We at Such A Novel Idea are excited to be participating in the 2013 Blogger Book Fair! Today we are going to be highlighting Finding Meara by Lara Schiffbauer. Finding Meara is Volume 1 in the Adven Realm Adventure series. The fantasy novel was released on March 29, 2013.
About the Book
In Finding Meara, Hazel Michelli’s parents never told her she was adopted, or that her birthplace was in an alternative land where magic and monsters exist. She found out the truth the day a ferocious winged creature stole her from her Denver apartment and delivered her to Lucian, the sadistic Lifeforce magician who happens to be Hazel’s biological father.
“Dysfunctional family” takes on new meaning when she learns Lucian must sacrifice a daughter to maintain immortality and take over the Realm. When Hazel’s younger half-sister disappears just days before the Rite, Lucian moves Hazel to the top of the sacrificial short list.
Afraid, yet compelled to protect her four-year-old half-sister, Hazel races between both worlds, searching for Meara while being hunted by Lucian. Their lives, and the future of the Realm, leave her no room for failure.
I tapped the speed dial for Frank’s Pizzeria when a huge Crack! lacerated the stillness. The room reverberated as the front door shattered, sending shards of wood flying. I covered my face with my arms and dropped to the floor behind the couch.
Silence, heavy and suffocating, filled the room.
I peeked over the cushions and my heart skittered in my chest. A gigantic man loomed in the doorway. A fedora, pulled low, concealed his face; a black leather trench coat covered the rest of him.
“Who?” This couldn’t be real. “No! I’m Hazel.”
He stalked up to the couch, and with an effortless shove, sent it flying several feet to his right.
I knew it then. I was going to die.
Scrambling to my feet, I sprinted away from the man, heading deeper into the apartment. The decorative rug at the mouth of the hall skated beneath my feet and snagged my tennis shoes in the bunched-up folds. I crashed to the ground with a bounce that made my teeth hurt. The phone tumbled from my fingers and slid along the hard wood floor.
Phone or bathroom? Indecision rendered me motionless.
His footsteps clomped closer as he made his way through the living room.
The guy made matchsticks out of my front door. A flimsy bathroom door would be no protection.
I lunged for the phone, but his hand wrapped around my ankle like an iron shackle. He flipped me on my back and pulled me toward the French doors on the other side of the living room.
Oh, God. He was going to drop me off the balcony.
Adrenaline lit my body on fire. I scrabbled along the floor, scratching at the wood. Tears flowed down my cheeks. I didn’t want to die. Not now. Not like this.
I seized the leg of a wingback chair. For a moment, I hung suspended between the chair and the intruder.
He grunted with annoyance and gave my leg a violent shake. I lost my grip and fell to the floor, knocking my head.
Stars exploded before my eyes. The chair slid away. Our progression toward the balcony restarted.
Sweat trickled down my neck. I snatched for the coffee table, but missed. Now what? No other furniture was in reach. I shoved myself into a sitting position and hammered my free heel into the man’s hand. He flicked his wrist, and in a blink, I lay at his feet.
The whole room skidded sideways.
The man’s hat had fallen off. The skin on his bald head was grayish-green with the waxy sheen of day old death. Bulky knots protruded from above his shoulder blades, and his arms reached to his knees.
He wasn’t a man at all.
I screamed, a long, full-throated howl people driving on the interstate should have heard. I clawed at his hand, the floor, whatever I could.
With a snort, the creature yanked me even with him and wrapped his arms around me. His legs felt like tree trunks against my back. A horrible stench of fungus and earth assaulted my nostrils. I gagged, bile hot in my throat. He used his elbow to smash through one of the glass doors that led to the balcony and leapt onto the balcony rail. We teetered on the edge. My lungs seized at the sight of the ground five stories below my dangling feet.
Okay, so I have a confession. Most of the books I read are in the young adult section of the bookstore. I know, I know you are all thinking…. “WHAAAAT!?”
I kid, I kid.
But seriously, I usually do not pick up an adult book unless it happens to catch my eye or I get a recommendation from someone I know. SO, when I was looking over the BBF list of books to review, I was expecting to find a couple of young adult, maybe new adult books. But THIS book just kept jumping out at me. Literally.
The book… jumping. Lots of jumping.
Can I just say… THIS. BOOK. WAS. AWESOME! Seriously, the story gets going right away. Hazel is finishing a run with her best friend and goes into her apartment to order dinner (pizza, like a boss). Then she is attacked by a giant man/not a man who whisks her away to another realm. All while calling her the wrong name.
So, when you get kidnapped to another realm only to find out you are a human sacrifice, what do you do? Well Hazel runs away. Then she meets this awesome cat who can catch on fire and has the personality of a human. So basically, the coolest cat ever. With the help of the fire-inducing cat, she escapes her captors. Soon she is gallivanting through this other realm trying to make it home. With the help of Arden, AKA mysterious hot guy, she makes it back to the portal that she came through and gets back home.
You read that right. She.gets.back.home. Because Lara, brilliant Lara, does not do the typical girl goes into another realm and then the story revolves on there until she finally gets home and the end. Nope, she weaves the story between here and there. Which was something I really loved. Oddly enough, her going back and forth helped build the world and allowed for lots of surprises in the plot.
So Hazel ends up finding out she is adopted and has two siblings, because her lovely father is immortal and to stay that way must sacrifice his children. Yep, parent of the year right there. She also finds out that the giant man/not man was calling her the name of her four year old sister, Meara (ahh, that’s where the title comes in!)
So, Meara disappears and Hazel, along with her brother and best friend, have to track her down before she is murdered by their father. Of course, Arden plays a huge part in the story as the guardian of the forest/realm they are in AND as someone Hazel fancies. The romance in the book is sweet, but certainly not the focus. This was SO refreshing! I know I’m the girl who says she hates too much romance in her books that aren’t labeled romance, but I always get invested anyways. But I was really glad at the choices Lara made for her characters.
Ultimately, this was about a girl learning to grow up and take chances on life. Even though she was 26, I could recommend this to teenagers with no difficulty or hesitation. The characters were real, honest, and raw. Hazel had some deep flaws, and it made her more human. The writing was great, the plot was paced well, and I didn’t want to put it down once I started it. The story and characters were well developed and I definitely want more.
I am so, so glad I picked this book. I cannot wait to see what happens next! My only real critique is that I need a map! The best part of a fantasy novel is the world that is created. So, having a map is something I NEED!
Overall: Four out of Five stars
About the Author
Lara Schiffbauer was born and raised in the Western United States. As a child she got in trouble at school for talking too much and daydreaming. She believed in Santa Claus until she was in the third grade, and thought she saw angels at the Catholic school she attended. Many years later, after obtaining a Masters of Social Work degree and growing a family, Lara decided to recapture some of the magic found in creativity, and began writing stories that took her to other worlds. Her debut novel, Finding Meara, is the first of the Adven Realm Adventure series.
Connect with Lara
Inside the Author’s Head
Welcome to the blog! Can you first tell readers what drew you to write this story?
First, thank you so much for having me and giving me the opportunity to meet all your nice readers!When I decided to write Finding Meara, I began solely with the intent to write a fantasy novel in which abusive parents get their comeuppance. I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and most of my professional career has been working with abused children in a therapeutic capacity of some sort. It can be overwhelming at times, and so I wrote Finding Meara to give some justice – if only in a fictional world – to those children with whom I’ve worked.
How did your studies and experiences in life help shape who you are as a writer and your books?
Okay, so I always like to see what authors read. What are your top five favorite books and why?
Only five? I am a huge James Rollins fan, so anything of his is up at the top. I think he is an amazing writer and storyteller, and only wish I could ever be so accomplished. I love cozy mysteries, especially the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, because they are fun books and easy to read. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is on the list because of the beautiful message within the story. I love the David Eddings books because they really brought me into fantasy.
Night owl or early bird? How does it help with your writing process?
Left alone, I’m such a night owl. That being said, I totally live by the circadian rhythms of my children, and they (unfortunately) are early birds. Because I can’t get up early in the morning and am usually dragging by 8 o’clock, I’ve learned to take whatever time I can get in a day and use it for writing. Even fifteen minutes can be productive if I know basically what to write next.
Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
No, actually. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and dabbled in creative writing while I was in school, but I always thought I’d be an actor or musician. Writing was a way to express myself, and it was only when I didn’t have those other artistic forms available that I returned to writing. I’m really glad I did. I can’t imagine not writing, now.
If you could live in one ‘book world’ which one would it be and why?
This may sound self-serving, but I’d pick the Realm. I’d love to live in a world which moves at a slower pace and where there is magic, yet still have the ability to return to our world whenever I wanted.
Where do you think your characters are headed in the future?
They’re headed on to more adventure! I can’t say much, but the characters have lots of opportunities in both the Realm and our world to find out just what they are made of and how far they will go to protect what is important to them.
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