Girl, Stolen

Yesterday, I finished reading Girl, Stolen by April Henry. This book has been out since 2010, but I didn’t make time to read it until recently. Why, you ask? Well, there’s now a sequel, Count All Her Bones, and I couldn’t read that one until I finished the first book, so there you go.

Now, it’s time for a quick look at Girl, Stolen. This will be a short post because I feel like crap and want to go back to sleep, so let’s get started.

It was supposed to be a quick stop at the pharmacy for antibiotics. Who could have predicted that it would turn into a nightmare for Cheyenne Wilder? Lying in the backseat, blind and sick with pneumonia, Cheyenne thought her stepmom was getting into the driver’s seat, ready to take them both home. She soon realizes, however, that something is wrong. Her stepmom is not driving. Someone is stealing the car, and she’s along for the ride.

It doesn’t take long for Griffin to grasp that he’s just screwed up royally. He thought he’d stumbled upon a perfect score–and Escalade with keys in the ignition. He didn’t think to look in the backseat. Now, he’s got to figure out what to do…with both the car and the girl. His only saving grace may be that this girl is blind and can’t identify him. Maybe he can get out of this without too much trouble.

When Griffin delivers both car and girl to his father, the situation gets even more complicated. It seems that Cheyenne’s father is a big-wig at Nike, and Griffin’s dad wants to take advantage of that. He thinks this could turn into a huge payday. Griffin isn’t so sure about this plan, and he grows even more reluctant to participate when he realizes that his father (and his cronies) have no plans to keep Cheyenne alive.

Even though she’s blind, Cheyenne never stops trying to find a way out of this mess. She knows that Griffin is protecting her from the other men and what they plan to do with her, but surely he won’t think of aiding her escape. He’s the one who kidnapped her in the first place. Or would he consider helping her? Maybe he’s just as eager to end this fiasco as she is. Whatever the case, Cheyenne is determined to survive, and she’ll do whatever she must–even perhaps trust her abductor–to make it back home.


If you’ve read any of April Henry’s books, you know that she’s known for good, engrossing mysteries suitable for middle grade and young adult readers. This book is no different. It’s a quick read, perfect for reluctant readers, and it definitely keeps one’s interest from page to page.

Count All Her Bones, the sequel to Girl, Stolen, was released in May. As you may have guessed, given that there is a sequel in the first place, Cheyenne does survive in book one. From what I understand, though, her troubles are far from over. As soon as I finish a few other books, I’ll see just how much trouble she finds in book two.

For more information on Girl, Stolen and other mysteries by April Henry, check out the author’s websiteTwitter, and Facebook.

The Serpent King

Tonight, I come to you with red, puffy eyes and a slight headache from crying too much. That’s what happens when you read a book that absolutely wrecks you. Today, that book was The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being how much I cried during the movie E.T., The Serpent King probably rates a 9. I went through half a box of Kleenex, had to clean my glasses half a dozen times, and was all-out sobbing at several points. In some ways, it was cathartic, but it’s going to take me a while to get over this heart-wrenching book.

The Serpent King introduces readers to three friends, all of them outcasts in their small Tennessee town. Dill, Travis, and Lydia are in their senior year of high school, and all are facing uncertain futures. Right now, all they really have is each other and the promise of this one final year together.

Dill is the son of a snake-handling minister, Dillard Early, Sr., who was sent to prison for heinous acts–acts that he tried to blame on Dill. Even Dill’s mother, who is now working two jobs to keep the family afloat, blames her son for his father’s incarceration. And she’s not the only one. Dill is, through no fault of his own, a town pariah, and he thinks it’s his lot in life. His only escapes are music and hanging out with Lydia and Travis, his best friends. But even that will be changing soon, when Lydia goes off to college and leaves them behind. Dill doesn’t want her to go, but there’s no way he can ask her to stay.

Lydia, an up-and-coming fashion blogger, has her sights set on New York. She dreams of a career in fashion, and she’s already on her way to making it happen. On some level, she realizes that her friends, especially Dill, aren’t ready for her to leave them, but she needs to get out of this stifling town and make her mark on the world. She wishes Dill had the same ambition. She knows he has more to offer the world than he thinks. The trick is convincing him.

Travis, a big guy with a bigger imagination, finds solace in his favorite fantasy book series, Bloodfall. These books help him reach out to like-minded friends online and offer an escape from his abusive father. Thanks to Lydia and her many connections, he even gets a rare opportunity to meet his favorite author. This encounter leads him to believe that one day he could write fantastical stories that provide escape for people just like him.

Throughout this year, Dill, Lydia, and Travis maneuver through their small town as best they can. Dill and Travis begin to stand up for themselves and make plans for their futures. Lydia realizes how much she’ll miss her two best friends when she goes to college.

Just as things are starting to look up for this trio, tragedy strikes, and everything is thrown into a tailspin. What will become of these friends who mean so much to each other? Will they allow one tragic event–and their reaction to it–destroy their hope for the future? How can they hold onto hope when everything seems so bleak?

Maybe the only way to hold onto hope is to hold fast to each other.


I have to stop now before I give too much away (if I haven’t already). Let me just say that if you’re not ugly-crying at some point during this book, then you’re cold as ice. It’s a heartbreaking story of friendship, growth, grief, faith, and love, and I truly adore it…even if it did cause puffy eyes and a headache. It’s definitely one of my top books of 2016.

The Serpent King is author Jeff Zentner’s first novel, and I really hope we’ll hear more from him. He’s already being compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, and I think those are pretty apt comparisons. Keep that in mind when recommending The Serpent King and whatever books we see in the future from this wonderful author.

If you’d like to learn more about The Serpent King, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with Jeff Zentner on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Finally, check out the book trailer below for The Serpent King. It doesn’t give much of anything away, but it does capture the mood of the book. Enjoy!

Blood of My Blood

Warning: Before proceeding with this book, you MUST read I Hunt Killers and Game. Preferably during daylight hours. Or with every light in the house on. And maybe a baseball bat by your side. And a therapist on speed-dial.

Normally, I like to think a bit about a book before I post on it. That is not the case with Blood of My Blood, the third and final book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent trilogy. No, I have to get my thoughts on this book out right now…and then watch a Disney movie or look at pictures of baby pandas before I try to go to sleep.

To say that Blood of My Blood is horrifying and upsetting is a gross understatement. That being said…it was a great book and completely lived up to its predecessors. It continues the story of Jasper Dent and his search for the truth about his father, one of the world’s most prolific serial killers, Billy Dent.

When last we left Jasper (also known as Jazz), his girlfriend Connie, and his best friend Howie, each of them were facing life-threatening situations. Jazz was seriously injured and trapped in a storage unit. Howie, a hemophiliac, was bleeding out on the floor of Jasper’s grandmother’s house. And Connie had just come face-to-face with her worst nightmare–Billy Dent himself. But that’s really just the beginning of the horrors to come.

Things are looking bleak for Jasper Dent. Yes, he’s helped the NYPD track down a team of serial killers, but at what cost? An FBI agent is dead, and fingers are starting to point at Jazz. His father, the infamous Billy Dent, is on the loose, and some are beginning to wonder if father and son are working together. Jazz can’t convince the police of his innocence–even when it is revealed that his girlfriend has narrowly escaped Billy’s clutches–so he does the only thing he can think of. He goes in search of Billy himself.

Jazz tries his best to disconnect from everything he’s ever loved in his hunt for Billy, but his past keeps creeping in. He thinks of his loyal best friend, Howie, and Connie is never far from his mind. Jazz also thinks about his mom, a woman who left when he was just a child but who may now be in Billy’s grasp once again. Can he protect all of these people, do what he feels needs to be done, and still hold on to his humanity? Is that even a possibility anymore? Or is Jazz really turning into his father’s son?

As Jazz gets closer and closer to Billy, pieces of his past are becoming clearer, and neither Jazz nor those around him may be prepared for what is eventually revealed. It seems that Billy is not the worst evil to be encountered. No, a malignant force called the Crow King is bearing down on Jazz and will change everything he’s ever believed about his father and himself.

How will it all end? I’ll leave that for you to find out…

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After reading the first two books in this series (and thoroughly enjoying them), I knew I had to read Blood of My Blood. While I’m glad I finally found time to devote to this book, I have to say that I thought it was the most disturbing of the entire trilogy. At times, I really had to resist the urge to throw up. It wasn’t that the imagery was particularly graphic–although it was at times. No, what really got to me were Jazz’s traumatic memories. I won’t go into details here, but I will say that this kid never really had much of a chance. From Billy’s “teachings” to the other snippets of a horrible childhood, it’s a wonder Jazz didn’t turn into a raging psychopath.

I don’t know what more I can say about this trilogy as a whole. If you like psychological thrillers or enjoy shows like Criminal Minds, this might be the series for you. I warn some readers that the content can be upsetting. I doubt I’d recommend this book for middle grade readers or those who scare easily.

If you’d like to learn more about Blood of My Blood and the other books in this trilogy, check out author Barry Lyga’s website.

Now, I must watch a light-hearted Disney movie to get all these thoughts of murder and serial killers out of my head. (And now that I’m thinking about it, there aren’t many Disney films without crazed killers. Maybe I’ll just watch a few episodes of Friends on Netflix.)

Inked

Most of the books that I’ve read through NetGalley have been fairly good. Some have been stellar (The Kiss of Deception, We Were Liars, The Fourteenth Goldfish, Gracefully Grayson, and others). Some have been less so. (I won’t link those because…well, I don’t want to.) The book I just finished, in my most humble opinion, falls into the latter category.

Inked by Eric Smith has a really interesting premise–tattoos that determine one’s destiny–but the book itself just didn’t grab me. I found it really easy to put aside, and it took me over three weeks to finish. Now, some books take a while because I want to savor every page. This one wasn’t like that, at least for me. Maybe you’ll feel differently. (If you do, let me know in the comments. I welcome a good argument!)

Caenum’s life is on the verge of great change. His birthday is approaching, and that means that he’ll soon receive his Ink. In Caenum’s world, Ink determines destiny, and he is nervous about the magical tattoos he’ll end up with. So nervous, in fact, that he is considering leaving everything behind to avoid being Inked.

Before Caenum can go through with his plan to run away, though, something happens that will make Caenum question everything he thought he knew about himself, his family, his friends, and the world around him.

After angering the Scribe tasked with giving Caenum his Ink, events are set in motion that reveal that the entire Inking process isn’t at all what it seems. Ink is a way to keep people under the Citadel’s iron control, and there are some that want to see that control come to an end.

Caenum and some friends, after witnessing the destruction of their homes and families, go on the run from the Citadel. During their journey, it becomes clear that Caenum and his friends possess the special abilities that make them so dangerous to the Citadel and all those who fear magic. Caenum can control the earth; Dreya, Caenum’s best friend, is a healer; and Kenzi, the very Scribe that was supposed to give Caenum his Ink, has the power of lightning. What do these powers mean, and why are they so important to and feared by the Citadel?

As Caenum and company journey toward an uncertain future, they encounter both friends and foes…and it is often difficult to differentiate between the two. One thing, however, is certain. Caenum’s world is changing in ways that he never expected, and he’ll have to step up and make some hard decisions in order to make his own way in the world.

Who will try to stop Caenum’s quest for freedom? Who will work with him? Who will be sacrificed in the battle to come, and will those sacrifices work for the good of Caenum’s world…or its eventual demise?

Read Inked by Eric Smith to learn just how skin-deep one young man’s destiny really is…

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I think if Inked had been a little more fleshed out, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. It just felt too rushed for me. Yes, it was action-packed, and I think many readers will enjoy that, but I wanted to see more. More character development, more explanation of the Inking process, and more back story would have made an okay story into a spectacular one.

Given how Inked ended, I’m sure we can expect further installments from Caenum and friends. Hopefully, future books will address the issues I had with Inked. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Timepiece

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t already read Hourglass by Myra McEntire, stop right here. This post is all about the second book in the series, Timepiece, and I will definitely spoil the first book for you if you keep reading. You’ve been warned!

Sometimes, second books in series leave much to be desired. They often seem like filler until we make it to the big finale. I’m happy to say that I didn’t feel that way with Timepiece, the second book in Myra McEntire’s Hourglass series. Yes, a lot happened that carried over from the first book, and that stuff will likely be resolved in book three, but Timepiece, thanks largely to an entirely new narrator, felt like a book with its own important story.

In this second installment, we see the action unfold through the eyes of Kaleb. You may recall that Kaleb is the son of Liam, the leader of the Hourglass, an organization devoted to those with special abilities related to time (and time-travel is just a small part of that). When we left Kaleb in Hourglass, we saw a young man who was dealing with a great deal of turmoil–the return of his father, his mother’s precarious mental state, his growing feelings for his best friend’s girl, and his own devastating personal demons. In Timepiece, Kaleb is facing all of those issues and many more…

Kaleb Ballard may seem sure of himself on the outside–kind of cocky, tattoos and piercings to emphasize his tough-guy image–but he’s really a whirling mess of self-doubt. His ability to feel the emotions of others makes him seek numbness at the bottom of a bottle, but circumstances are unfolding that will require Kaleb to maintain laser-like focus.

Jack Landers, the very man who attempted to destroy Liam, Kaleb’s father, and took his mother’s memories is back once more, and now the stakes are even higher. It’s made perfectly clear that Jack, the fiend who is ripping time apart, must be stopped before he can inflict anymore pain.

Kaleb want to do his part to bring Jack to justice. Kaleb’s dad, though, wants to keep Kaleb out of this fight. Liam confides in Michael and seeks out his assistance, and that grates on Kaleb. Why can’t his dad trust him with everything that’s going on? Is he that much of a disappointment? Surely there’s something Kaleb can do to prove to his father that he can help in finding Jack and fixing whatever damage has been done to the splintering space-time continuum.

Soon enough, Kaleb finds himself embroiled in the quest to find the elusive Jack Landers. He’s not alone, though. He receives support from Michael, Emerson, and, oddly enough, from Emerson’s best friend, Lily (who has her own supernatural abilities). Not too long ago, Kaleb was plagued with feelings for Emerson, but Lily is changing everything. She doesn’t buy into his bad boy image, and that allows Kaleb to actually be real with a girl for the first time. But it’s hard to build a future with a girl when time itself is unraveling around them.

Time is ripping apart all around Kaleb and his friends. If they don’t do something fast–find some way to stop Jack in his mad dash for power–everything they know will be torn to shreds. Can they foil Jack’s plans and restore the memories he’s stolen from so many? Or will their search for truth put them in even more danger? Read Timepiece, the thrilling second book in the Hourglass series, to find out!

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I’m the first to admit that time-travel fiction messes with my head, and Timepiece is no different. It confused the crap out of me, and I have to say that it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant feeling. Anything that makes me think is good in my book. Also, I love the “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” quality of this entire series. It’s all very Doctor Who (which makes sense because the author is a fan of the show). I am a die-hard Whovian myself, so anything that reminds me of The Doctor is simply fantastic.

Even though Timepiece had a fair amount of resolution at the end, questions still abound. The final moments of the book indicate that things are going to get much more confusing before any clarity shines through. The search is now on for the mysterious Infinityglass, the one thing that could stop Jack’s machinations and finally repair time once and for all. I’m confident that the search will not be an easy one, and things will get much worse before they get better for Kaleb, Lily, Emerson, and Michael. I can hardly wait to see how everything plays out!

Luckily, I don’t have to wait long to see what happens here since Infinityglass, book three in the series, is already out. I’ve just got a few other books to finish, and then I’ll devote some time to wrapping up this intriguing series.

For more information on Timepiece, the other Hourglass novels, and Myra McEntire, check out the author’s website, Goodreads, and Twitter. Happy reading!

War & Watermelon

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. The only thing I can blame is the end-of-year craziness that comes with working in a public school library. Two weeks ago, we had PASS testing (and don’t get me started on standardized tests). Last week, my library had our third book fair of the year. (We raised around $4,000, but my clerk and I are exhausted.) While that was going on, the library remained open for the last week of checkout for the school year. Today, about 9 million books were returned…which now have to be shelved. So, when I get home in the evenings, what little time I do have that’s not devoted to housework, paying bills, or that most heinous of chores–mowing the lawn–goes to doing absolutely nothing. My desire to read has been almost nil, but I have hopes that things are turning around…

Yesterday, I read a book that a student brought to me. The book is Rich Wallace’s War & Watermelon, and one of my fourth graders brought it to my attention. She read it and came to the conclusion that it didn’t belong in an elementary library. Well, of course, I had to read it after that. This student is not one to go crazy over every little thing, so I really took her concerns seriously. (Not that I don’t take all other concerns seriously, but you know how people are. Some get their knickers in a bunch over nothing. This girl isn’t like that.) After reading the book, I have to agree with my student. War & Watermelon is not a book for an elementary school library…but it is a great addition to any middle or high school collection.

War & Watermelon takes place in the summer of 1969, and it explores what life was like for one almost thirteen-year-old boy during this time. Brody is a pretty typical kid. He likes football, he’s starting to be interested in girls, and he’s dealing with drama at home. Typical stuff, right? Well, kind of. This is also the summer of ’69. (Cue Bryan Adams music.) The Mets are winning, man just landed on the moon, the U.S. is at war in Vietnam, and Woodstock is about to hit New York. It’s a lot for a kid to take in, especially when his brother’s about to turn eighteen and become eligible for the draft. Tensions are high at home and everywhere else, and Brody often doesn’t know which way to turn. No matter what happens, though, this will be a summer that Brody will never forget.

War & Watermelon sort of fills in a gap in some historical fiction collections, but I really don’t think it’s a good fit for my school library. Elementary school kids probably wouldn’t understand some of the humor, and they probably shouldn’t understand some of the drug references. (Notice I said shouldn’t.) The main character does go to Woodstock, and many young readers (and their parents) might focus a little too much on the nudity and drug use present at the music festival instead of the message of peace it was intended to be.

I’ll be passing this book on to a local middle school, and I hope that students there will enjoy it. I just don’t think my kids are ready for this book. Do with that what you will.

I Hunt Killers

One of my favorite TV shows is Criminal Minds.  I think it’s fascinating to get a glimpse into the mind of a killer.  (Yes, that makes me a bit morbid, but society as a whole, in my opinion, has a morbid fascination with killers, especially serial killers.  Just look at the hoopla that still surrounds Jack the Ripper.)  Anyway, I finished a book a couple of days ago that offers an even more interesting perspective than we often see in our favorite crime dramas.  I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga shows readers what life might be like for the son of one of the world’s most renowned (fictional) serial killers.

 

I Hunt Killers explores what life is like for our main character, Jasper “Jazz” Dent, who grew up with a vicious sociopath who cared nothing for human life.  Now that Jasper’s dad, who goes by so many monikers, is in prison, Jasper must face his own demons…and this becomes harder than ever when a new serial killer comes to town, one that is mimicking The Artist (otherwise known as Jazz’s dad).

Jazz is convinced that the recent murders in the town of Lobo’s Nod are the work of a serial killer, but no one seems to believe him.  But will that stop him from trying to prove his point?  Not even a little bit.  Jazz is putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and he’s sure that this new killer is copying his father’s work.  But how can he convince the police of this, especially when he knows he’ll end up being their prime suspect.  After all, Jazz was raised by pure evil.  How could he help but be infected by it?

As Jazz struggles to stop a killer, he is also examining his own mind and the disturbing images and urges that seem to be such a big part of him.  Jazz’s father, the great and terrible Billy Dent, never kept secrets from his son.  Jazz knows everything about Billy’s kills.  He was there for many of them.  Billy instructed Jazz on how to track victims (or prospects), how to clean up a crime scene, and how to kill.  That knowledge doesn’t just go away, and now Jazz is faced with the possibility that he’s more like his father than he’d ever want to admit.

As the body count rises, it’s up to Jazz (and a couple of loyal friends) to stop this new killer in his tracks, save the next victim(s) on his list, and prove to everyone–including Jazz himself–that it’s possible to rise above his horrible upbringing and do something that really matters.  Something that will save lives instead of destroying them.

I Hunt Killers is not a book for the faint of heart.  This book takes an all-too-realistic look at the life and mind of a sociopath…and the horror such a person could inflict on not only his victims but even his own family.  What would something like that do to an impressionable child?  You’ll get a glimpse of that in this book. 

While I related I Hunt Killers a bit to Criminal Minds, a friend of mine thought it was more like Dexter.  In a sense, it is.  (And if you’ve never seen Dexter, you really should…if you don’t mind copious amounts of blood, that is.)  While Jazz is trying to figure out who is committing these horrible crimes, he’s also dealing with his own violent urges–and how he could use those urges and his own past to stop this killer before he goes any further.  So, I guess this book is kind of the perfect combination of Criminal Minds and Dexter…and I can hardly wait to see where this winning combo takes us in the future.

I Hunt Killers is the first book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent series.  The next book, Game, is set for an April 2013 release, and this book will further explore Jazz’s psyche and his efforts to stop history from repeating itself.

For more information on I Hunt Killers and other books by author Barry Lyga, visit http://barrylyga.com or follow the author on Twitter @barrylyga.  You may also want to check out this absolutely creeptastic book trailer from Little, Brown.  It made me want to go back and read the book all over again.