The Bronze Key

A word of warning: Proceed with caution if you haven’t read both The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet, the first two books in the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This post might be a little spoilery if you’re not totally caught up.

This may not be my standard post. I’ve been awake since 3am, and I’m having a little trouble keeping my eyes open, much less stringing sentences together. I’ll do the best I can.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Bronze Key, book three in the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This book continues the story of Call, Aaron, and Tamara, three young mages trying to figure out this whole magic thing. They are students at the Magisterium, and Call and Aaron are both Makars, or mages with an affinity for chaos magic.

As The Bronze Key begins, Call, Aaron, Tamara, and their frenemy Jasper are being honored for their action against Constantine Madden, known as the Enemy of Death, and his minions. What most people don’t know is that the soul of the Enemy of Death is very much alive…and residing within Call.

Call worries that he’ll become an evil overlord one day, but that’s only part of his problem at the moment. At the party honoring Call and his friends, one of the Magisterium students is mysteriously killed and another attempt is made on Call’s life. It’s clear that someone is out to get him, but why? Does someone know his secret, or has he outlived his usefulness as a Makar?

Soon enough, Call and company are back at the Magisterium, and the mystery deepens. There is a spy in their midst, and it could be anyone. Call doesn’t know who to trust, and he even looks at his best friends with a certain degree of suspicion. He’ll have to figure out what’s going on fast before he–or someone else–meets a rather sticky end.


I’m going to stop there before I give too much away. It’s enough to tell you that some bad stuff goes down in this book, and it wallops you in the heart before all is said and done. I, for one, wish I could dive into book four, The Silver Mask, right now so that I could see where things go from here. Sadly, that is not going to happen.

Speaking of The Silver Mask, it is set to be released sometime in 2017, but I’m not sure exactly when. My guess is early fall.  The fifth and final book, The Enemy of Death, will follow in 2018.

For more information on The Iron Trial, The Copper Gauntlet, The Bronze Key and the rest of the Magisterium series, visit the official website. It’s got lots of interactive goodies that you may enjoy.

Note: The Iron Trial is a nominee for this year’s South Carolina Children’s and Junior Book Awards. In my opinion, the entire series is a good fit for fantasy lovers in upper elementary grades and up.

The Girls

Warning: Skip this post if you’re looking for a book for anyone younger than age eighteen. This one is for adult readers.

Earlier today, I finished reading The Girls by Emma Cline. I began reading the book about three weeks ago, and it definitely took me longer to get into it than most other books.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The subject matter–basically a fictional version of the Manson family–should have gripped me from the start, but I failed to connect with the main character, Evie. Maybe it had something to do with the narrative, which felt almost like stream of consciousness to me. (That could have reflected the staggering amount of drug use depicted in the book.) Or maybe it was the flipping back and forth between 1969 Evie and present-day Evie. (Neither version is particularly sympathetic, in my opinion.) For whatever reason, I’m happy to move on to something else.

Even though The Girls wasn’t what I would call a favorite read, it is interesting at points. Seeing into the mind of a girl taken in by enthralling figures who give her a place to belong is eye-opening. Evie, on some level, knew there was something wrong with what was happening, but she was mesmerized by those around her. She did things that may have been unthinkable to her former self, and she narrowly escaped becoming involved in something truly heinous. Even so, these people gave her attention, negative as it was, when no one else really cared about her. It’s not so difficult to see how a vulnerable person could be susceptible to a group that was essentially a cult.

In case you didn’t heed my warning at the beginning of this post, I’ll say it again. This is a book for adults. The book includes sexual situations, flagrant drug use, child neglect, profanity, violence, and more. I would not recommend The Girls to anyone under eighteen.

Some may think I’m too harsh on this book, and maybe I am. Perhaps my years of reading children’s and young adult books have made me more sensitive, but is that really a bad thing? I know what I think, but I’ll leave you to your own opinions.

For more information on The Girls, visit author Emma Cline’s website.

Dash

It’s not exactly a secret that I have issues with dog books. (The blame goes to Old Yeller.) This is something of a problem when one is an elementary school librarian. They’re everywhere.

Most of the time, I pick up a dog book because I have to read it. It could be a South Carolina Book Award nominee or a pick for my district’s Battle of the Books competition. (There are a couple of rare cases when I actually choose to read a dog book myself.) In the case of my latest read, Dash by Kirby Larson, I read this book because it was chosen for Battle of the Books this year.

Last year, I read Duke by Kirby Larson, so I knew kind of what to expect with Dash. I knew that this book was another historical fiction story, it took place during the Japanese internment of World War II, and it had a dog in it. That’s about as far as my knowledge went for a while.

When I made time to sit down and read this book, I quickly realized that, while the dog is an important part of the book, it’s not the primary focus. That honor goes to Mitsi Kashino, a young Japanese-American girl living on the west coast and dealing with the fallout of life after Pearl Harbor. Her story is one that is often glossed over in history books, but it is one that is extremely important for readers of all ages to know more about.

Things are not easy for Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though many of them have been in America their entire lives and love their home, people–including neighbors and friends–now view them with suspicion and even hatred.

Mitsi Kashino knows that things are bad, especially when her two best friends suddenly decide that they want nothing to do with her. Now, it seems that Mitsi’s only friend in the world is her beloved dog Dash. He’s always happy to see her, and he doesn’t care about what she looks like or where her family is from.

Not everyone is like Dash, though. Soon, Mitsi’s family is forced to leave their home and move to an internment camp…where pets aren’t allowed. Mitsi is heartbroken that she can’t take Dash with her, but she finds a kind neighbor who agrees to care for her dog until they can be reunited.

Life at the camp is not easy, but Mitsi is eventually cheered by letters from Dash. She writes him back, telling him what the camp is like, but she keeps some things to herself. Like how her brother has started hanging out with troublemakers or how she worries that living in the camp is tearing her family apart.

Eventually, Mitsi makes a new friend and finds a measure of joy, even in a horrible situation. She also thinks of a way to keep Dash with her while they’re far apart. But what will happen when Mitsi and her family are forced to move once again? Is there any hope of ever seeing Dash again? Will life ever return to normal?

Read Dash to learn how a girl holds onto hope–and her dog–even when times are difficult.


Dash, like I’ve mentioned previously, addresses an event that most history books gloss over. I’m ashamed to admit that I knew nothing of the internment of Japanese Americans until I was in college. It’s just not something that was talked about. Books like this one help to remedy that situation, letting young people know that the United States is nowhere near blameless when discussing atrocities committed during World War II. (Further conversations could expand on other cruelties in American history–slavery, the Trail of Tears, the current treatment of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims, just to name a few.) Yes, these are serious issues to discuss with upper elementary and middle grade students, but, given what is happening in the world right now, those discussions are especially timely.

Even though Dash is a dog book, the story itself is one that will stay with me. I actually wanted the book to last a bit longer, giving me a glimpse of Mitsi’s future. Dash is a great book, and I know my students will thoroughly enjoy it. My primary hope is that it will make them think.

For those who enjoy reading Duke and Dash, Kirby Larson has another dog book that was recently released. The book is Liberty, and, like its predecessors, it’s a work of historical fiction set during World War II. From what I’ve gathered from Goodreads, it takes place in 1940s New Orleans, giving yet another look at kids–and dogs–during the war. I’m not sure when/if I’ll get around to reading Liberty, but I’m fairly confident that it will be popular with my students.

If you’d like more information on Duke, Dash, Liberty, and other books by Kirby Larson, check out the author’s website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Atlantia

Atlantia, a stand-alone novel by Matched author Ally Condie, had been sitting on my bookshelf for while. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally read it. It was not quite what I was expecting. I wanted to like it as much as I did the Matched series, but something held me back…and I’m not even sure what it was. For whatever reason, I just didn’t connect to this book. Maybe I’ll be able to work that out throughout the course of this post.

Rio longs to be Above. She’s lived Below, in her underwater home of Atlantia, for her entire life, but she’s never really felt like she belongs here. Even though she’s promised her sister, Bay, that she’ll stay with her Below, a part of her longs for the sand, sun, and sky Above.

It’s understandable, then, that Rio feels a sense of betrayal when her sister makes the stunning decision to go Above herself. Left Below alone, Rio is adrift, torn from the last person who truly knew her and her secrets. You see, Rio is a siren–one of the last of these powerful beings–and she’s always hidden her true voice from those around her. Could this secret have something to do with her sister’s abrupt departure? And could it be the key to Rio finding her way Above?

Eventually, Rio comes to realize that she’s not as alone as she thought. Her aunt, also a siren, is determined to help Rio find her voice and get in touch with her true power. Why though? Can this woman, who was never before part of Rio’s life, be trusted? Does Rio even have any choice in the matter if she wants to be reunited with her sister? What exactly is her aunt’s agenda?

As Rio comes to terms with her own power and her family’s actions, she uncovers some terrible truths about Atlantia itself. It seems that terrible forces are at work that will ensure the destruction of not only Atlantia but every siren who still exists. It also appears that Rio may be the only hope to stop these horrible events from occurring.

What can Rio do to turn the tide? How can she, an untried siren, possibly thwart the powers that would seek to destroy her? Who can she rely on to save herself and the only home she’s ever known?


I would categorize Atlantia as science fiction…even though it’s billed as fantasy. It seems obvious to me that the entire concept of this underwater city comes about because of the damage done to the environment Above. The societies in this book found a way to build a fully-enclosed, underwater city where people could live free of pollution. Once there, sirens–and others with special abilities–evolved due to their new surroundings. Industry revolved around keeping the city intact, and there was a certain amount of interdependence between Above and Below. Even religions changed (or were formed) to explain these new dynamics. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on all of this, I find it fascinating, and it helps me to have a more positive outlook on this book as a whole. (I’m still not overly fond of Rio or the somewhat forced romance in the book, but that’s probably my issue.)

Atlantia, in my opinion, is a good fit for libraries that serve middle grade and teen readers. There are some interesting family dynamics, a decent mystery, supernatural elements, and a bit of romance…something for everyone, I guess. It may not be my absolute favorite book, but it makes me think, and that’s all I can really ask for.

To learn more about Atlantia and Ally Condie, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Rebel Belle

This book has been on my radar for a while, and this weekend–while avoiding everything I probably should have been doing–I dove into Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. Rebel Belle is the first book in the series, and books two and three, Miss Mayhem and Lady Renegades, are already out. Given how much I fancied book one, I can assure you that I’ll check out the rest of the series.

Harper Price is the epitome of a Southern belle. She’s confident, popular, intelligent, refined, and she works to make her school the very best place it can be. She’s also a shoo-in for Homecoming Queen. On the night of the Homecoming dance, however, Harper’s world changes in the blink of an eye.

After an alarming altercation with the school janitor and her history teacher, Harper finds herself with strange new abilities. She’s basically a super-powered ninja with better fashion sense. But why does she have these powers? What is she supposed to do with them?

As it turns out, Harper is now a Paladin, a guardian traced back to the rule of Charlemagne. What exactly is she guarding, though? Well, Harper soon finds out that she’s charged with protecting David Stark, her nemesis and, apparently, an Oracle. Neither Harper nor David is thrilled with this odd turn of events, but they eventually come to realize that they have to work together, despite how much they’ve loathed each other in the past.

While Harper and David seek to understand more about this whole Paladin-Oracle business, they begin to uncover secrets that shake the foundation of everything they’ve ever believed…about themselves and those around them. Thanks to David’s rather murky prophecies, they realize that something awful is on the horizon, and they can only put their trust in each other to figure things out. A relationship that was once filled with nothing but animosity is quickly becoming something more.

How can Harper reconcile her growing feelings for David with her desire to return to her normal life (including her practically perfect boyfriend)? Is “normal” even a possibility now that she’s a Paladin? What will she have to face in her quest to protect David, and will her efforts be enough?

Find out what happens when you mix supernatural forces with a tenacious Southern girl when you read Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins.


Rebel Belle is a great pick for middle grade and teen readers who are looking for a fun read filled with mystery, magic, and mayhem. I’m pretty sure that all readers will root for Harper and David to get together, and they’ll enjoy the winding path they take to get there. I can only hope that the other two books in this trilogy are just as entertaining as this first offering.

To learn more about the entire Rebel Belle series and Rachel Hawkins, you can connect with the author on Tumblr and Twitter.

Enjoy, y’all!

These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars, the first book in the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, has been out for a few years. For whatever reason, I just managed to read it recently (even though I think I bought it soon after it came out). It took me a little while to get invested in this first book, but, once I did, it took me on quite the thrill ride. I actually finished the last two-thirds of the book today. I can’t tell you what else I accomplished today because I was so invested in this incredible piece of YA science fiction. Good times.

Wealthy socialite Lilac LaRoux and soldier Tarver Merendsen are both passengers aboard the Icarus, a luxurious spaceship making its way across the galaxy. These two young people, separated by class, are very different, but circumstances are about to force them together in a way that neither of them could possibly anticipate.

When the Icarus is thrust out of hyperspace, Lilac and Tarver end up together on an escape pod, and they crash into the planet below. They are the only survivors.

Tarver’s primary focus upon landing is survival. As a soldier, he’s been in adverse situations before, and he seems to know exactly what to do. Lilac isn’t so certain. She’s faltering, but she finds the strength she needs to keep moving, even when it’s obvious that Tarver expects her to break down.

Breaking down becomes a very real possibility as Tarver and Lilac make their way across this unfamiliar, desolate, and virtually uninhabited world. Their goal is to somehow make it to the wreckage of the Icarus…and the slim hope of rescue. But there’s something else going on here as well. Strange whispers seem to be guiding these two, leading them toward something. Are these whispers friends or foes, and what are they trying to tell Tarver and Lilac?

While Tarver and Lilac look for answers on this odd planet–and the hope of rescue grows dim–they also begin to look past their differences and form a nearly unbreakable bond. Maybe rescue isn’t what they want at all anymore. Returning to their old lives could tear them apart, and neither of them is ready for that.

Ready or not, forces are at work that have the power to destroy everything. Tarver and Lilac will face losing their minds, each other, and everything they ever believed about their place in the universe. Will they be able to face what’s coming and stay together? Or will they survive certain disaster only to be torn from each other’s arms?


Some of you are probably wondering if this book is appropriate for middle grade readers, and I’m honestly not sure. Portions of the book are rather intense, given the circumstances the characters find themselves in. There’s also the matter of Tarver and Lilac exploring their physical relationship. There’s nothing gratuitous, but it’s obvious what’s going on. Personally, I think These Broken Stars is fine for readers in eighth grade and up, but I doubt I’d put it in the hands of a sixth or seventh grader. Do with that what you will.

If you like Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series (Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and Shades of Earth), I think you’ll definitely enjoy These Broken Stars…and probably the rest of the Starbound series.

Speaking of the rest of the series, book two is This Shattered World, and it introduces a new couple. Book three, Their Fractured Light, brings together the characters from books one and two while also giving readers a new duo to root for. There’s also an ebook novella, This Night So Dark, which focuses on Tarver and Lilac and bridges the gap between books one and two. All of these stories are already out, so I don’t have to wait to dive right in. Yay!

For more information on the Starbound series, visit Amie Kaufman’s website or Meagan Spooner’s site. You can also find out how to connect with them on social media on their respective sites.

Order of the Wicked

By this point, if you haven’t been reading all of the Dorothy Must Die books and prequel novellas, I don’t know what to tell you. Read all of the stories below before proceeding with this post.

Moving on…

A while back, Order of the Wicked, the seventh prequel novella in Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, was released. I finally made time to read it yesterday. This novella focuses on–you guessed it–the Order of the Wicked, particularly one girl’s experiences within the Order. The story introduces characters that we may not have seen before, but I feel sure they’ll reappear in The End of Oz, the fourth and final (?) full-length book in the series.

When Lanadel’s family is killed by Dorothy’s horrific forces, she sets her mind on revenge, and there’s only one group in Oz that may help her on her quest–the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. Risking her own life in the process, Lanadel seeks out this mysterious order, and they eventually take her in and begin to train her for the coming war.

Lanadel soon realizes that she’s got a long way to go before she’s ready to get vengeance. She’s not much of a fighter, and she has almost no magical abilities. That will soon change. With the help of Nox, her drill sergeant of a trainer, and Mombi, a witch who teaches Lanadel to tap into the magic within, this girl may start to believe that she can face off against the forces who killed her family.

But is the Order being completely honest with Lanadel…or the other people preparing for war? What secrets are they hiding? What do they really want from Lanadel and her new friend, Melindra? And what’s the deal with Melindra and Nox? Lanadel knows there’s a rocky relationship there, but it’s as complicated as her own growing feelings for Melindra.

So…what’s a girl to do? No matter what happens, Lanadel is determined to keep her focus where it belongs. She’ll get her revenge on Dorothy…and anyone else who hurts her friends or gets in her way.


This may be kind of spoilery, but I’ll go ahead and tell you that Lanadel’s story ties directly into some of the events that unfolded in Yellow Brick War. Her mission with the order deals with the land of Ev, so I am sure we’ll see more of her in the future. I’m not so sure which side she’ll be on. As for Melindra, I’m hoping she’ll return as well. I think introducing her into the Amy/Nox relationship would be extremely interesting. (If you haven’t read at least the novels in this series, none of that makes any sense.)

While Order of the Wicked is not my favorite of the prequel novellas in this series, I’m hoping it will move up the ranks once the series as a whole is complete. We’ll just have to see how it ties into future events.

As far as I know, there are still two more prequels to look forward to. I don’t know titles yet, but #0.8 is scheduled to be out on January 3rd, and #0.9 has an expected March 14th release date. I’m not too sure about that last one, though, since the fourth book, The End of Oz, also has a Marth 14th release date. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

If you’d like more information on the entire Dorothy Must Die series and the fabulous Danielle Paige, connect with the author on her website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.