Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ripple Effect

Reminds me of the Time Tunnel book. I really like time travelling/dimensional books and shows. The new show Life on Mars is great! If you like this type of theme, you'll like this book.



It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!




and his book:



Zondervan (October 1, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Paul McCusker is the author of The Mill House, Epiphany, The Faded Flower and several Adventures in Odyssey programs. Winner of the Peabody Award for his radio drama on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Focus on the Family, he lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two children.

Product Details

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714362
ISBN-13: 978-0310714361


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“I’m running away,” Elizabeth announced defiantly. She chomped a french fry in half.

Jeff looked up at her. He’d been absentmindedly swirling his straw in his malted milkshake while she complained about her parents, which she had been doing for the past half hour. “You’re what?”

“You weren’t listening, were you?”

“I was too.”

“Then what did I say?” Elizabeth tucked a loose strand of her long brown hair behind her ear so it wouldn’t fall into the puddle of ketchup next to her fries.

“You were complaining about how your mom and dad drive you crazy because your dad embarrassed you last night while you and Melissa Morgan were doing your history homework. And your dad lectured you for twenty minutes about . . . about . . .” He was stumped.

“Chris-tian symbolism in the King Arthur legends,” Elizabeth said.

“Yeah, except that you and Melissa were supposed to be studying the . . . um — ”

“French Revolution.”

“Right, and Melissa finally made up an excuse to go home, and you were embarrassed and mad at your dad — ”

“As usual,” she said and savaged another french fry.

Jeff gave a sigh of relief. Elizabeth’s pop quizzes were a lot tougher than anything they gave him at school. But it was hard for him to listen when she griped about her parents. Not having any parents of his own, Jeff didn’t connect when Elizabeth went on and on about hers.

“Then what did I say?” she asked.

He was mid-suck on his straw and nearly blew the contents back into the glass. “Huh?”

“What did I say after that?”

“You said . . . uh . . .” He coughed, then glanced around the Fawlt Line Diner, hoping for inspiration or a way to change the subject. His eye was dazzled by the endless chrome, beveled mirrors, worn red upholstery, and checkered floor tiles. And it boasted Alice Dempsey, the world’s oldest living waitress, dressed in her paper cap and red-striped uniform with white apron.

She had seen Jeff look up and now hustled over to their booth. She arrived smelling like burnt hamburgers and chewed her gum loudly. “You kids want anything else?”

Rescued, Jeff thought. “No, thank you,” he said.

She cracked an internal bubble on her gum and dropped the check on the edge of the table. “See you tomorrow,” Alice said.

“No, you won’t,” Elizabeth said under her breath. “I won’t be here.”

As she walked off, Alice shot a curious look back at Elizabeth. She was old, but she wasn’t deaf.

“Take it easy,” Jeff said to Elizabeth.

“I’m going to run away,” she said, heavy rebuke in her tone. “If you’d been listening — ”

“Aw, c’mon, Bits — ” Jeff began. He’d called her “Bits” for as long as either of them could remember, all the way back to first grade. “It’s not that bad.”

“You try living with my mom and dad, and tell me it’s not that bad.”

“I know your folks,” Jeff said. “They’re a little quirky, that’s all.”

“Quirky! They’re just plain weird. They’re clueless about life in the real world. Did you know that my dad went to church last Sunday with his shirt on inside out?”

“It happens.”

“And wearing his bedroom slippers?”

Jeff smiled. Yeah, that’s Alan Forde, all right, he thought.

“Don’t you dare smile,” Elizabeth threatened, pointing a french fry at him. “It’s not funny. His slippers are grass stained. Do you know why?”

“Because he does his gardening in his bedroom slippers.”

Elizabeth threw up her hands. “That’s right! He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care how he looks, what -people think of him, or anything! And my mom doesn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed for him. She thinks he’s adorable! They’re weird.”

“They’re just . . . themselves. They’re — ”

Elizabeth threw herself against the back of the red vinyl bench and groaned. “You don’t understand.”

“Sure I do!” Jeff said. “Your parents are no worse than Malcolm.” Malcolm Dubbs was Jeff’s father’s cousin, on the English side of the family, and had been Jeff’s guardian since his parents had died five years ago in a plane crash. As the last adult of the Dubbs family line, he came from England to take over the family fortune and estate. “He’s quirky.”

“But that’s different. Malcolm is nice and sensitive and has that wonderful English accent,” Elizabeth said, nearly swooning. Jeff’s cousin was a heartthrob among some of the girls.

“Don’t get yourself all worked up,” Jeff said.

“My parents just go on and on about things I don’t care about,” she continued. “And if I hear the life-can’t-be-taken-too-seriously-because-it’s-just-a-small-part-of-a-bigger-picture lecture one more time, I’ll go out of my mind.”

Again Jeff restrained his smile. He knew that lecture well. Except his cousin Malcolm summarized the same idea in the phrase “the eternal perspective.” All it meant was that there was a lot more to life than what we can see or experience with our senses. This world is a temporary stop on a journey to a truer, more real reality, he’d say — an eternal reality. “Look, your parents see things differently from most -people. That’s all,” Jeff said, determined not to turn this gripe session into an Olympic event.

“They’re from another planet,” Elizabeth said. “Sometimes I think this whole town is. Haven’t you figured it out yet?”

“I like Fawlt Line,” Jeff said softly, afraid Elizabeth’s complaints might offend some of the other regulars at the diner.

“Everybody’s so . . . so oblivious! Nobody even seems to notice how strange this place is.”

Jeff shrugged. “It’s just a town, Bits. Every town has its quirks.”

“Is that your word of the day?” Elizabeth snapped. “These aren’t just quirks, Jeffrey.”

Jeff rolled his eyes. When she resorted to calling him Jeffrey, there was no reasoning with her. He rubbed the side of his face and absentmindedly pushed his fingers through his wavy black hair.

“What about Helen?” Elizabeth challenged him.

“Which Helen? You mean the volunteer at the information booth in the mall? That Helen?”

“I mean Helen the volunteer at the information booth in the mall who thinks she’s psychic. That’s who I mean.” Elizabeth leaned over the Formica tabletop. Jeff moved her plate of fries and ketchup to one side. “She won’t let you speak until she guesses what you’re going to ask. And she’s never right!”

Jeff shrugged.

“Our only life insurance agent has been dead for six years.”

“Yeah, but — ”

“And there’s Walter Keenan. He’s a professional proofreader for park bench ads! He wanders around, making -people move out of the way so he can do his job.” Her voice was a shrill whisper.

“Ben Hearn only pays him to do that because he feels sorry for him. You know old Walter hasn’t been the same since that shaving accident.”

“But I heard he just got a job doing the same thing at a tattoo parlor!”

“I’m sure tattooists want to make sure their spelling is correct.”

Elizabeth groaned and shook her head. “It’s like Mayberry trapped in the Twilight Zone. I thought you’d understand. I thought you knew how nuts this town is.” Elizabeth locked her gaze onto Jeff’s.

He gazed back at her and, suddenly, the image of her large brown eyes, the faint freckles on her upturned nose, her full lips, made him want to kiss her. He wasn’t sure why — they’d been friends for so long that she’d probably laugh at him if he ever actually did it — but the urge was still there.

“It’s not such a bad place,” he managed to say.

“I’ve had enough of this town,” she said. “Of my parents. Of all the weirdness. I’m fifteen years old and I wanna be a normal kid with normal problems. Are you coming with me or not?”

Jeff cocked an eyebrow. “To where?”

“To wherever I run away to,” she replied. “I’m serious about this, Jeff. I’m getting all my money together and going somewhere normal. We can take your Volkswagen and — ”

“Listen, Bits,” Jeff interrupted, “I know how you feel. But we can’t just run away. Where would we go? What would we do?”

“And who are you all of a sudden: Mr. Responsibility? You never know where you’re going or what you’re doing. You’re our very own Huck Finn.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Not according to Mr. Vidler.”

“Mr. Vidler said that?” Jeff asked defensively, wondering why their English teacher would be talking about him to Elizabeth.

“He says it’s because you don’t have parents, and Malcolm doesn’t care what you do.”

Jeff grunted. He didn’t like the idea of Mr. Vidler discussing him like that. And Malcolm certainly cared a great deal about what he did.

Elizabeth continued. “So why should you care where we go or what we do? Let’s just get out of here.”

“But, Bits, it’s stupid and — ”

“No! I’m not listening to you,” Elizabeth shouted and hit the tabletop with the palms of her hands. Silence washed over the diner like a wave as everyone turned to look.

“Keep it down, will you?” Jeff whispered fiercely.

“Either you go with me, or stay here and rot in this town. It’s up to you.”

Jeff looked away. It was unusual for them to argue. And when they did, it was usually Jeff who gave in. Like now. “I don’t know,” he said quietly.

Elizabeth also softened her tone. “If you’re going, then meet me at the Old Saw Mill by the edge of the river tonight at ten.” She paused, then added, “I’m going whether you come with me or not.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Its all about us and the fruit of my lipstick

If you are into the Gossip girls books and want a Christian alternative, here's a good one!



It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!





and her books:


It's All About Us: A Novel

FaithWords (May 12, 2008)


and


The Fruit of My Lipstick (All About Us Series, Book 2)

FaithWords (August 11, 2008)


Plus a Tiffany's Bracelet Giveaway! Go to Camy Tang's Blog and leave a comment on the Teen FIRST All About Us Tour and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet that looks similar to the picture below. But the winning FaithWords Tiffany's bracelet will be a double heart charm.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Shelley Adina is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She knows the value of a relationship with a gracious God and loving Christian friends, and she's inviting today's teenage girls to join her in these refreshingly honest books about real life as a Christian teen--with a little extra glitz thrown in for fun! In between books, Adina loves traveling, listening to and making music, and watching all kinds of movies.

It's All About Us is Book One in the All About Us Series. Book Two, The Fruit of my Lipstick came out in August 2008, and Book Three, Be Strong & Curvaceous, comes out in January 2009.

Visit the author's website.

It's All About Us: A Novel



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (May 12, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446177989
ISBN-13: 978-0446177986

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

SOME THINGS YOU just know without being told. Like, you passed the math final (or you didn't). Your boyfriend isn't into you anymore and wants to break up. Vanessa Talbot has decided that since you're the New Girl, you have a big bull's-eye on your forehead and your junior year is going to be just as miserable as she can make it.

Carly once told me she used to wish she were me. Ha! That first week at Spencer Academy, I wouldn't have wished my life on anyone.

My name is Lissa Evelyn Mansfield, and since everything seemed to happen to me this quarter, we decided I'd be the one to write it all down. Maybe you'll think I'm some kind of drama queen, but I swear this is the truth. Don't listen to Gillian and Carly—they weren't there for some of it, so probably when they read this, it'll be news to them, too.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. When it all started, I didn't even know them. All I knew was that I was starting my junior year at the Spencer Academy of San Francisco, this private boarding school for trust fund kids and the offspring of the hopelessly rich, and I totally did not want to be there.

I mean, picture it: You go from having fun and being popular in tenth grade at Pacific High in Santa Barbara, where you can hang out on State Street or join a drumming circle or surf whenever you feel like it with all your friends, to being absolutely nobody in this massive old mansion where rich kids go because their parents don't have time to take care of them.

Not that my parents are like that. My dad's a movie director, and he's home whenever his shooting schedule allows it. When he's not, sometimes he flies us out to cool places like Barbados or Hungary for a week so we can be on location together. You've probably heard of my dad. He directed that big pirate movie that Warner Brothers did a couple of years ago. That's how he got on the radar of some of the big A-list directors, so when George (hey, he asked me to call him that, so it's not like I'm dropping names) rang him up from Marin and suggested they do a movie together, of course he said yes. I can't imagine anybody saying no to George, but anyway, that's why we're in San Francisco for the next two years. Since Dad's going to be out at the Ranch or on location so much, and my sister, Jolie, is at UCLA (film school, what else—she's a daddy's girl and she admits it), and my mom's dividing her time among all of us, I had the choice of going to boarding school or having a live-in. Boarding school sounded fun in a Harry Potter kind of way, so I picked that.

Sigh. That was before I realized how lonely it is being the New Girl. Before the full effect of my breakup really hit. Before I knew about Vanessa Talbot, who I swear would make the perfect girlfriend for a warlock.

And speaking of witch . . .

"Melissa!"

Note: my name is not Melissa. But on the first day of classes, I'd made the mistake of correcting Vanessa, which meant that every time she saw me after that, she made a point of saying it wrong. The annoying part is that now people really think that's my name.

Vanessa, Emily Overton, and Dani Lavigne ("Yes, that Lavigne. Did I tell you she's my cousin?") are like this triad of terror at Spencer. Their parents are all fabulously wealthy—richer than my mom's family, even—and they never let you forget it. Vanessa and Dani have the genes to go with all that money, which means they look good in everything from designer dresses to street chic.

Vanessa's dark brown hair is cut so perfectly, it always falls into place when she moves. She has the kind of skin and dark eyes that might be from some Italian beauty somewhere in her family tree. Which, of course, means the camera loves her. It didn't take me long to figure out that there was likely to be a photographer or two somewhere on the grounds pretty much all the time, and nine times out of ten, Vanessa was the one they bagged. Her mom is minor royalty and the ex-wife of some U.N. Secretary or other, which means every time he gives a speech, a photographer shows up here. Believe me, seeing Vanessa in the halls at school and never knowing when she's going to pop out at me from the pages of Teen People or some society news Web site is just annoying. Can you say overexposed?

Anyway. Where was I? Dani has butterscotch-colored hair that she has highlighted at Biondi once a month, and big blue eyes that make her look way more innocent than she is. Emily is shorter and chunkier and could maybe be nice if you got her on her own, but she's not the kind that functions well outside of a clique.

Some people are born independent and some aren't. You should see Emily these days. All that money doesn't help her one bit out at the farm, where—

Okay, Gillian just told me I have to stop doing that. She says it's messing her up, like I'm telling her the ending when I'm supposed to be telling the beginning.

Not that it's all about her, okay? It's about us: me, Gillian, Carly, Shani, Mac . . . and God. But just to make Gillian happy, I'll skip to the part where I met her, and she (and you) can see what I really thought of her. Ha. Maybe that'll make her stop reading over my shoulder.

So as I was saying, there they were—Vanessa, Emily, and Dani—standing between me and the dining room doors. "What's up?" I said, walking up to them when I should have turned and settled for something out of the snack machine at the other end of the hall.

"She doesn't know." Emily poked Dani. "Maybe we shouldn't tell her."

I did a fast mental check. Plaid skirt—okay. Oxfords—no embarrassing toilet paper. White blouse—buttoned, no stains. Slate blue cardigan—clean. Hair—freshly brushed.

They couldn't be talking about me personally, in which case I didn't need to hear it. "Whatever." I pushed past them and took two steps down the hall.

"Don't you want to hear about your new roommate?" Vanessa asked.

Roommate? At that point I'd survived for five days, and the only good things about them were the crème brulée in the dining room and the blessed privacy of my own room. What fresh disaster was this?

Oops. I'd stopped in my tracks and tipped them off that (a) I didn't know, and (b) I wanted to know. And when Vanessa knows you want something, she'll do everything she can not to let you have it.

"I think we should tell her," Emily said. "It would be kinder to get it over with." "I'm sure I'll find out eventually." There, that sounded bored enough. "Byeee." "I hope you like Chinese!" Dani whooped at her own cleverness, and the three of them floated off down the hall.

So I thought, Great, maybe they're having dim sum today for lunch, though what that had to do with my new roommate I had no idea. At that point it hadn't really sunk in that conversation with those three is a dangerous thing.

That had been my first mistake the previous Wednesday, when classes had officially begun. Conversation, I mean. You know, normal civilized discourse with someone you think might be a friend. Like a total dummy, I'd actually thought this about Vanessa, who'd pulled newbie duty, walking me down the hall to show me where my first class was. It turned out to not be my first class, but the teacher was nice about steering me to the right room, where I was, of course, late.

That should've been my first clue.

My second clue was when Vanessa invited me to eat with them and Dani managed to spill her Coke all over my uniform skirt, which is, as I said, plaid and made of this easy-clean fake wool that people with sensitive skin can wear. She'd jumped up, all full of apologies, and handed me napkins and stuff, but the fact remained that I had to go upstairs and change and then figure out how the laundry service worked, which meant I was late for Biology, too.

On Thursday Dani apologized again, and Vanessa loaned me some of her Bumble and bumble shampoo ("You can't use Paul Mitchell on gorgeous hair like yours—people get that stuff at the drugstore now"), and I was dumb enough to think that maybe things were looking up. Because really, the shampoo was superb. My hair is blond and I wear it long, but before you go hating me for it, it's fine and thick, and the fog we have here in San Francisco makes it go all frizzy. And it's foggy a lot. So this shampoo made it just coo with pleasure.

You're probably asking yourself why I bothered trying to be friends with these girls. The harrowing truth was, I was used to being in the A-list group. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't fit in with the popular girls at Spencer, once I figured out who they were.

Lucky me—Vanessa made that so easy. And I was so lonely and out of my depth that even she was looking good. Her dad had once backed one of my dad's films, so there was that minimal connection.

Too bad it wasn't enough.

jolie.mansfield L, don't let them bug you. Some people are
threatened by anything new. It's a compliment
really.

LMansfield You always find the bright side. Gahh. Love you,
but not helping.

jolie.mansfield What can I do?

LMansfield I'd give absolutely anything to be back in S.B.

jolie.mansfield :(

LMansfield I want to hang with the kids from my youth group.
Not worry about anything but the SPF of my sun
block.

jolie.mansfield It'll get better. Promise. Heard from Mom?
LMansfield No. She's doing some fundraiser with Angelina.
She's pretty busy.

jolie.mansfield If you say so. Love you.



Copyright © 2008 by Shelley Adina


&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

The Fruit of My Lipstick (All About Us Series, Book 2)



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (August 11, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446177970
ISBN-13: 978-0446177979

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Chapter One

chapter 1


Top Five Clues That He’s the One

1. He’s smart, which is why he’s dating you and not the queen of the snob mob.

2. He knows he’s hot, but he thinks you’re hotter.

3. He’d rather listen to you than to himself.

4. You’re in on his jokes—not the butt of them.

5. He always gives you the last cookie in the box.

THE NEW YEAR. . . when a young girl’s heart turns to new beginnings, weight loss, and a new term of chemistry!

Whew! Got that little squee out of my system. But you may as well know right now that science and music are what I do, and they tend to come up a lot in conversation. Sometimes my friends think this is good, like when I’m helping them cram for an exam. Sometimes they just think I’m a geek. But that’s okay. My name is Gillian Frances Jiao-Lan Chang, and since Lissa was brave enough to fall on her sword and spill what happened last fall, I guess I can’t do anything less.

I’m kidding about the sword. You know that, right?

Term was set to start on the first Wednesday in January, so I flew into SFO first class from JFK on Monday. I thought I’d packed pretty efficiently, but I still exceeded the weight limit by fifty pounds. It took some doing to get me and my bags into the limo, let me tell you. But I’d found last term that I couldn’t live without certain things, so they came with me. Like my sheet music and some more of my books. And warmer clothes.

You say California and everyone thinks L.A. The reality of San Francisco in the winter is that it’s cold, whether the sun is shining or the fog is stealing in through the Golden Gate and blanketing the bay. A perfect excuse for a trip to Barney’s to get Vera Wang’s tulip-hem black wool coat, right?

I thought so, too.

Dorm, sweet dorm. I staggered through the door of the room I share with Lissa Mansfield. It’s up to us to get our stuff into our rooms, so here’s where it pays to be on the rowing team, I guess. Biceps are good for hauling bulging Louis Vuittons up marble staircases. But I am so not the athletic type. I leave that to John, the youngest of my three older brothers. He’s been into gymnastics since he was, like, four, and he’s training hard to make the U.S. Olympic team. I haven’t seen him since I was fourteen—he trains with a coach out in Arizona.

My oldest brother, Richard, is twenty-six and works for my dad at the bank, and the second oldest, Darren—the one I’m closest to—is graduating next spring from Harvard and going straight into medical school after that.

Yeah, we’re a family of overachievers. Don’t hate me, okay?

I heard a thump in the hall outside and got the door open just in time to come face-to-face with a huge piece of striped fiberglass with three fins.

I stood aside to let Lissa into the room with her surfboard. She was practically bowed at the knees with the weight of the duffel slung over her shoulder, and another duffel with a big O’Neill logo waited outside. I grabbed it and swung it onto her bed.

“Welcome back, girlfriend!”

She stood the board against the wall, let the duffel drop to the floor with a thud that probably shook the chandelier in the room below us, and pulled me into a hug.

“I am so glad to see you!” Her perfect Nordic face lit up with happiness. “How was your Christmas—the parts you didn’t tell me about on e-mail?”

“The usual. Too many family parties. Mom and Nai-Nai made way too much food, two of my brothers fought over the remote like they were ten years old, my dad and oldest brother bailed to go back to work early, and, oh, Nai-Nai wanted to know at least twice a day why I didn’t have a boyfriend.” I considered the chaos we’d just made of our pristine room. “The typical Chang holiday. What about you? Did Scotland improve after the first couple of days?”

“It was fre-e-e-e-zing.” She slipped off her coat and tam. “And I don’t just mean rainy-freezing. I mean sleet-and-icicles freezing. The first time I wore my high-heeled Louboutin boots, I nearly broke my ankle. As it was, I landed flat on my butt in the middle of the Royal Mile. Totally embarrassing.”

“What’s a Royal Mile? Princesses by the square foot?”

“This big broad avenue that goes through the old part of Edinburgh toward the queen’s castle. Good shopping. Restaurants. Tourists. Ice.” She unzipped the duffel and began pulling things out of it. “Dad was away a lot at the locations for this movie. Sometimes I went with him, and sometimes I hung out with this really adorable guy who was supposed to be somebody’s production assistant but who wound up being my guide the whole time.”

“It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.”

“I made it worth his while.” She flashed me a wicked grin, but behind it I saw something else. Pain, and memory. “So.” She spread her hands. “What’s new around here?”

I shrugged. “I just walked in myself a few minutes ago. You probably passed the limo leaving. But if what you really want to know is whether the webcam incident is over and done with, I don’t know yet.”

She turned away, but not before I saw her flush pink and then blink really fast, like her contacts had just been flooded. “Let’s hope so.”

“You made it through last term.” I tried to be encouraging. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?”

“It made one thing stronger.” She pulled a cashmere scarf out of the duffel and stroked it as though it were a kitten. “I never prayed so hard in my life. Especially during finals week, remember? When those two idiots seriously thought they could force me into that storage closet and get away with it?”

“Before we left, I heard the short one was going to be on crutches for six weeks.” I grinned at her. Fact of the day: Surfers are pretty good athletes. Don’t mess with them. “Maybe it should be, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes your relationship with God stronger.’”

“That I’ll agree with. Do you know if Carly’s here yet?”

“Her dad was driving her up in time for supper, so she should be calling any second.”

Sure enough, within a few minutes, someone knocked. “That’s gotta be her.” I jumped for the door and swung it open.

“Hey, chicas!” Carly hugged me and then Lissa. “Did you miss me?”

“Like chips miss guacamole.” Lissa grinned at her. “Good break?”

She grimaced, her soft brown eyes a little sad. Clearly Christmas break isn’t what it’s cracked up to be in anybody’s world.

“Dad had to go straighten out some computer chip thing in Singapore, so Antony and I got shipped off to Veracruz. It was great to see my mom and the grandparents, but you know . . .” Her voice trailed away.

“What?” I asked. “Did you have a fight?” That’s what happens at our house.

“No.” She sighed, then lifted her head to look at both of us. “I think my mom has a boyfriend.”

“Ewww,” Lissa and I said together, with identical grimaces.

“I always kind of hoped my mom and dad would figure it out, you know? And get back together. But it looks like that’s not going to happen.”

I hugged her again. “I’m sorry, Carly. That stinks.”

“Yeah.” She straightened up, and my arm slid from her shoulders. “So, enough about me. What about you guys?”

With a quick recap, we put her in the picture. “So do you have something going with this Scottish guy?” Carly asked Lissa.

Lissa shook her head, a curtain of blonde hair falling to partially hide her face—a trick I’ve never quite been able to master, even though my hair hangs past my shoulders. But it’s so thick and coarse, it never does what I want on the best of days. It has to be beaten into submission by a professional.

“I think I liked his accent most of all,” she said. “I could just sit there and listen to him talk all day. In fact, I did. What he doesn’t know about murders and wars and Edinburgh Castle and Lord This and Earl That would probably fit in my lip gloss tube.”

I contrasted walking the cold streets of Edinburgh, listening to some guy drone on about history, with fighting with my brothers. Do we girls know how to have fun, or what? “Better you than me.”

“I’d have loved it,” Carly said. “Can you imagine walking through a castle with your own private tour guide? Especially if he’s cute. It doesn’t get better than that.”

“Um, okay.” Lissa gave her a sideways glance. “Miss A-plus in History.”

“Really?” I had A-pluses in AP Chem and Math, but with anything less in those subjects, I wouldn’t have been able to face my father at Christmas. As it was, he had a fit over my B in History, and the only reason I managed to achieve an A-minus in English was because of a certain person with the initials L. M.

Carly shrugged. “I like history. I like knowing what happened where, and who it happened to, and what they were wearing. Not that I’ve ever been anywhere very much, except Texas and Mexico.”

“You’d definitely have liked Alasdair, then,” Lissa said. “He knows all about what happened to whom. But the worst was having to go for tea at some freezing old stone castle that Dad was using for a set. I thought I’d lose my toes from frostbite.”

“Somebody lives in the castle?” Carly looked fascinated. “Who?”

“Some earl.” Lissa looked into the distance as she flipped through the PDA in her head. Then she blinked. “The Earl and Countess of Strathcairn.”

“Cool!”

“Very. Forty degrees, tops. He said he had a daughter about our age, but I never met her. She heard we were coming and took off on her horse.”

“Mo guai nuer,” I said. “Rude much?”

Lissa shrugged. “Alasdair knew the family. He said Lady Lindsay does what she wants, and clearly she didn’t want to meet us. Not that I cared. I was too busy having hypothermia. I’ve never been so glad to see the inside of a hotel room in my life. I’d have put my feet in my mug of tea if I could have.”

“Well, cold or not, I still think it’s cool that you met an earl,” Carly said. “And I can’t wait to see your dad’s movie.”

“Filming starts in February, so Dad won’t be around much. But Mom’s big charity gig for the Babies of Somalia went off just before Christmas and was a huge success, so she’ll be around a bit more.” She paused. “Until she finds something else to get involved in.”

“Did you meet Angelina?” I asked. Lissa’s life fascinated me. To her, movie stars are her dad’s coworkers, like the brokers and venture capitalists who come to the bank are my dad’s coworkers. But Dad doesn’t work with people who look like Orlando and Angelina, that’s for sure.

“Yes, I met her. She apologized for flaking on me for the Benefactors’ Day Ball. Not that I blame her. It all turned out okay in the end.”

“Except for your career as Vanessa Talbot’s BFF.”

Lissa snorted. “Yeah. Except that.”

None of us mentioned what else had crashed and burned in flames after the infamous webcam incident—her relationship with the most popular guy in school, Callum McCloud. I had a feeling that that was a scab we just didn’t need to pick at.

“You don’t need Vanessa Talbot,” Carly said firmly. “You have us.”

We exchanged a grin. “She’s right,” I said. “This term, it’s totally all about us.”

“Thank goodness for that,” she said. “Come on. Let’s go eat. I’m starving.”


RStapleton I heard from a mutual friend that you take care of people at midterm time.

Source10 What friend?

RStapleton Loyola.

Source10 Been known to happen.

RStapleton How much?

Source10 1K. Math, sciences, geography only.

RStapleton I hate numbers.

Source10 IM me the day before to confirm.

RStapleton OK. Who are you?

RStapleton You there?


BY NOON THE next day, I’d hustled down to the student print shop in the basement and printed the notices I’d laid out on my Mac. I tacked them on the bulletin boards in the common rooms and classroom corridors on all four floors.


Christian prayer circle every Tuesday night 7:00 p.m., Room 216 Bring your Bible and a friend!


“Nice work,” Lissa told me when I found her and Carly in the dining room. “Love the salmon pink paper. But school hasn’t officially started yet. We probably won’t get a very good turnout if the first one’s tonight.”

“Maybe not.” I bit into a succulent California roll and savored the tart, thin seaweed wrapper around the rice, avocado, and shrimp. I had to hand it to Dining Services. Their food was amazing. “But even if it’s just the three of us, I can’t think of a better way to start off the term, can you?”

Lissa didn’t reply. The color faded from her face and she concentrated on her square ceramic plate of sushi as though it were her last meal. Carly swallowed a bite of makizushi with an audible gulp as it went down whole. Slowly, casually, I reached for the pepper shaker and glanced over my shoulder.

“If it isn’t the holy trinity,” Vanessa drawled, plastered against Brett Loyola’s arm and standing so close behind us, neither Carly nor I could move. “Going to multiply the rice and fish for us?”

“Nice to see you, too, Vanessa,” Lissa said coolly. “Been reading your Bible, I see.”

“Hi, Brett,” Carly managed, her voice about six notes higher than usual as she craned to look up at him.

He looked at her, puzzled, as if he’d seen her before somewhere but couldn’t place where, and gave her a vague smile. “Hey.”

I rolled my eyes. Like we hadn’t spent an entire term in History together. Like Carly didn’t light up like a Christmas tree every time she passed a paper to him, or maneuvered her way into a study group that had him in it. Honestly. I don’t know how that guy got past the entrance requirements.

Oh, wait. Silly me. Daddy probably made a nice big donation to the athletics department, and they waved Brett through Admissions with a grateful smile.

“Have any of you seen Callum?” Vanessa inquired sweetly. “I’m dying to see him. I hear he spent Christmas skiing at their place in Vail with his sisters and his new girlfriend. No parents.”

“He’s a day student.” I glanced at Lissa to see how she was taking this, but she’d leaned over to the table behind her to snag a bunch of napkins. “Why would he be eating here?”

“To see all his friends, of course. I guess that’s why you haven’t seen him.”

“Neither have you, if you’re asking where he is.” Poor Vanessa. I hope she’s never on a debating team. It could get humiliating.

But what she lacked in logic she made up for in venom. She ignored me and gushed, “I love your outfit, Lissa. I’m sure Callum would, too. That is, if he were still speaking to you.”

I barely restrained myself from giving Vanessa an elbow in the stomach. But Lissa had come a long way since her ugly breakup with a guy who didn’t deserve her. Vanessa had no idea who she was dealing with—Lissa with an army of angels at her back was a scary thing.

She pinned Vanessa with a stare as cold as fresh snow.

“You mean you haven’t told him yet that you made that video?” She shook her head. “Naughty Vanessa, lying to your friends like that.” A big smile and a meaningful glance at Brett. “But then, they’re probably used to it.”

Vanessa opened her mouth to say something scathing, when a tall, lanky guy elbowed past her to put his sushi dishes on the table next to mine. Six feet of sheer brilliance, with blue eyes and brown hair cropped short so he didn’t have to deal with it. A mind so sharp, he put even the overachievers here in the shade—but in spite of that, a guy who’d started coming to prayer circle last term. Who could fluster me with a look, and wipe my brain completely blank with just a smile.

Lucas Hayes.

“Hey, Vanessa, Brett.”

My jaw sagged in surprise, and I snapped it shut on my mouthful of rice, hoping he hadn’t seen. Since when was the king of the science geeks on speaking terms with the popular crowd?

To add to the astonishment, the two of them stepped back, as if to give him some space. “Yo, Einstein.” Brett grinned and they shook hands.

“Hi, Lucas.” Vanessa glanced from him to me to our dishes sitting next to each other. “I didn’t know you were friends with these people.”

He shrugged. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

“That could change. Why don’t you come and sit with us?” she asked. Brett looked longingly at the sushi bar and tugged on her arm. She ignored him. “We’re much more fun. We don’t sing hymns and save souls.”

“So I’ve heard. Did you make it into Trig?”

“Of course.” She tossed her gleaming sheet of hair over one shoulder. “Thanks to you.”

I couldn’t keep quiet another second. “You tutored her?” I asked him, trying not to squeak.

He picked up a piece of California roll and popped it in his mouth, nodding. “All last term.” He glanced at Vanessa. “Contrary to popular opinion, she isn’t all looks.”

Oh, gack. Way TMI. Vanessa smiled as though she’d won this and all other possible arguments now and in the future, world without end, amen. “Come on, Lucas. Hold our table for us while Brett and I get our food. I want to talk to you about something anyway.”

He shrugged and picked up his dishes while she and Brett swanned away. “See you at prayer circle,” he said to me. “I saw the signs. Same time and place, right?”

I could only nod as he headed for the table in the middle of the big window looking out on the quad. The one no one else dared to sit at, in case they risked the derision and social ostracism that would follow.

The empty seat on my right seemed even emptier. How could he do that? How could he just dump us and then say he’d see us at prayer circle? Shouldn’t he want to eat with the people he prayed with?

“It’s okay, Gillian,” Carly whispered. “At least he’s coming.”

“And Vanessa isn’t,” Lissa put in with satisfaction.

“I’m not so sure I want him to, now,” I said. I looked at my sushi and my stomach sort of lurched. Ugh. I pushed it away.

And here I’d been feeling so superior to Carly and her unrequited yen for Brett. I was just as bad, and this proved it. What else could explain this sick feeling in my middle?

Two hours later, while Lissa, Carly, and I shoved aside the canvases and whatnot that had accumulated in Room 216 over the break, making enough room for half a dozen people to sit, I’d almost talked myself into not caring whether Lucas came or not.

And then he stepped through the door and I realized my body was more honest than my brain. I sucked in a breath and my heart began to pound.

Oh, yeah. You so don’t care.

Travis, who must have arrived during dinner, trickled in behind him, and then Shani Hanna, who moved with the confidence of an Arabian queen, arrived with a couple of sophomores I didn’t know. Her hair, tinted bronze and caught up at the crown of her head, tumbled to her shoulders in corkscrew curls. I fingered my own arrow-straight mop that wouldn’t hold a curl if you threatened it with death.

Okay, stop feeling sorry for yourself, would you? Enough is enough.

“Hey, everyone, thanks for coming,” I said brightly, getting to my feet. “I’m Gillian Chang. Why don’t the newbies introduce themselves, and then we’ll get started?”

The sophomores told us their names, and I found out Travis’s last name was Fanshaw. And the dots connected. Of course he’d been assigned as Lucas’s roommate—he’s like this Chemistry genius. If it weren’t for Lucas, he’d be the king of the science geeks. Sometimes science people have a hard time reconciling scientific method with faith. If they were here at prayer circle, maybe Travis and Lucas were among the lucky few who figured science was a form of worship, of marveling at the amazement that is creation. I mean, if Lucas was one of those guys who got a kick out of arguing with the Earth Sciences prof, I wouldn’t even be able to date him.

Not that there was any possibility of that.

As our prayers went up one by one, quietly from people like Carly and brash and uncomfortably from people like Travis and the sophomores, I wished that dating was the kind of thing I could pray about.

But I don’t think God has my social life on His to-do list.


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2008 by Shelley Adina

This article is used with the permission of Hachette Book Group and Shelley Adina. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book of Names



It's the 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!




and his/her book:



NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dean Barkley Briggs is an author, father of eight, and prone to twisting his ankle playing basketball. He grew up reading J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Stephen R. Donaldson, Ursila K. Leguin, Susan Cooper, Madeline L'Engle, Terry Brooks, Andre Norton and Lloyd Alexander (just to name a few)...and generally thinks most fantasy fiction pales in comparison. (Yes, he dabbled in sci-fi, too. Most notably Bradbury, Burroughs and Heinlein).

After losing his wife of 16 years, Briggs decided to tell a tale his four sons could relate to in their own journey through loss. Thus was born The Legends of Karac Tor, a sweeping adventure of four brothers who, while struggling to adjust to life without mom, become enmeshed in the crisis of another world. Along the way they must find their courage, face their pain, and never quit searching for home.

Briggs is remarried to a lovely woman, who previously lost her husband. Together with her four children, their hands are full.

Product Details

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 397 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishing Group (July 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160006227X
ISBN-13: 978-1600062278

Watch the Trailer:




Enter the Contest:




AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

In final days / Come final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Forgotten curse / Blight the land

Four names, one blood / Fall or stand


If lost the great one / Fallen low

Rises new / Ancient foe

Darkest path / River black

Blade which breaks / Anoint, attack


If once and future / Lord of war,

Queen la Faye / Mighty sword,

Rises ‘gain / As warrior king,

Prepare / For day of reckoning


If Aion’s breath / For music cursed

Sings making things / Made perverse,

Fate shall split / Road in twain

One shall lose / One shall gain


If secret lore / Then be found

Eight plus one / All unbound

Beast shall come / Six must go

Doors shall open / Doors shall close


If buried deep / Hidden seen

Ancient tomb / Midst crimson green

Nine shall bow / Nine more rise

Nine horns blow / Nine stars shine


If falling flame / Burning pure

Ten thousand cries / For mercy heard

Then plagues, peril / Horns of dread

End of days / Land be red


When final days / Bring final woes

Doors shall open / Doors shall close

Fate for one / For all unleashed

Come the Prince / Slay the beast


Cross the water / Isgurd’s way

White horse / Top the waves

Aion, fierce! / Aion, brave!

Aion rides / To save the day


— The Ravna’s Last Riddle




Chapter 1

BLACK BIRDS


The day was gray and cold, mildly damp. Perfect for magic. Strange clouds overhead teased the senses with a fragrance of storm wind and lightning and the faint, clean smell of ozone. Invisible energy sparkled like morning dew on blades of grass.

Standing alone in an empty field on the back end of their new acreage, Hadyn Barlow only saw the clouds. By definition, you can't see what's invisible, and as for smelling magic? Well, let's just say, unlikely. Hadyn saw what was obvious for late November, rural Missouri: leafless trees, dead grass, winter coming on strong. Most of all he saw (and despised) the humongous briar patch in front of him, feeling anew each and every blister and callous earned hacking through its branches.

Making room for cattle next spring, or so he was told; this, even though his dad had never owned a cow in his life. He was a history teacher for crying out loud. A college professor. Hadyn's shoulders slumped. It didn't matter. Everything was different now. Mr. Barlow didn't let his boys curse, but low under his breath, Hadyn did, mildly, just to prove the point. Life stunk. That was the brutal truth.

All true for the most part. Yet standing alone in the field, bundled in flannel, something else prickled his skin—something hidden in the rhythm of the day, at its core—and it wasn't just the chill wind. He couldn't shake it. A sense of something. Out-of-placeness. Faced with a friendless sophomore year, Hadyn knew that feeling all too well. It attacked him every morning, right before school.

But this was something more, more than the usual nervousness and name-calling stuff. His intuition was maddeningly vague. Hadyn sniffed the air, eyeing the field. A fox scampered in the distance. Bobwhites whistled softly. This had been his routine for weeks. Go to school, come home, do chores. Today was no different. Except for the clouds.

He looked upwards, struck again by the strange hues. The colors were still there; kinda creepy. They had lingered since the bus ride home. He had seen it happen with his own eyes, though he didn’t think much of it at the time. Right about the time school let out and the yellow buses began winding home, the skies had opened and spilled. Low banks of clouds came tumbling from the horizon like old woolen blankets. Like that scene from Independence Day, when the alien ships first appeared. Hues of purple, cobalt and charcoal smeared together. Not sky blue. Not normal. Riding on the bus, face pressed against the cold window, he didn’t know what to think. Only that it looked…otherworldly. Like God had put Van Gogh in charge for the day.

Strange.

Earlier, the day hadn’t felt weird. If anything, he had felt relief. Two days until Friday...until Thanksgiving Break. Only two days. He could make it. Standing by the mailbox with his three brothers, waiting for the bus—he couldn’t wait to get his own car—mild winds had stirred from the south, scampering through row after row of brittle stalks in the neighbor’s cornfield across the road. He heard them in the leafless oak and elm of his own yard, hissing with a high, dry laughter. Warm winds, not cold. But about noon, the wind shifted. Again, no big deal for Missouri, always caught in the middle between the gulf streams of Mexico and Canada’s bitter cold. Temperamental weather was normal in these parts.

Yet there it was. From the winding ride home to this very moment, he couldn’t rid himself of that dry-mouthed, queasy feeling. It was more than a shift in wind. It was a shift in energy. Yes, the dark clouds and strange colors reminded him of the thickening air before a big, cracking Midwestern storm, but that wasn’t it. This was different.

Hadyn being Hadyn, more than anything else, wanted to identify the moment. To name it.

Though he didn’t actually verbalize until age three, Hadyn was born with a question mark wrinkled into his brows. Always searching, always studying something. He couldn’t speak a word before then—refused to, his dad always said—yet he knew the letters of the alphabet at a precocious 12 months. When he finally did decide to talk, words gushed. Full sentences. Big vocabulary. Not surprisingly, it was clear early on that Hadyn was one of those types bent toward structure, patterns. He hated incongruities, hated not knowing how to pinpoint the strange twist in sky and mood right in the middle of an otherwise typically dreary day. If it was just nasty weather, name it! What did it feel like? Wet fish guts? Not quite. A full wet diaper? He remembered those well enough from when the twins were little, but no. A three day old slice of cheese?

Yes, that was it. Cold, damp, moldy.

Velveeta, actually, he decided, feeling a small measure of satisfaction. He fumbled for the zipper of his coat as another icy breeze prickled his skin. Yep, another lousy Velveeta day in the life of Hadyn Barlow.

He thought of the roaring wood stove back home. Hot cocoa. Little consolation. Until dusk, the oldest Barlow boy was stuck outside in a field with hatchet and hedge shears. Stuck in a foul mood, stuck with a knot in his throat. Just plain stuck. His task, his life, seemed endless and pointless.

“Just a little bit every day, however much you can manage after school,” his father would remind him. “And don’t look so grumpy. The days are shorter and shorter.”

But not any warmer.

“Grr!” Hadyn grumbled aloud, snapping at the cold in his thoughts. He had chosen to “clear” the massive beast by carving tunnels in it, not just hacking mindlessly. Probably not exactly what Dad had in mind, but, well, to be honest, he didn’t really care. He was the one stuck out here in the cold. He had already carved several tunnels, and reentered the biggest one now, loping and clicking his shears at the endless mess of thorns and branches, alternated by halfhearted swings of the hatchet. The briar patch sprawled a couple hundred feet in every direction, comprised of dense, overgrown nettles, blackberry bushes and cottonweed. Untended for generations, the underbrush was so thick and tall a person could easily get lost in it, especially toward the center, where the land formed a shallow ravine that channeled wet weather rains toward the pond on the lower field. Hadyn guessed the height at the center point would be a good 12 feet or more. Enormous.

Really, it was a ridiculous task. Dad had to know that.

“Why not just burn the thing?” Hadyn had asked him. Burn it, then brush-hog it. Throw a hand grenade in and run.

Mr. Barlow never really answered, just said he wanted him to clear it by hand. After the first day of grumbling and complaining (which proved none too popular with his father), Hadyn started carving tunnels. His plan was to craft a maze out of it, maybe create a place to escape...at least have some fun before his dad made him level the whole thing

Fun? He caught himself, tasting the word like a spoonful of Nyquil. Fun is soccer with the guys back home.

He paused for a moment to wipe his brow. Home was no longer a city, not for four months now. It was a cow pasture. Home had been Independence, the suburb of Kansas City whose chief claim to fame (other than being the birthplace of Harry S. Truman) was that Jesus would return there, at least according to one of numerous Mormon splinter groups. For Hadyn, it was all about skateboards and traffic and rows of houses. Noise. Friends. Now, all that—everything familiar and good—was exactly three hours and nineteen minutes straight across I-70 on the opposite end of the state. Might as well have been on the opposite side of the planet. Home now: three hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, away from all he had ever known.

The town was called Newland. The name seemed like a smack in the face.

New town. New school. New faces. New troubles to deal with. New disappointments. His dad had tried to make a big deal of the “new” thing. This would be a new start for their family, a new chapter, blah, blah, blah. A change, from sadness to hope, he said. Hadyn hated change.

He didn’t want new. He wanted it how it used to be.

How it used to be was happy. Normal. Right. Fair. How it used to be meant they were a family of six, not five. Hadyn felt a familiar pang slice across his chest. He would have traded all the unknown magic in the world for five more minutes with—

Mom...

It had been a year since she died. His mental images of her remained vivid, of a beautiful woman with porcelain smooth skin, naturally blonde, witty, vivacious. All four Barlow brothers shared her spunky attitude, as well as an even mix of their parents’ coloring: mom’s fairness, dad’s darker hair and complexion, the boys somewhere in between. Hadyn, rapidly entering his adult body, was tall for his age, muscular, lean, possessed of a sometimes uncomfortably aristocratic air. Some days his eyes were smoky jade, others, iron gray. But he had Anna’s cleverness.

His parents had been saving money for several years, studying the land all around Newland. Hadyn could not fathom why. What was so special about Podunk, America? But he knew his mom had been happy to think about life in the country. Once upon a time, that was enough. But now? Without her, what was the point? Why couldn’t they have just stayed in Independence? Moving wasn’t going to bring her back. Didn’t Dad know that?

For the second time that afternoon, a tidal wave of loneliness nearly drowned him, left him in a goo of self-pity, the sort of sticky feeling he didn’t want anyone to spoil by cheering him up. He took one more angry swing. Done or not, he was done for the day. Work could wait. Dad would just have to deal with it. Already, he had built a pretty impressive maze, though. Six unconnected tunnels so far.

Like I give a rip about these stupid tunnels, he thought as he crawled from the center toward the mouth of the largest, longest shaft. Or this stupid land, or town, or patch of—his knee jammed against a thorn protruding from the soil—thorny! ridiculous!...

He clenched his jaw, flashing through dozens of choice words, using none. Honoring his dad. Pain streamed as tears down his cheek, and it wasn’t just the thorn in his knee. It was life. Crawling forty more feet, he emerged to face the slowly westering sun melting down the sky. The otherworldly colors he had seen earlier were gone. Only the cold remained. And now, a bleeding, sore knee.

Behind him, he heard heard rustling grass and the high pitched, lilting notes of his brother’s tin whistle. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and grimaced. Ewan, like his mother, was musical. Even more like her, he was sentimental. He often carried the whistle she had brought him as a gift from Ireland. It would, no doubt, have seemed humorous to some, to see him wandering the field, playing a spritely little tune. It only annoyed Hadyn. Thankfully, as Ewan drew closer, the song trailed away.

“Hey, Hadyn.”

Hadyn grunted. “What do you want?”

Ewan shrugged, tucking the flute into his back pocket. He wore blue jeans, and a blue embroidered ball cap, initialed ‘ECB’.

“Wondered how things were going.”

“Dad sent you to help, didn’t he?”

Ewan frowned. “Yep. Got done with my chores sooner than planned.”

“Bummer.”

“Major bummer,” Ewan emphasized. “Looks like you’re near the center, though. That’s pretty cool.”

Hadyn didn’t reply. With only two years between them, the two brothers had always been the closest of friends, the fiercest competitors, the quickest of combatants. They understood each other’s rhythms like no one else in the family. Whereas Hadyn was studied, wise and cautious, Ewan was quick, fearless and comfortable with long odds. No one could make Ewan laugh—gasping-for-air, fall-on-the-ground-cackling—like Hadyn. Likewise, Ewan could frustrate Hadyn to no end, or, with the sheer power of silliness, cheer him up when a sullen moment was about to strike. Not much wanting to be rescued from his mood at the moment, however, Hadyn let his silent response wrap around him like a barrier against further penetration. He didn’t notice that Ewan’s gaze had drifted from the briar patch to the low sky and paused there.

“What do you make of that?” he dimly heard his brother say, distracted, curious. Through the haze of his own thoughts, Hadyn followed Ewan’s line of sight, his pointing finger, straight into the sunset. At first, he saw nothing. Then it was obvious. Several large, black birds were swooping low on the horizon. Even at a distance, it appeared they were headed straight for the two boys, unveering over the slope of the ground, drawing swiftly nearer, a hundred yards or so away. From the sound of their raucous cry, they were like ravens, only larger, throatier, and if possible, blacker.

“Cawl-cawl,” they cried.

Hadyn counted four total, wings outstretched, unflapping, like stealth bombers in formation. There was something organized and determined about their flight. It lacked animal randomness.

“Do they look strange to you?” Ewan asked, cocking his head.

Hadyn pretended to be uninterested. It didn’t last. “What is that in their claws? What’re they carrying?”

“Yeah, I see it. Sticks?”

“Too thick. It would be too heavy. Wouldn’t it?”

“Hard to tell at this angle. Are they heading for us?” Ewan held up his hand to shield his eyes. “Man, they’re fast. What are they?”

“I don’t know, but they’re still—”

“Look out!” Ewan dove to the side, tripping Hadyn in the process. Both boys hit the ground on a roll, turning just in time to see the birds swoop suddenly upward, arcing high into the sky, turn, then turn again. The lead bird, larger than the others, croaked loudly; the other three responded. Over and over, the same phrase, like a demand: “Cawl!”

All four were pitch black, having none of the deep blue sheen of a crow’s feathers, or so it seemed in the failing light. They flew as black slashes in the sky, all wing and beak, not elegant in the air, but fast. Disappearing completely against the lightless eastern expanse, they reappeared again as silhouettes skimming the western horizon. At first it seemed to Hadyn the birds would fly away, as they swept up and out in a wide arc. But the curve of their path soon came full circle. They were attempting another pass. Both boys nervously scooted further outside the angle of the birds’ approach.

“What in the world?” Hadyn said, hatchet raised and ready. It was clearer now in silhouette form. Each bird carried the form of a long, thick tube in their talons.

The brothers hunched on the ground, motionless, muscles tensed, watching as the birds continued their second approach. Hadyn held his breath. The birds didn’t veer, nor aim again for the boys. Instead, they formed a precise, single-file line, a black arrow shooting toward the main tunnel of the thicket. With a final loud croak—“Cawl!”—and not a single flap of wing, all four swooped straight into the hole, one after the other. As they did, each released the object clutched in its talons. The tubes clattered together with a light, tinny sound at the mouth of the tunnel, literally at the boys’ feet. The birds were already beyond sight. Their throaty noise echoed for a moment, evaporating into an obvious silence marked only by the faint breeze of wings passing over broken grass.

Hadyn and Ewan stared first at the tunnel, then at the objects. Then at each other. Then back at the tunnel. In the same instant, each of them leaped toward what the birds had left behind: four thin, black metallic tubes, trimmed with milky white bands at top and bottom.

Hadyn slowly stretched out his hand and picked up a tube. He rolled it between his fingers. It was about the length of Ewan’s Irish whistle, but thicker, maybe the circumference of a quarter. Not heavy at all. In the middle of each tube, finely wrought in scripted gold filigree, the letter ‘A’ appeared.

Ewan lightly shook his tube, listening for clues to its contents. It sounded hollow.

“They didn’t even have us sign for delivery,” he deadpanned. “What do we do with these? They look important.”

“How should I know?” Hadyn said contemptuously, flicking his eyes cautiously toward the tunnel. “Where’d they even go? I mean, really. Are they just hiding back there until we leave?”

“Who cares!” Ewan said. His disgust was obvious. Hadyn’s was being an analyst again. “This isn’t hard, Hadyn. Some big birds dive bombed us. They dropped these cool tubes. It makes no sense. It’s awesome. Totally, factor 10 cool.”

Hadyn mulled it over. “Maybe they’re some sort of carrier pigeon, but...do carrier pigeons even fly anymore?

“Only on Gilligan’s Island. TV Land. Listen to me, you’re just guessing.”

“Have you got a better idea?” Hadyn demanded.

Ewan waited, considered. Hadyn knew he hated being put on the spot like that, in the inferior position. Now it was Ewan’s turn to think.

“Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe those birds really are carriers of some sort?—” Ewan held up a tube, “—obviously they are. What if they need to carry these things farther still? What if they’re just resting? What if they are trained to do this when they need to rest? Drop their packages, find a hole, rest, then grab their stuff and carry on?”

“So...are you suggesting we flush them out? Cause there is no way I’m going to crawl back there. They can get out later on their own.”

Ewan didn’t reply. Instead he dug into his pocket, pulled out a small flashlight, and scuttled into the tunnel the birds had entered. “Wait here,” he ordered.

“Hey, watch it back there!” Hadyn cautioned. Secretly, he wanted him to go, knew how to punch his brother’s buttons to make it happen. “Those claws looked sharp!”

While he waited for Ewan to return, Hadyn examined the tubes further. He shook one tube, flicked it, smelled another; picked up and twirled the third and fourth tubes. His efforts yielded the same muffled sensation of something barely shifting inside. Maybe a rolled up piece of paper? If the ravens (or crows, or whatever they were) were carriers of some sort, a written message did make the most sense. But who in the world still sent paper messages...by bird? By raven, no less. Hello, email anyone?

Presently, Ewan reappeared, breathing hard.

“They’re gone,” he said simply. “Must have flown out one of the other tunnels.”

Hadyn creased his brow. “No way. None of the tunnels connect yet.”

“They don’t?” Ewan’s eyes widened as it dawned on him that he hadn’t seen any other tunnels. “No...they don’t.”

The two boys stared at one another in silence. Evening enfolded them; soon, darkness. “They must have crawled through the branches,” Hadyn surmised, but he hardly sounded convinced. “Are you sure you didn’t see them?”

Ewan rolled his eyes. “Hello? Big, black flappy things. Yes, I’m sure.” He grabbed one of the tubes, shook it again. “This band looks like ivory, but it’s hard to tell in this light.”

“Reminds me of one of mom’s necklaces.”

Ewan grabbed the end and twisted. “Only one way to find out.”

This time Hadyn didn’t argue or analyze. Curiosity had gotten the best of him. The lid twisted off with surprising ease, followed by a thin hiss of sealed air. Ewan wrinkled his face. “Smells old. Yuck. Turn on your flashlight. Mine is getting weak.”

He tapped the open end against the palm of his left hand. The coiled edge of a piece of thick, cream-colored parchment slipped out. Hadyn leaned in closer. Ewan gingerly teased the scroll out. It had a heavy grain of woven cotton, with rough edges trimmed in gold foil. Both boys let out a long slow breath. Neither the silver moon hung off the treeline, nor the winking stars, provided light enough to clearly see. Hadyn turned on his flashlight as his brother unrolled the parchment. The paper was larger than normal, rich to the touch. Pinning both ends to the ground, both boys read at once the simple message beautifully scripted on the inside in golden ink: “You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

“Dude!” Ewan whistled softly. “Looks like something from King Arthur. What in the world are the Hidden Lands?”

Hadyn, who actually loved the lore of King Arthur—and Ewan knew it—was already reaching for another tube. Ewan followed his lead. Within twenty seconds, all four tubes were opened, and four identical parchments lay spread on the ground in the dark, illuminated only by flashlights. Golden ink glimmered, subtly shifting hues. Each bore the exact same message.

“You have been chosen for a life of great purpose. Adventure awaits you in the Hidden Lands.”

Hadyn grabbed the four sheets, quickly rolled them up, and inserted each back into its thin metal sleeve. “We need to head home before Dad gets worried,” he said. “You take two and I’ll take two. Stick them under your shirt and act cool. I have no idea what these are. But for now, they’re our little secret.”

He puffed up for a moment, the older brother. Still out of sorts with the world.

“And none of your games, either, Ewan. I mean it. I’m not in the mood.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

House of Dark Shadows/ Watcher in the Woods

Titles: House of Dark Shadows/ Watcher in the Woods
Author: Robert Liparulo
Publication Date: May 6, 2008

Amazon Link
My Copy: Won through a book giveaway on Book Lover
My opinion: 3/5

Product Details:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595544941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595544940

Product Description:
When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.


My Review: These are suspenseful/thriller/fantasy books for young adults. I zipped through the first one in three hours, and quickly picked up the next. Now I somewhat wished I had waited until the third book comes out in January, because a lot of questions are raised and not enough are answered. And there are actually parts of the book that are a bit frightful/thrilling, which is rare to find in a young adult novel. But not too frightening, its still PG. This is also a Christian-based novel which I only noticed because of the Thomas Nelson publisher label. I thought, hmmm. But the spirituality is definitely not in your face, and something tells me that the philosophical point of view will be more prevalent later in the series. I actually haven't read a young adult Christian novel since Frank Peretti's archeology series came out years ago. Most of them tend not to be fantasy-based, so this one was a rare treat, and actually written quite well. If this tale has a moral, it would mostly be about how secrets and lies in families can greatly damage the family dynamic. Also, as a person who only had a sister, the interactions between the brothers, as well as their characters, came across as interesting and likeable. I think a person could easily identify with these characters and the reasoning behind their actions.

Here's the first chapter of Watcher in the Woods:



It's May 21st, time for the Teen FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 21st, we will feature an author and his/her latest Teen fiction book's FIRST chapter!


and his book:



Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert Liparulo is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly. He has sold or optioned three screenplays.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Here are some of his titles:

House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings Book 1)

Comes a Horseman

Germ

Deadfall


Product Details

List Price: $14.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 6, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595544968
ISBN-13: 978-1595544964


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1

At twelve years old, David King was too young to die. At least he thought so.

But try telling that to the people shooting at him.

He had no idea where he was. When he had stepped through the portal, smoke immediately blinded him. An explosion had thrown rocks and who-knew-what into his face. It shook the floor and knocked him off his feet. Now he was on his hands and knees on a hardwood floor. Glass and splinters dug into his palms. Somewhere, all kinds of guns were firing. Bullets zinged overhead, thunking into walls—bits of flying plaster stung his cheeks.

Okay, so he wasn’t sure the bullets were meant for him. The guns seemed both near and far. But in the end, if he were hit, did it matter whether the shooters meant to get him or he’d had the dumb luck to stumble into the middle of a firefight? He’d be just as dead.

The smoke cleared a bit. Sunlight poured in from a school-bus-sized hole in the ceiling. Not just the ceiling—David could see attic rafters and the jagged and burning edges of the roof. Way above was a blue sky, soft white clouds.

He was in a bedroom. A dresser lay on the floor. In front of him was a bed. He gripped the mattress and pushed himself up.

A wall exploded into a shower of plaster, rocks, and dust. He flew back. Air burst from his lungs, and he crumpled again to the floor. He gulped for breath, but nothing came. The stench of fire—burning wood and rock, something dank and putrid—swirled into his nostrils on the thick, gray smoke. The taste of cement coated his tongue. Finally, oxygen reached his lungs, and he pulled it in with loud gasps, like a swimmer saved from drowning. He coughed out the smoke and dust. He stood, finding his balance, clearing his head, wavering until he reached out to steady himself.

A hole in the floor appeared to be trying to eat the bed. It was listing like a sinking ship, the far corner up in the air, the corner nearest David canted down into the hole. Flames had found the blankets and were spreading fast.

Outside, machine-gun fire erupted.

David jumped.

He stumbled toward an outside wall. It had crumbled, forming a rough V-shaped hole from where the ceiling used to be nearly to the floor. Bent rebar jutted out of the plaster every few feet.

More gunfire, another explosion. The floor shook.

Beyond the walls of the bedroom, the rumble of an engine and a rhythmic, metallic click-click-click-click-click tightened his stomach. He recognized the sound from a dozen war movies: a tank. It was rolling closer, getting louder.

He reached the wall and dropped to his knees. He peered out onto the dirt and cobblestone streets of a small village. Every house and building was at least partially destroyed, ravaged by bombs and bullets. The streets were littered with chunks of wall, roof tiles, even furniture that had spilled out through the ruptured buildings.

David’s eyes fell on an object in the street. His panting breath froze in his throat. He slapped his palm over his mouth, either to stifle a scream or to keep himself from throwing up. It was a body, mutilated almost beyond recognition. It lay on its back, screaming up to heaven. Male or female, adult or child, David didn’t know, and it didn’t matter. That it was human and damaged was enough to crush his heart. His eyes shot away from the sight, only to spot another body. This one was not as broken, but was no less horrible. It was a young woman. She was lying on her stomach, head turned with an expression of surprised disbelief and pointing her lifeless eyes directly at David.

He spun around and sat on the floor. He pushed his knuckles into each eye socket, squeegeeing out the wetness. He swallowed, willing his nausea to pass.

His older brother, Xander, said that he had puked when he first saw a dead body. That had been only two days ago—in the Colosseum. David didn’t know where the portal he had stepped through had taken him. Certainly not to a gladiator fight in Rome.

He squinted toward the other side of the room, toward the shadowy corner where he had stepped into . . . wherever this was . . . whenever it was. Nothing there now. No portal. No passage home. Just a wall.

He heard rifle shots and a scream.

Click-click-click-click-click . . . the tank was still approaching.

What had he done? He thought he could be a hero, and now he was about to get shot or blown up or . . . something that amounted to the same thing: Dead.

Dad had been right. They weren’t ready. They should have made a plan.

Click-click-click-click-click.

David rose into a crouch and turned toward the crumbled wall.

I’m here now, he thought. I gotta know what I’m dealing with, right? Okay then. I can do this.

He popped up from his hiding place to look out onto the street. Down the road to his right, the tank was coming into town over a bridge. Bullets sparked against its steel skin. Soldiers huddled behind it, keeping close as it moved forward. In turn, they would scurry out to the side, fire a rifle or machine gun, and step back quickly. Their targets were to David’s left, which meant he was smack between them.

Figures.

At that moment, he’d have given anything to redo the past hour. He closed his eyes. Had it really only been an hour? An hour to go from his front porch to here?

In this house, stranger things had happened. . . .

Friday, July 11, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why this blog exists

*This is a brand new blog so please be patient as I put it altogether. Check back soon for lots of book reviews. If you have a book you want me to review or giveaway, please contact me.

I read quite voraciously - around 250 "chapter" books a year, so throw in a couple of thousand picture books from childhood and being a librarian, and I've estimated I have read about 9000 books.
I specifically enjoy the new Young Adult fiction genre, as well as mysteries, suspense, and fantasy. I want to share my love of reading through this website. I have created two other blogs - one on reviews and one on my research.
Click on the links below in each genre to find out my thoughts about that book.

Young Adult:



Christian Authors:



Informational Reading:

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Title: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publication Date: April 29, 2008
Amazon Link

Copy owned: Advanced Reading Copy
My opinion: 3.5/5

Product Details:
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805076689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805076684

Product Description:
Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson's vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.

My Review: This is a beautifully written book. There are a few one page chapters that are written like free-form poetry. This is a story that delves into the ethics of how far science can or should go. If I was a young adult, it would probably impact my thinking greatly, especially if I was not as familiar with this type of ethical situation. This is the type of book that stays with you, that helps form your future opinions about the subject matter. This novel takes place in the future, and one of the dilemmas it addresses is the overuse of antibiotics, a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I have always believed that the superbugs that the overuse of antibiotics causes is a dangerous situation that the world now faces. But that is a minor issue in this book that is filled with contemplative writing with the young girl's point of view clearly conveyed across the page. It is written in first person, and is written in such a way that you can really feel for this character, which is something I greatly appreciate.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pendragon: Book Nine Raven Rise

Title: Raven Rise, book 9
Author: DJ MacHale
Publication: May 2008
Amazon Link

My copy: Hardback bought thru Amazon
My opinion: 4/5

Product Details:
  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing (May 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416914188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416914181
Product Description:
This is where it begins. The showdown for Halla. At stake is nothing less than all that ever was and all that will be.

There's only one thing missing--Bobby Pendragon.

While Bobby remains trapped on Ibara, the battle moves to his home territory: Second Earth. Mark Dimond and Courtney Chetwynde are left on their own to defend Second Earth agsinst the forces of Saint Dane. They must face off against a charismatic cult leader who has risen to power by revealing a shattering truth to the people of Earth: They are not alone.

The Convergence has broken down the walls. The territories are on a collision course. The final phase of Saint Dane's quest to rule Halla is under way.

And Bobby Pendragon is nowhere to be found.



My Review: I love this series of books by DJ MacHale. Read this one in 7 hours straight - couldn't put it down. Each book in this series contains a fantastic adventure as well as the thoughts and contemplations of the book's main hero Bobby Pendragon. I've been eagerly awaiting this particular adventure because the cliff-hanger in the last book was a real hum-dinger and I really wanted to know what happened next. This style of book is often referred to as a boy's adventure book as if girls could only be interested in American Girls or Anne of Green Gables. I've always greatly enjoyed an adventure story, and I, and many other girls, do not mind that the main character is a boy. As is evidenced by Harry Potter, that doesn't matter to most girls. In fact, I often enjoy discovering a boy's point of view about things and how he thinks about the world at large and what is happening to him in the stories. This series though does have a strong girl character named Courtney who also has quite a few adventures of her own. The overall philosophical theme is free will vs. control - democracy vs. communism. In fact, I haven't read a better overall explanation of this theme since Terry Goodkind's The Naked Empire. That book though of course is bettter suited towards adult tastes, while this one is perfect for the teenage mind. I believe though that this series of books is not strictly for teenagers, it is for anyone who loves a good fantasy adventure story.
My only problem with these books is that he will often switch from Mark and Courtney's adventures to Bobby's adventures for a few chapters. So what often happens is that I skip ahead, read most of Bobby's adventures, then skip back and read Mark and Courtney's. The chapters are just too edge of the seat exciting to actually wait to find out what happens. Sorry DJ.