Arrow of the Mist, by Christina Mercer

Last time I promised you my favorite Emblazon title from over the winter. This one takes top honors!

arrow of the mist

This book is a textbook example of what I love most about the children’s genres: a strong lead, incredible fantasy world, an imaginative plot, absolutely gorgeous prose, and a lingering depth to the story that I can take away with me and mull over later. I can’t think of a single negative. I was completely captivated by this one.

Lia has a botanical gift. She knows the ancient names, ancient uses, and ancient lore for every plant. Unfortunately, the king has outlawed such practices as well as entry into the mystical lands of Brume that lie hidden behind the curtain of mist. But when Lia’s father and several others contract an unknown sickness, she and her cousin must journey into the unknown land to find the cure. There Lia learns secrets of her family’s past, abilities she never would have imagined, and dangers beyond her worst nightmare.

I loved that Lia’s ability to wield magic stems from ancient herb lore. She’s a fantastic lead, strong, brave, and heedless of the disapproval others might have for her. Instead, her focus lies on the job she must do. Her cousin, Wynn, isn’t quite as developed, but he’s loyal and brave and makes a necessary accompaniment to Lia on her travels. And their path takes some wildly unforeseen turns. Brume is an incredible, well thought out world with mysterious characters at every turn.

And now to share some examples of Christina’s beautiful writing style:

“Lia turned her head from their scorn and swallowed down the retort growing bitter on her tongue.”

Squeaky Award“Dunley Meadow sprawled out in front of them, a blanket of golden stalks bending to the whispering breeze.”

“When he stopped and answered her, his words were slow and deliberate, like a steady drizzle of rain seeping deep into the soil.”

“The day dragged against the sky, and the dimly lit sun melted into the horizon.”

Breathtaking, isn’t it? The ending implies another episode to follow. I’ll be standing in line.

Want to grab a copy? It’s just .99!

Breaking news! I’m pleased to announce that Arms of Anu, the sequel to Arrow in the Mist, just released in March! I’ve already gotten my patties on it. I’ll give you the low-down very soon. :)

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christina mercerChristina Mercer, writes fiction for children and young adults and is a member of Emblazon. She’s also a CPA, a Certified Herbalist, and a beekeeper. Other random facts: she’s ambidextrous and she doesn’t eat mammals (they simply don’t taste good). Writing credits include placing in the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and taking Writer’s Best of Show at an SCBWI Regional Conference. She enjoys life in the Sierra foothills with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees.

Our Choose-Your-Own Story Hit Kindle

Tony the PhonyYou probably remember back in March when I published my kids’ homeschool writing project, a choose-your-own story, on a whole bunch of blogs. We decided to go one step farther and publish it as an interactive Kindle book. You can see it received a cover update. It’s now available on Amazon for just 99 cents. So far, it’s been a hit. And one former homeschool student now working on her PhD even hailed it as “a really neat example piece of a curriculum tool, in addition to a fun little adventure story, that could be very helpful to other homeschool parents with kids who like to write”.

If you are a teacher or a homeschooler looking for a unique writing project, I wrote up a post about how we did it. Check it out over at the Quest Teaching blog. It was a time investment, but so worth it.

New Today!!

the stolen kingdomYou may recall a post I did last year announcing Ross Rosenfeld’s then new release, The Stolen Kingdom. I did not do a review simply because I had begun guarding my writing time so closely and did not have time to read it before I posted. (If you want a review, see Erik’s post over on This Kid Reviews Books.) You can read The Stolen Kingdom free on Kindle.

TODAY, Ross released a companion story to The Stolen Kingdom entitled The Greenest Valley. Again, I’m just making the announcement. I have not read it yet. Here’s the blurb on Amazon.

the greenest valleyIn this first companion story to the novel The Stolen Kingdom, you’ll go along with Winkle on an adventure like none you’ve ever heard before. Forced to live underground for hundreds of years due to their deformed appearances, the Pooglians find themselves faced with the prospect of starvation when a harsh winter makes animals scarce and crops nonexistent. Young Winkle and a band of seven other Pooglians are selected for a desperate journey to find food. What they find is danger, lurking behind every mysterious twist and turn. Expect many unusual surprises as you travel along with them. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Contains significant violence.

Interested? Have you read the novel? You can grab The Greenest Valley  Kindle edition for just .99.

The Gypsy Pearl

Here’s another Emblazon title that I read this winter. I’m really, really excited about these next two. This one is my second favorite. It’s by one of my favorite authors–cheerleader extraordinaire and soon-to-be black belt, Lia London. You’ll have to tune in next time for my top favorite.

Okay, I wrote up a fantistic review for this one right after I read it and promptly lost it. A few weeks later, I wrote this one. I feel like it doesn’t quite do it justice. But the book was an easy five stars.

Gypsy PearlCaz doesn’t mean to get in trouble, but trouble always seems to find her. When a choice of punishments includes a penal institution on the Surface, she jumps at the chance. She’s always hated life on the Arxon, an Interplanetary City Station and has dreamed of visiting the Surface. This is her long-awaited opportunity! But she doesn’t count on the transport ship filled with gypsies. Or the bloody encounter with their creature and its life-altering results.

This is my favorite Lia London book so far (and I’ve read them all), but I’m not sure I can actually pinpoint why. Ms. London’s writing is always beautiful. She’s an artist who paints in words. The prose is always smooth and easy to read.  I do believe she’s getting better and better. Perhaps it’s because Caz is my favorite character. I quickly identified with this quirky kid. I sympathized with her, and I laughed out loud at some of the outrageous things she said. The adventure is definitely part of it, as well. The plot led in some unexpected directions. But the ordinary gets a special touch, too. I especially loved rediscovering wind and smells and dirt with someone who had never experienced them before.

Squeaky Award

The mystery has me to eagerly await the next installment, which leads me to my one complaint. Three times Lia has written book one of a series. I want to read a book two. :)

This one, please!

Grab a 3.99 copy on Amazon.

Lia also wrote Magian High, which just got an awesome new cover, designed by Emblazoner Mikey Brooks. You can see it and my review here.

A Free Song! Award-winning Fiction Free Today

Song of the Mountain is free today on the
Kindle Books and Tips website.

Yes, I know it’s always free, but I paid to get the word out on a large site. If you’ve got a second, please make use of the share buttons at the bottom of this post. Thanks! :)

Nominated for the 2013 Cybils Award.
Semi-Finalist in the 2013 Kindle Daily Book Review Book Awards.

Song new

Mud and mire shall birth a tree,
A sprout shall grow of ancient seed.
The five unite to break the one,
The curse of man shall be undone.
But brothers rise ere dragon’s bane.
The last shall smite the first again.

Orphaned at a young age, Song Wei has grown up listening to his grandfather recite legends of the distant past. But it is his own history he seeks to uncover to guide him toward the future, particularly the events surrounding his parents’ deaths. That is a secret closely guarded by his grandfather. Then Song discovers an heirloom that links him to an ancient prophecy. His destiny lies within the old tales he has scorned. Song must follow the path that killed his father.

Allegiant (Divergent, 3), by Veronica Roth

cover_allegiantWow! This was a very powerful, emotional ending to a kick-butt series. After being somewhat disappointed in book two, book three made a strong comeback. I regret having to read them each a year apart. I forgot a lot in between. Someday, I’ll go back and read them all again the same week.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series (probably not many left after the movie—which I thought was excellent), book one, Divergent (my review), sets up a futuristic world where factions are set in place to maintain order after a devastating war several generations back. We meet Tris and Four, our heroes. It is the story of Tris’s very difficult decision to leave her family and enter the faction of her choice, only to find she is Divergent—her genes are different than the norm—and the Divergent are being hunted. Then one faction rises above the others, initiating a war. In book two, Insurgent (my review), the factionless—destitute, bottom-of-society folks—rise, plunging the city into a new revolution. But new secrets are revealed, hinting that there is far more to their history, and far more to the world beyond the city. Book three takes Tris and Four beyond the city and uncovers the mystery of how the factions began—genetic manipulation. And reveals the horrible plans the government has for the city they grew up in. Plans that throw our heroes into action for a third time.

I know that was not very detailed, but I don’t want to give anything away—rather tricky when talking about a third book. Suffice to say that this series is extremely engaging, with a bit of romance and non-stop action. It’s one of those books that ignites the writer within me to try for such tension, such emotion, in my readers. I highly recommend it.

Some further thoughts. This series is violent. There is a lot of power-grabbing and insurrection going on. There are also some moments of intense kissing. And it hits on some tough subjects. I put an easy 14+ age limit on it in our house. But Tris and Four are both honorable, and Ms. Roth, while she doesn’t write a squeaky clean book, does exhibit a great deal of restraint in the areas of sex and language. And—I love this—she makes the relationship between Tris and Four very real. They are both seriously imperfect, and their interaction reflects that. Unlike most teen romances, Ms. Roth doesn’t create unrealistic expectations for girls looking for Mr. Right. They won’t live happily ever after just because they get married. This is one of my favorite quotes:

“I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.” That’s not fairy tale. That’s real.

In conclusion, if you haven’t read this series yet, it’s intense. Easily one of the best YA series I’ve read. If you like dystopian, make this one your next library choice.

Paperback links…

So I couldn’t stay away from my computer for a week. But I have read a whole bunch of books so far. Just finished the last Divergent book. Ooooo…got a review coming tomorrow. And yesterday I saw dolphins! Today, however, I have some new paperback links for you.

Acting on the advice of a children’s librarian, I’m slowly changing my paperbacks over to a more school-friendly size (from 6×9 to 5.25×8). Song of the Mountain and Fire on the Mountain are now available, both in the new size. The links are at the top of my sidebar.

:)