The Chaos of Stars

Since I first read Paranormalcy several years ago, I’ve tried to read just about everything that Kiersten White has written. So far, I’ve read the entire Paranormalcy series (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, and Endlessly), Mind Games and Perfect Lies, In the Shadows (a middle grade novel co-written with Jim Di Bartolo), and even a steampunk short story in Corsets & Clockwork. Well, as of last night, I can add The Chaos of Stars, a dramatic stand-alone novel, to the list of excellent stories by a thoroughly entertaining author.

The Chaos of Stars introduces readers to Isadora. Isadora, like many teen girls, is rebelling against her parents. Things are a little different for her, though. Of course, everything’s kind of different when your parents are Egyptian deities. That’s right. Dear old Mom and Dad are actually Isis and Osiris, and Isadora is their very human daughter.

Isadora is growing tired of existing only to worship her parents, so she takes off to live with her brother in San Diego at the first opportunity. This is her chance to be her own person and escape the pressures of her life in Egypt. Little does she know that she can run from her powerful mother, but Isis will always maintain a little bit of control. Mommy dearest has arranged for Isadora to work in a museum for the summer, managing the new Egyptian collection. (No one—other than Isadora and her brother—realizes that the priceless artifacts were donated by an actual Egyptian goddess. Who would?)

Through her work at the museum, Isadora makes some friends. One of those friends introduces her to an enigmatic young man named Ry. Isadora is oddly drawn to this boy, but she fights the attraction with every fiber of her being. She doesn’t want to get involved in something that is destined to end. (It seems that being the human daughter of eternal beings has done quite a number on Isadora’s feelings about love.) Every minute she spends with Ry, though, cracks the armor she’s built around her heart. What is it about this boy? Why is she so drawn to him? Could he be the one person to really understand her and her complicated family?

While Isadora is examining her feelings for both her family and Ry, she is also confronting a mysterious danger that has followed her from Egypt. She’s having disturbing dreams about her mother, and an oddly familiar menace is lurking in the shadows. Someone who thinks Isadora possesses the key to controlling all of the gods of Egypt. Someone who wants to put an end to the reign of Isis…forever.

Can Isadora figure out what’s going on in time to save her mother, a woman she’s resented for years? Will Isadora finally realize how much her messed up family truly means to her—and how much she means to them–before it’s too late? Unwrap* the mystery when you read The Chaos of Stars, a thrilling (and charming) book by the always delightful Kiersten White.

*Unwrap. Get it? A little mummy humor. I thought it was funny.

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If you’re looking for a YA book to give to fans of Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, I highly recommend The Chaos of Stars. It’s a quick, quirky read that will appeal to those who know a bit about Egyptian mythology. (That knowledge isn’t totally necessary going in, but it could lead readers to seek out more information!) Also, it’s a stand-alone novel, so many readers won’t feel the pressure to keep up with yet another series.

The Chaos of Stars is a great book for middle grade and teen readers (and adults, of course). Despite the main character having supernatural parents, I think the issues she faces will resonate with a variety of audiences. She’s looking to break free of expectations, she’s examining her relationship with her parents, and she’s dealing with the often scary feelings of first love. (I’m 35, and I’m still working on a couple of those things.) Kiersten White addresses all of those issues with her characteristic humor and candor, and, through Isadora, I think we can all learn a little more about ourselves and our relationships with others.

If you’d like more information on this book and others by the fabulous Kiersten White, check out her website and Twitter feed. You won’t be disappointed. The woman is hilarious!

Happy reading!

Bang

Read Crash, the first book in Lisa McMann’s Visions series, before proceeding. These are definitely not stand-alone books. The second book, Bang, will be extremely confusing if you haven’t read book one.

I’m not going to give much of a prelude to Bang, the second book in the Visions trilogy. (I just closed a book fair–which I unknowingly scheduled during the full moon–and I’m so far beyond tired that I can barely think straight.) If you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll love Bang just as much…if not more.

In Crash, we met Jules DeMarco, a sixteen-year-old plagued by disturbing visions of the future. She saw a truck crashing into a rival Italian restaurant and exploding, killing up to nine people. Thanks to lots of investigating and a bit of luck, Jules was able to prevent a horrible tragedy. One of the lives she saved was Sawyer Angotti, the son of her father’s most hated enemy.

Now, Jules and Sawyer are a couple, but this couple is facing something that most don’t. It seems that Sawyer is now having visions of the future. Jules doesn’t know how or why this mess was passed along to Sawyer, but she’s determined to help him figure things out and do whatever she can to stop another tragedy from occurring.

While Jules saw visions of a truck running into a restaurant, Sawyer sees something very different, and he’s having trouble coping with his visions and how he can possibly turn things around. He sees what appears to be a classroom, a gunman in black, and bodies piled all around. Yes, his vision seems to be pointing to an eminent school shooting, and the thought that it’s up to Sawyer to stop it is enough to send him into a panic.

Jules knows how Sawyer feels, but she’s also frustrated that she can’t see the visions herself. All she can do is guide him as best she can and trust in this boy who has come to mean so much to her.

Even though they have the odds stacked against them–visions of a disturbing future, a family feud, abusive parents, etc.–Jules and Sawyer do what they must to be together…and to stop a lunatic from taking innocent lives. Will they be able to solve this mystery before tragedy strikes again, or will they get embroiled in a situation so dangerous that they are caught in the crossfire? Read Bang by Lisa McMann to discover the truth for yourself!

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If possible, I think I enjoyed Bang even more than I did Crash. I liked seeing how the relationship between Jules and Sawyer developed. Things were quite steamy at times, but I honestly believe this was a realistic depiction of two teenagers in love, especially when the relationship is essentially forbidden by their parents. (There’s definitely a Romeo and Juliet vibe here…but, you know, without the senseless suicide.) They had to sneak around to be together, lie to the people around them, and take whatever time they could get. I think all the secrecy added yet another element of danger to their relationship–because the terrible visions weren’t enough–that made their being together even more appealing.

*Note: The “sexy times” in this book, while not terribly graphic, are frank. Jules, the book’s narrator, doesn’t hold her feelings back, and the reader sees just how Jules feels about her first foray into a romantic relationship. Some middle grade readers–I hope–are probably not ready for this, so use caution when recommending this book to tweens and younger teens.*

Another thing I appreciated about this book and its predecessor was how close Jules was with her siblings, Trey and Rowan. That closeness extended to Sawyer when he was experiencing the lowest of lows in his life. These kids had to deal with more than most their age, and they did it with maturity. Sure, they had to break some rules, lie, and sneak around, but what do you expect when their parents are unreasonable, crazy, and even downright abusive?! I’d probably do the same thing! Through everything, though, they stuck together and presented a united front. I find that admirable.

I am looking forward to Gasp, the next book in this series. Given that these strange visions are seemingly passed from person to person, I’m curious to see who will be cursed with this “ability” in the next book. I guess I’ll find out on June 3rd!

If you can’t wait until June 3rd to learn more about Bang, Crash, and more from author Lisa McMann, check out the author’s website, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Fangirl

It probably won’t surprise anyone that a book titled Fangirl really resonated with me. I am a proud member of multiple fandoms (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, Supernatural…just to name a few), and, while I don’t write fanfiction like this book’s protagonist does, I do spend a somewhat unhealthy amount of time lost in these fictional worlds and/or thinking about alternate realities for my favorite characters. I honestly don’t think any of my family or friends really understand how important my fandoms are to me. They don’t get that fictional worlds are often much easier to navigate–and manipulate–than the real world is. Rainbow Rowell gets it.

Cath and her twin sister Wren are off to college. For the first time since ever, the two girls will be separated…totally against Cath’s will. Cath thought that she and Wren would surely be roommates, but Wren had other ideas. Wren wants to live it up at college, and it seems she can’t do that with Cath along for the ride.

Cath, a devoted fan of the Simon Snow book series (which brings Harry Potter to mind), retreats into herself and the fanfiction that means so much to her. She goes to class, studies, eats protein bars in the comfort of her dorm room, stays out of her roommate’s way, and loses her self in writing Simon Snow fanfiction. Soon though, Cath’s roommate, Reagan, decides that Cath is not experiencing anything of college, and she and her friend Levi drag Cath into the “real world.”

Cath is stepping out of her comfort zone just a bit. She’s spending time writing with a cute guy at the library. She’s hanging out with Reagan and Levi more and more. She’s even eating in the cafeteria fairly regularly. Some things, though, are not so great. Cath’s twin seems to be drunk more than she’s sober, Wren is trying to reconnect with their long-lost mother (who Cath wants absolutely nothing to do with), Cath is struggling in her fiction-writing class, and she’s worried about how her father is handling things on his own. As it turns out, Cath has reason to worry…

When things really go pear-shaped, Cath takes solace in her fanfiction writing…and in the arms of Levi. Even when Levi gives Cath reason to write him off, she can’t let go of this boy who accepts her as she is and always has a smile for her (and everyone else he meets). She’s not totally comfortable with this new twist to their relationship, and she often questions what he sees in her and why he bothers with someone who has so many quirks.

As Cath’s freshman year in college progresses, she’ll learn a great deal about herself–her life as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a girlfriend, and a writer. She’ll discover a strength within herself that no one–not even Cath–ever expected. There’s more to Cath than being a fangirl, and, though Simon Snow and Cath’s fanfiction writing still mean a lot to her, she’ll discover that there’s room in her world for so much more.

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I feel like I’ve given too much away in this post, and I’m sorry for that. I hope I haven’t spoiled this book for anyone, especially since I think this book will appeal to so many who frequently visit this blog. It’s a fantastic book that many people–not just fangirls like myself–will find relatable.

Fangirl, in addition to speaking to the fangirl in me, also spoke to me because Cath reminded me a lot of myself in college. I was never the party girl, I was pretty focused on my studies, I had just a few close friends, and I spent much of my time alone. Don’t get me wrong here. I loved almost everything about college, especially my undergraduate years at Winthrop University. (Go Eagles!) Like Cath, though, new situations tend to throw me into a panic, and I’ll usually withdraw into myself rather than enter into an unfamiliar situation. (As you may have gathered, not much has changed since college.) For instance, if I didn’t have a friend to go to the college dining hall with me, I’d stay in my room and nuke some Top Ramen. (I became quite the Ramen connoisseur in college. That cafeteria was kind of intimidating.)

I cannot say enough good things about this book. Like Eleanor & Park, Fangirl really captures what it is to be a young adult. Rainbow Rowell is an author who seems to truly remember what it was like to be a young adult, and that definitely comes through in her books. Her characters are dynamic, sympathetic, and so well-developed that I feel like they’ve become my friends.  I can’t wait to read more from this fabulous author.

For those who’d like to learn more about Fangirl and author Rainbow Rowell, visit the author’s website, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Goodreads. Also, here’s a very short book trailer for Fangirl that you may enjoy!

*Note: Unlike many of the books I post on here, Fangirl is probably not suitable for a middle school audience. The book focuses on a freshman in college, and those of you who’ve been college freshmen probably know what this means:  alcohol, cursing, sex, etc. Not that I’m saying that all college freshman are drunk, promiscuous, or prone to spewing profanity. I’m just saying that, for some, college is the time when young people rebel a bit and push against boundaries. Be prepared for that when you read/recommend this book.*

With that, I bid all of you a fond farewell. I hope you all have a very happy holiday. I’ll be busy with family today and tomorrow, but I hope to return with a brand-new blog post on December 26th. We’ll see how it goes. Merry Christmas Eve!

The Night She Disappeared

Several days ago, I impulsively downloaded one of the Kindle Daily Deals on Amazon. Before that day, I honestly didn’t have this particular book on my radar. I had read a book by the author before–and enjoyed it–so I thought this one would be no different. I was right. (Happens all the time, really.)

The book was The Night She Disappeared by April Henry. As the title suggests, this book is a mystery centered around a teenage girl, Kayla, who has mysteriously disappeared. This is a super-fast read (only took me a few hours to finish) is told in different viewpoints and takes the reader through what happened from immediately before Kayla’s disappearance to the discovery of what really happened to her.

While Kayla is the central focus of the book–and there are chapters from her point of view as well as the bad guy’s–the major part of the The Night She Disappeared is told from the perspectives of two of her coworkers, Gabie and Drew. These two young people are closer to the investigation that almost anyone, and they may be the only people capable of really figuring out what happened to Kayla.

It seemed like a normal pizza delivery. A guy ordered three pizzas and gave his address. He asked if the girl in the Mini Cooper would be delivering his food. She wasn’t working that night, but Drew, who took the order at Pete’s Pizza, didn’t tell the caller that. Instead, he sent Kayla out on what should have been a normal delivery. If only. Hours later, when Kayla had not returned to work, Drew called the police to report her missing. He just knew something was wrong. How right he was…

When Gabie hears the news of Kayla’s disappearance, she’s immediately filled with guilt. She should have been the one working that night. And when Drew tells her that the caller specifically asked about the girl driving the Mini Cooper, she’s even more freaked out. The girl he asked for is Gabie herself. What if Kayla hadn’t asked her to switch workdays? Would she be the one missing…and presumed dead? Does this mystery caller still have his eyes on her?

As Gabie and Drew deal with their guilt over what has happened and a firm belief that Kayla’s alive somewhere–despite loads of evidence to the contrary–Kayla is facing a horror that she never expected. She’s quickly losing hope, and she wonders if she’ll ever see her friends and family again. Is there any way she can get out of this alive? Or is she destined to be the victim of a deranged man who is determined to eventually get his hands on his real target, Gabie?

Peppered with evidence reports, police interviews, and articles detailing the investigation into Kayla’s disappearance, readers learn what really happened to this girl and how this horrific event impacted those closest to her…and one young man who was thought to be behind it all. Will anyone find out how and why Kayla disappeared…before it’s too late? Uncover the disturbing truth when you read The Night She Disappeared by April Henry.

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If you enjoy a riveting–if at times predictable–mystery, I suggest you give The Night She Disappeared a try. It’s incredibly fast-paced and might be a good fit for reluctant readers who have an interest in crime dramas. Pair this book with Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, What Happened to Cass McBride? by Gail Giles, or any of Alane Ferguson’s forensic mysteries, and you’ve got an awesome reading list for the YA mystery lover. If The Night She Disappeared strikes your fancy, Torched, another book by April Henry, may also appeal to you.

For more information on this book and other mysteries by April Henry, visit http://www.aprilhenrymysteries.com/. You can also like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Have fun!

The Adventures of Beanboy

Ladies and gentlemen, I think I’ve finally found my reading stride this summer. After taking some time to totally veg out and mindlessly sit in front of the TV, I’m ready to dive back into reading. (I still plan to spend some quality time with the Winchester brothers, but I’m trying not to let Supernatural take over my entire life. This may be difficult, though, since I just started season four. Hello, Castiel!)

Anyway, after finishing The 5th Wave yesterday, I immediately dove into one of this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader. I had already read a couple of reviews, so I was sort of prepared for a story similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants. In a sense, that’s what I got. But The Adventures of Beanboy, in my opinion, is so much more than I thought it would be. This novel, told through drawings and first person narrative from the perspective of seventh-grader Tucker MacBean, has real heart. This is a book that I will be all-too-happy to share with my students, especially those who love comic books and are looking for a hero they can really relate to.

Tucker MacBean feels like his life is spinning out of control. He’s virtually invisible at school, he rarely sees his mom (who works during the day and attends college at night), he has to take care of his younger brother, Beech, and his dad has packed up and moved to Boston. Tucker is desperate to find a way to make things a little better for everyone…and he may have just come across something that will work. 

Tucker’s favorite comic book, H2O, is holding a contest to see who can come up with H2O’s sidekick. The prize? The new sidekick will be featured in upcoming episodes, and the prize winner will receive a full college scholarship. Pretty great, right? Well, Tucker gets the bright idea to enter the contest…and try to win the scholarship for his mom. Tucker thinks he’s come up with a great idea for a sidekick–Beanboy, a boy who harvests the majestic power of beans–but how can he prove to the contest judges that his creation has the heart of a true hero…and how can Tucker find the hero within himself?

In Tucker’s quest to come up with the perfect comic book sidekick, he’s also facing the scariest girl at Amelia Earhart Middle School, the terrifying Sam Zawicki. Sam seems to delight in being mean to everyone…except Beech, Tucker’s little brother. With him, she’s almost nice, and that small bit of niceness starts to make Tucker think that there may be more to Sam than anyone knows.

Time is running out for Tucker to enter the contest with the power to change his life. Things will get in the way–his run-ins with Sam Zawicki, finding time to work on his entry, coping with a mom who’s never around (but really wants to be) and a special needs brother (who he dearly loves and will do anything for), a school dance, mean girls, and doing the right thing–but Tucker will do everything in his power to not only enter this contest but win. Is H2O’s new sidekick (hopefully) everything he should be? More importantly, what has Tucker learned about himself as he’s struggled to create a hero? Find out when you read Lisa Harkrader’s The Adventures of Beanboy!

As a total comic book nerd, I really enjoyed Tucker MacBean’s story and his journey in creating Beanboy. I think many of my students will feel the same way. Yes, I plan to market it alongside Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, and even Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder, but I enjoyed Beanboy way more than those other books. I think the story was much better developed, Tucker had to really do some research in creating his character (which will help me in showing students how research can help them in everyday life), and this novel gives just a small glimpse into what goes into the creation of a comic book. It also shows readers just how important it is to look past someone’s appearance and attitude to see the person behind the facade. What they find could surprise them.

For more information about The Adventures of Beanboy and other books by Lisa Harkrader, visit http://www.ldharkrader.com/Home.html. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Tucker MacBean and Beanboy soon!

Splintering

I finished a book last night that was very short and extremely easy to read. (It’s a novel in verse, so I flew through it.) The subject matter, however, was kind of disturbing. The book is Splintering by Eireann Corrigan, and it explores what happens to a family after a violent attack and home invasion. (Since I was the victim of a home invasion in September, I related a bit to the characters. Thankfully, I wasn’t home when some lowlife broke into my home. I shudder at the thought.)

Splintering is told in two distinct voices:  Paulie, a fifteen year old girl who has endured way too much in her young life and is barely coping with the horror that she faced on that fateful night; and Jeremy, Paulie’s older brother, who hid in the basement while his family was being attacked by a drugged-out monster. These two teenagers reveal to readers what life was like before, during, and after the attack that would change not only their lives but also the lives of their parents and their older sister, Mimi.

Even before everything went pear-shaped, things weren’t great for Paulie and Jeremy. Paulie, in particular, dealt with being a punching bag for their mother. After the attack, Paulie suffered from horrible nightmares, and she found solace in the arms of a much older boy. Jeremy, on the other hand, retreated into himself. He grew pot in the basement, and he lived with being thought of as the coward who hid in the basement when a madman was beating on his family. Both them are dealing with strained and changing relationships with their parents and worry over how everything impacted their big sister, who is just short of catatonic.

Things are looking pretty bleak for Paulie, Jeremy, and their family, but, somehow, they hold onto a small measure of hope. Hope that things will eventually get better. Hope that they won’t have to live with this fear forever. Hope for some sense of normalcy. Will they ever recover from the attack that changed everything, or will their lives continue to splinter? Read Splintering by Eireann Corrigan to learn how a family comes back from one terrible, horrifying, life-changing event.

In my opinion, Splintering is too mature for most middle grade readers, but it might be a good fit for reluctant teen readers who want to read something that isn’t all sweetness and light. There is frank talk about violence, drug use, and sex, and, even though most adults might not want to admit it, these things are parts of some teens’ daily lives. They might be able to relate to what Paulie and Jeremy are going through (even if they haven’t experienced the exact circumstances themselves).

Awake at Dawn

Caution:  Read Born at Midnight, the first book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, before continuing.  (And if it’s been, say, a year and a half since you read book one, you might want to reread a bit to refresh your memory.  Take my word on this.)

If it’s not apparent from the above warning, I read Born at Midnight about a year and a half ago while on a trip with my dad to Indianapolis.  (We were going to see the Colts—namely Peyton Manning—play the Jacksonville Jaguars.  It should go without saying that we are now planning to see the Denver Broncos play somebody.)  Since I was reading an ARC of this first book in the Shadow Falls series, I knew I’d have a long wait before I read book two.  Well, as often happens, life—and other books—got in the way, and I didn’t make time to read book two, Awake at Dawn, until this week.  (Luckily, I don’t have to wait for book three, Taken at Dusk.  It’s already out.)  Anyway, life continued to get in the way this week.  Thanks to meetings, lawn care, and being completely exhausted from dealing with the end of the school year (we only have one week left), it took me the entire week to read Awake at Dawn.  (For those who know me, it is rare for it to take longer than a few days to finish a book.  I read Mockingjay in eleven hours.)  Part of my problem was also that I couldn’t remember what happened in the first book, so I had to spend a little time skimming through Born at Midnight.  Even then, it was hard for me to get immediately invested in what was happening in Awake at Dawn.  Eventually, the story managed to suck me in, and I couldn’t wait to turn the next page.

Kylie Galen doesn’t know what she is, but she does know that her “gifts” are not normal, even among the supernaturals at Shadow Falls Camp.  She communicates with ghosts, which freaks out the other campers—which happen to include witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and shapeshifters.  One of the ghosts that visits Kylie is telling her that someone she loves will die if she doesn’t do something, so Kylie has to figure out the ghost’s cryptic messages while dealing with the craziness that has invaded her own life.

In addition to dealing with her father (who is a ghost), her mom and step-dad splitting up, her roommates (a moody vampire and a rather absent-minded witch), a best friend who is growing more distant by the day, and her own insecurities about her supernatural abilities, Kylie also has problems with her love life.  (Doesn’t everyone?)  Derek is part Fairy and has been a calming presence in Kylie’s life while everything else seems to fall apart.  Lucas is a werewolf who skipped town with a she-wolf but still manages to invade Kylie’s dreams.  Kylie’s head is telling her that Derek is the one she should be with, but her heart is a bit more confused.  When she learns that Lucas—and the horrible you-know-what he left with—are returning to Shadow Falls, Kylie is more conflicted than ever.  She knows she must follow her heart, but she doesn’t want to hurt anyone…including herself.

While Kylie’s love life is in turmoil, her actual life may be in danger.  She senses that someone has been watching and following her, but she can’t get a real grasp on why anyone would be interested in harming her…or worse.  When she finally realizes who—or what—is on her trail, it may be too late to save herself or even the people she cares about the most.

Will Kylie be able to save herself and those closest to her?  Will she ever figure out who she is and where she really comes from?  Can Kylie choose between Derek and Lucas, two great guys who both mean so much to her?  Will her life ever be normal again?  Uncover the truth when you read Awake at Dawn, the second book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series.

Like I mentioned above, it took me a while to get into this sequel.  In fact, the action didn’t really pick up until I was about halfway through the book.  After that, things positively flew by, and it didn’t take me very long to finish the second half.  And I’m so invested in the characters now that one of my next reads will be book three, Taken at Dusk.  I’m really interested to see where these characters will be taken next…especially considering how things ended with some of them in Awake at Dawn.

For even more from the world of Shadow Falls, you can check out a special eBook short story, Turned at Dark, which tells more about Della Tsang, Kylie’s vampire roommate.  (I just got my very first Nook, so I’ll be adding this one to my library.)  In addition to the third book, Taken at Dusk, which is already out, there will be a fourth book, Whispers at Moonrise, and it’s scheduled for an October 2nd release.

If you’d like to learn more about C.C. Hunter and her Shadow Falls novels, visit http://www.cchunterbooks.com/news.html.