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running_leanRunning Lean
Diana L. Sharples
HarperCollins/Blink

Haunted by a cruel playground song, Stacey is determined never to be fat again. With her best friend Zoe, she embarks on a rigid diet, rejecting the high-calorie, deep-fried southern dishes her family seems to thrive on. But just when Stacey has it all under control, a fainting spell alerts her boyfriend Calvin that things aren’t as well-ordered as they seem. Stacey brushes off the event as “female problems” and hopes Calvin will just forget it.

Calvin just wants Stacey to be okay, and he’s willing to pay just about any price to make that so. He endeavors to support her, but his own emotions become increasingly strained as his bike – and through it his way of coping with life – begins to fall apart. Though Calvin wants to believe he can love and encourage Stacey through her insecurities, it becomes impossible to ignore the downward spiral her life is taking. Calvin isn’t sure he can push her into recovery without breaking her.

In her brave debut, Sharples captures the raw driving intensity of emotional insecurity and the terrible tension it places on a relationship, boldly describing a tragic teen issue. The reactions of Stacey’s friends and family, the helplessness Calvin wrestles with all felt very real and true to character and life. Though a message of hope is woven through its pages, the story Running Lean isn’t dominated by its spiritual messages. Rather, each character wrestles with thoughts about and feelings toward God in his or her own timing and way.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
Stacey and Calvin share kisses and hold hands, but both have made a commitment to abstinence until marriage. Things get a little hot and heavy between them as Stacey’s emotions spiral further out of control and Calvin tries to reassure her of his love by pressing her physical boundaries further than she’s comfortable with. Clothes stay on, and nothing much ultimately happens before Stacey stops Calvin. There are brief references to a past sexual abuse situation. While the scars of the experience, both physically and emotionally still manifest in the victim, not a lot of detail is given about the events.

Spiritual Content
Since his brother’s death, Calvin has had difficulty thinking about spiritual things. He’s grieving and angry and offers of prayer from his friends and family only frustrate him further. As his relationship with Stacey becomes more and more strained, Calvin begins to rethink his “okay on my own” religious stance and consider asking for God’s help with the situation, since he’s way past knowing what to do on his own.

Violence
None.

Drug Content
Stacey visits a party at which alcohol is present. She doesn’t drink anything, but others around her do.

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Divergent by Veronica RothDivergent

Veronica Roth

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior lives in a world in which faction comes before family. Upon turning sixteen, each society member must choose to commit life to one of five factions. No turning back. Though Beatrice loves her family, she can’t imagine living out the rest of her life wholly committed to serving others selflessly as the Abegnation faction members do. But if she chooses to leave her faction, she will lose her family for good.

Beatrice discovers making her choice puts more at risk than her connection to family. Her mind carries within it a deadly secret, one she must keep at all costs. As she prepares to join the faction of her choice, she renames herself Tris and braces herself for the battle of her life.

Roth’s debut novel packs quite a punch, drawing readers into a world in which survival depends on securing one’s place within a group and virtue is everything. But while the virtues chosen by each faction may have started in purity, time has warped some so that instead of coming together to form a society that is a balanced whole, some factions have become twisted and parasitic.

Though the early chapters spend a lot of time setting up the story, the pace picks up quite a bit once Beatrice/Tris chooses her faction and the initiation rites begin. From that point on, the reader scarcely has a chance to pause for breath, and may need intervention from friends and family in order to put the book down for things like dinner and sleep.

Series fans are already eagerly anticipating the March 2014 release of the movie starring Shailene Woodley based on this first book in the Divergent Series. The series will conclude with the release of Allegiant on October 22, 2013.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
While romantic tensions run high between Tris and her boy, both seem committed to taking the relationship slowly. Lots of kissing scenes and one pretty intense make-out scene in a train, but nothing goes beyond that.

Spiritual Content
The Abegnation faction believe in God and serving others. Though she has always struggled to live up to the pure virtues of her faction, Tris returns to those beliefs in a moment when things go horribly wrong.

Violence
Some initiation rituals are a bit violent. Other initiates, motivated by jealousy, attack their rivals and even attempt to kill them. Divergent climaxes with an intense sequence of battles, but graphic details are limited.

Drug Content
To celebrate or mourn, Tris’s new faction members drink alcohol. Tris herself doesn’t participate. Faction leaders use a serum to create simulations in the minds of the initiates as part of the process of admittance into the faction.

The Fault In Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars

John Green

Sixteen-year-old Hazel has lived the roller coaster ride of a terminal cancer diagnosis for the last three years. Now, each breath comes with a price, and she cannot go anywhere without a small portable oxygen tank in tow. Meds prevent the tumors from growing, for now.

At a weekly support group, she listens to tales of other teens fiercely battling cancer. Listens but remains apart, until the unexpected entrance of Augustus Waters.

Augustus draws Hazel out of her self-imposed seclusion with his unflappable visionary nature. He is in many ways the opposite of the quiet, brooding Hazel, and her perfect foil. As the two begin to know each other, they swap favorite novels, and Augustus falls headfirst in love with Hazel’s pick, a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. As the two discuss the book, its philosophical brilliance and painfully tantalizing unanswered questions, their bond deepens.

Terrified of causing the destructive grief that must result from falling in love with someone with a terminal diagnosis, Hazel pulls away from Augustus. He pursues her relentlessly, even spending his wish from a cancer organization to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite novel (seriously, what literary lover can resist this kind of wooing? Talk about big guns.)

Amsterdam is everything and nothing Hazel could have hoped for: her dreams dashed and come true at the same time. In response, she must decide how to live her life and what she believes about herself, others, and eternity in the face of faithlessness on the part of humanity and the universe.

John Green has proved his valor as a writer worthy of tackling the deep emotional and cosmic issues with earlier novels, but this novel may yet be his most incredible work. This novel tackles the big human questions about life, love, and loss, exploring at once what they mean and how one responds to them. All this and yet the story remains poignant and breathtaking and sometimes quite hilarious. And tragic. This is another one to read with tissues handy.

Also worthy of note: The Fault in Our Stars the movie will hit the big screen in 2014.

Language Content
Infrequent but extreme.

Sexual Content
Main characters watch a young couple kiss and briefly fondle over clothing. One scene (without graphic detail) implies that the characters have sex.

Spiritual Content
As the characters face the reality of their diagnoses, they wonder about and discuss what happens after death. Hazel does not believe in God or heaven. Augustus believes in a more nebulous Something beyond.

Violence
While this isn’t violent content, it is only fair to mention that there are some heavy descriptions of different medical treatments and their side effects as well as the dying process. These are critical elements to the story, but some sensitive readers may find them too intense.

Drug Content
Augustus has an unusual habit of hanging a cigarette from his mouth which he never lights, but instead revels in the metaphoric significance of this action. Gus and Hazel sip champagne over a fancy dinner. Hazel and Augustus undergo various cancer treatments involving different types of medications.

TriskTrisk

Kenny X

Pen and Prayer Publishing

Curtis Powell has one goal, one dream for his life: to be a champion Trisk player. His dream is about to come true.

It’s the year 2151, and baseball is no longer America’s favorite game. Trisk, a game that is equal parts sport and war, is America, and the Massi Corporation is Trisk. As hopefuls like Curtis and his friends graduate from training college, though, a startling event occurs, in which one Trisk team defies the granite arm of Massi and becomes independent. When Curtis signs with the gutsy though underfunded team, he isn’t sure if he’s made the right choice, but as the season progresses and his star begins to shine, Curtis believes he is finally reaching his dream.

Caught up in the high life, Curtis begins taking risks, talking big, taking advantage of the way America swoons over his very name. His ego spirals out of control, and not even his best friend can shake sense into Curtis’s solid gold over-the-top ways. As the inevitable reckoning comes, Curtis struggles to pull back from the abyss of selfishness, but it may be too late to regain what he’s lost. On top of that, as the championship heats up and Curtis and his independent team battle for a place in the final games, Massi turns up the heat, promising destruction if the team doesn’t back down. Curtis talks big, but Massi hits hard. All that remains to be discovered is whose will and whose might are stronger.

Sports fans be warned: Trisk is packed with high-energy, over-the-top action. Non-sports fans: the sharp wit of the author and the high stakes of the game make this debut novel a hard one to put down. While a few passages delve into the techniques and strategy of the game for which the book is titled, much of the story centers around the underdog team and its star member, his struggle to remain honorable and valiant in the face of an amoral country drowning in a sports obsession. The story is told with a sort of wry, intelligent voice, though sometimes it drifts into metaphors which obscure what’s actually happening and become confusing. For the most part, the writing is as entertaining as the story itself.

Language Content
A couple of crude references, but no swearing.

Sexual Content
Curtis has a long-time girlfriend named Priscilla, who he does not sleep with, though it remains unclear whether the couple live together or not. A journalist attempts to seduce a Trisk player, while video-taping the exchange. The scene is a little confusing, but it seems like the couple stop after removing clothing and the player reconsiders his actions.

Spiritual Content
Curtis and his best friend live by higher moral standards than many other Trisk players and are often ridiculed for this stance. Brief references are made to God and Jesus in a spiritual way, but there isn’t a lot of preaching or long explanations.

Violence
One player is severely injured by an explosion. Brief battle violence describes players performing in the game of Trisk.

Drug Content
Trisk players are instructed to use a type of drug to control their emotions. Curtis struggles with whether or not to use this, and it’s hinted that some players have become addicted and trapped by serious side effects. References to alcohol over-indulgence, and some brief scenes showing drinking.

Glass GirlGlass Girl

Laura Anderson Kurk

On a day that began like any other, Meg’s brother Wyatt dies. Suddenly. Violently. Leaving Meg and her parents to creep around the shrapnel and gaping wounds of their grief. In a pitch to create some space for healing, Meg’s dad moves them all from their Pittsburgh home to the wilds of Chapin, Wyoming. In a new home scrubbed of memories, Meg tries to create a new life, one that does not include the story of her brother’s death and the pity which must come as a response. She lands a new part time job and falls in with new friends. When a rugged, handsome cowboy begins to pursue her, Meg puts on her best face, burying her tragic past and her mother’s spiraling depression beneath a determined exterior.

Henry is patient, but he senses something isn’t right and urges Meg to open up to him. But how can a perfect boy from a perfect family understand what Meg and her parents are going through? Meg’s parents’ marriage crumbles around her, but she fights to keep a brave face, biting back the angry words she wants to shout at her mother and keeping even Henry at a distance. Rumors about a relationship between Henry and a blond girl swirl through town, and dark-haired Meg isn’t sure what to think. As she wrestles with her grief and whether to trust Henry, more rumors swirl, and Meg must face her town and her sadness anew as word about Wyatt’s death spreads across Chapin.

Glass Girl is a beautiful story of a girl who has lost not only her brother but faces the terrible toll grief has taken on her family. Meg’s emotions are vivid and gripping, as are the relationships she has with each of her parents and friends. The rugged Wyoming countryside provides the perfect backdrop for both the tumultuous feel of the emotional story and the golden-hearted cowboy who teaches Meg about courage, compassion and mercy. This is a novel that demands to be finished once it is begun. Tissues are a must.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
References to teen couples making out. Main characters treat each other with honor and respect, but there’s definitely some high romantic tension.

Spiritual Content
After her brother’s unexpected death, Meg can’t follow a life of faith any longer. She can’t understand how God could exist and allow terrible things to happen. It is less painful to choose to believe He does not exist. Henry’s faith is fervent and rock-solid, though his actions often speak of his values and beliefs much more than his words could.

Violence
Meg’s brother Wyatt was violently killed. Meg suffers brief flashbacks to the event, but no gory details are given, though the scenes are intense.

Drug Content
Some teens indulge in alcoholic beverages at a party. Others smoke pot. Main characters do not condone or participate in these behaviors.

The Revised Life of Ellie SweetThe Revised Life of Ellie Sweet

Stephanie Morrill

Playlist Fiction

Some girls have it all in high school: great friends, perfect hair, the hottest boyfriend. Not sixteen-year-old Ellie Sweet. Next to her gorgeous long-time friend Lucy, Ellie is practically invisible. Everything about Ellie is hidden, from the frizzy hair she tries desperately to control in a knot to her secret passion to finish her novel set in medieval Italy. By day she may be invisible, but by night, all her frustrations and hurts are rewritten into a world where she, Lady Gabrielle, is the star. Only there does the handsome boy of her dreams (Palmer by day, Rafe by night) see her for who she is.

But when the local bad-boy reveals Ellie’s secret crush to an entire classroom of students, Ellie has to know why. Chase’s stubborn refusal to explain only adds fuel to Ellie’s frustration and earns him a write-in as the villainous prince in her manuscript.

As Chase pursues Ellie with attentive gifts, she wrestles with the rumors surrounding him and his family. With two older brothers already in jail, Chase is hardly meet-the-parents material. But they can be friends, right? Palmer doesn’t seem to think that’s such a good idea for Ellie. In fact, he wants to date Ellie himself, but only in secret.

With Palmer professing adoration, and her finished manuscript receiving praise from within the writing world, Ellie is over the moon. When the details of her novel come out publicly, however, not everyone is thrilled with the part Ellie has written them into. As Ellie scrambles to undo the damage, she realizes once and for all who her real friends are and the value of being loved and valued for who one really is.

This is a novel that is easy to love, full of the joys and disappointments of high school and teen romance. Morrill writes witty narrative with perky humor and great emotional depth, drawing readers into the very heart of this tale about a girl who feels totally invisible and the boy who truly sees her. This is the perfect read for an aspiring writer and a highly encouraging story for anyone who has experienced feeling overlooked or undervalued. Fans of Morrill’s earlier series The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt will not be disappointed. (See the review of Me, Just Different, the first book in the series, here.)

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
A couple kissing scenes. References to the fact that other characters have been sexually active.

Spiritual Content
Ellie desires to live a virtuous life and refuses to indulge in alcohol or sex, despite the fact that her friends have begun to do so. She struggles with the realization that her spiritual life has become somewhat rote and recognizes that there is more to being a Believer than following a bunch of rules, but this isn’t deeply explored.

Violence
References to a fist-fight that happened off-scene.

Drug Content
While at a party, a boy drinks too much alcohol and passes out. Ellie is asked to pick him up and get him home safely. Someone receives a DUI.

A Deeper Look: Notes from the Blogger

K L Giard

Ellie is the kind of girl I would have been friends with in high school. I loved her wit, and her awkward yet hilarious self-consciousness endeared me to her almost immediately. Beyond the lighthearted day-in-the-life antics of a young high school student lurks a brave look at the challenges of navigating relationships and realizing that those we are drawn to aren’t always the ones best for us. Tissues may be warranted, and the willing reader may find God speaking between the lines of this charming and candid story.

DRAGONWITCHSneak Peek from

Dragonwitch

By: Anne Elisabeth Stengl

 

The Twelve came to the doors of Omeztli Tower and their voices carried from the ground to our high perch above.

“Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn.”

I clutched Tlanextu’s arm in terror. I could not bear to lose him! He took my hand and held me gently.

Then we saw a powerful form rising up from Itonatiu Tower. It was Citlalu, our father. He flew across the city, his wings like a griffin’s, like a roc’s, blocking the sunlight from view they were so vast! He landed before us, and I shivered with fear and love at the sight of him, for he was King. A true King. Not like the foolish little kings we see nowadays wearing crowns, waving swords and scepters, ruling by feeble kinship-rights. He was King of Etalpalli, bound to the realm by his own blood, by the beat of his heart. He was strong as the nation itself, stronger, I thought. The pinions of his wings were like daggers, like swords, and he shouted down to the Twelve below:

 “Be gone, back to your master! You will take none of mine into that Mound, not while I have life yet coursing through my veins!”

His voice shook the foundations of Etalpalli. I thought the Twelve would run, would scream with terror, would flee the storm of his gaze.

They did not. They merely turned and retraced their path to the Mound and the concentric circles of bronze.

But the next day, they returned. Once more they called up to the heights of Omeztli: “Cren Cru commands. Send us your firstborn.”

Once more, my father denied them.

Anne Elisabeth StenglAnne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.

 

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Tour Schedule

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about the Goldstone Wood series with reviews, interviews, giveaways and more on these other great blogs. Be sure to visit the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog for a chance to win the first five Goldstone Wood novels!

July 14 – Day 1

Rebecca’s Book Blog – Interview

Jennette Mbewe – Sneak Peek

Bluerose’s Heart – Top Tens List

The Wordsmith’s Shelf – Sneak Peek

The Wonderings of One Person – Guest Post

Seasons of Humility – Interview

Worthy 2 Read – Guest Post

The Endless Road – Interview

Tea and Bree – Interview/Sneak Peek

JoJo’s Corner – Interview

July 15 – Day 2

Letters to the Cosmos – Guest Post

The Writer of Dream Things – Character Interview

The Sassy Sister – Sneak Peek

Makai Queen – Interview

JoJo’s Corner – Sneak Peek

Crafty Booksheeps – Interview

Young Adult Books – Sneak Peek

Darling Diaries – Interview

Blooming with Books – Interview/Sneak Peek

 

July 16 – Day 3

The Writer’s Window – Character Interview

Penning Praises – Guest Post

Crimilia – Interview

Rachel Herriman – Guest Post

Rina’s Reading – Top Tens List

JoJo’s Corner – Guest Post

Living On Literary Lane – Interview

Onto Her Bookshelf – Interview

An Ink-Made Maiden – Interview

July 16 Evening

Blog Tour Finale and Prize Awarded back at the Tales of Goldstone Wood!

 

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