Book Love, Christian fiction

Book Review: The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

Book cover The Story PeddlerBack cover copy: Selling stories is a deadly business.

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories — she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down … and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers … and they’re after her too.

My review: My favorite part of The Story Peddler was the magical “system”—colored ribbons literally flow from the hands of people who are gifted as storytellers as they share tales of the kingdom, crystallizing into objects that represent the story. How cool (and imaginative) is that? Tanwen is exceptionally good at storytelling, especially considering that she’s not old enough to be a registered storyteller yet.

Years ago, storytellers were appreciated and had a wide repertoire from which to entertain their audiences. But that changed when King Gareth gained the throne and outlawed any stories that didn’t show him in a favorable light (known as “crowned stories”). Tanwen knows this and follows the rules when she’s selling stories. But odd feelings begin to crop up while she tells stories—odd feelings that get harder to squish into submission and that begin to show themselves as rogue story strands that alarm Tanwen, her listeners—and the king himself.

As Tanwen runs from the king and his henchmen, she learns valuable lessons in trust and loyalty from a rogue group of weavers who take her under their protection. She also learns that there’s a lot more to family than the people from your bloodline and that making dreams come true often involves layers both good and bad that you never imagined.

The story didn’t have a definitive faith plot thread, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. There are references to the state-sanctioned religion based on goddesses (which is quite corrupt and often ignored )and mentions of a Creator, but nothing extensive. Values such as honesty always being best—even when it carries a cost—are a big part of the story and Princess Braith is one of the few people close to the king who routinely shows compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. That’s a message in itself: setting an example and standing true to your convictions no matter what the people around you might think.

Who should read it: Tanwen’s story continues with The Story Raider and The Story Hunter. I’m not planning to read them right now because I have so many other books on my to-read pile, but might look at them someday. If they’re along the same lines as The Story Peddler, I would classify them as good material for middle school or early high school. See my first peek at The Story Peddler in this First Line Friday post from January and learn more about author Lindsay A. Franklin on her website.

Book Love, Just for Fun

First Line Friday: The Story Peddler

Happy Friday, friends!

Welcome to First Line Friday, where book lovers across blogland share the opening line from a nearby book (since we all have books everywhere we turn).

Today I chose The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin. It’s the first book in the Weaver Trilogy and is my choice for next month’s fantasy/science fiction book in the 2021 Read Something New Challenge. I’ve not read any of her books but they keep popping up in my Instagram feed, so why not give it a try?

Book cover The Story Peddler

First line:

Colored ribbons of light poured from my fingers.

Sets the stage for all sorts of interesting things, I think. Read more at:

Lindsay A. Franklin’s website   |   Goodreads

Your turn: What’s your first line for today? Open the book nearest you and post the first line in the comments. Then hop over to Hoarding Books (the blog I’m joining in this fun) to see what they’re sharing.

Happy reading!

 

Book Love

Three great YA books for giving (or reading yourself)

YA books have come a long way in the last 10 or so years. Yes, you’ll find some cheesy or cookie-cutter stories that don’t seem connected with today’s world (those still surface in every genre). But the young adult book market has become really competitive – which means higher expectations from publishers and better books for us as readers.

The YA titles on today’s shelves cover any genre you might want. And although a glance at their covers in the local bookstore might make it seem like they all tie in with dark topics, there are plenty that can entertain and challenge you without being something you would have hidden from your mom when you were 15.

Here are three I’ve read lately that are clean reads for teens – or anyone else – who want a great story that pulls you in and keeps you guessing on every page.

Book cover of Nine by Rachelle DekkerNine by Rachelle Dekker

Back cover copy: Some secrets can’t stay hidden. Zoe Johnson has spent most of her life living in the shadows, never drawing attention to herself, never investing in people or places. But when a wide-eyed, bedraggled teenager with no memory walks into the diner where Zoe works, everything changes.

Against her better judgment, Zoe, who has been trying to outrun her own painful memories of the past, finds herself attempting to help a girl who doesn’t seem to have any past at all. With little warning, they must follow the only sure thing they know: a woman hundreds of miles away will either save them … or be the last person to see them alive.

This book grabbed me within the first few pages, when the mother figure in Lucy’s life helps her escape from people who have been controlling her from birth. She sends Lucy to find another woman who can help; Lucy meets Zoe along the way and they both know nothing will be the same. The people who have controlled Lucy are hot on her trail and determined to do whatever it takes to keep her from exposing their work. Lucy and Zoe don’t even know each other, but still realize they can trust each other more than anyone else.

Everything about the story is believable and kept me guessing until the end. Even though I expected twists along the way, the story surprised me several times. And kept me up reading way past my bedtime more than one night.

I already have two more of her books on my to-be-read stack, if that tells you anything about how much I enjoyed Nine.

Book coer of Dust by Kara SwansonDust by Kara Swanson

Back cover copy: The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale. Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real — since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London … and a boy who shouldn’t exist.

Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins.

The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan — and herself.

I’ve read quite a few fairytale retellings over the years and must say it’s hard to keep them from being predictable. Dust is different because it isn’t a new take on the all-too-familiar story of Peter Pan. Instead, it’s a modern-day tale of Peter doing whatever he can to get back to Neverland – and he’s not always the sunny, charming Peter you might expect. The book is written from both Claire’s and Peter’s points of view, so it’s fun to get inside both their heads.

Having a cover this gorgeous sets a high bar for the story – you don’t want to open something that striking and read junk! Fortunately, Dust definitely met the mark for me and I’ll be reading the sequel, Shadow, when it’s published in July 2021.

Book cover of Thirst by Jill WilliamsonThirst by Jill Williamson

Back cover copy: A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Seventeen-year-old Eli McShane and his friends flee the chaos and violence in Phoenix and journey north toward the rumored location of a safe water source. They add several to their number, including a mysterious girl named Hannah, who, unknown to Eli, is being hunted by a dangerous man. Desperation brings out the worst in many of the travelers, infecting even those closest to Eli. When division comes, will he be able to hold his group together or will each fall victim to their own thirst for survival?

I read a couple other books by Jill Williamson several years ago but missed this one when it came out in 2019. I’m glad I came across it a few weeks ago. It’s a good story with believable teenage characters and good lessons about friendship, leadership and growing in your faith. Not in a preachy way, but woven naturally into the story so that the points are made if you take time to stop and think.

Some people might not want to read Thirst right now since it centers on a pandemic, but that didn’t bother me. The follow-up book Hunger will be published next year and I’ll definitely want to read it to learn what happens to Eli and his friends.

 

There are lots of other great YA books I’ve enjoyed and recommend, but they’ll have to wait for another post. Nine, Dust and Thirst are from different categories of YA fiction, but trust me when I say any middle- or high school reader would probably like all three. And any adult, too – because even though they’re labeled as YA fiction, they’re so well written that they prove YA often is not just for kids anymore.

Book Love

Book Review: Allon

Allon by Shawn Lamb (Creation House)

Back cover blurb: Long ago, the land of Allon was a paradise until the fall of the Guardians paved the way for the rise of the Dark Way. King Marcellus now controls the land as his forefathers did, with an iron fist and the help of the evil spirit, Dagar. But an ancient prophecy speaks of a time to come when the Guardians will return and Allon will be restored – led by its rightful heir.

At 16, Prince Ellis is forced to flee the life he has known, pursued by the king’s soldiers. With help from two mysterious strangers he meets in the forest, he must find a way to defeat the evil forces and prove himself worthy to be king if Allon is to have any hope of salvation. Along the way he will face trials that will test his character, his wisdom, his courage, and ultimately, his heart.

Allon is a magical tale of adventure, destiny, and faith that you won’t soon forget.

My review: Years ago, I read fantasy tales fairly often and usually enjoyed them. I’ve read a bit of fantasy more recently, but freely admit that part of why I wanted to read and review Allon is because I thought my son might want to read it. I knew Allon would be clean, but still wanted to know what it was about before handing it off to my 11-year-old. Plus, now we’ll have something fun to discuss once he starts reading it. 🙂

I had a little trouble getting into the story up front, but that might be because I had to shift to a fantasy world mindset and get used to oodles of characters with fairly odd names. The further I got, the more I enjoyed it, so I was eager to pick it up once I got through the first couple of chapters.

Allon begins with Ellis being snatched away from the regular life he’s always known and thrust into a world of danger, hiding, and running for his life. That is, he’s running until his protectors can tell him the truth of his birth and prepare him to fight for his rightful place as heir to the throne of Allon and the hope of peace the people have been longing for. Mentors and supporters of all shapes and sizes help Ellis along the way – everything from men he’s known all his life to a girl who communicates with animals to Guardians that Ellis always thought were just legends. Add a former King’s Champion as Ellis’s personal trainer, evil Shadow Warriors on a rampage for the dark spirit Dagar, and a young woman who wants to win Ellis’s heart – but who will change Allon’s destiny forever if she does – and you have the makings of a grand story.

Truth be told, I never did quite keep all the characters straight, but I didn’t care (and that’s probably because my mind’s not what it used to be LOL). I just let Allon sweep me along for a tale of heroism and coming of age (with a touch of sweet romance) and enjoyed the ride. If you enjoy fantasy or midieval tales (or have a child who does), then Allon is a great choice for your reading time.

Author Shawn Lamb

For more info, visit www.allonbooks.com. You’ll find an excerpt from the book, sketches of the main characters, an interactive map of Allon, and more. A very cool site to visit!

You can purchase a copy of Allon here. And if you’re looking for other fantasy-type titles for teens, here’s a good starting point.

If you read (or have already read) Allon, I’d love to know your thoughts. Happy reading!