What Light

I think there’s something wrong with me. Why, you ask? Well, I read another Christmas-themed book that made me feel all mushy inside. That book is Jay Asher’s latest, What Light.

Some of you know Jay Asher from Thirteen Reasons Why (which will soon be a Netflix original series) or The Future of Us (a collaboration with Carolyn Mackler). While What Light isn’t nearly as serious as Thirteen Reasons Why or as out there as The Future of Us, it is a good story and one that many teen readers will enjoy. And even though the book is set during the Christmas season, I think it’s much more than a Christmas book. It’s about first love, friendship, forgiveness, and atonement. Those concepts make this book accessible to a wide audience, regardless of whatever winter holiday one chooses to celebrate.

Every Christmas season, Sierra’s family packs up and moves from their Christmas tree farm in Oregon to a tree lot in California. It’s the only life Sierra has ever known, and, even though she misses her friends in Oregon, she loves the time she spends in California. After all, she’s got friends and traditions there too, and she dreads the day when her parents say that they’re closing the Christmas tree lot for good. (And that day may be coming sooner than Sierra wishes.)

Sierra wants to make the most of what could be her final Christmas in California. Her plans most definitely do not include getting involved with anyone. What would be the point? She’s packing up right after the holiday and heading back home. She doesn’t want to get her heart broken or deal with a long-distance relationship, so she tries to avoid any messy entanglements. “Tries” being the operative word. This year, Caleb throws all of Sierra’s plans out the window.

Sierra does her best to resist Caleb, but he sneaks past her defenses. Even when she learns that Caleb has some serious issues in his past, she works to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s such a good guy; surely he couldn’t be guilty of the horrible things people warn her about. Right?

As it turns out, Caleb did make a big mistake years ago, and he’s been paying for it ever since. He’s basically a pariah in town, and, even though he tries to make up for what he’s done, there are many people–Caleb included–who will not forgive him.

While Sierra has some reservations about getting too close to Caleb, she sees more in him than this one mistake. Can she convince her friends, her parents, Caleb, and others in her Christmas-time home that Caleb is a great guy and worthy of forgiveness? Can she and Caleb make a relationship work when so many things are stacked against them?

Read What Light by Jay Asher to learn how two young people battle rumors, distance, and even time to find their own Christmas miracle.


If it’s not already obvious, I really like What Light. I think it’s heartwarming, sentimental, and fun. At the same time, it deals with issues like suspicion, family upheaval, balancing romantic relationships with friendships, change, grace, and redemption. Jay Asher takes all of these things, adds a bit of Christmas spirit, and gives readers a book that delights even the most hard-hearted cynic. (That would be me.)

What Light is a great pick for middle grade, teen, and even adult readers. If you’re looking for a novel to round out your Christmas display/collection, give this one a try.

For more information on What Light and other books by Jay Asher, visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, or the Thirteen Reasons Why website.

What Child Is This?

Many of my friends would probably say that I’m something of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas. I don’t decorate my house (not even a Christmas tree), I’m not much of a fan of holiday music, the idea of watching Hallmark Christmas movies makes me want to retch, and I absolutely loathe crowds, parties, and shopping (unless it’s online).

I do, however, like searching for the perfect gifts for my loved ones, enjoying a nice, quiet meal with friends and family, watching a few select holiday movies (A Christmas Story, Elf, Love, Actually, While You Were SleepingDie Hard, etc.), and reading holiday-themed books. I’ll even admit to crying my eyes out over some of them. That includes my latest read, What Child Is This? by Caroline B. Cooney.

I picked up What Child Is This? because my school’s faculty book club (made up of the most awesome teachers in the building) decided to read holiday-themed books for our December meeting. I had a lot of titles to choose from, but I landed on this one primarily because it was available through Overdrive, and I had not read it before. Whatever the reason, I’m happy I selected this book, and it’s gone a long way in getting me in the Christmas spirit.

What Child Is This? tells a Christmas story from several different perspectives.

Liz is a teen girl who seemingly has it all. Her parents give her everything she wants or needs, and they pour lots of time and money into decorating for Christmas. Unfortunately, the true meaning of the holiday escapes them, and Liz doesn’t know if there’s anything she can do about it.

Tack is a guy with a great, supportive family. They all pitch in at the family restaurant, where they set up a Christmas tree featuring paper bells. These bells have the names and Christmas wishes–often the simplest of things–of kids who would otherwise go without on Christmas morning.

Allison, Liz’s older sister, is mourning the loss of someone truly precious to her. She doesn’t know how she can possibly celebrate the holiday this year, but she’s making an effort for her husband and her little sister.

Matt has been in the foster system for years. He’s currently living with the Rowens, an older couple who likes things quiet. Matt works hard so that he doesn’t disappoint them. He knows that, if this foster home doesn’t work out, his next stop is a group home. Things are okay with the Rowens, but Matt is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, nothing good ever lasts for him.

Katie is an eight-year-old girl who has hope that she’ll get a family for Christmas. Matt’s foster parents reluctantly took her in a while back, but they don’t have the energy or desire to meet the needs of a young girl. Katie holds onto hope that a real family is out there somewhere just waiting for her, and a Christmas miracle–or a wish on a paper bell–will finally bring them together.

All of these stories are about to collide, and, when all is said and done, everyone will see and feel the true spirit of Christmas.


What Child Is This? is a super-fast read, but it packs an emotional punch. I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed quite a few tears while reading. It was a moving, inspirational read that made my Grinch-like heart grow a few sizes. (I’m still not going to decorate, though.)

This book has been around for a while (since 1997), but I urge you to give it a read if you haven’t already. I think it’s perfect for middle grades on up. There may even be a few upper elementary students who would like it. Nothing felt too dated in the book–save for one mention of occurring in the 20th century and a couple of references to radios with cassette tapes–so I think it’s totally accessible nearly 20 years after its initial publication.

For more information on this book and many others by Caroline B. Cooney, check out the author’s website, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Stealing Snow

Last night, I finished reading Danielle Paige’s latest novel, Stealing Snow, which is a retelling of The Snow Queen. I figured that, since I adored Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, I would be equally enamored of her new book. That wasn’t exactly how things worked out.

I did enjoy some elements of Stealing Snow, but I like the Dorothy Must Die books much more. It may have something to do with the subject matter. I’m much more familiar with the Land of Oz than I am with the story of the Snow Queen. (Most of what I know about the Snow Queen comes from Frozen, and I think we can all agree that movie doesn’t come close to the original story.) The convoluted love story also didn’t really work for me. I liked the twist at the end of the book, and I fully intend to read the rest of the series, but Stealing Snow wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.

When Snow Yardley was just a little girl, her mother sent her to live at Whittaker, a psychiatric facility for “troubled” youth. Snow doesn’t think she’s crazy, but she can’t deny that she has odd dreams and a tendency to be filled with icy anger. (It’s hard not to be angry when you’ve been locked in an asylum for most of your life.) Her only friend at Whittaker is Bale, but even that is taken from when he turns violent shortly after their first kiss.

Snow can’t explain Bale’s sudden violence–and even more sudden disappearance–but maybe there’s someone out there who can. A new orderly at Whittaker tells Snow that there’s a world that lies beyond these walls, and all she has to do to claim it is meet him at the Tree that haunts her dreams. But how can this be possible, and what does it have to do with Bale?

Snow eventually finds a way to escape Whittaker and find the Tree in question. Beyond the Tree lies the mysterious land of Algid. Snow doesn’t know quite what to make of this strange world…or her place in it. Algid is ruled by King Lazar, a brutal, powerful man…who is also Snow’s father. According to prophecy, Snow will soon overthrow her father or join him, making his hold on Algid even more absolute.

Snow isn’t convinced of all that’s being thrown at her, but she has to play along if she has any hope of finding Bale. At the very least, she needs to learn to control her newly discovered powers. As her name suggests, Snow has the power to control snow.

Snow needs to use her new power against the King’s minions, and several interested parties want to help her do just that. There’s the River Witch, who has her own reasons for wanting King Lazar out of power. There’s Kai, a boy who can be standoffish but who Snow feels connected to. And there’s Jagger, the boy who posed as an orderly at Whittaker, and his band of Robbers. Snow doesn’t know who to trust, but she’ll do whatever it takes to save Bale…even if she’s not entirely certain anymore that he’s the love of her life.

Like it or not, Snow is tied to the future of Algid, and a day is coming that will reveal to her more than she ever wanted to know. She’ll discover hard truths about Bale, her parents, herself, and what she needs to do to control her own fate.


As I said before, I wanted this book to be so much more than it was. It felt kind of disjointed at times, and the “love rectangle” really got on my nerves. Snow’s back-and-forth between Bale, Kai, and Jagger was grating and often nonsensical. I get why she was connected to Bale, but she just met Kai and Jagger. I didn’t see any reason for her to be all swoony over them. They could have been complete psychopaths for all she knew. (Of course, Bale had his share of psychotic moments, and she was nuts over him.) I just wanted to reach through the pages, shake Snow, and tell her to deal with her own issues without worrying about all these guys. I mean, seriously, she had enough problems without the male of the species making things more confusing. (And that last sentence may as well be my own personal philosophy on getting through life.)

Anyhoo, Stealing Snow, despite its flaws, was an enjoyable read. I liked the curveball at the end of the book. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.) That surprise made up for a lot and made me want to read more of this series.

Speaking of the series as a whole, there are two prequel novellas that are already available. The first, Before the Snow, tells more about the River Witch and her connection to King Lazar. The second, Queen Rising, gives a closer look at Margot, queen of the Robbers. Since I found both of those characters to be quite interesting in Stealing Snow, I’ll give those two stories a read very soon. The second full-length novel, which is currently untitled, will be out sometime in 2017.

If you’d like more information on Stealing Snow and Danielle Paige’s other books, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Goodreads.

The Serpent King

Tonight, I come to you with red, puffy eyes and a slight headache from crying too much. That’s what happens when you read a book that absolutely wrecks you. Today, that book was The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being how much I cried during the movie E.T., The Serpent King probably rates a 9. I went through half a box of Kleenex, had to clean my glasses half a dozen times, and was all-out sobbing at several points. In some ways, it was cathartic, but it’s going to take me a while to get over this heart-wrenching book.

The Serpent King introduces readers to three friends, all of them outcasts in their small Tennessee town. Dill, Travis, and Lydia are in their senior year of high school, and all are facing uncertain futures. Right now, all they really have is each other and the promise of this one final year together.

Dill is the son of a snake-handling minister, Dillard Early, Sr., who was sent to prison for heinous acts–acts that he tried to blame on Dill. Even Dill’s mother, who is now working two jobs to keep the family afloat, blames her son for his father’s incarceration. And she’s not the only one. Dill is, through no fault of his own, a town pariah, and he thinks it’s his lot in life. His only escapes are music and hanging out with Lydia and Travis, his best friends. But even that will be changing soon, when Lydia goes off to college and leaves them behind. Dill doesn’t want her to go, but there’s no way he can ask her to stay.

Lydia, an up-and-coming fashion blogger, has her sights set on New York. She dreams of a career in fashion, and she’s already on her way to making it happen. On some level, she realizes that her friends, especially Dill, aren’t ready for her to leave them, but she needs to get out of this stifling town and make her mark on the world. She wishes Dill had the same ambition. She knows he has more to offer the world than he thinks. The trick is convincing him.

Travis, a big guy with a bigger imagination, finds solace in his favorite fantasy book series, Bloodfall. These books help him reach out to like-minded friends online and offer an escape from his abusive father. Thanks to Lydia and her many connections, he even gets a rare opportunity to meet his favorite author. This encounter leads him to believe that one day he could write fantastical stories that provide escape for people just like him.

Throughout this year, Dill, Lydia, and Travis maneuver through their small town as best they can. Dill and Travis begin to stand up for themselves and make plans for their futures. Lydia realizes how much she’ll miss her two best friends when she goes to college.

Just as things are starting to look up for this trio, tragedy strikes, and everything is thrown into a tailspin. What will become of these friends who mean so much to each other? Will they allow one tragic event–and their reaction to it–destroy their hope for the future? How can they hold onto hope when everything seems so bleak?

Maybe the only way to hold onto hope is to hold fast to each other.


I have to stop now before I give too much away (if I haven’t already). Let me just say that if you’re not ugly-crying at some point during this book, then you’re cold as ice. It’s a heartbreaking story of friendship, growth, grief, faith, and love, and I truly adore it…even if it did cause puffy eyes and a headache. It’s definitely one of my top books of 2016.

The Serpent King is author Jeff Zentner’s first novel, and I really hope we’ll hear more from him. He’s already being compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, and I think those are pretty apt comparisons. Keep that in mind when recommending The Serpent King and whatever books we see in the future from this wonderful author.

If you’d like to learn more about The Serpent King, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with Jeff Zentner on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Finally, check out the book trailer below for The Serpent King. It doesn’t give much of anything away, but it does capture the mood of the book. Enjoy!

The Grift of the Magi

While it’s not 100% necessary for you to read Ally Carter’s Heist Society series (Heist Society, Uncommon Criminals, and Perfect Scoundrels) before reading The Grift of the Magi, it is highly recommended. You may not fully appreciate the characters in this novella if you haven’t gotten to know them a bit through the series.

Last night, I got to dive back into the Heist Society series via a new holiday novella, The Grift of the Magi. Those familiar with the series already know that it centers around a group of savvy teen thieves (think a YA version of Ocean’s Eleven), and not much has changed in this latest story.

The Christmas season is growing closer, and someone has stolen a valuable donation from the Magi Miracle Network. The charity doesn’t want to go to Interpol about the theft, so they turn to Katarina Bishop, a girl known for stealing treasures and returning them to their rightful owners. This time, she’s charged with finding out what happened to the rare Faberge egg that was mysteriously stolen from the Magi Miracle Network, and she must do it before the charity’s upcoming auction.

Kat begins investigating both the charity and their infamous donation, and her search leads her to some familiar faces. Her boyfriend, Hale, for one. His beloved late grandmother founded the Magi Miracle Network, so he obviously has a stake in what’s going on. At first, Kat wonders if he could have had something to do with the theft, but it doesn’t take long for her to dismiss that notion. But she still wonders if someone close to her could be involved. It’s entirely possible…

As Christmas–and the charity’s auction–draws ever closer, the hunt for the Faberge egg leads Kat and company to the manor home of its donor. Something foul is afoot here, and Kat is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. She’ll need to use every resource at her disposal to uncover the truth, but even that may not be enough.

Will Kat find the egg and return it to the Magi Miracle Network? What else will she uncover in the process? Whatever happens, this is sure to be a Christmas that Kat Bishop will never forget…


This fast-paced novella combines the magic and wonder of Christmas with a fair amount of trickery and thieving. Not a bad combo, in my opinion. Like the novels that preceded it, The Grift of the Magi delivers memorable characters, twists and turns, and an exciting, eventful story. I highly recommend it to middle grade audiences and up.

It was so much fun revisiting the characters I came to love during the Heist Society series. I truly hope we’ll see more of them in the future.

For more information on Ally Carter, the Heist Society series, and her other wonderful books, visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership (which is worth every penny I pay for it), I got to read my latest book a bit early. It was a Kindle First title for November, and I’m so glad I picked it. The book is The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, and it will be released to the masses on December 1st.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland is being marketed as a YA romance, but it’s so much more than that. I would even say that the romantic stuff is secondary–even tertiary–to the other happenings in the book. At its core, I think this enthralling story is about coming to terms with one’s own brokenness and learning to open up and accept help when it’s needed.

Zander Osborne does not belong at Camp Padua. She’s here because her parents signed her up–or, more accurately, don’t know what to do with her. Zander may have her own secrets and problems, but she’s definitely not as crazy as the other campers around her, especially her cabin-mate, Cassie, an abrasive girl who’s also a self-diagnosed bipolar anorexic.

As days pass, Zander continues to keep her issues to herself, but she also forms connections with some other campers. There’s Grover Cleveland (not to be confused with the president), a charming guy who fears he will one day become schizophrenic like his dad. There’s also Bek, (short for Alex Trebek), who’s an extremely likable compulsive liar. Zander even forms an unlikely, tenuous bond with Cassie, who is dealing with much more than depression and an eating disorder.

Being part of this group helps Zander in ways that no share-apy sessions ever could. She’s finally feeling and caring about something again, and she finds herself opening up, divulging her most agonizing secrets, and wanting to find some measure of happiness. And maybe, just maybe, that happiness can be found in the arms of Grover Cleveland, a boy who fears his own future while Zander is dealing with her past.

Before Zander can be truly happy, though, she’ll have to confront some painful demons, both her own and those of her new friends. Can she accept the help she needs? Can she offer help to someone who, at every turn, seems to reject the smallest kindness? And can she be truly happy with Grover when so much is weighing on both of them?

Answer these questions and many more when you read The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane.


Like I said at the beginning of this post, I think this book is much more than a YA romance, despite the somewhat light-hearted title, cover, and marketing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with YA romance.) There are moments of hilarity, sweetness, and fun, but there’s also a fair amount of grief, anger, and sadness. I’ll be perfectly honest here. I cried throughout the last quarter of the book. It hit me on nearly every emotional level.

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland tackles some serious issues. Yes, it does so in a way that is often highly entertaining, but it’s also deliberate in addressing the problems of Zander, Cassie, Grover, and Bek. All four of these characters–and the supporting cast as well–reveal what led them to Camp Padua, and they all exhibit some measure of growth. The process is not always easy–and it’s by no means finished at the book’s conclusion–but the reader gets the clear sense that things are going to get better for the characters they’ve come to care about. That, in and of itself, is an important message.

If you’re wondering if this book is suitable for middle grade readers, I’d advise you to give it a read yourself before placing it on library or classroom shelves. It does have some mature themes and language, and some tween readers may not be ready for that. Others, on the other hand, may relate to the characters in this book and find that it is exactly what they need. As always, know your readers and use your best professional judgment.

For more information on The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland and other books by Rebekah Crane, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter.

Happy reading!

Ruin and Rising

Before proceeding, you MUST read the first two books in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. There may be spoilers ahead.

If you’re still reading this post, you’ve probably figured out that I recently finished reading Ruin and Rising, the third book in the Grisha series. I had every intention of reading this book months ago, but other things kept getting in my way. This week, in an effort to escape reality, I decided that it was time to finish this breathtaking trilogy. That was a good call. (Given that I just wrapped up my fall book fair today, I really needed that escape.)

Ruin and Rising picks up where Siege and Storm ended. Ravka is now firmly in the Darkling’s control, and Alina Starkov is under the thumb of the Apparat, a priest who is “protecting” the Sun Summoner. Alina has been weakened by her recent showdown with the Darkling, and being sequestered in the White Cathedral, deep below ground and away from much-needed sunlight, has not helped matters. Her confidence is crumbling, and she wonders if there’s any way to defeat the Darkling and restore light to the world around her.

Hope is not lost, though. Alina and many of those loyal to her (including Mal, Alina’s fiercest protector and the boy who still has a hold on her heart) manage to escape the White Cathedral and make their way to the surface. They are now on the hunt for the firebird, believed to be the third amplifier and possibly the only thing that will allow them to finally stop the Darkling and his minions.

As Alina and company are searching for a creature that may not even exist, they are reunited with Nikolai, former privateer and current heir to the throne of Ravka. Nikolai arrives in the nick of time and spirits Alina and friends to his stronghold in the mountains. Together, they make plans for their continued quest for the firebird and the upcoming clash with the Darkling.

While in this mountain fortress, Alina also learns more about her adversary than she ever hoped to know. The Darkling’s past has defined his present and explains so much about his quest for power. Alina, in many ways, understands the Darkling and cannot deny that they have a connection, but she still seeks some way to destroy him…especially when he invades her allies’ hideaway, ravages many of her friends, and forces them to flee and regroup.

Now, Alina’s search for the firebird is more dire than ever. But it may be closer than she knows. What if the power to defeat the Darkling has been beside her all along? What will Alina do when she realizes that possessing this power could mean losing the one thing that allows her to hold onto her humanity?

No matter what, Alina and her allies will soon face off with the Darkling. Will they be overcome by his dark power, or will they find some way to unleash the light and defeat this seemingly unbeatable foe? Who will live? Who will die? Who will be left standing when all is said and done? Find out when you read Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo.


If it’s not immediately obvious, let me say that I adore this series. It ended with a bang and was quite satisfying. I have every intention of reading all of the novellas that go along with it as soon as I can. (I’m not sure if I’ll blog about them here, but I will read them.)

I also plan to read Bardugo’s duology, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, very soon. From what I understand, these two books also take place in the Grishaverse, and that’s awesome. I’m not ready to leave this world just yet.

If you or someone you know, teen or adult reader, is into fantasy, I’d definitely recommend Leigh Bardugo’s work. I know she’s got an adult series in the works, as well as Wonder Woman: Warbringer, and I’m eager to read those as well.

For more information on Ruin and Rising, the other books of the Grishaverse, and other books by Leigh Bardugo, check out her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.