Now I Rise

Notice: You MUST read And I Darken, the first book in Kiersten White’s Conqueror’s Saga, before proceeding with this post. You’ve been warned.

If it’s not readily apparent, I recently finished reading Now I Rise, the sequel to And I Darken. This series focuses on Lada and Radu Dracul, the children of Vlad Dracul, the inspiration for Dracula. Like I mentioned in the post on book one, this series presents an alternate history of this family. Vlad is not the brutal leader of legend here…but his daughter is.

In And I Darken, Lada and Radu were dealing with their complicated feelings for each other, their circumstances, and the new sultan, Mehmed. In Now I Rise, the complications continue. Lada has left Mehmed’s side to reclaim the throne of Wallachia. Radu, on the other hand, has stayed with Mehmed, and that presents its own set of difficulties.

Lada Dracul is determined to be Prince of Wallachia. It does not matter that she is a woman. She’s the rightful ruler, and she will take what’s hers, by force if necessary. And it looks like force–and lots of it–are necessary. In her quest to rule, she strikes down anyone who gets in her way. She forges alliances that make her sick. She betrays those close to her. All of this to get her closer to the Wallachian throne. Yet even as she is on the cusp of achieving her goal, she misses her brother, Radu, and even Mehmed.

Lada knows that Radu’s silver tongue and gift of diplomacy would get her closer to the throne. As for Mehmed, her feelings for him are a bit more complex. She misses how he makes her feel, but, at the same time, she refuses to place her future in a man’s hands. Also, she doesn’t fully trust Mehmed. He has seemingly thwarted her grab for power, and Lada knows he will do anything–including betray her–to further his own ends. She both loathes and respects that about him. After all, has she not done the same?

As for Radu, he remains completely loyal to Mehmed and the sultan’s desire to conquer Constantinople. Radu does whatever he can to further the Ottoman cause, and, when Mehmed asks Radu to become a spy within Constantinople’s walls, he reluctantly agrees. While Radu does not wish to be parted from Mehmed, he will do as Mehmed asks even as he ignores his sister’s plea for help in her endeavors. Radu knows his feelings for Mehmed will likely never be returned, but he will continue to prove his love and loyalty to Mehmed…no matter what it costs.

While in Constantinople, Radu becomes more and more conflicted. Even as he’s relaying information to the Ottomans, he’s growing closer to those fighting for Emperor Constantine. How can he betray these people who have taken him in, shown him kindness, and trusted him? But how can he turn his back on Mehmed, who he loves more than all others? He’s given up nearly everything for Mehmed, but is he willing to give up his very soul so that Mehmed can conquer a city that seems to be dying anyway?

Both Radu and Lada Dracul are wrestling with questions of loyalty, love, faith, and sacrifice. What are each of them willing to do to achieve their goals? What will they find themselves capable of? Betrayal? Murder? And what will be lost along the way?


Everything I said about And I Darken also applies to Now I Rise. I don’t feel like writing all that again, so read the end of my post on And I Darken to get my full take on both of these books. In short, though, these books raise all sorts of questions on what a person is willing to do to serve their own ends, how love makes a person both strong and weak, what it means to be feminine, and how women who do not subscribe to societal expectations are viewed. And that barely even touches on the religious and historical aspects of the book. It’s a lot to take in, and all of this stuff makes both And I Darken and Now I Rise as sumptuous as two decadent pieces of dark chocolate.

So…how does Now I Rise differ from And I Darken? Well, we get to know both Lada and Radu a bit more. These two characters get more complex with each page, and I’m sure that will continue in the next book. The biggest difference, though, is the elevated brutality. Radu is in the middle of a war zone, and he both witnesses and commits atrocities true to what is happening around him. Lada, in her quest for power, cuts down anyone in her path and leaves a trail of bodies behind her. There’s nothing pretty, delicate, or civilized about her path to the Wallachian throne. She’s vicious, brutal, and without mercy. She has to demonstrate to all that she is no pushover, and she’s not shy about shedding blood to prove her point.

In case you’re wondering, I would recommend both And I Darken and Now I Rise to a mature teen or adult audience. I doubt most middle grade readers are developmentally ready for books like these. They deal with political maneuvering, sexuality, betrayal, and the horrors of war, and I think reading and discussing these issues require a certain level of maturity. You may have a different take, but I urge you to read the books yourself before you make that determination.

Now I Rise will be released on June 27th. The third book in The Conqueror’s Saga should be out next summer. To learn more about And I Darken and Now I Rise, visit the series’ official website.

Full Cicada Moon

It’s my first Monday of summer break, and I’m continuing to make my way through the nominees for the 2017-18 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. (My job never really stops, does it?) My latest read is one that I devoured in about a day. It’s Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, and it’s both a novel in verse and a work of historical fiction. Neither of those categories are my typical favorites, but I absolutely loved this book, and I look forward to sharing it with my students in the coming year.

This moving book takes a look at one girl’s life over the course of one year, beginning on January 1, 1969, and a big move from California to Vermont. Relocating from one coast to another is a lot to handle; when you’re a half-black, half-Japanese girl moving to a mostly white area, it’s even more difficult.

Our protagonist, Mimi, reflects on the move, the attitudes of people around her, her own dreams, and what she’s willing to do to achieve them in this wonderful novel that will hopefully inspire readers to stand up for themselves and do whatever they can to be the change they want to see in the world.


Mimi dreams of becoming an astronaut one day. She loves studying science…even when people tell her that’s nothing something girls should be interested in. Mimi doesn’t care what other people think. She’s determined to go to space someday, just like the brave astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission.

The people at her school in Vermont don’t know what to make of Mimi. For one thing, they’ve never really encountered someone with her cultural background. For another, they don’t know what to think of a girl who likes science and wants to take shop class instead of home ec. Mimi doesn’t see what the big deal is on either count. What does it matter what color her skin is? Why should that make people dislike her before they even know her? And why do girls have to learn to sew and cook? Why can’t they learn to use tools and build things? None of this makes sense to Mimi–and it sometimes gives her a sick feeling in her stomach–but she’s not going to let any of it stop her.

Eventually, Mimi makes a couple of close friends who like her just the way she is, friends who support her efforts to change things. They may not always understand Mimi or their own privilege, but they’re willing to do what they can to help their friend. Those friendships, while helping Mimi to feel like she fits in her new town, also help give her courage to stand up for her rights.

Things may not change overnight, but Mimi is determined to do what’s right. In the process, she may just change the attitudes of those around her. Maybe, once people–adults and kids–get to know Mimi and her family, they’ll realize that they’re not so different after all.


Many readers will be able to see themselves in the character of Mimi, regardless of their racial backgrounds, but biracial readers may especially relate to Mimi. Mimi celebrates both her Japanese and African-American cultural traditions, all while trying to fit into a mostly white town. Mimi handles everything thrown at her with grace, tenacity, and courage, even when it would be much easier to respond in anger. In my opinion, she inspires others–both the characters in this book and those who read it–to do the same.

Full Cicada Moon is a powerful read that celebrates the things that make us different as well as those that bring us together. I cannot recommend it highly enough for any libraries that serve upper elementary, middle grade, and even teen readers. For more information on this wonderful book, visit author Marilyn Hilton’s website. You may also want to follow the author on Twitter.

The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade

Caution: Read The Last Kids on Earth before proceeding with this post. I’d hate to ruin things for you…but I will.

So…thanks to students returning library books at the end of the school year, I was finally able to get my hands on The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade, book two in Max Brallier’s Last Kids on Earth series. If you read my post on book one, you know I’m a big fan of the first book, and that only solidified when I read book two. The sass continues in this latest volume as, once again, our heroes try to save themselves and the world from the monster apocalypse. (I know the premise doesn’t sound all that fun, but it totally is. Trust me.)

When last we left Jack and company, they had just defeated Blarg, an evil monster bent on killing Jack and everyone else in his path. Now, Jack, Quint, Dirk, and June are staying busy doing all sorts of heroic questing. At present, that means gathering supplies, building a bestiary (a record of all the monsters around) and evading the Wormungulous (giant worm monster) that resides at the local mall. You know…business as usual.

With the help of a mysterious man-monster named Thrull, Jack’s crew does manage to wound and evade the Wormungulous. But who is Thrull, and where did he come from? He appears to be a friendly sort, and he leads our merry band to Joe’s Pizza, which has essentially become home to a bunch of not-so-bad monsters. Nothing like the big guys who’ve been trying to kill everyone and everything. Maybe someone here can help them figure out what brought the monster apocalypse to Earth in the first place…and how to stop it from getting worse.

Speaking of worse, a strange shrieking is having an odd effect on the zombie population in town. Whenever the Shrieking sounds, all the zombies form kind of a zombie parade, they move toward the horrible sound, and they’re never seen again. (One would think this would be a good thing, but Jack knows it’s super-creepy and probably indicates that something really bad is going on. He’s right.) What’s causing the Shrieking, and what’s happening to the zombies when they reach their destination?

Jack and company are determined to answer these questions, but can they do that without putting themselves in even more danger? (Answer: No.) You see, they’ve been duped by someone close to them, someone who’s working for an evil worse than anything they’ve ever encountered, a force so big, so powerful that it could bring forth the total annihilation of Earth. (And you thought monsters and zombies were bad.)

Can Jack, Quint, June, and Dirk stop what’s is happening? Can they rescue all those poor, pitiful zombies from whatever is calling them to their doom? Can they figure out who to trust before it’s too late?


Like book one, The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade delivers a story full of action, adventure, mystery, courage, and friendship, all with a liberal dose of humor. Max Brallier’s text and Douglas Holgate’s illustrations flow seamlessly and provide the reader with a quick, amusing, engaging story that makes them eager to turn every page. Anyone who reads this book (and its predecessor) will be thirsty for more tales from this frighteningly fun world.

The next book in this series, The Last Kids on Earth and the Nightmare King, will be out on September 26th. Based on the previous books and the synopsis on Goodreads, book three will be just as thrilling as the rest. I can hardly wait!

To learn more about The Last Kids on Earth series, visit author Max Brallier’s website.

Enjoy!

Supergirl at Super Hero High

Notice: While it’s not 100% necessary to read Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, the first book in Lisa Yee’s DC Super Hero Girls series, before reading the second installment, it is a pretty good idea. Not only does it help to establish the world of these novels, it also focuses on Wonder Woman. Isn’t that reason enough to read it? (Yes, it is.)

If it’s not already obvious, the second book in the DC Super Hero Girls series focuses on Supergirl. Now, you may think you know Kara Zor-El from the awesome Supergirl TV series or even the older movie (which brings on a sense of nostalgia in me), but you might want to think again. In this book, we get a look at a teen Supergirl, a girl dealing with being not only the new kid in school but the new kid on the planet. Her home planet of Krypton was destroyed, and everything and everyone she knew–including her parents–are gone. That’s a lot for a normal kid to take in. Throw in some brand-new superpowers, and things get much more complicated.

Kara Zor-El never really wanted to be a superhero. One minute, she was a happy kid on Krypton, enjoying life with her loving parents. The next minute, she was strapped into a spacecraft and sent off into the great unknown while her parents, her planet, and everything familiar to her was destroyed. She landed on Earth, and two wonderful people, Martha and Jonathan Kent, took her in…much like they had done for another Kryptonian years ago.

Now, Kara is facing even more change in her life. Thanks to Earth’s yellow sun, she’s dealing with some pretty intense superpowers–heat vision, super strength, flight, super speed, and much more. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, Kara is a tad clumsy, and managing her newfound abilities is becoming something of a hazard to those around her. What she needs is a place to learn how to control her powers and how she can use her gifts to help the world around her. That’s where Super Hero High comes in!

At Super Hero High, Kara, now known by the name of Supergirl, immediately feels like the odd person out. Everyone here, especially her hero Wonder Woman, seems to already know so much. They don’t trip over their own feet or cause mayhem and destruction with their out-of-control powers. Supergirl is overwhelmed by how much she has to learn, and she often wonders if this place is even right for her. A new friend, Barbara Gordon, and a cookie-wielding librarian, Granny Goodness, try to reassure Supergirl, but her doubts continue to plague her.

When a mysterious threat begins to target Super Hero High, the students and staff work together to determine who–or what–is attempting to infiltrate their school. Supergirl wants to help, but what can she do? Sometimes she thinks she just makes things worse. But when the true nature of this threat is revealed, Supergirl–with an assist from Barbara–may be the only one capable of neutralizing this menace for good.

Can Supergirl find the confidence she needs to face this danger head-on? And can she finally find her place at Super Hero High?


Like Wonder Woman at Super Hero High, this book is an ideal fit for upper elementary and middle grade collections. (I assume that this will also be true of the remainder of the series.) It’s a fun, inviting book that gives readers a glimpse into what life may be like for some of their favorite teen superheroes. It also lets readers know that they’re not alone when they feel out-of-place, lacking in confidence, lonely, or clumsy. Superheroes deal with the same stuff we all do.

Spoilers ahead! While I thoroughly enjoyed Supergirl at Super Hero High, I do have one (not totally serious) issue with it. I just have to ask one question. Why did it have to be the librarian? Why, I ask you?! Sure, some in my profession could have super-villain tendencies, but most of us are awesome. I, personally, vow to use my powers for good and never get my students to help me take over the world. I can only hope my fellow librarians feel the same way.

If the DC Super Hero Girls series seems like something you or your kids, students, or library patrons would enjoy, have no fear! There are at least two more volumes to love. In addition to Wonder Woman and Supergirl, Batgirl at Super Hero High is already out. (I’ll be reading this one soon.) Book four, Katana at Super Hero High will be released on July 4th. Given how popular these books are, I have high hopes that we’ll see even more books in this wonderful series.

For more information on Supergirl at Super Hero High and the series as a whole, visit author Lisa Yee’s website. Happy reading!

Roller Girl

This evening, I bring you one more of the 2017-18 South Carolina Book Award nominees. For the second year in a row, the SCCBA committee has chosen to place a graphic novel on the nominee list, a trend I desperately hope continues. This year, the lone graphic novel on the list is Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. (By the way, this book is also a 17-18 SC Junior Book Award nominee. Bonus.)

Roller Girl has been on my radar for a while, and I finally made time to read it last night. I found it to be thoroughly relatable, and I think fans of Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Shannon Hale’s Real Friends, and anything by Raina Telgemeier will devour this book, a book that is essentially about being a good friend and embracing one’s own unique gifts. It could also encourage many young readers to search out a sport that may be unfamiliar to them–roller derby.

Astrid and her best friend, Nicole, do everything together, and Astrid assumes that will always be the case. She’s about to learn, however, that things have a way of changing.

After attending an exciting roller derby bout, Astrid signs up to attend a summer roller derby camp. She assumes that Nicole will join her, but Nicole has other plans in mind. She wants to attend ballet camp. Not only that, but she’ll be at ballet camp with Astrid’s sworn enemy, the vile Rachel. (Rachel is responsible for giving Astrid a particularly terrible nickname.) Astrid is not happy about the situation, but she really wants to go to roller derby camp. Maybe she’ll make some new friends there, friends who will make the growing distance with Nicole a little less painful.

Pain, as it turns out, is something Astrid is about to become very familiar with. Roller derby isn’t exactly all sunshine and roses. It hurts. It hurts even more when one doesn’t really know how to skate. Astrid goes home each day battered and bruised, and she barely has enough energy to fall into bed. Becoming a star roller girl is a lot harder than Astrid thought it would be.

Even though roller derby is more difficult than Astrid ever imagined, she is getting better slowly. She’s also making new friends. She’s growing closer to one girl in particular, Zoey. She and Zoey practice together, hang out, and Zoey even dyes Astrid’s hair blue–something her mother is not exactly happy about.

Things seem to be going okay for Astrid. She’s determined to be the best roller girl possible, and she’s putting in the work to make that happen. But what happens when she comes face-to-face with Nicole (and Rachel) again? What happens when Zoey, her new friend, gets the position Astrid desperately wants for their upcoming bout? What happens when Astrid is forced to face the consequences of everything she’s done this summer?

Will Astrid become the person–the roller girl–she knows she can be? And will she form–and keep–the friendships she so desperately desires?


Roller Girl is a wonderfully engaging book about the importance of perseverance, being a good friend, and being part of a team. It also introduces readers to roller derby, a sport that may be unfamiliar to them. I confess that I knew very little about roller derby before reading this book, but I now want to see if there are any teams in my area. (I have no desire or ability to play, but I bet it would be a ton of fun to watch.)

There is only one thing about Roller Girl that gives me pause. That’s the unfortunate nickname that Rachel saddled Astrid with. As I’m sure you know, kids can be cruel, and Astrid’s name lends itself to an especially rotten nickname–“ass-turd.” (I tell you this now so you’ll know what to expect.) Yes, this is a horrible term and some readers–mainly adults–could have a problem with it, but it emphasizes the dynamic between Astrid and Rachel and helps to explain why Astrid is so hurt that Nicole is friends with a girl who could come up with something so mean. Is this one term going to keep me from promoting this book to my upper elementary students? Nope, but I do believe in being prepared (with collection policies, reviews, Library Bill of Rights, intellectual freedom information, etc.) should anything be called into question. I urge anyone else to do the same.

With all of that being said, I do highly recommend Roller Girl to upper elementary and middle grade audiences. It’s a quick, entertaining read that emphasizes both individuality and teamwork. You’ll have a hard time keeping enough copies in your libraries. (I know I can’t keep it on my shelves.)

For more information on Roller Girl, visit author Victoria Jamieson’s website. Enjoy!

Kindred Spirits

What do you get when you combine Rainbow Rowell with Star Wars? Something absolutely wonderful, that’s what. Kindred Spirits may only be 41 pages long, but it hit me right where I live. Yes, I am a Star Wars fan (something of an understatement there).

Like the characters in this novella, I’ve been part of a Star Wars line. When tickets went on sale for Episode I in 1999, I waited 13 hours to buy tickets. (To be fair, no one knew at the time just how bad that movie would be. I still shudder every time I see or hear Jar Jar Binks.) Like Elena, Gabe, and Troy in Kindred Spirits, I wondered how I’d deal with going to the bathroom, making conversation with my fellow nerds, and handling boredom. (Waiting in line for a movie isn’t all glitz and glamour, folks…even though I did end up on the local news.)

Even with the not-so-great parts of the Line, however, I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything. I was part of something–part of the Star Wars experience. I talked to people I never would have otherwise met, I enjoyed pizza delivered to those of us in line, and I played Star Wars trivia games with people who could actually compete with me. No, I didn’t wait days like some people, and I haven’t exactly repeated the experience (thanks to the beauty of online ticket sales), but I can say that I was there once upon a time, and Kindred Spirits brought all of those warm, fuzzy feelings rushing back.

Elena is excited about waiting in line to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She just knows it will be everything she’s ever imagined–great, big, nerdy fun. Only it’s not. She’s the third person in a line of only three people. The first person is Tony, a guy who takes his Star Wars seriously. He’s waited in every line since Empire, and he has stories about everything. The second guy is Gabe, and he shows absolutely no interest in being part of Elena’s ultimate line experience. And Elena makes three.

Elena thinks about leaving her spot in line and going home, especially when the temperatures drop, boredom sets in, and her bladder rebels, but she just can’t do it. She can’t abandon her post and her love of Star Wars…and she can’t prove her mom right. So Elena stays and tries to make the best of things with Troy and Gabe.

As this dedicated trio get closer to movie time, they come to find the sense of camaraderie they’d been hoping for. Sure, there are only three of them, but that’s becoming more and more okay. Even Gabe is opening up a little, and Elena soon realizes just why he’s been so cold to her. She sets him straight, and the two really begin to talk to each other. No preconceived notions, no judgments; just a mutual love of Star Wars and the start of what could be a beautiful friendship.

When it’s time to finally see The Force Awakens, will it live up to the hype? And will Elena and Gabe find a reason to stay close beyond their time waiting for Star Wars?


Rainbow Rowell gets what it’s like to be a Star Wars fan in a world that tends to make fun of such serious fandom. She doesn’t come off as someone saying, “Hey, look at those idiotic nerds waiting in line for some dumb movie.” No, she understands that fans care about Star Wars. It’s part of our lives, and sometimes the best thing in the world is sharing our love of Star Wars (or any other movie, book series, TV show, etc.) with other people who get it. Speaking for myself, an extreme introvert, the best way to get me out of my shell is to talk to me about something I obsess over. Star Wars is at the top of that (extremely long) list.

In my most humble opinion, Kindred Spirits is a must-read for Star Wars fans. Yes, it’s sort of a romantic tale, but the Star Wars references alone make this story worth a fan’s time. The budding relationship between Elena and Gabe is just a bonus.

If you’d like more information on Kindred Spirits and the many other wonderful books by Rainbow Rowell, check out her website. You can also connect with this fabulous author on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook.

Happy reading…and may the Force be with you!

Cursed

As some may have noticed, May has been a slow month here at Knight Reader. This is only my fourth post this month, and I typically do much better than that. My fellow educators, though, can probably figure out why this month has been “off.” In short, May is nuts. With testing, meetings, end-of-year reports, the general craziness of both students and staff, and so much other stuff going on, I’ve barely even felt like reading, much less blogging about it. (Believe it or not, this site takes a lot of energy to maintain.)

I’m hoping, however, that things will pick up soon. You see, this is the last full week of school in my district! (*Cue dance of joy.*) I’ll still have trainings, meetings, and other school stuff to do, but I also plan to devote more time to my family, my friends, and my reading. So don’t despair, dear readers. Knight Reader isn’t going anywhere yet.


Now that that’s out of the way, let’s turn to my latest read, which brought it’s own set of aggravations. It was a good book (and it should be given that it’s a 17-18 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee), but, like a lot of readers, I get bothered when covers and titles change. This book, Cursed by Bruce Coville, was originally published as Diary of a Mad Brownie. It’s also known as The Enchanted Files #1. The cover was also completely redesigned (see below). I get that there are reasons for this, but it is a little jarring and confusing to readers. That being said, I did like the book, and I think many upper elementary and middle grade readers will as well.


Angus Cairns is a brownie–no, not a fudgy treat or a Girl Scout. He’s a wee magical creature who likes to do a bit of mischief while keeping things neat and tidy for the family he serves. For Angus, though, there’s not exactly a choice in which family he’s tied to.

Thanks to a curse, Angus is bound to serve the McGonagall family. It hasn’t been a bad life. He’s been with Sarah McGonagall for years, and he’s loved living with her in Scotland. As Sarah gets older, however, Angus realizes that he’ll soon have to move on to another McGonagall descendant. This move will take him from his beloved Scotland to the strange and mysterious land of America…and the household of the messiest girl he’s ever encountered.

When Angus arrives at the Carhart househould, he’s not sure what to make of the situation. To be sure, things are a mess, and he’ll have his work cut out for him just keeping Alex, his new assignment, in order. Alex, for her part, doesn’t help matters. She seems to enjoy being a slob, and it drives Angus bananas! Things do eventually improve when Angus reveals himself to Alex, but a whole new set of problems arrives to upset their delicate balance.

The curse that binds Angus to the McGonagall family also has another part. It causes all of the men in the house where Angus resides to become obsessed with writing bad poetry. This has a huge impact on Alex’s dad, who quits his job to write songs, and her brother, who starts wearing all black and talks about leaving the soccer team. There’s only one thing to be done before this family loses everything–Angus must find a way to break this wretched curse.

Well, breaking a centuries-old curse may be easier said than done, but Angus and Alex are not alone. They are joined by Alex’s little sister, Destiny, her brother, and, perhaps strangest of all, Destiny’s kindergarten teacher. All of these people will work together, journey through the Enchanted Realm, and uncover some interesting secrets in their quest to break the curse that binds them. But what then? What could the end of this curse mean for Angus and Alex? Answer these questions and many more when you read Cursed by Bruce Coville.


Readers who love books in diary format will definitely enjoy this book. It’s also a good fit for fans of light fantasy. It’s funny, sometimes suspenseful, and thoroughly captivating. Many readers may relate to both Alex’s disorganized manner and Angus’ short temper. I’m hoping they’ll also see how these two sorted out their differences and became stronger as a result.

Given that Cursed is the first book in The Enchanted Files, you may be wondering about the next installment. Well, as of right now, there is one more book, Hatched. It’s already out, and it presents the tale of Gerald the Griffin. It looks fairly interesting, and I’m certain I’ll be placing it on my next school book order.

To learn more about Cursed, The Enchanted Files #1, Diary of a Mad Brownie, or whatever you want to call this book, visit author Bruce Coville’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Enjoy!

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.