The Dark Prophecy

Warning: At the very least, read The Hidden Oracle, book one in The Trials of Apollo, before proceeding. If you really want to catch up, though, read all the books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series as well.

I finished reading The Dark Prophecy, the second book in Rick Riordan’s The Trials of Apollo series, on Monday. I had every intention of writing up a post on it that day. As you’ve noticed, that didn’t work out. Thanks to after school meetings, household chores, season finales of my favorite shows, and general end-of-school-year stress, I didn’t have the time or energy to focus on a blog post. Probably a lame excuse to some, but that’s all I’ve got.

At any rate, I’m here now, and I want to briefly discuss The Dark Prophecy. I’ll try to steer clear of too many spoilers, but that may be unavoidable. We’ll see how it goes.

When last we left Apollo, now known as Lester Papadopoulous, he had just been through the wringer at good ol’ Camp Half-Blood. He managed to save the one of his oracles, the Grove of Dodona, but he is no closer to regaining his godly status. Meg McCaffrey, the demigod who controls Apollo’s fate, seemingly betrayed him to her evil jerk of a stepfather, Nero (known affectionately as “the Beast”). Apollo also had to fight the Colossus Neronis, who nearly destroyed Camp Half-Blood.

Now, with the help of Leo Valdez and Calypso, recently returned from their island exile on Ogygia, Apollo has to rescue yet another oracle before Nero and company take over the world. The next oracle to be saved, the Oracle of Trophonius, is in Indianapolis. When Apollo, Leo, and Calypso arrive in Indianapolis, they discover more than just another bad guy trying to take over the world. They find a place of refuge, some blasts from the past, and people (and other assorted beings) willing to either kill them or provide a bit of help. Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell which is which.

As usual, the tasks ahead won’t be easy. Our heroes meet all sorts of nefarious types on this quest: extremely polite Blemmyae who still want to kill them, various deities who may or may not want to see Apollo taken down a peg or two, a bloodthirsty villain who thinks very highly of himself, and battle ostriches. (That last thing sounds kind of cool, to be perfectly honest.) Apollo will have to use every tool and trick in his arsenal to come out on top in the many fights ahead of him. But he won’t be alone…

In addition to Leo and Calypso, Apollo is joined by the guardians of the Waystation, a haven with what seems to be its own consciousness. He also reunites with Meg McCaffrey. Apollo doesn’t know if he can totally trust her, but his fate is tied to her, so he doesn’t have a whole lot of choice. There’s also the Hunters of Artemis, some rescued demigods, a snake-lady, a couple of griffins, and an elephant named Olivia. With all of this awesome assistance, saving the Oracle of Trophonius should be easy-peasy, right? Yeah…not so much.

While Apollo is trying to figure out just how to accomplish the tasks in front of him, he’s forced to examine his previous actions. Did what he did in his godly past in some way lead to what is happening now? Can he possibly atone for his mistakes without putting his current form in mortal peril? (That part may be kind of tricky.)


If you loved The Hidden Oracle, you’ll likely feel the same way about The Dark Prophecy. Even with all the darkness facing Apollo and friends, they react with the same humor and snark that we’ve come to know and love. And although Apollo is often his somewhat narcissistic self, he’s reflecting on his past and dealing with the many mistakes he made. He may not want to be mortal, but he is coming to terms with his own humanity and the impact he’s had on others.

Going back to the humor Rick Riordan is known for, let’s not forget the extremely entertaining haiku peppered throughout this book. Once more, each chapter begins with its own haiku foreshadowing what’s about to happen, which is way more fun than simple chapter titles. I look forward to seeing more of this in the next books.

Speaking of the next books, there will be three more volumes in The Trials of Apollo. Book three, The Burning Maze, is set to be released on May 1st, 2018, and I’m fairly certain we’ll see some of our friends from Camp Jupiter in this one. Not to mention a certain satyr companion that needs no introduction.

While we wait impatiently on the next book, take a peek at Rick Riordan’s website. Also, if you haven’t already, read the first two books in his Magnus Chase series. The third book, The Ship of the Dead, comes out on October 3rd.

Ink and Bone

It didn’t take much convincing for me to pick up Ink and Bone, the first book in Rachel Caine’s The Great Library series. I was already a fan of Caine’s work. (I was slightly obsessed with her Morganville Vampires series for a while.) Also, Ink and Bone was recently named to the 2017-18 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominee list. So, it wasn’t so much if I would read this book but when. I’m pleased to report that I finished Ink and Bone earlier today, and it was both awesome and disturbing. I’m sure many of my fellow librarians would agree with that assessment.

Ink and Bone is, in a nutshell, an alternate universe where the great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed. In this world, the Library controls nearly everything. With the help of alchemy, the Library can transmit books instantly, but it’s illegal for anyone to own personal copies of books. The punishment for anyone who does–or for those who deal in smuggled books–is severe.

For Jess Brightwell, smuggling books is the family business. It’s all he’s ever known, and he doesn’t much like it. Now, his father has a new task for him. He’s to become a postulate in the Library, being trained for eventual service to the Library. His dad wants Jess to use his new role for information. Jess agrees, but he finds himself in the midst of more danger than he could have ever imagined.

Even though Jess has spent his life thumbing his nose at the Library, he believes it does important work. That belief, however, will soon be tested. Jess and his fellow students are asked to basically enter a war zone to retrieve some rare books. In the process, they see death, destruction, and the absolute worst of humanity. It doesn’t take long for Jess to grasp that the Library truly does place more value on knowledge–and its exclusive hold on that knowledge–than it does on human life.

The more Jess learns about the Library, the more he questions what’s really going on around him. Those questions only multiply when he realizes how far the Library is willing to go to preserve its power and keep its secrets.

Is there any way for Jess to stand against such a powerful entity? What will happen to him and his friends if they get in the Library’s way?


A world in which a library runs everything. The librarian in me is thinking, “That sounds absolutely wonderful.” Yeah…not so much. As the saying goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I guess that’s true for librarians, too. In Ink and Bone, the Library will do whatever it takes to hold onto its power, even spying on, sabotaging, or killing its own people.

Jess and company witness the Library commit horrible atrocities in this book, and it often feels like they are helpless against such brutality. Even at the end of the book, there’s barely a glimmer of hope. But there is some hope, especially given that there are two more books in this series.

Book two, Paper and Fire, is already out, and book three, Ash and Quill, will be released on July 11th. Something tells me that things are going to get worse for Jess and company before they get better, but I have every intention of reading the rest of this enthralling series, no matter how painful it may be.

In case you were wondering, I would recommend this book for teens, adults, and perhaps some mature middle school students. Ink and Bone is full of savage violence and intrigue, and, while it could generate some very interesting discussions (especially in our current political climate), I don’t think this book is geared toward most middle grade readers.

If you’d like to learn more about Ink and Bone and other books by Rachel Caine, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

City of Saints & Thieves

Dearest readers, do you ever get to a point where you don’t feel like reading much of anything? Well, that’s been me for the past week or so. (I blame end-of-year testing and other assorted craziness at school.) I’ve cleaned off my DVR, spent some quality time with Netflix, and taken quite a few naps, but I just haven’t had the energy to read much lately. Hopefully, though, I’ve turned a corner and can devote the more of my oh-so-valuable time to the books that mean so much to me.

Today, I bring you a book that took me nearly a month to get through, City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. It’s a good book, but it’s not exactly an easy read. It’s dark, gritty, and real, and, to be perfectly honest, that’s not something I’m always in the mood for. I have to be in the right frame of mind to really delve into a book like this one, and I just haven’t been there. I did, however, find the will to finish this book over the course of the past couple of days. While it was kind of slow to start, in my opinion, the action really picked up near the middle, and it didn’t let up until the very end.

Tina, a girl surviving by her wits in the heart of Sangui City, Kenya, has her mind set on one thing–revenge. Her mother was brutally murdered five years ago, and Tina has made it her mission in life to make the killer pay. She thinks she knows who did the deed, and she’s working with a local gang to bring the man to his knees. But what if she’s wrong?

Tina believes with ever fiber of her being that Roland Greyhill, an influential businessman in Africa, murdered her mother. Mr. Greyhill had a relationship with Tina’s mom, and they had a child together, but that didn’t stop him from threatening her, an act that Tina witnessed late one night. Of course he’s the one who made good on his threat. All Tina has to do is prove it…and that may be harder than she anticipated when Michael, her former friend and Mr. Greyhill’s son, catches her breaking into the Greyhill estate.

After a somewhat rough reintroduction to each other, Michael convinces a reluctant Tina to at least consider the possibility that his father did not murder her mother. He had nothing to gain and everything to lose. So who else could have done it?

Tina and Michael, with some major assists from Tina’s hacker friend, BoyBoy, go on the hunt for evidence that will either prove or disprove Mr. Greyhill’s innocence. What they find, however, makes Tina question everything she thought she knew about her mother. What was she hiding? What really drove her from their home in the Congo to the Greyhill estate in Kenya? And could uncovering the truth of it all put Tina and her friends in the same crosshairs that were aimed at her mother?

Who really killed Tina’s mother? Was it Mr. Greyhill, or is there another, more sinister, and even closer threat that Tina never could have imagined?


I hope I’ve at least piqued your interest with this post. Even though it took me a little while to get into this book, I did enjoy it, and I especially liked that the book featured non-Western perspectives. I haven’t read many YA books set in Africa–that’s my own fault–and this book definitely made me want to change that.

City of Saints & Thieves, in my opinion, is suited to a mature teen audience. Like I mentioned before, it is dark and gritty, and it does deal with issues like war, rape, murder, and the aftereffects of all of those things. The author’s note at the end of the book indicates that a lot of what we see in the book is based on real events. For that reason, this book could be a springboard for discussions on the plights of women and refugees in Congo and other parts of the world.

If you’d like to learn more about City of Saints & Thieves, billed as a cross between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl, visit author Natalie C. Anderson’s website. You can also follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True

I’ve had a run of really good days lately, but this past Tuesday and Wednesday, to put it bluntly, blew chunks. If any of you are educators, you likely know why. (The end of every school year is always difficult, especially when the kids are pretty much done and state testing is on the horizon.) So, Wednesday night, I needed a break from all the chaos and seriousness in my life. Enter Squirrel Girl, stage right.

You may recall that I read the first volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Power, way back on January 17th. For whatever reason, I stopped there for a while. (I did read Shannon and Dean Hale’s Squirrel Girl novel in February, so I didn’t abandon Doreen Green completely.) But Wednesday night, after looking at the hundreds of books (yes, hundreds) in the various TBR piles around my house, there was only one book that really called to me. I knew that Squirrel Girl could get me out of my rotten mood quickly, and I was right. She was just what the librarian ordered.

Volume two of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Squirrel You Know It’s True, combines issues 5-8 of the serial comic book by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. It essentially picks up where #4 left off, and Doreen is still attempting to balance being the most likable superhero ever with being a college student. It doesn’t always work out.

Squirrel You Know It’s True begins with a hostage situation at the Statue of Liberty. Dinosaurs with laser eyes are attacking, and the various Marvel heroes appear to be outmatched. One of the hostages, Nancy (who happens to have insider information), is convinced that Squirrel Girl will eventually save the day. This leads to a series of stories about Squirrel Girl’s supposed exploits, each one more outlandish than the next. None of the stories are accurate, but it does help to pass the time until, of course, Squirrel Girl–also known as Doreen Green, Nancy’s roommate–comes to the rescue.

After this heroic rescue, Squirrel Girl and Nancy spend a little time guarding the outside of a bank. (The bank may have gotten a little damaged during a previous heroic rescue…but that’s totally not Squirrel Girl’s fault.) While on watch, the two come face-to-face with a new threat, Hippo the Hippo. Hippo is trying to rob the bank to pay for his extraordinary food bills. (It’s tough for a half-human, half-hippo to find a decent-paying job in the city.) As they’re facing off with Hippo, Squirrel Girl and Nancy also encounter a couple of new heroes, Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi. It’s Squirrel Girl, though, who ultimately saves the day–again–when she convinces Hippo the Hippo to pursue a path he had not considered. No muss, no fuss.

After all that, Squirrel Girl and Nancy realize that they know Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi. They actually all go to college together. While the heroes discuss how they communicate with various animals, Nancy laments that she doesn’t communicate with anyone but regular, boring humans. Maybe she just hasn’t found her animal yet, the others surmise. That leads Nancy and Doreen to a rather memorable trip to the zoo and an encounter with yet another super-powered individual, Girl Squirrel.

Squirrel Girl is not terribly thrilled that Girl Squirrel is getting all the squirrel-related attention. She’s also not totally convinced that this squirrel is a hero. Something weird is going on here. After this super-powered squirrel arrives on the scene, everyone in the city is at each other’s throats, including the heroes in Avengers tower. They’re obviously going to be no help, so it’s up to Squirrel Girl and friends to figure out what’s going on. They eventually determine (with an assist from Wikipedia) that there’s a bit of Norse mythology at work here, and this newcomer is none other than Ratatoskr. So, who do you go to when you’ve got a Norse squirrel problem? Thor, of course!

Squirrel Girl and company team up with their friendly Asgardians to put an end to this madness, but, as is so often the case, there may be more to this story than is being revealed.


I realize I’ve given entirely too much away here, but I’m not even sorry. I could go on for much longer if I really wanted to. Squirrel Girl makes me happy, and couldn’t we all do with a little (or a lot) more of what brings us joy?

Though I like Squirrel Power a bit more than this second volume, Squirrel You Know It’s True is still awesome. It snapped me back into a good mood, and that’s no small thing. Is volume two, like it’s predecessor, okay for kid readers? I don’t see why not. I have both volumes in my school library, and I’m trying my best to convince all of my Marvel enthusiasts–as well as many others–to give The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl a try.

As for me, I’ve still got three more volumes of Squirrel Girl comics to read. I already have volumes 3 and 4 sitting on my coffee table, and I plan to pick up #5 at my local comic book store on Free Comic Book Day on May 6th.

For more Squirrel Girl fun, check out the Squirrel Girl Tumblr site. You can also follow both Squirrel Girl, her roommate Nancy, and Tippy-Toe on Twitter!

Emmy & Oliver

Do you ever come across a book that looks like one thing but is really something more than you were expecting? Well, that’s definitely the case with Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway. That whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing is sometimes accurate, as it turns out. Take a look at the cover below:

I know there’s not a whole lot to it, but based on what I see alone, I think I’m getting a cute love story set near water. To a certain degree, that is true, but this book is so much more than a love story (not that there’s anything in the world wrong with romance). This book is about relationships–between romantic interests, friends, and families–and how they change (or stay stagnant) as circumstances change.


From the moment they were born, Emmy and Oliver were together. They shared the same birthday, they lived next door to each other, and they were the best of friends. In an instant, though, everything changed. One minute, Emmy was watching Oliver leave school for the day; the next minute, his dad had taken him and disappeared. That was ten years ago, when Emmy and Oliver were just seven years old.

Emmy is now seventeen and a senior in high school. She hasn’t seen Oliver in ten years–has no idea where he went or what happened to him–but his disappearance continues to color her world. Since that day long ago, her parents have watched her every move. Her curfew is ridiculously early, she has to hide her love of surfing, and even applying for college is a no-no. They don’t want to let Emmy out of their sight because they know that the worst can most definitely happen.

After so long, most people have moved on from Oliver’s kidnapping. There are no more search parties. Every once in a while, his story is featured on the news, but that doesn’t really have much of an impact. Oliver is still gone, and his whereabouts remain a mystery. Until now.

One day, seemingly out of the blue, Oliver comes home. He’s been gone for ten years, but some people–his mother included–seem to expect him to pick up where he left off. But things are different now. Oliver’s a different person and so are those around him. Oliver’s had ten pretty good years with his dad, and now he’s expected to view the man who raised him as a villain. He’s coming into a whole new family as well. While he was gone, his mom remarried and had twin girls. How does he fit into his own family now? And does he even want to?

As for Emmy, she wants to get to know her friend again, but she has no illusions that they can pick up where they left off. She wants to know who Oliver is now. Emmy is one of the only people who Oliver feels comfortable talking to…and vice versa. Oliver tells Emmy about his life with his dad, how he feels about being back, and his frustrations with being the center of attention. Emmy confides in Oliver about her love of surfing and her plans for the future–plans she hasn’t revealed to her parents or either of her closest friends.

Day by day, Emmy and Oliver grow closer. Their parents still have eagle eyes on them, though, and it’s putting a strain on things. Neither of them feel free to truly be themselves. For Oliver, that means adapting to his new circumstances, coming to terms with what happened, and his feelings for his father. For Emmy, that means hiding her true self and what she really wants to do with her life.

Emmy and Oliver can’t go on holding everything in, and all of their complicated feelings, fears, and frustrations will soon come out, whether they like it or not. How will this change their relationships with their friends, their parents, and each other? What could it mean for their futures? Do Emmy and Oliver even have a future when so much of their lives is governed by the past? Answer these questions and many more when you read Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway.


In case you were wondering, I really liked Emmy & Oliver. It was a quick, moving, often funny read that kept me interested. Both Emmy and Oliver are snarky and funny, even in the midst of difficult circumstances, but they are also sensitive, loving, loyal, and totally real. The same goes for their friends. I also thought the parents in this story behaved in a fairly realistic way. I imagine that something as horrific as a child being kidnapped would make some parents hold on tighter to their own children, whether those children are seven or seventeen.

If I had one complaint about this book, it would be that it’s solely from Emmy’s point of view. I would have loved to read Oliver’s side of things. Granted, we see a lot of his story in his conversations with Emmy, but I think the book would have been stronger if we’d viewed at least some of the drama through Oliver’s eyes.

Emmy & Oliver is a nominee for the 17-18 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. Will it win? I have no idea. No matter what, though, it is a good story, and it gives the reader so much more than the cover implies.

For more information on Emmy & Oliver, visit author Robin Benway’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Real Friends

Thanks to NetGalley, I have come across a book that is a must-purchase for my school library. As a matter of fact, I think this book will probably be a welcome addition to most elementary, middle school, and public libraries. I wish it had been around when I was growing up. The book is Real Friends, a graphic memoir written by Shannon Hale and wonderfully illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

To say that I related to young Shannon in Real Friends would be a drastic understatement. Make her a chubby girl in a small town in South Carolina, and parts of this book could have been my own story. I’m sure that anyone who ever had trouble making friends as a child (or even as an adult) will be able to see themselves in this book.

Shannon met Adrienne on the first day of school, and they became best friends. For Shannon, Adrienne was her only friend. Adrienne, on the other hand, had lots of friends. It was sometimes hard for Shannon to share her best friend with others, but she tried. She even made a new friend when Adrienne moved away, but she was always waiting for Adrienne to return and things to go back to normal.

Well, Adrienne did return, but things didn’t exactly go back to the way they were. Shannon and Adrienne were still friends, but Adrienne was also part of The Group, some of the most popular girls in school. Shannon didn’t always fit in with The Group, but she hung around with them anyway to stay friends with Adrienne.

One of the girls, Jenny, seemed to really dislike Shannon, and she made it pretty clear that she wanted Shannon out of The Group. Shannon took this really hard and spent a lot of time crying in the bushes. (This was something she did at home, too. Her older sister wasn’t exactly nice to her a lot of the time.) Shannon didn’t know what she’d done to make Jenny so mean to her, but she was growing a little tired of it all. Maybe she didn’t want to be part of The Group after all if this is what she had to deal with.

Eventually, after she and The Group ended up in different fifth grade classes and Adrienne transferred to a different school, Shannon made a couple of new friends. These friends were popular as well, but they were popular because they were nice…unlike Jenny. They seemed to like Shannon just as she was, but could it last? These girls were in the sixth grade and would be going to junior high next year. What would Shannon do then?

Join Shannon as she navigates the ups and downs of friendship (and even sisterhood). It’s not always an easy path, but putting in the effort to find real friends–and to find peace within–is always worth it.


Let me reiterate this one more time: Real Friends should be added to every library that serves elementary or middle grade children. Young readers will love the graphic novel format, and they’ll stick around for the thoroughly relatable story. Market it with Cece Bell’s El Deafo and Jennifer Holm’s Sunny Side Up, and it will surely fly off the shelves.

Look for Real Friends when it’s released on May 2nd. Your library patrons will thank you.

Fuzzy Mud

I finished another of next year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees a couple of days ago, but I decided to wait a little while to write about it. Why, you ask? Well…I didn’t want to. I was on spring break, and I wanted to do as little as possible during the last few hours until I went back to work. I succeeded, and it was wonderful. Now, though, it’s back to the grind for me, so here we go.

On Sunday, after all of my family Easter festivities were over, I finished reading Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. This was a quick, interesting read that could lead upper elementary and middle grade readers to think more about the environmental impact of the things around them.

If only they’d walked home on their normal route…

Tamaya Dhilwaddi and Marshall Walsh always walk to and from school together, and they always take the long way around the woods. One day, however, Marshall changes things up. In an effort to avoid Chad Hilligas, a bully who’s been making his life miserable, Marshall decides to walk home by taking shortcut through the woods. Tamaya is not exactly happy about this plan, but her mom won’t allow her to walk home alone, so she follows Marshall.

It doesn’t take long for Tamaya to realize that Marshall doesn’t know where he’s going. What’s more, Chad has caught up with them and is bent on making Marshall his own personal punching bag. In an effort to get Chad away from Marshall, Tamaya scoops up a handful of strange, fuzzy mud and flings it into Chad’s face. She and Marshall then run away, and, a little worse for wear, they eventually make their way home.

After her adventure in the woods, Tamaya notices that her hand is tingly and has what looks like a rash on it. She tries to take care of it herself, but it keeps getting worse. Could it possibly be caused by the fuzzy mud she hurled at Chad? If so, does his face look as bad as her hand does?

When Tamaya discovers that Chad is missing after their encounter in the woods, she becomes determined to find him and get him the help he probably needs. Marshall isn’t as eager to go looking for Chad, but he eventually follows Tamaya into the woods…where they find even more of the fuzzy mud and Chad, who is not doing well at all.

Something weird is going on in these woods, and Tamaya, Marshall, and Chad have–literally–stepped into a big mess. What they uncover could have huge implications for their school, their town, and the entire world.

What exactly is this fuzzy mud? Why is it causing such an odd rash? Is there a cure? What (or who) created the fuzzy mud, and can anything stop it from spreading? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself…


Like I indicated previously, I think this book could start some discussions on the environmental impact of industry and innovation. Most kids probably won’t deal with something as potentially disastrous as what occurs in Fuzzy Mud, but they do need to be aware of how much their lives could be impacted by governments, industries, and decisions made by others. Don’t believe me? Take a good look at the water situation in Flint, Michigan.

Fuzzy Mud also handles a couple of issues beyond the environment and unintended consequences. It addresses bullying and what may be causing a kid to act out. It addresses courage in the face of scary situations. At one point, Tamaya thinks to herself, “If not her, who?” No one else was really even looking for Chad when he was missing, so she did. It wasn’t easy, and she was scared; nevertheless, she persisted. An important lesson, wouldn’t you say?

I encourage you to share this book with readers in upper elementary and middle grades. It’s a fast, fun, intriguing read that’s sure to leave you thinking long after you’ve read it.

For more information on Fuzzy Mud and other books by Louis Sachar, visit this award-winning author’s website.