Bad Magic

Thanks to NetGalley, I’ve been introduced to the first book in what is sure to be a fantastic series for middle grade readers. This book is Bad Magic by Pseudonymous Bosch, and it’s due for a September 16th release.

Bad Magic is full of snark and humor, and it also parallels one of my favorite plays, The Tempest by William Shakespeare. All in all, I’d say this book is a must-purchase for libraries that serve middle grade readers.

Clay hates magic. One day, he writes his feelings for magic in his journal, and his words–Magic Sucks!–mysteriously (or magically) appear on the side of a building at school. Of course, all fingers point to Clay, and even though he knows he’s innocent, he’s sent away to Earth Ranch, a wilderness camp for troubled youth.

Almost immediately, Clay realizes that things are kind of weird at Earth Ranch, which is located perilously close to an active volcano. There’s the llama that only responds to Spanish, the swarms of bees that simply don’t behave like they should, and the vog (volcanic smog) that makes everything just a little spookier.

Things get even stranger when Clay learns of the seemingly haunted–and off-limits–library that has all but been abandoned. Of course, like any curious kid presented with a mystery, Clay has to investigate this library, and his quest for answers leads him on a journey that makes him question everything around him…including the reason he was sent to Earth Ranch.

What is really going on at Earth Ranch? Is anyone who they seem to be? Why is this camp so much like a play he was reading in school? Is Clay just imagining the connections, or is he really living out a Shakespearean play? Is that crazy, or is someone trying to get Clay to believe in magic once again? If so, who?

Nothing makes sense for Clay, and his search for the truth will only give him more questions. Can you figure out what’s really going on before Clay does? Jump into Bad Magic to find out!

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I had hoped to add Bad Magic to my elementary library collection, but I think some of the humor is just a little too mature for my students. Middle grade readers, though, will eat up all of the sarcasm and gross humor in this book. (I’ve taught middle school before, so I know snark and potty humor is the first language of most 6th-8th graders.)

I don’t know why, but I tend to enjoy novels with funny, informative footnotes. I got those in Bad Magic. These footnotes added to the humor in this novel, but they also provided readers with information on things they may not be totally familiar with…like popular 70s TV shows, for example. I don’t know how it will look in the print version of the novel, but my digital galley had each of these asterisks as links to the footnotes. (Click on the asterisk, and move to the footnote. Click on the asterisk next to the footnote, and move back to the text. Easy-peasy.) I’m hoping that the print version will have the footnotes at the bottom of each page so that reading this added info isn’t too jarring.

As a fan of Shakespeare, particularly The Tempest, I really appreciated Bad Magic‘s connections to this too-often-forgotten play. Those familiar with the play may be able to figure out what’s going on with Clay much sooner than he does. Bad Magic could also be a fun follow-up to studies of The Tempest. I think students (and teachers) could enjoy comparing the two stories and using what happened in The Tempest to predict what will happen in Bad Magic.

Like I said previously, Bad Magic is a must-have book in middle school libraries, and this book can be purchased on September 16th. If you’d like to learn more about this book and others by author Pseudonymous Bosch, definitely do not go to this website.

Published in: on August 31, 2014 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I Am the Mission

Caution! It is imperative that you read I Am the Weapon, book one in Allen Zadoff’s Unknown Assassin series, before continuing with book two, I Am the Mission. This message will self-destruct in 3…2…1…

Just kidding. This message won’t do anything. But seriously, read the first book.

As you’ve probably gathered, I recently read I Am the Mission, the nerve-wracking sequel to I am the Weapon. This second installment picks up shortly after the conclusion of book one, and it is quite the page-turner.

I Am the Mission came out on June 17th, and some of you may have seen it under a couple of different titles: The Lost Mission or Fearless. (Thanks to NetGalley, I read a digital proof of the book with The Lost Mission as its title.) No matter what the title, though, the book is gripping and continues to follow the life of young man who works as an assassin for a group known only as The Program. This teenager moves from one identity, one assignment, to the next, and his only concerns are to eliminate his targets and protect The Program at all costs. During his last mission, however, he began to question his orders, and that tiny seed of doubt is creeping in once again…

After going off the grid for a bit–to come to grips with his last mission and to get his head on straight–this boy, who we’ve previously known as Ben, is pulled back into The Program. His loyalty is being questioned, and he knows he’ll have to suppress his doubts to keep his handlers from deciding he’s too much of a threat to their organization. One way to do that is to complete the next mission he’s given.

When another operative for The Program is seemingly terminated, our boy–who now goes by Daniel–is tasked with completing this lost mission. His job is to kill Eugene Moore, a man who runs Camp Liberty and appears to be amassing an army of young people for the express purpose of overthrowing the government and/or committing acts of domestic terrorism.

The job should have been an easy in-and-out, but things quickly grow complicated, and Daniel finds himself being led to Moore’s training camp with no way of getting word to The Program. His only option now is to become a part of Camp Liberty, get close to Moore’s kids, and look for another opportunity to eliminate this new threat to national security. It isn’t easy, though. This camp takes its own protection very seriously, and not everyone trusts the new guy sniffing around.

As Daniel learns more about the camp and its leader, he tries to get word to The Program about what is going on…but his efforts amount to nothing. He cannot reach anyone, and, after a harrowing episode at what should have been a safe house, Daniel seriously questions what has happened to The Program. Has their security been breached? Has this secret organization been disabled? Or is there something much more sinister at work? Something, perhaps, targeted at Daniel himself?

Questions abound for Daniel on this chaotic mission, but he remains determined to carry out his orders…even when he learns that The Program has not exactly been truthful with him. Daniel must act without mercy against those who would seek to do harm to the country. To do that, he will have to put aside fear, potential friendships, and his own safety to see this mission to its explosive end. Will Daniel’s efforts be enough? Will he uncover The Program’s secrets in the process? Only time will tell, and that may be running out for young Daniel…

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I think I mentioned in my post on I Am the Weapon that our protagonist in this series can’t really be called a hero. If anything, I’d label his as an anti-hero. In the end, yes, he does demonstrate some heroic tendencies, but Daniel–or whatever you want to call him–has questionable loyalties sometimes, he’s been known to blindly follow orders, and he is, let’s face it, an assassin. Even when he has doubts about how someone fits into what’s going on, he kills them if they get in his way. (If you couldn’t tell, one of the deaths in this book kind of bothered me. I didn’t think this person needed to die. Daniel felt differently.) With all of that, though, I still found myself rooting for him. I wanted him to question his orders. I hoped he would put an end to the brainwashing going on at Camp Liberty. I wished for him to come out of everything unharmed. Unharmed, but determined to finally uncover the truth about The Program. For the most part, I think I got what I wanted.

For those considering purchasing this book–and its predecessor–for personal or school/classroom libraries, I feel I must give a word of caution. This series is, in my humble opinion, written for a young adult audience. It is violent at times (which fits with a protagonist who is an assassin), and there are a couple of sexual situations. Language was true to the setting, but some younger readers (and their parents) may have problems with it. Also, there are some political issues in this book that require some serious, intense thought and knowledge of the current political climate in the United States. For all of those reasons, I would recommend this series to readers in tenth grade and up. These books are written for an audience with some maturity. (No offense intended to anyone reading this who is a ninth grader or younger.)

If you’re interested in The Unknown Assassin series or other books by Allen Zadoff, check out his website.

There’s no word yet on when we can expect the next book in this series, but, given how things ended in I Am the Mission, I hope it’s soon!

Published in: on July 1, 2014 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The House of Hades

Even though I’m not going to give too much away here, before you read The House of Hades by Rick Riordan, you MUST read the entire Percy Jackson & the Olympians series and the first three books in the Heroes of Olympus series.  These books, in order, are:

Seriously, read them all! 

Last night at exactly 11:06, I finished reading The House of Hades, the fourth book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. (I should have finished it sooner, but life got in the way. At any rate, I’m done now.) I then proceeded to dream that I was a demigod all night long. I’m kind of exhausted today, but I’ll do my best to provide just a little information on this intense fourth installment without giving too much away.

When last we saw our beloved demigods, Percy and Annabeth had plunged into the depths of Tartarus, and the remaining members of the quest were on their way to Greece in an attempt to stop Gaea from rising. Now, Percy and Annabeth are facing unspeakable horrors in an effort to close the Doors of Death from the abyss, and Leo, Hazel, Frank, Jason, Piper, Nico, and Coach Hedge are traveling through the ancient lands and trying to close the Doors from the mortal world.

Both groups are facing terrors that they couldn’t have anticipated, but there is hope. Help comes to them in some unexpected forms, and every member of this quest will find inner strength that makes them more powerful than they could have ever realized. But are they strong enough to perform the daunting task in front of them? What new obstacles will they face along the way? And can they find a way to complete their missions while keeping Greek and Roman demigods from destroying each other?

Everything will come to a head at the House of Hades. Who will be victorious? What comes next? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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So, yeah…I haven’t told you much. I didn’t want to. The House of Hades is a book that fans of this series (and the Percy Jackson series) must experience for themselves, so I didn’t want to post any blatant spoilers. I will say, though, that the ending didn’t make me want to hurl the book across the room like Mark of Athena did. (A lot of the action in this book was projectile-worthy, but the ending was borderline satisfying. That’s as much of a spoiler as I’m going to give you.)

There’s still, however, a lot of story to be told. (Will Gaea wake? What will happen when/if she does? Can a few demigods defeat the flippin’ Earth Mother? Will all of them survive? Will Leo ever find true and lasting love? Will Annabeth and Percy ever get a rainbows-and-fairy-dust happy ending?) Luckily, we have at least one more book in this series to give us some answers. The Blood of Olympus will be released next fall, and judging by the title, things are going to get much worse for our favorite demigods if before they get better.

If you’d like more information on The House of Hades, check out Rick Riordan’s website. You can also follow the author on Twitter @camphalfblood.

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chosen at Nightfall

Spoilers! Read the first four books in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series (Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, Taken at Dusk, and Whispers at Moonrise) before proceeding with this post. I will be writing a bit about Chosen at Nightfall, the fifth and final book in this series, and I don’t want to ruin things for you…but I will. (You may also want to take a look at two Shadow Falls novellas, Turned at Dark and Saved at Sunrise. They shed some light on one of the most interesting characters in this series.)

If it’s not readily apparent, I finished reading Chosen at Nightfall earlier today. I’ve been enamored of this series since I first got my hands on an ARC of Born at Midnight about two and a half years ago. Today, I concluded my journey with these characters (or at least some of them). This finale was chock-full of action, conflict, and danger, but it also contained it’s fair share of levity, friendship, and, yes, romance. Many of the questions that plagued me throughout the first four books were answered in this one, and several problems were resolved. Some of my predictions from previous books came true. Others…not so much. All in all, Chosen at Nightfall was a great conclusion to a series that I’ve truly enjoyed. I hope you’ll feel the same.

Kylie Galen finally knows what she is. As a chameleon, she possesses gifts from all supernatural species…along with a few others that are unique to her kind. And even more that are unique to her. While staying with her grandfather and great-aunt, Kylie’s learning a great deal about her species, but she’s finding life with the other chameleons rather difficult. She doesn’t fit in here like she did at Shadow Falls, and she’s viewed with a certain amount of distrust. What’s a girl to do?

Well, if you’re Kylie Galen, fate has a way of stepping in and making your decisions for you. When Mario, a powerful and evil chameleon, returns with the intent to wreak havoc in Kylie’s life, it becomes clear that she must return to Shadow Falls for her own protection. Her grandfather disagrees with Kylie’s decision to return to the camp/school that is her true home, but it’s really not up to him. Kylie makes a getaway from the chameleon compound and, even though she encounters her share of danger in the process, returns to Shadow Falls…and to the two young men who are fighting to win her heart.

Derek, the half-fae who can feel Kylie’s emotions, and Lucas, the werewolf who broke her heart. How can Kylie choose between these two guys when she’s got so much other stuff to worry about? It’s not like she’s super busy with anything like finding a way to help the teen chameleons who want more freedom, or dealing with a sword-wielding ghost who shows up at inconvenient times and wants her to kill someone, or trying to figure out why her mom’s boyfriend gives her the creeps, or helping her friends with their love lives, or, you know, learning to fight so that she’ll be ready to face Mario again. No, she’s got plenty of time to worry about deciding between Derek and Lucas, both of whom have given her reason to distrust them. (Where’s a sarcasm font when you need one?) Does she want either of them after everything that’s happened? (Yes, she does, in case you were wondering.) Who truly holds her heart, and can she get past her own issues–and his–to make things really work?

Boy problems aside, Kylie has a life or death battle on her hands. She knows that she must be the one to face Mario, but she doesn’t know if she has the strength or will to destroy a being so powerful…without losing her own life in the process. Kylie will have to use everything she’s learned and all the connections she’s made–to both the living and the dead–to get out of this one with her life and her sanity intact. Will it be enough? Will she finally be able to rid herself of this enemy that has tormented her for so long? The time of reckoning is fast approaching, and it seems that fate is not done with throwing some surprises Kylie’s way…

I hope that the few paragraphs above have intrigued you or whetted your appetite for this book and the others in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series. If you decide to give the series a try, I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It’s a great ride for anyone who likes some supernatural teen angst with a bit of action, mystery, and romance thrown in. And even though the characters in these books are paranormal beings, they relate to each other (most of the time) like typical teenagers. They have problems with their parents, they think about sex, they break the rules, and they’re trying to figure out who they are.

I’m happy to report that this is not the last we’ve seen of at least some of the Shadow Falls characters. According to a small teaser at the back of my copy of Chosen at Nightfall, a series is in the works that revolves around your favorite vampire and mine, Della Tsang. (If you’re already a fan of this series, you know that the two Shadow Falls novellas deal with some of her backstory.) I’m hoping we’ll see more information about this on C.C. Hunter’s website soon!

That’s all for now folks! I’ll leave you with this absolutely fantastic book trailer for Chosen at Nightfall. Truthfully, it’s so good that it made me want to read the book all over again!

*I hesitate to recommend this book to middle grade readers, simply because I know some parents frown on cursing and frank talk of sex…both of which are present in this series. (Truthfully, I think a lot of people are a bit too prudish about such things. If you think middle school students don’t curse or talk about sex, well…you’ve never worked in a middle school. That’s all I’m saying.) As with any other book or series, know your readers, and recommend books accordingly. Knight Reader out.*

Published in: on May 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm  Comments (4)  
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Whispers at Moonrise

Spoilers! If you haven’t already, read the first three books in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series (Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, and Taken at Dusk) before reading further. The fourth book, Whispers at Moonrise, picks up immediately after book three, and it is not a stand-alone book. Even those of you who have read the previous books might want to skim over the last chapter or so of the third book before reading book four. (I wish I had.)

I finally finished reading Whispers at Moonrise last night. It took me over a week to get through this one, and most of that time was spent simply trying to remember what happened in the previous book. This fourth installment picks up where Taken at Dusk leaves off, and jumping right back into the world of Shadow Falls was a bit jarring. I really should have skimmed through the third book before starting this one, but I didn’t have that kind of time (or so I thought). I really should have made time to refamiliarize myself with the events that closed Taken at Dusk. Maybe I would have read Whispers at Moonrise much faster if I had. That being said, once I really got into this book, things progressed rather quickly. I actually read most of the book yesterday thanks to an early dismissal from school due to icy conditions.

In Whispers at Moonrise, we continue the story of Kylie Galen and her place at Shadow Falls. Kyle is still trying to figure out where she fits in the supernatural world, but her journey is about to get more confusing than ever before…

Kylie is something of an oddity…even among her fellow supernatural beings. No one seems to know what she really is. She exhibits traits of all species (vampire, fae, were, witch, etc.), and she exhibits some unique gifts that tend to freak out those around her. She is a ghost whisperer, a protector, and a healer. All of this combined makes Kylie’s life extremely difficult, and she doesn’t know where she truly belongs. Things are coming to light, though, that may change all that. Through some weird communications with her dad (who is a ghost) and her grandfather (who isn’t), Kylie begins to learn a little about what she is. It seems that she is a chameleon. At first, Kylie equates this with being a supernatural lizard, but she comes to discover that this “gift” makes her a target…a target who may have to leave the one place she feels safe–Shadow Falls–if she’s to have any hope of discovering, controlling, and even hiding her abilities.

On top of learning what she really is, Kylie is facing some relationship troubles. (Isn’t this always the case?) She has strong feelings for both Lucas (werewolf) and Derek (fae). While Kylie thinks she loves Lucas, she’s disturbed and frustrated by his pack and the limitations they’re putting on him and his relationship with her. Can she honestly be with someone when that person’s entire “family” is against the match? And then there’s Derek. Derek, who’s always there for her when she needs someone to lean on, never makes her doubt his loyalty, and understands that she’s just trying to find some answers…and a small measure of peace. While Derek may now be in the “friend-zone,” he makes no secret that he wants more, and Kylie knows that a relationship with him would be much less complicated that the one she’s currently in with Lucas. It’s a pickle, and Kylie doesn’t know what to do…especially when Lucas’ secrets come to light and threaten everything Kylie thought she knew about him.

As if all of that weren’t enough, a new ghost is visiting Kylie, but this ghost isn’t like the others who’ve sought her out for help. This ghost has the face of Holiday, someone Kylie loves, someone she’ll do anything to protect. How is this possible? What danger is the ghost trying to warn her of? And how can Kylie figure things out before something happens to Holiday, her confidante and fiercest protector?

Changes are coming to Shadow Falls and Kylie Galen. Some of these changes will bring Kylie the answers she’s always needed, but others will force her to take a hard look at the world around her and her place in it. Will Kylie stay at Shadow Falls, the place that has quickly become her home? Or will she leave everything–even her best friends and the love of her life–behind to discover more about her true nature? Read Whispers at Moonrise, the fourth book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, to learn how one girl deals with the constant confusion in her life and what she’ll do to finally begin to learn the truth about herself and her legacy.

Even though it took me a while to get into Whispers at Moonrise, once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was action-packed and angsty, everything I expect from a good YA paranormal novel. I’m still not sure if I’m Team Lucas or Team Derek, and I expect that I won’t make up my mind until I’m well into the fifth (and final) book, Chosen at Nightfall, which is due for an April 30th release. I was happy that at least one of this series’ love stories was sort of resolved in this book.  I’m hoping that it won’t falter in the last book. (It better not! I don’t think I could take something happening to this couple. It would be too much!)

*Quick note:  There are some adult situations and salty language in this book, so I probably wouldn’t put it in the hands of a middle grade reader. This entire series is best suited for teen and adult readers.*

To learn more about the Shadow Falls saga, you may want to visit the author’s website, Twitter feed, or the Shadow Falls series Facebook page. You may also want to take a quick look at the book trailer below (shared from the C.C. Hunter’s website). It doesn’t give away much, but it’s a pretty good teaser for this book. Enjoy!

Published in: on January 26, 2013 at 9:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Mark of Athena

Spoilers!  If you haven’t read the entire Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian) and the first two books in the Heroes of Olympus series (The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune), turn back now.  If you don’t, reading The Mark of Athena could be more confusing than trying to find a way out of Daedalus’ labyrinth.  (If you didn’t get that reference, it might also be a good idea to stop now.)

So, yesterday I finished reading The Mark of Athena, the third book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series.  Just when I think that things can’t possibly get any worse for Percy Jackson, Annabeth, and their lovely demigod friends, I’m proven horribly wrong.  After reading The Son of Neptune last year, I knew things weren’t going to be all moonlight and roses in this book, but I don’t think I was prepared for just how bad things were going to get…and, if the way The Mark of Athena ended is any indication, the next book won’t be a day at the park either.

The Mark of Athena begins with Annabeth (daughter of Athena), Leo (son of Hephaestus), Jason (son of Jupiter), and Piper (daughter of Aphrodite) descending on Camp Jupiter, the Roman equivalent to Camp Half-Blood.  They’re not sure how welcome they will be, especially since they are literally descending on the camp in what can only be called a Greek warship.  While most of the Roman campers are not exactly thrilled with the presence of the ship (also known as the Argo II), one person at Camp Jupiter is delighted to see it…Percy Jackson.  He hasn’t seen his girlfriend, Annabeth, in what seems like ages, and he’s deliriously happy to be reunited with her.  That is, until his newly arrived friends accidentally start a war with the Romans who have taken him in, and he, Hazel (daughter of Pluto), and Frank (son of Mars) are forced to make a hasty exit with Annabeth and company.

Now, we have seven demigods aboard a Greek trireme heading off on a quest that is likely to kill all of them.  This deadly adventure takes them to such exotic locales as Kansas, Atlanta (specifically the Georgia Aquarium), and Charleston (South Carolina shout-out!).  But these are just pit-stops on the way to their ultimate destination…Rome.  Although the journey is treacherous, these seven demigods must work together to close the Doors of Death, stop Gaea and her giants from destroying the earth, and find some way for Greeks, Romans, and gods to work together.  On top of all that, Annabeth has an additional quest handed down directly from her mother.  She has to follow the Mark of Athena and restore something crucial to her mother.  All other children of Athena have failed (read:  died)  in this quest.  Should be a piece of cake, right?  (If you’ve read any of the previous books, you already know the answer to that question.)

From the very beginning of this quest, things go wrong, and it’s going to take something drastic to turn everything around.  Are these seven demigods up to the task?  What sacrifices will be made to ensure the success of this dangerous crusade?  And are these young people prepared for the fallout of the decisions they will be forced to make?  Discover the answers to these questions and many more when you read The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan.

It should be obvious to all that I loved this book (just like its predecessors).  The Mark of Athena was filled with humor, horror, danger, heavy doses of Greek and Roman mythology, love, giants, disguises, and loads of adventure.  (Kind of sounds like the description Peter Falk gives Fred Savage for The Princess Bride.)  I was enthralled from the very first page, and when I finally finished the book, I had to give myself quite a bit of time to process everything that happened.  (Especially the ending.  That was brutal.)

I can hardly wait to read the next book in this epic series, The House of Hades.  It should be out in the fall of 2013, so wait I must.  There will also be a fifth book in this series.  I’m pretty sure Rick Riordan is trying to kill me with all of this waiting.  (I’m not the most patient of people.)

If you’d like more information about The Mark of Athena and Rick Riordan’s other amazing books, check out his website at http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.  You can also follow the author on Twitter @camphalfblood.

For those who are interested, here is a book trailer for The Mark of Athena from DisneyHyperion.  It tells absolutely nothing about the book, so you don’t really need to concern yourself with spoilers.

Published in: on October 29, 2012 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel

*Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel is the sequel to Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything.  It’s not absolutely essential that you read the first book before this one, but it would definitely help.  Also, the first book is made of awesome, so you need to read it anyway.*

If there is a perfect summer read for kids who just finished the fifth grade, Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel, written by Steve Cotler and illustrated by Adam McCauley, might just be it.  As a matter of fact, this is an excellent summer read for kids of all ages, especially those of us who have ever been to summer camp!  (It made me fondly recall my own summers at Camp Marietta.)  Everything that made Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything a great read also holds true for this sequel.  Cheesie’s voice is delightful and laugh-out-loud hilarious, and I know my students will love this book as much as they are currently eating up the first one (which is nominated for the 2012-13 South Carolina Children’s Book Award).

In Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel, readers follow Cheesie, his best friend Georgie, and a whole cast of characters to Camp Windward (for boys) and Camp Leeward (for girls) in Maine. (Events in this book pick up right where they left off in the first book.  It’s the summer after fifth grade graduation.)  Cheesie is sure that this will be the best summer ever because he and Georgie will be the oldest of the Little Guys at camp. Unfortunately, thanks to events that occurred in the first book, things don’t quite work out the way Cheesie had hoped. Now, Cheesie and Georgie are the youngest in the Big Guys group at camp. (Not a big deal if you’re already kind of big like Georgie, but it’s bad news if you’re already a little guy like Cheesie.)  This presents a whole new set of problems, and the biggest one is probably Kevin Welch, his sister Goon’s boyfriend.

Camp Windward is not off to a stellar start, but Cheesie comes up with a way that might help him to make the best of things.  He challenges Kevin to a Cool Duel.  Whoever is voted the coolest in their cabin at the end of a week is the coolest guy at camp!  Kevin gets out to an early lead, but Cheesie isn’t a quick-witted kid for nothing.  He comes up with a couple of things that are sure to earn him some votes.  But will he get enough votes to win the Cool Duel?  You should definitely read this book to find out!

Even though the Cool Duel is a big part of this book (hence the title), there’s also a lot of other stuff going on:  a dance with the girls from Camp Leeward, sneaking into the computer lab, snakes, a talent show, and the most epic scary story in the known universe.  Cheesie also introduces readers to exciting new words (only a few of which are made up) and questions to ponder.  Cheesie’s website, http://cheesiemack.com/, also plays a big part in this book.  This wonderful site makes this book, like its predecessor, truly interactive. 

All in all, Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel is the perfect follow-up to the first book, and I can’t wait to see what Cheesie gets up to next!  (FYI, the third book, Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy!, will be out in June of 2013.  I can’t believe I have to wait that long!  Ugh!!!)  I’m working on organizing an author visit with Steve Cotler to Greenville County (South Carolina) elementary schools in February.  I’m so looking forward to having discussions with my students and the author about both of the wonderful Cheesie Mack books and, hopefully, what we can expect in the third!

Published in: on July 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Taken at Dusk

Warning!  Proceed with caution if you haven’t already read C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series:  Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, the ebook novella Turned at Dark, and the latest installment, Taken at Dusk.  Spoilers ahead!

By now you’ve no doubt gathered that I’ve finished reading Taken at Dusk, C.C. Hunter’s newest Shadow Falls novel.  I was so intrigued by what happened at the end of Awake at Dawn that I had to make Taken at Dusk my next YA read.  (I also made time to read Della’s story in Turned at Dark.  It was very enlightening.)  Anyway, Taken at Dusk picks up immediately where Awake at Dawn left off–which can be a bit jarring if there’s a lot of time in between books.  If it’s been a while since you read Awake at Dawn, you may want to reread the last chapter before picking up the next book.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

Kylie Galen is a mystery, and she’s a little sick of it.  She’s doing her best to find the truth about what she is and where her family came from, but answers are hard to find when everyone–even those closest to her–want to keep some things hidden. 

It doesn’t help matters that Kylie is being haunted by an amnesiac ghost with a cryptic message.  Someone lives, and someone dies.  At first, that’s all Kylie gets from her mysterious visitor.  As time goes on, however, Kylie learns more about the ghost, and what she learns may shake the very foundation of her world and force her to reexamine who should–or shouldn’t–be trusted.

Kylie’s also dealing with something that is the plague of nearly every teenage girl.  Boys.  Two boys, actually.  Lucas, a werewolf, wants to be with Kylie, but his pack may have other ideas.  Derek, who is half-Fae, sort of wants to be with Kylie, but he’s having issues of his own.  Kylie is torn between the both of them, and she doesn’t know how to resolve things so that no one gets hurt.  Is that even possible?

On top of all of this drama, really evil dudes still seem determined to kill Kylie.  Why?  What’s so important about her?  Kylie doesn’t know, but she’s determined to solve the puzzle that her life has become.  Will she be able to find the truth and still save those she loves?  It’s unclear, but one thing is certain…Kylie’s journey is far from over.

Taken at Dusk is a great read for anyone who enjoys great supernatural YA fiction.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of this book, and I’m still a little tense because I’m anticipating what might happen in the next book, Whispers at Moonrise, which is scheduled for an October 2nd release.

I would especially recommend C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls books if you’re a fan of books like Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy trilogy, Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall trilogy, or Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures series.  Each of these series gave me the same kind of vibe that Shadow Falls did, and none of them are to be missed!

Published in: on June 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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Awake at Dawn

Caution:  Read Born at Midnight, the first book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, before continuing.  (And if it’s been, say, a year and a half since you read book one, you might want to reread a bit to refresh your memory.  Take my word on this.)

If it’s not apparent from the above warning, I read Born at Midnight about a year and a half ago while on a trip with my dad to Indianapolis.  (We were going to see the Colts—namely Peyton Manning—play the Jacksonville Jaguars.  It should go without saying that we are now planning to see the Denver Broncos play somebody.)  Since I was reading an ARC of this first book in the Shadow Falls series, I knew I’d have a long wait before I read book two.  Well, as often happens, life—and other books—got in the way, and I didn’t make time to read book two, Awake at Dawn, until this week.  (Luckily, I don’t have to wait for book three, Taken at Dusk.  It’s already out.)  Anyway, life continued to get in the way this week.  Thanks to meetings, lawn care, and being completely exhausted from dealing with the end of the school year (we only have one week left), it took me the entire week to read Awake at Dawn.  (For those who know me, it is rare for it to take longer than a few days to finish a book.  I read Mockingjay in eleven hours.)  Part of my problem was also that I couldn’t remember what happened in the first book, so I had to spend a little time skimming through Born at Midnight.  Even then, it was hard for me to get immediately invested in what was happening in Awake at Dawn.  Eventually, the story managed to suck me in, and I couldn’t wait to turn the next page.

Kylie Galen doesn’t know what she is, but she does know that her “gifts” are not normal, even among the supernaturals at Shadow Falls Camp.  She communicates with ghosts, which freaks out the other campers—which happen to include witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and shapeshifters.  One of the ghosts that visits Kylie is telling her that someone she loves will die if she doesn’t do something, so Kylie has to figure out the ghost’s cryptic messages while dealing with the craziness that has invaded her own life.

In addition to dealing with her father (who is a ghost), her mom and step-dad splitting up, her roommates (a moody vampire and a rather absent-minded witch), a best friend who is growing more distant by the day, and her own insecurities about her supernatural abilities, Kylie also has problems with her love life.  (Doesn’t everyone?)  Derek is part Fairy and has been a calming presence in Kylie’s life while everything else seems to fall apart.  Lucas is a werewolf who skipped town with a she-wolf but still manages to invade Kylie’s dreams.  Kylie’s head is telling her that Derek is the one she should be with, but her heart is a bit more confused.  When she learns that Lucas—and the horrible you-know-what he left with—are returning to Shadow Falls, Kylie is more conflicted than ever.  She knows she must follow her heart, but she doesn’t want to hurt anyone…including herself.

While Kylie’s love life is in turmoil, her actual life may be in danger.  She senses that someone has been watching and following her, but she can’t get a real grasp on why anyone would be interested in harming her…or worse.  When she finally realizes who—or what—is on her trail, it may be too late to save herself or even the people she cares about the most.

Will Kylie be able to save herself and those closest to her?  Will she ever figure out who she is and where she really comes from?  Can Kylie choose between Derek and Lucas, two great guys who both mean so much to her?  Will her life ever be normal again?  Uncover the truth when you read Awake at Dawn, the second book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series.

Like I mentioned above, it took me a while to get into this sequel.  In fact, the action didn’t really pick up until I was about halfway through the book.  After that, things positively flew by, and it didn’t take me very long to finish the second half.  And I’m so invested in the characters now that one of my next reads will be book three, Taken at Dusk.  I’m really interested to see where these characters will be taken next…especially considering how things ended with some of them in Awake at Dawn.

For even more from the world of Shadow Falls, you can check out a special eBook short story, Turned at Dark, which tells more about Della Tsang, Kylie’s vampire roommate.  (I just got my very first Nook, so I’ll be adding this one to my library.)  In addition to the third book, Taken at Dusk, which is already out, there will be a fourth book, Whispers at Moonrise, and it’s scheduled for an October 2nd release.

If you’d like to learn more about C.C. Hunter and her Shadow Falls novels, visit http://www.cchunterbooks.com/news.html.

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Son of Neptune

Before I get to my latest read, I’d like to wish everyone who follows this blog a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, wonderful Winter Solstice, and lovely Festivus for the rest of us.  I hope everyone’s holidays are super!  I spent half of today finishing a great book, so my Christmas is off to a great start!

I’ve been meaning to read The Son of Neptune, the second book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, for a couple of months now.  Life (and a few other books) have prevented that from happening, but I finally got around to this book during my much needed winter break.  (Of course, my students had a little to do with this.  They want to talk to me about this book, so I promised them I’d have it read before we returned to school in January.  I am a woman of my word.)  Now that I’ve finished The Son of Neptune, I wish I had read it sooner.  Like all of Rick Riordan’s books, it’s a wonderfully complicated story filled with secrets, tragic heroes, danger, and help in unexpected places.  I was engrossed from the very beginning–especially since the story started off with Percy Jackson–and, now that I’m finished, I’m eager for the next installment.  I hope that you’ll feel the same.  I will warn you, though…if you haven’t read the entire Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian) and The Lost Hero, read those before starting with The Son of Neptune.  All of these books are beautifully connected, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on something important.

In The Son of Neptune, Percy Jackson has just risen from a very long sleep. He doesn’t remember much of anything. He only knows his name and that he’s fighting two gorgons (sisters of Medusa). His only hope of surviving is to get to the camp for demigods that’s nearby. Something about Camp Jupiter seems familiar, but it seems a little off to Percy…and the residents of the camp think there’s something a little off about Percy as well.  He’s not exactly welcome with open arms, especially when it becomes clear that he is a son of Neptune (a bad omen at Camp Jupiter).  In this Roman camp, people seem to recognize that there something a bit Greek about Percy, and Romans and Greeks don’t exactly have a history of getting along.  Percy knows his true place isn’t at Camp Jupiter, but he soon discovers that he has a part to play in helping the camp survive…

Immediately upon arriving at Camp Jupiter, Percy encounters two young demigods who become his instant friends:  Hazel and Frank.  Hazel is a daughter of Pluto who is hiding a bunch of secrets, including where (or when) she came from and her role in Gaea’s war against the Olympus.  Frank is seen as a bit of a loser and is still waiting to learn who his godly parent is.  When the answer he’s always waited for finally arrives, Frank is less than pleased with his father’s identity, for it means that his life is about to get a lot more complicated.  (He’s not wrong.) 

Percy, Hazel, and Frank are sent on a quest to prevent Gaea’s giant Alcyoneus from taking the war against Olympus to the next level.  There’s a bit of a problem, though.  (Isn’t there always?)  The three demigods have just a few days to make it from San Francisco to Alaska, and they have to battle lots of monsters along the way.  They’ve also got to make a few important pit stops to communicate with potential allies (who may or may not have their own agendas).  On top of that, once they deal with Alcyoneus, who cannot be killed in his home, they’ve got to return to Camp Jupiter to help save the camp from the monsters on their way to destroy it.  Easy peasy, right?  Yeah…not so much.  On this journey, secrets will be revealed, old (and new) foes and friends will be encountered, and the young demigods will encounter Death himself.  Will they be able to complete the nearly impossible task before them, or will Gaea find a way to further her cause against Olympus?  Will Percy regain his memory?  If he does, what will it mean for his life at Camp Jupiter?  To find the answers to these questions and more, read The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan!

It should go without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed The Son of Neptune. It is a great book for readers ages 9 to 99.  The things that I loved about Riordan’s previous books also apply to this one:  fully developed characters, an intricate plot, tons of action, friends and enemies in unexpected places, and a liberal dose of humor.  I can’t wait to see where the third book, The Mark of Athena, takes us.  It should be an interesting ride.

By the way, The Mark of Athena is scheduled for a fall 2012 release.  In the meantime, I urge you to read Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series–The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire.  There’s no word yet on when the third book in this series will be released.  Also, I heard recently that Rick Riordan may be writing a series centered around Norse mythology when he’s done tackling Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.  If you’d like more information about Rick Riordan and his amazing books, visit http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.  Happy holidays!

Published in: on December 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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