Fantasy


Exile by Rebecca LimExile

Rebecca Lim

As punishment for crimes she can’t remember, Mercy is exiled from the angel world, forced to live human lives, driven from one life to another in an endless cycle of suffering. This time, Mercy finds herself within the life of Lela, a dedicated young girl whose life revolves around caring for her terminally ill mother.

Mercy weaves through the day-to-day commitments of Lela’s small life, but her focus remains turned to the limited fragments she can piece together from the past. In dreams, Luc visits her, telling her of their great love for one another, begging her to find him, or to find the man who can lead Luc to her. This man, Ryan, also loved Mercy, but she struggles to fathom why anyone besides Luc would stir her heart the way Ryan seems to do. Could it be that Luc isn’t telling her the whole truth?

Finding Ryan turns out to be a relatively simple task thanks to the technology available in Lela’s world. He promises to meet Lela in a few days, and her heart soars. But to meet Ryan, Mercy must first survive the onslaught of evil that surrounds her.

The second book in Lim’s Mercy Series would be better enjoyed by readers who’ve experienced the first book. Without that foundation, it may be difficult to connect to Mercy’s struggle and to understand her somewhat calculated indifference to the life of the human whose body she inhabits. While this novel is based on a fascinating premise, much of this story seems to be devoted to setting the stage for the final scenes.

Language Content
Profanities appear about a half-dozen times or so.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Mercy is an angel who has been exiled to the human world, however, God is not really mentioned in conjunction to either world – human or angel.

Violence
One character briefly discusses her career as an exotic dancer which is obviously part of a very difficult life for her. A woman is dragged through the street by her dangerous and abusive ex-boyfriend. Another man intervenes, saving her. Two hostage situations occur in which victims are threatened at gunpoint. One gunman commits a murder/suicide. Some details are given through the course of the scene.

Drug Content
Lela’s mother has advanced stage cancer and is very close to dying. Her palliative care team provide morphine and other medications to her.

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Broken ForestBroken Forest
Eliza Tilton
Curiosity Quills Press

Since the death of his little brother, Akivar has wanted only to get away and leave family and memories behind. Before he can have his chance, however, savage men kidnap his sister Jeslyn. Akivar and Derrick, his best friend and Jeslyn’s fiancé, pursue the kidnappers, determined to rescue Jeslyn and bring her safely home.

Jeslyn vows to escape her captors, but once she arrives in Daath, a place of legend which she remembers her mother fondly describing, Jeslyn can’t help being intrigued. Her captor, Lucino, seems a wealthy lord, and she is honored by his attention and wants to believe his claims that he had nothing to do with her kidnapping and will contact her family on her behalf.

Though at first she is reluctant to accept his offer of marriage, the longer she spends with him in his magical homeland, the more Jeslyn wants to embrace her role as his wife. She does not know that her brother and lover continue to track her and still plan for her rescue.

Lucino may seem like a stereotypical charming villain at first glance, but as the story unfolds, both his exposure to Jeslyn and something deeper from within his character bring forth conflicting desires, making him one of the most interesting and complex characters in the story. The narrative moves quickly, but sometimes jumps ahead, skipping over transitions and leaving the reader to fill in the blanks, causing some confusion. Still, Tilton creates an interesting fantasy landscape and weaves together the stories of several very different characters, leaving readers anxious to open the second book in her Daath Chronicles series.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
The Daath Lord keeps a house full of women, but no specifics are given as to what he does with them. It’s clear women, even Jeslyn, are attracted to him.

Spiritual Content
Akivar and his family worship a Creator god, and their planet’s two suns are cleverly described as the eyes of the god watching them.

Violence
Lucino’s advisor studies humans, sometimes torturing them as part of his “research.” Descriptions are brief.

Drug Content
Lucino poisons wine he offers guests at a ball so that he and other reptilian leaders can draw energy from the debilitated humans. The humans do not survive.

The Iron TraitorThe Iron Traitor
Julie Kagawa
Harlequin Teen

Ethan returns from a week-long disappearance into the Nevernever with his girlfriend MacKenzie and a lot of explaining to do. After passing off the adventure to parents and police as an impulsive New York getaway, Ethan hopes to return to life as normal. But with his faery Sight keeping him aware of the fey all around him and making him something of a target, “normal” seems like an awfully tall order.

When Ethan and MacKenzie receive a request for help from a desperate faerie and friend, they prepare themselves for another dive into the faerie world. Together with Kierran, they seek to uncover a dark secret and prevent the death of Kierran’s true love. Ethan only hopes the price to save her won’t prove more than they can pay.

Once again Kagawa brings forth a dark and dangerous world of faeries and monsters, in which the most dangerous move of all is to bargain with the fey. As Ethan and his friends seek to do just that, they collide with a cast of characters both familiar and foreign, fun and freakish. While other novels in this series possessed powerful narrative and strong central characters, this one seemed to keep readers at bay in a tone that tells the story but doesn’t draw readers in to experience it. Ethan’s standoffish manner and constant overthinking made connecting with him difficult. Kagawa’s writing seems to shine more in her female-led narrative, packing more punch with earlier books like The Iron Daughter and her Blood of Eden series.

Language Content
Extreme. No F-bombs until near the end, though.

Sexual Content
Ethan and his girlfriend discuss whether/when to have sex briefly. He states that he will wait until she is ready. She wants to engage in sex before she dies of leukemia.

Spiritual Content
Brief references to a time during which faeries were worshipped and feared by humans.

Violence
Brief battle scenes. No graphic details.

Drug Content
A vendor at a faery market offers Ethan several different potions. Ethan refuses.

Clifton Chase and the Arrow of LightClifton Chase and the Arrow of Light

Jaimie Engle

When a mysterious arrow turns up in a dusty closet, Clifton Chase thinks he’s uncovered nothing but old worthless junk. The arrow, however, turns out to be so much more. With a flash of light, Clifton finds himself transported back to fifteenth century England, in a time when a ruthless ruler has seized power and locked away two young princes. Allies of these princes believe Clifton is just the hero they’ve been waiting for and they prepare a force to accompany Clifton on a bold rescue mission.

Inspired by true historical events, this middle grade adventure novel weaves history together with mythical creatures and memorable characters to create a highly entertaining story. Though this is Engle’s debut novel, she handles story like a pro, barely giving the reader a moment to catch breath before leaping off into new twists and turns. Readers who enjoy middle grade adventure stories will not be disappointed in this charming tale.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Brief references to a Creator who has a plan for the lives of his creatures.

Violence
A few brief battle scenes. Nothing gory. One character gives his life to save another.

Drug Content
None.

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What’s your favorite childhood adventure story? Join the fun! Share your thoughts for a chance to win a new book.

Once Upon a MarigoldOnce Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
HMH Books for Young Readers

A Review by Anna Heinly, Age 8

A forest troll named Ed finds a young boy named Christian. Christian had run away from home. He did not want to go back. Ed says Christian can stay with him for one night, but Christian ends up staying in the cave with Ed and his two dogs, Bub and Cate until he grows up. One day while he was looking in his telescope, Christian saw a princess named Marigold. Christian wrote her a letter and sent it by pigeon. Marigold read the letter and p-mailed back. They became best friends. Ed was worried. Soon it was time for Christian to get a job. He got a job fixing things at the castle and had lots of adventures.

Marigold’s mom, Queen Olympia, was forcing her to get married. Marigold was upset. She did not want to get married. Christian was sad, too because he wanted to marry her, but she could only marry royalty. Christian would have to find a way to be with Marigold.

I loved everything in the story. Ed always gets idioms mixed up. It is hilarious. Bub and Cate and Marigold’s dogs (the three floor mops) are silly. Queen Mab is the Tooth Fairy. She always gets lost on her way to collect people’s teeth. That is funny, too. Queen Olympia orders everyone around. That was entertaining. It was also funny when Rollo the guard got mad because Meg kissed Christian. There is nothing about this book I do not like. It is the best book in the world!

A Review by Kasey Giard

Christian is a young inventor living in the forest with his foster father, a troll named Ed. Life is pretty sweet until the day Christian discovers the lonely Princess Marigold and decides to send her a message via carrier pidgeon (p-mail). To Christian’s surprise, the princess replies to his message and the two become best friends. If only that were enough for Christian. As he comes of age and sets out to make his way in the world, Christian seeks work at the castle where Marigold lives, even though he knows he’ll never be able to have a relationship with her since he will be no more than a servant. Then Christian uncovers a vicious plot to kill Marigold, and he can’t sit by and do nothing. But how can a commoner do anything to save the princess?

Once Upon a Marigold is a spunky, cute fairytale story about having courage to do what’s right to protect the people important to you and the meaning of true friendship. Ferris cleverly weaves a whimsical world in which a forest troll wants to break the Tooth Fairy’s monopoly on collecting teeth, even though she constantly gets lost. Full of silliness and heart, this is a great story to share with middle readers.

Language
None

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
The princess is under a curse of uncertain origin: when someone touches her, she knows their thoughts. She and Christian briefly discuss their astrological signs, and the fact that they share the same sign is viewed as a confirmation of their relationship.

Violent Content
A flying machine crashes, causing some minor injuries. A character is struck with an arrow that must be removed. Nothing graphic.

Drug Content
None

Anna Heinly, Kasey GiardAbout the Bloggers
Anna Heinly is a third grade student. She enjoys reading, riding her cousin’s scooter, playing with her cousins, and having adventures. She also enjoys riding bikes with her cousins. This is her first review.
Read about Kasey Giard here.

Goddess TitheYesterday we had the pleasure of seeing the next lovely cover in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. (Click here to see reviews and other earlier posts about the series.) Today I’m pleased to bring you an excerpt from the novella itself, with an opening description by the author, Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Enjoy!

***

Here is an excerpt from the middle of the story. In this scene, Munny has been ordered to Captain Sunan’s cabin to clear away his breakfast . . . an unexpected task, for a lowly cabin boy would not ordinarily dare enter his captain’s private quarters! Munny hopes to slip in and out quietly without attracting the captain’s notice. But his hopes are dashed when Sunan addresses him, asking how their strange, foreign stowaway is faring:

__________

“And what do you make of him yourself?”
Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”
“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.
The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”
Munny made neither answer nor any move.
“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”
“I hope—” Munny began.
But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”
The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s. “We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door open.
Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands, even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.
“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.
“It’s a sign!”
“She’s warning us!”
“It’s a sign, I tell you!”
Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up, using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the ocean. And he saw them.
They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants, even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more, hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.
They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.
Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death, reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”
There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.
But it was.

AESAbout the Author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.

Giveaway:

Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter for a chance to win one of two proof copies of Goddess Tithe! U.S. and Canada only, please.

Here’s a peek at the gorgeous cover of the next book in the wonderful Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The cover image is accompanied by the back cover copy below:

Goddess Tithe

The Vengeful Goddess

Demands Her Tithe

When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya’s only hope to return safely home.

Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown’s garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe.

Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?

Anne Elisabeth Stengl talks about the beautiful cover:

I had the fun of designing this cover—finding reference photos, inventing the composition, applying the text, etc.—but the actual artistic work was done by talented cover artist Phatpuppy (www.phatpuppyart.com), whose work I have admired for many years. It was such a thrill for me to contact and commission this artist to create a look for Goddess Tithe that is reminiscent of the original novels but has a style and drama all its own.

The boy on the front was quite a find. I hunted high and low for an image of a boy the right age, the right look, with the right expression on his face. Phatpuppy and I worked with a different model through most of the cover development stage. But then I happened upon this image, and both she and I were delighted with his blend of youth, stubbornness, and strength of character! It wasn’t difficult to switch the original boy for this young man. He simply is Munny, and this cover is a perfect window into the world of my story.

You can’t see it here, but the wrap-around back cover for the print copy contains some of the prettiest work . . . including quite a scary sea monster! Possibly my favorite detail is the inclusion of the ghostly white flowers framing the outer edge. These are an important symbol in the story itself, and when Phatpuppy sent me the first mock-up cover with these included, I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement!

Goddess Tithe Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Goddess Tithe Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

About the Illustration by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

There are eight full-page illustrations in Goddess Tithe featuring various characters and events from the story. This is the first one in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie. Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.
I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus the perspective of age.

AES

About the Author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.

Giveaway:

Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter for a chance to win one of two proof copies of Goddess Tithe! U.S. and Canada only, please.

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