Lord of Shadows

It’s a special day here at Knight Reader. Today, I celebrate my 827th post and my 9th year as a blogger. That’s right. Today is Knight Reader’s 9th blogoversary. That may not mean much to most people, but it’s kind of a big deal to me, especially considering that I think about hanging it up at least once a week.

Knight Reader has seen me through good times and bad: the births of my nieces, health scares, loss of friends and family, and the transition from a high school to an elementary school librarian. It’s been a constant, and, despite my sometimes conflicted feelings on keeping it going, it will likely remain a constant in my life. As long as people keep reading what I care to write, I’ll do my best to keep this blog around.


So…9 years. It seems fitting that my post today focuses on one of my absolute favorite authors/worlds. The second post I ever wrote was about how awesome Cassandra Clare was, and today’s post, my 827th, focuses on Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the second book of The Dark Artifices. As you may know, this series continues to explore the world of Shadowhunters, fierce warriors with angelic blood. There are many, many stories that precede this one, and I’ve listed those below (with available reviews) if you’d care to catch up. (Note: Feel free to completely ignore the movie and TV adaptations of these books. They are crap.)

Now, let’s move onto Lord of Shadows. If you’re not caught up, the rest of this post may be a bit spoilery, so be prepared.

Life is never exactly easy for Shadowhunters, but it appears to be especially difficult right now for those who live in the Los Angeles Institute. They thought they knew Malcolm Fade, warlock extraordinaire. They though they could trust him. They counted him as a friend. And he betrayed them. All this time, he was working against them, killing to further his own agenda. Now, Malcolm is dead, and this tight-knit group of Shadowhunters is dealing with the fallout.

Emma Carstairs is the fierce Shadowhunter who killed Malcolm Fade. She did what she had to do, and she’d do it again to protect those she loves, particularly the Blackthorn family. This family, especially her parabatai Julian, means everything to her, and she’ll do whatever is necessary to keep them safe…even if it means sacrificing her wants, her needs, her very life. At present, it means driving a wedge between herself and Julian. She knows that romantic love between parabatai is cursed, and she simply can’t put Julian, the backbone of his family, through something so horrific, no matter how much they might love each other.

As for Julian, he is tormented by his feelings for Emma, the distance she’s putting between them, as well as the all-consuming need to keep his family safe. Safe from the increasing number of sea demons around them, safe from the Centurions who’ve all but invaded the Institute, safe from the knowledge that their Uncle Arthur, the official head of the Institute, is going mad and Julian’s been running things since he was a boy of twelve. It’s a lot for Julian to take in, but he’ll do anything for his family…even something like journey into Faerieland, something expressly forbidden by the Clave (Shadowhunters’ governing body).

Mark Blackthorn, Julian’s half-faerie brother, has received news that his former lover, Kieran, is about to be killed by the Unseelie King (who also happens to be Kieran’s father). Mark is determined to rescue Kieran, but he will not make the journey alone. Julian, Emma, and Christina, a trusted friend, accompany him, and the quest is just as fraught with danger as they feared it would be. With the help of the Seelie Court, they make it out alive, but they’ve made a dangerous enemy in the Unseelie King…and a dangerous ally in the Seelie Queen.

Back home at the Los Angeles Institute, those remaining are dealing with their own fight. Certain members of the Centurion force are poised to take over the Institute in an effort to further their own hateful agenda. This band of zealots wants to exert power over all Downworlders, and they think taking down the Blackthorn family is the way to do it. While this extremist group, known as the Cohort, is plotting, the Institute residents are also dealing with the unexpected return of a figure they thought was gone…Malcolm Fade himself.

As it turns out, it’s pretty difficult to kill a warlock, and Malcolm isn’t as dead as they had hoped. He’s returned, bringing an army of demons with him, and he remains determined to complete what he was trying to do before his untimely demise. With the help of the Black Volume, he plans to raise Annabell Blackthorn from the dead, and he won’t let anything get in his way. Annabell, however, may have other ideas.

Forced to flee the LA Institute, the younger Blackthorn siblings, Kit Herondale, and their tutor portal to the London Institute. There, they eventually join up with Emma, Julian, Mark, Christina, and Kieran (along with a couple of other familiar faces). They’re dealing with enemies on many sides, but they know they must prevail. They may have to make deals that are untenable, fight those who seem to be unbeatable, and put aside their own complicated feelings. The important thing is that they stay alive, put an end to the dangerous sentiments against Downworlders, and avoid war with the Unseelie King. Unfortunately, all of those things are easier said that done.


I’m going to stop there before I give too much more away. I’ve probably spoiled a lot here, but there is so much more to this book than I could have possibly touched on in one blog post (unless I wanted to spend the rest of the day writing…which I don’t). Lord of Shadows is a 700-page whopper, and every page is packed with something important, exciting, mysterious, infuriating, revealing, and, at points, tragic. The stuff I’ve touched on above is only a fraction of the wonderfully twisted story contained within this book.

Anyone who reads Lord of Shadows (or any of the Shadowhunter books, really) will find parallels to the world we live in today. No, we’re not dealing with demons, warlocks, faeries, or anything like that–that I know of–but we are dealing with discrimination and hatred of anything seen as different or “other.” In this book, a small but vocal group of extremists want warlocks to register, werewolves to be rounded up and put in camps, vampires to have their blood supply monitored, and faeries, for the most part, to be completely wiped out. The Shadowhunters who sympathize with Downworlders are viewed as traitors. Sound familiar? Once again, fantasy shines a light on the horrific reality we’re facing today and gives a glimpse of the destruction we could see if we allow such hatred to flourish. It’s sobering, to say the least.

So…where do we go from Lord of Shadows? The third book of The Dark Artifices, The Queen of Air and Darkness, isn’t expected to be released until sometime in 2019. Given how Lord of Shadows ended, the wait for book three may very well drive me insane.

On a positive note, there is another Shadowhunter series being introduced a bit sooner. Chain of Gold, the first book of The Last Hours, should be out in 2018. This series is set in 1903, and it centers around the generation following the events of The Infernal Devices series. There’s also an adult series focusing on Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood, The Eldest Curses, on the horizon, as well as another YA series, The Wicked Powers, that will pick up at the end of The Dark Artifices. I know it’s a lot to take in, but this is nothing but good news if you’re a superfan of the Shadowhunter books.

For more information on Lord of Shadows and all things Shadowhunter, visit Cassie Clare’s website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’re not a fan already, I hope you come to love this world as much as I do!

Emmy & Oliver

Do you ever come across a book that looks like one thing but is really something more than you were expecting? Well, that’s definitely the case with Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway. That whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing is sometimes accurate, as it turns out. Take a look at the cover below:

I know there’s not a whole lot to it, but based on what I see alone, I think I’m getting a cute love story set near water. To a certain degree, that is true, but this book is so much more than a love story (not that there’s anything in the world wrong with romance). This book is about relationships–between romantic interests, friends, and families–and how they change (or stay stagnant) as circumstances change.


From the moment they were born, Emmy and Oliver were together. They shared the same birthday, they lived next door to each other, and they were the best of friends. In an instant, though, everything changed. One minute, Emmy was watching Oliver leave school for the day; the next minute, his dad had taken him and disappeared. That was ten years ago, when Emmy and Oliver were just seven years old.

Emmy is now seventeen and a senior in high school. She hasn’t seen Oliver in ten years–has no idea where he went or what happened to him–but his disappearance continues to color her world. Since that day long ago, her parents have watched her every move. Her curfew is ridiculously early, she has to hide her love of surfing, and even applying for college is a no-no. They don’t want to let Emmy out of their sight because they know that the worst can most definitely happen.

After so long, most people have moved on from Oliver’s kidnapping. There are no more search parties. Every once in a while, his story is featured on the news, but that doesn’t really have much of an impact. Oliver is still gone, and his whereabouts remain a mystery. Until now.

One day, seemingly out of the blue, Oliver comes home. He’s been gone for ten years, but some people–his mother included–seem to expect him to pick up where he left off. But things are different now. Oliver’s a different person and so are those around him. Oliver’s had ten pretty good years with his dad, and now he’s expected to view the man who raised him as a villain. He’s coming into a whole new family as well. While he was gone, his mom remarried and had twin girls. How does he fit into his own family now? And does he even want to?

As for Emmy, she wants to get to know her friend again, but she has no illusions that they can pick up where they left off. She wants to know who Oliver is now. Emmy is one of the only people who Oliver feels comfortable talking to…and vice versa. Oliver tells Emmy about his life with his dad, how he feels about being back, and his frustrations with being the center of attention. Emmy confides in Oliver about her love of surfing and her plans for the future–plans she hasn’t revealed to her parents or either of her closest friends.

Day by day, Emmy and Oliver grow closer. Their parents still have eagle eyes on them, though, and it’s putting a strain on things. Neither of them feel free to truly be themselves. For Oliver, that means adapting to his new circumstances, coming to terms with what happened, and his feelings for his father. For Emmy, that means hiding her true self and what she really wants to do with her life.

Emmy and Oliver can’t go on holding everything in, and all of their complicated feelings, fears, and frustrations will soon come out, whether they like it or not. How will this change their relationships with their friends, their parents, and each other? What could it mean for their futures? Do Emmy and Oliver even have a future when so much of their lives is governed by the past? Answer these questions and many more when you read Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway.


In case you were wondering, I really liked Emmy & Oliver. It was a quick, moving, often funny read that kept me interested. Both Emmy and Oliver are snarky and funny, even in the midst of difficult circumstances, but they are also sensitive, loving, loyal, and totally real. The same goes for their friends. I also thought the parents in this story behaved in a fairly realistic way. I imagine that something as horrific as a child being kidnapped would make some parents hold on tighter to their own children, whether those children are seven or seventeen.

If I had one complaint about this book, it would be that it’s solely from Emmy’s point of view. I would have loved to read Oliver’s side of things. Granted, we see a lot of his story in his conversations with Emmy, but I think the book would have been stronger if we’d viewed at least some of the drama through Oliver’s eyes.

Emmy & Oliver is a nominee for the 17-18 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award. Will it win? I have no idea. No matter what, though, it is a good story, and it gives the reader so much more than the cover implies.

For more information on Emmy & Oliver, visit author Robin Benway’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Two Summers

I love it when I come across a book that’s different from anything I’ve read before. That’s what I got in Two Summers by Aimee Friedman.

At first glance, this book is simple contemporary YA fiction, but it’s more than that. Without getting too technical, Two Summers explores the possibility of parallel universes and how simple decisions can take us on very different paths. Could those diverging paths lead us to the same place? I guess that depends on the situation, but I enjoyed how things played out in this book, which was essentially two stories–or two summers–in one.

This is going to be a summer to remember…in more ways than one. Summer Everett, a girl for whom very little ever changes, is planning to spend the summer in France with her father. She’s both nervous and excited about this trip. As she’s about to board her flight, Summer’s phone rings, and she has to decide whether or not to answer this call.

Summer ignores her phone.

Soon she’s soaring over the Atlantic, about to spend the summer in Provence, France. She’ll get to spend some time with her father, a painter, and explore the French countryside. What could be more idyllic? Well, for starters, her father could be at the airport to pick her up. He’s not, and Summer soon learns that he’s the one who was trying to call her earlier. He’s in Berlin, and Summer is now virtually on her own in an unfamiliar country.

Summer eventually finds her way to her father’s home, and she’s met by Vivienne, a friend of her father’s, and Eloise, a girl close to Summer’s age who seems to hate her on sight. Things aren’t off to a good start, and they don’t get much better until Summer has a chance encounter with Jacques. Maybe France won’t be so bad after all.

Summer answers her phone.

Her dad wants her to postpone her trip…as she’s about to board the plane. He’s in Berlin, so what’s really the point of going to France if he won’t be there? Summer turns around and makes her way back to boring Hudsonville, New York, for the same old summer she’s always had. That’s not exactly how things work out, though.

Summer’s best friend, Ruby, is drifting away. She’s hanging out with the popular crowd and seems to resent that Summer did not leave for France. What’s Summer to do? Well, for starters, she’s taking a photography class taught by her Aunt Lydia. In this class, she’s exploring her own artistic abilities and getting to know Wren, an eccentric girl from school, and Hugh Tyson, Summer’s long-time crush. Maybe staying home this summer won’t be so bad after all.

Two Summers collide.

In both worlds, Summer is experiencing the first stirrings of love and becoming more comfortable in her own skin. What will happen, though, when a scandalous secret throws her entire life into turmoil? The people who claim to love her the most have been keeping something huge from her, something that changes everything. How can she possibly trust anyone after all is revealed? How can she move on from something so earth-shattering?

Whether in New York or France, this summer will be one that forces Summer Everett to examine her life–her relationships with family and friends, her own abilities, and what’s holding her back from grabbing what she wants. How will these two summers take her where she needs to go? Read this imaginative novel by Aimee Friedman to find out!


I fully enjoyed the concept of Two Summers. Like I said at the beginning of this post, it’s quite unlike anything I’ve read previously, and that, in and of itself, is reason enough for my enjoyment. (A lot of the time, I feel like I’m reading the same story over and over again. I didn’t get that with this book.) Throw in a bit of quantum physics and philosophy, and I’m sold. (Shout out to my book club buddy, Corey, for giving me this book. You did well!)

Two Summers, in my opinion, is a great pick for middle and high school readers. Maybe it will encourage readers of all ages to explore the world around them (and beyond) through photography and examine how the choices they make could lead them on different paths.

To learn more about Two Summers and other books by Aimee Friedman, visit the author’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

The Sky Is Everywhere

I became a Jandy Nelson fan about two years ago when I read the unbelievably moving I’ll Give You the Sun. (Read it. Seriously. And have lots of tissues at the ready.) I was in a weird mood this week, so I looked to one of her other books, The Sky Is Everywhere, to get me through. It worked.

I guess I needed a good cry–without resorting to cheesy holiday Hallmark movies–and The Sky Is Everywhere definitely delivered. It explored concepts like loss, grief, love, family, hope, and the power of words and music in a way that really resonated with me. I hope it will do the same for you.

Lennie Walker is going through the worst time of her life. Following the death of her older sister, Bailey, Lennie is completely adrift. She doesn’t know which way to turn, and she doesn’t know how to go on without the most important person in her world. She’s lost interest in almost everything. Her only solace comes in the form of poems she leaves on the walls, on scrap pieces of paper, all over town.

While Lennie struggles to reconnect to her life, she looks for comfort in the arms of Toby, her sister’s boyfriend. He seems to be the only person who truly understands her grief, and maybe both of them are seeking a piece of Bailey in each other. Lennie knows it’s wrong to be so wrapped up in Toby, but she can’t seem to help herself. (To be fair, neither can he.)

When a new guy enters the picture, though, Lennie’s world is once again thrown into chaos. Joe Fontaine brings sunshine into Lennie’s life for the first time in a while, and he seems to bring her back into the world of words, music, and living. She begins playing her clarinet again, talking to friends and family, and contemplating a future of her own. It’s both exhilarating and, on some level, agonizing.

A big part of Lennie feels guilty for feeling any kind of happiness when her sister is gone, and an even bigger part of her is guilty over her continued connection with Toby when she’s falling for Joe. She knows she must end whatever is happening with Toby before it destroys her relationship with Joe…but that may not be up to her.

As her romantic life flounders, Lennie must also deal with secrets her sister was keeping, her feelings on her absent mother, how she relates to her family, and even how she views herself. Who is she without Bailey? Can she find the girl she is now before she loses Joe, the boy who may just be the love of her life? It’s time for Lennie to find out.


The band geek and word nerd in me really loved the character of Lennie (even though I wanted to shake her a few times). I have a feeling a lot of readers out there may feel the same way. If nothing else, maybe Lennie’s taste in music and literature could inspire readers to explore–or at least revisit–the classics.

While I think The Sky Is Everywhere is an excellent book for teens and adults–especially music and book lovers or those who’ve ever been in love or experienced loss (doesn’t narrow it down much, does it?)–I do think it’s geared toward more mature readers. This book doesn’t shy away from what may be deemed “salty language” or frank talk of sexuality. Yes, I know that’s reality for many tweens and teens. Some mature middle grade readers may be okay with this book, but others may not. As usual, know your readers and recommend books accordingly.

If you’d like to know more about The Sky Is Everywhere and other books by Jandy Nelson, I encourage you to visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

With that, I’m going to wrap things up…which is the only wrapping I’ve managed to do. It’s Christmas Eve, and I haven’t wrapped a single gift, so I guess I’ve got work to do. So long for now, and I’ll be back in a few days. Happy holidays to you all!

Wish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

 

Being Sloane Jacobs

After recent events, I decided that I needed to read something on the lighter side of things. Thanks to the list of 16-17 South Carolina Junior Book Award nominees, I was led to Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill.

I like to read as many of the SCJBA nominees as possible to see if any are okay for the upper elementary crowd. While I don’t think Being Sloane Jacobs is a good fit for elementary libraries–it’s definitely more suited to middle grade and teen readers–I do think it has tons of potential for a Disney Channel movie. (Seriously. If someone’s not on this already, they really should be.) Combine The Parent Trap with doses of The Mighty Ducks and The Cutting Edge, and you’re close to this entertaining read.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

In Washington, DC, we have Sloane Emily Jacobs, a girl who knows something about stress. After a disastrous fall years earlier, she’s making her return to competitive figure skating. But Sloane isn’t sure that she has what it takes anymore. She doesn’t know that spending time at a Montreal skating camp this summer will help with her nerves…but it could provide a much-needed break from her overbearing mother and her secretive father, a senator who will do almost anything to hold onto his position.

In Philadelphia, we have Sloane Devon Jacobs, a tough hockey player trying to get back into her groove. She’s somehow lost the ability to score, so she’s taking her frustrations out on other players. Her coach arranges her attendance in a summer hockey camp in Montreal, hoping to help Sloane with her aggression issues and prepare her to impress scouts in the coming year. Sloane doesn’t want to give up her summer, but she won’t deny she needs to escape the fact of her mom’s absence and her dad’s supposed indifference. Maybe this camp will be what she needs.

As luck would have it, these two vastly different girls with the same names meet in a Montreal hotel, and it doesn’t take long for a wild plan to emerge. No one at either camp knows much about Sloane Jacobs, so what if they just switched places? Each Sloane Jacobs would get a fresh start, a chance to be someone completely new, and they could avoid all of the expectations that have been weighing on them. Should be easy, right?

At first, things seem to be okay, but these two girls soon realize that there’s more to this switch than just changing wardrobes. Sloane Emily has to toughen up and learn the basics of hockey. She has to tap into her aggressive side, stand up to bullies, and show that she’s got what it takes to be part of a team. Sloane Devon realizes that figure skating isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s murder on every part of her body, and now she doesn’t have pads to cushion the blow every time she falls on the ice. And that’s just the skating. She also has to deal with a particularly vicious mean girl who sees her (or the other Sloane) as a threat.

And if keeping stories straight and learning new sports isn’t enough, both girls have potential romances brewing. Sloane Emily meets a hockey player–emphasis on the word player–who vows she can trust him. She wants to, even knowing that she’s hiding her true self from him. As for Sloane Devon, she runs into an old friend from home at a neighborhood pub. She knows there could be a potential relationship there, but what would he think if he knew she gave up hockey for figure skating this summer? How could he possibly understand something so out of character for her?

Both girls are learning a lot about themselves this summer, and, as it turns out, both are stronger than they ever realized. They have the drive to succeed in totally new sports, and they’re growing comfortable with their new personas. But what will happen when the truth comes to light? Will they lose all they’ve worked for this summer, or will they use their experiences to become entirely new versions of Sloane Jacobs, girls with the confidence to face anything that comes their way?


Even though both girls in this book had to deal with some big issues–chief among them an alcoholic mom and a dad caught in an affair–I found Being Sloane Jacobs to be a light, fun, and somewhat stressful read. Will the girls be caught? When? What will happen after that? Like I said…stressful. But in a good way. I was eager to turn the pages (or swipe the screen) to see what awaited each girl next and to see how each of them handled the switch. I think middle grade and teen readers will feel the same way.

The school librarian in me is usually looking for life lessons in the books I read. If I could point to just one in this book it would be empathy. On the outside, these two girls have nothing in common aside from their names. It takes actually walking–or skating–in the other person’s shoes to see that not everything is as simple as it seems. Having money doesn’t mean having a worry-free life. Living outside of the spotlight doesn’t mean everything is simple and hunky-dory. Each girl learns a great deal about the other during this whole process, and I think each of them emerges as a more compassionate person.

Like I said before, I think Being Sloane Jacobs would make an excellent Disney Channel movie, and I think you’ll agree when you give this book a read.

If you’d like more information on this book and others by Lauren Morrill, you can connect with her on Twitter or her website.

Happy reading!

A Million Ways Home

Last night, I finished one more of the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget. Those who know me can take one look at the book’s cover and figure out why I was a little hesitant to read this one.

That’s right. There’s a dog on the cover.

Well, I read the book anyway, and I have to admit that I’m glad I did. Though the dog plays a part in things, he’s not the major focus of the book. That honor goes to Poppy, a girl dealing with much more than any kid should be expected to handle.


After Poppy Parker’s grandmother suffers a stroke, the girl is sent to live in the North Shore Children’s Center. Poppy hates it here (with good reason), and she’s willing to do just about anything to reunite with her grandmother…even run away.

Poppy tries to make her way to the hospital to see Grandma Beth, but things quickly turn south. After a brief stop at a convenience store, Poppy becomes the sole witness to a horrible crime, an armed robbery and murder. The suspect knows her face and her name, so Poppy is placed under police protection, specifically in the home of Detective Trey Brannigan and his mother, Marti.

It doesn’t take long for Poppy to feel safe in this temporary home. She likes her caregivers, and she enjoys helping Marti at the animal shelter. She even manages to make a couple of friends–one human and one canine. Lizzie, the human, is a girl with troubles of her own. Gunner, the canine, is a beautiful German Shepherd who isn’t all that different from Lizzie. Both of them need someone to love them and be patient with them, and that person is Poppy.

Even with all these positives, though, Poppy longs for things to go back to the way they used to be. She wants her grandmother to get better. She wants to go back to their apartment and not have all these worries weighing on her. Surely, life can one day be normal again for Poppy and and her grandmother.

Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. There’s still the matter of a dangerous criminal on the loose and looking for Poppy. Also, Grandma Beth isn’t recovering like Poppy hoped she would. Things are looking bleak, and Poppy doesn’t know what to do.

Will Poppy ever be able to return home? Will her grandmother get better? Will the police ever catch the guy putting Poppy in danger? And what will happen with Lizzie and Gunner?

Learn how Poppy navigates through the waters of uncertainty, friendship, grief, and love to find her way home when you read A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget.


A Million Ways Home is a quick, moving, and entertaining read that is sure to appeal to upper elementary and middle grade readers. Readers will empathize with Poppy and wonder what they would do if placed in similar situations.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that it is too “busy.” There’s already a lot going on in this book–Poppy’s reluctance to go back to the children’s center, her encounter with a criminal, Grandma Beth’s illness, Gunner’s fate, Lizzie’s problems, etc. Adding revelations about Poppy’s parents, Trey’s regrets, and even Lizzie’s issues with her dad, in my opinion, muddy the waters a bit and make the narrative confusing at times. I understand why the author included these details, but I didn’t feel like they contributed a great deal to the story as a whole. Just my two cents.

My issues aside, I do think my students will enjoy A Million Ways Home, and I’m happy it’s on next year’s SCCBA list. Now, I get to figure out how to sum up this book in a minute-long book trailer to help me with promoting it! (Check my library’s YouTube channel later to see what I come up with.)

For more information on A Million Ways Home and other books by Dianna Dorisi Winget, visit the author’s website.

Happy reading!