Children’s Picture Book – Amazing Matilda: A Monarch’s Tale

Amazing Matilda: A Monarch’s TaleAmazing Matilda
By Bette A. Stevens
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1470187668
Published: July 2012
Pages: 34
Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Want to inspire the kids in your life to meet challenges with patience and persistence?

AMAZING MATILDA will show you how. MATILDA becomes discouraged when she is unable to fly during the early stages as a larva. But, this Amazing Monarch never gives up on her dream. Unlike her meadowland friends, Matilda doesn’t want to leap onto ledges or bound across fields, she only wants to fly. At first, Matilda’s friends laugh at her because she doesn’t have wings. They wonder: How can a creature without wings ever hope to fly. While Matilda progresses through the various stages of her metamorphosis from egg to butterfly, her friends recall how they felt before they were able to do all of the things they had dreamed of doing and how hard they had to keep trying to do all of those things. Encouraged by her meadowland friends, MATILDA learns that if she tries hard enough and long enough, she can do anything that she really wants to do.

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Travel Memoir – Touching Velvet: A Year in the Czech Republic

Touching Velvet: A Year in the Czech Republic
By Max Boyle
Publisher: Luke Sam Publishing
ISBN: 978-1475217292
Published: August 2012
Pages: 272
Genre: Travel Memoir

Touching Velvet is the tale of departing a routine job in Britain to spend a year living in the Czech Republic. The book is set largely in the charming South Bohemian town of Tabor, where, a decade after Czechoslovakia’s famed Velvet Revolution of 1989, the author casts off a midlife crisis and embarks on a new, exciting career as an overseas teacher of English, and revels in the expatriate life.

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Fantasy/Romance – World of Ryyah: Birth of the Half Elves

World of Ryyah: Birth of the Half Elves
By H. L. Watson
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
ISBN: 978-1937293420
Pages: 192
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

When Donovan was twelve years old, his village was raided by barbarians; his father killed, his mother taken, and he and the other village boys nearly suffered the same fate. But the raiders made the mistake of taking their captives through the Elven woods. The Elves killed the slavers, but mysteriously decided to spare the boys; instead, the boys were trained in the ways of the Elven Rangers under the tutelage of the beautiful Alayna. Over the years, the boys proved to be a valuable asset to the Elven king, but never more so than when young princess Brandela is taken hostage by a different Barbarian tribe. Donovan sets out to bring back what he assumes will be a haughty princess, but he never expects to fall in love with her!

Donovan & Brandela’s love, forbidden by both of their races, will change the world of Ryyah forever. The fantasy genre is already populated with books featuring Elves of all forms, but somehow Watson has succeeded in crafting a something unique with World of Ryyah: Birth of the Half-Elves. This world is not particularly well-fleshed out yet, but readers get a sense of some of the dynamics at play here: sparsely-populated human regions, fierce barbarians, several distinct groups of Elves, and a definite distrust that exists between the races. But as this novel is only the first in a promised epic series, there is plenty of time for the author to expand on these ideas.

Themes of love, loyalty, and courage are prevalent in this story, and you can’t help but be enchanted by the magic that is strongly woven throughout the world – and the story. Lovers of fantasy novels will find themselves eagerly awaiting the next in this series. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys the genre.

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YA Fantasy – Shapeshifter

Shapeshifter
By Diana Bastine
Publisher: Helm Publishing
ISBN: 978-0983010944
Published: January 2012
Pages: 222
Genre: YA Fantasy

As if Caitlin Flynn doesn’t have enough on her mind – with the impending decision of where to attend college and her budding romance with Fortescue – she finds herself involved in paying an old debt to the Tuatha de Danann, the Fairy Folk. Fairies are disappearing at an alarming rate, and when Caitlin’s cat turns out to be a shape-shifting Tuathat investigating the trouble, she, her father Niall, and their Hamelyn friends Fortescue and Mortimer quickly become embroiled in another fantastical adventure.

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Young Adult – The 89th Temple

The 89th Temple
Author: Charlie Canning
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 978-1478717638
Published: November 2012
Pages: 212
Genre: Young Adult

For more than fifty years now, William Golding’s classic Lord of the Flies has been the default book on bullying for the language arts classroom. While that is unlikely to change in the near future, The 89TH Temple, set on a Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan, is an updated multicultural look on the subject of bullying complete with school sports and field trips, cell phones and blogs, reform schools and electronic surveillance. Whether readers are working in an office or studying in a classroom, they will find plenty to identify with here.

On the island of Shikoku in Japan, there is a pilgrimage of 88 temples. Once an ascetic rite of passage for monks, it has become a more generalized ritual of penance and spiritual rejuvenation for troubled souls. Seven juvenile offenders on leave from various reform schools are doing the 1,300-kilometer pilgrimage on foot with a counselor and some assigned wardens from the state. The youths are under strict observation with at least one of the supervisors with them at all times. Once the seven finish the pilgrimage, they will be released. Will they rejoin society or leave it behind?

The Seven Samurai meets The Fugitive for young adults.

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Juvenile Fiction – Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures

Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures
Author: Malve von Hassell (translation)
Tamara Ramsay (German original)
Publisher: Two Harbors Press
ISBN: 978-1938690389
Published: December 2012
Pages: 298
Genre: Children, Juvenile Fiction

Imagine riding on the back of a blue heron across time and space. Imagine befriending crows, being kidnapped by magpies, and being given a lift on the back of a kindly stag. Imagine experiencing life as an outcast from human society, encountering spirits and mythical creatures from the world of legends, experiencing the plague in Dresden, and being chased through Berlin by Frederick the Great.

Dott is a twelve-year old girl. She lives in the countryside east of Berlin in an unspecified time between the two world wars. When Dott sneaks out to see the bonfire at the edge of her village on the evening of the midsummer night festival, she has no idea what will happen next. In the dark of night, the magical Rennefarre flower falls into her shoe. It not only makes her invisible, but also allows her to see things no one else could see. No longer able to stay with her parents and her young brother and sister, she begins her search to find a way out of her predicament. Her quest to return home to her family winds its way through the cities and countryside of 20th century Germany—and beyond. As she befriends the local animals, they help her on her way with gifts of food, shelter, and—through the help of a kind spirit—a magical cup which allows her to become small and ride on the backs of the birds. Flying across the country on the backs of crows and herons, Dott finds herself seeing the country not only as it is, but also as it used to be. She lives through moments in history others can only read about—meeting historical kings and fanciful spirits along the way. But, even with all of the excitement of her travels, she always has one goal in mind: returning home to her family.

Part coming-of-age story, part fantasy, and part social-cultural portrait of Eastern Germany in the early part of the 20th century, the book covers real ground. That is, one could follow Dott’s travels on a map of the area. Seamlessly blending elements of fantasy and history, the book contains a fascinating array of details of day-to-day life in rural and urban areas in eastern Germany. Dott’s adventures are interwoven with folklore and myths as well as vivid accounts of different eras and the diverse cultural and ethnic strains that have formed the basis for a rich and complex history of Germany and Eastern Europe.

Written on the eve of World War II, the book offers a sobering perspective on the human potential for causing devastation. At the same time it is filled with hope. In one scene, Dott gets a glimpse of the future–an utterly destroyed cityscape; it inspires her to look to her own responsibilities and actions in life.

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