Creepy and Historical

Serafina and the Twisted Staff (Serafina, #2)Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit, one of the reasons I like the Serafina books are that they combine mystery and fantasy with a historical setting – the Biltmore House. Not only that, Beatty incorporates real people with a fantastical story. But, Beatty’s novels are not some boring historical, fact-riddled, snoozers. They’re creepy mysteries that revolve around kids. No wonder, kids love these books. The adults are the backdrop, and the kids take center stage.

In Beatty’s latest installment, Serafina picks up her adventures at the Biltmore estate three weeks after defeating the man in a black cloak. The book opens with Serafina in the woods, where she notices that the birds and animals appear to be fleeing the area. Then there’s the strange carriage without a driver headed straight toward Biltmore. Concealing herself, she watches as the carriage briefly stops, and a tall, bearded man in a black coat climbs down from the carriage holding a gnarled walking stick. Her heart quickens as five wolfhounds stand by their master, scanning the woods. It’s not long before Serafina and Braeden are once again caught up in a supernatural mystery. There’s a new character, 14-year-old Lady Rowena, which puts a little kink in Serafina and Braeden’s relationship and makes for some great moments of contrast between Serafina’s rough appearance/manners and Rowena’s expensive dresses and proper English up-bringing.

For some reason, I was getting the Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles feeling while reading this book, especially near the end. I think readers will continue to be enthralled with Serafina and her animal ways. We can only guess what Beatty will come up with next, but there’s no doubt that the Biltmore setting was a brilliant idea. There are not many books where the reader can actually imagine themselves in the actual place because they’ve been there. Genius.

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New Book Release! The Gladiator & The Guard

I am happy to be hosting Annie Douglass Lima on my blog to celebrate the release of her second book in the Krillonian series – The Gladiator & The Guard. (There’s a giveaway at the end, so be sure to check it out!) I’m including my review for both of the books in the series so you can get a good idea of what her books are about. Enjoy!

Book 1 – The Collar & The Cavvarach

Finding a book that is original is refreshing these days. Too often we see the popular books “reinvented” over and over again. So I was happy to see that The Collar & The Cavvarach provided something new for the imagination.

The story takes place in a time where slavery is legal. The year is 154. Jarreon is part of the Krillonian Empire. The setting would be best described as an alternate universe that’s more modern day. So, right away, the unique setting grabs your attention.

The main character, Bensin, is a fourteen-year-old slave who promised his mother on her deathbed that he would make sure that his younger sister would be free someday. His schemes and plans for freeing his sister ultimately land him in trouble. This is where we’re introduced to a free, thirty-something, down-on-his-luck, athletic instructor whose specialty is teaching Cavvarach Shil. I’m impressed that the author made up a new sport for the story. The best way I can describe it is part kickboxing, part dueling. The main weapon, the Cavvarach is unique—a sword with a hook. The instructor, Steene, ends up training Bensin in the hopes of getting him to the Grand Imperial tournament. During the process, Bensin never forgets about his sister and his promise to free her. His personal struggles often seem to mimic the battles he faces in the ring.

Even though this is a young adult book, I think middle school boys would love it. Especially those who like martial arts of any kind. It has that “Karate Kid” type of feel, and there’s plenty of action and adventure which makes it perfect for advanced young readers.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!


Book 2 – The Gladiator & The Guard

I was glad to see such a great follow-up to the The Collar & The Cavvarach. It’s been four years since the end of the first book. Bensin is now 18. He’s still a slave, though his younger sister has been adopted by his Cavvarach Shil, instructor, Steene. When Bensin is accused of assault, his future hangs in the balance. Slaves have very little rights and his outlook is grim. But Bensin is a good fighter, and is much more useful than the average slave. He becomes a gladiator in the imperial arena where fighting is entertainment and the battles are often bloody and deadly. But there’s nothing overly graphic here, and the author does a good job of drawing you into the fight sequences and the whole life of a gladiator inside the arena.

If you’re a fan of the “Gladiator” movie, then you’ll enjoy the battles, the training, and the jail like atmosphere of the arena. A good series for middle school boys or anyone who likes martial arts.

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon


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