moonblood

Moonblood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl / Bethany House

Prince Lionheart returns to his ruined kingdom and struggles to reclaim the trust of his people. But when the people demand the death of Lionheart’s only loyal friend Rose Red, he banishes her instead to the treacherous Goldstone Wood, filled with deadly magical creatures.

Captured by her father, King Vahe, and imprisoned in the lost kingdom of Arpiar, Rose Red refuses to call for help. She waits for the Night of Moonblood and her father’s vile plans to unfold, a talking statue and lost boy with no memory for her only companions.

Lionheart pursues Rose Red, determined to rescue her and atone for his betrayal, but finding his way through the Wood is more difficult than he could have imagined and strange enemies greet him at every turn. He must defeat them all and find a kingdom no one has been able to enter in more than five hundred years if he is to reach Rose Red before it’s too late.

Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl possesses a masterful sense of story and beautifully incorporates powerful symbols seamlessly into each of her novels. In reading Moonblood one cannot help but become as lost in the story as the desperate prince in his search for his friend. Lionheart’s struggle to accept his failings and the healing of Rose Red’s wounded heart echo the deeper spiritual message that none are forgotten or without hope.

Moonblood is the third book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series. Starflower, tthe fourth book in the series has just been named a finalist for the 2013 Christy Award. Book five, Dragonwitch, will be released in the summer of 2013.

Language Content
No foul language.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Lionheart is haunted by the choices he has made which caused harm to those he cares about, but refuses to accept blame and wanting to believe he has made the only choice possible. He tries to salvage his mistakes by rescuing Rose Red, but in the end, still he cannot atone for what he has done on his own. He must accept forgiveness and aid from a Higher Source.

Rose Red, still wounded by the prince’s betrayal, refuses to call for aid in her imprisonment. She too believes she can escape on her own, without help. A small bird calls to her, as God’s spirit calls to us, but she doesn’t want to trust him anymore. She learns that God’s plan doesn’t always look the way we expect, or keep us safe in ways that make sense to us.

Violence
Heroes fight a tiger and dragons. A unicorn’s horn stabs through someone. None of these events are given deeply graphic descriptions.

Drug Content
None.

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starflower

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl / Bethany House

The entire court of immortal faeries is distraught when beloved and beautiful Lady Gleamdren is kidnapped by a fearsome dragon-witch. Two of her most devoted admirers race to her rescue, and the Bard Eanrin is determined to be first to reach his ladylove. On his journey he encounters a human girl locked in a spell of sleep and finds he cannot simply leave the unlucky mortal to her fate.

Eanrin wakes Starflower from her sleep, intent upon sending her on her way, but the maiden knows little of the treacherous Wood. As she accompanies Eanrin on his quest, a deep connection emerges between the girl and the dragonwitch. It may be Starflower alone who can rescue Gleamdren and battle an ancient dark power.

Fans of the Tales of Goldstone Wood will recognize Eanrin as the wise and mischievous cat who often kept company with the Princess Una in Heartless, the first novel in the series. Starflower predates Heartless and tells the tale of a much younger and more, often humorously, self-centered Eanrin and adding still more depth and breadth to the already rich and lustrous story world Stengl has created.

Starflower is a tale of love, not strictly romantic love, but of the journey toward choosing to put others first, to risk losing total autonomy, and to show love to others even when they are not outwardly deserving of it. It is the fourth book in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series and was just named a finalist for the 2013 Christy Award. The fifth book, Dragonwitch, will be released in the summer of 2013.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
A kiss.

Spiritual Content
Starflower’s people are under a curse and cannot speak. To remove the curse, she has to learn to love her enemies. Over and over through the story, characters are challenged to love others at expense to their own desires or safety.

Violence
References to a dog being beaten by its owner. A girl is surrounded by young men who mean her harm (she is not injured). Two dogs fight. References to human sacrifices. A man is killed saving his daughter. These scenes are short and do not contain a high level of detail.

Drug Content
None.

Colt O'Brien Grows UpWith computer certifications under his belt and a new job waiting for him on campus, Colt O’Brien, his best friend Bobby and girlfriend Amy head to their first semester of college. Colt is quickly overwhelmed with school work and problems on the job. His boss Gerry is a UNIX guy in a Windows world, and Colt finds himself the only Windows tech providing support for an entire campus of computers. Despite the unfairness and Gerry’s apparent plot to get rid of him, Colt rises to the challenge and is determined to keep up with his work load.

The first semester of college isn’t exactly what freshman Amy Strong expected, either. With her boyfriend drowning in work and school, she is left on her own to ponder her own future. And to her own surprise, what she really wants isn’t that shiny degree at the end of the four year path. She wants a baby.

As Colt and Amy struggle to maintain their relationship amidst swirling emotions and other commitments, both begin to worry about Bobby, who seems to have fallen off his straight and narrow path. Rumors abound that Bobby is drinking too much, and soon Colt stumbles onto the evidence. It’s clear Bobby needs help, but convincing him of this fact will not prove easy.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Colt’s psychic abilities seem to go on the fritz, and he can’t figure out why or how to respond. When an accident disconnects him from his body, his friends and family must wait helplessly for Colt’s mentor to discover what has happened and attempt to bring him back.

Through his journey, Colt gains some maturity through the difficult work experiences and the counsel of his mentors. He learns to bite his tongue and hold back angry outbursts. He begins to recognize when he is thinking only of himself and learns to see others’ perspectives.

Author George Matthew Cole writes with an omniscient stream-of-consciousness style, providing a broad view of the story, though in some scenes it causes confusion. First mention of Colt’s psychic abilities comes almost as an afterthought, but as the story develops, the connection between the ability and the story becomes stronger and clearer. While Colt’s character is well-developed and shows growth, Amy seems to regress. Her interests shrink and her emotional well-being becomes bound to having a child and future with Colt.

 Colt O’Brien Grows Up is an interesting look at a period in early adulthood not often explored in literature. Though ultimately dominated by the psychic problems Colt wrestles with, the story focuses at first on the practical issues of freshman year of college and the struggles and temptations students face.

Language Content
Heavy. A few F-bombs with other curses throughout.

Sexual Content
Colt and his girlfriend go on a weekend getaway to have sex. Limited details. Two college girls attempt to seduce him while he fixes their computers. Some crude details.

Spiritual Content
Colt has psychic dreams and experiences which he does not understand. He does some research and finds mentors who explain various techniques and procedures.

Violence
Colt and his friend get into a fist-fight while in jail. Colt is injured when he goes to a party to pick up a friend.

Drug Content
College students drink alcohol, often excessively. Colt experiences a contact high at one party.

julie_kagawa_the_immortal_rulesIn a world ruled by vampires, Allison Sekemoto survives by staying hidden and scavenging for food. When hunger forces her to venture outside the safety of home, she is attacked and offered a choice: to die or become what she hates most. A vampire.

Allie struggles to learn vampire ways and accept and what her new form means to the humans she has left behind. Another attack forces her to flee from the city and into the wild where she will be stalked by rabids, diseased and deadly creatures. But Allie isn’t the only one braving those wilds. In the night, she comes upon a group of humans on a quest to find a legendary city. A safe haven for humans. A city without vampires. Allie vows to protect them on their journey, but can she really succeed when the deadliest threat is her own hunger?

Kagawa sends her readers plummeting through a masterfully woven plot into a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are ruled by vampires and stalked by rabids. While heroine Allie seems cold-hearted and indifferent at the story’s opening, it is in her vampire form that she develops love for others, creating an intriguing paradox.

Language Content
No F-bombs, but other curses peppered throughout.

Sexual Content
Insinuations, but no graphic content.

Spiritual Content
Allison encounters a group who are people of faith. Precisely what they believe isn’t deeply explored, but faith is portrayed as a very admirable and positive thing, even if such optimism is hard for Allison to understand. In Kagawa’s world, vampires may be either good or evil, depending on their relationship with the living. They will either abuse and dominate or perhaps struggle to check their power and thirst and protect humans.

Violence
Lots of violence. Creatures called rabids, human and animal, viciously pursue and devour any they can capture. Some references to past torture.

Drug Content
Random guy drinks a beer.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

An unexpected package greets high school student Clay Jenson at home one day. It bears no return address. Inside are seven cassette tapes. Curious, Clay pops one into a dusty player and is shocked to hear the voice of his crush, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide just weeks earlier. Clay is stunned. Through the tapes, Hannah promises to reveal the names and circumstances in which thirteen people contributed to her suicide. But how can he be one of them? He liked her.

Hannah’s story sends Clay spinning through town, visiting locations Hannah has marked on a map, reliving each scene through her eyes. His journey changes his perceptions of Hannah, his classmates, and himself, but not always in ways one expects.

Author Jay Asher tackles the topic of teen suicide with gravity and realism but without glamorizing or romanticizing it. While Hannah’s tapes cast blame and accusation on others, sometimes justly, the back-and-forth narrative gives Clay an opportunity to raise reasons why Hannah was not out of choices, and why her death was a tragedy but not an inevitability. Gritty and powerfully told.

Language Content
Some crude language but no cursing.

Sexual Content
Reference to masturbation. Two scenes in which a girl is raped. One is not described at all. The other has some graphic details opening, but cuts off quickly. In one scene teens gather in their underwear in a hot tub.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
Reference to a teen killed in a car accident, but no description of the event. See sexual content.

Drug Content
Under-aged drinking at a party.

MatchedCassia has looked forward to her Match Banquet for as long as she can remember, and nothing could be more wonderful than sharing that day with her best friend, Xander. She is elated when the Society choses Xander to be her very own match. He is right for her in every way, a confirmation to Cassia of the Society’s perfection.

So she believes until a rare malfunction occurs and another face flashes across Cassia’s screen. Ky Markham’s face. Confused, Cassia allows the Society leaders to reassure her that everything is fine. Her doubts resurface in the form of a gift from her grandfather: words from a forbidden poem. Cassia knows she must destroy them, but can’t help reading and savoring them again and again. She begins to fall in love with the mysterious poetry and the boy who shares them with her. Ky. And now she must choose between Xander, who knows her through and through and Ky, who knows things she can’t yet understand.

Matched is a romance set against a dystopian backdrop: a world carefully balanced and controlled by the elite members of the Society. Only select forms of artwork have been preserved and allowed. All others are outlawed. All actions and even sleep are monitored. For Cassia, it is a safe and perfect world until Ky enters it and awakens dreams she shouldn’t have, desires she can’t understand and a growing distrust of the world she thought protected her. It is difficult indeed even for the reader to choose between Cassia’s loves. Condie elegantly weaves a story of disillusionment and hope and propels her readers through the twists and turns of Cassia’s story.

Language Content
Mild.

Sexual Content
Very mild. Kissing. Some reference to adults having the option to stay single rather than being matched and choosing to have casual physical relationships, but no details given and no bearing on the story itself.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
Very limited violence.

Drug Content
Society members keep three tablets with them at all times, to be taken for specific purposes, with usage carefully monitored. One is a sleep aid.

darkwaterWith her famed family estate lost to a mysterious stranger, Sarah and her father have been forced on the kindness of a former servant and her family. When Sarah loses her job, she swallows her pride and accepts a new position assisting Azrael, the owner of her former home. A job isn’t all the strange man seems interested in. Disturbing rumors about how he acquired the estate buzz around Sarah’s head, and his question lingers in her mind: for what price would she offer him her soul? She resists, but tragedy forces her hand. All Sarah can do now is try to save the next desperate person from sharing her fate.

While the concept of the story is very intriguing, the most interesting part is left out of the story. She makes an agreement in trade for her soul and then the story cuts ahead to the future, to the next fly caught in Azrael’s trap.  As Sarah tries to help this next victim, the intensity builds to a mighty climax that is resolved too simply and easily. The author does, however, make excellent use of unexpected twists in the plot which repaint all the reader thinks he knows about the story. Darkwater is packed with elements of intrigue and mystery.

Language Content
Mild.

Sexual Content
Very mild.

Spiritual Content
There is some allusion to the idea that the character Azrael has supernatural abilities that seem to have no direct connection to God or any particular religion.

Violence
A few suspenseful moments, but no real graphic violence.

Drug Content
None.