If you haven’t already read the first three books in Alyson Noël’s Riley Bloom series (Radiance, Shimmer, and Dreamland), do that before reading this post about book four, Whisper!

Earlier today, I finished reading the fourth and final (?) book in the Riley Bloom series by Alyson Noël.  I found Whisper to be a quick, fun, engaging read that I just know will be a hit with many of my older students.  (For those that don’t know, I’m an elementary school librarian, and my fourth and fifth grade girls absolutely LOVE the Riley Bloom books.)  I also think teen and adult readers will enjoy this story.  I did.

In Whisper, Riley Bloom finds herself on her most difficult assignment as a Soul Catcher.  Riley, Bodhi (her guide), and Buttercup (her dog), travel toRome where it’s up to Riley to convince a ghostly Roman gladiator to cross over into the Here & Now.  There might be a couple of problems with this, though.  The gladiator, Theocoles, also known as the Pillar of Doom, is seemingly stuck in his last moments.  Riley doesn’t know how to get through to him, especially when she realizes that Theocoles can neither see nor hear her.  Riley isn’t sure what to do, but a girl she encounters in Rome may be able to help her.

When Riley first meets Messalina, trust doesn’t come easily.  She knows that Messalina is up to something, but she needs all the help she can get to convince Theocoles to cross over.  So Riley takes Messalina’s advice and immerses herself in the gladiator world.  Riley transforms herself into the young woman she’s always wanted to be and becomes a part of this strange life in ancient Rome.  She may have even found her very first boyfriend.  Riley, or Aurelia as she’s known in this new dream world, soon begins to forget why she was sent to Rome in the first place.  What was her mission again? 

Every once in a while, Riley/Aurelia gets a feeling that she’s supposed to be doing something important, but the answer slips away from her whenever Messalina is near.  Can Riley wake up in time to complete her mission?  Or will she be forever trapped within the world that has captured so many before her?  Can both Riley and Theocoles learn to ignore the cacophony around them and listen to the whisper of truth that will lead them home?  Read Whisper by Alyson Noël to find out!

This past week, I did a few lessons on genre with my second grade students, and we talked about books that fit into more than one genre.  In my opinion, Whisper, like Shimmer, is a good example of that.  Both of these books combine fantasy with a fair amount of historical fiction.  Shimmer, of course, explored what life may have been like as a slave—and even as a slave owner—in the 1700s.  Whisper delved into life in ancient Rome, particularly gladiator culture.  The Ludus Magnus mentioned in this book is real and was considered to be a very important training ground for gladiators.  I was especially interested in Noël’s descriptions of what the spectators of these brutal displays were like.  Even Riley got swept up in the hullabaloo.  I think it showed a disturbing side of human behavior, and it’s only too easy to imagine the world of gladiators rising in popularity in our modern culture.  (Just look at what we watch on television or read Girl in the Arena if you don’t believe me!)

As far as I know, Whisper is the final book in the Riley Bloom series.  (I hope I’m wrong.)  There’s no mention on Goodreads or the author’s website of another book in the works.  If this is the last I see of Riley, I want to say that the journey has been both fun and enlightening.  I hope I get to share this series with many readers in the years to come!

If you want still more Riley Bloom goodness, check out this book trailer for Whisper (produced by Macmillan Children’s):



Caution:  Read the first two books in Alyson Noël’s Riley Bloom series, Radiance and Shimmer, before continuing!

About thirty minutes ago, I finished my final book of Spring Break 2012 (and since I have to return to work tomorrow, this post will probably be a short one—well, for me anyway).  The book I chose to wrap up my spring vacation was Dreamland, the third book in the Riley Bloom series by Alyson Noël.  Oddly enough, I began my vacation with the second book in this series, Shimmer, so there’s a nice bookend feel here.  All of the good things I’ve said about Radiance and Shimmer definitely apply to Dreamland as well, and I’m sure the same will be true of book four, Whisper.


In each of these books, we learn more about Riley Bloom, a twelve-year-old Soul Catcher who is learning the ropes in the Here and Now (the author’s version of Heaven).  It’s not always easy for Riley, especially since what she wants most in the world is to be thirteen—a feat somewhat difficult to accomplish since she died when she was twelve.  Like most twelve-year-olds, Riley is very self-centered, but she’s also lonely, afraid, and still kind of stuck in the life she left behind, particularly her relationship with her big sister, Ever.  So far, she’s avoided any real trouble with the Council (the “governors” of Here and Now), but her guide, Bodhi, is pretty sure her luck will run out eventually.

When Riley and Bodhi are ordered to go on a vacation after their last fiasco (which Riley would point out ended remarkably well), Riley doesn’t know what to do with herself.  Her work is her afterlife.  She doesn’t have any friends other than her dog, Buttercup.  Her family has moved on.  Bodhi appears to have a girlfriend.  So what is there to do?  Well, she could pay her sister a little visit.  Even though she’s warned against it, Riley decides to visit Dreamland, a place where she can enter her sister’s dreams, communicate with Ever, and finally learn what it takes to be a thirteen-year-old.

But Dreamland is not without its dangers, and Riley may not be prepared to face them.  Riley’s tendency to leap before looking might just land her in more trouble than she can handle.  Can Riley break through the nightmare she finds herself in?  Will she learn what it really takes to grow up in the Here and Now?  Or is she doomed to remain a child—with a child’s fears and immaturity—forever?  Is growing older possible for Riley, or is that yet another dream that remains out of her reach?  Read Dreamland by Alyson Noël to find out!

Dreamland is yet another book that is great for upper elementary, middle-grade, high school, and adult readers.  There’s something for everyone to enjoy (and, more importantly, there’s something everyone can learn).  I look forward to reading more of Riley Bloom’s adventures in Whisper, due to be released on April 24th.  (Just two weeks away!  Woohoo!!)

For more information on Alyson Noël and the Riley Bloom series, visit http://www.alysonnoel.com/ or follow the author on Twitter @AlysonNoel.  You can also check out this awesome book trailer for Dreamland (available on YouTube):


I began reading Radiance by Alyson Noël as a favor to my cousin.  She’s getting ready to start the fifth grade, and she started reading this book because she liked the cover.  (We have that in common.)  Anyway, having never really read much fantasy before, my cousin got a little freaked out that the main character in Radiance is a dead girl, so she stopped reading.  I let her know that I would read the book, hoping that having someone to discuss the book with would help ease her mind.  Well, I just finished Radiance, and I must say that, although I enjoyed the book, I’m not quite sure that my cousin is ready for it.  It is an excellent book, but my dear cousin—like myself—is a bit of a scaredy cat, and I think some of the imagery in Radiance might scare her.  If she decides to face her fears and read this book, however, I will be more than happy to talk with her about it.

In Radiance, we are introduced to Riley Bloom, a twelve-year-old girl who died in a car accident and is not happy about it.  (Who would be?)  She crossed the bridge into the afterlife with her parents and her dog, but she’s still focused on the life—and the older sister—she left behind.  That’s all about to change, though.  It’s time for Riley to find her purpose Here (the author’s version of Heaven).  And just what is her purpose?  Well, she’s going to be a Soul Catcher, or someone who convinces souls tied to earth to make the journey across the bridge to Here.

Riley has no idea what she’s supposed to do, but The Council, in addition to giving her a job, has also provided her with a guide.  Bodhi is forever fourteen-years-old, kind of a dork (but with definite cute potential), and surely keeping secrets from Riley.  All of that has to be put aside, however, as Bodhi takes Riley on her first assignment.  They journey to England where a being known as Radiant Boy has haunted a castle for centuries.  It is up to Riley to convince him to cross the bridge and find a new life Here.  She’s convinced it will be a breeze, but can she succeed when so many Soul Catchers before her have failed?  What will happen if she fails?  What will happen if she succeeds?  What next?  And why is Bodhi so nervous about this particular assignment?  What else is going on?

Join Riley and Bodhi as they face their fears and learn that letting go can make them truly free when you read Radiance by Alyson Noël.

Even though Radiance may be a little much for my ten-year-old cousin, I think it is great for upper elementary and middle grade readers, maybe even some reluctant readers at the high school level.  It’s a quick, easy read, and the characters are memorable and engaging.  There is some scary imagery (an evil clown with dental instruments, for example), but the lesson about overcoming fear is more powerful than those images.  I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading the second book in this series, Shimmer, soon.  (It’s in the mail right now.)

If you think you’d like Radiance or would like more information on this series and others by Alyson Noël, visit http://www.alysonnoel.com/index.php.