Rebel Belle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Enjoy, y’all!

These Broken Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Order of the Wicked

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

Moving on…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Leave Me

Note: Leave Me is not a book for kids or teens. This one is for the grown-ups.

I’ve been reading almost nothing but children’s books for the past month, so I decided to change things up a bit. Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to do that with Leave Me, the first adult novel by Gayle Forman.

Like me, you may know Gayle Forman from her outstanding YA novels–If I Stay, Where She Went, Just One Day, Just One Year, and I Was Here–but she’s writing for an older audience in her latest book. Leave Me, which will be released on September 6th, is a great read for anyone who has ever been overwhelmed by the worries and responsibilities that come with being an adult. For those who’ve thought about escaping and leaving it all behind. For those who’ve wanted to just think of themselves, even for a little while.

In Leave Me, readers meet Maribeth Klein. Maribeth knows what it is to be busy, to have every part of her day claimed by her job, her husband, her children, and all of the other things that come with being a working mother. Maribeth is so busy, in fact, that she scarcely has time to notice that she’s having a heart attack.

When Maribeth realizes what’s happening, she’s justifiably terrified, but she really doesn’t have time for this. Who will get the kids where they need to be? Who will ensure that the taxes are paid on time? Who will take care of her deadlines at work? Who will make sure things are running smoothly? This heart attack is inconvenient…for everyone, it seems.

After Maribeth is finally released from the hospital, she feels like those around her expect her to bounce back immediately. They want her to go back to being the same old Maribeth, the woman who takes care of everything. Her husband is eager to go back to work and leave the kids with Maribeth. Her kids want their mom to be able to read them stories, take them to school, and be just as involved as she was before. Even Maribeth’s mother, who has moved it to “help” while Maribeth recuperates, doesn’t understand that Maribeth can’t yet do the things she once did.

Maribeth feels overwhelmed by her frustrated attempts to recuperate and her family’s demands on her, not to mention the fact that she’s been essentially replaced at work, so she does something that, even in her own eyes, is inconceivable. She leaves. She leaves her home, her husband, her kids…everything. For the first time in a long time, Maribeth needs to focus on herself, and leaving it all behind is the only way she sees to make that happen.

While she’s away, Maribeth, now using a new name, reflects on her life and what led her to this point. She recalls both the good and bad times. She thinks about how much she still loves her kids, her husband, and her best friend. With the help of a new, enigmatic doctor, she finally begins to heal. She enjoys some unlikely friendships. And she finally begins to get answers to several questions that have plagued her for years.

As Maribeth gets better, both physically, mentally, and emotionally, she wonders about the life and people she left behind at home. How are they faring? Do they miss her? Do they hate her? Do they want her to come home? Is she even ready for that?

Soon enough, Maribeth will get the answers to some of those questions, and those answers may just make it possible for her to return home. Discover how leaving everything behind helps Maribeth find her way home when you read Leave Me by Gayle Forman.


I feel like I’ve given way too much away here, and I apologize for that. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop. Even so, I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for this book, and I hope you find it as enjoyable and thought-provoking as I did.

Even though I don’t know what it’s like to be a working wife and mother, I do sympathize a little with the character of Maribeth. Being an adult–at least a responsible, semi-functioning adult–is often overwhelming. The responsibilities and worries get to you, and escaping it all is the stuff of fantasies. I can only imagine how much more pressure a spouse and children can add to that. (Actually, I don’t want to imagine that. I can barely handle taking care of myself.)

Leaving like Maribeth did, an action many readers–myself included–will view as unthinkable, is also understandable, especially given the circumstances. How would you react in the same situation? Reading this book may make you think about that.

If Leave Me sounds like a book you would enjoy, I encourage you to pick it up on September 6th. For more information on this book and others by Gayle Forman, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Stella by Starlight

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve finally finished reading all of the nominees for the 2016-17 South Carolina Book Award, and it seems that I saved one of the most powerful books on the list for last. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given that the book, Stella by Starlight, was written by Sharon Draper.

Stella by Starlight is not a comfortable read, and I think that’s what makes it so important. This book, which takes place in the segregated South during the Great Depression, doesn’t shy away from the racism, hatred, and fear that was so prevalent at the time. (Anyone who is paying attention would agree that these things are still prevalent.) But this book also emphasizes the power of family, community, faith, and courage in the face of adversity.

The book begins with Stella and her brother, JoJo, witnessing something disturbing in the woods next to their home late one night. They see men and horses in white robes. They see a burning cross. This sight can only mean one thing–the Ku Klux Klan. Stella and JoJo race home to tell their parents what they’ve seen, and the people in the community immediately come together to discuss what it might mean.

With the threat of the Klan looming over everything, the people in Stella’s community wonder what they can do to combat such a seemingly powerful force. They’ve always dealt with racism, but this feels much more sinister. When several men, including Stella’s father, decide to stand up for themselves in the voting booth, the threat becomes even greater.

Through all of this turmoil, Stella examines her own feelings through writing. Stella admits she’s not the best writer, but she practices late at night in the hopes of getting better. She has so many thoughts about what’s going on around her, and she wants to get them down on paper. She writes about her family, school, and community. She writes about the prejudice she experiences and sees around her. She writes about the people, both black and white, who come together and take a stand when times are hard. She writes about her hopes for the future.


I don’t know what more I can say about Stella by Starlight. It’s an excellent piece of historical fiction, and I hope that many teachers and students will use it to supplement their understanding of racism, both in the segregated South and in the present day.

I also see this book being used to help students with their writing…or whatever else they may be having trouble with. Stella freely admits that she is not a great writer and needs practice. Students need to see that it’s okay to make mistakes. What’s important is to keep trying and working to get better.

Librarians, teachers, and parents who want to explore themes like bravery, integrity, empathy, tolerance, and respect with their students should definitely take a look at Stella by Starlight. It’s an extremely powerful book that will stay with all readers long after they’ve finished it.

For more information on Stella by Starlight and other books by Sharon Draper, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with Ms. Draper on Facebook and Twitter.

Ship of Dolls

A few minutes ago, I finished reading one more of this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. (Only one more to go!) The book was Ship of Dolls by Shirley Parenteau.

While I’m not one to seek out much historical fiction, I admit that I liked this book more than I thought I would. It takes place in the 1920s, one of my favorite historical periods, but Ship of Dolls is not all flappers and speakeasies. No, this book is set in Portland, Oregon, and it tells the story of Lexie, a young girl trying to find her way after being sent to live with her grandparents. (Sounds a bit like the book I posted on earlier today, doesn’t it?)

The year is 1926, and Lexie Lewis would like nothing more than going back to live with her mother, a singer and flapper who is always the life of any party. That party is currently far away in San Francisco. Lexie’s new stepfather doesn’t think this life is a place for a child, so Lexie is living with her grandparents in Portland. She’s not happy about the situation–especially since her grandmother is so strict–and she longs to be reunited with her mother.

At school, Lexie may have an opportunity to see her mother once again. Her class has been collecting money to send a Friendship Doll to Japan. Letters will be sent along with the doll on its long journey, first to San Francisco and then to Japan. The student who writes the best letter will get to accompany the doll on the first leg of the journey. Lexie is determined to win this all-important contest, travel to California, and be reunited with her mother…permanently.

But winning this contest is not as easy as one would hope. Lexie gets into a bit of trouble trying to get inspiration for her letter, and that trouble leads to even more as her little lies turn into big ones. Then there’s the matter of Louise Wilkins, Lexie’s rival at school. Louise is also determined to win this contest, and she’s willing to do anything to get her way.

As Lexie works on her Friendship Doll project, she continues to focus on being with her mom again. Sure, working on this project has brought her closer to her grandparents, especially her grandma, and maybe they’re so strict for a reason, but Lexie belongs with her mom. Right?

Lexie’s potential reunion with her mother is growing closer and closer, and, soon enough, Lexie faces an important decision. Should she go with her mom on whatever adventure is next, or should she stay with her grandparents in Portland? The answer may surprise even Lexie.


Lexie Lewis’ story is fictional, but it is based on an actual event…and one that I had never heard of. In the late 1920s, Dr. Sidney Gulick organized the Friendship Doll Project, which sent over 12,000 dolls from the U.S. to Japan in an effort to foster friendship and peace between the two nations. Japan reciprocated with fifty-eight Dolls of Gratitude sent to the U.S. While the two countries did eventually engage each other in World War II, the dolls of friendship were remembered years later, and some of them have been found, restored, and displayed in museums.

Aside from the interesting historical events in this story, I think Ship of Dolls is a good book for addressing concepts like honesty, friendship, forgiveness, and tolerance. Lexie, her grandmother, and even Louise grow throughout the course of the book, and it’s interesting to see how their interactions change–particularly in regards to the concepts listed above–as the story progresses.

If Ship of Dolls sounds like the book for you, there’s more to enjoy. A second book, Dolls of Hope, follows the very doll in Lexie’s story on it’s journey in Japan. A third book, Dolls of War, is scheduled for a Fall 2017 release, and there will also be a fourth and final book in the series called Dolls of Secret. You can find more information on all of these Friendship Doll books on author Shirley Parenteau’s website.

With that, I’m going to wrap things up and enjoy my last few hours of freedom before the new school year begins. So long for now!

 

Wish

I’m usually not one to go for books with dogs on the covers (as I believe I’ve mentioned here before). I threw that out the window, though, when NetGalley gave me the chance to read an early copy of Wish by Barbara O’Connor.

I was first introduced to this author’s work when I became an elementary librarian back in 2010. Since then, I’ve come to rely on O’Connor to provide both me and my students with heart-warming, relatable characters and charming, well-written stories. Wish, which will be released on August 30th, delivers on all counts.

In Wish, readers are introduced to eleven-year-old Charlie Reese. Charlie believes in the power of wishes. She’s been making the same wish for a long time, and she’s convinced that it will come true one of these days. She is ever hopeful.

Due to several issues with her parents, Charlie has been uprooted from her home in Raleigh and sent to live with her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus–people she’s never met–in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Charlie is not happy about this situation, and she makes her displeasure known to nearly everyone. She can’t wait to leave these hillbilly kids behind and get back to where she belongs.

Well, not everyone takes Charlie’s attitude at face-value. Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus are thrilled to have Charlie in their home. They treat Charlie like their own child and do whatever they can to make her feel welcome. There’s also Howard, a young boy who never lets anything bother him. He’s assigned to be Charlie’s Backpack Buddy on her first day in a new school, but he takes it few steps further and tries to become Charlie’s friend.

Charlie doesn’t quite know what to make of these people being so nice to her, and she lashes out at them quite a bit. She eventually comes to realize, though, that they’ll still be there no matter how mean she is to them. Maybe this place and the people here aren’t so bad after all.

As Charlie begins to adapt to her new surroundings, she also crosses paths with a stray dog. Charlie feels a kinship with this dog–who she names Wishbone–and she’s determined to give him a great home. Charlie knows that Wishbone longs for a family and a place to belong just like she does.

Days and weeks pass, and Charlie grows more and more comfortable with her new life with Bertha, Gus, Howard, and Wishbone. What will happen, though, when it comes time for her to return to Raleigh? Will she have to leave behind the family and friends she’s found in the mountains? Is returning home to her parents really what’s best for her now?

Charlie doesn’t know which way to turn, but maybe all that wishing she’s done–with an assist from those who really love her–will help everything to turn out for the best. Find out how one girl’s special wish comes true–but maybe not in the way she expected–when you read Wish by Barbara O’Connor.


I cannot say enough good things about this book. I laughed, I cried, and I reflected on my own childhood. Like Charlie, I spent my summers weeding the garden, picking vegetables, and going to Vacation Bible School. Those are experiences my students continue to have.

Then there’s the food. Aunt Bertha’s cooking in Wish makes me think of my mom’s cooking. Fried green tomatoes, cobbler, potato salad, biscuits, etc. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. (Seriously, there’s nothing like good ol’ Southern food.) I’m betting many readers will feel the same way.

Aside from summer life and food, Wish also addresses things like friendships (with both humans and canines), dealing with anger, and what home and family really mean. Charlie has to come to terms with all of these things, and she does so in her own special way. Those around Charlie help her to see that things may not always turn out like she expects, but that doesn’t mean that her life is lacking in any way. With friends and family who love her, she gets everything she ever wished for.

I can hardly wait to share this wonderful book with my students and teachers (which I guess is good since I go back to school tomorrow). I’m now even more excited that Barbara O’Connor is visiting my school in October, and I hope my excitement is shared by everyone in my school. I plan to buy a copy of Wish for all of my 3rd-5th grade teachers so that we can all share the love prior to this special visit. I’m confident that everyone who reads it will adore Wish as much as I do.

To learn more about Wish and other books by Barbara O’Connor, visit the author’s website.

Happy reading!