Until I Die

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Amy Plum’s Die for Me, the first book in her Revenants series, do that now. (If you’re a South Carolinian, you may want to read Die for Me anyway. It’s a nominee for this year’s SC Young Adult Book Award.)

So, I read Die for Me in February, shortly after it was announced as a nominee for the 13-14 SCYABA. Now, four months later, I’ve finally found time to read the second book in the series, Until I Die. (Hopefully, I’ll finish the rest of the series before next weekend.) Until I Die picks up right where Die for Me left off, and it is absolutely essential that you read the first book before continuing with the second.

Kate Mercier, an American living in Paris after the tragic deaths of her parents, is in love with the enigmatic Vincent, a Revenant. What are Revenants, you ask? Well, it’s kind of complicated. They’re sort of less creepy versions of zombies. Yes, they’re undead/immortal, but Revenants became immortal by dying to save another’s life. They keep immortality by sacrificing their “lives” to save others. Their enemies, the numa, are kind of the opposite. They became immortal by killing others, and they retain their undead status by continuing to kill or convincing others to kill themselves. (Like I said…complicated. I’ve read two of these books so far, and I’m still not sure of what it really means to be a Revenant or numa.) Kate is learning more and more about this world she’s now a part of, and what she’s learning is both fascinating and disturbing.

Kate isn’t sure she can handle Vincent constantly facing death to stay forever young, and Vincent doesn’t want to put Kate through the trauma, so he becomes determined to find a way to suppress his urge to sacrifice himself to save others. With the help of a newcomer to the Revenants’ Paris home, Vincent thinks he’s found a possible solution, but it’s painful, and Kate can’t stand seeing him so weak. What’s a girl to do? Well, she goes on the hunt for a different “cure.” Her search, however, leads to some dangerous paths and possible prophecies, and it seems that others–possibly the evil numa–are just as eager to find this information as Kate is.

Once again, Kate, Vincent, and everyone around them are in peril, and it’s not always clear where the menace is coming from. They know the numa are always a danger, but what if the danger is closer to them? What if an enemy is hiding in plain sight? Can they trust anyone? And can Kate and Vincent find out what’s really going on before death separates them forever? Discover the horrifying truth when you read Until I Die, the second book in Amy Plum’s Revenants series.

Like many second books in a series, Until I Die, in my opinion, served as a “bridge” book between the first and third books in the series. I’ll go ahead and tell you that it did not exactly have a happy ending. That’s a good thing. If it had ended nicely and neatly, I wouldn’t have been so eager to read the next book. As it stands right now, I have no clue where things will go in the final book, but my imagination is going haywire. Luckily, I don’t have to wait to find out what happens. Tonight, I’m planning on reading Die for Her, an ebook novella from Jules’ point of view (Vincent’s best friend), and sometime tomorrow I’ll begin reading book three, If I Should Die. (I’ll probably also read something a little less intense at the same time.)

If you’re a school library or in the business of recommending books to others, market this series to Twilight fans. There are some pretty obvious parallels, but I have to say that Kate, in many ways, is a much stronger character than Bella Swan. (At the very least, she didn’t want me to go on as many feminist rants.)

For more information about Amy Plum, Until I Die, or the entire Revenants series, visit the author’s website, her Twitter feed, her Goodreads page, her Facebook page, and Revenants Central on YouTube.


Dead Silence

Caution!  You’ve GOT to read the first three books in Kimberly Derting’s creeptastic Body Finder series (The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, and The Last Echo) before reading the fourth book, Dead Silence. Each book builds on the one before it, and all of them are pretty great. If you’re looking for a wonderful supernatural mystery series, you definitely want to give this one a try!

I’m not sure what’s going on, but lately I’ve been craving a good mystery. Maybe I’m just experiencing Sherlock withdrawals, but the past two books I’ve read have been mysteries, and I’m only craving more. Within the next week or so, I’m hoping to read Social Suicide, the sequel to Deadly Cool, and Game, the sequel to Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers–both mysteries. (Of course, I’m watching my share of mysteries on the telly as well:  Ripper Street, Criminal Minds, all the Law & Order reruns I can handle, etc. Good stuff.)

Anyway, my latest read, Dead Silence is the fourth book in The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting. This entire series is awesome, and this fourth book definitely went a long way in satisfying my longing for a good mystery. (I’d probably be even more satisfied if I knew there would be more books in this series!) Dead Silence is a real page-turner, and it lives up to the three books that preceded it, and I would definitely recommend the entire series to anyone who likes a bit of woo-woo, supernatural stuff with their mysteries.

Dead Silence continues to follow Violet, who can sense echoes of those who have been murdered. She can also sense the imprints of those echoes on the murderers. Her “gift” has gotten her into some dangerous situations. She’s even been a target of a serial killer herself. That experience left Violet with more than just horrible memories. She now carries an imprint herself, for she had to kill or be killed. It’s a lot for any teenager to handle, but Violet is not like most teenagers…

With the help of a therapist she can’t stand and a team of other “gifted” individuals (who she’s learning to tolerate), Violet is coming to terms with her abilities…even the imprint that disturbs her waking and sleeping hours. She still feels the pull of the echoes of the dead, but maybe–just maybe–she can control her desire to find the dead and those who killed them.

Then again…maybe not.

When Violet is led to a murdered family, it’s clear that she’s leaping before she looks yet again. Once more, she finds herself involved in an investigation that will lead her down some dangerous roads…roads that she may not be ready to travel. For this murder scene is not like most others. A strange symbol has been left in blood at the crime scene, a daughter is missing, and one of the bodies is missing an echo. Violet knows this person was murdered, but where is the echo? And if there’s no echo, is there no imprint on the killer?

Violet will find some of the answers she’s seeking in an unexpected place–her grandmother’s journals. Her grandmother shared the same gift Violet has, and she documented a lot of what she went through…including what a missing echo could mean. Grandma also wrote about a group of individuals gathered together, all of them with odd abilities. Violet will learn more about her gift, but she may also learn more than she expected about her own team…and who may have brought them together.

As Violet searches for answers about her own life and team, she’s also trying to figure out who could have possibly murdered an entire family…and possibly many others. Who is this madman, and how is he controlling those around him, convincing them to do his bidding? What hold could he have on them, and what led him to kill?

Violet will have to lie to everyone she cares about in order to solve this mystery…but is she really prepared for the consequences of so many lies? And when the truth is finally revealed, what could it mean for Violet and those closest to her? Can Violet keep her friends and family safe when chaos, pain, and death seem to follow her? Is there any way to balance her desire to use her gift for good with her need for a “normal” life? Is “normal” even possible? Unravel the mystery when you read Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting.

Once again, this post doesn’t come close to capturing how amazing I think this book is. I was captivated from start to finish, and I REALLY hope there are more books in this series. (Considering the way things ended, I’m hopeful, but I can’t find any mention on the interweb of more Body Finder books. Bummer.) As I was reading Dead Silence, I was also halfway watching a documentary about the Manson family. The similarities between that notorious group and the bad guy(s) in this book are very noticeable and thought-provoking, and it makes this book an even more engrossing read.

I don’t know if I would recommend this book to middle grade readers, simply because some of the imagery is kind of graphic. (Of course, they probably see worse when playing Call of Duty.) There’s also a couple of steamy scenes (nothing gratuitous) that younger readers may not be ready for. (Again, this is not true for all readers. Some young ones are probably have more experience with this than I’m comfortable admitting.) Like I’ve said before, know your readers and what they can handle. Recommend books accordingly.

If you’d like more information about Dead Silence, the rest of the Body Finder series, and other books by Kimberly Derting, visit http://kimberlyderting.com/index.php. You may also want to check out the Dead Silence book trailer below. It doesn’t give too much away, but it kind of makes Violet seem creepier than she is in the books. Just my opinion…

Die for Me

Amy Plum’s Die for Me had been on my to-read list for a while, but, when I heard that it had been selected as a nominee for the 2013-14 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, I moved it to the top of the list. (Even though I’m now in an elementary school, I still like to read as many of the SCYABA nominees as I possibly can.) It took me a little longer to read this book than I would have liked, but I finally finished it this morning. (By the way, it wasn’t the book’s fault that it took me a while to read. It was totally gripping…but so was all the other stuff going on in my life. I won’t bore you with the details.)

Anyhoo, Die for Me is the first book in a series about beings called Revenants. Revenants are a little like zombies, but, since they aren’t nearly as creepy or gross, I was okay with it. (My aversion to zombies is fairly well-known.) The main character in this book, sixteen-year-old Katie, is about to be introduced to Revenants and the terrifying truth of their existence. Will it be enough to keep her away from Vincent, the most fascinating guy she’s ever encountered? Let’s find out…

After a horrible accident that claims the lives of their parents, Katie and her older sister Georgia move to Paris to live with their grandparents. Georgia is jumping back into life with both feet, but Katie cannot let go of the grief that colors every part of her world. She retreats into her beloved books so that she doesn’t have to deal with her own pain, and it works…for a while. One day, though, she encounters a boy who changes everything. At first, she thinks he doesn’t notice her, but Katie soon learns that this boy, Vincent, not only notices her but he has become sort of obsessed with her. Why? There’s nothing special about her…is there?

For some reason, Katie runs into Vincent nearly everywhere she turns, and, after Katie’s life is saved by one of Vincent’s friends, Katie and Vincent are drawn even more closely together. Katie fights Vincent’s pull, but she just can’t seem to stay away from him, and it’s clear that he feels the same way. Even when Katie learns the truth about what Vincent really is, she is incapable of really letting him go. She tries. Oh, how she tries, but she just can’t give him up.

When it becomes apparent that Vincent–and his friends–aren’t exactly human, Katie resolves to know the truth about this boy she’s coming to truly care for…and Vincent tells her as much as he can. He and his companions are Revenants, people that died while trying to save another’s life. When they died the first time, they awoke three days later, seemingly human again. Revenants have a kind of immortality, and they keep their youth by saving lives. There is a trade-off, though. Each time they save a life, they experience death yet again. And even when they don’t save a life, each Revenant essentially dies for three days once a month. It’s a lot for Katie to take in, and, at least at first, Katie doesn’t think she can handle it, but she realizes fairly quickly that living without Vincent is not living at all, so the two of them do their best to really be together.

As Katie becomes more and more involved in Vincent’s world, she learns that Vincent and company are not the only undead traversing around Paris. Their enemies, the numa (evil Revenants), are also out and about, and, while Revenants are reborn when they save a life, the numa prolong their existence by taking lives. They kill, convince people to commit suicide, and wreak havoc on both Revenants and the people around them. And they’ll stop at nothing–nothing–to destroy Vincent and those trying to do a little good in the world.

Life is getting very complicated for Katie. She is sure that her feelings for Vincent are real, but dealing with his unique “life” may be more than even a strong girl like her can handle. She’s already dealt with so much death in her life. Can she really be with someone who basically dies at least once per month? And if she does decide that being with Vincent is worth it, can Katie handle being put in danger’s way herself? What does being the girlfriend of a Revenant really mean? What is Katie willing to sacrifice to be with Vincent–her sanity, her family, her own life? Read Die for Me, the first book in Amy Plum’s Revenants series, to learn what someone is willing to risk for love.

Like I mentioned before, Die for Me is a gripping read, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Until I Die, which is already out. (The third book, If I Should Die, is due out this May. There’s also an ebook novella, Die for Her, that will be released in early April.) After reading the first installment in this series, I’m definitely hooked, so I’m sure I’ll be reading all things Revenant.

I think this book is fine for readers in both middle school and high school. (I can’t say that about the second book…yet.) There is some violence appropriate to the storyline. There is also, obviously, some romance, but the characters never go “all the way” or even close to it. They take their relationship slowly (which I think more tweens and teens need to learn how to do).

I’m sure some readers will make connections with this book and others like it–the Twilight saga, in particular. In my opinion, Die for Me is much better than Twilight, but I’m all for using that hook to get readers to try something new. Do with that what you will.

For more information about Amy Plum, Die for Me, or the entire Revenants series, visit the author’s website, her Twitter feed,  her Goodreads page, her Facebook page, and Revenants Central on YouTube.


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):

The Last Echo

Warning!  If you haven’t read The Body Finder or Desires of the Dead, please do so before continuing with this post about the third book in The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting, The Last Echo.  Spoilers ahead!

I don’t know what it says about me that I’m fascinated with books about serial killers.  (Maybe it just means that I’m incredibly interesting.  Probably not, though.)  I don’t mean that I like true crime books.  I don’t.  In fact, if it actually happened, I want very little to do with it.  (Unless we’re talking about Jack the Ripper.  Fictional books based on his crimes are kind of awesome, especially Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star.)  I enjoy fiction that gives me a glimpse of what it *might* be like if a serial killer were running rampant.  I also like it when teenagers are the ones responsible for stopping the killer.  That explains why I’m such a fan of Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder series.  In each book, the main character, Violet, uses her extrasensory ability to locate the bodies of the dead and match the echo attached to the body with the imprint left on the killer.  (If you’ve read these books, this needs no explanation.  If you haven’t, read the first book, and all will become clear…sort of.)  This unique ability is both a gift and a curse.  Sometimes Violet’s ability helps the dead to find peace.  But sometimes it puts Violet in a killer’s sights…

In The Last Echo, Violet is coming to terms with people finally knowing about her ability.  She’s working with a team of kids with their own psychic connections to the dead.  When she finds the body of a young girl, she’s drawn into the case of a serial killer known only as “the collector.”  This madman kidnaps young women and keeps them as his girlfriends…until they do something that upsets him.  Violet and her team, including the enigmatic Rafe (who shares an unsettling connection with Violet), are using all of their considerable abilities to find this killer.  They might even use a few less-than-legal methods. 

When one of these adventures gets them into a bit of trouble, Violet unwittingly becomes the target of yet another psycho, a gang member who has so many imprints attached to him that Violet wonders just how many people he’s killed.  In addition to tracking “the collector,” Violet is now working to put someone else, someone who may be even more dangerous, behind bars.

Violet’s life is more complicated than ever before.  Her work with the team, while it makes her feel like less of a freak, may be putting her very life in danger.  (And even though she kind of likes working with this special team, she’s getting a little sick of all the secrets being kept from her.)  Her parents and her boyfriend Jay want her to quit, but Violet has this need to help the dead find peace.  The only way to do that is to use her special ability to find their killers and bring them to justice.  Violet may be in more danger, however, than she ever thought possible.  She’s in the sights of not one but two killers.  One wants her to die.  The other wants to make her his…forever.

How can one girl cope with being a target?  How can Violet use her ability to stop more deaths—including her own?  Solve the mystery when you read The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting.

I know this is not my best review/recap, which kind of sucks since I enjoyed this book–the whole series, really–so much.  I totally downplayed the complicated connection between Violet and Rafe and its impact on Violet’s relationship with her super-supportive boyfriend Jay.  (No, that’s not sarcasm.  Jay is almost too-good-to-be-true in his support of Violet and her decisions.)  While I think this is a very important part of the book, I honestly feel that the story—the search for “the collector” and the other psycho fixated on Violet—is more important.  The Last Echo was all about Violet and her issues with her ability, whether it helps her or puts her in the line of fire.  In the end, it was totally up to Violet to save herself.  (Also, I fully expect that the next book in this series will delve even deeper into the connection between Violet and Rafe.  At least, I hope so.)

Speaking of the next book, there’s no word yet on a title, cover, or synopsis, but it is expected to be released sometime in 2013, probably in the spring.

For more information on The Body Finder series, the author, and other books by Kimberly Derting, visit http://kimberlyderting.com/.  You can also follow the author on Twitter @kimberlyderting. 

Still not enough?  Well, check out this book trailer for The Last Echo from HarperTeen.  It’s pretty cool.  Enjoy!


Warning!  Read the first book in Alyson Noël’s Riley Bloom series, Radiance, before reading this post.  I’ll be talking a bit about the second book, Shimmer, and I don’t want to spoil things for you!

As many of you know, I am in my second year as an elementary school librarian.  While my first love is (and always will be) young adult fiction, the past two years have made me examine quite a few books for younger readers.  Last year, I read Alyson Noël’s Radiance, and I saw right away how this book could be a gateway for my students into the wonderful world of YA fiction.  A lot of my fourth and fifth grade students want to read books like Twilight, The Hunger Games, and other popular books that are being talked about in the media, but, in my professional opinion, those books are not written or intended for readers that young.  (I’m not saying this is true for all elementary students.  Some, of course, are more mature than others.  I’m just saying I will not purchase these books for my elementary school library because they are not, in my view, written with younger readers in mind.)  Radiance, and the rest of the Riley Bloom series, allowed me to provide my students with at least one series that had some YA appeal yet was still appropriate for young readers.

Radiance was so popular with my fourth and fifth grade girls that I had to purchase the next two books, Shimmer and Dreamland, or I would have had a riot on my hands.  At the urging of my students, I put Shimmer on my Spring Break reading list, and I’m happy to say that I finished it just this morning.  (I’ll be reading Dreamland later this week.)  Shimmer was just as cool as Radiance, and I can’t wait to talk to my girls about it when we return to school next week.  (I know this will also be true of Dreamland.)

After the success of her first assignment as a Soul Catcher, Riley Bloom is enjoying a bit of a vacation with her dog, Buttercup, and her guide, Bodhi.  Surely she can keep herself out of trouble on one tiny vacation, right?  Yeah…not so much.

It all starts with a scary black dog and a conversation with Bodhi on free will.  Riley decides to exercise her own free will, follow the black dog, and find out just what he’s guarding.  This decision leads Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup on a journey that will introduce them to another “ghost” (for lack of a better word) and force all of them to relive the most horrid experiences of their short times on earth.

Rebecca, in spite of her unfortunate tastes in afterlife clothing, seems to be relatively harmless when Riley first meets her, but Rebecca is holding on to a lot of anger, and she’s determined to make everyone as miserable as she is.  She keeps everyone around her—those who she blames for her death—imprisoned in the most horrible memories of their lives.  She even finds a way to make Riley, Bodhi, and even poor Buttercup experience the worst moments of their lives.  Can they escape the horror and anger that holds them captive?  Is there any way to get away and lead these tortured souls to the Here and Now?

Riley is determined to help everyone escape Rebecca, but she fears she may not be up to the task.  After all, she’s only twelve years old (and she always will be).  What could she possibly do?  She can barely let go of her own anger over the abrupt end to her life.  How can she possibly help everyone else let go of their anger and cross the bridge to the other side?  How can she convince Rebecca to let go of what happened in her life when Riley’s having such a hard time with the same thing?  Find out what “letting go” really means when you read Shimmer, the gripping second book in the Riley Bloom series, by Alyson Noël!

Although there are some scary moments in Shimmer, I would recommend this book—and Radiance, of course—to readers from fourth grade on up.  There may even be some third grade students who will be able to handle it.  I really think this book in particular will generate some discussions on the plight of slaves in the early Americas and the impact slave revolts had on slaves and their former masters.  According to the author’s note, the story was inspired by actual events, a 1773 slave revolt in the Danish West Indies (now St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands).  Realizing this made Shimmer even more poignant for me.

If you’d like more information on Alyson Noël and the Riley Bloom series, visit http://www.alysonnoel.com/.  You can also follow the author on Twitter @AlysonNoel.

If you’re still not convinced to give Shimmer a try, check out this book trailer from MacMillanChildrens on YouTube:

Imaginary Girls

It is rare that I find a book that I do not like.  Most books have at least some redeeming quality (except Great Expectations and Moby Dick…I loathed everything about those books).  Well, I may have found one more book to add to the short list of books that I don’t like…Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.  (This is another case when choosing a book based on its cover has gotten me into trouble.)  It took me a while to get into this book, and, when I finally did (mainly so I could finish it and move on to something else), I was confused as to what was really going on in the story.  I’m still not sure what was happening.  I don’t handle being confused very well, and this book nearly sent me over the edge.

Chloe has always lived in the shadow of her older sister, Ruby, but she’s okay with it.  Ruby has a way of making everything go her way, and Chloe is the only person in the world who Ruby really loves.  The two sisters are inseparable until a night when things happen that change their worlds forever.  When Chloe discovers a dead body in the local reservoir, she is sent away to live with her father.  Away from the only home she’s known, away from her school, away from Ruby.  How can she deal with being separated from the most important person in her life?

Two years pass, and Ruby has decided that it’s time for Chloe to return home to her.  And when Ruby decides something, that’s just the way it’s going to be.  So Chloe returns to her hometown, but things are not exactly as she left them.  Ruby warns Chloe to never leave the town limits, stay away from the reservoir, and avoid contact with certain people.  Chloe tries to adhere to Ruby’s rules, but things have a way of just happening when you’re a sixteen-year-old girl in a small town.  It doesn’t help that Ruby is getting more and more unstable.  What is going on with Ruby and her strange ties to the nearby reservoir?  Why does everyone in town do everything that Ruby wants?  What is so special about her, and can Chloe figure things out before she loses everything–her mind, her sister, and even her life?  Try to uncover the truth when you read Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.

If you decide to read this book, please let me know what you think of it.  Maybe you see something in this story that I missed.  I’m sure this book will appeal to some readers, but I was not one of them.

If you’d like more information about Imaginary Girls or author Nova Ren Suma, please visit http://novaren.com/.