences. For example, there is a character in book one (Emerald Kipp & The Riddle of the Timekeeper) named Henrietta Snowden. She was nicknamed The Witch of East Broadway and was a real life resident of NYC in the late 1800’s. I spent months in the NYPL researching and finding these stories which, really are magical on their own, and I made them a part of Emerald’s world and my alternate NYC.

Setting my series in the 1980’s will also help it stand out, because there is so much that has changed between teenagers then and now, and so much that really hasn’t changed. It was interesting for me to write about those similarities and to explore the differences, something as simple as not being able to text your friend to tell them where you are, it changes the dynamics of every day life.  Being able to include music, and 80’s music specifically will also be something to help the book stand out in the fantasy genre. It’s fun, and it can also be mysterious and lends itself well to fast paced action and more dramatic situations. There’s a lot of Smiths music J

Lastly, Emerald is, I hope, not your typical heroin. She has a mind of her own, but she’s also extremely flawed. She has many issues, and hang ups, but she is also confident about certain aspects of her life. She is not black and white, she is all over the place, and I think that makes her real and it makes her human. Emerald also doesn’t focus solely on a male love interest, there is love in my series, but it takes a backseat to friendship and family.

You graduated from college with a degree in journalism, was it always your goal to be an author?

Actually no it wasn’t, but not because I didn’t enjoy creative writing. It’s quite the opposite, I have always enjoyed writing poetry, short stories and lyrics, but I was always terrified of sharing it with others. As a reporter, I wrote articles about school board meetings, and community events, so the writing was structured and obviously really different from writing a fiction novel. It felt almost safe to write articles, even though there are critics for all styles of writing, what I wrote was more fact based and straight forward. People tend to get a lot more passionate when reading about witches and things that can’t really happen lol. It’s strange but true. I feel like I ran away from being a writer, I tried switching careers, but it was like a nagging thought that wouldn’t go away. Once I began forming Emerald’s story, there was no turning back. I became obsessed with the world, the characters, and the history. It’s so hard not being able to blurt out everything that happens, because it goes so much further than The Skinwalker’s Apprentice, but that’s something readers will hopefully find out for themselves.

Now some more question on your new series; how many books are you planning for The Empire Witch series?

For now three, but there I think depending on how the rest of the series unfolds, there could be more.

When did you realize that the Empire Witch series needed a prologue?

Book one is a third of the way done, and while I was writing it I realized Margo’s story needed it’s own book. She is central to the rest of the series and the story of her apprenticeship needed to be explained in depth in order for people to get a better feel for the rest of the series. It all comes together in a way people probably are not expecting at all, and I think fleshing Margo’s story out will only make it that much more enjoyable and that much ore of a “HOLY CRAP” moment for readers. At least I hope so!

If you were a witch and only able to only perform one type of spell/enchantment, what would that spell be? The magic you chose can be from your universe or another.

This is hard…hmm, I think any spell that made me invisible would really come in handy. I would say being able to fly on a broom, but I’m too much of a chicken for that.

Is the music that Emerald listens to a glimpse into your own playlist?

Some yes, some no. I also love The Smiths, but I can’t say I’ve ever listened to Echo and the Bunnymen or Siouxsie and the Banshees before researching them for the book. Emerald likes a mixture of more mainstream music (UB40, The Police) and little known bands. That being said, I listen to all of Emerald’s music now, and I love it.

When can we expect Emerald Kipp and the Riddle of the Timekeeper, the first full book, to be released?

It should be out in the fall of 2014 from Winslet Press, but I will keep you posted with a more concrete release date when the time comes!

I am already ready to read the first in the series. The Empire Witch Series will be a strong new magic series. The Skinwalker’s apprentice already had a 4.5 start rating on Goodreads!

Thanks to Claribel Ortega for taking the time to answer some questions. Check back for more reviews and interview with Ortega as well as a potential giveaway of The Skinwalker’s Apprentice, signed by Claribel!

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The Skinwalker’s Apprentice by Claribel Ortega- Review

I’m going to write this review a bit different than my usual, since this is more of a novella and is a prologue to a new series-  Emerald Kipp and the Riddle of the Timekeeper.

The Skinwalker’s Apprentice hits eBook shelves tomorrow, February 24th.  Get connected with Claribel on Twitter and find out more about The Skinwalker’s Apprentice and what Claribel is doing at her Official Site: Claribelortega.com


The Skinwalker’s Apprentice is the start of what I anticipate to be a great new magic based series. A unique, yet realistic main female character; magic with a good mix of understanding and mystery; and very strong writing for a new author.

In The Skinwalker’s Apprentice, we follow 2 young witches; a colonial period witch named Margo Pennyfeather, and a 1980’s witch named Emerald Kipp.  Margo is from a poor immigrant family, and is chosen to become the apprentice to the head priestess and train to become a powerful which. Emerald lives with her aunt; and as far as she knows they are the only two witches around and have to keep their powers a secret.

I was surprised at how strong the writing was for a young author on her first work. Claribel does an excellent job with writing visually without over detailing and bogging the reader down with over depiction. Her character of Emerald Kipp has to be one of the most real characters I have read in a YA book in recent time. She will be a strong female character and looks to not fit a common mold YA readers are accustomed to.

The Skinwalker’s apprentice shows the research that Ortega put behind the book, making many accurate references to people, history, and time appropriate items for each character. I think fantasy writing with a backing in historic back is a winning combination for a fictional YA series.

The magic is exciting, and I cannot place it as similar to another work I have read. This series should form up to not be another cookie cutter magic series. The depth of the characters, especially the Priestess and most of the characters in Emeralds story line, was excellent for the short length of this eBook.

My star deduction comes from two points. First, I think the story of Emerald in this prologue did not have an ending; whereas Margo’s story had a clear beginning middle and end. My second qualm is that the chapters alternated very evenly for 3 quarters of the book before leading into a long string of consecutive Margo chapters. The Margo chapters were exciting and I can see why they were strung together, but it shook the flow up a little.

Definitely read The Skin walker’s apprentice. I think this will be a great series. I look forward to reading the first full story. CHeck back next weekend for an interview with Claribel about The Skinwalker’s Apprentice and The Emerald Kipp Series.

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