Candle Star Press
(Candle Star Press is the personal imprint of author Michelle Isenhoff.)
Michelle Isenhoff writes for tweens and teens. Sometimes her stories take place in the past; other times they involve fantastical plots or new worlds. More recently, Michelle had a blast writing the first book in a humorous, high-action series. She’ll never include profanity or objectionable content in works meant for children.
When Michelle’s not writing imaginary adventures, she’s probably off on one. She loves roller coasters and swimming in big waves. She’s an avid runner. She likes big dogs, high school football games, old graveyards, and wearing flip-flops all winter. Her dream vacation would include lots of castle ruins, but so far she’s had to settle for pictures on Pinterest. Once an elementary teacher, Michelle now homeschools two of her three kids and looks forward to summer break as much as they do.
In a genre dominated by traditional publishers, Michelle has received the following accolades:
Nominated for a 2013 Cybils Award (Song of the Mountain)
Semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review 2013 Book Awards (Song of the Mountain)
Considered for the 2012 Great Michigan Read (Divided Decade Trilogy)
Nominated for the 2012 Maine Student Book Award (The Color of Freedom)
Candle Star logo whiteMichelle’s books have been lauded by teachers and homeschoolers alike. Educators are invited to request free digital copies. Michelle is also pleased to provide complimentary copies to book reviewers.
Michelle publishes her religious titles under the pen name Shell Isenhoff.
Where to find Candle Star Press online
Where to buy in print
Song of the Mountain (Mountain Trilogy, 1)
by Michelle Isenhoff
Orphaned at a young age, thirteen-year-old Song Wei has grown up listening to his grandfather recite legends of the distant past. But his own past is a closely guarded secret. Then Song discovers an heirloom that links him to an ancient prophecy. His destiny lies within the old tales. Song must follow the path that killed his father.
The Little Brown Sparrow
by Shell Isenhoff
After a difficult day in the meadow, Keturah learns she doesn't need any particular talents to be special. She's valuable just as she is. A sweet retelling of a well-known Bible story for children, through the eyes of a bird who was there.
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- Ratburger Salad
on April 06, 2011
Ratburger Salad, by David Elvar, is not the kind of book I prefer. I like a powerful, dynamic main character, depth of emotion, metaphor, a setting so intrinsic you can feel it. Ratburger Salad has none of these things. But personal preference aside, let me tell you what this book is.
Alex Bristow and his three best mates do NOT want merits in cookery class. It would ruin their whole image. So, with the help of a most unlikely comrade and a GIRL (heaven forbid!) they come up with the most cockamamie plan to thwart their teacher. I’ll let you find out for yourself if they succeed, but be prepared for chuckles the whole way.
First, being American, I enjoyed the European flavor of words like “telly,” “merits,” “mum,” and “skive.” Words I don’t run across often outside of Harry Potter and old James Herriot tales. My favorite cultural discrepancy, however, was when the boys compliment a young lady (insincerely, of course)by saying she looks like a million pounds. (Think money, Yanks.) And this made her happy! Across the pond, you tell a girl she looks a million pounds and she’ll clock you right back into Europe!
I have no argument with Mr. Elvar’s writing abilities. While his plot isn’t exactly jammed full of fast-paced action, he drives it along with masterful dialogue. And with colorful word choices like “bunging,” “sidling,” and – love this one – “ghastly.” His writing never dallies, never grows stagnant. Also, he treats us to a bit of tasty foreshadowing.
We get the whole gamut of low class meets high class, girls versus boys, brothers versus sisters, students against teachers, and children in conflict with parents. He does a nice job of working out differences between the local fellows and the boy from the next school over and imparts a few moral lessons along the way. And with poignant irony, our four heroes dodge cookery class by implementing a plan that requires sewing!
What really makes this story a winner, however, is Mr. Elvar’s ever-present wit. He makes very effective use of repetition to drive home his humor. Consider the following example: “One thing they had discovered long ago was the staff intelligence network. Another thing they had discovered long ago was a healthy respect for it.” The book is also smash full of droll one-liners like, “It’s a lousy job having a sister, but somebody’s got to do it.” And kids, in particular, will appreciate the creative nicknames the boys come up with for their less-than-appreciated teachers.
Overall, even though it’s not my style, I’d have to say kudos, Mr. Elvar!
- Tales from Moseley Bog: The Voles of Old
on April 19, 2011
Vivienne Wilkes has written a delightful children’s story in Tales from Moseley Bog: The Voles of Old, which I would highly recommend. With the same enchantingly English feel as Wind in the Willows and Peter Rabbit, this story tells the adventures of a colony of field voles who look to the return of their distant relatives, the water voles, to bring health and prosperity back to their home in Moseley Bog.
Ms. Wilkes has painted a beautiful world which she consistently describes through the eyes of her tiny characters and enriches with a wealth of quaint, story-appropriate word pictures. For instance, in describing old Melick’s den, she writes “...roots stretched down through the earth, criss-crossing his chamber like long, thin claws.” And she illustrates a roadway of cars as “a river of gigantic boulders, hurtling along one after another.” And by the riverbank, Rye says, “This place feels very heavy, as though many moon-passings have squashed layers of life together. Like huge boulders pressing into the ground. Into my mind!” It is this setting - with its exquisite details and quaint place names like Old World and Deep Way - and Ms. Wilkes poetic prose that spin the pages of this story into magic.
Rye and Melick are just two of the interesting characters that inhabit Moseley Bog. Each member of the vole colony has been endowed with a special skill that, when used collectively, helps ensure the survival of all. Old Melick is the Past Master, the keeper of memories, and young Rye is a Rememberer in training. Foxtail, from whose perspective the story is told, is a Way Finder – a wanderer who seeks safe paths for the others.
When Foxtail catches a glimpse of an unusual animal, he runs to tell wise Melick and learns of the Voles of Old – water voles who moved away long ago when the streams and ponds became unclean. “Water voles live in the memories of field voles as symbols of healthy rivers and streams, and were thought to be lucky.” Melick confides to Foxtail that it is his wish to see one of these distant cousins before he Fades Away. Rye and Foxtail combine their talents and set out to make Melick’s wish come true. In their travels they encounter adventure after adventure, including cats, rabbits, dogs, an angry shrew, and a horrible run-in with the “bane” of Moseley Bog. And they meet a certain water vole who, at the end, returns to his own land bringing with him “stories of the courage, wisdom and spirit of meadow voles.”
At one point, Foxtail comments, “I wished I hadn’t asked about flaws. I think I was full of them.” Moseley Bog, too, includes a few. I found many typos scattered throughout the text (mostly incorrect quotation marks), some punctuation errors, way too many exclamation points, a POV slip or two, and several instances of redundancy when a thought is overwritten or a word repeated in close context. But I’ll admit I’m being very technical. And these minor blips do nothing to detract from the charm of the story.
In conclusion, I think the last verse of one of Rye’s memories conveys very well the sweet essence of Moseley Bog:
Keep faith with the myths and the legends.
Forget not the truths that must last.
Give life to the lays, that tell of our days,
As the moons of our lives hurry past.
Ms. Wilkes’ story is well worth a read.
- Tales from Moseley Bog: The Voles of Old
on April 25, 2011
Just an extra note to add to my earlier review: early errors have been fixed. Moseley Bog's copy is clean! Download and enjoy!
on June 14, 2011
Gravity, by Abigail Boyd
I don’t usually gravitate toward the paranormal. I hold some strong religious views and am of the opinion that the occult can be dangerous. But I’m undertaking a judgment of Ms. Boyd's craft, not her subject matter. And my conclusion? Abigail Boyd is a gifted writer!
In Gravity, Ms. Boyd has created three wonderful characters. Ariel is a fifteen-year-old girl whose best friend has vanished without a trace. She lacks confidence, struggles with “what ifs,” and she’s totally confused by her sensitivity toward the paranormal, not to mention her difficulty dealing with overprotective parents. Ariel’s new friend, Theo (feminine), holds to her own unique but personable style, and Henry, well, who knows what Henry is? Despite her hopes, Ariel certainly can’t figure it out! The shifting relationships between this cast of well-rounded and oh-so-normal characters provides the foundation for a page-turning plot.
Ms. Boyd’s narration is nearly flawless. She scripts sentences that are easy to maneuver, with smooth transitions and unlabored prose. It’s just edgy enough to appeal to kids, but not so slangy as to appear dated in a few years. For instance, “McPherson (the principal) had always thrown me a vibe that screamed wrong.” I talk like that. I love it. And here are a few of her absolutely fabulous details and word pictures:
“My math teacher, Mr. Vanderlip was a twitchy little man with a paisley tie.”
“Her cloying cloud of fruit punch scented perfume hit me in the face like a chemical warfare attack.”
“It was comforting talking to someone I actually could talk to. I no longer felt like a target, dodging around waiting to get hit.”
Great stuff, ain’t it? And now let’s talk about suspense. When weird stuff starts happening, the knocks on the wall, the slamming lockers, the visions and dreams, you have to keep pushing on, because you have to learn what’s happening. And exactly what is Principal McPherson up to (the scumbag!)?
The book isn’t quite perfect. Ariel’s first day of school, in the early chapters, explains much, but I was starting to feel a little restless from its length. There’s also some scattered profanity. Not much, but I always question its necessity in a book classified for children. And apart from my own personal discomfort with a séance scene, I think séances are overdone. Every book, every movie, every television series, it seems, includes one. I also found lots of typos (which I’ve sent on to the author and trust will shortly be fixed) and a few logistical problems, where narration contradicts itself. Again, easy fixes.
Now back to the stuff I appreciated. Ms. Boyd has a great feel for a book’s movement. Her relationships work in slowly, naturally. Scenes build on each other. She plants fabulous clues are easily glossed over until suddenly those detail take on significance. The whole book is skillfully wrought.
The ending, however, I hated. Not because it sucks, but because the suspense is so well done that I now have to wait for her next installment. Because I must keep reading. I must learn what happens!
- Uncertainty (Gravity series, 2)
on March 28, 2012
Fellow author Abigail Boyd and I have agreed to beta read each other’s books. The paranormal content in Uncertainty, book two in the Gravity series, has grown increasingly occultic. Extreme behavior (I won’t give away details for the sake of suspense) is reserved for the criminal element within the story and gives the book a strong sense of danger; nevertheless, some scenes went beyond my comfort zone.
Yet I can’t help but be impressed with Abigail’s writing style. Despite my qualms, the story is extremely absorbing. She especially has a knack for imagery—she always chooses just the right words and often makes me laugh with the description—and for effortless dialogue. In short, this is prose Every Joe will pick up and relate to. And she makes it look easy. Case in point:
“Her voice was several octaves higher than usual, her green eyes ballooning like a cartoon mouse begging a cat not to kill it.”
Then there was the lady with so much plastic surgery “they could have bounced a quarter off her face.”
And my favorite, the “huge assault strollers in the mall.” See what I mean? Abbey’s writing sparkles with humor and personality.
Now for the plot. Ariel, who uncovered the murder of her best friend, Jenna, in book one, is now being visited by her friend’s ghost, who is trapped in “Limbo.” But Jenna doesn’t know she’s dead, so she can’t remember details of the murder. Using her psychic abilities and the few clues she’s given, Ariel begins to uncover a plot that stretches far beyond the man who was jailed for the crime. It seems to reach into the wealthiest families in town, including that of Henry, her on-again, off-again boyfriend. Uncertainty, while concluding satisfactory, definitely leaves a lot of material for book three.
So, setting my content preferences aside, I am rating this one based solely on how much I enjoyed Abbey's style and story-telling ability.
- St Viper's School For Super Villains. The Riotous Rocket Ship Robbery.
on Jan. 07, 2013
This book is funny, perfect for young readers, and truly unique. It's all about raising up villains, not heroes. But don't worry, it's written with a full measure of humor that keeps the tone lighthearted and silly.
St. Viper's is a secret boarding school set within the cone of a volcano where hopeful young villains study subjects such as "World Domination" and "Sinister Science." Together, the team of wicked teachers works to create "an elite team--a Syndicate of Supreme Evil, heh-heh--a force of unforgettable fear, ho-ho--a team of terrifying tricksters, har-har--to TAKE OVER THE WORLD." Yet in the midst of one such mad moment of instruction, Dr. Super Evil takes a call from his mother and quietly assures her he's wearing a clean vest and fresh pants.
Into this silly world of supreme evil, Demon (who bursts into flame when he's in a rage) and a few of his First Year friends end up on the wrong side of Senior super, Chill, and his assortment of terrible cronies. A bully with super powers is a fearsome thing, especially in a school that encourages villainous behavior. Along with worries about his own survival, Demon fears he'll never be able to live up to his father's reputation, and he's concerned that his friend Stretch--a girl--is showing him up. But in a display of supernatural plot twists and tongue-in-cheek humor, Ms. Donovan manages a satisfying ending in which "the best baddie wins."
Yes, this book has young readers cheering for the "wrong side," but it does so in such an ironic, witty way that I didn't see any harm in it, just a lot of good-natured fun. It flips the traditional super hero story on its head and leaves kids laughing all the way to the back cover. It's also clean (thanks, Ms. Donovan!), professionally edited, and appropriate for seven- to nine-year-old readers. I give it my wholehearted recommendation.
*I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. (And I rarely give out five stars!)
- St Viper's School for Super Villains. The Big Bank Burglary.
on April 03, 2013
This is the second in Kim Donovan's St. Viper's series, and it's just as fun as the first one. The school hidden within the volcano is back, and the lessons to train young villains in World Domination continue. This time, the Syndicate of Supreme Evil is bent on control of all the world's banks. The Big Bank Robbery is to be a school project for the baddest of the scholars, and Demon wants in. The problem is, ever since Copycat transferred to St. Viper's, Demon can't seem to stop messing up. Demon's popularity has tanked, and even some of his friends abandon him for the new guy.
The Big Bank Burglary is chucked full of more kid-pleasing detail. A giant food fight involving snake flesh pizza and cowpat curry; super villains with names like Lady Lava, Flying Phantom, Monsieur Magnifique, and Doctor Dynamite; cool technie gadgets like like the EVIL (Electronic Villain's Intelligence Log), and enough high-flying action to satisfy every kids craving.
But St. Viper's isn't pure evil. Even though we're rooting for the bad guys (all in good fun, of course), at the end of the adventure, we celebrate some noble traits. Like the loyalty Deon's friends display. And when Demon's arch nemesis is in his hands, he lets him go to fight another day. In fact, "he was looking forward to lots of battles..." He found purpose, silly as it might be. And finally, in a hilarious twist, we find that even Dr. Super Villain finds he needs love and acceptance.
Funny, action-packed, well-edited, and containing absolutely no objectionable content, this one rates highly for the younger middle graders. Recommended for ages 7-9.