Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT THE PORTAL by Caren J Werlinger #YA #Fantasy #Irish

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs at

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Portal by Caren J Werlinger


Like many ancient societies, early Ireland has a rich history of what we’d call magic and fantasy. From our modern viewpoint, we may find it hard to believe that so much of their society was influenced by the belief that supernatural forces controlled and influenced almost every aspect of their lives. Only…what if that was exactly what was happening? What if there were people with special gifts, trained and honed over a lifetime to wield tools we can’t understand? What happens when that supernaturally-based belief system crashes against the equally supernaturally-based system propagated by Christian missionaries?

This conflict forms the basis for Caren J. Werlinger’s Dragonmage series. Set in an ancient Ireland steeped in magic traditions, it tells the story of a young girl who is the one chosen to fill ancient prophecies while her entire world is crashing against the rapidly spreading new Christian beliefs.

This is the second book in the series, and —while the story arc can stand alone—to really understand the large cast of characters, it would be helpful to read Ash’s story in Book 1 first. Adopted by badgers (badgers!) as an infant after her village is destroyed by invaders, Ash survives because of her ability to communicate with animals. Although discovered and accepted as apprentice by mages, Ash and her new friends’ existence is threatened by the increasing influence of the Christianity introduced to Ireland by Saint Patrick in the fifth century.

Bonded with the baby dragon Péist, Ash receives her true name—Caymin—and discovers  her destiny as a dragonmage, one chosen to travel through a time Portal to save other mages and their dragons, prevent a horrific war, and keep the spreading Christians from destroying Ireland’s magic heritage. But Caymin is torn between accepting her role as the one chosen to save her world, and the certainty that doing so will cost everything she holds most dear.

In a way, it’s like reading stories about the Titanic, because we already know how the tragedy plays out. But author Caren Werlinger continues to balance delicately  between the magic lore taught and practiced by her fictional mages and the reality that we know the Christians were eventually successful.

As with Book One, the world building is wonderful. Not only do we get the strong sense of the realities of everyday life, but we also see the lure of the “what if”. Caymin and Péist each must consider whether their task really justifies the personal toll. This plays out in a very real sense, as Caymin is offered the ultimate “what if”—the chance to grow up with her family, to see them alive and happy instead of murdered when she was a baby. But everything comes at a price, and the cost for that one is a life lived without the magic and the defining bond with her dragon. Both the young mage and her dragon face trials as this version of the classic hero’s quest sets their coming of age crucibles against a backdrop of a world we as readers know will change despite them.

It’s always tough to create a believable middle book in a series arc, but Caren Werlinger succeeds brilliantly. The story arc takes Caymin and Péist both through adventures and through moral dilemmas, resolving them while still leaving enough threads open and a developing crisis to take us to the next book. I enjoyed the way Caymin’s character develops and grows, even as the slightly more alien dragon also tries to find his path as he matures. Caymin’s confusion about her attraction to another girl is sensitively and beautifully handled, fitting well into the context of the strong women who have guided her.

I wouldn’t hesitate to give The Portal five stars, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, adventure, and coming of age stories. And I can’t wait for the next book in this terrific series.

Book Description

The Dragonmage Saga continues as Caymin and Péist return to Ireland. Together, mage and dragon seek allies to try and stop a pending war with a fanatical monk determined to rid Éire of magic. But the spreading tide of Christianity isn’t the only threat. An ancient evil – one that dates back to the last dragon war a thousand winters ago – threatens the present. The Portal into the otherworld is the only way to the past, but the otherworld is the realm of the gods and goddesses and other creatures of the old stories, and it is not forgiving to those who do not belong. Caymin and Péist soon learn that, in the otherworld, the deepest desires of their hearts become traps. While there, the young dragonmage and her dragon realize they are pawns in a struggle for power that was set in motion long before they were born. Even those they trust have been using them. Only through their bond with each other can they hope to survive to the trials awaiting them and find their way back through the Portal to this realm. But returning may not be an option if they have to sacrifice all to bring peace to a world that no longer holds a place for dragons and mages. Book Two in The Dragonmage Saga

About the author

Caren J. Werlinger

From the author’s website: I was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of my childhood was spent reading everything I could get my hands on, and writing my own variations on many of those stories where I could play the hero, rescuing the girl and winning her love. Then I grew up and went to college where I completed a degree in foreign languages and later another in physical therapy where for many years, my only writing was research-based, including a very dry therapeutic exercise textbook. 

In the mid-nineties, I began writing creatively again and re-discovered how much fun it is. My first novel, Looking Through Windows, was published in 2008 and won a GCLS award for Debut Author. In 2012, I decided to begin publishing my own books under my imprint, Corgyn Publishing. Corgyn’s first release, Miserere, followed in late 2012 to excellent reviews.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE BEAST THAT NEVER WAS by Caren J Werlinger #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Karen, she blogs at

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Karen has been reading The Beast That Never Was by Carne J Werlinger


What if Beauty was the Beast?

My Opinion

This book introduces you to 18-year-old Lise. After her father’s death, the family struggles to earn a living by producing cheese.

With The Beast That Never Was, Caren J. Werlinger has created a wonderful fantasy story with a touch of romance. It is a very enjoyable and compelling read, drawing you in as you learn more about Lise and Senna. Caren J. Werlinger paints a clear picture of Lise’s mind while the story evolves. I was drawn very close to Lise – a young woman with a sense of duty and justice, rebelling against her mother’s old-fashioned mind-scape. The characters are complex, believable with their flaws and virtues; the author’s care for each of them shows. As for the location – I imagined a Scandinavian landscape, perhaps due to the names. The story is very nicely woven and has a wonderful flow.

This is a book for you if you like mythology, urban fantasy, believable and often very likeable characters, and/or lesbian fiction.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT TURNING FOR HOME by Caren J Werlinger

Today’s Team Review is from Chris, she blogs at

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Chris has been reading Turning For Home by Caren J Werlinger


Hard-hitting coming-of-age with sprinklings of romance, this is drama with gritty yet hopeful message.

When Jules’s grandfather dies and she returns home, the memories of the events that led to her leaving come flooding back and threaten her relationship with her partner, Kelli. When a young girl, Ronnie, asks Jules for help getting out of town and Kelli reaches out to Jules’ ex, Donna, past and present build to an unexpected conclusion.

The two story threads (past and present) intertwined wonderfully, with tension slicing through both. The characters were strong and realistically flawed, and the depiction of the issues faced by multiple generations (including Jules’ grandmother) made for a harrowing read. But a very worthwhile one. Recommended.

*I received a free copy from the author, via Rosie’s Book Review Team, in exchange for my honest review.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT TURNING FOR HOME by Carne J Werlinger #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Francis, she blogs at

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Francis has been reading Turning For Home by Caren J Werlinger



Reviewed by Francis Guenette

Turning for Home by Caren J. Welinger

5 stars


A story that shouldn’t be missed – humanizing – filled with empathy, courage and hope.


Every now and then, one gets the opportunity to sit, undisturbed for the hours it takes to read an entire novel, to enter fully into the world created by the author. I am very grateful that this chance happened for me when Turning for Home by Caren Welinger came to hand.


The novel’s main character, Jules, is a successful, professional woman. She’s in a fulfilling relationship with Kelli, she has a rewarding career. Going back to the town she grew up in to attend her grandfather’s funeral triggers memories from the past that Jules’ has never been able to face. Echoes reverberate into every area of her life. The scene is set. The reader knows long before Jules does that she now faces a crucial choice – deal with the past or be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.


The author masterfully weaves the story of Jules’ growing up years, living with her grandparents in the small town of Aldie and her friendship with Hobie – the boy next door who is every bit as much a misfit as Jules, into her current life. We go backwards and forwards with Jules’ and never once do the transitions become tiresome or the text confusing. In this type of a book, readers can often find themselves longing to get back to one or the other story. But in this case, the author makes both narratives so gripping, the reader wants to be exactly where she dictates.


This is a coming of age story that makes one ache with memories of the painful paths many have walked from adolescence to adulthood. But the struggle for acceptance faced by Jules and Hobie and Ronnie, a teenage girl who reaches out in desperation to Jules, are intensified by issues related to sexual orientation.


Ultimately, Turning for Home, opens an insight into the twists and turns of relationships – with parents and grandparents, friends, lovers, and those we mentor along the way. The story provides a roadmap for finding a way back to home – the place where the answers to how we have become the people we are hidden as surely and as carefully as Hobie hid his stories. Just waiting to be discovered.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT RISING FROM THE ASHES by Caren J Werlinger #YA #Fantasy #WeekendBlogHop

Today’s second team review is from Barb, she blogs at

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Barb has been reading Rising from the Ashes by Caren J Werlinger



gold starMy Review: 5 stars out of 5 for Rising From the Ashes


When I started reading Rising From the Ashes, I was skeptical. Dragons in Ireland? I went straight to my favorite Irish myth expert, Ali Isaacs, who didn’t let me down. In her blog post, The Serpent in Irish Mythology, she recounts several stories of heroes battling dragons. And best of all, she mentions their Irish name—péista. 

So when the young apprentice mage Ash meets the strange creature who tells her it’s name is Péist, I knew we were in for some fun. The story is an alternate history, a coming of age tale in the best fantasy traditions, complete with authentic historical details reminiscent of Monica Furlong’s classic Wise Child and Juniper, combined with the adventure and heroism of Robin McKinley’s Hero and Crown series.

Adopted by badgers (badgers!) as an infant after her village is destroyed by invaders, Ash survives because of her ability to communicate with animals. Although discovered and accepted as apprentice by mages, Ash and her new friends’ existence is threatened by the increasing influence of the Christianity introduced to Ireland by Saint Patrick in the fifth century.

Author CJ Werlinger treads a delicate path here, balancing between the magic lore taught and practiced by her fictional mages and the reality that we know the Christians were eventually successful. The young heroine isn’t a warrior, and her motives are to protect her friends, her forest, and the mysterious Péist. I admired the way Ash’s acceptance of her own vulnerability is both her protection and her strength. And I particularly liked the way she and Péist bond to form a union that is more than the sum of their parts.

The world building is wonderful. Not only do we get the strong sense of the realities of everyday life, but we also watch Ash grow into her own unique strengths and convictions. The tale begins slowly, and then moves ever faster as the threat grows for her little band of mage teachers and student apprentices. For the most part, characters were well-drawn and memorable. The voices of the various narrators were believable, whether told through the scent-focused badger, the displaced young girl, or the old woman with a lifetime of learning to share. The story arc is wrapped up beautifully, with just enough to introduce the new challenge that awaits in the next volume.

Although I did find it a bit difficult to accept how quickly Ash mastered what seemed complex magical concepts, that is really my only critique of the tale. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it five out of five stars for originality, strong voice, and a terrific concept. If I knew a YA reader looking for a story with a strong heroine, compelling story line, and (best of all!) dragons, I would recommend Rising from the Ashes. I know I’m looking forward to reading more of this promising series.

**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT RISING FROM THE ASHES: The Chronicles Of Caymin by Caren J. Werlinger

Today’s second team review is from Teri, she blogs at

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Teri has been reading Rising From The Ashes: The Chronicles Of Caymin by Caren J Werlinger


4 Stars

I admit – I was skeptical about a girl being raised by a clan of badgers, but as an animal lover and someone who carries on conversations regularly with my cat (and wishes he could answer), I really enjoyed the characterization of the animals in this book and listening in on their conversations.  Some of them were among my favorite characters and wriggled their way into my heart.

The author did a wonderful job of gradually bringing Ash from the world in which she was raised to human society and showing her heartbreak at leaving her badger family and the only world she’s really known, her mistrust of ‘two-legs’, wonder at seeing new places and tasting unfamiliar foods, and struggle to fit into the human world.

I’ve only read a few stories with dragons, but I liked the author’s different take on them and the idea that dragons may bond with a human.  In this world, dragons equal power, so some power hungry people want what Ash has, but this story hints at an even bigger conflict to come in the next book.

As the first several chapters primarily involve Ash, Enat, and the badgers, I felt a little overwhelmed when nearly all the other characters are introduced at once and had some difficulty keeping them straight at first.  The pacing is somewhat slower in the beginning when the students are attending lessons, but by the midpoint, it picks up considerably when a traitor is revealed and some characters become more skilled in the use of their magic.

The world-building is solid and the characters interesting and well-developed, although I hope the second book goes into more depth with some characters’ backstories.  Rising From the Ashes is a well-written novel that would appeal to all ages, not just YA.

I received a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through Rosie’s Book Review Team.

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