Monday, February 28, 2022

Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrations by Teny Issakhanian

Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrations by Teny Issakhanian
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Quill Tree Books/Harper Collins
Number of pages:  208
Publishing:  March 1st, 2022
Source: Netgalley and Publisher via SparkPress

Opening Line: "I don't know how it began.  That's the truth, I promise."

Zuli has lived with the guardians of the Great Tree since she was orphaned at a young age.  The Great Tree is guarded by mystical bird spirits (which remind me of a phoenix of light).  When a bird dies it reappears on the Great Tree as a leaf and the guardians watch and care for it, ensuring it is reborn as a new bird.  However lately the leaves have been dying as the bird's souls have stopped returning to the Great Tree.  Sure, something is behind it, the guardians sent out Little Red first, but when he doesn't return, Zuli is then sent out to investigate with her owl companion, Frowly.  Having been raised among the branches of the Great Tree, Zuli has never ventured beyond her safe home, she's never even saw anyone who looks like herself before.   Zuli is however a very determined girl and so she seeks to find answers for what is happening to the bird's souls and to protect the Great Tree from whatever is stealing its magic.

Wingbearer is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel.  Oh, so gorgeous, and defiantly not to be missed.  Issakhanian has a way with the facial expressions of the characters that are so on point, and when added with the humorous narrations between Zuli and Orien and Frowly, it makes for a wonderful story.  The colors of each of the illustrations were an amazing blend of these bright pinks and yellows paired with the dazzling changes of landscapes, moving from the greens of the forest to the browns of the runes of the new world that Zuli ventures into.    I just love how she builds this immersive world for the characters to quest through.  The contrast of Zuli's safe haven to the runes that she finds beyond are stark and help to illustrate the importance of treading lightly in the environment.  Some of the panels even remind me of a magical Disney movie scene, which would be lovely if this could become a movie.   All these beautiful details, like when she ends up in a cave and the way the light plays off the dark cavern, just love it!  And the story, such a wonderful fantasy adventure, lots of action and a wonderful mix of characters.   I really loved Frowly, probably because I love owls, but also because I'm picturing him as Archimedes from the Sword in the Stone.  I'd pair this with the Amulet series.  

I hope you'll also check out these panels at the artists website, Teny Issakhanian

**A huge thank you to Sparkpress and the publisher for my E-ARC **   

Monday, February 21, 2022

Review of Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts by Erika Lewis

Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts by Erika Lewis
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Starscape/Macmillan
Number of pages:  331 
Publishing:  March 1st, 2022
Source: Publisher via MB Communications

Opening Lines:  "No one was ever supposed to find her.  Her mother's magic and father's sacrifice made sure of that.  But they did."  

One day on a field trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Kelcie is startled by the appearance of her social services case worker, Elliott and a police officer.  Her first thought is that she's moving group homes again, but when they lead her down into the basement of the museum, she become suspicious.  She's even more shocked when they morph into ice fairies.  Elliott promises to tell Kelcie who her parents are, in return she must agree to place her hands on an ancient artifact while reciting words in a language, she didn't even know she knew how to speak.  I'm seriously having Percy Jackson vibes with this opening.  

Eventually, Kelcie is able to break free from her captors and follows them hoping they will finally tell her about her parents, but then they seemingly vanish next to a tree.  As Kelcie explores the tree and places her necklace on the tree bark, she is transported to the Otherworld, a place that has known nothing but war, with the land of Winter and Summer trying to defeat one another.  The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts is situated in the land of Summer and trains it's students to be warriors.  Upon her arrival, Kelcie meets Niall and learns that a new term is starting at the magical school, and she has arrived in time to complete the trials for entrance.  Receiving a coveted spot at the Academy will mean that Kelcie will be trained by the legendary Celtic warrior, Sc├íthach, and possibly she can finally find information about who her parents are, and why they abandoned her in Boston Harbor eight years ago.  Yep, feeling a little bit of Sophie from the Keeper of the Lost Cities vibes now.  

 Kelcie begins the story not knowing who her parents are and that she has any magical powers.  Once she unleashes her magic it at first overwhelms her, such power is difficult to manage, with the help of her new friends she begins to learn how to control it.  Not only does she have one power, but she is Saiga, one who can control multiple elements, like air, fire and wind, which sets her apart from the other students, causing her to feel isolated at first.  The only element she has difficulty with is water, because of a fear resulting from a near drowning incident when she was abandoned in the Boston Harbor.   Kelcie's confidence begins to grow as she becomes more knowledgeable about her family and powers.   The Academy setting reminded me of the Magisterium Series by Holly Black and a little bit of the Lightning Thief too.  I loved the way each of the teams/units (Fianna) consists of individuals from different Dens (grouped by their magical powers, like Chargers, Adders, Cats, Ravens and Saiga).  I find the magic that they each wield is quite interesting, and the challenges that they face as a part of the initiation quite fun.  Each one of the members of a team brought their own strengths to the challenges and combined it felt like they were unstoppable.  Kelcie grows into her team, and you can see how they're becoming more than just friends but a family who rely on and care for one another.    Plus, Niall and Kelcie make such a cute couple, rooting for them for sure.   Lastly, I enjoyed the Celtic mythology the story is inspired by, although I'm finding I haven't read nearly enough.  I did appreciate the inclusion of a glossary at the back of the book with descriptions for the terms used in the story, the various legends the characters are based off and loved the descriptions of the monsters and creatures that Kelcie and her team face.  Overall, I enjoyed the battle scenes, the magical academy, the twist and turns, the surprising reveal at the end, the nice mixture of magical powers and the kick butt team.  Looking forward to seeing what happens next for Kelcie.  

    **A huge thank you to the publisher and MB Communications for the ARC**    

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Review of A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow

 A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Quill Tree Books/Harper Collins
Number of pages:  272 
Publishing:  February 8th, 2022
Source: Netgalley and Publisher via SparkPress

Opening Line: "I say Crick, you say Crack." 

Twelve-year-old Kela loved collecting sea glass with her mom, turning them into pieces of jewelry, but ever since her mom died in a car accident, she hasn't felt the same passion for creating new pieces.  A part of Kela feels guilty about the last moments she spent with her mother, and the harsh words she spoke to her mom as she was leaving the house that day.  Kela was upset with her mom because she had promised to take her to the store for supplies, and her mom instead rushed off to record stories for the Caribbean folktales that she was collecting for a project at work.  Since then, Kela hasn't even wanted to dive with her pop and has been pushing her best friend, Lissy away, wanting to spend time alone and reflecting on how much she misses her mom. 

Then one day, Lissy gets Kela to agree to take her on one of her scavenger hunts for sea glass, and while exploring Kela is drawn to an unexpected sound coming from the protected nature park near their homes.  Despite their parents having warned them to avoid the park in the past, the girls venture in and Kela ends up following the sound down a sink hole, where she finds an ancient box.  Kela knows that it is wrong to take any items found from protected land, or worse not to report it to the office of antiquities, but the draw of the box is too great and so she puts it into her bag and heads home.  Meanwhile, Ophidia, a Seawitch becomes aware that her box has been taken, inside is an ancient comb, an object that holds significant value to her.  Once Kela opened the box, the magic within required she make a bargain with the Seawitch, a wish in exchange for what Kela has taken.  Unfortunately, their bargain doesn't go as planned when the comb is stolen, and Kela isn't sure she can retrieve it in time to live up to her part of the bargain with Ophidia. 

 A Comb of Wishes is told between the alternating perspectives of Kela and Ophidia which allows the reader to really appreciate the voices of the antagonist and protagonist, and what specifically motives each character.  For Kela it's her love for her mom and the guilt of their last encounter together, a sense of needing to make amends.  Ophidia's motivations are more complex and relate to more ancient reasons.  She's been amongst the ocean since 1667, so she has some unresolved issues from her past and a small desire for revenge.  Truthfully, Ophidia can be quite frightening, not what you would think of from a mermaid or Seawitch.  At the same time, the descriptions of her make her sound beautiful and mysterious.  I would love to know more about her, even now as I reflect back at reading the story.  I so enjoy a story that includes beautiful prose, and it's one of things that I so enjoyed while reading, the way the author described the setting and the characters.  She paints vivid pictures of the island and the tight knit family that Kela has around her.  Then there's these moments where a hurricane is ravishing the island and the rain is pouring down.  I live around tranquil and slow-moving rivers and streams versus the ocean setting of the book, but the way that she describes the shimmering water, the deep blues and the surrounding Caribbean Island really brought the story to life for me.  It's moments of calm and then violent storms.   I also enjoyed the emphasis the author placed on storytelling and Caribbean folklore, with Seafolk/mermaids.  The unique way that chapters began as the stories would with "Crick, Crack," to draw the listeners attention and ended with, "The story is put on you" where the listener is to interpret their own meaning of the story.  Such a wonderful fantasy debut! 

**A huge thank you to the publisher and SparkPress for the E-ARC**    

Monday, February 7, 2022

Review of The Nightmare Thief by Nicole Lesperance

The Nightmare Thief by Nicole Lesperance 
Format:  E-book
Publisher:  Sourcebooks for Young Readers
Number of pages:  304
Published:  January 12th, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Opening Lines:  "Maren Partridge wondered what her sister dreamed about.  She wondered if people in comas even had dreams." 

The Nightmare Thief was nominated for the 2021 Cybils Award in Elementary/MG Speculative Fiction. Unfortunately, I was so busy reading the nominations that I had very little time for blogging.  I'm hoping over the next several months to remedy this by completing the books on my TBR Cybils pile and posting a few reviews for books that I enjoyed reading.

About three weeks ago, Maren's older sister, Hallie was involved in a car accident that left her in a coma.  Maren has high hopes that she will wake up soon, but her doctors seem to think it is time to move her to a long-term care facility. To help out her parents, Maren has been working at her grandmother Lishta's Typewriters and Dreams shop, a store that specializes in handmade dreams and nightmares.  Maren's grandmother has one rule for her shop, dreams are not to be given without a person's consent, and she is very firm in expelling anyone from the shop if they break her rule.  But when Maren has difficulty in finding the "perfect" birthday present for Hallie, she decides that a flying dream might just do the trick, and maybe it will even help Hallie to recover.  However, just as Maren slips her sister the dream, she is caught by one of her grandmother's costumers, a Ms. Malo, who begins to bully and blackmail her into stealing nightmares from the shop in exchange for her silence.  At first, Maren keeps up her end of the bargain, but Ms. Malo, also known as Obscura Gray, begins to demand more and more nightmares from Maren.  Suspecting that Obscura has nefarious plans for the nightmares, Maren must find a way to deal with her once and for all.

The Nightmare Thief is a sweet story and feels magical to me in the same way that A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd does.  There's a postal delivery service that magically delivers letters, a grocery where the rosebush sprouts new roses each day and edible fireworks.   The city of Rockpool Bay is very unique and has a homey small town feel to it.  Then there's Maren and her grandmother's shop where they create these dreams that sound lovely.  Just listen to this description, "powdered midsummer raindrops, the softest edges of goose-down feathers, a scratching of fresh nutmeg, and a tiny snip from the lining of a brand-new pencil box."   I so enjoyed Maren and her desire to have her sister recover from her coma.  The way she describes all the things that she misses about her and the fun times that they shared together before her accident.  Henri, the French speaking parrot was entertaining, and my favorite character had to be Ms. Malo/Obscurra, who I couldn't help picturing as Cruella de Vil.  Delightfully evil.  Her backstory was very interesting, and I hope to learn more about her in the sequel, The Dream Spies, which released on January 11th.  **A huge thank you to Sourcebooks for the review copy.**       


Friday, February 4, 2022

THE BOY WHO MET A WHALE by Nizrana Farook Blog Tour

Today I am excited to be hosting a spot on the THE BOY WHO MET A WHALE by Nizrana Farook Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 About the Book:

Author: Nizrana Farook
Pub. Date: February 1, 2022
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing Company
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
Pages: 256
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Audible, B&N, iBooks (audiobook), Kobo (audiobook), TBD,

A Sri Lankan fisherboy is swept up in a thrilling seafaring adventure, complete with a kidnapping, missing treasure, and a huge blue whale! From the author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant.

Razi, a local fisherboy, is watching turtle eggs hatch when he sees a boat bobbing into view. With a chill, he notices a small, still hand hanging over the side.

Inside is Zheng, who’s escaped a shipwreck and is full of tales of sea monsters and missing treasure. But the villains who are after Zheng are soon after Razi and his sister, Shifa, too. And so begins an exhilarating escapade in the shadow of the biggest sea monster of them all.

Author Nizrana Farook has crafted another briskly paced, action-packed quest that swells with empathetic heroes, missing treasure, and a great beast lurking beneath. Set against a vibrant, authentic landscape inspired by Sri Lanka, this delightful caper will thrill young fans of adventure and fantasy.

A Financial Times Best Children's Book of the Year

Also available from Nizrana Farhook:
The Girl Who Stole an Elephant


"It’s a thrilling, old-fashioned treasure hunt, and the Sri Lankan setting makes familiar arcs feel fresh. Short, action-packed chapters keep things moving at a fast clip, while lush descriptions and flashes of beauty (including an astonishing encounter with the titular whale) will keep readers absorbed. A proper adventure story with a tender heart."-Booklist

"An exciting and appealing page-turner.
"-Kirkus Reviews

"Farook invokes the beauty of her native Sri Lanka with sparkling descriptions of island and sea. . .. This lyrical ­story, reminiscent of Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories will be appreciated by all lovers of adventurous fairy tales."-School Library Journal


 Excerpt from The Boy Who Met a Whale:


The boy clung to the rail with a death grip as the ship lurched violently in the storm. 

It was sinking. 

All around him was darkness and the roar and crash of waves as the ship buckled and rain lashed down. The wind was shrill and whip sharp. But for all the noise, the ship was empty of people. Where was everyone? The boy ran along the deck, slipping and sliding to the wheelhouse.

It was deserted. 

He sprinted down the length of the ship, hurtling below deck to the captain’s quarters. He pounded on the door, desperate to be heard over the sound of the thunder and the howling of the wind. But it was impossible. 

The door opened suddenly, and the first mate slipped out, a long leather pouch clutched in his hand. He started when he saw the boy, and quickly hid his hand behind him. 

Sir, the storm—” began the boy, but the man shoved him aside and hurried down the passage. 

The boy held on to the side for balance and stumbled into the cabin. The captain was lying in his bunk, fast asleep. The room had been ransacked: drawers were hanging open and books had been tossed all over the place. The ship listed sharply and the debris on the floor slid to one side of the room where water was pooling, creeping darkly over fallen books. 

The boy froze in shock. The crew had known they would be sailing into a storm. Why was the captain asleep so soundly? Why was the whole ship asleep? Apart from… 

He stormed out of the captain’s cabin and scrambled up to the deck. A lifeboat had been lowered into the sea, and the first mate was getting ready to climb down, accompanied by a man the boy recognized as the ship’s cook. 

He stared at the men, a cold fear clamping around his heart as the rain soaked through him. “Marco!” he screamed. “What did you do? Did you drug them?” 

The first mate looked back and shrugged, not even bothering to deny it. 

Rain pelted the men as they prepared to get in the boat. Something snapped in the boy, and he raced toward them and plucked the leather pouch from the first mate’s pocket. 

Yelling, the men gave chase as the boy sprinted away down the ship. Lightning lit up his running figure. The ship groaned and shifted. The men stumbled and one fell as the boy doubled back, jumping over the fallen man and speeding past his furious companion. The first mate took out a knife that flashed silver in the gloom of the night. He ran fast, closing in on the boy as water filled the deck and crept up his ankles. 

It was over. The ship was going down, and it was too late to save anyone. The boy wailed in anguish as he threw himself over the side and into the lifeboat. The ship tilted and groaned, making a huge cracking sound as it broke apart. The men ran to the railing and yelled at the boy, but the rain blotted out everything as he rowed swiftly away. The last he saw of the ship was it careening jerkily off course. 

The boy screamed into the wind and wept for his lost friends.



The baby turtle scuttled down the golden beach, wet and gritty with sand.  Bit by bit scores of others emerged, their shiny black bodies, flailing limbs, and beady eyes glinting in the early 

morning sun. They scampered toward the water, their little legs scuffling over the freshly turned-up sand. A bale of tiny turtles—all eager to make their first meeting with the sea. 

Razi laughed as he ran after them, careful not to step on any of the little creatures. The sight never failed to amaze him and lift his spirits. He’d seen it a hundred times, coming early to this stretch of beach to watch the newly hatched turtles running into the sea at sunrise. There was a white one among them, an albino turtle, the pattern on its back etched out in shiny black lines. It was lagging behind and in danger of getting lost. 

Go on! Go, your friends are leaving!” called Razi. He knew not to touch it and so he hoped his voice would cheer it on instead. Sure enough, the white turtle perked up and scuttled after the others. 

Overhead a yellow-beaked ibis wheeled past. Razi kept an eye on it in case it tried to attack the babies. The sea was a grayish blue, deepening gradually to a brilliant turquoise with the rising sun shining on the waves. Coconut trees fringed the beach, their wiry trunks twisted like swaying cobras. 

Standing on the shoreline, Razi watched in awe.  A wave came in, drenching the baby turtles as they swarmed up to meet it. They hopped into the water, greeting it playfully. Razi held his breath. This part always worried him. The turtles looked so little and fragile. But the whole lot of them swam away happily, dots of black on the rolling blue waves surging into the great ocean.

He sat cross-legged on the sand and watched them bob away. They disappeared quickly, swimming away to their new lives. He knew that turtles always came back to the very same beach they were born in to lay their own eggs. So someday when Razi was an adult he could be back here and see the babies of one of these same turtles. 

It was a lovely feeling. But it couldn’t completely dislodge the sadness that dimmed Razi’s world, no matter how much the sun shone, and waves danced. 

The sun rose higher and prickled his skin. Then he saw something bobbing in the water. Something dark. Razi squinted into the horizon. The turtles were all gone, but this was too big to be one of them anyway. Whatever it was, it was heading toward land. The sea glittered a brilliant, sparkling blue now, and the dark object swirled closer and closer to the shore with every wave. 

It was a boat. 

Razi stood up. This wasn’t a fishing boat like the ones on Serendib. This boat was plain and simple, with no sail or outrigger, and, as it moved closer, Razi saw it had some strange lettering etched on the side. 

Foreign letters, thought Razi excitedly. Where had the boat come from?

It dipped into a wave and then lifted up, a solitary blot on the empty ocean. As it surged closer, Razi saw something droop out over the side. Something small and bunched. 

A hand. 

An actual human hand! Someone was in the boat! Razi staggered back, jabbing his foot on a pointed shell. The pain hardly registered as he watched the boat bobbing closer. He looked around the beach wildly to see if there was anyone to help. But, as usual, it was entirely deserted. 

The boat swirled closer and Razi froze. Was he going to have to get into the water? Dread clawed his heart at the prospect. 

A gull squawked overhead, startling Razi. It was the jolt he needed, and he ran into the sun-warmed water, soaking his clothes as he waded quickly toward the boat. 

This is okay, you can do this, he told himself over and over as he tried to ignore the water rising to his chest. Razi reached the boat and looked over the side. An egret swooped by and darted off again, leaving the echo of its cry. 

Razi gulped. 

Lying in the bottom of the boat, sunburned and still, was a boy.



Okay now,” said Razi. “Stay calm, stay calm, this is serious. Just BE CALM.” 

With all his strength he pulled the boat out of the sea and dragged it up the beach, making a groove in the soft sand. 

The boy was on his side, cheek pressed against the bottom of the boat. His eyes were closed, and his expression was blank. His lips were parched, and his skin was covered in patches of white where salt had dried. Even his clothes were dried up, and they rustled like paper when Razi shook his shoulder. 

His eyes remained shut. 

Um, hello,” said Razi. “Er, listen, are you alive?” The boy was as still as a stick. The sun beat down on him mercilessly, frying his already parched body.  He had to be moved to the shade and given some water immediately. 

Razi took a deep breath and carried on talking to the boy, despite feeling foolish. “So, I’m going to move you over there. Get you out of the sun.” He leaned into the boat and grasped the boy under his arms. 

To his surprise the boy slid out easily, as if he was no weight at all. Razi dragged him all the way up the sand to the shade of the coconut trees and laid him down.  Out of the sun’s glare, it was instantly cooler, and there was a soft breeze too. 

The boy twitched, his eyes fluttered open slightly, and then closed again. 

Razi almost cried with relief. 

Now, that is good,” said Razi, trying to sound encouraging. It had worked for the turtle, after all. “You stay here—I’m going to look for some water.” He stood up and looked around.

Something out at sea caught his eye. Another boat, identical to the one the boy had been in. There were two men in the boat, and the taller of the two was standing up, gesticulating furiously at the beach while the other rowed to shore. Razi couldn’t understand any of this. What was going on? 

Razi emerged from the trees and walked down the beach to meet the men. The tall one, who was strongly built with close-cropped hair, immediately jumped into the water and ran to him. To Razi’s alarm, he gripped him by the collar and lifted him off his feet. 

Razi tried to scream. He blanched at the man’s furious expression. 

Marco!” said the other man, coming up the beach.  “That’s not him.” 

The tall man shoved Razi away. He seemed angry that he’d got the wrong person. Razi turned to run, terrified. He had to get away from these men fast. 

Where is he?” yelled the one called Marco. He rounded on Razi. “You! You must have seen him.” Razi shook his head hard. Was the man talking about the boy on the boat? He wanted to say something, anything, but couldn’t find the words. 

He must be around here somewhere,” said the other man. “That’s his boat over there. We’ll find him.”

Find him and kill him,” said Marco, kicking at a scuttling crab. 

Razi began to tremble. The boy was lying unconscious just yards away from them in the shade of the coconut trees. He was weak and barely alive, and these men wanted to harm him. He couldn’t let them do that. 

Oh! D-do you mean the boy in the boat?” said Razi, finding his tongue at last. 

Marco stopped and turned around. “What do you know?” 

N-nothing,” said Razi, which was true. He pointed toward Galle town, then carried on less truthfully. “He asked me where the closest town was, and I told him it’s a mile up the beach. So, he ran that way.” 

Marco came toward Razi slowly. His thick neck and meaty shoulders made Razi shrink away until he backed onto the side of their boat. 

When was this?” said Marco, breathing into Razi’s face. 

An hour ago.” 

Why did you say before that you hadn’t seen him?”  The man spoke slowly, making the words sound doubly dangerous. 

Razi swallowed as he tried to think of a reason. “I wasn’t sure what you m-meant. I m-mean, ‘Where is he?’ doesn’t mean much, d-does it? Now, if you’d said, ‘w-where’s that boy who came on the boat…’ He was blabbering and Marco was looking at him with deep suspicion. He should shut up before he brought some serious damage down on himself. 

I see.” Marco still spoke slowly and deliberately. “If I find out that you’ve been lying to me, I will find you and I will kill you. Understand?” 

O-of course,” stammered Razi. “That-that sounds clear enough.” He caught himself before he blathered on anymore. 

With that, Marco and his accomplice got back in the boat and rowed off.



Razi watched the boat heading in the direction of Galle. 

He exhaled and pressed his hands to his forehead. What had he gotten himself into? He looked back toward the unconscious boy; his foot clearly visible for anyone to see. 

He had to check that the boy was all right and then get out of there as fast as he could. 

Razi ran to collect some fallen King coconuts. Once he’d found a pointed stone, he managed to pierce one, making a terrible mess, and felt the welcome squirt of cool coconut water on his face. 

He went back to the boy and lifted his head up, tipping the King coconut slowly against his mouth. Half of the water sloshed out, but the boy stirred awake and soon began to lap it up. He took in a good amount and then lay back down, his eyes closing again. He smelled of salt and the brininess of the deep sea. Razi felt a chill in spite of the heat of the day. 

Er, looks like you’re a bit better then,” said Razi, edging off and sitting back on his heels. 

The boy opened his eyes. His face furrowed slightly and his eyes traveled all around him—taking in the jewel-bright sea, the shell-strewn beach with the boat pulled up high on the sand, and the bunches of bright orange King coconuts in the tree above him. 

He blinked in confusion and tried to sit up. “Huh?” “I said it looks like you’re feeling better,” said Razi, even though the boy probably couldn’t understand him.  He was clearly from a faraway land. “You’re safe.” The boy looked at Razi for the first time. “Where is this?” he said, speaking Razi’s tongue easily. “Serendib,” said Razi. “You’re on the island of Serendib.”

The boy lay back wearily but there was a hint of a smile on his face. He touched his chest and his clothes rustled again. 

Razi stared at the boy. The rustling sound wasn’t coming from his clothes after all. There was something long and cylindrical hidden inside his shirt. 


The boy slowly began to lift himself up until he was leaning against the tree. 

Here,” said Razi, prying the coconut open into two halves. He showed the boy how to scoop out the soft, pulpy insides. The boy took the coconut and scarfed it down gratefully. Seeing he was still hungry, Razi pierced open another King coconut for him, all the while keeping an eye out for the two men. 

What’s your name?” asked the boy, after taking a long swig of coconut water. “I’m Zheng.” 

I’m Razi. I live in the town down the beach from here. How come you speak our language?” He glanced nervously at the sea. Would the men be back? And was it all right to leave the boy in this state? 

Zheng wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.  “Oh, I speak loads of languages. I don’t mean to boast, but I can’t think of a language I don’t know even a little of. Been all over the world, you see.” 

Razi frowned. So much for not boasting. 

Zheng put down the coconut and gave a small sigh.  “Listen,” said Razi. “I don’t like to hurry you while you’re like this, but you need to get out of here fast.” “Why do you say that?” 

Because a man called Marco means to kill you.” The boy startled and dropped the coconut, water sloshing over his legs. He scrabbled around as he tried to get up. “Hold on!” said Razi. “I didn’t mean that fast!” Zheng stared at him with such panic-stricken eyes that Razi felt instantly sorry for him. “Who are you?”  said Zheng. “Are you working for Marco?” 

No! He and another man came ashore in a boat soon after you did.” 

Marco is here?” Zheng got up and staggered around like a crab before he managed to straighten up. “Wait, where are you going?” said Razi, following Zheng as he stalked around in a panic. 

I don’t know. Just away. I’ll figure something out. I always do.” 

Razi could hardly leave him now. Zheng was shuffling inland in his ragged clothes, tired and weak, barely able to stand.

Wait, Zheng.” Razi ran up to him. “There’s a place near here where you can rest for a bit.” 

Zheng turned back and looked at him hopefully.  “Come on!” Razi led the way up the beach, threading through the coconut trees to the abandoned fisherman’s hut he knew was there. “It can’t really be seen from the beach. You’ll be safe while you hide and think of what to do.” 

The hut was just a minute up the beach, small and coconut thatched. There was a single wooden window that didn’t close very well. The corners were full of cobwebs, and the door hung lopsidedly off its hinges. It wasn’t great, but it was safe. 

Would anyone come here?” said Zheng. 

No. It was abandoned a long time ago. No one comes to this beach at all. I only come here because of the turtles.” 

Zheng relaxed visibly and settled on the hard earth floor, stretching himself out. 

What’s that rustling noise coming from your shirt?”  asked Razi. 

Zheng paled under his sunburn. “I’m not sure what you mean. I think it’s my bones creaking.” Razi suppressed a chuckle. Whatever it was, clearly Zheng didn’t want Razi to know.

Thank you for everything,” said Zheng. “The less you know about any of this the better. Marco is a dangerous man, and Cook isn’t too sweet either.” 

Don’t I know it.” Razi leaned against the window.  “He’s already threatened to find me and kill me if I was lying to him. And I was.” 

Zheng shook his head in confusion. “What are you talking about?” 

Marco asked if I’d seen you. I said you went to town and sent him the wrong way.” 

Zheng’s face turned sour. “Oh no. He’s not someone you want to cross for any reason.” 

What about you, though? Will you be all right?” “Of course,” said Zheng, leaning his head against the wall and closing his eyes. He seemed to have become more relaxed after reaching the hut. “I’ve been in all sorts of situations. When you work on a ship and have been all over the world, you’re ready for anything. Reminds me of the time we had to fight off pirates. Not that it happened just the once, but this one time was particularly tense, because I had only one working arm at the time.” Razi had no idea how seriously to take any of this. He was curious about Zheng, though, and felt responsible for him after rescuing him from the boat. “Who are you?  How did you come to be in that boat?”

Zheng’s face screwed up, as if he was trying to hold back some emotion. “I was on a merchant ship that sank.” 

You’re a ship’s boy, then?” 

Zheng nodded. “It might not sound like much. But I was very close to the captain, no less. And I’ve been all over the world. Been doing this since I was eight, and now I’m twelve. Imagine that.” 

That was impressive, but Razi wasn’t about to admit it. He was twelve too, but he had never even left the area he lived in. 

Where did you say you were from again?” said Zheng. “Galle,” said Razi. “It’s a town about a mile or so up the beach from here. There’s nothing else around. If you go up the beach the other way there’s a village, but that’s even farther away than Galle.” 

What were you doing here then?” 

I was watching turtle hatchlings. There are always loads of them here. I like to see them go safely to the sea. Did you know that’s why they run to the sea so soon after birth? It’s so they’re safe from predators.” 

That’s nice,” said Zheng, though he didn’t look too interested in the turtles. Which wasn’t surprising considering he was running away from a maniac who was trying to kill him.

I’ve got to go now. My mother will be waiting for me.  We usually have breakfast together before she goes to work. Good luck, Zheng.” 

Ah, breakfast… Can’t remember the last time I had it,” said Zheng, a mournful expression on his face.  “Well, goodbye, Razi. Thank you for everything.” 

Razi nodded and turned to go. He stopped at the doorway. He couldn’t very well leave Zheng without food. The coconut pulp was hardly anything. 

He turned back to Zheng. “Don’t move from here. I’ll bring you some food and water and then you can be on your way.” 

Zheng looked thrilled. “Could you hide my boat as well? If Marco comes back, it’ll show him where I am.  I’d do it myself if I wasn’t so weak.” 

Sure.” Razi smiled. He’d move the boat, bring the food, and that would be the end of that.

About Nizrana Farook:

Nizrana Farook was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the beautiful landscapes of her home country find their way into the stories she writes. She has a master's degree in writing for young people, and lives in Hertfordshire, England with her husband and two daughters.


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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

BFF: A STORY ABOUT BULLYCIDE by Lindsey G. P. Bell Blog Tour

Today I'm excited to be hosting a spot on the BFF: A STORY ABOUT BULLYCIDE by Lindsey G. P. Bell Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 About the Book:

Author: Lindsey G. P. Bell, Katena Utena (Illustrator)
Pub. Date: July 23, 2020
Publisher: Lindsey G. P. Bell
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook
Pages: 256
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&N, Kobo, TBD,

Thirteen-year-old Abby and her father have just moved from a leaky old sailboat in California to an inherited mansion in South Carolina, and Abby does not fit in. This is the story of the summer adventures she shares with new best friend, Hollis, and two boys from their class rescuing an injured heron. But when school begins, Abby is shocked to learn that Hollis is a bullied outcast…who, pushed to the limit, takes her own life—a phenomenon known as bullycide. BFF attempts to portray that being targeted doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, suicide is NOT the answer, and if you’re struggling, tell as many people as necessary until you get help. You are interesting and worth it.


"Both adult and teen readers will be moved by this poignant story and find it a valuable resource in discussing and countering bullying. Great for fans of Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places, Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why."- BookLife by Publishers Weekly

“5 Stars!”- Readers’ Favorite

BFF: A Story About Bullycide touches on the perils of teen depression, bullying, and suicide. Told in Bell’s lyrical and unique voice, this story is a compelling read for teens and parents of teens.”- Leigh Medeiros, Author of The 1-Minute Writer

“As a mom I was concerned about the appropriateness for my children, but upon completion of BFF found myself wanting all kids to read this to understand the gravity of their actions. Bell takes a subject that can be controversial and weaves a beautiful story. You will fall in love with the main character and be immersed in every page. I would recommend this book to everyone—adults and children alike!”- Anneliese Tomlinson, CFI and mother of two teenagers

Book Trailer:

Excerpt from BFF: A Story About Bullycide

By Lindsey G. P. Bell

             (Excerpt is from Abby’s reflecting on Hollis’ suicide from the end of the Epilogue)

I never had another friend like Hollis. Though I think I sensed I never would on the first day when we shook hands. And when I think back, all I see in people like Lexie Cross, Ava Finn, and Leah Montgomery is the fear and emptiness that they were desperately trying to fight off by coming after us. There was nothing wrong with Hollis or me. We were the lucky ones, the ones who could have the time of our lives sitting up all night in the middle of nowhere waiting for a bird. And even if people thought we were ugly, fat, weird, disabled, too smart, too slow, too short, too tall, too poor, too freckled, too skinny, the “wrong” religion, the “wrong” color, the “wrong” sexual preference, the “wrong” gender, flat-chested, too booby, sexually active, hyperactive, or just plain annoying, we had each other. And if we had just stuck together, things might have ended differently.

There’s so much I wish I could go back and tell Hollis on that fateful night. At thirteen, school and Lexie felt like they would go on forever, but the older I got, the faster the days passed. I’ve been out of school now much longer than I ever had to be in it, and I’ve been able to fill my orbit with some really kind, adventurous, creative, funny people who understand and appreciate me.

There really have been countless thrill-and-three-quarters moments peppered into these many years, but the thing I’m most grateful for is the opportunity to share my story. I can’t undo the painful things that happened to me, but maybe by choosing to stick around I can use them to help somebody struggling down Hollis’s and my old path see that suicide is a mistake.

If only Hollis had told someone that she was considering it….

She would have loved all of this.


About Lindsey G. P. Bell:

Lindsey G. P. Bell’s life has been as exciting and full of adventure as one of her books.  Born to a father named Peter and a mother called Wendy, she was very nearly named Tinker Bell. It was the first of many bullets she would go on to dodge. 

As a young child in Washington, D.C., her great loves were the Smithsonian Institution’s museums of Natural History and Air and Space. Ms. Bell’s earliest life dreams were to someday live in a natural history museum and fly airplanes. 

Ms. Bell attended Pepperdine University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts.

While working in wildlife rescue, a friend introduced her to the now-late Grizzly Man, Timothy Treadwell. Tim and Ms. Bell began dating, and he invited her to join him camping with the wild brown bears, foxes, weasels, wolves and moose in the remote Alaskan wilderness. There, her love of seaplanes and all things natural shone. She was blessed to swim with wild bears, have mother bears (sows) nurse their cubs nearby (they purr!), and play something akin to Capture the Flag with red foxes. After spending portions of two summers in the wilderness with Tim, she embarked on three solo expeditions whereupon she’d spend her nights copiously journaling the day’s adventures. This felt like living in a natural history museum, and the discipline of writing daily led to penning her first children’s book.

 Ms. Bell went on to earn her pilot’s license and sea-plane rating, and soon realized her true love lay in flying aerobatics (spins, loops, rolls…). 

After dabbling in weathercasting, acting, and improv, Ms. Bell began poking the stand-up comedy bear. Though she enjoys writing the material more than performing it, she can still occasionally be found around Los Angeles at open mics.

In addition to BFF: A Story About Bullycide, she’s completed drafts of seven children’s books, a novella, and three non-fiction volumes detailing her Alaska expeditions.  Between 2004 – 2006 she co-wrote a screenplay about the late Grizzly Man with Rebecca Dmytryk. An article about it appeared in the November 16, 2006 edition of the Malibu Surfside News. Her spoof essay on The Lorax was published in the October 2013 edition of Writer’s Digest. And in 2019, her short story The Call, The Call of Duty, and The Call Home placed ninth (out of fifty finalists) in the Inspirational category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Contest. She is currently working on a thriller.

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1 winner will receive a $10 Amazon GC, International.

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