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!

In the Shadows

After wrapping up my previous post on MILA 2.0, I decided to dive into yet another book-in-progress. I honestly didn’t expect to get so involved in the story that I would finish it in a matter of hours. That book is In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo.

Now, I’ve read other works by Kiersten White before (Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, Endlessly, Mind Games, and Perfect Lies), but this one is a little different. In the Shadows is told in both text and art. White wrote the text story, and the amazingly talented Jim Di Bartolo presented another story through his illustrations. I knew the art and text stories were connected, but it didn’t become clear until the very end just how they fit together.

Cora and Minnie live in a quaint town in Maine where their mother runs the local boarding house. One day, a mysterious young man, Arthur, comes to stay with them, and life as they know it is never the same.

Arthur is a rather taciturn boy, but he looks after Cora and Minnie and vows to protect them from the past he fears may have followed him. And he’s not the only one. Two new young men have arrived at the boarding house, and they have more in common with Arthur than any of them know.

Charles and Thomas, sent away by their wealthy father, are in Maine for a while. Charles is slowly dying, and Thomas is determined to make his brother’s days as happy as possible. Part of that happiness comes in the form of Minnie, one of the girls living at the boarding house. Charles is enamored of Minnie, and, while she enjoys his company, her attention never really leaves Arthur, the brooding young man who lurks in the shadows. Thomas, on the other hand, quickly turns his attentions to Cora, and she seems to have feelings for him as well. But is love in the cards for any of these young people, or is an unknown threat just waiting to tear them apart?

It seems that Arthur, Charles, and Thomas–or their families–are somehow connected to an ages-old society, a society that will do anything to protect its secrets. These young people are in very real danger, and they will have to use their wits and every ounce of strength they have to get out of this mess alive.

Arthur knows more about this looming threat than he’s telling, but he doesn’t want to go down the road that drove his parents mad. He may not have a choice, though. When evil threatens his friends, Arthur must make a difficult choice that could impact his life and the lives of those who care about him. What could this choice mean for Arthur and his future? Only time will tell…

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If you enjoy books like Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck or others that combine text and art to create unique and memorable stories, I think you’ll be very happy with In the Shadows. Both the art and text in this book presented interesting–and often terrifying–tales, and the closer I got to the end, the clearer the connections between the two became.

I read a digital copy of this book via NetGalley, but I think this is definitely one case when a print copy would have been preferable. At the book’s conclusion, when the connections between the two stories were revealed, I would have liked to flip through the book’s artwork to see what I may have missed. That’s not so easy to do with an ebook (especially one read with Adobe Digital Editions, a less than desirable ereading option). So, take this advice: READ A PRINT COPY OF THIS BOOK! (Sorry for screaming at you, but I had to get my point across!)

I’m still debating on whether or not to purchase this book for my elementary school library. I think a lot of my students will enjoy it, but the illustrations do contain some scary imagery that elementary students may not be able to handle or even understand. I do think In the Shadows would be a very welcome addition to middle, high school, and public libraries. It’s a quick, easy read that packs a punch.

If you’re still not convinced to read In the Shadows, take a look at the eerie trailer below. It effectively captures the mood of the artwork present in this book and makes me want to read the book all over again!

Everneath

I spent the majority of yesterday engrossed in yet another book that made my blood pressure rise.  As I got closer to the end, I had to put the book down for a while because the tension was getting to be too much for me (and I had a feeling the book’s ending would be less-than-happy).  When this happens, I know the author has done his/her job.  The book I’m talking about this time is Everneath by Brodi Ashton, the first book in a new series that is sort of a retelling/reimagining of a few myths (Isis and Osiris, Orpheus and Eurydice, Hades and Persephone) and how they might exist in the modern world.  As we all know, I love me some mythology, so it’s not really a shocker that I adored Everneath (even though I felt like I needed Prozac while I was reading).  And even though I wasn’t crazy about the ending, I look forward to some kind of satisfactory resolution during the next two books.

Nikki Beckett has spent the past century as a prisoner in the Everneath. Now, she has returned to her life, where only six months have passed. Six months for her family and friends to wonder where she is and why she left. Six months for so much to change…including the relationship with her boyfriend, Jack. Yes, Nikki has returned, but not for long. For in six short months, the Everneath will reclaim her…this time, forever.

As Nikki readjusts to her old life and prepares for her eventual return to the shady underworld of the Everneath, she must come to terms with the circumstances that led to her choice (yes, choice) to leave all the pain and betrayal behind for a “life” in the Everneath.  As her memories of the Surface return, Nikki realizes that she is largely to blame for what has happened to her.  But there is one other person who shares that blame…Cole, the enigmatic being who made the Everneath sound so appealing when Nikki was at her weakest.

Cole played on her emotions once, and he’s doing it again.  He knows that Nikki’s time on the Surface is limited, and he knows what awaits her upon her return to the Everneath.  (Hint:  It’s not good.)  But he has an alternate proposition.  Cole wants Nikki to help him overthrow the queen of the underworld and rule with him forever.  There’s something special about Nikki, and she’s the only one who can help Cole in his quest for power.  The idea has its merits, but Nikki is torn between her desire to forget all of her pain and her love for the boy whose memory kept her going during her century in the Everneath.  She just can’t let Jack go again…and it seems the feeling is mutual.

Nikki becomes determined to do everything possible to remain on the Surface with Jack and her family.  With a little help, she discovers a few things about the Everneath that might just make this mysterious underworld crumble.  But at what cost?  Nikki has already given up so much of herself to the Everneath.  What will she have to sacrifice now to bring prevent her return to this shadowy, horrifying world?  Will the Everneath prevail and take her back to its depths, or will Nikki be able to find some kind of salvation and redemption?  Uncover the mystery when you read Everneath by Brodi Ashton!

Well, it’s been almost an entire day since I finished this book, and I’m still thinking about what happened, especially how it concluded.  I fell in love with all of the major players in this story:  Nikki, Jack, and Cole (who I think is totally misunderstood–kind of like Darth Vader).  I look forward to spending more time with these characters in the next two books.  The second book, Everbound, should be released on January 22nd, 2013.  While we wait, let’s look at the beautiful cover for this highly anticipated book.  It’s made of pretty!

The third book in this trilogy is currently untitled, but I’m guessing it will be out early in 2014.  If you’d like more information on Brodi Ashton and the Everneath trilogy, visit http://www.brodiashton.blogspot.com/ or follow the author on Twitter @brodiashton.  You may also want to check out this awesome Everneath book trailer from HarperTeen.  It captures this book in a way that I can’t hope to.

Dead Beautiful

I had such high hopes for this book when I began reading it.  Dead Beautiful is about a young girl whose parents die mysteriously.  The girl is sent to a creepy boarding school on the other side of the country where she meets the most gorgeous guy in the world.  Of course, he has some pretty freaky secrets, and she has to figure them out.  Yes, I know this sounds familiar, but I was hoping for a different twist in this formulaic story.  I did get a twist, but it was not what I was expecting (or even hoping to see), and some scenes, descriptions, and characters in this book were kind of obviously ripped off from other similar works.  Now, I’m not saying this book was all bad, but it wasn’t all good either.  But what do I know.  Read Dead Beautiful and judge for yourself.

What do you do if you find your parents dead in the woods, and there’s no rational explanation for why they were there or how they died?  Well, if you’re Renee Winters, you’re sent to live with your super-rich grandfather who, in turn, sends you to a weird boarding school on the other side of the country.  In essence, Renee has lost everything–her parents, her home, her friends, her sense of familiarity with her surroundings–and she’s been plopped into a scary new environment where everything is not always as it appears.

At the prestigious Gottfried Academy, Renee is unprepared for the courses she’s now taking.  At her old school in California, she took the basics–math, English, science, history, and maybe a foreign language.  At Gottfried, however, Renee finds herself enrolled in classes like horticulture, crude sciences, elementary Latin, and others that seem to have no merit in the world outside of her new school…or so it seems.

As Renee is dealing with this new school, living with a roommate, facing life without her parents, and leaving her old life behind, she also comes face-to-face with the most beautiful boy she has ever seen.  His name is Dante Berlin.  He’s absolutely perfect.  Well, almost.  Okay, so his skin is really cold, he never sleeps or eats, he heals remarkably fast, and he’s the only student allowed to live off-campus.  (Does this guy sound familiar to anyone?  Does he perhaps remind you of a sparkly vampire maybe?  Hmmm?)  Renee isn’t really bothered by any of this, but she does wonder why Dante will never kiss her on the lips.

Renee is wondering about some other things, too.  Like, what is the strange Gottfried Curse that no one seems to want to talk about.  What happened to the two students who left school last year?  And why does Renee think their disappearances and other strange happenings at Gottfried are somehow connected to her parents’ deaths?  What would lead her to this conclusion?  And could she be right?  Figure it out for yourself when you read Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon.

I’m not a huge fan of this book for many reasons, the least of which is the lack of clear resolution at the end of the book.  I also felt that some things were basically stolen from the Twilight saga, and I really didn’t like the twist in the relationship between Renee and Dante.  Also–and I know this is giving something away, but here goes–I really hate zombies.  Any creature that even remotely resembles a zombie, really.  Totally ruined things for me.  Honestly, I doubt I would have even picked up this book if I had known what I was in for, but I did, and I’ll have to live with the nightmares.  (Did I mention that I hate zombies?)

Anyway, if you decide to give Dead Beautiful a try, please let me know what you think.  Did you catch the similarities to other books?  Were you as disappointed as I was that the author couldn’t be just a little more original?

Immortal Beloved

Well, it’s day two of the Great Southern Snowstorm of 2011.  Schools have been closed for the past two days, are closed tomorrow, and will likely be closed the rest of the week.  While I’m not really looking forward to making those days up, I am enjoying this time off.  And what am I doing with all of this free time, you ask?  Reading, of course!  (I’ve also taken several naps.)  I finished a charming little children’s book yesterday.  It was about a boy and his cow (Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace).  Today, I finished reading Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan.  This book was a great fantasy novel that put a different spin on what it means to be an immortal.  I’m really looking forward to what happens to the book’s characters in future installments.

Nastasya is over four hundred years old.  She’s seen and done things that would horrify “normal” people, but she’s grown numb to nearly everything around her…until her best friend does something that she simply cannot get past.  After watching her friend take pleasure in using magick to torture and cripple an innocent mortal, Nastasya decides to break with her so-called friends and her party-girl lifestyle.  She just wants out, but where can she go?  Who can she turn to?

Nastasya turns to a woman she met nearly eighty years ago, a kind, compassionate soul named River.  River operates a home for wayward immortals, those who want to overcome the dark magick swirling inside of them.  At first, Nastasya is resistant to everything that River and the other teachers ask of her, but she gradually becomes a part of things at River’s Edge and realizes just how bleak her life was before.  She is forced to confront the atrocities of her past, and she comes face to face with one who played a major role in her life.

Things are by no means easy for Nastasya.  She is learning what it means to fight the darkness within, she’s facing her own demons, and she’s being humbled…a lot.  On top of that, she’s got a crush on a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her, one of the other students wants Nastasya dead, and her “best friend” is doing everything he can to find her.  Why?  Why is Nastasya so special?  She’ll find out soon enough, but, for every question answered, hundreds more will come up.  Nastasya has much to learn about being immortal and weilding her power, but will she use this knowledge for good or for evil?  Join Nastasya on her journey when you read Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan.

If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably already figured out that I enjoyed this book.  I especially liked Nastasya.  Most of the time, she wasn’t an entirely pleasant character, but she had such a wonderful sarcastic voice.  (You probably can’t figure out why I liked her, can you?)  She’s just so wonderfully snarky.  I also enjoyed how her relationship with Reyn, one of the other students, played out.  That will definitely be a relationship to watch in future books.

I do have one complaint about this book–the title.  As soon as I saw the title, Immortal Beloved, I immediately thought of Beethoven, but maybe that’s just the former music major in me.  (By the way, Beethoven makes no appearance in this book.)  I also didn’t see how the title really related to Nastasya’s character, other than the fact that she was immortal.  It was the “beloved” part that muddied the waters.  I really think another title could have been chosen that really captured the true essence of the entire book and, more importantly, Nastasya’s struggles.

Anyway, I really enjoyed reading Immortal Beloved, and I hope you will, too.  The next book in this series, Darkness Falls, is due out in September of this year, and the third book, Immortal Light, will be released sometime in 2012.  For more information on Cate Tiernan and all of her books, visit http://catetiernan.org/.