Midnight Hour

Warning: Read the entire Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls After Dark series (including the novellas) before continuing with this post. Midnight Hour (which will be released on October 25th) is the final novel in this saga, and you need to know what happens in previous books for this one to make sense.

Your extensive Shadow Falls reading list:

The novellas in Almost Midnight take place at different points in the series, so take a look at my post on that collection to see in which order you should read those stories.

Now, let’s move on to Midnight Hour

For those who are caught up with these series–or who’ve read any of the books–Miranda Kane is a familiar figure. (She got a taste of her own story in Spellbinder, a Shadow Falls novella.) This young witch counts Kylie Galen (chameleon) and Della Tsang (vampire) as her best friends, but she’s always felt that she doesn’t measure up to her super-powerful roommates. In Midnight Hour, Miranda begins to understand just how powerful she really is.

It should have been a simple visit to a fortune teller. Miranda goes along with her sister, Tabitha, to get a peek at her future, and her whole world–almost literally–explodes.

When Miranda wakes up after a strange explosion, she’s got a weird tattoo that comes and goes, and she and her sister are being investigated for drug trafficking. What have they gotten themselves into, and is there any way to clear their names and figure out what exactly is going on? With the help of their friends and the FRU (Fallen Research Unit), the hunt for answers is on, but Miranda not like where all of them lead, especially when her beloved sister goes missing.

While Miranda attempts to make sense of her new, unwanted body art, the explosion that knocked her out, her missing sister, and so much more, she’s also trying to come to terms with her own love life. She’s currently dating Shawn, a warlock and FRU agent, who is perfect for her on paper. But she’s still hung up on Perry, a shapeshifter and her ex-boyfriend…and the guy who’s already broken her heart twice. She knows Perry had his reasons, but they don’t make things any easier. And when he walks back into her life, her emotions go into yet another tailspin. She can’t deny her feelings for Perry, but what’s to stop him from walking away from her yet again?

As for Perry, he is determined to earn his place in Miranda’s life. There are just a few things he needs to take care of first. The investigation that took him away from her is heating up, and it may have connections to the explosion that landed Miranda in the hospital. It also involves the family that abandoned him long ago. Perry wants to put all of this to rest, for both himself and Miranda. But this whole situation is more convoluted than he could have guessed, and it seems Miranda is at the center of it all.

Miranda doesn’t understand why she’s in the middle of this madness, but she better figure it out quickly. What does this strange tattoo have to do with her powers? Why does she suddenly have an odd connection to the trees around her? What does this mean for her future, and can she use her new abilities to find her sister and put an end to the danger surrounding them?

Find out how Miranda takes charge of her own power when you read Midnight Hour, the final installment in the Shadow Falls world by C.C. Hunter.

I hope I’ve given you enough highlights here to whet your appetite without giving too much away. There’s a lot going on in this book, and I didn’t touch on most of it. Midnight Hour is as rich and entertaining as its predecessors, and it provides a satisfying ending to a series that I’ve loved since the first book.

If you’re interested in purchasing Midnight Hour, I’m happy to pass along an added incentive from the publisher. If you preorder Midnight Hour before October 24th (tomorrow) and send your e-receipt to St. Martin’s Press at this link, you’ll receive a free short story, Fighting Back, in your email on October 25th.

And that’s not all, folks! I’m also pleased to offer a chance at a sweepstakes giving away Midnight Hour swag. Enter here for your chance to win a signed set of the Shadow Falls books and a lot of other cool stuff.

If you’d like to know even more about the Shadow Falls books and C.C. Hunter, be sure to visit the author’s website. You may also want to check out the Midnight Hour book trailer below.

Happy reading!

The Hammer of Thor

It might be a good idea to read The Sword of Summer and Hotel Valhalla: Guide to the Norse Worlds before proceeding with this post. At the very least, it is absolutely necessary to read The Sword of Summer prior to starting The Hammer of Thor. You’ll be all kinds of lost if you don’t.

Last night, I skipped all of my shows so that I could finish reading The Hammer of Thor, book two of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan. If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably figured out that I really dig anything Riordan cares to write, and this book didn’t change that at all. If anything, I love this writer even more because of his inclusion of diverse characters in his books–this book in particular. Add in loads of action, suspense, humor, and sarcasm, and I’m completely sold. Many of my students are with me on that.

In The Hammer of Thor, Magnus Chase and friends are on the lookout for Thor’s missing hammer. But Thor hasn’t just misplaced Mjolnir this time. No, the mighty weapon is now in the hands of the giants, and Magnus and company have to get it back before one of their own, Samirah, is traded for the weapon. If they fail, giants are set to invade Midgard (Earth) and will lay waste to everything in their path. (Life can never be easy for a bunch of demigods, can it?)

As Magnus, Samirah, Blitzen, Hearth, and newcomer Alex try to find Thor’s hammer and avoid war and/or Ragnarok, they will face family difficulties, Norse zombies, a super-dangerous sword, a rigged bowling competition against giants, and–worst of all–a wedding. As if that’s not enough, in their quest to find Mjolnir, they may just play into their worst enemy’s hands.

As you’ve likely surmised, I’ve left out a crap ton of details. That is intentional. Like all of Riordan’s books, you really need to experience this one for yourself. The cover alone, though, makes it pretty obvious that a lot of the conflict in this book involves Loki. (This version is not to be confused with the Marvel “villain” played by Tom Hiddleston.) He’s a wily one, and his hand is in most of what happens in this book–including totally failing at being Parent of the Year. We’ll just have to wait and see if things work out for him in the end.

The next book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Ship of the Dead, is expected to be out on October 3rd, 2017. You can probably guess from the title that this book will involve a bit of sea travel, and, based on how The Hammer of Thor ended, may even feature an appearance from a noted Greek demigod. (Hint: His name rhymes with Smercy Thackson.)

If you can’t wait nearly a year for the next Riordan book, you’re in luck! The second book in The Trials of Apollo series, The Dark Prophecy, will be out in May. (Still a long wait, I know.) If you haven’t read book one, The Hidden Oracle, you’ve got plenty of time.

For more information on The Hammer of Thor and all of Riordan’s other fantastic books, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with him on Twitter, Tumblr, Blogspot, and Facebook.

Finally, check out the official trailer for the Magnus Chase series. It doesn’t give away much (and the narrator’s accent is a little weird to my Southern ears), but it’s worth a watch or two.

Ella Enchanted

Once again, I bring you a book that I probably wouldn’t have read if not for the faculty book club at my school. This month, we’re reprising an old theme and reading classic children’s books and/or books we’ve always meant to read but never made time for. I had loads of books to choose from, but I decided to go with Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

I don’t know if Ella Enchanted can be called a classic–even though it was a Newbery Honor Book in 1998–but I have always meant to read it. After all, I do love a good fairy tale. I know there’s a movie adaptation out there–which I’ve never seen–so I figured I’d read the book and then see how the movie compares. Well, as of yesterday, I’ve completed one half of that equation.

Ella of Frell was burdened with a curse when she was born. A well-meaning fairy named Lucinda “gifted” Ella with obedience. From then on, Ella had to obey any direct command given to her. When she tried to disobey, she would be afflicted with terrible pains, and they could only be assuaged by doing as she was commanded.

It’s difficult for Ella to be true to herself when, at any time, her own will can be subverted. She does, however, find little ways to counter some of the commands sent her way. Ella’s true wish, though, is to find a way to break this horrible curse, once and for all.

Following the death of her mother, it’s more imperative than ever for Ella to find a way to break this curse, especially when her father unexpectedly marries a wretched woman, and Ella is forced to become little more than a servant to her new stepmother and two stepsisters.

Ella’s curse even causes her to break ties with her closest friend (and possibly the love of her life), Prince Char. If any one of Char’s enemies learns that she could be commanded to do anything, that could put Char at risk. Ella simply can’t allow that to happen.

Ella despairs of ever being free of this curse, but a series of events–including a few royal balls and a bit of fairy magic–may just change things. Ella may find that the power to break her loathsome curse lies within and only needs a little push to be gone from her life forever.

What will give Ella reason enough to break her curse? Find out when you read Ella Enchanted!

Ella Enchanted is, of course, a spin on the traditional Cinderella tale. Readers who enjoy fractured fairy tales or fairy tale retellings will delight in discovering the similarities to the tale they know and the differences that make this version so distinctive. They may even be prompted to seek out even more versions of the tale. Some novelizations that could pique interest are: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George, Ash by Malinda Lo, and Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer, just to name a few.

I think Ella Enchanted is a great read for anyone in upper elementary grades on up. It’s fun, aggravating at times, and bewitching. It could lead to discussions on why being obedient could be seen as a bad thing or why the other “gifts” bestowed by Lucinda weren’t gifts at all.

All in all, I’m glad I finally read Ella Enchanted, and I will definitely recommend it to my students. Now, I have to settle in to watch the movie version and see how it compares to the book.

For more information on Ella Enchanted and other books by Gail Carson Levine, visit the author’s website.


Black Widow: Red Vengeance

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read Black Widow: Forever Red, turn back now. I promise this post will spoil parts of this first book (and possibly the second) for you. This will be your only warning.

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading the sequel to Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl. The second book, Red Vengeance, will be released to the masses next Tuesday, October 11th, though I have seen it in stores already. I got to read the book a little early thanks to NetGalley, and I thought it was wonderful. It was action-packed, convoluted at times, horrifying, and entertaining. Like the first book, I loved seeing some of my favorite Marvel heroes–aside from Black Widow–in a different light.

If you enjoyed the first book, Black Widow comic books, or her appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I think you’ll definitely appreciate getting a closer look at this enigmatic character in Red Vengeance.

Red Vengeance picks up several months after the events of Forever Red, and it once again focuses primarily on Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow) and Ava Orlova (Red Widow). Both are still reeling after the death of Alexei, Natasha’s brother and Ava’s first love. Ava is training with Natasha, trying to learn to use and control her new powers. Natasha is attempting to come to grips with everything that has happened and find some way to regain her confidence in her instincts. Soon enough, both Widows will have to put all of their training and instincts to use to face threats both old and new.

While following a tip about Red Room activity in Brazil, Natasha and Ava come into contact with a girl in a green dress. After that initial contact–a stellar brush pass–everything begins to go haywire. Someone manages to hack and erase all of Natasha’s secure files. Who could possibly have the ability to do such a thing, and why would they target the Black Widow?

Natasha and Ava attempt to escape to safety only to have Natasha’s Widow’s Cuff–and her motorcycle–blow up. They seek refuge in one of Tony Stark’s many homes, and they call in SHIELD to help figure out what’s going on. They confer with Phil Coulson, Maria Hill, Tony Stark (Iron Man), and Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) to see who could possibly have pulled off such a genius hack. Nobody really knows, but it’s clear that something serious is afoot. Red Room serious.

Natasha knows that Ivan Somodorov is dead, but it seems that someone else is trying to continue his evil work. Someone who has it in for Natasha and her rather explosive apprentice, Ava. The two Widows follow the clues into the Amazon where they discover something truly appalling. Not only is the Red Room’s work continuing, but whoever is running the show has five nuclear missiles at their disposal as well as a terrifying new drug called Faith.

Natasha and Ava do what they can to minimize damage, but even the Widows can’t totally stop the catastrophe that’s coming. Someone–a person with a connection to Natasha’s past–has their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to see it come to fruition. Does that mean deploying nuclear missiles? Does it involve distributing a gruesome, mind-altering drug? (The answer to both questions is a resounding “YES.”) How can Natasha, Ava, and their assorted friends possibly eliminate such a threat? And what if this is only the beginning of what’s in store for the Widows?

I probably should have stopped writing a few paragraphs ago. I feel like I’ve given way too much away. Let’s just be grateful I called a halt when I did. I could seriously go on and on about this book and its predecessor. Black Widow is one of my favorite Marvel heroes, and I adore both of these books.

I also really appreciated the appearance of Captain Marvel in this story. She’s another favorite, and I loved that both she and Black Widow were part of a “Women of Power” poker night. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. From what I understand, there’s a possible Captain Marvel novel in the works, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, but I don’t have any details on a possible release date.

Speaking of future Marvel books, given the way that Red Vengeance ended, we can be sure that at least one more Black Widow novel is on the horizon. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on when we can expect the next story. Bummer.

For more information on Red Vengeance and other books by Margaret Stohl, visit the author’s website and Twitter page. These are probably the first places you’ll find an announcement on book three. Given that book two hasn’t been officially released yet, though, you could be in for a long wait.

Be sure to pick up Black Widow: Red Vengeance on October 11th!

Hotel Valhalla: Guide to the Norse Worlds

If you’re a fan of Rick Riordan’s books, you likely already know that he has a new book coming out tomorrow. It’s the second book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Hammer of Thor. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have lost quite a few details since reading the first book–and I don’t have time to go back and re-read it–so a little refresher would be helpful. Luckily, that’s where my latest read steps in.

Hotel Valhalla: Guide to the Norse Worlds isn’t a recap of the first Magnus Chase book, The Sword of Summer, but it does go a long way in re-introducing readers to many of the characters we either met or heard about in book one.

This guide, intended for einherjar new to Valhalla (Magnus Chase in particular), is a handy intro to the gods, goddesses, and other “mythical” creatures one may encounter. While providing information on the various beings, including powers and appearance, it also gives a behind-the-scenes look at the who’s who of the Nine Realms. Some things may be surprising, but the entire book is sure to entertain and inform.

If all you know of Norse mythology comes from Marvel comic books and movies, this book is a great reference (especially the pronunciation guide and glossary). It alludes to some of the events in the first Magnus Chase book, and it gives a glimpse into the second. I plan to keep it very close when I begin reading The Hammer of Thor (which will be delivered to my house tomorrow).

To learn more about Hotel Valhalla, the Magnus Chase series, and the other fabulous books by Rick Riordan, visit the author’s webpage.

Happy reading!

The Great Greene Heist

I picked up The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson in March at my school’s spring book fair. I finally decided to read it this week. (I was in the mood for something a little lighter than the other books I was reading.) I finished it earlier today, and I now want to settle in for an Ocean’s 11 movie night. That’s a good thing.

If you’re looking for a contemporary middle grade novel featuring a diverse cast of characters, The Great Green Heist is what you’re looking for. If you want to read a book about kids scheming, using their wits, and getting one over on bullies–both kids and adults–this is the book for you. And, if you’re in the mood to read a light-hearted novel that has some marked similarities to the Presidential election, you’ve once again got a winner in The Great Greene Heist. (Note: This book was published in 2014. I doubt the author meant the book to so closely resemble the 2016 election, but it does nonetheless.)

Jackson Greene was one of the greatest con artists Maplewood Middle School had ever seen. Due to fallout from his last con, however, Jackson has put his conning days behind him…or has he?

When word gets out that Keith Sinclair, a nemesis of Jackson’s, is running for Student Council President, Jackson knows he has to step in. You see, Keith is running against Gaby de la Cruz, Jackson’s former best friend. Jackson knows Gaby will be a great president and run an honest campaign. Keith, on the other hand, is sure to use every dirty trick in the book–including blackmailing the principal–to make sure he wins.

As Jackson gets more proof that Keith is up to no good, he assembles a crew to pull off the greatest election showdown in middle school history. Their mission is to make sure Gaby wins the election and expose Keith Sinclair for the rat he is. If Jackson happens to get back in Gaby’s good graces in the process…well, that’s a bonus.

Will Jackson and crew be able to pull of such a complicated con? Will everyone stick to the plan? Who will win the school election, Gaby or Keith? Find out when you read The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. It was entertaining from start to finish, and there was a fair amount of geeky humor that I absolutely adored. (I’ve always wanted to learn Klingon, and this book may have given me a push toward making that happen.) All of the characters are smart in their own ways, and, in my opinion, use their intelligence for the greater good. Definitely Starfleet Academy worthy.

The book also invites discussion on the election process–be it school, local, or national–and what characteristics qualify someone to be a public servant. I definitely saw similarities between Gaby, Keith, and our two current Presidential nominees. I have a feeling other readers will as well. (Is there a real-life version of Jackson Greene behind the scenes of our national election? I guess that remains to be seen.)

I would highly recommend The Great Greene Heist to readers in 4th or 5th grade on up. Some of the humor–particularly the nerdier stuff–may not resonate with younger readers, but they’ll still find much to enjoy in the antics of Jackson and his crew.

For those who think this book is their cup of tea, there’s more to love. The second book in the series, To Catch a Cheat, is already out. Perhaps I’ll buy this one at my next book fair (which is coming up in November).

If you’d like more information on The Great Greene Heist, visit author Varian Johnson’s website. You can also connect with him on Twitter.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

My latest read has been on my to-read list for quite a while, and I finally picked it up this weekend. I finished reading it yesterday after work, and I’m still sorting out my feelings on it. My initial reaction, though, is that I love it, and I wish it had been around when I was in high school.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is not what I would call an easy read, though the pages seem to fly by. It deals with some uncomfortable–even horrifying–situations, many of which adults would like to imagine teens don’t think about or deal with. This book treats those situations in a realistic way and gives a look into the mind of a teenage boy who is essentially at the end of his rope.

This book also does something that all excellent books do. It makes the reader think. (Some people seem to be uncomfortable with this as well. Just take a look at the current political climate in the U.S.) My hope is that readers–both adult and young adult–will look at this book and examine their own attitudes toward those who may be considered outcasts, weirdos, loners, etc. One never knows what someone else is going through, what drove them to this point, or how they often wish for someone to acknowledge their pain.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It’s also the day he’s going to die. After he’s said his goodbyes today–to the only people who really matter to him–he’ll kill his former friend, Asher Beal, turn his grandfather’s gun on himself, and “shuffle off this mortal coil.”

As Leonard goes about his day, readers gradually begin to understand what is driving Leonard’s actions. They see how his parents have all but abandoned him. They see how he’s treated at school. They see how Leonard doesn’t think or act like most other kids. Most importantly, they see just what happened between Leonard and Asher Beal. Leonard has very good reason to hate Asher, but does that reason warrant Asher’s death…or Leonard’s?

The moment of reckoning grows closer, and Leonard must decide if he’s going to follow through with his plans. Will he actually use his grandfather’s gun to kill Asher and himself? Is there anyone who will notice that Leonard is a truly desperate young man? Will he reach out to someone and seek the help he needs? Is there any hope left that things will ever get better? I’m afraid you’ll have to discover those answers yourself…

I think that anyone who’s ever felt misunderstood, isolated, or excluded will, in some way, identify with Leonard Peacock. (This may not be a welcome realization for a lot of adults. I submit that those adults have either forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager, or they bear some responsibility in making others feel like dirt.) Readers may not have gone through exactly what Leonard did–though some most certainly have–but they may recognize and sympathize with Leonard’s feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and apathy. By encountering these feelings through fiction, maybe those readers can begin to work through some of the issues troubling them and begin to seek help. On the other end of the equation, perhaps this book will help others realize that they never really know how their actions–or inactions–influence those around them.

I’m going to stop now before I say too much (even though I may have already done that). If you’d like to learn more about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and other novels by Matthew Quick, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.