quotes Elisquared likes


"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green

11.29.2021

BLOG TOUR - THEY STAY BY CLAIRE FRAISE - YOUNG ADULT FICTION [REVIEW + GIVEAWAY]


Title: They Stay
Authors(s): Claire Fraise
Publication Date: October 12, 2021
Edition: Paperback. eBook, audiobook; 372 pgs
Publisher: Sabertooth Press
Source: Rockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Kindle - B&N - BAM! - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.




Tour Schedule

Week One
11/8/2021 - Devouring Books - Guest Post
11/9/2021 - Writer of Wrongs - Guest Post
11/10/2021 - For the Love of KidLit - Excerpt
11/11/2021 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
11/12/2021 - Don't Judge, Read - Review
11/13/2021 - Phannie the ginger bookworm - Review

Week Two
11/14/2021 - The Phantom Paragrapher - Review
11/15/2021 - More Books Please blog - Review
11/16/2021 - Once Upon a Twilight - Review
11/17/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
11/18/2021 - A Court of Coffee and Books - Review
11/19/2021 - The Momma Spot - Review
11/20/2021 - BookishConnoisseur - Review

Week Three
11/21/2021 - Jazzy Book Reviews - Review
11/22/2021 - Review Thick And Thin - Review
11/23/2021 - Book-Keeping - Review
11/24/2021 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
11/25/2021 - Karen Dee's Book Reviews - Review
11/26/2021 - @curlygrannylovestoread - Review
11/27/2021 - The Book Review Crew - Review

Week Four
11/28/2021 - Coffee and Wander Book Reviews - Review
11/29/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review
11/30/2021 - Two Points of Interest - Review


The Summary

For fans of Stranger Things comes a suspenseful YA mystery about a missing kid, a girl who can see ghosts, and a horrifying crime only four outcasts have the power to stop.

What if the only person who could help you find your missing brother was dead?

Nothing is as important to sixteen-year-old Shiloh Oleson as her little brother Max. So when the six-year-old goes missing without a trace, a heartbroken Shiloh refuses to believe nothing can be done and sets out to find him.

When one of Shiloh’s classmates says she knows where Max is, Shiloh hesitates to believe her. Francesca is creepy. She says she can see ghosts, but everyone knows ghosts aren’t real … right?

But Francesca says that Max is going to be murdered.

And a ghost told her where he is.

As the line between the dead and living begins to blur, Shiloh starts to think Francesca might not be as crazy as she believed. One thing is becoming clear. Someone has gruesome plans for Max, and Shiloh must confront her worst nightmares to find him before it’s too late.

THEY STAY is the first book in the thrilling They Stay Series by award-winning author Claire Fraise. Read on if you like ghost stories, plot twists, enemies-to-friends, creepy circuses, budding romance, and unlikely heroes.

CONTENT WARNINGS: This book contains physical and mental abuse, death, violence, kidnapping, gun violence, alcohol abuse, references to suicide, implied sexual abuse (non-graphic), bullying, and mild adult language.

Praise for THEY STAY:
"Fraise successfully creates an atmosphere like a cold graveyard, and a heart-thundering story that will haunt you more than any ghost can." — Briar Esterline, author of Ablem's Sanctuary

My Review

They Stay by Claire Fraise is a twisty, supernatural read that melds contemporary thriller and supernatural thriller very well.

There are two story lines going on when we open the book: one following Shiloh, a girl desperately seeking her brother who was abducted, and one following Francesca, the town's resident crazy who can actually see and talk to ghosts.  Both of them feel othered, either by their own family or the town at large.  We follow their two stories until they come together, when Francesca tells Shiloh she knows how to find her brother.  I won't say more than that because :spoilers:.

While I don't often love first person narrative when it comes to thrillers, I think the subject matter for this story fits well with it.  It is deeply personal on both girls' parts and the direct look into their mindset puts the reader in the driver's seat. This makes the events that happen that much more impactful.

Please be aware of the Content Warnings that are included by the author, because the story can get very intense, and may be triggering for some readers.  While I got into the plot, I did find there was a little too much explaining (backstory etc.) for my tastes.  but with that said, I still found it enjoyable and to be a solid thriller novel.  

From just a "judge a book by it's cover" view, this one knocks it out.  Very eerie and bold, definitely giving the correct vibe for the story.  This is not a standalone, so if you're looking for a new YA thriller series to start, then They Stay by Claire Fraise will be a great choice.  

Final Rating


Excerpt

Chapter 2
Francesca

In the whole of my sophomore class at Bethany High School, there isn’t a girl who’s more odd than me. 

I can see it in their eyes when they look at me. The other children at school. The boy with the kind face doing the bags at the grocery store. Even my teachers side-eye me when I walk into the classroom and sink into a desk in the back in the hope it will stop everyone from staring at me. I have gotten used to the stares, but I do not particularly enjoy them. 

Do you see that creepy girl? they whisper. That’s Francesca Russo. Francesca Firestarter. Eight years ago, she burned a guy. Lit his dead body on fire at his own funeral. They laugh, they shout. Hey Francesca, he was dead anyway. What was the point? 

While their words are mean, it is true. I did exactly what they said I did. But what is also true, but what nobody cares to believe, is that I didn’t burn him because I’m crazy. 

I burned him because he asked me to. 

I was eight years old on the day of George R. Haggarty’s funeral. The service was boring—I remember that much. George Haggarty died not long after my mother, and I remember not being pleased being back in the pews, sandwiched between my father and brother, smelling of wood polish and sanctity and listening to strangers give speeches full of words I didn’t understand. Next to me a woman was crying silently. I watched her chest heave, saw her tears flow, and felt nothing. Death, as a concept, had never been elusive to me, even when I was eight. Once people die, they exit their bodies and transform into versions of themselves made of mist and moonlight. I can’t touch them. Most people don’t even see them. They wander the earth until they fade away and sink back into its fabric after a few years. Sometimes more, sometimes less. My friend Mrs. Lewis has lived in the cemetery for close to ten years, but when my mother died she faded away before I even got a chance to see her. My heart squeezed at the thought.

I missed her. I wished I could still see her. Even the afterlife isn’t fair.


About the Author


Claire Fraise earned her B.A. in English from Tufts University. She published her debut novel when she was 16 (award-winning YA dystopian novel Imperfect), and her YA supernatural thriller They Stay is coming out in October 2021. When Claire’s not writing, she likes crocheting amigurumi animals, reading, and hanging out with her dogs. Even though it goes against every introverted bone in her body, she is on social media. Connect with her on Instagram at @clairefraiseauthor, on YouTube at Write with Claire Fraise, or visit her website at clairefraise.com.

Sign up here to get Claire’s Newsletter 




Giveaway
1 winner will receive a finished copy of THEY STAY, US Only.

CLICK THE GRAPHIC



11.26.2021

BLOG TOUR - HEARTLESS PRINCE BY LEIGH DRAGOON & ANGELA DE VITO (ILLU.) - YOUNG ADULT GRAPHIC NOVEL [REVIEW + GIVEAWAY]


Title: Heartless Prince
Author & Illustrator: Leigh Dragoon & Angela De Vito 
Publication Date: November 2, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, paperback. eBook; 160 pgs
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Rockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - B&N - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.


Tour Schedule

Week One
11/1/2021 - For the Love of KidLit - Excerpt
11/2/2021 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
11/3/2021 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt
11/4/2021 - Book-Keeping - Review
11/5/2021 - Books Are Magic Too - Review
11/6/2021 - Nerdophiles - Review

Week Two
11/7/2021 - ZaineyLaney - Review
11/8/2021 - The book review crew - Review
11/9/2021 - History from a Woman’s Perspective - Review
11/10/2021 - A Backwards Story - Review
11/11/2021 - celiamcmahonreads - Review
11/12/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
11/13/2021 - More Books Please blog - Review

Week Three
11/14/2021 - A Bookish Dream - Review
11/15/2021 - @more.books.yes.please - Review
11/16/2021 - lexijavabookish - Review
11/17/2021 - Once Upon a Twilight - Review
11/18/2021 - A Court of Coffee and Books - Review
11/19/2021 - Don't Judge, Read - Review
11/20/2021 - Bri's Book Nook - Review

Week Four
11/21/2021 - @momfluenster - Review
11/22/2021 - The Momma Spot - Review
11/23/2021 - Emelie's Books - Review
11/24/2021 - Nonbinary Knight Reads - Review
11/25/2021 - The Bookwyrm's Den - Review
11/26/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review
11/27/2021 - Lifestyle of Me - Review

Week Five
11/28/2021 - Two Points of Interest - Review
11/29/2021 - onemused - Review
11/30/2021 - popthebutterfly - Review


The Summary

A fierce warrior must save the heart of her beloved prince before it's too late in the first book of a new YA fantasy-adventure graphic novel trilogy, perfect for fans of Noelle Stevenson's Nimona and Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet

Evony is an orphaned princess from a kingdom destroyed by a power-hungry witch. Prince Ammon has recently been drawn to her, or at least he’s drawn to her uncanny ability to sense when familiars—servants to the witches—are approaching his kingdom’s borders. And Evony, well Evony has always longed for something more with Ammon. Wanting to prove himself to his kingdom and parents, Ammon takes Evony outside the borders to fight the familiars head-to-head. All is well until they’re captured by witch Aradia, who steals Ammon’s heart and leaves his body to turn into one of her familiars. What’s worse, his sister Nissa has been taken hostage by Aradia’s daughter. Evony makes it her miss onto retrieve Ammon’s heart and save Nissa, taking her into the mysterious Witchlands. There, she will discover a secret about her past that will change everything.

Reviews
An enchanting, intense tale of mystery and magic - this book reveals both the vision and vibrant, young talents of Angela and Leigh throughout dense and rich pages full of visual delight and narrative wit.―Matias Bergara, illustrator of CODA

The Heartless Prince is a romantic and thrilling fantasy with strong characters and compelling twists.―Victoria Ying, author of City of Secrets

With a palette of whimsical hues and a heartful cast of characters, HEARTLESS PRINCE is a fantastic read full of witches, adventure, and destiny. I can't wait to devour the sequel!
Hafsah Faizal, NYT bestselling author of WE HUNT THE FLAME
My Review

Heartless Prince by Leigh Dragoon and Angela De Vito introduces readers to a new fantasy world full of witches and stolen hearts.  

Princess Evony was orphaned as a baby due to a witch's attack on her kingdom.  Saved by a young town's boy, she is brought to Gallea, a neighboring kingdom protected by a magical barrier tied to their Prince's heart. Prince Ammon and Princess Evony help the King and Queen to train and fight against the witches and their familiars.  The fate of their kingdom rests on their shoulders.

A fun, light fantasy-story, this book gears up to be a part of a series.  While the plot and character development is light, there are some fun action and magic woven within.  The art  is reminiscent of Disney's style, but with a rough edge to it, sometimes making it hard to see the comic clearly.  But the color usage is well-done, evoking the correct mood throughout the story.

I hope that the second book builds this world stronger and establishes the context of Evony's and Ammon's origins better.  Overall, it was a fun read, and I would read further into the series.

Final Rating


Excerpt


About the Author & Illustrator


Leigh Dragoon was raised in a log cabin in the Adirondacks, where she developed an early love of reading and writing. She became a fan of Little Women at age nine, after Beth’s demise made her bawl herself to sleep. This led to a lifelong appreciation of the book. After years of annual rereads, she became fascinated with learning about Louisa May and her family. She adapted both Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy and Marie Lu’s Legend series into graphic novel scripts. She has also written two prose Adventure Time novels: Queen of Rogues and The Lonesome Outlaw.




Angela De Vito is a freelance animator, storyboard artist, and character designer working in NYC. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in Animation in 2014. Since then she has worked on animation for commercials and series pitches. Angela has worked for such studios as Hornet, Inc.; Titmouse, Inc.; Aardman Nathan Love; Click 3X; CHRLX; and Disney Digital Network. She also animation directed Comedy Central Digital’s Loafy, created by Bobby Moynihan. She lives with her family and her two adorable, rambunctious cats.



Giveaway
3 winner will receive a finished copy of HEARTLESS PRINCE, US Only.

CLICK THE GRAPHIC


11.17.2021

BLOG TOUR - OUT OF MY HEART BY SHARON M. DRAPER - MIDDLE GRADE FICTION [REVIEW + GIVEAWAY]



Title: Out of My Heart 
Authors(s): Sharon M. Draper
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook; 352 pgs
PublisherAtheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
SourceRockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Kindle - Audible - B&N - BAM! - iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.



Tour Schedule

Week One
11/8/2021 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt
11/8/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
11/9/2021 - bookblogarama - Excerpt
11/9/2021 - Little Red Reads - Review
11/10/2021 - Locks, Hooks and Books - Review
11/10/2021 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
11/11/2021 - Bri's Book Nook - Review
11/11/2021 - Sparetimereader - Review
11/12/2021 - More Books Please Blog - Review
11/12/2021 - OneMoreExclamation - Review

Week Two
11/15/2021 - Wilted Pages - Review
11/15/2021 - Don't Judge, Read - Excerpt
11/16/2021 - For the Love of KidLit - Excerpt
11/16/2021 - BookHounds YA - Review
11/17/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review
11/17/2021 - Two Points of Interest - Review
11/18/2021 - Not In Jersey - Review
11/18/2021 - @bookshelfmomma - Review
11/19/2021 - Once Upon a Twilight - Review
11/19/2021 - The Momma Spot - Review


The Summary

Melody faces her fears to follow her passion in this stunning sequel to the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling middle grade novel Out of My Mind.

Melody, the huge-hearted heroine of Out of My Mind, is a year older, and a year braver. And now with her Medi-talker, she feels nothing’s out of her reach, not even summer camp. There have to be camps for differently-abled kids like her, and she’s going to sleuth one out. A place where she can trek through a forest, fly on a zip line, and even ride on a horse! A place where maybe she really can finally make a real friend, make her own decisions, and even do things on her own—the dream!

By the light of flickering campfires and the power of thunderstorms, through the terror of unexpected creatures in cabins and the first sparkle of a crush, Melody’s about to discover how brave and strong she really is.

Reviews:
"A deeply satisfying and worthy continuation of a beloved story." (Kirkus Reviews, STARRED September 15, 2021)

“Melody Brooks, a smart, determined 12-year-old diagnosed with cerebral palsy, returns in this sequel to 2010’s Out of My Mind. Longing for independence from her family and daily routines, she persuades her parents to let her attend Camp Green Glades, a summer camp for kids with disabilities in her home state of Ohio. With the help of her Jamaican American counselor Trinity and three cabinmates, Melody navigates new experiences—including zip-lining, horseback riding, and a first crush. Melody’s voice is as wryly funny as ever, and the supporting cast, which features kids and adults of various ethnicities and disabilities, treat her with respect and empathy… it’s impossible not to be charmed by the witty protagonist’s affirming, frequently ecstatic discovery of what it means to be part of a community that truly understands her.”
(Publishers Weekly *STARRED REVIEW* October 11, 2021)

My Review

I really hope that everyone has gotten to read Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, the first book in this duology, because while you can enjoy Out of My Heart without having read it, there is so much more to Melody that you need to know before you can appreciate the amazing, transformational experience she goes on at summer camp.

Quick recap to give context (this is the barest of bare minimum's so please read Out of My Mind to get everything): Melody has cerebral palsy, and she cannot communicate the way most people do because of that.  Also, due to this, many people in her life think she isn't intelligent; kids in her class, teachers, and even doctors!  But Melody has a photographic memory and is extremely intelligent.  Once she receives a "Medi-talker", a machine that can speak for her via text-to-speech, she has the means to communicate and show everyone just how smart she really is.

Out of My Heart takes place the summer after the school year explored in Out of My Mind, where Melody has gotten more and more confident in herself because she has the means to finally make herself heard.  With that comes a desire to explore the world outside of her norm, and do things other kids do: like summer camp.  She thinks there must be a camp for kids like her, and she sets off, with the help of her favorite librarian (yes for librarians!). Melody researches different options, and then makes her case to her parents.  Of course, she convinces them because Melody knows what's up!

What Draper does so beautifully in both books is delve into the emotionality of Melody.  The reader spends a lot of time, understandably, in Melody's head, and because of that, they get to see the complexity of each situation Melody has to face.  Melody is away from her whole support system for the first time, which can be nerve-wracking for a kid who isn't reliant on other people, let alone someone like Melody who needs help with a multitude of things.  But this never stops her from trying, even things that might be scary.  And that is the beautiful thing about Melody's spirit that Draper makes clear.  She isn't easily defeated.

The summer camp experience broadens Melody's horizons, and does show her how capable she is, and what joy she can get out of life.  It also brings a delightful cast of supporting characters, through the camp counselors and her fellow campers.  The camp, Camp Green Glades, is made to be accessible for kids with all sorts of disabilities, and Draper crafts those different experiences in a way that always shines a light on the fact that their lives aren't lesser because of these disabilities, just different.  I really appreciate that, because as Melody herself mentions, it isn't just kids who make her, and others like her, feel crummy about themselves, it's adults too.

This is a beautiful expansion on the original story.  So full of joy and strength, the reader won't help but cheer and cheer and cheer for Melody as she learns just how joyful and strong her soul is.  An important book to keep in libraries and classrooms, I really urge you to pick up Out of My Mind and Out of My Heart, to learn all about this very special character that Sharon M. Draper has introduced to the world!


Final Rating



About the Author

Katie Schneider Photography

Sharon M. Draper is a three-time New York Times bestselling author and a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring her significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens. She has received the Coretta Scott King Award for both Copper Sun and Forged by Fire, and was awarded the Charlotte Huck Award for Stella by Starlight. Her novel Out of My Mind has won multiple awards and was a New York Times bestseller for over three years, and Blended has also been a New York Times bestseller. She taught high school English for twenty-five years and was named National Teacher of the Year. She now lives in Florida. Visit her at SharonDraper.com.


Giveaway
2 winners will receive a finished copy of OUT OF MY HEART, US Only.

CLICK THE GRAPHIC



10.28.2021

BLOG TOUR - THE BEAR HOUSE BY MEAGHAN MCISAAC - MIDDLE GRADE FICTION [REVIEW + GIVEAWAY]



TitleThe Bear House (#1)
Authors(s): Meaghan McIsaac
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook; 368 pgs
PublisherHoliday House
SourceRockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Kindle - Audible - B&N - BAM! - iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.



Tour Schedule

Week One
10/18/2021 - Rockstar Book Tours - Kickoff Post
10/18/2021 - Log Cabin Library - Excerpt
10/19/2021 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
10/19/2021 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt
10/20/2021 - The Bookwyrm's Den - Excerpt
10/21/2021 - Jazzy Book Reviews - Excerpt
10/21/2021 - Two Chicks on Books - Excerpt
10/22/2021 - Jaime's World - Review
10/22/2021 - Books a Plenty Book Reviews - Review

Week Two
10/25/2021 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
10/25/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
10/26/2021 - The Momma Spot - Review
10/26/2021 - Little Red Reads - Review
10/27/2021 - Two Points of Interest - Review
10/27/2021 - Books and Zebras  - Review
10/28/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review
10/28/2021 - The Reading Wordsmith - Review
10/29/2021 - History from a Woman’s Perspective  - Review


The Summary

In a gritty medieval world where the ruling houses are based on the constellations, betrayal, intrigue, and a king's murder force the royal sisters of the Bear House on the run!

Moody Aster and her spoiled sister Ursula are the daughters of Jasper Lourdes, Major of Bears and lord of all the realm. Rivals, both girls dream of becoming the Bear queen someday, although neither really deserve to, having no particular talent in... well, anything.

But when their Uncle Bram murders their father in a bid for the crown, the girls are forced onto the run, along with lowly Dev the Bearkeeper and the Lourdes's half-grown grizzly Alcor, symbol of their house. As a bitter struggle for the throne consumes the kingdom in civil war, the sisters must rely on Dev, the bear cub, and each other to survive--and find wells of courage, cunning, and skill they never knew they had.

Reviews
"Weaves intrigue and adventure. . . . An epic, complex narrative."—Publishers Weekly
 
"The stellar worldbuilding is both expansive and accessible, and the action never falters. . . . Thrilling adventure set in an enchanting world makes this an easy pick for high fantasy fans."—Kirkus Reviews
My Review

The Bear House by Meaghan McIsaac was one of the best fantasies I have read this year!  I was immediately captivated by the story, and devoured the book in two days.  You find yourself in a lush, exciting, and harrowing adventure, one you never want to stop.  And while this book seems self-contained, which I miss in a lot of fantasies lately, it is actually book one of a series.  Which means I get to revisit this world and I am so excited about that!

This is some of the best worldbuilding I have gotten to read in a middle grade book.  The complexity and extent of the religious system/ruling system in this book is unique.  Based on constellations, this world is guided by the "On-High", the stars who are believed to have created High Beasts to protect and rule over the world, with the animals residing in separate kingdoms within the overall Highen.  The greatest of them all in the Bear Highen is the Hemoth Bear kingdom, or Tawnshire.  Within the Bear Highen are 7 other kingdoms: Whitlock (White Bear), Felisbrook (Lynx), Dracogart (Shadow Dragon), Twigate (Blue Giraffe), Roarque (Lion), and Hundford (Starhound).  But while these are all individual kingdoms, they are ruled by the Major, the one chosen by the Hemoth Bear to be its partner.  There is much more to it then this, but that is part of the enjoyment of the story. 

The pace of this book is non-stop; it takes a couple of chapters to start, but once it does, hold on.  The current Major's kingdom is under attack.  His daughters, Ursula and Aster, both possible heirs to the throne, are in danger, escaping out of Tawnshire with the Apprentice Keeper Dev and the Hemoth bear cub, Alcor--not such a little bear.  Being both spoiled brats, the journey to protect their lives and their kingdom forces the princesses to grow, both in their spirit and in their skills.  There is a lot of intrigue along with the adventure, making this a fun twisty book in some respects.  There are small times of rest, but the danger is never over, so constant situations arise that need to be dealt with, all pushing the story to the conclusion.  With the pacing, you, as the reader, are pushed along just as quickly as the kids, but it never seems forced.

With the action being non-stop, it is also brutal in many aspects.  This world is mediaeval in presentation, so with that comes some very harsh realities.  The phrase "fight for your life" applies here, with characters in the book being murdered.  Not graphically depicted, but not shied away from either.  Also, the imperfections and evil of humans are explored, teaching lessons about morality, without being obvious or preachy.

As the book progresses, you also get to meet two princes from other kingdoms and their perspectives on what is happening in the realm.  This goes back to the worldbuilding, making the reader understand that there is so much more to explore here, as each kingdom is different.  Also, there are other Highens out there in the greater world, which add another layer to the situation completely.  This also expands the possibility of further stories within the book series as a whole, which is very exciting.

Overall, this one is perfect for the young reader who wants to read high fantasy, but are perhaps a little too young for adult fiction.  However, this book is definitely on par with those adult series, and I believe would be of interest to adult readers as well.  Beautifully crafted, The Bear House by Meaghan McIsaac is a wonderful start to an exciting series I can't wait to read more in!

Final Rating



Excerpt


AT THE START OF ALL THINGS, THERE WERE ONLY THE STARS.

Many different stars— light upon light upon light— but alone, they were not enough. 

To cure their loneliness, their light combined, and of them were born the High Beasts, each belonging to their own quadrant of heaven. 

To the skies of the South were born the High Fly, the Glimmer Snake, and more. And the stars of the South became known as the Waters. 

To the skies of the East and West were born the Dust Ram, the White Bull, the Star Twins, the Prism Scorpion, and more. These traveled together, one after the other, a ring of High Beasts in a never- ending loop. 

These stars became the Ring. 

To the skies of the North were born the White Bear, the Shadow Dragon, the Starhound, and more. But of them all, the stars loved the firstborn Bear best. And so the northern stars became the stars of the Great Bear. 

When from the earth, Man emerged from the darkness, looking to the sky for guidance, the stars stretched out their light and sent these beasts to lead him, bringing them into the flesh. 

And Man worshipped the stars, and he worshipped the beasts, and the beasts were sacred to him. 

Thus, beneath the heavenly sea of the Waters, the Highen of the Waters was born. 

Beneath the Ring’s milky skies grew the Highen of the Ring. 

And beneath the crisp, dark skies of the Great Bear, the mighty Bear Highen began. 

— THE WRITINGS OF BERN, On the Founding of Highens: The Fore,  Star Writ 


PROLOGUE

THE Shadow Dragons were screaming. Their cries rose out of the dark, echoing over the peak of Mount Draccus. 

Men had come for their eggs. 

Quintin Wyvern crouched in the shadows of a rocky outcrop, watching the retrieval party approach the nests. The young prince had promised his father he would stay in the castle by his ailing mother’s bedside. An outbreak of firelung had taken hold of the Kingdom of Dracogart, and Mother was just one of many fighting to survive. But that night, when the dragons began wailing, Lady Wyvern had squeezed Quintin’s hand. 

“Go,” she told him, her breath ragged from the sickness. “Go and witness their sacrifice.” 

And so Quintin left her. He had followed hidden paths so as not to be seen, the mountain’s breath thick and fetid and burning his lungs. 

From his vantage point behind an outcrop of obsidian, Quintin saw the lights of the city of Dracogart below, saw the men in impressive armor walking up the main road, their horses sidestepping with nerves. 

The mother dragons hissed at their approach, plumes of smoke billowing from their gaping mouths in warning. Only three eggs had been laid that year, each one a precious gift from the stars. They would take a further two years to hatch. 

One of them would never get that chance. 

There was a chirrup at his back, and Quintin startled. He turned and saw a Shadow Dragon, a juvenile female, crouched on the stones above him. She blinked at him, her yellow eyes anxious. 

Umbra. 

Quintin pressed a finger to his lips and turned back to watch the soldiers. 

The mother dragons paced, encircling their nests. The light of the men’s torches danced and glinted off their dark, stony scales. 

Quintin knew they would not give up an egg without a fight. 

Shadow Dragons did not abide the laws of men. 

And yet the law demanded an egg all the same. Word had reached Dracogart a week ago from the Major: the Kingdom of the Shadow Dragon must surrender one egg. And that egg would pay for the firelung cure that could only be found in the land of their enemies, the Ring Highen. 

“We can’t!” his mother had said, fuming, when she had still been well enough to stand. “There has to be another way!” 

Chancellor Furia, King Wyvern’s most trusted advisor, had agreed— even though Furia and Queen Wyvern rarely agreed on anything. “Sire, it is too sinful even to think of.” 

The eggs of the Shadow Dragon were sacred. Blessings from the holy stars themselves. How could Dracogart allow anyone to take what had been given by the stars? 

“The Major was chosen to be Major because he is favored by the stars,” King Wyvern told them. “If the Major believes this is the way to save our people, then we must trust that he is right.” 

Save the people, yes . And more importantly now,  thought Quintin, save Mother.  Her condition was worsening by the hour. 

But still, he felt a nervousness in his gut. What if Father was wrong to allow this? 

Umbra chirruped again, as if she could read his thoughts. 

Quintin looked beyond Dracogart’s rocky valley, over which the mountain’s shadow fell— Father was out there, somewhere, hunting with his mount Draco, the largest dragon alive, the dragon- king of the Shadow Dragons. When the Major’s men had left the castle for the mountain path to retrieve the egg, Father had left with Draco— the king of dragons would be angry to hear his wives so distressed, he’d said. 

But Quintin knew the truth. Seeing the Major’s men take an egg from the Shadow Dragons’ nest was too painful for even his father to bear. 

There were shouts from the men in armor, and when Quintin looked, one had approached the edge of the nest. The man held a spear, its tip fitted with a fat, dripping hearth weasel— as if a treat would be enough to trade a dragon for her child. 

One of the mother dragons slunk toward him, a threatening hiss venting from her smoking maw. The fins at the edge of her jaw fluttered. She was eager to crunch bone.
 
“Courage, men!”  shouted someone. “Hold!”  cried another. And still more were roaring orders as the man in armor inched closer to the dragon. 

Quintin held his breath. The young soldier stepped across the line on the ground where the rock had been scorched by dragon breath— the threshold of the nest. 

“Too close,” Quintin whispered. 

The mother dragons reared up, all of them screaming in unison, black wings flapping. The foremost dragon lunged, her powerful jaws snapping with a thunderous clap just short of the young man’s belly. 

The dragons’ screams built on one another, the noise folding onto itself, lifting with a ferocious desperation. They were screaming for Draco. 

Draco, whose size and power would protect them all. 

Draco, their king. 

Quintin’s eyes burned with tears. Draco was with his father. 

Draco would not save them. 

And then a roar exploded from somewhere below the mountain. 

It was so loud and resonant, it was as if the earth itself had opened up. 

Draco? 

No. This roar was earthbound. Not of the sky. 

Quintin heard Umbra screech and skitter away, scurrying back to her family, back into a nest farther up the mountain. She was only a little dragon, after all, even if she was Draco’s daughter. 

The mother dragons’ mood shifted, their hissing and smoking replaced by a quiet, nervous chirping, tiny sparks spitting from the sides of their mouths. Quintin had never seen Shadow Dragons look like that— tails wrapped close to their sides, bellies pressed low to the ground, all huddled close together. They were frightened. Frightened of what was making its way up the mountain road. 

A bear. 

A bear unlike any Quintin had ever seen before. 

The hulking beast stood heads above the horses, her girth so wide it took up the entire path. Her long, grizzled fur looked like fire, a bright amber color that gleamed in the torchlight. Her jaws looked powerful enough to crush iron, her paws big enough to shake the earth. There was no mistaking it— a Hemoth Bear. 

She was Mizar. The mightiest creature in all of the Bear Highen.
 
And beside her stood a man, just as hulking and grizzled as she. 

The Bear Major himself: Jasper Lourdes. 

They approached the nest, the dragons clustered together in a quaking mass. Mizar the Hemoth chuffed and snorted, her massive footfalls causing the very earth to shake. 

Quintin watched as the Major placed a hand on the Hemoth’s flank and the bear stopped. The Major continued to approach and, without hesitation, stepped over the nest’s threshold. The dragons did not make a sound. He picked his way over rocks and boulders until he was standing above an egg, its black shell speckled with pinpricks of warm light. 

One of the mothers, the one who had snapped at the soldier, whined with alarm, and the Hemoth roared again, dislodging rock and stone from the mountainside and sending it tumbling down. 

Quintin threw his hands over his head to protect himself from the stony shower; dust powdered his shoulders. 

When the rumble faded to nothing, the dragons were silent again. 

Major Jasper Lourdes bent down to the egg and took it gently in his hands. 

Quintin longed to know how it felt. Warm, he imagined. Like the stones that lined the hearth fires in the castle. 

Finally, delicately, the High King of the Bear Highen fit the egg into the crook of his arm, as if cradling a baby, and bowed to the frightened flock of dragons. 

And just as suddenly as they’d arrived, the Major and the Hemoth left, disappearing down the mountain road with the Major’s soldiers following behind. 

Quintin was alone with the Shadow Dragons, trembling with his awe of the Hemoth Bear, and with fear and sadness for the egg the men had taken with them— the Shadow Dragon that would never be. 


About the Author


Meaghan McIsaac is the author of several books for young readers, including The Boys of Fire and Ash, which was shortlisted for the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award; and Movers, which was a Shining Willow Finalist for the Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Awards. Meaghan lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two dogs.


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