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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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.

Author Jaimie EngleJaimie Engle is the author of Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light, a middle-grade adventure story in which a modern-day boy has a chance to be a hero in fifteenth century England. The novel is published by Wayman Publishing and illustrated by Debbie Johnson. Jaimie joins adventure fans today to answer some questions about her debut novel.

Blogger asks: One of the things I found most interesting in your novel is the time period to which the arrow whisked Clifton away. What made you choose to write about this moment in history?

Jaimie answers: It actually started when I came across an oil painting by Philip James de Loutherbourg depicting the Battle of Bosworth Field, which is the final battle of the War of the Roses. There’s this teenage boy holding up a sword among piles of horses and soldiers. I gasped. It was my main character, Clifton Chase, only instead of holding a sword, I envisioned a blazing Arrow of Light. I began some research on the time period and discovered King Richard’s two nephews who had been locked away in the Tower of London, never to be seen again. That’s when the questions swirled.

 A story is often inspired by a question. What question inspired you to write this novel?

Jaimie answers: The biggest question I had after my research was: What happened to those two boys? I wondered what it felt like to be forgotten by history, after everything had been stripped from their lives, and how someone might be able to remedy this travesty. They died without honor and I think that’s such a sad way to leave this earth. No legacy. No tombstones. No memory.

Were there things about your favorite character in this story which couldn’t be included in the novel? Can you tell us a little bit about something you know about the story that the reader may not know?

Jaimie answers: Great questions! One of my favorite characters is Dane the dwarf. He’s feisty, he speaks his mind, and he has a tender side that he keeps hidden. Dane is extremely old, much older than is natural. I imagine he was created back during the Old Testament days, maybe some time after the flood, and he stayed in an unseen form until the middle ages. He is connected to another character in a very fundamental way, and his abilities weren’t fully exposed in this novel. Maybe in the next one…

Are you currently working on another novel? Will there be a sequel about Clifton and his magical arrows?

Jaimie answers: I have completed a second novel—not a sequel—which is a YA fantasy taking place in Viking Era Canada, which is currently under review by beta readers. I’ll begin shopping it to agents, hopefully by October. I have had several children and students ask me when the next Clifton book will release. I guess I’d like to see the book reach some level of success before I invest in the series. But I do have some ideas for two more possible Clifton Chase adventures.

One of the great things about middle grade and young adult fiction is that it has such power to mark our memories. Sometimes the stories we read during those years really stick with us for the rest of our lives. What stories did you fall in love with as an early teenager? Who or what awakened an urge to write in you?

Jaimie answers: That’s an easy one for me. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have smudge marks from where I turned the pages over and over again. These stories whisked me to amazing, beautiful worlds where anything was possible. I knew when I was seven years old that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I actually still have about 50 stories I wrote in crayon when I was in the 1st-3rd grades, and lots of humorous poetry inspired by Shel Siverstein.

What advice do you have for other aspiring young writers?

Jaimie answers:My best advice would be to read as much as you can. Read books in the genres you like, books on the craft of writing, and books that are classics or bestsellers. Then, write. Write short stories, poems, songs, whatever you feel inspired to write, with the understanding that, like anything else, you don’t begin as professional. A six year old playing t-ball will never swing a hit like someone in the MLB. But as they practice and grow in their sport, studying others and perfecting their shortcomings, they may one day become an amazing ball player who is recruited by a college team or into the professionals. I’d love to help answer questions for any aspiring young writers. Feel free to email me at jaimiengle [at] cfl [dot] rr [dot] com!

Don’t miss the chance to win a free copy of Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light

Leave a comment on the review posted here and “like” the Clifton Chase fan page on Facebook before Sunday 10/06/13 at 11:59pm Eastern Time. One participant will be selected to receive a FREE copy of Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light. Two copies will be given away: a paperback copy is available for one participant chosen from those who enter with a US or Canada address, and one winner will be chosen from all entrants worldwide to receive an ebook copy!

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.

Leave a comment for a chance to win!

Leave a comment on this post and “like” the Clifton Chase fan page on Facebook for a chance to win a FREE copy of this fun adventure novel! Two copies will be given away: a paperback copy is available for one participant chosen from those who enter with a US or Canada address, and one winner will be chosen from all entrants worldwide to receive an ebook copy!

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.

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.

DeliriumDelirium

Lauren Oliver

In a world with closely controlled borders, seventeen-year-old Lena counts down the days until she receives the cure for what her government labels, “the deadliest of all deadly things,” or Love. Lena can’t wait to finally be cured, to know she’s safe from this vile and unpredictable thing. Then she meets Alex, and everything goes sideways. She isn’t sure what to think about the disease or the rumored uncured people living outside the safe borders of the town or Portland. And Alex is different. Special. Before she can stop it, her attraction toward him blossoms into something deep and forbidden, and for once, dutiful Lena doesn’t care if she’s breaking all the rules. How could anyone not break rules when they feel so wonderful?

But her procedure date approaches, and once it arrives, her feelings for Alex will be gone. Alex knows how to live away from town, but leaving means walking away from her family and her best friend Hannah. How can Lena do that? With time quickly running out and enforcers so close to discovering her secret relationship, Lena must decide what to do and find a way to escape before it’s too late.

Since her stunning debut Before I Fall, Oliver has delivered sharply brilliant prose framed around powerful characters and themes. Her exploration of love rockets readers through a dangerous world in which love is a disease scientists are now able to cure. Lena’s roller coaster ride of emotions becomes a little difficult to believe at times, as she both carefully controls her stoic public face and privately reels from the wild emotional highs and lows of her infatuation with Alex. Her best friend’s perfect understanding and lack of jealousy at being ditched for the boyfriend also felt a little hollow. Despite this, the story is intense and its narrative finely honed. Lena’s recollections of her mother and the descriptions of the Wilds beyond Portland are deeply captivating.

Language Content
Infrequent but severe.

Sexual Content
Whether or not Lena and Alex engage in sex is left pretty vague. Lena describes her feelings at allowing Alex to see her without a shirt, and how before that moment she felt awkwardly put together, but his opinion of her as beautiful changes Lena’s perception of herself. The couple frequently kiss one another.

Spiritual Content
Some biblical characters and references are altered, as if they’ve been rewritten by a government with an agenda against love. Deeper spiritual pursuits are not really explored.

Violence
Police with weapons and dogs surround a house filled with people listening to forbidden music. They attack the party-goers, attempting to punish and subdue them. Some details are intense and a little grisly. A girl infected with “the Deliria” is bound to her bed until she can receive surgery to cure her from the disease of love. Later, police chase down a young couple trying to escape and attempt to shoot them.

Drug Content
Lena’s sister gives her a tranquilizer pill to calm her. Lana believes it is ibuprofen.