The Esme Trilogy: Esme’s Gift, by Elizabeth Foster

A parade of craft cruised the lagoon: gilt-edged ferries and gondolas in jewel-like colours – dazzling blues, crimsons, emerald greens. Sea dragons looped above the rooftops, twisting their sinuous forms … . Esme’s Gift Ch. 3.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says: Oh dear, our world is not in its finest shape right now, is it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be elsewhere. Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish (see my review here and my re-visit here) and I can plunge once more into another world and see again the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia.

Esme returns to Aeolia after her failed attempt to convince her father to join her. The evil Nathan Mare is at large and intent on finding the secret knowledge entrusted to her. But high-school waits for no teenager, and in the classrooms and library of Pierpont school she can find friends and allies. And what a library it is.

(Ancient gondalas) repurposed into shelves, lined the library’s walls … No longer fit to carry passengers, they now carried books to the shores of the readers’ minds. Esme’s Gift Ch. 12.’

Esme must gather the strange ingredients of the only elixir that can save her mother. To obtain these elements takes all her courage and all the combined gifts and powers of her friends. But some people are not who they seem to be, and the tension never lets up.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind. But if you happen to be older (after all, some of us have yet to find a potion to wind back the years – and if the high risk alchemical experiments in Esperance are anything to go by, we should stay well away from any such potions or concoctions, or who knows what could happen!) .. if you are an older reader who loves beguiling fantasy worlds and tales of ghosts and of quests into caverns guarded by monsters and ghouls, and if you also don’t object to dragons .. The books of the Esme trilogy will be a treat for you.

Reading of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh – and dragons.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Gift is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself in this trilogy by looking at Amazon Australia, at Amazon USA, at Book Depository , at Barnes and Noble, and more. You can see more about Esme’s search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

Return to Aeolia: Refresh your soul in the realm of Esme’s Wish

Tears pricked Esme’s eyes. Her mother had vanished, without trace, when she was eight. No one know what had really happened to her- or so they said. Esme’s Wish. Ch. 1.’

Mark, guardian of Mawson Bear says:
Another dreary Monday. I popped my head out from the pillows and saw that my Grownup ‘real’ world was not in it’s finest state. Longing to immerse myself in another realm, I picked up Esme’s Wish (which I reviewed here), to read once again on the commuter ride to work.

Esperance appearing to be drifting on the lagoon’s surface, as if its hold on existence was so tenuous that it could slip back into the depths at any moment. High above the city, sinuous shapes pinwheeled across the sky … Dragons. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Not that Aeolia is trouble free either, far from it. Evil characters disrupt the harmony and the city of Esperance is crumbling from earthquakes. The mystery of her lost mother just gets deeper no matter how far Esme investigates nor how many dangers she faces.

A loud cry derailed Esme’s train of thought. Her head whipped up. A rush of feathers filled her vision. The sea eagle was streaking down toward her, it’s sharp talons poised, ready to strike. Esme’s Wish Ch.3.’

Aeolia, even so, was a welcome haven for me from Year of The Covid for a week of train rides and lunch breaks. All too soon, I turned the last page. The wind-played harps and song spells faded, and the horrible upsets of Grownup Reality shoved themselves again into my mind.

Esme’s Wish and Esme’s Gift are written by Elizabeth Foster with the ‘Young Adult’ audience in mind, and as Esme and her friends are aged about 15, it is rightly finding a wide readership there. Why then, do I recommend these books to those of us older than fifteen (in my case far older). Why, that is, apart from your certain appreciation of this well crafted fantasy world with its own myths, history and songs, the believable characters, the well paced plot, the fine literary language and, oh, the dragons? Didn’t Tolkein say that he longed for a world in which there were dragons? Don’t we all.

We read, in the end, to not be entirely stuck in the ordinariness or the troubles of our own lives, and I have found Young Adult books and even some children’s books (think of the Narnia Chronicles) to do this as well for me, and often better, than Adult books can do. Oh, I still appreciate the novels written with the mature, sophisticated, world weary and somewhat cynical reader in mind (ie me); but another world entirely, like Aeolia, suits me very much these days. Perhaps many of you feel the same.

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The island of Esperance in Aeolia, a realm of seas, islands, lagoons, oh- and dragons.

Fortunately, I have to hand Esme’s Gift, the sequel to Esme’s Wish, and I can soon plunge down once more into other far places where I would rather be, the towers of the city of Esperance and the siren islands of Aeolia. Why not get your copies now and join me there.

Where to find this other world: Esme’s Wish is published by Odyssey Books, a small press where ‘books are an adventure’. You can immerse yourself too in the world of Aeolia by looking at Amazon here, at Book Depository and at Barnes and Noble. You can see more about Esme’ search for her mother and about the author, Elizabeth Foster, on her web den.

You have wandered into Mark’s blog. I am guardian and photographer for Mawson Bear, one of this bright world’s very few Writer-Bears. Mawson wrote She Ran Away From Love and It’s A Bright world To Feel Lost In.
Reviews about Mawson’s books: ‘Great book, well written and extremely engaging. Bonus it is all about bears!!!! Marvellous !!!!!!!’  Reviewer Navaron on Amazon. ‘ A magical little grand tour into the meaning of happiness’ Sharrie Williams, author, on Amazon.

Cassandra, by Kathryn Gossow: Shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in Aurealis Awards

Shortlisted for the Best Fantasy Novel 2017 in the Australian Aurealis Awards.

She dreams of plane crashes, earthquakes, tsunamis, bloody coups. She dreams of the stallion sweeping down the hill … . P. 197

Foreboding. Everything in the early chapters of Cassandra author Kathryn Gossow instills a sense of ‘foreboding’. Possibilities thicken of dark changes to come. Would they concern Paulo, or Athena, or a secret in this family? Or would they thunder down on Cassie herself like the ominous horse in her nightmares?

Cassandra: A princess of Troy and priestess of Apollo. She was cursed to utter true prophecies but to never be believed. (Wiki)

What if you could foresee people’s futures, for instance, that one kid on the school bus will die of bowel cancer, another will briefly shine on the stage but never become famous? A wonderful ability, yes? But what if you fill with dread and cannot make out why. Then Something happens. If you had warned people, and if they had believed you, could you have diverted that accident or mistake from happening? In the old legend, of course, Cassie’s namesake Cassandra felt cursed.

The Snake: Some versions of the legend have Cassandra falling asleep in a temple, where the snakes licked her ears so that she could hear the future. (Wiki.)

Cassie seems like an ordinary girl who gets bitten by a snake on a farm in Queensland. Her little brother predicts a drought, she grows to be a grumpy teenager troubled by visions, she scowls at her mother in the ordinary teenage way, she worries about her great-aunt and her Poppy .. Wait a minute. Bitten by a snake? Visions? Her brother foretells a drought? Wasn’t there a legend …?

The Brother: Some versions of the legend give Cassandra a brother, Helenus. Like her, he was always correct in his predictions. Unlike her, he was believed. (Wiki.)

She tries to make one true friend, Athena, who introduces her to the Tarot. (‘Her thoughts swirl with colour and the patterns and the meanings of the cards’. P. 77). She clumsily attempts to fit in with the cool kids, she experiments with alcohol and dope, her visions worsen, she is keen on a boy named Paulo .. Wait, wait. Athena? ‘Paulo’ .. or ‘Apollo’? Didn’t Apollo’s priestesses take hallucinogens to enhance their visions?

Apollo: Many versions of the myth relate that Cassandra incurred the god Apollo’s wrath by refusing him sex, after promising herself to him in exchange for the power of prophecy. (Wiki.)

Cassandra can be read is a ‘coming of age’ novel in that it concerns teenage insecurities and self-doubts, the cruel cut and thrust of cliques and friendships, and the tensions within families. But I think you will also soon be reading it, as I did, mindful of the big questions about fate and destiny, and mulling over the extent to which every one of one’s own decisions cuts away previous possibilities and opens up lines of new ones.

Kathryn Gossow is also the author of The Dark Poet. An older Cassie, the central character of Cassandra features in the stories in The Dark Poet. As you can see from my review in this blog, the connection is intriguing. The Dark Poet is also published by Odyssey Books.

(The images of the book in this post are courtesy of Odyssey Books and the author.)

Mark, your reviewer here at Baffled Bear Books, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Girl In The Attic, by Dan Djurdjevic

‘She’d checked her room three times and yes, the lock on her door was fastened .. She was safe. She finally felt her self drifting off to sleep. Until she heard a cough – a girl’s cough- coming from the attic.’

Rose’s dad started doing pointless things up there in his man-cave attic that didn’t even make the grim space more habitable. Then he quarreled with Rose and her mother and abruptly left home. That was three years ago. About then her mum started drinking. Rose herself has been shoplifting, taking useless things that she doesn’t even want. Even being punished by her mum by having to sleep up in the attic didn’t stop that urge. By the third offence Rose is in big trouble with the judge. She is forced to see a pyschiatrist as part of the sentence and the shrink, though sympathetic, seems to be suggesting that something is very, very wrong with her.

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Rose is scared. Scared of her lapses of memory about the hours when, according to the friends she is fast losing, she has behaved completely out of character. And she is scared of the sounds coming from the attic.

What is the secret of the attic?

In this easily readable, well paced novel, author Dan Djurdevic spans a number of ‘difficult issues’ confronted by young people – and by older ones! Compulsive behaviours such as gambling, getting tangled up in the justice system, being harshly judged by friends and badly treated by employers, feeling that no one is listening to you, no one believes in you. But these matters don’t bog you down. Rather, in this story, they flow into each other, all necessary elements of the mystery that keeps you reading on. I am so tempted to add a spoiler somewhere here, even a little one. But with restraint I will simply say – you don’t get your resolution until the last page! Read on.

From the back cover: A young adult mystery that explores themes of compulsive behaviour, addiction, the importance of family, the nature of chance and how choices shape your destiny.

Where to find this book
BookDepository (also with free shipping): Girl In The Attic.
Amazon: Girl In The Attic (Note that you can read this for free with Kindle Unlimited membership just now).

More mysteries from Dan Djurdevic:
Bookdepository and with free shipping:
A Hazy Shade of Twilight, The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon , The Shadow of Dusk .
Amazon: The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon, The Shadow of Dusk.

You can also find them at AbeBooks.com: there is a general link below.

My review of The Mirror Image Of Sound is here.

AbeBooks. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.