BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

BILL MYERS NEW YOUTH FICTION SERIES - A BLAST!












TJ AND THE TIME STUMBLER’S
By Bill Myers
Published by Tyndale
ISBN# 978-1-4143-3453-0
182 Pages



Back Cover: This six-book series centers around two 23rd century goofballs, Tuna and Herby, who travel back in time to study TJ Finkelstein for their history project. TJ will someday become a great leader who demonstrates honesty, integrity, thoughtfulness, self-sacrifice, respect for others—all traits she hones and grasps through her adventures in this series. Unfortunately, Tuna and Herby get stuck in TJ’s time (modern day), so she has to deal with their schemes while juggling the normal issues of a seventh grader who has moved to a new city, is trying to fit in, and is coping with her mother’s death and her family’s new life.

In New Kid Catastrophes, TJ accidentally makes an enemy of Hesper Breakahart, the superstar who attends their school. And Tuna and Herby’s attempts to help just lead to one disaster after another. In the end, TJ is still very unpopular, but she learns the value of looking past appearances and gains a few friends—and the attention of the most popular boy in school.

Review: I’m a huge Bill Myers fan. When an opportunity came about to receive a review copy of his new children’s series I quickly signed up. My two boys and I have benefited from reading other children’s series by this author and I couldn’t wait to read this new series. We loved the action packed, funny adventures in theses book with great messages I appreciated.  The quality of his new series is no different!

TJ Finkelstein’s family has moved from a small town in Missouri to Malibu, California, madness! TJ sees that Malibu Jr. High has some of the richest, snobbiest kids ever. She was the new kid on the block and in the school! Yikes!

One amazing thing was she lived next to the dreamiest boy, Chad Steel. Just so happens his girlfriend is Hesper Breakahart, T.V. Super star, miss popular! He’d never notice TJ or would he after the alien’s arrive?

TJ’s life was different but not impossible until two male aliens from the 23rd century traveled back in time to break down near her house. TJ Finkelstein is stuck with these two male aliens until they fixed their ship and could leave. They couldn’t leave fast enough for TJ, she couldn’t keep this secret from everyone including her immediate family. Living was traumatic enough without two alien guys following her around all day using their cloaking devices so only TJ could see them. Lucky her!

This is book one in the series.  I loved it! This series is geared for kids 8-12 and reminded me of two movies, Star Trek and the three stooges mixed together. This book had the three stooges slap-stick well timed humor along with Star Trek the next generation space toys and wild adventures. It took me away from the cares of this world and made me laugh and I could see the principles Bill Myers is trying to have the youth catch! Kids will be so caught up in the story drama and believable characters they won’t realize they are learning valuable character building morals along the way. It also challenges the reader to take a look at their lives and the choices they are making! It can be ok to do the right thing! I highly recommend this new series to anyone who wants to have fun and learn a thing or two along the way.

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network http://www.bookfun.org/





















TJ AND TIME STUMBLERS #2
By Bill Myers
Published by Tyndale
ISBN# 978-1414334547
192 Pages


Back Cover: This six-book series centers around two 23rd century goofballs, Tuna and Herby, who travel back in time to study TJ Finkelstein for their history project. TJ will someday become a great leader who demonstrates honesty, integrity, thoughtfulness, self-sacrifice, respect for others—all traits she hones and grasps through her adventures in this series. Unfortunately, Tuna and Herby get stuck in TJ’s time (modern day), so she has to deal with their schemes while juggling the normal issues of a seventh grader who has moved to a new city, is trying to fit in, and is coping with her mother’s death and her family’s new life.

In AAAARGH!!!, Tuna and Herby try to help TJ with a book report by getting the author to write it for her, but all three of them quickly see the consequences of cheating spiral out of control. Meanwhile, TJ’s cute neighbor and classmate Chad Steel is getting ready for a big surfing competition—and learning his own lesson about honesty.

Review: I loved book one so much in this series I was thrilled to read the review copy of book #2. The second book starts out with TJ still getting used to the idea of having two male aliens back from the 23rd century living in her attic. She has to hide them from her family and everyone else on the planet until they can fix their travel pod that crashed after running out of fuel. This book reminded me a little of the old T.V. series My Favorite Martian.

If life wasn’t stressful enough for TJ with going to Malibu High in California after living in a small town in Missouri most of her life, and trying to hide aliens from her family and friends was almost impossible - since she was the only one who saw them. They weren't sore on the eyes but having them follow her around was kind of weird and felt almost inescapable some days!

In an effort to hide the Aliens she accidentally embarrasses Hesper, the most popular girl in school, by tripping and landing on her with food of course. She knew this girl would get revenge. But what did miss popular have in mind? That was the question! Then she hears pirate noises from the other room. Oh, No! Now what have these aliens gotten her into?

 They start to explain to TJ that the only way to truly read a book is to experience it. TJ hasn’t a clue what they are talking about until she finds her attic is filled with pirates. Yes, they have just started to read Treasure Island. Now they were living the story in her attic. Could this day get any worse?

These aliens have space toys like you’ve seen in Star Trek the second generation. There space toys allow them to bring the book Treasure Island to life inside TJ’s house and they weren't quiet about it either. Now how was she supposed to hide them from her family and the next door neighbor Chadd Sheet – who just so happens to be dating the most popular girl at her school named Hesper Breakaheart, T.V. super star!

Hesper has plans for TJ and they aren’t good ones.  She wants to hire a detective to dig up some dirt on TJ! She couldn’t let the new girl get away with embarrassing her in front of the whole school! No one gets away with doing that – no one!
  
Ok, you have the set up for the best story! I enjoyed the second book as much as the first!! In both books I laughed at the parts where the characters in the book are faced with choices they need to make. I love how Bill spells out what the characters’ choices are and lets them think about the outcome of each choice - also giving the reader time to think about which choice was best! I loved that.

I like TJ and the quirky alien characters in the book and the adventures they take you on that will help you escape the pressures of your day, challenge the reader to see if it’s ok to do the right thing and have lots of fun in the journey! I highly recommend this series for your kid’s summer reading!!

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org

YOUTH FICTION AVAILABLE NOW




FINAL HOUR 
By Andrew Klavan
Youth Fiction
Thomas Nelson (July 19, 2011)
ISBN# 978-1595547156
352 Pages












Product Description
The Homelanders are attacking-and it's Charlie's last chance to stop them.
Charlie West was an ordinary high school kid who went to bed one night and woke up in the clutches of terrorists and wanted by the police for murder. He also woke up with no memory of the events of the last year.
His memory is returning now and has brought the terrible realization that he knows when the terrorists are going to strike next.
Whatever it takes, Charlie knows he can't give in or give up until they're stopped . . . even when the final hour is ticking away.





TAKEN 
By Brock Eastman
Publisher P & R Publishing (July 1, 2011)
ISBN# 978-1-59638-245-9
Young Adult Fiction









Book Description
'Five Four Three Two One!'
'We re out of here!'

Suit up! Jump into hyper flight with the four Wikk kids! Forced into a high stakes hunt for their missing parents by the sinister Cpt. Vedrik, the siblings' only hope is their parents' Archeos e-journal. Can Tiffany decipher the clues within it? As time runs out, it's all up to Oliver and his Federation training to fly the Phoenix and protect his crew. But twins Mason and Austin endanger the mission when they unexpectedly meet . . . the blue boy!

The Quest for Truth series unfolds as the four Wikk kids are thrust into a desperate race to find the mysterious planet Ursprung and stop the Ãœbel renegades from misusing its long-lost secrets. Ancient cities, treacherous villains, high-tech gadgets, the Phoenix encounter all of these and more on this futuristic, interplanetary adventure!







GRAVESTONE 
By Travis Thrasher
David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2011)
ISBN# 978-1434764195
432 Pages





Product Description
His Fear Will Soon Turn to Anger….

At first, Chris Buckley was simply warned. And watched. But as Chris unravels the haunting riddles of the town of Solitary, he finds that much more than the life of a town is at stake.

Whether facing a pastor with a house full of skeletons or a cousin he never knew existed, Chris is forced to choose between light and darkness, life and nightmarish death. Every choice he makes reminds him that the unthinkable has already happened—and if he trusts the wrong person, it may happen again.

This second book in the Solitary Tales continues Chris’s journey toward finding out who he is and what his own role is in the darkness suffocating his tiny new hometown. Filled with shocking twists, Gravestone is a tale of a teenager thrown into a battle over a town, a secret—and ultimately his own soul.








LOST IN DREAMS 
By Rober Bruner with Kristi Rae Bruner
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc. (July 1, 2011)
ISBN# 978-1602609624
368 Pages






Book Description
From the moment Kim Hartlinger steps off the plane from a mission trip to Mexico, her journey takes a turn for the worse. As she collides with the biggest challenge of her young life, will Kim’s best friends be willing to give her the support she needs? And will Kim let her father help her pick up the pieces?





SHATTERED By Melody Carlson
Published by Nav Press
ISBN#9781600069  208 Pages (JUNE)
Youth Fiction







Back Cover
Everybody does it—sneaks out of the house now and then. It's harmless enough, right? Not this time. Cleo Neilson faces the chilling consequences of her actions. Now she has a secret and can’t tell anyone, and it’s breaking her heart. As Cleo fights through her grief and guilt, she learns about faith in God and forgiveness through him. As teenage girls read Cleo's journey, they too will learn the value of having faith and receiving forgiveness as well as just how dangerous it really is to keep a secret.

[series copy]
Every teenage girl has a secret. And every teenage girl loves hearing someone else’s secret. But some secrets are big enough to detour, derail, or even destroy a young person’s life. Each of Melody Carlson’s Secrets novels will propel readers into a world where promises are broken, life is not fair, and challenges can make or break them, while ultimately helping readers discover that solid faith, loyal friends, and a persistent spirit will see them through.




These Youth Fiction Covers caught my eye!! I've also read a few of these authors Melody Carlson, Travis Thrasher and want to read the others. There are very interesting stories written for our youth. Just thought I'd point out a few!


HAPPY SUMMER READING!!!


Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
www.bookfun.org 

TBCN BIRTHDAY WINNERS

THANKS to the following sponsors without you Monday June 13th wouldn't have been much for or successful!! Thanks from the bottom of our hearts!!THANKS to B & H for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. They gave away the following books.
NO SAFE HAVEN by Kimberely & Kayla Woodhouse to Carmen Rose
OVER THE EDGE by Brandilyn Collins to Barbara Harris
BESIDE STILL WATERS by Tricia Goyer Lisa Nelson
THE SHADOW OF EVIL by Robin Caroll to Rick Estep
WORDS by Ginny Yttrup to Joy Hannabas
POMPEII by TL Higley to Sandi Andrews
BOOK OF DAYS by James L. Rubart to Pam Kellog
FADE TO BLUE by Julie Carobini to Laken Bailey

BIG THANKS to NOVO INK for sponsoring this part of our birthday party by giving away $20.00 gift cards to the following winners.Lee Ann Trupin,Jessy Villedroujn,Julia Reffner ,Rachel Savage,Kristen Lowery
GINNY YTTRUP
Thanks to Ginny for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a $40.00 gift card to Amazon to Virginia Rush. She also gave away a signed copy of her book WORDS to Amy Clark.
JULIE CAROBINI
Thanks to Julie for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a fun plaque to Brenda Daniels.
VICKI HINZE
Thanks to Vicki for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. Wendy Marple and Penny Davis signed copies of this book of Deadly Ties and Miralee Ferral $25.00 Gift Card to Amazon
JULIE LESSMAN
Thanks to Julie for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away three signed copies of her books to three lucky people that had the hard choice of picking one book out of the ones she has already written. Julie also gave away a $25.00 gift card to Rosemary Simm. The following people received (1) signed copy of their choice book. Mary Nail, Christy Janes, and Julia Reffner
MARY CONNEALY
Thanks to Mary for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away three signed copies of her books. Deep Trouble went to Leah Dymesich, Doctor In Petticoats to Wendy Marple and Montana Marriages to Tisha Cleveland.
C.J. DARLINGTON
Thanks to C.J. for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away three signed copies of her books and a $30.00 gift card. Jenny Blake from Australia won the $30.00 gift card to Amazon. And Casey Herringshaw, Julie Anne Tucker and Candy Yates won Bound by Guilt.

SANDRA BRICKER
Thanks to Sandra for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away two great book packages. The first was with two of her fiction books Always the Baker Never the Bride and the other book was Love Finds you in Carmel by the Sea. Carrie Turansky won this package. And the other was Sandra’s fun new devotionals and Sheryl Barnes won that set.
CHRISTA ALLAN
Thanks to Christa for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her book Walking on Broken Glass.
SARAH SUNDIN
Thanks to Sarah for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away signed copies of her books. A Distant Memory to Megan Tkacik and A Memory Between Us to Pat Trainum.
CRESTON MAPES
Thanks to Creston for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. He gave away two copies of his books. Full Tilt to Virginia Platt and Dark Star to Brenda Daniels.
PATTY SMITH HALL
Thanks to Patty for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her new book Hearts in Flight to Beverly Gordan.
MELANIE DICKERSON
Thanks to Melanie for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her book The Healers Apprentice to Kacie Woodmansee.
MISSY TIPPENS
Thanks to Missy for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her new book A Family for Faith to Kristen Lowery.
RONIE KENDIG
Thanks to Ronie for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her book Digitalis to Kacie Woodmansee and a $20.00 gift card to Chris Gant.
CHERYL WYATT
Thanks to Cheryl for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her book The Steadfast Soldier to Jo Legat.
MEG MOSELEY
Thanks to Meg for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her book When a Sparrow Falls to Leeann Turpin.
ANITA MELLOTT 
Thanks to Anita Mellott's publisher Judson Press for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. They gave away a a $25.00 gift card to Julia Reffner.
GRAHAM GARRISON
Thanks to Graham for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. He gave away two signed copies of his book Hero’s Tribute to Beverly Gordon and Judy Burgi.

GINA HOLMES
Thanks to Gina for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her book Crossing Oceans.
ALICE WISLER
Thanks to Alice for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her new book Hatteras Girl.
GLYNNA KAY
Thanks to Glynna for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away two signed copies of her books Second Chance Courtship to Sandi Andrews and Dreaming House to Penny Davis.
JANET DEAN
Thanks to Janet for sponsoring this part of our birthday party. She gave away a signed copy of her book Wanted, A Family to Rose Mary Simms.

KATHI MACIAS author of PEOPLE OF THE BOOK gave away the grand prize of the night a Kindle. THANKS Kathi for providing this most generous giveaway of the night. We had people actually waiting until 11:30p.m. that night to find out who won this prize and the winner was Denise Harmer.

THANKS TO ALL THE AUTHORS, B & H and NOVO INK for making our birthday party such a success. Thanks to the following blogs that helped us promote this event in a big way; Seekerville, Novel Journey, Ane Mulligan and other authors who made a blog post about this one year birthday party.

The Lord has taken us in a direction we hadn’t expected. He’s good at doing that. I’m excited to see books clubs learning and getting ideas from other book clubs. I’m excited that authors and book club leaders are connecting at TBCN. They too are learning from one another about what works and what doesn’t work at book club.

We have just added another sponsor to TBCN and that is Bethany House Publishers. I’ve set up a page for Bethany House and B & H with the authors that we have promoted her at the network. Both publishers have given me Discussion questions for their books and I’m working on putting them up at their pages.

We appreciate your prayers and support as we grow together in the year ahead!! You all are a blessing and I’m excited to learn from you too!! Thanks to all of you that helped over 400 people make the birthday party and most of the night we maintained a “live” chat of 60 readers and authors. Thanks to the authors that showed up that night. It was crazy fun!!
Sincerely,
Nora St.Laurent
TBCN

JULY CONTEST AT TBCN will include ANOTHER KINDLE GIVEAWAY!!  BETHANY HOUSE & B & H are sponsoring next months contest. We will be show casing THE SWEETEST THING by Elizabeth Musser  and DANCING ON BROKEN GLASS by Pamela Ewen.


STAY TUNED - We will be giving a few of Elizabeth's books away a few days before out July Contest!! Official Contest near the END of JULY!!


Hope to see you there!!

Nora :o)

CFBA TOUR - BRIDGE TO A DISTANT STAR - Reviewed



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Bridge to a Distant Star
David C. Cook; New edition (June 1, 2011)
by
Carolyn Williford


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carolyn Williford has authored seven books, including Jordan's Bend, Devotions for Families That Can't Sit Still, and Faith Tango, as well as numerous articles. She and her husband, Craig, live in Deerfield, Illinois, where he serves as president of Trinity International University. They have two children and four grandchildren.




ABOUT THE BOOK
It All Comes Tumbling Down

As a storm rages in the night, unwary drivers venture onto Tampa Bay’s most renowned bridge. No one sees the danger ahead. No one notices the jagged gap hidden by the darkness and rain. Yet when the bridge collapses vehicles careen into the churning waters of the bay below.

In that one catastrophic moment, three powerful stories converge: a family ravaged by their child’s heartbreaking news, a marriage threatened by its own facade, and a college student burdened by self doubt. As each story unfolds, the characters move steadily closer to that fateful moment on the bridge. And while each character searches for grace, the storms in their lives loom as large as the storm that awaits them above the bay.

When these characters intersect in Carolyn Williford’s gripping and moving volume of three novellas, they also collide with the transforming truth of Christ: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Bridge to a Distant Star, go HERE.

REVIEW:
BRIDGE TO A DISTANT STAR
By Carolyn Williford
Published by David C Cook
ISBN# 978-1-4347-6703-5
371 Pages

Back Cover: It All Comes Tumbling Down

As a storm rages in the night, unwary drivers venture onto Tampa Bay’s most renowned bridge. No one sees the danger ahead. No one notices the jagged gap hidden by the darkness and rain. Yet when the bridge collapses vehicles careen into the churning waters of the bay below. 

In that one catastrophic moment, three powerful stories converge: a family ravaged by their child’s heartbreaking news, a marriage threatened by its own facade, and a college student burdened by self doubt. As each story unfolds, the characters move steadily closer to that fateful moment on the bridge. And while each character searches for grace, the storms in their lives loom as large as the storm that awaits them above the bay.

When these characters intersect in Carolyn Williford’s gripping and moving volume of three novellas, they also collide with the transforming truth of Christ: Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

REVIEW: The cover grabbed my attention from the start. This author weaves the unexpected events of a real tragic mishap that happened on May 9, 1980, Friday morning on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, in Florida. I jumped at the chance to receive a review copy of this book to better understand the events of that day.

This author plunges the reader into the middle of three diverse family situations. She shows their struggle to deal with life’s unique issues that have them wrestle with their faith and relationships with one another. Their lives will never be the same after May 9th’s tragic accident.

The author starts out with the bridge collapsing and her thoughts on why this happened, and then she introduces the reader to one family at a time. Helping the reader care about every member and the struggle each faced!  She brought all three families together on that stormy day when the unthinkable happened. She showed how these families dealt with love, loss and hope! This story will grip your heart and make you appreciate every day with your family. You never know when it will take a sudden unexpected turn when you will “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” It won’t be easy but this author shows a way when there seems to be no way to survive and love again! Good summer reading!

Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org

CFBA - SHE MAKES IT LOOK EASY by MARYBETH WALEN


This week, the
 
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
 
is introducing
 
She Makes It Look Easy
 
David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
 
by
 
Marybeth Whalen
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, NC. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries writing team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. Her first novel,The Mailbox was released in June 2010. Her next novel, She Makes It Look Easy, will be released in June 2011. Additionally, she serves as director of She Reads, Proverbs 31 Ministries' fiction division.




ABOUT THE BOOK  
Ariel Baxter has just moved into the neighborhood of her dreams. The chaos of domestic life and the loneliness of motherhood, however, moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood play dates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable.

Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.

If you would like to read an excerpt of She Makes It Look Easy, go HERE.

NOTE: This looks like a fun summer read! LOVE the Cover. I have this book and will be reading it soon. I'll let you know how much fun I had!!


Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org 

BREATH OF ANGEL by KARYN HENLEY - FIRST CHAPTER

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Karyn Henley has written over 100 titles, along with being an accomplished songwriter nominated for a Dove Award. She also received a regional Emmy Award as Music Composer for a television special and lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, a jazz drummer.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Breath of Angel (WaterBrook Press, June 21, 2011), award winning author Karyn Henley brings to life the tale of Melaia, a young priestess who witnesses the murder of a stranger in the temple courtyard. A place where age-old legends recited in song suddenly come to life, in this story of two immortal brothers quest for restoration.

With Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories… Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm.

Young readers are sure to be intrigued and dig deeper into this make-believe story that explores the payment for redemption.



Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307730123
ISBN-13: 978-0307730121

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The prick of the thorn drew blood, but Melaia smiled. The last ramble rose of the season was well worth a pierced thumb. She carefully drew the blossom from the vine that clung to the side of the temple. As she breathed its rich, sweet scent, she sensed someone watching and looked up, expecting to see one of the novice priestesses. She saw only dry leaves skittering across the flagstones of the walled courtyard, along with a black feather, no doubt from a bird scavenging seeds in the woodpile.

     Then a haggard young man stepped through the gate, and Melaia drew back. The chill autumn breeze riffled the edge of his dirt-stained cloak, revealing the corner of a journey pack and the hilt of a dagger. Melaia gave him a tentative nod.

     “I’ve come—” His voice was dirt dry. He wiped his fist across his mouth.

     “I’ll fetch water.” Melaia tucked the rose into her waist sash and headed for the stone urn by the arched doorway. “Travelers are always welcome at our temple. We’ve pallets if you wish to stay the night.” She would have to check with the high priestess, but Hanni rarely turned away weary travelers.

     “My thanks,” the man croaked.

     Melaia flipped back her loose honey brown braid and dipped a pottery cup into the cool water. “I’m chantress here, always eager to hear new tales from travelers.”

     The young man looked too weary to tell tales. Or too ill. His dark-ringed eyes darted from one afternoon shadow to another, and he cocked his head as if he heard something beyond the walls.

     “We’re healers here as well,” she offered.

     For a moment his wild eyes focused on her. Then he glanced above her head, and his hand went to his dagger.

     But he never drew it.

     A hawk, larger than any she’d ever seen, shot like an arrow past Melaia and sank its talons into the stranger’s chest. The man’s raw screams pierced the air as the hawk’s beak knifed at his throat.

     Melaia stood stunned and speechless. But as the hawk flapped its great wings and lifted the man a handbreadth off the flagstones, her senses surged back.

     She snatched a branch from the woodpile and swung it at the hawk. The raptor screeched and dropped the stranger. “Fight!” she yelled at him. “Fight back!”

     But it was the hawk that fought, its wings beating at her stick as its claws snagged the man again. At last Melaia struck a solid blow to the hawk’s head, and it skidded sideways. She chased after it, but the raptor took to the air, quickly rose, and soared away over the domed roof of the temple.

     Melaia flung aside the stick and fell to her knees by the bloodied man. Then she covered her mouth and swallowed a bitter taste. “Most High, have mercy,” she croaked. Seeing wounds so deep and blood flowing freely, she wasn’t surprised that the stranger’s mistlike spirit had emerged from his body.

As a death-prophet, she could see the shadowy echo writhing around his form as he struggled to live.

     “Mellie? Is it safe?” Dark-eyed Iona stood in the temple doorway, holding back the other two novices. At fourteen, she was the motherly one, although Melaia was two years older. Curly-haired Peron, still baby plump at six, peered around Iona, clutching her skirts, while twelve-year-old Nuri broke away from them and ran across the yard, her usual dimpled smile gone.

     “Is he dead?” Nuri asked.

     “Not yet,” Melaia told her. “Take Peron and fetch a basket of plumwort. And water.”

     Nuri stared at the man’s wounds. “We saw the hawk.”

     “Go!” said Melaia. “I need plumwort to stanch the bleeding.”

     As Nuri dashed away, Melaia wondered why the high priestess hadn’t appeared.

     “Where’s Hanni?” she called to Iona.

     “Summoned to a birthing. The weaver’s wife.” Iona nervously twisted the end of her black braid.

     “Then come help me carry the man inside.”

     Melaia hesitated. She was often called to the bedside of the dying to confirm the moment of death, but never had she been required to reach through a spirit to touch someone. Of course, other people did it all the time, she told herself. They just couldn’t see the struggling, mistlike layer. She took a deep breath, grasped the man’s bloodied cloak, and pressed it to the gashes in his chest. His spirit pooled around her wrists, vibrating like a throat quivering with speech.

     “Can you hear me?” Melaia asked, keeping pressure on his wound. The stranger’s spirit thrummed frantically, as if he were trying to say something.

     “Where’s the plumwort?” Melaia yelled.

     Nuri ran across the yard, sloshing a jar of water. Peron trotted behind her with the basket of plumwort. Iona knelt at the man’s feet, her mouth moving silently in prayer.

     Melaia reached for the plumwort, but the man’s spirit slid off his body, thinned into a stream, and seeped through a crack in the flagstones. A sudden, grim silence fell over the yard. Melaia shook her head at Nuri and Peron and closed the man’s green-flecked eyes.

     Peron stuck out her lower lip. “I was too slow.”

     “No, I was.” Nuri’s shoulders drooped.

     “No one’s at fault,” said Melaia, but she couldn’t help thinking that the man might still be alive if she had only laid into the hawk sooner. “Let’s get him inside.” She lifted his upper body. For his bulk he was surprisingly light.

     Iona lifted his legs. “Starved twig-thin,” she said. “Poor man.”

     They carried the stranger to the sanctuary altar, the bier for those who

could afford no better. Melaia took a deep breath, wishing Hanni were there.

     “Iona, find me a winding-sheet,” she said. “Peron, go with Nuri. Fetch more

water and scrub the courtyard.”

     “But it’s bloody,” said Nuri. Peron wrinkled her nose.

     “Would you rather clean the man’s body?” asked Melaia. Nuri and Peron

scrambled out the door. Iona followed.

     Melaia gently eased the man’s cloak from his chest and winced, wondering where Hanni would begin. She exhaled slowly. “Start with the easiest,” she murmured.

     She untangled his pack from one forearm. As she slipped it free, she noticed the end of a small scroll clenched in his fist. “First the pack,” she told herself, glancing around. Her gaze fell on a shelf of incense bowls. She stashed the pack there, then turned back to the altar-bier and froze.

     The stranger’s cloak had fallen back and, with it, a long, white, bloodstained wing.

     Melaia’s knees almost buckled. “An angel?” she whispered. It couldn’t be. Angels were found only in legends. Chanters’ stories. Bedtime tales.

     Iona’s voice echoed down the corridor. “Do we need more water?”

     Melaia jerked the cloak back around the man.

     Iona strode in with a bundle of white linen. “Do we need more water?”

     “We need Hanni,” said Melaia.

     “You look as if you’ve seen the man’s ghost.” Iona looked around. “Has he

returned?”

     “Just go get Hanni.”

     Distant drums signaled the closing of Navia’s city gates and the change of watch on the walls. On the altar-bier in the temple, the winged man lay serene and clean, covered in white linen up to his chin. Melaia didn’t often sit with the dead, but as she lit the oil lamps behind the bier, she decided that tonight she would request a vigil. She hoped the high priestess would join her, for she had a night’s worth of questions to ask.

     But so far, the high priestess hadn’t returned. She had sent Iona back to say

that the birthing was a difficult one and she must stay with it, although she was upset at the news of a death in the side yard. Hanni intended to stop by the overlord’s villa and bring his advisor, Benasin, back to the temple with her.

     As Melaia held the flaming twist of rushweed to the last wick, she eyed the three girls munching their supper on a reed mat across the room. With Hanni gone they had asked to stay with Melaia instead of eating in the hearthroom down the hall. She was glad for their company. She felt as shaky as they did, although she hadn’t told them about the stranger’s wings. She wanted Hanni’s opinion first.

     Melaia tossed the spent rushweed into the brazier in the center of the room and stirred the coals into flame. For a moment she watched the smoke curl up and drift like a dying spirit out through the roof hole above. Except dying spirits always drifted down, not up.

     “I’m saving my scraps for the chee-dees,” Peron said, scooping her crumbs into a tiny hill.

     “Fetch your crumb jar from the storeroom, then,” said Melaia. “When you’ve finished cleaning up, I’ll tell a story.”

Peron stared warily at the dark corridor that lay beyond the bier.

     “I’ll go with you.” Nuri slipped one of the lamps from its niche. With an uneasy smile she guided Peron to the corridor, giving wide berth to the bier.

     Iona stoppered the olive oil. “Peron is telling tales again. This time it’s about two falcons scaring away her songbird friends.”

     “She must have been inspired by the hawk in the yard today.” Melaia stacked the empty wooden bowls and glanced at the stranger who should have eaten a meal with them tonight.

     “Peron said the falcons were darker than closed eyes,” said Iona. “I can picture that.” Melaia lifted her harp from its peg.

     “And they had people hands.” Iona rolled her eyes.

     “That I can’t picture,” said Melaia. “Too ghoulish.”

     Iona laughed. “With such an imagination Peron will surely become a chantress.”

     A shriek came from the corridor. Peron darted into the room, hugging her crumb jar, with Nuri on her heels. Both girls were open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

     Behind them limped a sharp-nosed, beardless man wearing a cloak fashioned

completely of feathers—brown, black, and an iridescent blue that glinted in the lamplight. The skin around one of his round gold eyes was blackened, and a scratch jagged across his brow.

     Melaia went cold, head to toe. How had the man entered? Had she left the side door unbolted?

     Nuri and Peron ran to Iona, and all three huddled by the wall. Melaia stifled her impulse to join them. Hanni had left her in charge, so in charge she would be. She had fought off a murdering hawk. She had prepared a bloody winged man for burial. She would stand up to this intruder.

     She strode to the brazier, her hands clammy as she clung to her harp. “This is the temple of the Most High,” she said, hoping he wouldn’t hear the quaver in her voice.

     “So it is,” he hissed, limping to the bier. “I believe I noticed that.” “What’s your business here?”

     He raised an eyebrow. “Surely you’re not the high priestess.”

     “She’s the chantress,” blurted Peron.

     “Ah. Singer of songs, soother of sorrows,” he crooned.

     “If you’re here for our treasury box, take it and be on your way,” said Melaia.

     “I have unfinished business with the high priestess,” he said.

     “You can find her at the overlord’s villa,” said Melaia.

     “No doubt.” With a gloved hand he slid back the sheet that covered the corpse. He smiled at the gashes, then studied Melaia. “Chantress, play your harp for me.”

     Melaia gaped at him. “You have no right—”

     “Or let me play it,” he said. “The little girl can bring it. The one who feeds the birds.”

     Peron’s eyes grew round as the supper bowls, and she shrank behind Iona’s skirts.

     Melaia hugged the harp tighter to her chest and glared at the man defiantly, even as she fought back a fear that curdled in the pit of her stomach. How long had this swaggerer been spying on them?

     His unblinking gold eyes stared back at her. “I do not take disobedience lightly.” His voice was ice. “Send the girl with the harp or play it yourself.”

     Melaia swallowed dryly. She felt her courage fall as limp as the poor stranger in the yard. Keeping her eyes on the intruder, she sank to a bench by the brazier and positioned the harp in her lap.

     “Let us hear the tale of the Wisdom Tree,” he said. “You know it, don’t you, Chantress?”

     Melaia scowled at him and motioned for the girls to join her. As she fingered

the melody, they silently gathered around, and she breathed easier. Together they were safer, with the brazier as a barrier between them and the bully.

     She turned her attention back to the harp, and over the music she spoke the tale.

     In a time long ago, there lived a tribal chieftain whose firstborn son was

a wealthy trader, his second-born a lone hunter. Each year at harvest festival, his sons vied to present him with the best gift. The Firstborn always gave perfumes, musicians, slave dancers, the treasures of his trade. The Second-born presented partridges, deerskins, lion-claw necklaces, the spoils of the hunt. But the Second-born thought his gifts paltry compared to those of the Firstborn. So he set out to seek the greatest gift of all.

     Far and wide he journeyed, to no avail. At last, weary and discouraged, he lay to rest in the shade of a tree as tall and wide as the tower of a citadel. The Wisdom Tree it was, bearing fruit that granted the eater knowledge and cleverness.

     Peron popped her thumb out of her mouth and chanted, “Within this tree stood the stairway to heaven made wholly of light.”

     “Exactly,” said Melaia, glad that for the moment the tale was distracting Peron from the intruder, whose gold eyes held a hungry glitter. Melaia continued:

     An angel named Dreia, guardian of the Tree, saw the Second son lying there and asked the cause of his despair. When he told his tale, she pitied him and gave him the juice of one fruit. “This will grant you knowledge and cleverness to find the right gift for your father,” she said.

     As he sipped the juice, the man’s eyes brightened. “I know the perfect gift,” he said. “A fruit from this Tree.”

     Dreia hadn’t intended to give the man a whole fruit. Its seeds were precious, carried by angels into the heavens to plant wisdom trees in worlds among the stars. Yet the man was handsome, his entreaties eloquent.

     At last Dreia said, “You may take one fruit if you vow to bring me the first creature that greets you when you arrive home. This I shall send over the stairway as payment. Moreover, you shall return the three

seeds of this fruit, for they are strictly forbidden to mortals. Should you fail to repay your debt, the Tree itself shall exact payment in breath and blood.”

     The Second-born agreed to the bargain, for the one who always greeted his homecoming was his old hunting dog. Taking his dog and the seeds back to Dreia would be good reason to see the beautiful angel again. So he carried the fruit home.

     While he was still afar off, he saw, bounding across the field to greet him, his young niece. “Uncle!” she cried. “Terrible news. Your old hunting dog has died.”

     The Second-born fell to his knees and wept, not for his dog, but for his niece, the only daughter of the Firstborn, now to be payment for his debt.

     Melaia paused as the intruder slipped off his gloves. His fingernails were long, curved, and sharp. Talons. Her pulse pounded at her throat. His blackened eye, his scratched brow, his feathered cloak, his limp.

     She had met him before. As a hawk.

     “Is there no ending to the tale?” He smirked at her recognition of him and stroked the corpse. “I favor endings.”

     Melaia felt foggy, as if she were in a dream. She tried to gather her thoughts.

     “The Second-born knew only one way to escape his debt,” Iona prompted.

     “Yes.” Melaia cleared her throat and forced out the words.

     The Second-born knew he had to destroy the Wisdom Tree.

     Dreia saw an army approaching, the Second son in the lead, betrayal in his heart. She gathered what angels she could. Some plucked the remaining fruit and hastened over the stairway to celestial worlds.

     Others stayed behind to defend the Tree. But these were not warring angels. The best they could do was save some of the wood as the Tree fell and was plundered by men who wanted pieces for themselves.

     “That was the end of the stairway,” Nuri said.

     “And the end of angels in our world,” added Iona.

     “But the brothers planted the seeds of the Wisdom Tree,” offered Peron,

“didn’t they?”

     “They did.” Melaia set the harp aside. “The brothers learned that cultivating wisdom takes patience.”

     The girls chimed in, “Wisdom, over time, is earned.”

The hawkman hissed. “A pitiful ending and woefully false.” He pointed a taloned finger at Melaia. “Remember this, Chantress. The Second-born abducted his niece and headed for Dreia. But fortune was with the Firstborn, for

     I discovered the treachery in time to rescue my daughter. To ensure that the Tree never collected on the debt, I destroyed it. My daughter and I ate the seeds, round and shiny, red as blood. We became immortal!”

     “You’re trying to haunt us with our own tale.” Melaia took up a poker and stabbed the coals in the brazier, determined not to show her fear. “There were three seeds.”

     “So there were,” said the hawkman. “The third I crammed down my brother’s throat. Now he owes his debt for all eternity. And it is my pleasure to make sure he never repays.” He grinned at the dead man. “Son of Dreia, this night you are destroyed.”

     He snatched up the corpse, and its wings unfolded. The girls shrieked and ran to Melaia.

     The hawkman dropped the body back to the bier as if it had burned him.

     Then he cursed and shoved it to the floor. He scanned the room. “The man

had a pack. Where is it?”

     “Maybe he lost it in the side yard.” Melaia felt her face grow warm at the half lie.

     But the man didn’t press his search. Instead, he stiffened and stared at the front door, his head cocked, listening. Melaia heard only wind, but the hawkman slowly retreated, tense as a cat backing away from danger. He glanced from the door to the window to the roof hole, where smoke drifted into the night. Then he hurtled toward the brazier, and his body contorted.

     All of Melaia’s instincts screamed at her to run, but she stayed her feet, clenched her jaw, and gripped the poker with both hands. As the hawk leaped into the flames, she swung with all her might.

     She struck only air as he rose in the smoke and vanished.
NOTE: This cover is gripping and chilling all at the same time. It's definitely intriguing and is on my TBR Pile! This is a new author for me and will definitely be checking out this book in the near future. I just wanted you all to get a peak at a new book and new author!! Could make for a good summer read!!


Blessings


Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org