Award-winning author Laurel McHargue, a 1983 graduate of The United States Military Academy at West Point, was raised in Braintree, Massachusetts, but somehow found her way to the breathtaking elevation of Colorado's Rocky Mountains where she has taught and currently lives with her husband. She established the Leadville Literary League, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote local literary endeavors and the arts, and she hosts the storytelling podcast "Alligator Preserves." Her publications include: • Hunt for Red Meat (love stories). Humorous memoir-style essays spanning three years of hunting the wily elk in Colorado with her husband. • The Hare, Raising Truth. When was the last time you read an adult fairy tale? This Grimm's Fairy Tales, Twilight Zone mashup is not for children. • "Miss?" Based on her experience as a first-year teacher, "Miss?" is a loosely fictionalized novel. It earned the IndieReader Approved Award. • Waterwight: Book I of the Waterwight Series. This YA fantasy adventure is compared to Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline by a KIRKUS reviewer. It earned a CIPA EVVY Silver Award for Fiction/Fantasy. • Waterwight Flux: Book II of the Waterwight Series. This YA fantasy adventure continues where Book I leaves off, and incorporates mythical gods. It earned a CIPA EVVY Merit Award. • Waterwight Breathe: Book III of the Waterwight Series. This YA fantasy adventure culminates in a decision that will change the lives of the hero, Celeste, and all of the characters in her life. It earned a CIPA EVVY Merit Award. • Haikus Can Amuse: 366 Haiku Starters. A gift journal. Finish the 2nd and 3rd lines of a haiku when given the first line, and write down your inspiration. • Hai CLASS ku. A 90-day spinoff of Haikus Can Amuse, this workbook provides a semester's worth of creative prompts. An alternative to Sudoku and crossword books. Laurel's goal is to author as many books as possible in genres of every type. She has also been known to act. Contact her for speaking engagements and workshops, and visit her on her blog where she writes about life, real and imagined: www.leadvillelaurel.com.
“McHargue (“Miss?”, 2013) taps into dreamscapes with their myth/dream logic very effectively in this entertaining novel.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A teenage girl with powerful abilities aids imprisoned gods and helps defend a village from evil scientists in this concluding installment of a trilogy.
Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, is a survivor of The Event, a cataclysmic disaster that swallowed up her parents and led to many strange, fluxing transformations of people and animals. Everyone has copper skin; some creatures meld together, like Lou and Layla—a “spectacular fusion of peacock and horse.” In Books I and II, Celeste discovered she could fly, rescued a village of children, trapped two feuding gods, discovered the lair of insane scientists who caused The Event, and helped release Zoya, a giant octopus held captive by the scientists, from agony. “I’m more than just a girl. I’ve done things,” says Celeste. Now, with one member of her lost family restored, Celeste has a new mission: Release the gods from their prisons to restore the planet’s balance, bring two kidnapped children home, and defend her village from the villainous scientists, who are building an army of invasion. Meanwhile, Celeste is enjoying her mutual attraction with Nick, who stirs new feelings and makes her feel beautiful. With help from allies like Old Man Massive, a sentient mountain, Celeste discovers more about her powers and faces her greatest challenge yet—one that will change her forever. McHargue (Waterwight Flux, 2017, etc.) packs a lot into this fast-moving final volume. While backstory is well-integrated into the narrative, this isn’t a stand-alone novel. That said, in many ways this outing, with its clearly stated quest and thrilling showdown, is easier to follow than the first two. The trilogy’s side characters, often so bizarre due to the flux, are now more familiar and often possess a rare individual charm—such as Orville, an “emerald-winged man,” who has also been a French-speaking windup frog. Celeste’s young romance helps balance her superpowers; as she says, “I may not be just a girl, but I’m still a girl.” Among so many cookie-cutter YA fantasies, McHargue’s originality is a pleasure to encounter.
Thoughtful and exciting, with wonderfully imagined characters.
Pub Date: March 6, 2019
Page count: 213pp
Publisher: Strack Press LLC
Review Posted Online: May 24, 2019
With a world in flux, a teenage girl looks for answers from quarreling deities in this YA fantasy sequel.
Book I of the Waterwight series takes place a few years after The Event, a cataclysmic natural disaster that left strange effects in its wake, such as people and animals changing forms. Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, discovers that she can fly; with help from often dreamlike figures (like Orville, a talking, winged Francophone frog), she saves a village of children. In Book II, moments after healing a toxic ocean, Celeste finds herself transformed into a dove. Two black ravens escort her into the clouds and to the old and tired god Odin, who wants her help to investigate what’s happening below and report back. Meanwhile, stragglers—some human, some distinctly odd—join the villagers, whose transformations and special powers are fluctuating. They face a new danger, according to Noor, a giant dragonfly, thanks to a dispute between Odin and his brother Kumugwe, the sea god. Events converge underwater when Celeste visits Kumugwe after escaping from Odin. She hopes to find her real parents. So do two sisters with a complicated history (one was rescued and raised by Kumugwe) who go in search of their scientist parents and their undersea lab. A great wrong must be righted in this hunt for the truth. McHargue (Hunt for Red Meat, 2017, etc.) again effectively offers images from dreamscape and myth in this intriguing follow-up novel. Though there are some standard YA tropes—post-apocalypse; teenage girl with special powers—the author goes beyond the expected with her original, striking characters. Merts, for example, has three heads atop a two-armed body; speaks only in haiku; and moves through the trees via hair braided into a long, prehensile whip. The plot is fast-moving, with action, danger, emotion, and moral choices; beneath all of this is a subtle environmental message embodied in the two scientists’ meddling with nature. Given her complicated narratives, McHargue could have helped readers with a prefatory summary of Book I, although she does provide backstory in the exposition.
Imaginative characters that powerfully tap into myth.
Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2018
Page count: 277pp
Publisher: Strack Press LLC
Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018
A novella about a lustful, wayward young man who finds a cursed rabbit’s foot.
Aeron McCloud is a charismatic orphan who’s looking forward to his upcoming 17th birthday party. His girlfriend, Jade, is the new girl at school who draws the attention of every man she passes. Bucky, Aeron’s best friend, is a nerdy, levelheaded boy who balances out Aeron’s brash machismo. One day, while preparing to go hunting with Bucky, Aeron finds a dirty, old rabbit’s foot that belonged to his grandfather. The foot proves to be a peculiar version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ring of power; Aeron obsessively carries it with him, and everyone who sees it is drawn to it. He soon realizes that the foot grants his wishes, brings him good luck, and gives him an unrelenting virility. Every woman Aeron encounters is inexorably attracted to the rabbit’s foot that he carries in his pocket, including Jade, who won’t sleep with him, despite his pleas. But as he begins to rely on the foot’s power too heavily, he realizes that it exerts a profound influence over him, and that he may be involved in something more dangerous than he first supposed. The novel gradually evolves into a warning against Aeron’s lecherous impulses. McHargue (Hunt for Red Meat: Love Stories, 2017, etc.) returns with an unusual tale of adolescent hormones run amok. At less than 100 pages, the book moves briskly, packed with plot and limited to a small cast of characters. The author writes from a second-person perspective (“It’s not your fault you were born with good looks on a bad day”)—a bold choice that makes the narrative more engaging, but one that may alienate some readers. Aeron is a supremely unlikable character (by design), and it’s rarely enjoyable to experience the story from his perspective, especially as he spends most of it in a state of arousal, cooking up immature sexual fantasies. Still, readers who enjoy tales that blend the spooky and the scandalous may find something worthwhile in this quick, easy novel.
A fast-paced tale with creepy and slightly sleazy elements.
Pub Date: March 1, 2017
Page count: 94pp
Publisher: Alpha Peak LLC
Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2017
In this YA adventure, a girl orphaned by global cataclysm searches for a new home, encountering talking animals and discovering she possesses special powers.
It’s been three or four years since The Event, a huge natural disaster with unnatural consequences that no one wants to talk about, including the adults at the orphanage where Celeste Araia Nolan, about 14, now lives. After a strange dream, Celeste decides to run away; in her journey, she meets helpful talking cats and dogs and the dangerous Shifter, an evil being who can take different forms. She also discovers an amazing ability: she can defy gravity, first with leaps and bounds, then by actually flying. From a stony-visaged mountain she calls Old Man Massive, Celeste learns she “must find the key to stopping the advance of the big water” lying southward. This is no normal ocean; it’s pink, gelatinous, reeking, destructive, and still spreading. Celeste flies across, getting a boost from Orville, a talking, winged, French-speaking frog who spoke to her in dreams. On the other side lies a village of children, survivors who have also developed strange powers, controlled by a mysterious Overleader, who punishes rule breakers. As Celeste works to find the key and save her new friends, she will face dangerous tests of her courage and resolve. McHargue (“Miss?”, 2013) taps into dreamscapes with their myth/dream logic very effectively in this entertaining novel. The section where Celeste gets trapped in a seductive fantasy castle—her parents alive, only her favorite foods on the table, every room full of toys and games—is powerfully spooky, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Post-apocalyptic YA fiction can be unrelentingly grim, but McHargue brings wit and warmth to this account as well as psychological insights, particularly in developing the Overleader’s character. There’s perhaps too much back and forth from the village to the mountain (Celeste begins to seem like a commuter flight), but the novel’s charms overcome this defect. Readers should want to know what happens next in the Waterwight world.
Striking dreamscapes make this tale about a heroine who can fly a fine first outing in a planned series.
Pub Date: Feb. 29, 2016
Page count: 346pp
Publisher: Alpha Peak
Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016
Waterwight: Book I of the Waterwight Series
EVVY Award (Silver)Author Laurel McHargue Launches New Podcast About the Human Condition: Alligator Preserves, 2018 New YA Fantasy Book Release: "Waterwight Flux" is Pure Escapism for 2018, 2018 If You Give a Girl a Gun, She Just Might Bring Home the Bacon, 2017 Award-Winning YA Fantasy Adventure "Waterwight" is Now Available in Audiobook Format, 2017 Alpha Peak's Award-Winning Author Laurel McHargue is Releasing a New Book, 2017 Alpha Peak LLC's Newly Released YA Fiction Will Excite Students, 2016
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