The Spindlers

This one has been on my to-read list for quite some time, and I finally got around to it this weekend. The Spindlers, an upper elementary/middle grade novel from acclaimed author Lauren Oliver, is a fantastical tale that brings to mind such classics as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and even The Chronicles of Narnia. It is rather scary at times, making it a perfect recommendation for younger readers looking for a spooky, Halloween read, but it also explores themes like hope, forgiveness, and perseverance.

Like Liesl & Po, The Spindlers is another great children’s novel from Lauren Oliver!

Something is very wrong with Liza’s little brother, Patrick. Last night, he was his usual happy-go-lucky self. This morning, though, Patrick is different and wrong, and Liza is certain of what happened. The evil spindlers, spider-like creatures from Below, have stolen Patrick’s soul. It’s the only explanation. So what is Liza to do? Well, she’s going to rescue her brother’s soul, of course!

Liza braves the dark and finds an entrance to Below in her basement. Armed only with a broom, Liza enters this strange world in search of Patrick’s soul, but nothing could have prepared her for what she would face. Almost immediately, Liza encounters Mirabella, a talking rat who wears a wig, makeup, and a skirt made out of newspaper.

Mirabella helps Liza navigate this strange new world, with all of its dangers and mysteries. Mirabella introduces Liza to troglods, nids, lumer-lumpen, nocturni, and several other creatures that inhabit Below. Some of those creatures are helpful. Others…not so much. The trick is knowing which is which.

As Liza and Mirabella travel through Below, they are getting closer and closer to the spindlers’ nest…and to the captive souls within. The journey is becoming more perilous, but Liza is determined to rescue her brother before it’s too late.

Will Liza be able to get past her own fear of the the spindlers to do what she must? Who can she rely on when help is needed? Can Liza rescue her brother’s soul–and her own–before the spindlers get the best of her? Journey Below for these answers and more when you read The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver.

_______________

I plan to recommend this book to my 3rd-5th graders who can’t get enough of spooky stories. The Spindlers has just enough scary stuff to keep them on the edge of their seats but not so much that it will give them nightmares (I hope).

I think anyone who reads The Spindlers will draw parallels to other works of fantasy, particularly those mentioned at the beginning of this post. The resemblance to Alice in Wonderland is likely the most apparent, and that may just be the hook needed to entice young–and older–readers to pick up this book. Further discussions on the similarities and differences between the two stories could prove to be rather interesting.

For more information on The Spindlers and other fabulous books by Lauren Oliver, check out the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Keeper of the Lost Cities

I’ve finally done it. I have finished reading all twenty of this year’s South Carolina Book Award nominees. It took me a little longer than normal this year because, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the list of nominees. It’s going to be a struggle to sell some of these books to my students…but that is not the case with my final nominee.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, definitely the longest and most intimidating of the SCCBA nominees, is probably my favorite book on the list. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter, so my enjoyment of the book is really no surprise. This book features beings with special abilities, a fantastical world hidden from human eyes, and an orphan who’s more powerful than she realizes. Sound familiar? Those similarities to Harry Potter will make Keeper of the Lost Cities, the first book in an exciting new series, an easy sell to many of my students. Hopefully, they’ll stick around to find out how the two series are different.

Sophie Foster has always been a bit different. She’s never had many friends, she doesn’t fit with her family, and she’s always been smarter than everyone around her. When she was five, she discovered that she could hear the thoughts of others. She never told anyone about her telepathic ability, but it seems someone out there knows just how special Sophie really is.

When Sophie meets Fitz, her entire world changes. Fitz is the only other Telepath she’s ever encountered, and he reveals that Sophie isn’t exactly human. She’s an Elf, and she definitely does not belong in the human world.

In order to keep her human family safe, Sophie must leave everything behind and move to Lumenaria, a land where she’ll learn what it means to be an Elf and how to harness her special abilities. At her new school, Foxfire, Sophie struggles, but she’s slowly figuring out this strange new world, and she’s finally making a few friends.

Some Elves, however, are less than happy with Sophie’s entrance into the Elf-world. Some have doubts about her place here, there is concern about her history in the human-world, and no one seems to know how to handle just how powerful Sophie appears to be. Her mind is impenetrable for even the most skilled Telepaths, and, while most Elves display just one special ability, Sophie has several. Why is she so different? What is so special about Sophie Foster?

As Sophie tries to piece together the puzzle that is her life, she discovers that her history, abilities, and place in this new world are more uncertain than she realized. Someone in the shadows is manipulating her, leading her on a chase to uncover the truth, but what is the end game? And can she figure out what’s going on before Sophie–and her new friends–are placed in mortal danger?

Read Keeper of the Lost Cities and join Sophie as she navigates this unfamiliar, strange world and attempts to find her place in it.

_______________

I haven’t even come close to capturing everything that transpired in Keeper of the Lost Cities (which is nearly 500 pages long). There are twists and turns galore, and I think this book will keep readers riveted the whole way through. Readers will wonder about Sophie’s past, and they’ll get a few answers, but dozens more will pop up.

This first book has a bit of resolution, but that won’t stop readers from clamoring to read the second installment. (By the way, book two, Exile, is already out. Book three, Everblaze, will be released on November 4th. There’s also a fourth book in the works, and it should come out in November of 2015.) I predict that the entire Keeper of the Lost Cities series will be a hit with many upper elementary and middle grade readers who have a fondness for fantasy.

For more information about Keeper of the Lost Cities and author Shannon Messenger, visit her blog. You can also connect with her via Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Now, I must do my best to create a book trailer that will get my students super-excited to read this book!

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Eternal

Caution: You MUST read the entire Shadow Falls series (Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, Taken at Dusk, Whispers at Moonrise, and Chosen at Nightfall) and Reborn, the first book in the Shadow Falls After Dark series, before even thinking about reading Eternal (or this somewhat spoilery post on it). I know that’s a lot of reading, but it’s worth it!

Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read Eternal, book two in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls After Dark series, a couple months early. (It won’t be released to the world until October 28th.) I loved the first series and Reborn, so I figured I’d feel the same way about Eternal. I did.

After being reborn and finding herself with powers beyond what a “normal” vampire possesses, Della Tsang is more determined than ever to work with the FRU, the agency that governs supernaturals, and to uncover the mysteries shadowing her family’s past.

The sudden–and not entirely welcome–appearance of a ghost will make Della’s life more confusing than ever. This ghost is trying to tell Della something about her family and showing glimpses of two captive young vampires who need to be saved from certain death. Who is this presence haunting Della, and can she figure out what the ghost is trying to tell her before it’s too late?

Della is also working to unravel her feelings about two very different young men: Steve, a shapeshifter she’s been sort of dating for the past month, and Chase, the enigmatic vampire who is now bonded to her and seems to know just when she needs him. Della isn’t exactly thrilled about her connection to Chase, but even she can’t deny that her feelings for him are growing. It doesn’t help that Della and Chase are working closely together investigating a case for the FRU. Can she remain true to Steve when every part of her screams to be with Chase? And will fate take this decision out of her hands?

Della’s world is in more turmoil than ever before. How is she supposed to do everything expected of her and still keep her cool? So much is weighing on her, and she’s close to her breaking point. Della doesn’t know which way to turn sometimes, and she feels like she’s being pulled in opposite directions. A mysterious ghost, Steve, Chase, Burnett, her friends, and even her estranged family. Everyone seems to want a piece of Della. But who can she really trust? Can she even trust herself to do what’s right?

Should Della remain loyal to Shadow Falls and the family she’s chosen for herself there? Should she do whatever possible to uncover the truth–however painful it may be–about her father, who has all but turned his back on her? Should she take a chance with Chase, even though it could jeopardize everything she’s been working for? Nothing is clear for Della Tsang, but she’ll do whatever she must to find the answers she needs. And those answers may just lead her to even more questions…

_______________

I’ll go ahead and warn those still reading: Eternal ends on a mother of a cliffhanger. If I had been reading a print copy of this book, I probably would have thrown it across the room. I can hardly wait to read the third book, but considering that Eternal isn’t even out yet, I probably have quite the wait ahead of me. *Insert impatient sigh here.*

There is some good news, though! On September 30th, there is going to be an ebook novella released that’s all about Chase, Della’s nemesis/sometimes love interest. It’s called Unbreakable, and if you check out this announcement on C.C. Hunter’s website, you’ll learn a lot more about what’s sure to be a very enlightening read.

If you love books with supernatural goodness, I strongly urge you to check out both the Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls After Dark series. Both are excellent, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Della’s journey in the next book.

For more information on the books mentioned in this post or author C.C. Hunter, visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads.

 

Published in: on August 25, 2014 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

The Vengekeep Prophecies

Once again, yours truly is here with another nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. This time, I bring you The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey. This book, the first in a new series, brings to mind the wonderful fantasy stories of Tony DiTerlizzi, Rick Riordan, and, J.K. Rowling (also known as The Queen of All Things), and I think it is a great fit for readers–young and old–who are looking for a bit of magic in their lives.

In The Vengekeep Prophecies, author Brian Farrey introduces readers to the Grimjinx family. This family of thieves is rather notorious in the town of Vengekeep, but no one can ever really prove that they’ve done anything wrong. Young Jaxter Grimjinx is supposed to be a master thief like everyone else in his family, but he has a bit of a problem. He’s clumsy. So clumsy that he can’t pick a simple lock. So clumsy that he sets a house on fire during his first solo job. A life of thievery doesn’t look promising for Jaxter.

But Jaxter is skilled at one thing that his family values. He can create natural mixtures that break low-level magical locks. Pretty handy when his family runs into trouble beyond their skills. And trouble is definitely on its way…more trouble than the Grimjinx clan has ever seen.

Each year, a tapestry is unveiled in Vengekeep that reveals a prophecy. This prophecy provides a sort of guide for the town on how they should proceed during the year–what troubles to avoid and the like. Well, this year, the tapestry is especially disturbing. It foretells the utter destruction of Vengekeep and essentially states that the Grimjinx family may be the town’s only salvation.

Jaxter knows his family isn’t really hero material, but they may not have an option this time. Even though they did so without intending to, the Grimjinx clan set events in motion that could actually level Vengekeep, and it’s up to them–or, more specifically, to Jaxter and his friend Callie–to set things right.

Jaxter and Callie set off on a mission to ultimately destroy the magic surrounding the tapestry. Their journey will be perilous, and they will encounter both friends and foes–and it won’t always be easy to tell the difference between the two.

Will Jaxter and Callie be able to get what they need before Vengekeep is destroyed, or will their efforts be for nothing? Will Jaxter Grimjinx be the savior Vengekeep needs, or will he be its ultimate end?

_______________

The Vengekeep Prophecies reads a little like a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. There’s some vocabulary that many of my students won’t be familiar with. Some of that vocabulary seems to belong in a work of historical fiction. (The words “cistern” and “gaol” come to mind.) Other words, of course, are unfamiliar because they are unique to the world built by the author. Readers who give this book a whirl, though, will be able to use the vivid descriptions in the text to overcome most of the issues they may have with vocabulary.

The Vengekeep Prophecies is an ideal read for upper elementary and middle grade readers who are looking for a great fantasy. I know I’m always looking for more books to give to Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Spiderwick fans, and now I’ve got one more series to add to the list.

The second book in this series, The Shadowhand Covenant, is already out. As soon as I return to school, I’ll be adding it to my first order. I look forward to learning more about the fascinating Grimjinx family!

If you’d like to learn more, check out Brian Farrey’s website or Twitter. You may also want to check out the video below from HarperKids. It features the author telling a bit more about The Vengekeep Prophecies…and doing so much more eloquently than I ever could!

Published in: on August 5, 2014 at 9:07 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Flora & Ulysses

What can I say about Flora & Ulysses? It won this year’s Newbery Medal. It was written by acclaimed author Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell. And it captured my heart–and imagination–within the first few pages.

Flora & Ulysses tells the tale of Flora Belle Buckman, a self-proclaimed cynic who loves reading comic books, and a very special squirrel we come to know as Ulysses. A chance encounter with a vacuum cleaner transforms a rather unimportant little rodent into a magnificent example of squirrelkind with some very special abilities. Flora is convinced that this squirrel, Ulysses, is a superhero waiting to happen. Everyone else around her isn’t so sure.

Ulysses does, in fact, have some pretty awesome gifts. He can lift heavy vacuum cleaners over his head! He can fly! He can use a typewriter and compose lovely, misspelled poems! But does that make him superhero material? Flora sure seems to think so, and Ulysses would hate to disappoint his new favorite person.

Not everyone thinks as highly of Ulysses as Flora does. Her mother seems to be his most vicious hater. She even plots Ulysses’ demise! What’s Flora to do? Well, she enlists the help of her father, her neighbor, a couple of other unlikely characters, and her own extensive knowledge in her quest to keep Ulysses alive and kicking.

Can Flora convince her mother to abandon her treacherous villainy? Will Ulysses be able to prove that he’s got superhero potential? Will Flora abandon her cynical ways and open her heart to love, hope, and friendship with squirrels and humans alike? Read the illuminated adventures of Flora & Ulysses to find out!

_______________

Okay, so the recap above kind of stinks. It doesn’t even begin to go into everything that happened in this book. Flora’s vocabulary alone was worth at least a paragraph, and I didn’t even mention the strangeness of William Spiver, the great nephew of Flora’s neighbor. (I guess I’m taking care of that now, though, aren’t I?) There was just so much to love in this book that I couldn’t possibly encompass it in one post.

Something that did strike me in this book were how the text and illustrations flowed together to create one beautiful, seamless story. K.G. Marshall, in a few black-and-white drawings, added another layer to this story that I think a lot of comic book enthusiasts (like myself) will appreciate. (This might even go a long way in convincing parents and teachers that reading comic books IS ACTUALLY READING! I know I can use a little extra ammunition in this fight!)

If you haven’t read Flora & Ulysses, I strongly urge you to give it a try. If you’re anything like me, you’ll devour it in one sitting. You’ll fall in love with the characters just like I did…and that is saying something considering that I really don’t like squirrels.

Readers may even see themselves in one or more of the characters, strange as they may be. Personally, I identified with Flora. Why, you ask? Well, let’s see…we share the same taste in hairstyles, glasses, and shoes, and we’re both rather cynical, enjoy comic books, and have extensive vocabularies. Both of us even struggle with our cynical natures from time to time! (Sometimes people–or maybe rodents–surprise us with just how wonderful they can be.)

I wish I could do a better job of communicating just how amazing this book is, but I feel I’m falling short. Let me just say that the Newbery committee made an excellent decision this year. Flora & Ulysses is definitely medal-worthy. Bravo!

For more information on this book and others by Kate DiCamillo, visit the author’s website, and check out the Flora & Ulysses trailer below. It’s much better than any recap I could ever write.

Published in: on May 20, 2014 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Reborn

Proceed with caution! Reborn is the first book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls After Dark series. It might behoove you to read the entire Shadow Falls series before continuing with Reborn. In my opinion, it is kind of necessary to have some knowledge of what happens in the original series before continuing with the spin-off. If you need a list of these books, look below.

There are also a couple of ebook novellas that add to the series and what happens in Reborn. They are Turned at Dark (Shadow Falls #0.5) and Saved at Sunrise (Shadow Falls #4.5).

If you’re still reading this post, I’m assuming you’ve already read the entire Shadow Falls series. Next week, Reborn, the first book in the Shadow Falls After Dark spin-off series, will be released to the masses. (I was lucky enough to read an advance copy via NetGalley.)

Reborn (and the rest of this new series, I imagine) is told from the perspective of Della Tsang, the rather moody vampire we met in the original series. Della is still living with roommates Kylie and Miranda at Shadow Falls, but she’s got her eye on a future with FRU, or Fallen Research Unit, the agency that governs the supernatural.

Della just has to convince Burnett, the big, bad vampire in charge, that she’s got what it takes to be a FRU agent. This may not be the simplest of tasks given that Della has a tendency to go off into dangerous situations with little regard for the consequences. Also, Burnett has a protective streak a mile wide when it comes to any of the young women in his care. A little sexist, yes, but, considering that Della’s own family seems to have written her off, kind of comforting.

When a new guy enters the picture at Shadow Falls, Della’s life gets even more complicated. Chase, a super-powerful vampire, has an air of danger about him, and Della is sure she’s run into him before, but she can’t quite place where. She’s sure he’s hiding something, but she may have to put her suspicions aside if she truly wants a place in the FRU. She and Chase are on the trail of a murderer, and any conflicts could convince Burnett to pull Della off the case that’s quickly taking over her life.

As if worrying about her place with FRU weren’t enough, Della has a few more issues on her plate. Steve, a shapeshifter she’s sort of in a relationship with, wants to make things official. Della’s not sure she’s ready for that. After all, the last guy she loved left her when he discovered she was a vampire. Della doesn’t want to put her heart on the line if Steve will up and leave her one day. And the mysterious Chase also seems to be interested in Della. Officially, Della loathes the newcomer, but she can’t deny that he has a certain appeal. What does he really want with her, and should she be even thinking about Chase when Steve so clearly wants to be with her? Well, the answers to those questions may be more complicated than even Della realizes…

Della is also dealing with the possibility that she has vampire relatives she never knew about. Apparently, her dad had siblings that could have faked their deaths because they were turned (much like her missing cousin Chan). Della is using every resource she can think of to determine if she has an uncle or aunt out there somewhere. Since her own father seems to hate her, Della is longing for some sense of family, especially family who understands what being a vampire is really like.

Della Tsang is facing quite a few changes in her life at Shadow Falls. Tracking down a killer, getting a taste of her future career, a thoroughly confusing love life, trying to find her family, and so much more. You see, while all of this is going on, Della is also experiencing a strange sickness. Her senses are on the fritz, she’s running a fever (very unusual for a vampire), she’s having some pretty intense headaches, and, to really make things odd, she’s seeing ghosts. What exactly is going on here, and can Della figure things out before it’s too late?

_______________

C.C. Hunter has once again packed a bunch of stuff into one book. Della definitely has a lot to deal with, and she manages to do it with the sass that we’ve come to expect from her. But we also get a glimpse of a Della we may not have seen before. Yes, she presents a tough exterior to those around her, but her emotions are often in a state of turmoil. She struggles greatly with her father’s disappointment, she wants to make Burnett proud of her, she’s fiercely loyal to her friends, and she seeks justice for the innocent. Della also wrestles with seeing herself as a monster. (We know she’s one of the good guys, but sometimes all Della can see is the fear associated with the word “vampire.”) This character wants love and acceptance, and she’s sometimes too blind to notice that she’s had it since she stepped foot into Shadow Falls.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Reborn, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it–and the original Shadow Falls series–to teen readers. (It is a bit mature for middle grades.) If you think this book is worth a read, I encourage you to pick it up on May 20th!

If you’re a book trailer enthusiast (like I am), you may also want to take a peek at the Reborn video below. It’s just a wee bit spoilery, but it doesn’t give too much away. And it’s kind of awesome.

For more information on RebornShadow Falls, and author C.C. Hunter, visit the author’s websiteTwitterGoodreads, or Facebook.

The next book in this series, Eternal, is scheduled for an October 28th release.

Published in: on May 14, 2014 at 11:23 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

The Kiss of Deception

I love books with strong women at the forefront. I adore fantasy. I’ve also been known to enjoy a good love triangle. Well, I got all that and more in The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, but…let’s just say it took me a while to get into this book.

My copy of The Kiss of Deception is an uncorrected galley (thanks to NetGalley), so I’m hoping that some of the things I had issues with will be worked out in editing. The book is scheduled to be released on July 15th, so I may have to pick up another copy to see if anything changed. Now, I’m not saying it was a bad book. Trust me, I’ve read LOADS of bad books, and this one definitely has the potential to be a truly outstanding book in a promising new series.

Our story begins with Lia, the Princess of Morrighan, preparing for her wedding to the prince of a neighboring kingdom. She’s never met the prince, but Lia wants no part of a marriage where love is never considered and she’s viewed as little more than a broodmare. So, on the eve of her wedding, Lia and her maid Pauline make a run for it.

Lia and Pauline evade everyone looking for them–soldiers, barbarians, bounty hunters–and arrive in Pauline’s hometown of Terravin. Here, the two are no longer princess and maid. They are now girls who work in an inn for their wages…and Lia has never been happier. She’s finally escaped a destiny that was mapped out for her, and she’s the one in charge of her life.

What Lia barely considers, however, is that there are people out there looking for her…and two have found her.  The prince she left at the altar and an assassin sent to end her life.  They have tracked young Lia to the inn where she now lives and works, and each of them is determined to see his own agenda through…but they don’t count on their own feelings for this girl. Lia has captivated both young men, Kaden and Rafe, and it seems they will do nearly anything to earn her favor. But what will Lia do when she discovers who these young men truly are? Will she be able to trust either of them when so many lies stand between them?

Soon Lia is faced with an untenable choice. Should she stay in her somewhat comfortable life in Terravin, or should she come out of hiding and face her past and her future? Lia does what she must in the hopes of preventing war, but that choice will lead her into troubles that she could scarcely have foreseen, troubles that could endanger her very life.

Will she be able to get out of alive? Who can she trust to help her? And what will Lia do when she realizes that she’s more important than anyone ever thought? Is she strong enough to fight–and win–the battles in front of her?

_______________

So, in the little recap above, I think I’ve made The Kiss of Deception sound pretty good, and I’ve captured the highlights without giving too much away.  It is a good book, but here are a few things that bugged me a little:

  • I didn’t figure out what a Remnant was or what was so special about it until about halfway through the book. Since this is book one in The Remnant Chronicles, I thought a little more explanation at the beginning of the book would have been nice.
  • Sometimes, the story seemed to drag on. There was a lot of time spent on donkey- or horse-back, and I felt like I experienced every single one of those miles. I could have done without some of that.
  • A pronunciation or translation guide would have been helpful for all of the foreign words and phrases in the book. Sometimes, they just weren’t explained adequately by using context clues.
  • It wasn’t exactly clear where or when this book was set. Is it post-apocalyptic Earth? Is it an alternate history? I just wasn’t sure, and that was a little aggravating.

All that being said, I do think the main character, Lia, is one to be admired. That girl has a backbone of steel, and I’ll probably read the rest of this series just to see her make mincemeat of the Neanderthals around her. (The next book, by the way, is The Heart of Betrayal and will be out sometime in 2015.)

I also liked reading the chapters from the prince’s and assassin’s points of view. Eventually, we learned their names, but it was still unclear which one was the royal and which was the killer. Personally, I had the two mixed up, so the big reveal was a bit of a shock for me. I’m sure other readers will feel the same way.

I hope you’ll give The Kiss of Deception a try.  I’ve been impressed with a couple of Mary E. Pearson’s other books (The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Fox Inheritance), so I knew this would be a good book. With a little polishing, I think it could be a great one.

Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Boundless

Warning! If you’re new to Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series, you may want to change that before continuing with this post. You’ll need to read, at the very least, Unearthly, Hallowed, and Radiant (an ebook novella), before reading Boundless, the third and final book in the series.

So, nearly three years ago exactly, I started the Unearthly series, and yesterday, thanks to a rather unexpected “winter event” in the South, I had time to finish reading Boundless, the series finale. (Today’s post is also the result of an unexpected day off. It seems we can’t handle snow and ice here in South Carolina.)

Boundless picks up right where Radiant–and, to a lesser extent, Hallowed–left off. Clara is about to embark on yet another adventure. She’s starting her freshman year at Stanford, but, if you’ve followed this series at all, you know that Clara is no typical college freshman. She is a Triplare, the rarest of the angel-bloods. (Her mom was half-angel, and her dad, Michael, is 100% angel.) Clara and her fellow angel-bloods Angela and Christian are dealing with visions of an uncertain future where it seems they will have to fight the dreaded Black Wings (fallen angels) that would seek to destroy them.

In addition to learning to fight the bad guys, Clara and friends are also dealing with some other heavy stuff.  Clara is still torn between Christian, a fellow Triplare who is always there for her and makes her stronger than she would be alone, and Tucker, the human she left behind. She has feelings for both boys, and she doesn’t really know how to reconcile those feelings with the visions of a not-exactly-happy future.

Clara is also worried about her brother Jeffrey. After their mother’s death, Jeffrey seemed to lose a bit of himself, and Clara wants to help him find his way back to the light, but it’s not easy. Jeffrey resists all attempts to help and rarely even speaks about what happened in Wyoming. Clara doesn’t know what to do, but she knows she has to at least try to be there for her brother…even if he pushes her away.

Clara’s friend Angela, meanwhile, has gotten herself into a bit of trouble, and that trouble is going have some pretty huge ramifications, both in Angela’s own life and in the coming war between angel-bloods and Black Wings.

What does all this mean for Clara and her destiny? Is she meant to be with Christian or Tucker? Does she even have a choice in the matter? What will happen with Jeffrey? With Angela? Can they hope to defeat the Black Wings when their lives are in so much turmoil? War is brewing, and Clara and company will have to face their deepest fears and journey through hell to emerge victorious. Will they succeed? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

_______________

After finishing this entire series, I have to say that I want more. The ending was sort of satisfying, but–spoilers!–not every character gets what I would call a happy ending. Some of the ending was a little too neat for me, but other parts were left at loose ends. I won’t tell you which parts I’m talking about. I’ll leave that for you to figure out. I will say that a spin-off series for one character in particular wouldn’t be totally unwelcome.

All in all, the Unearthly series was entertaining, and I would recommend it to teen readers who show an interest in angels. Now, I think I’ll continue this “angelic” theme of the week and binge on some episodes of Supernatural. (I do enjoy Castiel!)

For all of you visual people, here is a short book trailer for Boundless from HarperTeen. Enjoy!

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Tiger Lily

I’ve been kind of inundated with Peter Pan lately. Eighteen of my current students have been involved in a local high school’s production of the play. (Several former students were also involved.) For the past couple of months, all I’ve heard about is Peter Pan. The classic Disney movie has also been playing on cable. In this case, I decided to join in the madness by not only seeing my students in the play (which was fabulous, by the way), but I also moved Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily to the top of my reading list.

If you know anything about the story of Peter Pan, you can probably figure out that this book focuses on Tiger Lily, one of the natives of Neverland. In this book, she is the adopted daughter of a shaman (not the chief’s daughter like she’s been portrayed in the past). This novel, told from Tinker Bell’s perspective, gives readers a glimpse of a character that has often been overlooked. Sure, everyone loves to focus on Peter, Tink, Wendy, Hook, and the Lost Boys, but Tiger Lily often gets shoved to the background. Tiger Lily brings this mysterious character to the forefront and shows us the struggles she encounters. We also learn that, before Wendy even entered the picture, another girl stole the heart of Peter Pan…

Tiger Lily–of the tribe of Sky Eaters in Neverland–is no ordinary girl. She is tough, she keeps to herself, and she has few friends. She is close to her adopted father, Tik Tok, the tribe’s shaman, but she knows she doesn’t really fit with the rest of the tribe. In fact, they often seem a bit scared of her. (She’s not the scary one. That honor goes to Giant, the massive man who she is promised to marry.)

Tiger Lily is dreading the day that she is forced to marry a man she despises, but she does have an escape from her worries. That escape comes in the form of a strange boy…a boy that her tribe has always thought is surely a monster. Peter Pan. With Peter, Tiger Lily can let her worries go, if only for a little while. She’s still holding parts of herself back, but she gradually grows to love Peter, his freedom, and even the Lost Boys who are always ready for a new game or adventure. Soon, the time will come when Tiger Lily will have to choose between her love for Peter and her duty to her tribe. Will she choose love over duty, or will that choice even be hers to make?

Changes are coming to Neverland. Some of them are dangerous and have the power to completely destroy Tiger Lily’s life as she knows it. One such change comes in the form of a girl. Wendy Darling. Who is this dainty English girl who has so captivated Peter and the Lost Boys? How could Peter so easily forget Tiger Lily in the presence of this new girl? And what will Tiger Lily do to recapture Peter’s attention? How far is she willing to go–and what alliances is she willing to make–to get rid of this girl?

Journey to Neverland to discover the story of Tiger Lily, the girl who first loved Peter Pan. Yes, this is a fairy tale in the strictest sense of the phrase. (It is told by a fairy, so there you go.) It may not be the happily ever after we’ve always expected, though. What really happened to Peter Pan, Wendy, the Lost Boys, Hook, Smee, and Tiger Lily? The answers may surprise you, but, I promise, you’ll never look at this classic story quite the same way again.

I always enjoy books–particularly YA books–with strong female characters, and Tiger Lily definitely fits the bill. At some points, Tiger Lily could even be considered too strong, and readers will want her to bend a little, but you have to respect someone who is so strong-willed. Tiger Lily was determined to live life on her terms, and, even when she did what others wanted, she still retained her will, determination, courage, and tenacity. Things didn’t always go the way she would have wanted, but Tiger Lily endured.

Tiger Lily is told from Tinker Bell’s perspective, which I think is kind of cool. Tink, though she’s always been portrayed as totally loyal to Peter Pan, was a faithful companion to Tiger Lily in this novel. Yes, she did spend some time with Peter and the Lost Boys, and she even did a little recon to gain information from the pirates, but she always returned to Tiger Lily. In this book, we experience Tink’s frustration with the situations around her and how little she could do to change things. Tink sees and hears all, but she can’t really communicate that with the people she’s come to care about. It’s up to them to figure things out.

Tiger Lily turns the beloved Peter Pan story on its ear, and I think that’s a good thing. I like it when familiar stories are shaken up a bit, and I’ve always been a fan of fairy tale retellings. This new perspective could help to reintroduce this familiar story to teen (and adult) readers who want to experience just a little of their childhoods all over again. Yes, the story is a little different, but, now that we’ve grown a little older, so are we. (Notice I didn’t say that we’ve grown up. I, for one, plan to stay young at heart forever. “Growing old is mandatory.  Growing up is optional.”)

For more information about Tiger Lily, author Jodi Lynn Anderson, and her other books, visit her Facebook or Twitter pages.

Published in: on April 29, 2013 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Clockwork Princess

20130324-203505.jpg

By the Angel, I don’t even know where to begin. Unless you really haven’t been paying attention, you already know that I am absolutely nuts about anything written by Cassandra Clare. Seriously, the woman could rewrite the dictionary, and I would not only buy it, but I’d also want a first edition autographed copy. It should surprise no one, then, that I rushed to the nearest bookstore after school on Tuesday, purchased Clockwork Princess, the final(?) book in Cassie Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, and commenced with the reading. It may, however, surprise some that I didn’t finish the book until last night. Honestly, I’m surprised myself, but my need for sleep and, you know, having to go to work prevented me from reading until I dropped. (I’m not as young as I used to be.) Also, I kind of wanted to prolong the exquisite agony…because that’s exactly what this book was.

Based on everything (and I do mean everything) I read on Twitter, Tumblr, and any other source I could find, I had an idea that Cassie would break my heart in Clockwork Princess, and I was absolutely correct. I’m not going to tell you what happened in the book, but suffice it to say that I just about went through an entire box of Kleenex. (I’m beginning to think that Cassie Clare is in league with Stephen Moffat. Clearly, these two individuals are trying to do me in with all the feels.) I did some serious crying during this book. We’re talking wracking, Reichenbach-Fall, weeping-angels-take-the-Ponds-away-from-the-Doctor, intense sobbing. My eyes are still kind of red. It was awesome.

If you’ve been following the Infernal Devices series at all, you know that things are coming to a head with Tessa, Jem, and Will. On top of all their love triangle stuff, the evil Mortmain is waging war against all Shadowhunters. In Clockwork Princess, questions are answered about Mortmain’s motives, Tessa’s origins, the bond between Jem and Will, and so many other things. I can’t begin to go into everything that happened in this book, partially because I’m afraid I’ll start weeping again but also because I don’t want to take any of this reading experience away from anyone. (Someone accidentally posted a spoiler on my Twitter page, and let’s just say that I am less than happy with that person. I can’t do that to someone else.)

It’s enough to say that this perfect book is perfect. Even though my heart felt like it was being split in two, I felt that everything happened as it should have, and I’m looking forward to City of Heavenly Fire, the final book in the Mortal Instruments series, even more now. (Sadly, we have to wait another year for what I’m sure will be yet another amazing book. Curses! Luckily, we have the City of Bones movie and some novellas all about Magnus Bane to get us through!) I can only hope that we’ll see more of some beloved Infernal Devices characters (and I won’t say who!) in Cassie’s upcoming books.

For those who haven’t yet experienced any of the Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices books, I don’t know what else I can do to convince you. Get thee to a bookstore or library, or download these fantastic books on whatever ereader you prefer. I don’t care how you read these books. Just read them! You can thank me later.

Published in: on March 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 252 other followers