Glass Sword

Notice: I highly recommend that you read Red Queen before proceeding. This is not a spoilery post, but you still need to read the first book. (It’s not a bad idea to read Queen Song and Steel Scars as well. These two novellas provide a bit of perspective when going into the second full-length novel in this outstanding series.)

Now, let’s move on to Glass Sword, the second book in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series…

Having finished Glass Sword just minutes ago, I don’t know how I’m going to write a coherent post about it considering that I am completely numb right now. That is a sincere compliment to the author of the book. Continuing with my day as planned is going to be a struggle when all I want to do is curl up in the fetal position and think about how much this book wrecked me. (Being an adult with responsibilities kind of sucks at the moment.)

Given that I don’t want to spoil the experience for all of you, I’m not going to do my standard recap of the book today. I will say, however, that things don’t get better for Mare and company. They’re on the run from Queen Elara and the newly crowned King Maven, they’re looking for more Reds with power (newbloods), and they’re trying to figure out exactly who they can trust. Mare doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. Is she a leader? Is she the face of a revolution? Is her loyalty to the Scarlet Guard, her family, all of the newbloods out there…or is she only loyal to herself? There are no easy answers, but Mare needs to figure out where she stands before she becomes just like the monsters she’s running from.

Glass Sword is not a book that will give you the warm-fuzzies. Even though it’s hinted at, there’s no grand romance going on here. (That may come in future books. I’m not sure.) The characters are in the midst of a war, and nothing about it is pretty. It’s gruesome, gritty, and real. (Yes, I know this is a fantasy/sci-fi book. It still manages to capture the horrors of war in a realistic way.)

Glass Sword is, in my opinion, 100% Mare’s story of how her circumstances drive her to do both noble and terrible things. She’s proud of some of her actions and horrified at others. She drives people away while longing to hold them close. She sacrifices pieces of herself for her cause and forces herself to harden her heart. This war is taking its toll on Mare, and she doesn’t know if she can handle the cost. Even with everything she’s done–and will have to do–Mare isn’t sure that it will be enough to stop Maven and prevent even more lives from being lost.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that there is no happy ending in this book–which is true for many “second books” in a series. At the end of this one, you’re going to want to immediately dive into the next book…but you can’t. The third book, currently untitled, won’t be out until sometime next year, so we’ve got a wait ahead of us.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for Glass Sword without giving too much away. If you want to learn more about Glass SwordRed Queen and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. You can also check out the book trailer below. It does a good job of summing up Glass Sword without revealing a ton.

Steel Scars

Steel Scars is the second novella in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series. It is a very good idea to read Red Queen before this story so that you have a bit of context. Otherwise, I doubt much of it will make sense.

Last night, I forced myself to sit down and finish reading Steel Scars, which gives a little more background on the character of Farley, a member of the Scarlet Guard, from Red Queen. This story is the second Red Queen prequel novella, and, unlike Queen Song before it, I found it kind of difficult to get through this one. Maybe it was all of the military-like correspondence. Or maybe it was because I didn’t feel a huge connection to Farley in the first place. Either way, it wasn’t easy for me to keep 100% of my attention on this story.

So…is Steel Scars a bad story? Certainly not. Once you figure out how it’s set up, it adds some depth to Farley’s part in the series as a whole. We see more about how the Scarlet Guard operates and the plans they have in motion. It also gives readers at a look at one of the characters from Red Queen that was a bit of a surprise at the end. (I’m trying not to spoil too much here, but the character I’m referring to has a connection to Mare. I’ll leave it at that.)

My biggest issue here is that Farley didn’t make much of an impact on me in Red Queen, so I didn’t feel that I simply had to know about her early work with the Scarlet Guard. (If you feel differently, please let me know in the comments.) I did, however, appreciate seeing how Farley’s path intersected with Mare’s. I think that connection could have been explored a bit more, but that’s just my opinion.

Even though I ended up liking Steel Scars for the most part, I guess I was expecting more. I wanted to like this story as much as I did Red Queen and Queen Song, and I just didn’t. Maybe the latest novel, Glass Sword (which came out on Tuesday), will focus a little more on Farley and make her early actions more relevant. We shall see.

To learn more about Steel Scars, the other Red Queen storiesand Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page.

Queen Song

Note: Even though Queen Song is a prequel novella to Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, it’s a good idea to read Red Queen first. (Also, Red Queen was published first, so there you go.)

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading Queen Song, the first prequel novella in the fabulous Red Queen series. This short story tells the tale of Coriane, who you may recall was the mother of Cal and was the first wife of King Tiberias. That’s not where her story began, though. Coriane was a simple girl–or as simple as a Silver can be in this world–and she had resigned herself to a somewhat mundane existence. Fate, however, had other plans…

All Coriane has ever wanted is to build things. She delights in taking things apart, figuring out how they work, and putting them back together better than they were before. She spends her spare time poring over technical manuals…when she’s not being forced to suffer through etiquette lessons or the like. As a Silver of somewhat noble birth, she’s expected to take part in the trappings of the royal court, even though she’d rather be doing almost anything else.

One evening at the palace, Coriane comes into contact with two people with the power to change her life forever. First, there is Elara, a girl with the ability to enter–and toy with–the minds of others. Coriane finds herself as Elara’s terrified plaything for several horrible minutes, and she escapes to the relative safety outside. It is here that she meets Tibe, the Crown Prince. The two strike up a conversation…a conversation that Coriane never expects to lead to anything more than an unlikely friendship. It seems that Tibe may have other ideas…

As Coriane and Tibe grow closer together, it becomes clear to everyone that the Crown Prince has chosen his future queen. This puts an enormous target on Coriane’s back, and, even though she has come to love Tibe, she remains fearful of what others may do and expect of her…especially the dangerous and devious Elara.

Documenting her thoughts in a diary, Coriane reveals what it’s like to go from Silver nobody to Queen. Little by little, she feels herself being lost to the world around her. She’s simply not the girl she once was. She fears for the fate of her loved ones–especially her brother Julian, her husband Tibe, and her son Cal–and herself. She worries over the continuing war and what it could mean for her family. And she wonders if the disturbing thoughts in her head are her own.

Is Coriane in control of her own fate, or is someone else whispering deadly thoughts into her mind to further their own agenda? You decide…


Given how Queen Song ended and what happened in Red Queen, I have no doubt as to who was pulling–and cutting–Coriane’s strings. I’m guessing that anyone who’s read either of these stories will come to the same conclusion I did.

Queen Song gives readers a quick look at the early lives of several characters from Red Queen. Readers see what lead to some of their decisions and what continues to drive them. This is particularly true for Cal, Tibe (the King), Julian, Elara, and even Maven. (I doubt I have to explain why.)

Coriane’s story, while often heartbreaking, gives a bit of insight into her relationship with both her brother and the man who would be her husband. It also shows how dedicated Coriane was to her son and having him grow up in a world without the constant threat of war. This young woman wanted a better world for her family, but, sadly, someone else wanted to be in control of that world. (Again, if you’ve read Red Queen, I don’t have to explain anything more.)

I think Queen Song is an excellent addition to the Red Queen saga, and I look forward to reading even more. There is one more novella, Steel Scars, which is already out, and I plan to read that this weekend. The second full-length novel, Glass Sword, comes out next week (!!!), and I’ll get my hands on that as soon as possible.

To learn more about Queen SongRed Queen, and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. Have fun out there.

Red Queen

I should begin this post by thanking the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Committee for placing an outstanding book like Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard on next year’s list of nominees. Had they not, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to get to this most excellent book. So thanks to this group of librarians, teachers, students, and others for including Red Queen on the Book Award list and moving it to the top of my TBR pile.

Now, let’s move on to my thoughts on Red Queen. In a nutshell…Holy Crap on a Cracker. I was blown away by this book, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to be able to express that in a single blog post. (I’ll do my best, though.)

I guess I’ll start with this: If you were to combine the X-Men, Graceling, The Hunger Games, and The Selection, you might get close to the awesomeness that is Red Queen. Yep, that about covers it. Still not enough info? Well, let’s explore this fantastic story a bit more…

Mare Barrow is a seventeen-year-old who lives by her wits. She lies, cheats, and steals to get by, and she realizes that, if she should be caught, it would mean certain death. Why, then, does Mare risk so much?

Mare is a Red. To be Red in this world is to be “less.” The Silvers–humans with silver blood and amazing abilities–are in power, and they plan to stay that way. The Reds fight and die in wars of the Silvers’ making, they work for scraps, and their lives are daily struggles. Until Mare is conscripted into the army, her only way to contribute to her family is to steal whatever she can to make things just a little easier.

Mare sees no way out of her current life, but a chance encounter with a strange young man–known only to her as Cal–changes everything.

Soon, Mare finds herself with a new job–working for the Silvers in the summer palace. This position ensures that she won’t have to join the army, but how did she come to be working here? Who could have possibly gotten her this job? Imagine Mare’s surprise when she realizes that Cal, the young man she recently met outside of a Red tavern, is none other than the Crown Prince. He’s the reason she’s here, surrounded by the very people who keep Reds like her under their heels.

But it seems that fate has more in store for Mare than she or anyone else realized…

When Mare’s life is in danger, it is revealed that she has powers of her own–an unheard-of occurrence in this world. Only Silvers have power, and the royal family will not let anyone learn that Mare, a mere Red, has special abilities. So Mare is passed off as a Silver and betrothed to Maven, Cal’s younger brother. Now, Mare is a princess-in-training, and she knows that the Silvers around her are looking for any excuse to put an end to the threat she poses to their way of life.

As for Mare, she’s looking to be even more of a threat. When the opportunity arises to join the Scarlet Guard, a group of rebellious Reds looking to end Silver rule, Mare takes it. She can help the Guard from the inside and finally stop the tyranny that Reds have lived under for so long. She may even find some unexpected help along the way.

But nothing is as it seems inside the palace. Mare doesn’t know who can be trusted or when everything will come crumbling to the ground. Have those in power seen everything she’s been doing, everyone she’s been talking to? And what will happen to Mare if her secret activities should be discovered? Will she be able to count on the Silver allies she’s made, or will they betray her for their own agendas?

Mare stands in the midst of this war between Silver and Red. How will her position, abilities, and relationships factor into the events to come? Read Red Queen to find out.


I hope I’ve done a little to entice you to read this wonderful book. It truly is phenomenal, and I look forward to reading more in this series.

Speaking of more, the next full-length novel, Glass Sword, comes out on February 9th. If you can’t wait that long–yes, I know it’s only a couple of weeks–there are also two novellas already out. They are Queen Song and Steel Scars, and I plan to read those as soon as I finish up a couple of other books.

While Red Queen is, in my view, definitely written for a teen audience, I do think that some middle grade readers will eat it up. Those who love The Hunger Games and The Selection will find a new series to devour in Red Queen.

If you want to learn more about Red Queen and Victoria Aveyard, visit the author’s websiteblogTwitter feed, or Facebook page. You can also check out the Epic Reads book trailer below. It doesn’t give much of anything about Red Queen away, but it does look pretty cool.

Shadow and Bone

What can I say about Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo that has not already been said? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a go…

Shadow and Bone, the first book in The Grisha trilogy, came out three years ago, and it’s been in my TBR pile almost as long. (The entire series is now complete, so I guess I did okay. No waiting for me!) Well, I finally dove into the book a while ago, and I finished it earlier today. Here are my thoughts in a nutshell:

Holy crap on a cracker.

Why did I wait so long to read this book?! It is so freakin’ good that I’m about to unleash my inner (and outer) fangirl. I am super-eager to get my hands on every other book, novella, or anything else I can find in this series. I predict I will be virtually useless this weekend because I’ll be in a Grisha fog. (I am not, of course, counting the time I spend with my nieces on Halloween. That break in reading is non-negotiable.)

Let’s take a quick look at Shadow and Bone so that I can commence with reading book two, Siege and Storm.

Orphaned at an early age, Alina Starkov believes that her life is destined to continue on the same uneventful path. She’s a mapmaker for the First Army, and though the danger of the Shadow Fold is ever present, as long as her childhood friend Mal is close by, nothing can be too terrible.

If only…

When Mal, Alina, and many others are sent into the Fold, they are enveloped in a darkness so absolute that it feels like a living being. Horrible creatures called volcra attack their vessel, and it seems as if all is lost. One of the monsters goes after Mal, and Alina taps into a power that she doesn’t even realize she has. She summons light to push back the darkness…and everything she ever knew about herself or her place in the world changes in an instant.

Alina is spirited away to be trained as a Grisha. The Grisha, who are mysterious and magical beings, are led by the Darkling, the most powerful of them all. The Darkling sees Alina, a Sun Summoner, as the hope for the future of their land, but Alina is not so sure. She struggles in her training, and something seems to be holding her power back. How can she save the world when she’s still trying to figure out how she fits into it?

The Darkling is convinced that Alina is what he needs, and he does whatever he can to convince her of this. Alina eventually discovers the power within herself, and she begins to believe the Darkling. She’s also growing closer to this enigmatic figure and all he represents.

But Alina soon learns that all is not what it seems. After reuniting with Mal and uncovering a terrible truth, Alina must choose between the future offered by the Darkling and one where she is alone in the world once more. No matter which path she chooses, Alina will soon come face-to-face with her destiny. Is she the master of her fate, or is someone else holding the reins?

_______________

With that, I’m going to wrap things up. Read Shadow and Bone. It’s awesome. I’m sure the other books are equally wonderful, and I plan to find out for sure very soon.

For more information on The Grisha trilogy and other works by Leigh Bardugo, check out her website and connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It gives a brief glimpse into Shadow and Bone without giving too much away. Enjoy!

Keeper of the Lost Cities

I’ve finally done it. I have finished reading all twenty of this year’s South Carolina Book Award nominees. It took me a little longer than normal this year because, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the list of nominees. It’s going to be a struggle to sell some of these books to my students…but that is not the case with my final nominee.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, definitely the longest and most intimidating of the SCCBA nominees, is probably my favorite book on the list. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter, so my enjoyment of the book is really no surprise. This book features beings with special abilities, a fantastical world hidden from human eyes, and an orphan who’s more powerful than she realizes. Sound familiar? Those similarities to Harry Potter will make Keeper of the Lost Cities, the first book in an exciting new series, an easy sell to many of my students. Hopefully, they’ll stick around to find out how the two series are different.

Sophie Foster has always been a bit different. She’s never had many friends, she doesn’t fit with her family, and she’s always been smarter than everyone around her. When she was five, she discovered that she could hear the thoughts of others. She never told anyone about her telepathic ability, but it seems someone out there knows just how special Sophie really is.

When Sophie meets Fitz, her entire world changes. Fitz is the only other Telepath she’s ever encountered, and he reveals that Sophie isn’t exactly human. She’s an Elf, and she definitely does not belong in the human world.

In order to keep her human family safe, Sophie must leave everything behind and move to Lumenaria, a land where she’ll learn what it means to be an Elf and how to harness her special abilities. At her new school, Foxfire, Sophie struggles, but she’s slowly figuring out this strange new world, and she’s finally making a few friends.

Some Elves, however, are less than happy with Sophie’s entrance into the Elf-world. Some have doubts about her place here, there is concern about her history in the human-world, and no one seems to know how to handle just how powerful Sophie appears to be. Her mind is impenetrable for even the most skilled Telepaths, and, while most Elves display just one special ability, Sophie has several. Why is she so different? What is so special about Sophie Foster?

As Sophie tries to piece together the puzzle that is her life, she discovers that her history, abilities, and place in this new world are more uncertain than she realized. Someone in the shadows is manipulating her, leading her on a chase to uncover the truth, but what is the end game? And can she figure out what’s going on before Sophie–and her new friends–are placed in mortal danger?

Read Keeper of the Lost Cities and join Sophie as she navigates this unfamiliar, strange world and attempts to find her place in it.

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I haven’t even come close to capturing everything that transpired in Keeper of the Lost Cities (which is nearly 500 pages long). There are twists and turns galore, and I think this book will keep readers riveted the whole way through. Readers will wonder about Sophie’s past, and they’ll get a few answers, but dozens more will pop up.

This first book has a bit of resolution, but that won’t stop readers from clamoring to read the second installment. (By the way, book two, Exile, is already out. Book three, Everblaze, will be released on November 4th. There’s also a fourth book in the works, and it should come out in November of 2015.) I predict that the entire Keeper of the Lost Cities series will be a hit with many upper elementary and middle grade readers who have a fondness for fantasy.

For more information about Keeper of the Lost Cities and author Shannon Messenger, visit her blog. You can also connect with her via Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Now, I must do my best to create a book trailer that will get my students super-excited to read this book!

The Pledge

Well, Christmas is over, and it’s getting close to the time for me to return to the real world. I’m trying to read as much as possible before that happens because I know my free time will be limited soon. (I must go back to school on January 2nd. I’m nowhere near ready.)

Anyway, tonight I finished reading a book that was on my to-read list pretty much all year:  The Pledge by Kimberly Derting. Like me, you may have read Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series (The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, The Last Echo, and Dead Silence–which comes out in April). Well, this new series–which begins with The Pledge–has some things in common with The Body Finder (a strong female main character, a love interest, special abilities, and battling evil), but in other ways, it’s completely different. Where The Body Finder, at least in my mind, is a paranormal mystery series, The Pledge is more dystopian with a supernatural twist. It’s kind of cool.

In the distant future, powerful queens with magical abilities rule each nation. Some queens are merciful and loved by the people. Others rule with an iron fist and tolerate absolutely no sign of rebellion. One queen in particular insists that each class be divided by language. In the country of Ludania, Queen Sabara is a ruler to be feared. Her power is formidable…but it is fading. If she doesn’t find another to take her Essence (the life-force that has been passed from queen to queen for centuries), both she and her Essence will die. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Charlaina–Charlie to her friends and family–has always known she was different. Unlike those around her, she can understand all of the languages spoken around her. Even when she’s not supposed to. Even if she’d never heard the language spoken before. If Charlie’s secret were discovered it could mean certain death. Her parents have helped her to keep this gift hidden, but someone–someone powerful–may have inadvertently discovered Charlie’s secret.  What will he do with his suspicions? Will he turn her over to the queen, or will he pledge to be Charlie’s fiercest protector?

As revolution against the queen draws ever closer, Charlie finds herself embroiled in something that she never expected or wanted. According to those around her, she’s more important that she realizes, and it may be up to her to usurp the queen that she–and every other citizen of Ludania–has pledged their lives to obey and protect. Charlie is unsure of who she can trust, but she is sure of one thing. Her secret is about to be revealed…but even she isn’t prepared for what that might mean. Can Charlie do what must be done? Can she sacrifice all she’s ever known or believed for the possibility of a better future for Ludania? Is she strong enough to face the battle ahead? Read Kimberly Derting’s The Pledge to learn how one young girl has the power to topple a despot…if she’ll only believe in herself.

Before anyone points it out, yes, I know I haven’t told you a whole lot, and I know this isn’t the greatest recap I’ve ever written.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know what to say about this book.  It’s a dystopian novel with some supernatural stuff thrown in, but it’s also a story about love, friendship, loyalty, and rebellion. The main character–and many others in this book–are battling an evil that none of them truly understand.  I’m not even sure I understand it fully.  (I do know, however, that a queen that can essentially Force-choke those who cross her would be an enemy I wouldn’t want to have.)  I’m hoping things will be cleared up in the next book, The Essence, which is set to be released on New Year’s Day (if it’s not already out in some places).

If you’d like more information about The Pledge or other books by Kimberly Derting, I encourage you to visit the author’s website. You may also want to follow the author on Twitter @kimberlyderting.

To hear the author herself talk about the creating of The Pledge, check out this vlog from Novel Novice.