Watch the Sky

I was just talking to one of my colleagues about my most recent read, Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard, and, in a nutshell, I described it as “kids of Doomsday preppers.” She reminded me that we actually have some of those kids at our school, so I think this book, which comes out on April 7th, will eventually be added to my school library collection.

Watch the Sky is an interesting book–told from the perspective of a young boy–about a rather fascinating (and disturbing, in my opinion) lifestyle choice. Now, I’ve never watched Doomsday Preppers or anything like it–nor do I intend to–but I think this book gives readers a small glimpse into what life may be like for the kids in those situations. It can’t be easy to live in fear all the time while finding some way to balance school, friends, and loyalty to family. That’s what Jory is going through in Watch the Sky

Jory’s stepfather, Caleb, is always telling the family to look out for signs. Signs of what? Jory’s not entirely certain, but Caleb seems to be sure enough for everyone. These mysterious signs could be things like an odd newspaper article, a meteor shower, some dead birds, or even the simplest, seemingly innocent thing. Jory’s not sure what makes something a “sign,” but he trusts Caleb to keep the family safe from danger.

Jory must also do his part to keep his family safe. He must follow all of Caleb’s instructions. He can’t draw too much attention to himself or the family, he always wears heavy work boots, and he can never tell anyone about his sister Kit. And he must make sure to “watch the sky” for signs.

Before long, Caleb becomes convinced that all of his “signs” are pointing to a cataclysmic event, one that the family will need to prepare for. What do those preparations entail? Stockpiling supplies, getting used to eating MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), canning food…and digging. Almost every night, the entire family digs in the canyon beyond their house. Jory’s not sure exactly why or what they’re digging, but this mission soon becomes clear. They are creating a bunker to survive whatever danger Caleb feels is on the way.

While all of this is going on, Jory also has to go to school. He has to worry about keeping his grades up, staying out of trouble, and making friends with a couple of people who won’t let him blend into the background.

It’s hard to balance his schoolwork and friendships with everything happening at home, and Jory is starting to wonder why he should have so much to worry about. Why is Caleb so convinced that danger is coming? If things are really so bad, why aren’t they warning others? Caleb always taught Jory to question everything he was told, but what will happen when Jory begins to question Caleb? Is he prepared to live a life without fear if it means losing his own family? Or will Jory follow Caleb into an uncertain future away from the world around him?

Answer these questions and many more when you read Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard.

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I think Watch the Sky will spark some intriguing conversations with my students. I haven’t read anything like this book before, so it definitely fills a hole (that I didn’t know was there) in my library collection. I would recommend this book for libraries that serve elementary and middle grade readers.

That being said, I did have one big issue with the book. There didn’t seem to be much resolution at the end. I kind of expected what was going to happen, but there just needed to be more. More about what happened to Kit, both before and after her time with Jory’s family. More about how Jory and his family fared after their decision in the canyon. What came next? Maybe these things played out in the final version of the book (I read a galley copy via NetGalley), but I would have liked a bit more clarification.

For more information on Watch the Sky and author Kirsten Hubbard, check out the author’s Goodreads page.

Published in: on March 26, 2015 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

People often ask me what my favorite movie is. Most of those people expect me to name The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, The Avengers, The Goonies, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail as my all-time favorite. And while I do adore those movies (and many others), there is one that leaves them all behind.

The Princess Bride. My feelings about this movie (and the book) go way beyond adoration. I can (and often do) quote entire passages from the film, much to the dismay of those around me. Even my three-year-old niece has told me to be quiet while we’re watching The Princess Bride together. (She loves it, by the way. The kid has good taste.) I have a framed poster of Buttercup and Westley hanging in my bedroom. I have several t-shirts featuring quotes from the book/movie. I watch the movie at least once a month, and I try to reread the book every year (and this has been my pattern for the past 20+ years). So, yeah…I LOVE The Princess Bride.

I tell you all of that to explain why I picked up my latest read, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. This book, written by Cary Elwes (better known as Westley) and Joe Layden, takes a peek behind the scenes of what I would argue is one of the greatest–and most underrated–movies of all time. (I was even reading this book while I had The Princess Bride on in the background. I may have a small obsession.)

Now, I’m not going to go into the plot of The Princess Bride here. No, you really must experience that for yourself. Instead, I’ll discuss As You Wish just a bit in the hopes that those who enjoy this movie as much as I do will find something to fall in love with all over again.

In As You Wish, Cary Elwes–better known as Westley or the Man in Black–takes readers on a journey. We see the earliest days of this movie, which many studios did not want to touch. We see Rob Reiner work to get a film close to his heart to the big screen. We see amazing casting decisions that would play a large part in vaulting the film to cult status (eventually). Through it all, we see that each person who had a hand in making The Princess Bride knew it was something special.

As You Wish gives readers a look at the intense training that went into the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times, the laughter that took over the set whenever Billy Crystal (Miracle Max) opened his mouth, and the awe generated simply by being in the same room as Andre the Giant.

Cary Elwes shares some very personal, funny, and often poignant memories with fans of The Princess Bride, but we also hear from such notable figures as Rob Reiner (director), Robin Wright (Buttercup), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdink), Carol Kane (Valerie), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), William Goldman (author/screenwriter), Andy Scheinman (producer), and, of course, Billy Crystal. Their contributions to this book make it so much richer than it may otherwise have been.

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I can’t possibly touch on everything that is covered in this book, but I can tell you that I laughed, I teared up a bit, and I reminisced about The Princess Bride‘s place in my own childhood (and my adult life). As You Wish is a gentle reminder that this movie means as much to those who brought it to life as it does to the fans who love it so much.

If you love The Princess Bride as much as I do–or even if you’re just a casual fan–I strongly urge you to read As You Wish. Having this small glimpse behind the scenes makes me appreciate this beloved film even more, and my hope is that you’ll feel the same.

If you’d like to learn more about all things Princess Bride–and find your own bit of tweasure–I urge you to visit princessbrideforever.com. It’s a good place to spend a couple of hours.

“Have fun storming the castle!”

Published in: on March 23, 2015 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Witch Must Burn

If you haven’t read Dorothy Must Die or the first prequel novella, No Place Like Oz, I urge you to do so before reading prequel novella #2, The Witch Must Burn. That is all.

Welcome to my new obsession. I have quickly fallen in love with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, and that adoration only continues with The Witch Must Burn. It is absolutely fascinating to see the political maneuvering and machinations behind Dorothy’s rise to power upon her return to Oz. Yes, Dorothy is horrible, but she’s not the only one. In The Witch Must Burn, we get a closer look at Glinda, who seems to have forgotten that she’s supposed to be a “Good Witch.” The lines between Good and Wicked aren’t exactly clear anymore.

Jellia Jamb has lived in the royal palace of Emerald City as long as she can remember, and she’s worked her way up to the position of head maid. Jellia has seen lots of changes during her time at the palace, but the current state of things give her cause for great worry.

When Ozma, the land’s true leader, was in power, life was idyllic. Now that Dorothy’s in charge, however, things are different. Everyone walks on eggshells, people are punished–and often disappear–because of the smallest infractions, the Scarecrow is conducting strange experiments, and much of the magic has gone out of Oz.

Jellia, who has her own magical abilities, does what she can to ease the way for herself and the other maids, but a mighty force soon realizes that Jellia’s gifts may be more powerful that even she realizes. Glinda sees something in Jellia, something she can possibly use to mine the magic deep within Oz’s core.

Glinda borrows Jellia from Dorothy and spirits her away to her own estate for the summer…a summer that will throw Jellia into a situation more dangerous than she ever could have foreseen. She’ll learn that Glinda is the real force behind Dorothy’s rise to power, and she’s working to gain more magic and control than ever before. Jellia will also discover that a revolution is in the works…a revolution that is trying to restore Oz to its former glory.

Jellia is now in a position to help those who seek to put an end to Glinda’s–and Dorothy’s–reign of terror. Is she willing to trust these people–the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked–who know more about Jellia than she does herself? Will she put her fate and that of Oz in their hands? And what may she learn about herself and her own abilities in the process?

Join Jellia, a seemingly simple maid, as she navigates the power struggles in Oz. What can she do to turn the tide? Read The Witch Must Burn to find out!

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I’m so glad this novella is told from Jellia’s perspective. We see this character in Dorothy Must Die, and, by the end of that novel, we know that she plays a much bigger role than originally thought. It’s wonderful to see how that role developed. Given what happened at the end of Dorothy Must Die, though, I wonder how much intel Jellia was able to gather and how that will help Amy Gumm and the Order overthrow Dorothy, Glinda, and their associates. That’s something to ponder before the second novel, The Wicked Will Rise, comes out on March 31st.

Before we get to The Wicked Will Rise, there’s still one more prequel novella to dive into. The Wizard Returns is next on my to-read list, and I will begin reading it as soon as I finish a couple other reads-in-progress. The Wizard has made appearances in the other Dorothy Must Die stories, but his loyalties and motives have been a little suspicious. I’m hopefull that The Wizard Returns will clear things up a bit. We’ll just have to see.

For more information about The Witch Must Burn and the other Dorothy Must Die stories, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

 

Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Lost Herondale

I’ll skip my typical warning for today. At this point, if you haven’t read everything Cassandra Clare has written, it’s really your own fault if I spoil anything for you.

Yesterday, the second installment in Tales from Shadowhunter Academy was released. (Of course, I had to read it last night. Laundry could wait.) That novella, The Lost Herondale, continues to follow Simon Lewis as he learns what it takes to be a Shadowhunter.

Simon is still struggling with the demands placed on him, and, even though many consider him a hero of the Dark War, Simon can’t remember any of it. He’s not sure he’s really Shadowhunter material, especially when he questions the very laws that those around him hold most sacred.

During one of his lessons, Simon learns that the worst thing a Shadowhunter can do is be a coward. This lesson is driven home with the story of Tobias Herondale, a Shadowhunter who abandoned his comrades when faced with grave danger. If Tobias had returned to the Clave to receive his punishment, he would have surely been put to death. But he didn’t, so his punishment was dealt to his pregnant wife.

Simon and his classmates are surprised that the Clave would execute a pregnant woman for her husband’s supposed crimes, but they are met with the standard, “The Law is hard, but it is the Law.”

After hearing this story, Simon questions long-held Shadowhunter beliefs and customs even more. Things don’t get any easier when he and his fellow students are tasked with killing a rogue vampire. (Simon used to be one, after all.) And when Simon discovers there may be more to the history of Tobias Herondale, the questions keep on coming.

What could a lost Herondale line mean for Jace? Could Tobias’ ancestors one day become Shadowhunters themselves? And what will Simon do with this new information?

Keep reading Tales from Shadowhunter Academy (and anything else to do with Shadowhunters) to find out…maybe.

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I’m really liking seeing the Shadowhunter world through Simon’s eyes. Yes, he was part of things in The Mortal Instruments series, but he wasn’t exactly experiencing what it meant to be a Shadowhunter from the ground up. Now, he’s learning the history of these people, and it’s not exactly pleasant. Shadowhunters–for all their angel blood, abilities, and arrogance–are just as capable of injustice, prejudice, and darkness as Downworlders and humans are. Simon is seeing both the best and worst of the Shadowhunters’ world, and he has to decide if he really wants to be a part of it. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes him.

The next novella in this collection, The Whitechapel Fiend, comes out on April 21st. I’m super excited about this one because it involves Jack the Ripper. (I know my fascination with this figure is morbid. I’ve accepted that.)

For more information on all of the stories in Tales from Shadowhunter Academy, click here.

Published in: on March 18, 2015 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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No Place Like Oz

Warning! Even though this post is on a prequel to Dorothy Must Die, I strongly urge you to read that book before proceeding with this post or with No Place Like Oz. And if you have a special fondness for Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz…well, that’s about to change.

For those of you still with me, you’ve probably guessed that I’ve become slightly obsessed with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series. The first book simply took my breath away, and I just had to dive in when I learned there were several prequels detailing events leading up to Amy Gumm’s journey to and through Oz. Last night, I finished the first of those prequel novellas, No Place Like Oz, and it was everything I could have possibly hoped for.

In No Place Like Oz, we see almost sixteen-year-old Dorothy in Kansas. Her adventurous trek through Oz is over, and she’s back to her humdrum life on the farm.

When Dorothy was in Oz, all she wanted was to get back home. Now that she’s actually home, though, Dorothy dreams of going back to Oz. In Oz, she was important. In Oz, she was the hero and had some very close friends. In Kansas, she’s the girl with the crazy stories. In Kansas, she’s poor, has no friends, and is always left wanting. Why wouldn’t she want to go back to Oz?

Well, it seems that someone out there wants the same thing for Dorothy. On her sixteenth birthday, Dorothy receives a pair of shoes. Now, these are not just any shoes. (They’re never “just shoes” when it come to Oz.) These towering red heels were supposedly sent to Dorothy from Glinda, and they fill Dorothy with a feeling of magic–of power–the minute she puts them on. The shoes are so powerful, in fact, that Dorothy is able to use them to take her–and Toto, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry–straight to Oz.

Dorothy is thrilled to be back in Oz, but Aunt Em and Uncle Henry don’t find the place as wonderful as Dorothy does. They only want to go back to Kansas, but Dorothy honestly has no intention of returning to that boring, dreary life. She plans to stay exactly where she is, and she’s willing to do just about anything–including using the mysterious power and magic of her new shoes–to make that happen.

As Dorothy becomes more obsessed with staying in Oz, her true nature (?) becomes apparent. She’s tired of always wanting. Shouldn’t she get something out of saving Oz? Shouldn’t she be revered and given anything she wants? Of course, she should! And with her special red shoes, anything she wants is possible…even taking over Oz herself.

But what price will Dorothy pay in her quest for fame and power? Is she that willing to do anything (and I do mean anything) just to feel special? Why was she given her magical shoes in the first place, and is there more at work in Oz than even Dorothy knows?

Learn how a seemingly innocent farm girl from Kansas is transformed into a megalomaniac bent on showing everyone just how special she truly is when you read No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige!

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When I was reading Dorothy Must Die several days ago, I wondered how Dorothy left Kansas once again and came to rule over Oz. Well, this novella went a long way in answering my questions. It showed how Dorothy progressed from innocent (but still kind of annoying) farm girl to the power-hungry monster she grew to be. I was captivated from start to finish, and I’m hoping the other prequel novellas–two of which are already out–continue to clarify how the current state of things in Oz came to be.

The next two novellas, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns, are pretty high up on my to-read list, and I’ll tackle those as soon as I can…hopefully before the next book is released. The Wicked Will Rise, the second full-length novel in the series comes out on March 31st, which is the second day of my Spring Break. Woohoo! A fourth prequel novella, Heart of Tin, will be out on July 28th.

If you’re interested in learning more about this wonderful series, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Die Once More

Caution! If you haven’t read every story in Amy Plum’s Revenants series–Die for Me, Until I Die, Die for Her (an ebook novella), and If I Should Dieturn back now! I’d hate to ruin this magnificent series for you…but I will.

If you’re still with me, I assume you’re caught up on all things Revenant. Today, I’ll be taking a quick look at the second novella in this series, Die Once More. This story, like Die For Her, is told from Jules’ perspective. It takes place just after the events of If I Should Die, which essentially wrapped up what was happening with the Revenants in Paris.

*For those of you who failed to heed my warning above and are still reading this, Revenants are less creepy versions of zombies. Good Revenants, or bardia, originally died saving another’s life and are reborn to continue that cycle for eternity. Bad Revenants, or numa, gain power through killing others or convincing others to kill themselves. There’s a bit more to it than this simplistic explanation, but this will have to do for now.*

Jules Marchenoir has left everything he loves behind. His country. His best friend, Vincent. And Kate, new Champion of the bardia, his best friend’s girlfriend…and the girl who stole Jules’ heart. It’s just too painful to be in the same city as Kate and Vincent, so Jules crosses the Atlantic and joins up with the Revenants in New York.

Almost immediately, Jules is struck by how the bardia of New York compare to those in Paris. Thought there are many more Revenants here than there were in France, things seem to be very efficient here. That’s thanks largely to Ava Whitefoot, a striking woman who seems to loathe Jules on sight.

Jules knows he’s never met Ava in his many years as a bardia, so he doesn’t understand why she dislikes him so much. Soon, however, both people will have to put any animosity aside as they work to take down the building numa threat in New York. The numa in France may have been defeated, but those in New York are gaining strength every day.

In a story that takes us from the streets of Brooklyn to the boulevards of Paris, Jules and Ava will learn much about what makes each other tick, and they’ll discover that first impressions may just be deceiving.

Will Ava be able to look past Jules’ womanizing reputation and see the man he is trying to become? Will Jules be able to support Ava when she needs it the most? Can these two bardia find a way to become friends–or more–with the numa threat and a new challenge facing them? Read Die Once More to find out!

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I know Die Once More is focused on Jules and his developing relationship with Ava, but I must admit that I would have liked to see a little more action at the end. We’re told that there’s this big battle with the numa, but we don’t see the actual battle. That was kind of disappointing.

Other than that one complaint, I did enjoy this quick read. I liked Jules immensely in the previous stories, so (SPOILERS!) I enjoyed seeing him begin to get over Kate, reunite with his brethren, and find a partner of his own. I also appreciated seeing familiar, loved characters from the original trilogy and how they were faring post-battle. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of the bardia (in either Paris or New York).

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this series as a whole, I encourage you to check out my reviews linked above. You may also want to visit Amy Plum’s website.

Au revoir!

Dorothy Must Die

I grew up loving The Wizard of Oz. I watched the movie almost incessantly, and I read the book as soon as I was old enough to understand most of the words. As I got older, though, I was less intrigued with Dorothy’s journey and more interested in the Wicked Witch. (Dorothy seemed like kind of a goody-two-shoes to me. Boring.) That interest only intensified the first time I saw Wicked (which remains my absolute favorite musical).

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die, a book that delves into what happened after the Wicked Witch was gone and Dorothy returned to Kansas. It seems that Dorothy didn’t stay in Kansas very long, and she didn’t exactly remain the good girl that everyone remembers…

Amy Gumm’s life in Kansas is less than stellar. She’s something of an outcast at school. She gets in trouble for fighting with a pregnant girl (who totally started the fight in the first place). Her relationship with her mother is strained to say the least. She’d dearly love to escape her many worries. Well, Amy should probably be careful what she wishes for…

When a tornado rips through town, it takes Amy and her home with it. And where does Amy land? Oz, of course. (Where else would a girl from Kansas caught up in a tornado land?!) But this is not the Oz Amy remembers from film and books. No, this Oz is terrifying, bleak, and seemingly devoid of the magic that should be all around. What happened here?

Well, as it turns out, Dorothy happened here. After her time in Oz, life in Kansas just couldn’t compare, so she found her way back…and proceeded to completely take over. Now, the monkeys, Munchkins, and other creatures are essentially enslaved. They do Dorothy’s bidding or they find themselves in for a world of hurt. That “hurt” comes from the Scarecrow (who performs horrifying experiments on those who anger Dorothy), the Tin Woodsman (who has knives for fingers and leads an army of tin soldiers), and the Lion (who has left cowardly behind and delights on feeding off of others’ fear). And let’s not forget Glinda, the “Good” Witch, who is now Dorothy’s adviser and oversees many of the twit’s projects. So, yeah, it’s not a great time to be in Oz.

So what is Amy to do in this frightening, unfamiliar Oz? How can she get back home? She doesn’t exactly have the warm-ish welcome that Dorothy enjoyed all those years ago. All she knows is what she remembers from the book and movie based on this place, and there’s no resemblance to that now. Even the yellow brick road is crumbling.

Amy does the only thing she can think of. She starts toward the Emerald City…but that may not be the smartest thing to do these days. Amy encounters many dangers–and a couple of potential friends–along the way, and she finds herself in the clutches of Dorothy herself (who turns out to be the most evil, sadistic you-know-what imaginable).

Luckily (depending on one’s point of view), Amy eventually receives help from a rather interesting source. The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. This group of Wicked Witches rescues Amy from certain death at the hand of Dorothy and the Scarecrow, but the witches’ help is not without its price. They want Amy’s assistance with something. Something that only Amy, a girl from Kansas, can do.

They want her to kill Dorothy.

Even though Amy has seen Dorothy’s cruelty first-hand, she doesn’t quite know how she feels about killing her. (The lines between Good and Wicked are becoming blurrier by the second.) Even so, she trains with the Order and discovers she’s got a bit of magic of her own. Amy’s new-found skills and powers give her confidence, something she’s never really had before. She’s strong, and she knows she can put an end to Dorothy’s reign of terror…but will she?

Amy’s resolve is soon put to the test, and, as she learns more and more about what’s really going on in Oz, the more determined she becomes to see this thing through. But will things be as straightforward as she’s been led to believe? Who can she depend on to have her back when things go sour? And is she really getting the whole story from the Order, or is more going on in Oz than even they know?

Read Dorothy Must Die, the first book in a thrilling series by Danielle Paige, to see just what Amy encounters when she goes “over the rainbow.” No happy little bluebirds here, folks.

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If it wasn’t already apparent, I adored this book. I can hardly wait to dive into the three prequel novellas that are already out (and waiting on my Kindle). If you’re curious, those are No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn, and The Wizard Returns. The second full-length novel in this series, The Wicked Will Rise, comes out on March 31st, and a fourth prequel novella, Heart of Tin, will be out on July 28th. Lots to look forward to!

Dorothy Must Die is a perfect read for those who enjoy fractured fairy tales or readers who always wonder what happens after the story ends. This wonderful book tells us that it’s not always the happily ever after we envision…which is kind of cool.

I have to admit that this book has forever changed how I look at The Wizard of Oz. I don’t think I can ever view the Scarecrow as the lovable dolt I’ve always known. No, both he and the Tin Man are now the stuff of nightmares. The Lion is in another category entirely. He is beyond nightmare status, and I really wish he’d stayed cowardly.

I don’t know yet where this series will lead or how it will further change my perception of Oz and its inhabitants, but I look forward to the journey!

If I still haven’t convinced you to give this book a try, check out the book trailer below. You may also want to connect with author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

Published in: on March 9, 2015 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Blood of My Blood

Warning: Before proceeding with this book, you MUST read I Hunt Killers and Game. Preferably during daylight hours. Or with every light in the house on. And maybe a baseball bat by your side. And a therapist on speed-dial.

Normally, I like to think a bit about a book before I post on it. That is not the case with Blood of My Blood, the third and final book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent trilogy. No, I have to get my thoughts on this book out right now…and then watch a Disney movie or look at pictures of baby pandas before I try to go to sleep.

To say that Blood of My Blood is horrifying and upsetting is a gross understatement. That being said…it was a great book and completely lived up to its predecessors. It continues the story of Jasper Dent and his search for the truth about his father, one of the world’s most prolific serial killers, Billy Dent.

When last we left Jasper (also known as Jazz), his girlfriend Connie, and his best friend Howie, each of them were facing life-threatening situations. Jazz was seriously injured and trapped in a storage unit. Howie, a hemophiliac, was bleeding out on the floor of Jasper’s grandmother’s house. And Connie had just come face-to-face with her worst nightmare–Billy Dent himself. But that’s really just the beginning of the horrors to come.

Things are looking bleak for Jasper Dent. Yes, he’s helped the NYPD track down a team of serial killers, but at what cost? An FBI agent is dead, and fingers are starting to point at Jazz. His father, the infamous Billy Dent, is on the loose, and some are beginning to wonder if father and son are working together. Jazz can’t convince the police of his innocence–even when it is revealed that his girlfriend has narrowly escaped Billy’s clutches–so he does the only thing he can think of. He goes in search of Billy himself.

Jazz tries his best to disconnect from everything he’s ever loved in his hunt for Billy, but his past keeps creeping in. He thinks of his loyal best friend, Howie, and Connie is never far from his mind. Jazz also thinks about his mom, a woman who left when he was just a child but who may now be in Billy’s grasp once again. Can he protect all of these people, do what he feels needs to be done, and still hold on to his humanity? Is that even a possibility anymore? Or is Jazz really turning into his father’s son?

As Jazz gets closer and closer to Billy, pieces of his past are becoming clearer, and neither Jazz nor those around him may be prepared for what is eventually revealed. It seems that Billy is not the worst evil to be encountered. No, a malignant force called the Crow King is bearing down on Jazz and will change everything he’s ever believed about his father and himself.

How will it all end? I’ll leave that for you to find out…

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After reading the first two books in this series (and thoroughly enjoying them), I knew I had to read Blood of My Blood. While I’m glad I finally found time to devote to this book, I have to say that I thought it was the most disturbing of the entire trilogy. At times, I really had to resist the urge to throw up. It wasn’t that the imagery was particularly graphic–although it was at times. No, what really got to me were Jazz’s traumatic memories. I won’t go into details here, but I will say that this kid never really had much of a chance. From Billy’s “teachings” to the other snippets of a horrible childhood, it’s a wonder Jazz didn’t turn into a raging psychopath.

I don’t know what more I can say about this trilogy as a whole. If you like psychological thrillers or enjoy shows like Criminal Minds, this might be the series for you. I warn some readers that the content can be upsetting. I doubt I’d recommend this book for middle grade readers or those who scare easily.

If you’d like to learn more about Blood of My Blood and the other books in this trilogy, check out author Barry Lyga’s website.

Now, I must watch a light-hearted Disney movie to get all these thoughts of murder and serial killers out of my head. (And now that I’m thinking about it, there aren’t many Disney films without crazed killers. Maybe I’ll just watch a few episodes of Friends on Netflix.)

Published in: on February 28, 2015 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I Was Here

It’s difficult to describe my feelings on Gayle Forman‘s latest book, I Was Here, but I’ll do my best. Don’t be surprised, though, if this post is a bit different from most others.

I Was Here deals with something that is hard to discuss. Suicide and those left to pick up the pieces. I won’t go into how suicide has touched my own life, but I will say that this book brought back all of the feelings of pain, grief, and guilt. No matter what anyone says, suicide doesn’t just impact the one contemplating or going through with it. It leaves total wreckage behind, and that’s what Cody, this book’s protagonist, is facing.

Cody and Meg were once as close as sisters, so how is it possible that Cody had no idea that her best friend was suicidal? Is there anything Cody could have done to stop Meg from carrying out the elaborate plan that would end her life? How can Cody go on without her other half, the friend who meant the world to her? And how can she figure out just what drove Meg to do the unthinkable?

All of these questions are plaguing Cody, and she is determined to find the answers that she needs. Her search leads her to Meg’s college apartment and a life that Cody was never a part of. She talks to Meg’s roommates and her friends in Seattle, including the enigmatic Ben McCallister, a young man with his own guilt about what happened to Meg. No one seems to know why Meg would have committed suicide, and Cody is growing frustrated with what seems to be a fruitless quest for the truth…until she discovers an encrypted file on Meg’s computer.

With a little help, Cody discovers exactly what Meg was hiding, and her investigation becomes even more intense. Cody becomes obsessed with Meg’s journey to suicide, and she’s getting drawn into something that is taking over her own life. She needs to find a reason for Meg’s decision, someone to blame for this horrible act that threw everything she thought she knew into a tailspin.

But will Cody really be prepared for what she uncovers? What will she do with the information? Will it change anything? And who will be there to help Cody pick up the pieces of her shattered life now that her best friend is gone?

Read I Was Here by Gayle Forman to learn how one young woman tries to live while attempting to find out why her best friend wanted to die.

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I Was Here was not an easy book for me to read. I had to put it down several times because I was, quite simply, getting too emotional. I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about some parts of the book. I guess some things may have hit a little too close to home. I will say, however, that I think this is an important book. It deals with subjects–suicide and depression–that many young people are facing…but not talking about. Nothing is glossed over or treated with the least bit of glamour (something the media tends to do with suicide). I Was Here is an honest look at what’s left behind when loved ones end their own lives. The feelings of guilt, loss, and hopelessness. It’s something that never really goes away.

I hope that this book, like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, opens up a dialog about depression and suicidal thoughts. Young people need to realize that they are not alone, and, as trite as it sometimes sounds, things really do get better. The darkness will eventually pass. The road may not be easy, but it’s worth it, and no one has to walk it alone.

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression or suicide, please talk to a trusted friend or adult. Seek help. Call the National Foundation for Suicide Prevention lifeline at 800-273-TALK. Go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website to learn more about warning signs and how to find local support groups for survivors.

 

Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy

*Read all of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter books before continuing. At this point, if you follow this blog regularly and haven’t read every last one of those books, I’m kind of disappointed. That is all.*

So, I totally should have done this when each of the novellas in The Bane Chronicles were released, but I can’t go back and change things until the Doctor and his TARDIS show up in my front yard. (I have high hopes.) Anyway, I figure I can do things right with the highly anticipated Tales of Shadowhunter Academy.

Like The Bane Chronicles, a new ebook novella in this collection will be released each month, and the stories will be printed together down the road. I’m planning to write about each story as it’s released so that I won’t have to go over everything again when the print volume makes its way to my hands. We’ll start with the first story, Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy written by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan, which was released yesterday.

This first novella begins after the big Dark War with Sebastian, Clary’s horrible, evil brother. The Shadowhunters are trying to refill their ranks after losing so many in the war, so they’ve reopened the Shadowhunter Academy in Idris. One of their first students is Simon Lewis.

Simon, who was once a vampire and now has very little memory of his former life, is trying to become the hero he used to be. He knows he’s a different person than Clary, Jace, and especially Isabelle remember, and he figures the Academy may be the place to find that young man once again.

Things don’t exactly get off to a great start at the Academy, though. The school is basically falling apart around its students, half of the teachers have left, the food is abysmal, and the bathrooms are worse. To make matters worse, there is serious attitude from the descendants of Shadowhunters toward their mundane classmates.

Simon, who has ties to both sides but feels like he belongs to neither, is struggling. Everyone knows him as a hero, but he’s having a tough time proving that to those around him…and to himself. He’s not thrilled with the blatant prejudices against mundanes and Downworlders. (Let’s not forget he used to be a vampire, his roommate was a werewolf, and he’s got some fairly strong ties to everyone’s favorite warlock.) He’s also dealing with the increasing memories of his former life and his confusing feelings for Isabelle Lightwood. Is she still his girlfriend? Does he want her to be?

Life is not going to be easy for Simon Lewis anytime soon, but, with the support of a couple of new friends, he may just find that he’s always been the hero of his own story. What will that mean for his life back home? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see…

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I think this was a strong story to start the Tales from Shadowhunter Academy. Readers get quite a bit of insight into Simon’s rather tortured mind, and I think we have a greater understanding of why he’s making the choices he is. It can’t be easy to only have bits and pieces of memories and not recognize the guy others refer to as a hero. So what does Simon do? He does the only thing he can think of to bring that guy back to life, so to speak. Will things work out like Simon wants (or like all of us reading want)? I have no idea, but I’m sure the ride will be a great one.

Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy gave us a few more characters to love, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of them. First and foremost in my mind is Simon’s roommate, George Lovelace. What a great addition to this series! He’s charming, good-looking, funny…and Scottish! And he, like Simon, brings his own distorted past to the Academy. I really look forward to seeing more of this guy.

Another character I was happy to see was Catarina Loss. We’ve seen this blue warlock before, but I was thrilled with her appearance in this story. I think this warlock is going to add an interesting dimension to Simon’s days at the Academy, and I’m hoping her revelation that Ragnor Fell previously taught there will make its way into future stories.

The next tale in this collection is The Lost Herondale, and it is set for release on March 17th. If you’d like to learn more, check out the synopsis on Goodreads. I must say that I am definitely intrigued!

For more information on Cassandra Clare and all things Shadowhunter, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Published in: on February 18, 2015 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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