Stealing Snow

Last night, I finished reading Danielle Paige’s latest novel, Stealing Snow, which is a retelling of The Snow Queen. I figured that, since I adored Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, I would be equally enamored of her new book. That wasn’t exactly how things worked out.

I did enjoy some elements of Stealing Snow, but I like the Dorothy Must Die books much more. It may have something to do with the subject matter. I’m much more familiar with the Land of Oz than I am with the story of the Snow Queen. (Most of what I know about the Snow Queen comes from Frozen, and I think we can all agree that movie doesn’t come close to the original story.) The convoluted love story also didn’t really work for me. I liked the twist at the end of the book, and I fully intend to read the rest of the series, but Stealing Snow wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.

When Snow Yardley was just a little girl, her mother sent her to live at Whittaker, a psychiatric facility for “troubled” youth. Snow doesn’t think she’s crazy, but she can’t deny that she has odd dreams and a tendency to be filled with icy anger. (It’s hard not to be angry when you’ve been locked in an asylum for most of your life.) Her only friend at Whittaker is Bale, but even that is taken from when he turns violent shortly after their first kiss.

Snow can’t explain Bale’s sudden violence–and even more sudden disappearance–but maybe there’s someone out there who can. A new orderly at Whittaker tells Snow that there’s a world that lies beyond these walls, and all she has to do to claim it is meet him at the Tree that haunts her dreams. But how can this be possible, and what does it have to do with Bale?

Snow eventually finds a way to escape Whittaker and find the Tree in question. Beyond the Tree lies the mysterious land of Algid. Snow doesn’t know quite what to make of this strange world…or her place in it. Algid is ruled by King Lazar, a brutal, powerful man…who is also Snow’s father. According to prophecy, Snow will soon overthrow her father or join him, making his hold on Algid even more absolute.

Snow isn’t convinced of all that’s being thrown at her, but she has to play along if she has any hope of finding Bale. At the very least, she needs to learn to control her newly discovered powers. As her name suggests, Snow has the power to control snow.

Snow needs to use her new power against the King’s minions, and several interested parties want to help her do just that. There’s the River Witch, who has her own reasons for wanting King Lazar out of power. There’s Kai, a boy who can be standoffish but who Snow feels connected to. And there’s Jagger, the boy who posed as an orderly at Whittaker, and his band of Robbers. Snow doesn’t know who to trust, but she’ll do whatever it takes to save Bale…even if she’s not entirely certain anymore that he’s the love of her life.

Like it or not, Snow is tied to the future of Algid, and a day is coming that will reveal to her more than she ever wanted to know. She’ll discover hard truths about Bale, her parents, herself, and what she needs to do to control her own fate.


As I said before, I wanted this book to be so much more than it was. It felt kind of disjointed at times, and the “love rectangle” really got on my nerves. Snow’s back-and-forth between Bale, Kai, and Jagger was grating and often nonsensical. I get why she was connected to Bale, but she just met Kai and Jagger. I didn’t see any reason for her to be all swoony over them. They could have been complete psychopaths for all she knew. (Of course, Bale had his share of psychotic moments, and she was nuts over him.) I just wanted to reach through the pages, shake Snow, and tell her to deal with her own issues without worrying about all these guys. I mean, seriously, she had enough problems without the male of the species making things more confusing. (And that last sentence may as well be my own personal philosophy on getting through life.)

Anyhoo, Stealing Snow, despite its flaws, was an enjoyable read. I liked the curveball at the end of the book. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.) That surprise made up for a lot and made me want to read more of this series.

Speaking of the series as a whole, there are two prequel novellas that are already available. The first, Before the Snow, tells more about the River Witch and her connection to King Lazar. The second, Queen Rising, gives a closer look at Margot, queen of the Robbers. Since I found both of those characters to be quite interesting in Stealing Snow, I’ll give those two stories a read very soon. The second full-length novel, which is currently untitled, will be out sometime in 2017.

If you’d like more information on Stealing Snow and Danielle Paige’s other books, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Goodreads.

Ruin and Rising

Before proceeding, you MUST read the first two books in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. There may be spoilers ahead.

If you’re still reading this post, you’ve probably figured out that I recently finished reading Ruin and Rising, the third book in the Grisha series. I had every intention of reading this book months ago, but other things kept getting in my way. This week, in an effort to escape reality, I decided that it was time to finish this breathtaking trilogy. That was a good call. (Given that I just wrapped up my fall book fair today, I really needed that escape.)

Ruin and Rising picks up where Siege and Storm ended. Ravka is now firmly in the Darkling’s control, and Alina Starkov is under the thumb of the Apparat, a priest who is “protecting” the Sun Summoner. Alina has been weakened by her recent showdown with the Darkling, and being sequestered in the White Cathedral, deep below ground and away from much-needed sunlight, has not helped matters. Her confidence is crumbling, and she wonders if there’s any way to defeat the Darkling and restore light to the world around her.

Hope is not lost, though. Alina and many of those loyal to her (including Mal, Alina’s fiercest protector and the boy who still has a hold on her heart) manage to escape the White Cathedral and make their way to the surface. They are now on the hunt for the firebird, believed to be the third amplifier and possibly the only thing that will allow them to finally stop the Darkling and his minions.

As Alina and company are searching for a creature that may not even exist, they are reunited with Nikolai, former privateer and current heir to the throne of Ravka. Nikolai arrives in the nick of time and spirits Alina and friends to his stronghold in the mountains. Together, they make plans for their continued quest for the firebird and the upcoming clash with the Darkling.

While in this mountain fortress, Alina also learns more about her adversary than she ever hoped to know. The Darkling’s past has defined his present and explains so much about his quest for power. Alina, in many ways, understands the Darkling and cannot deny that they have a connection, but she still seeks some way to destroy him…especially when he invades her allies’ hideaway, ravages many of her friends, and forces them to flee and regroup.

Now, Alina’s search for the firebird is more dire than ever. But it may be closer than she knows. What if the power to defeat the Darkling has been beside her all along? What will Alina do when she realizes that possessing this power could mean losing the one thing that allows her to hold onto her humanity?

No matter what, Alina and her allies will soon face off with the Darkling. Will they be overcome by his dark power, or will they find some way to unleash the light and defeat this seemingly unbeatable foe? Who will live? Who will die? Who will be left standing when all is said and done? Find out when you read Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo.


If it’s not immediately obvious, let me say that I adore this series. It ended with a bang and was quite satisfying. I have every intention of reading all of the novellas that go along with it as soon as I can. (I’m not sure if I’ll blog about them here, but I will read them.)

I also plan to read Bardugo’s duology, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, very soon. From what I understand, these two books also take place in the Grishaverse, and that’s awesome. I’m not ready to leave this world just yet.

If you or someone you know, teen or adult reader, is into fantasy, I’d definitely recommend Leigh Bardugo’s work. I know she’s got an adult series in the works, as well as Wonder Woman: Warbringer, and I’m eager to read those as well.

For more information on Ruin and Rising, the other books of the Grishaverse, and other books by Leigh Bardugo, check out her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

A Darker Shade of Magic

It’s extremely rare for me to take more than a month to read a book, but that’s what happened with A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. This book took so long partly because it’s been a crazy busy time at work. (November is looking to be no better.) When I get home, it’s all I can do to stagger to the couch and stare blankly at the TV. When I do make time to read, I want something light and fluffy, and those words definitely do not apply to this book. Also, I’ve had several other books that, for whatever reason, took precedence over A Darker Shade of Magic, so I had to put it on the back-burner.

During the past week, though, I devoted a fair amount of time to this first book in Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. While it took me a while to really get invested in this book, once I did, it was full steam ahead. I was captivated by the characters, their complicated personalities, and the worlds that both drew them together and very nearly tore them apart. As a long-time comic book reader, the concept of multiple or parallel universes isn’t exactly unfamiliar, but A Darker Shade of Magic had a different spin on the concept, and I look forward to exploring it further in the rest of the series.

Kell is one of the last of his kind. He is an Antari, a blood magician with the ability to travel between the different versions of London. Kell is from Red London, a land of prosperity and magic. He travels to Gray London, a city without magic, and White London, a brutal place ruled by the sadistic twins, Athos and Astrid. Only Black London, a city consumed and destroyed by magic, is closed to him.

Kell was raised in the palace of Red London, alongside Rhy, the heir to the throne, but he’s not exactly a member of the royal family. Kell knows he’s useful to the throne, but he also uses his power and position for his own ends. You see, he’s something of a smuggler, and he’s been known throughout Red, White, and Gray London to provide glimpses of magic for a price.

During one particularly dangerous and sobering trip to White London, Kell comes into contact with an object that should not exist. It’s a piece of Black London, and the power within this artifact is both repulsive and seductive to Kell. He knows he must be rid of this object–even as he thirsts for its power–but he’s also determined to find out who placed it in his hands…and what their endgame is.

Before Kell can get the answers he needs, however, he travels to Gray London and comes into contact with Lila Bard, a girl whose greatest aspiration is to be a pirate. Lila, brilliant pickpocket that she is, steals the piece of Black London from Kell, not knowing what she’s nabbed or the events she’s set in motion.

When Kell and Lila reunite, it becomes clear that they’ll have to work together to do what needs to be done. But what treachery lies ahead? Can they trust those around them or each other? Who is pulling strings to harness the power of Black London, and can Kell and Lila stop them in time to save their worlds…or themselves?


The worlds within A Darker Shade of Magic are rich, stark, complicated, and convoluted…much like the characters that inhabit those worlds. I’m actually glad it took me so long to read this book because I feel like I really got to know and spend time with Kell, Lila, Rhy, and the entire supporting cast–some of whom I think I’ll see again. I’m also looking forward to seeing more of each version of London in this story, perhaps even Black London as well. We shall see.

The second book in this series, A Gathering of Shadows, is already out, so I’ll hopefully make my way to that book soon. Book three, A Conjuring of Light, is expected to be released on February 21st, 2017.

For those wondering if A Darker Shade of Magic is suitable for purchase for school libraries, I would say it’s okay for high school collections. Not so much for middle schools. This series isn’t a YA series*, but I think many teen readers, particularly fans of fantasy, will enjoy it.

*According to the author, if her books are written as V.E. Schwab, they are written for an adult audience. If the first name is Victoria, it’s for middle grades or young adults.

If you’d like more information on A Darker Shade of Magic or other books by V.E. (Victoria) Schwab, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Midnight Hour

Warning: Read the entire Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls After Dark series (including the novellas) before continuing with this post. Midnight Hour (which will be released on October 25th) is the final novel in this saga, and you need to know what happens in previous books for this one to make sense.

Your extensive Shadow Falls reading list:

The novellas in Almost Midnight take place at different points in the series, so take a look at my post on that collection to see in which order you should read those stories.

Now, let’s move on to Midnight Hour

For those who are caught up with these series–or who’ve read any of the books–Miranda Kane is a familiar figure. (She got a taste of her own story in Spellbinder, a Shadow Falls novella.) This young witch counts Kylie Galen (chameleon) and Della Tsang (vampire) as her best friends, but she’s always felt that she doesn’t measure up to her super-powerful roommates. In Midnight Hour, Miranda begins to understand just how powerful she really is.

It should have been a simple visit to a fortune teller. Miranda goes along with her sister, Tabitha, to get a peek at her future, and her whole world–almost literally–explodes.

When Miranda wakes up after a strange explosion, she’s got a weird tattoo that comes and goes, and she and her sister are being investigated for drug trafficking. What have they gotten themselves into, and is there any way to clear their names and figure out what exactly is going on? With the help of their friends and the FRU (Fallen Research Unit), the hunt for answers is on, but Miranda not like where all of them lead, especially when her beloved sister goes missing.

While Miranda attempts to make sense of her new, unwanted body art, the explosion that knocked her out, her missing sister, and so much more, she’s also trying to come to terms with her own love life. She’s currently dating Shawn, a warlock and FRU agent, who is perfect for her on paper. But she’s still hung up on Perry, a shapeshifter and her ex-boyfriend…and the guy who’s already broken her heart twice. She knows Perry had his reasons, but they don’t make things any easier. And when he walks back into her life, her emotions go into yet another tailspin. She can’t deny her feelings for Perry, but what’s to stop him from walking away from her yet again?

As for Perry, he is determined to earn his place in Miranda’s life. There are just a few things he needs to take care of first. The investigation that took him away from her is heating up, and it may have connections to the explosion that landed Miranda in the hospital. It also involves the family that abandoned him long ago. Perry wants to put all of this to rest, for both himself and Miranda. But this whole situation is more convoluted than he could have guessed, and it seems Miranda is at the center of it all.

Miranda doesn’t understand why she’s in the middle of this madness, but she better figure it out quickly. What does this strange tattoo have to do with her powers? Why does she suddenly have an odd connection to the trees around her? What does this mean for her future, and can she use her new abilities to find her sister and put an end to the danger surrounding them?

Find out how Miranda takes charge of her own power when you read Midnight Hour, the final installment in the Shadow Falls world by C.C. Hunter.


I hope I’ve given you enough highlights here to whet your appetite without giving too much away. There’s a lot going on in this book, and I didn’t touch on most of it. Midnight Hour is as rich and entertaining as its predecessors, and it provides a satisfying ending to a series that I’ve loved since the first book.

If you’re interested in purchasing Midnight Hour, I’m happy to pass along an added incentive from the publisher. If you preorder Midnight Hour before October 24th (tomorrow) and send your e-receipt to St. Martin’s Press at this link, you’ll receive a free short story, Fighting Back, in your email on October 25th.

And that’s not all, folks! I’m also pleased to offer a chance at a sweepstakes giving away Midnight Hour swag. Enter here for your chance to win a signed set of the Shadow Falls books and a lot of other cool stuff.

If you’d like to know even more about the Shadow Falls books and C.C. Hunter, be sure to visit the author’s website. You may also want to check out the Midnight Hour book trailer below.

Happy reading!

The Hammer of Thor

It might be a good idea to read The Sword of Summer and Hotel Valhalla: Guide to the Norse Worlds before proceeding with this post. At the very least, it is absolutely necessary to read The Sword of Summer prior to starting The Hammer of Thor. You’ll be all kinds of lost if you don’t.

Last night, I skipped all of my shows so that I could finish reading The Hammer of Thor, book two of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan. If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably figured out that I really dig anything Riordan cares to write, and this book didn’t change that at all. If anything, I love this writer even more because of his inclusion of diverse characters in his books–this book in particular. Add in loads of action, suspense, humor, and sarcasm, and I’m completely sold. Many of my students are with me on that.

In The Hammer of Thor, Magnus Chase and friends are on the lookout for Thor’s missing hammer. But Thor hasn’t just misplaced Mjolnir this time. No, the mighty weapon is now in the hands of the giants, and Magnus and company have to get it back before one of their own, Samirah, is traded for the weapon. If they fail, giants are set to invade Midgard (Earth) and will lay waste to everything in their path. (Life can never be easy for a bunch of demigods, can it?)

As Magnus, Samirah, Blitzen, Hearth, and newcomer Alex try to find Thor’s hammer and avoid war and/or Ragnarok, they will face family difficulties, Norse zombies, a super-dangerous sword, a rigged bowling competition against giants, and–worst of all–a wedding. As if that’s not enough, in their quest to find Mjolnir, they may just play into their worst enemy’s hands.


As you’ve likely surmised, I’ve left out a crap ton of details. That is intentional. Like all of Riordan’s books, you really need to experience this one for yourself. The cover alone, though, makes it pretty obvious that a lot of the conflict in this book involves Loki. (This version is not to be confused with the Marvel “villain” played by Tom Hiddleston.) He’s a wily one, and his hand is in most of what happens in this book–including totally failing at being Parent of the Year. We’ll just have to wait and see if things work out for him in the end.

The next book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Ship of the Dead, is expected to be out on October 3rd, 2017. You can probably guess from the title that this book will involve a bit of sea travel, and, based on how The Hammer of Thor ended, may even feature an appearance from a noted Greek demigod. (Hint: His name rhymes with Smercy Thackson.)

If you can’t wait nearly a year for the next Riordan book, you’re in luck! The second book in The Trials of Apollo series, The Dark Prophecy, will be out in May. (Still a long wait, I know.) If you haven’t read book one, The Hidden Oracle, you’ve got plenty of time.

For more information on The Hammer of Thor and all of Riordan’s other fantastic books, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with him on Twitter, Tumblr, Blogspot, and Facebook.

Finally, check out the official trailer for the Magnus Chase series. It doesn’t give away much (and the narrator’s accent is a little weird to my Southern ears), but it’s worth a watch or two.

Ella Enchanted

Once again, I bring you a book that I probably wouldn’t have read if not for the faculty book club at my school. This month, we’re reprising an old theme and reading classic children’s books and/or books we’ve always meant to read but never made time for. I had loads of books to choose from, but I decided to go with Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

I don’t know if Ella Enchanted can be called a classic–even though it was a Newbery Honor Book in 1998–but I have always meant to read it. After all, I do love a good fairy tale. I know there’s a movie adaptation out there–which I’ve never seen–so I figured I’d read the book and then see how the movie compares. Well, as of yesterday, I’ve completed one half of that equation.

Ella of Frell was burdened with a curse when she was born. A well-meaning fairy named Lucinda “gifted” Ella with obedience. From then on, Ella had to obey any direct command given to her. When she tried to disobey, she would be afflicted with terrible pains, and they could only be assuaged by doing as she was commanded.

It’s difficult for Ella to be true to herself when, at any time, her own will can be subverted. She does, however, find little ways to counter some of the commands sent her way. Ella’s true wish, though, is to find a way to break this horrible curse, once and for all.

Following the death of her mother, it’s more imperative than ever for Ella to find a way to break this curse, especially when her father unexpectedly marries a wretched woman, and Ella is forced to become little more than a servant to her new stepmother and two stepsisters.

Ella’s curse even causes her to break ties with her closest friend (and possibly the love of her life), Prince Char. If any one of Char’s enemies learns that she could be commanded to do anything, that could put Char at risk. Ella simply can’t allow that to happen.

Ella despairs of ever being free of this curse, but a series of events–including a few royal balls and a bit of fairy magic–may just change things. Ella may find that the power to break her loathsome curse lies within and only needs a little push to be gone from her life forever.

What will give Ella reason enough to break her curse? Find out when you read Ella Enchanted!


Ella Enchanted is, of course, a spin on the traditional Cinderella tale. Readers who enjoy fractured fairy tales or fairy tale retellings will delight in discovering the similarities to the tale they know and the differences that make this version so distinctive. They may even be prompted to seek out even more versions of the tale. Some novelizations that could pique interest are: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George, Ash by Malinda Lo, and Cindy Ella by Robin Palmer, just to name a few.

I think Ella Enchanted is a great read for anyone in upper elementary grades on up. It’s fun, aggravating at times, and bewitching. It could lead to discussions on why being obedient could be seen as a bad thing or why the other “gifts” bestowed by Lucinda weren’t gifts at all.

All in all, I’m glad I finally read Ella Enchanted, and I will definitely recommend it to my students. Now, I have to settle in to watch the movie version and see how it compares to the book.

For more information on Ella Enchanted and other books by Gail Carson Levine, visit the author’s website.

 

The Bronze Key

A word of warning: Proceed with caution if you haven’t read both The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet, the first two books in the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This post might be a little spoilery if you’re not totally caught up.

This may not be my standard post. I’ve been awake since 3am, and I’m having a little trouble keeping my eyes open, much less stringing sentences together. I’ll do the best I can.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Bronze Key, book three in the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This book continues the story of Call, Aaron, and Tamara, three young mages trying to figure out this whole magic thing. They are students at the Magisterium, and Call and Aaron are both Makars, or mages with an affinity for chaos magic.

As The Bronze Key begins, Call, Aaron, Tamara, and their frenemy Jasper are being honored for their action against Constantine Madden, known as the Enemy of Death, and his minions. What most people don’t know is that the soul of the Enemy of Death is very much alive…and residing within Call.

Call worries that he’ll become an evil overlord one day, but that’s only part of his problem at the moment. At the party honoring Call and his friends, one of the Magisterium students is mysteriously killed and another attempt is made on Call’s life. It’s clear that someone is out to get him, but why? Does someone know his secret, or has he outlived his usefulness as a Makar?

Soon enough, Call and company are back at the Magisterium, and the mystery deepens. There is a spy in their midst, and it could be anyone. Call doesn’t know who to trust, and he even looks at his best friends with a certain degree of suspicion. He’ll have to figure out what’s going on fast before he–or someone else–meets a rather sticky end.


I’m going to stop there before I give too much away. It’s enough to tell you that some bad stuff goes down in this book, and it wallops you in the heart before all is said and done. I, for one, wish I could dive into book four, The Silver Mask, right now so that I could see where things go from here. Sadly, that is not going to happen.

Speaking of The Silver Mask, it is set to be released sometime in 2017, but I’m not sure exactly when. My guess is early fall.  The fifth and final book, The Enemy of Death, will follow in 2018.

For more information on The Iron Trial, The Copper Gauntlet, The Bronze Key and the rest of the Magisterium series, visit the official website. It’s got lots of interactive goodies that you may enjoy.

Note: The Iron Trial is a nominee for this year’s South Carolina Children’s and Junior Book Awards. In my opinion, the entire series is a good fit for fantasy lovers in upper elementary grades and up.