Reviews

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Stolen

“I loved the tone and setting from the start of the story, and quickly found I enjoyed Shaleigh’s interesting character. I loved this darker take on an Oz/Wonderland type setting, and Marlena Frank has created a captivating story! While there is nothing wrong with stand-alones, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that this is the start of a series, because I’ll definitely be coming back for more!” Stephanie from Adventures Thru Wonderland

“There is a violet haze is coming from the edge of your garden. A new path opens past a row of thorns and a faraway tune calls you like a siren. 

But beware!

The end of the path may lead you to the Garden.

Marlena Frank takes readers down an Oz-like land alongside Shaleigh. There is a great sense of adventure that is derived from Shaleigh’s love of urban exploring and photographic documentation. When she is not with her best friend, she spends the majority of the time caring for her father with mental health issues. On the day, Shaleigh realizes that there is a mark growing on her back, she is attacked by a mysterious stranger and the gateway to the Garden is opened.

However, this darker version of Wonderland is no tea party. From an animated stone lion named Mawr to fairies, Frank blended an interesting world that will appeal to readers of Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood and Mindee Arnett’s Onyx & Ivory. I definitely enjoyed seeing such a great female protagonist who uses her creative faculties to survive this chess board world where one misstep could mean an end game.” Alex Lopez from The Reading Corner For All

“Stolen by Marlena Frank was an absolute joy to read! It transported me back to my child, to a world where fairies ride flying bicycles, statues can talk, and has a villain you love to hate! A completely original story that is a breath of fresh air on the YA Fantasy genre!

Shaleigh is 16 yrs old and is tired of her life of taking care of her ailing father. She gets away by taking pictures of abandoned buildings and odd shaped trees she comes across. One day Shaleigh is kidnapped by a faerie on a flying bicycle, and takes her to a new world known only as “The Garden”- no real ruler, but a tyrant named Madam Cloom terrifies everyone into submission. That’s where Shaleigh comes in. She’s been brought to this world because the people believe that she is the reincarnation of a great ruler, long dead. Shaleigh’s only hope for survival is to try to live up to this prophecy, but there is a much darker force at play, one that neither Shaleigh or the people of “The Garden” know is lurking in the shadows. And they are all at risk!

This was a brilliant and unique story that I didn’t want to end! Thankfully, there is a sequel! I loved this new world Frank created that was like the Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth, and Legend, with a touch of Narnia all rolled into one! Frank’s world building skills are tough to match, and she did a fantastic job with characterization, even the secondary characters can easily be recognized apart. And I loved how Shaleigh was portrayed! She was already a fairly strong character when we meet her, but it was amazing to watch her grow in different ways as the story progressed!
The pace was even; it didn’t seem to lag or rush at any point. The story flowed smoothly as we went on this strange journey with Shaleigh!

Marlena Frank is a newish voice on the YA scene, and she commands attention with this strong, original fantasy. She transports you to a place where all of your dreams….and nightmares can come to life. And effortlessly wields her creative prose to dance you into her fairyland!” Suzy Michael on Goodreads

“This book was amazing! The imagery the author is able to conjure up for the reader is fantastic because she does such a great job with the descriptions. While the story may have the feel of familiar elements (think Wizard of Oz), it is actually very unique in it’s own rights. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland type feel to a story. I can’t wait to see where the sequel takes the characters that I have grown fond of.” Brittany on Goodreads

“What a fantastic novel! I love the strange and magical vibe of the world, it’s like something out of an old 80s fantasy movie. Evil trees, faerie contracts, corrupt rulers, and living statues! Major Labyrinth vibes, but way darker and more political. Love the dialogue, especially the exchanges between Shaleigh and Teagan going back-and-forth about the messed up rules of the Garden. The cliffhanger at the end brings the story into to a whole new world of magic and terror and I am ready!

I’m a fan of loveable complicated characters and there are some phenomenal ones in this book. Morally gray Faeries (are there any other kind?), a strong female of color MC, and a giant cowardly stone lion. I just want to put them all in my pocket and carry them around with me. Two more books right now, please!” Danielle Roux on Goodreads

“I am incredibly lucky enough to know such great authors and be able to connect with them via social media. I mean, social media is great in this aspect…you know, if you ignore the comments on news articles. (Sometimes I don’t, and it’s a problem). This is how I won an advance copy of STOLEN by Marlena Frank. Well, not through a news article, but on FB during a launch party for publishing house sister. I’m rambling, so I’ll get to it.

Sixteen-year-old Shaleigh is the heroine of this story. She loves photographing old buildings and landscapes and spends most of her time with her best friend and taking care of a mentally ill father. When she discovers a strange mark on her back, things begin to unravel. She is suddenly kidnapped and taken to a world unlike her own-to a place called the Garden. In this strange land, she comes to know it’s inhabitants. From a stone lion named Mawr to a High Faerie named Teagan, she realizes that keeping allies close is just as important as keeping your enemies in the same proximity.

Pros:

This book is led by a PoC protagonist, but the amazing diversity doesn’t stop there. What I loved is that each character is not identified by their race or sexual orientation, but by their strengths and heart. We also have mental illness play into the story. There are also other things that surprised me, but I won’t ruin it. Let’s just say I identify with a stone lion that has bad eyesight more than any fictional character ever.

The writing was smooth, and the plot flowed perfectly.

Cons:

I needed more Mawr, and the ending (this is the first in a series btw) had me screaming for more. Marlena, we talked about this, and I’m still not happy :p

I recommend this book for fans for books such as The Narnia Chronicles, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and more recently, The Hazel Wood and upcoming Waking Forest. For movies, it’s akin to Spirited Away and Pan’s Labyrinth.” Celia McMahon on Goodreads

“THIS WAS THE MOST UNIQUE, FASCINATING, BRILLIANT STORY!! The world building!!! It is so well written, enough detail that it paints a wonderful picture in the imagination, where you now start building upon it with your own interpretation!! Which to me is perfection! That is what i want from a book. This world where there are Faeries, Minotaurs, Shadow Wolves and Living Statues, etc. is so reminiscent to me of 80s movies that I loved, like Legend, Labyrinth & Return To OZ. BUT at the same time this one really stands on its own!! I would LOVE to see THIS on this big screen…whoa, that would be awesome!!!

As for characters, they were beautifully written!! Dialogue was written so well that the characters were completely believable and you became totally lost in the story!! I loved Shaleigh, the main protagonist!! She’s very believable. She’s strong, but doesn’t know it. I also loved Colin & Mawr!! Mawr, he is something special. There are so many really great characters, whether good or bad, that are just SO WELL WRITTEN!!!

This is one of those books that once you get into the meat of it, especially when Shaleigh gets kidnapped and taken to the Garden, you can’t put it down!!! YOU WILL SOOO LOVE THIS BOOK, especially if fantasy is your thing!!! I can’t wait for the next book!!!” Donna on Goodreads

“I was lucky to receive an ARC of Marlena Frank’s Stolen. Sixteen-year-old Shaleigh Mallet is a care taker to her delusional father. Feeling overwhelmed and lonely she wants to escape. When she is kidnapped, a magical and unique adventure unfolds. There is imaginative world building and cool twist and turns. If cliff hangers aren’t your thing, this may not be the book for you. If you want a story that will keeping reading to 2 in the morning I gladly recommend this one. Perfect for fans of fantasy.” R.J. Garcia on Goodreads

“First, I’ll start by saying what a cool and unique book! I mean, you get stone lions, flying bicycles, and a world like no other. This story takes me back to the time when there were actually good fantasy movies: Return to Oz, Labyrinth, Legend. You know what? Probably just go ahead and make this one a movie to bring some creativity back to the world!

Shaleigh was a very strong protagonist. I felt she didn’t let getting sent to another strange world break her. In this new place, she grows as a character, figures herself out, and becomes a strong MC. Oh, and the side characters are equally amazing with distinct personalities to make them extremely fleshed out!

Beautiful writing, beautiful description, beautiful cover, and a beautiful story! Also it does end on a cliffhanger that leaves me holding out my hands saying, “give me book two.”” Candace Robinson on Goodreads

The She-Wolf of Kanta

“Finally a new & exciting paranormal fantasy that fed my obsession for all things werewolf.

13 year old Mercy Pinkerton a young girl from Kanta who spends her time on the outskirts trapping werewolves with her father.

The tone of this story from the beginning is one of Mercy being referred to as weak, feeble, innocent little female who’s only purpose to be bait for these powerful & vicious creatures.
Notably even the werewolves prefer hunting mature females yet Mercy is cast forward as bait purely because of her sex.
A standout sentiment that rings loudly is the predatory nature of the males in Kanta, it’s not just the wolves that prey on the innocent but the men do too.
Girls are viewed as less than no more than bait yet the men don’t believe these girls are as innocent as they seem.

Marlena Frank delivers just the right amount of danger within this story the creatures and the men and despite dabbling with mature subject matter does so easily to ensure it doesn’t cross a line and can be read by the younger audience which as a parent I appreciate. The writing style was wonderfully punchy and fast paced, pacing was good though the time period jumps within characters was a little confusing at times overall pleasantly easy to follow along and read.
The characters were well developed and held depth they were relatable and were easily able to hold my interest and become invested in thier trials and tribulations.
The world building was perfectly suited to the darker tone of this tale it gave great atmosphere and you can easily envision the beasts before you thier enormous forms and drool covered fangs the bleak small town of Kanta etc.

Overall a fantastic read from Marlena it was very enjoyable and I await to see what she comes up with next.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishing team for providing an arc in return for an honest review.
(All thoughts and opinions are my own and are unbiased)” Angie-Lee from Goodreads

“It’s been a while since I’ve read a paranormal story that’s felt fresh and interesting, and The She-Wolf of Kanta was definitely both of those things for me.

Mercy Pinkerton is a 13-year-old girl living on the outskirts of Kanta, trapping werewolves with her father. The beginning of the novella opens with this, in fact, and levels us with an ominous hint that Mercy serves as poor werewolf bait because she’s still but a girl, and not a mature woman as the prized male werewolves they seek to trap would prefer. This idea, that she’s still an innocent, unwanted girl even to beasts like werewolves, is juxtaposed early with the contradictory, predatory nature of the men in Kanta, who hardly view Mercy (or other girls that have lived in Kanta) so innocently.

Though this is listed as children’s literature on NetGalley, I definitely agree with Amazon’s listing this book as a teen novella. The immediate tone set within the story–the danger of monsters versus the danger of men and how Mercy’s view of the werewolves specifically changes over the course of the story–speaks a lot to the changes of worldview that a lot of new teens have where they’re beginning to leave behind their childhood and the fears and worries of a child, and beginning to step into more mature and realistically dangerous encounters. This is what I appreciated the most in this short story, and the fact that Marlena Frank was able to do so using what is arguably very mature subject matter without ‘crossing a line,’ so to speak with the way she delivers both the dangers of the werewolves in Kanta and the dangers of the ‘trappers’ that pursue Mercy was brilliant.

The only thing(s) that were somewhat distracting to the overall enjoyment of this novella was that the length did not service the story well. It was hard to discern the setting and time period intended by Frank, or even the level of technology and science knowledge/capability as there were a lot of inconsistencies in hinting at larger world building within the story. For example, the beginning felt like I was gearing up for fantasy horror set back a few hundred years with nobles still ruling the lands, before we’re introduced to guns, trucks, gasoline–quite modern concepts–and then given way to what could constitute magic or fantasy science in the application of the ‘Liquid Lead’ that’s used to take down werewolves, essentially drugging them. At one point, even cyberpunk elements found their way into this story, where one of the characters has functioning cybernetic limbs despite living in a relatively dystopic world.

These incongruent loose ends, and others, I think could have been tightened up better and explored in a full-length novel, as well as the novella’s arcs as a whole, much better than a 94-page print could ever hope to achieve. I was left wanting more meat as opposed to being content with the meal given.

That said… I was still overall impressed. The plot, as quickly as Frank gets through it, surprised me in places I didn’t expect to be surprised in–and I never once had to question how a particular plot thread was woven in.

This was a smart story. I’d be interested in seeing what Marlena Frank could do with a full-length novel after reading this novella.” Montgomery Pierce from Goodreads

“I’m always happy to see a dark-skinned main character in a fantasy/sci-fi/horror story. I like it even more when they’re just regular people. As soon I read the main character, Mercy, was dark-skinned with blue eyes, I was sold. Fortunately, The She-Wolf of Kanta didn’t disappoint.

In She-Wolf of Kanta, werewolf is like a disease that swept through the world. Werewolves rule the night. People make a living hunting and selling them…and females.

Mercy is 13 and the story really lingers on the fact that she’s pretty and in danger of being kidnapped and sold. It made me a bit squirmy. The way nearly every charactered emphasized her looks had me thinking something really bad was going to happen to her.

It did. But it was the kind of bad I could handle. Given how to story progressed, I understand why the author set it up like that.

I also like how the werewolves aren’t simply black and white monsters. At the beginning of the story, you think they’re just mindless killing machines. As the story progresses, you learn they’re complicated.

The She-Wolf of Kanta is a novella. I hadn’t known that going in. It’s a short, entertaining read. I do wish it was longer. The section told from Mercy’s father’s point-of-view was interesting but I don’t know if it needed to be included. The rest of the story is from Mercy’s POV. The section was a bit jarring.

If the author wrote a novel version of this, I’d read it. I’d like to know more about this world and Mercy.” Auden Johnson from Dark Treasury

“OMG!!! I NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE NOW!!! So let’s make it into one, ok?! That’s exactly how I felt reading this book. I felt like I was watching a creepy movie. SO GOOD!!!

The werewolf concept in this novella is so unique, I loved that! It was so well written and really kept my interest. The story is told through the voice of Mercy, and what a voice she has! You can’t help but really like Mercy!!

I’m hoping (hint, hint) that this novella is this beginning of a series of books?! But if it is not, I am happy to have been able to have experienced The She-Wolf of Kanta!! I highly recommend this to my horror friends who want a quick little horror story that’s REALLY GOOD!!! Definitely 5/5 Stars!!!” BookDragonGirl

“A fresh take on the werewolf tale, set in a dystopian world where werewolves have radically altered society. This is an engaging, fast-paced story that manages to find glimmers of hope in the darkness. I look forward to reading more from this author!” Darrell Z. Grizzle on Goodreads

“Oh, I really liked this one! I loved the werewolf concept—it felt original and unique and all around cool!

As characters go, Mercy was a strong and fierce thirteen-year-old girl. I mean, seriously, she was one tough cookie with extra chocolate chips! She was smart, quick thinking, and did what needed to be done.

This was a quick read with great writing that felt more developed than some of the six hundred page books I have read. It also had The Walking Dead type vibe of a setting, minus the whole zombie thing!” Candace Robinson on Goodreads

Night Feeders

“I love this cover and I’m happy to report the story is just as gritty as the cover…

Wild west with vampires,werewolves and a sadistic sherriff…

Fun read! :)” Lisa Kessler on Goodreads

“I had the honor of editing this story, and I can definitely recommend it. Neither a typical western nor vampire story, it takes elements of both and weaves them together into a very descriptive and intriguing tale. Marlena has richly captured the quirks (and evils) of this small western town and its highly unusual inhabitants!” Jessica Augustsson on Goodreads

“So there is this city called Clarkville where a sheriff kills everyone who he either doesnt like or who he thinks committed a crime. The sheriffs name was Ritters, he runs this town well he thinks he does and only because he has some jewel around his neck that protects him. Not to mention under his office is a cellar which contains tons of vampires. He feeds the vampires anyone who commits a “crime” instead of killing them himself.
When a stranger whos name is Colton, comes to town looking for someone the sheriff and him gets into a argument, the sheriff decides that he has committed a crime but questioning him. So the sheriff knocks him unconscious and takes him outside and puts a bullet in his head and throws his body in the cellar with the vampires. But unknow to Ritters, Colton is another kind of animal.

I was iffy on starting this book because I mean come on western and paranormal who knew it would work! Well guess what it does!! Frank sure does know how to write a great short story! From the start there was action! It didnt take long at all for me to get hooked in this book! Took me a total of 30 mins to finish this book! Thats how hooked I was! I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!” Jennifer Moody on Goodreads

“Fast moving novella, pulled my right in. Loved the bouncing back and forth between the real west setting and the fantasy world with clues that surprise and delight. I am waiting for the next one!” party girl on Amazon

“Really well written with strong lead characters. It was fun to read and did not drag on with over description or plot lines that make you shake your head. You get in to the adventure right away and I enjoyed the take on the Vampires as well.Hey they did not sparkle! hahah They Eat people!!! Do not want to give much away but I truly enjoyed the read and look forward to the next story/or book.” Mark Tarrant on Amazon

“Just started and finished this quick read last night. Even though it was the end of a very long week, I couldn’t put it down. It moved very quickly and the depictions were so thorough and well written that I was rewarded with stressmares when I did go to sleep.

I would definitely read any follow-up stories to this one. ” Leia

The Mysterious Disappearance of Charlene Kerringer

“This is a dark fantasy mixed with a hard-boiled detective story set in the 1930s or ‘40s.

I love the voices of the private eye and the mother. Both are a little bit trope-ish and a lot of bit fun. Also, the trolls are humorous, both in manner and speech, and tad frightful, too.

There’s a monster baby in the story. That’s freaky-scary! I’m gonna have nightmares. Even so, this is not an extreme horror story . . . nothing horrific, gory, or foul-mouthed.

Fun, dark, satisfying.” Priscilla Bettis