What Light

I think there’s something wrong with me. Why, you ask? Well, I read another Christmas-themed book that made me feel all mushy inside. That book is Jay Asher’s latest, What Light.

Some of you know Jay Asher from Thirteen Reasons Why (which will soon be a Netflix original series) or The Future of Us (a collaboration with Carolyn Mackler). While What Light isn’t nearly as serious as Thirteen Reasons Why or as out there as The Future of Us, it is a good story and one that many teen readers will enjoy. And even though the book is set during the Christmas season, I think it’s much more than a Christmas book. It’s about first love, friendship, forgiveness, and atonement. Those concepts make this book accessible to a wide audience, regardless of whatever winter holiday one chooses to celebrate.

Every Christmas season, Sierra’s family packs up and moves from their Christmas tree farm in Oregon to a tree lot in California. It’s the only life Sierra has ever known, and, even though she misses her friends in Oregon, she loves the time she spends in California. After all, she’s got friends and traditions there too, and she dreads the day when her parents say that they’re closing the Christmas tree lot for good. (And that day may be coming sooner than Sierra wishes.)

Sierra wants to make the most of what could be her final Christmas in California. Her plans most definitely do not include getting involved with anyone. What would be the point? She’s packing up right after the holiday and heading back home. She doesn’t want to get her heart broken or deal with a long-distance relationship, so she tries to avoid any messy entanglements. “Tries” being the operative word. This year, Caleb throws all of Sierra’s plans out the window.

Sierra does her best to resist Caleb, but he sneaks past her defenses. Even when she learns that Caleb has some serious issues in his past, she works to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s such a good guy; surely he couldn’t be guilty of the horrible things people warn her about. Right?

As it turns out, Caleb did make a big mistake years ago, and he’s been paying for it ever since. He’s basically a pariah in town, and, even though he tries to make up for what he’s done, there are many people–Caleb included–who will not forgive him.

While Sierra has some reservations about getting too close to Caleb, she sees more in him than this one mistake. Can she convince her friends, her parents, Caleb, and others in her Christmas-time home that Caleb is a great guy and worthy of forgiveness? Can she and Caleb make a relationship work when so many things are stacked against them?

Read What Light by Jay Asher to learn how two young people battle rumors, distance, and even time to find their own Christmas miracle.


If it’s not already obvious, I really like What Light. I think it’s heartwarming, sentimental, and fun. At the same time, it deals with issues like suspicion, family upheaval, balancing romantic relationships with friendships, change, grace, and redemption. Jay Asher takes all of these things, adds a bit of Christmas spirit, and gives readers a book that delights even the most hard-hearted cynic. (That would be me.)

What Light is a great pick for middle grade, teen, and even adult readers. If you’re looking for a novel to round out your Christmas display/collection, give this one a try.

For more information on What Light and other books by Jay Asher, visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, or the Thirteen Reasons Why website.

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!

These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars, the first book in the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, has been out for a few years. For whatever reason, I just managed to read it recently (even though I think I bought it soon after it came out). It took me a little while to get invested in this first book, but, once I did, it took me on quite the thrill ride. I actually finished the last two-thirds of the book today. I can’t tell you what else I accomplished today because I was so invested in this incredible piece of YA science fiction. Good times.

Wealthy socialite Lilac LaRoux and soldier Tarver Merendsen are both passengers aboard the Icarus, a luxurious spaceship making its way across the galaxy. These two young people, separated by class, are very different, but circumstances are about to force them together in a way that neither of them could possibly anticipate.

When the Icarus is thrust out of hyperspace, Lilac and Tarver end up together on an escape pod, and they crash into the planet below. They are the only survivors.

Tarver’s primary focus upon landing is survival. As a soldier, he’s been in adverse situations before, and he seems to know exactly what to do. Lilac isn’t so certain. She’s faltering, but she finds the strength she needs to keep moving, even when it’s obvious that Tarver expects her to break down.

Breaking down becomes a very real possibility as Tarver and Lilac make their way across this unfamiliar, desolate, and virtually uninhabited world. Their goal is to somehow make it to the wreckage of the Icarus…and the slim hope of rescue. But there’s something else going on here as well. Strange whispers seem to be guiding these two, leading them toward something. Are these whispers friends or foes, and what are they trying to tell Tarver and Lilac?

While Tarver and Lilac look for answers on this odd planet–and the hope of rescue grows dim–they also begin to look past their differences and form a nearly unbreakable bond. Maybe rescue isn’t what they want at all anymore. Returning to their old lives could tear them apart, and neither of them is ready for that.

Ready or not, forces are at work that have the power to destroy everything. Tarver and Lilac will face losing their minds, each other, and everything they ever believed about their place in the universe. Will they be able to face what’s coming and stay together? Or will they survive certain disaster only to be torn from each other’s arms?


Some of you are probably wondering if this book is appropriate for middle grade readers, and I’m honestly not sure. Portions of the book are rather intense, given the circumstances the characters find themselves in. There’s also the matter of Tarver and Lilac exploring their physical relationship. There’s nothing gratuitous, but it’s obvious what’s going on. Personally, I think These Broken Stars is fine for readers in eighth grade and up, but I doubt I’d put it in the hands of a sixth or seventh grader. Do with that what you will.

If you like Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series (Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and Shades of Earth), I think you’ll definitely enjoy These Broken Stars…and probably the rest of the Starbound series.

Speaking of the rest of the series, book two is This Shattered World, and it introduces a new couple. Book three, Their Fractured Light, brings together the characters from books one and two while also giving readers a new duo to root for. There’s also an ebook novella, This Night So Dark, which focuses on Tarver and Lilac and bridges the gap between books one and two. All of these stories are already out, so I don’t have to wait to dive right in. Yay!

For more information on the Starbound series, visit Amie Kaufman’s website or Meagan Spooner’s site. You can also find out how to connect with them on social media on their respective sites.

The Crown

Turn back now if you haven’t read Kiera Cass’ Selection series up to this point (The Selection, The Elite, The One, The Heir, and the Happily Ever After collection). You’ve been warned.

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading The Crown, the final installment in The Selection series by Kiera Cass. I fell in love with this series almost four years ago. I’m sad to see it end, but I have to say that the finale was satisfying. It had a variety of conflicts, but all of them were–more or less–resolved by the end of the book, and it was very apparent just how far this family had come since we first met America and Maxon in The Selection and Eadlyn in The Heir.

The Crown, of course, continues where The Heir concluded. Princess Eadlyn of Illéa is in the midst of her own Selection, but choosing her future husband is not the only thing she is dealing with.

Eadlyn’s mother, beloved Queen America, has suffered a heart attack, and her father, King Maxon, refuses to leave his wife’s side. That leaves running the country to Eadlyn, who is not exactly the people’s favorite member of the royal family.

Eadlyn must try to do what’s best for Illéa while convincing her people that she can be approachable, fair, sensitive, and empathetic…all while trying to figure out who of the remaining young men in the Selection will eventually rule beside her. No problem, right?

Almost against her will, Eadlyn has grown close to the men who are now part of the Elite. Each one of them would, in his own way, make a suitable companion for Eadlyn. But can Eadlyn truly love any of them? Perhaps, but Eadlyn wonders if it’s possible for her to have a love like that shared by her parents. If so, could that one special man be right in front of her eyes?

While she’s trying to choose a potential mate, Eadlyn also jumps into ruling Illéa as best she can. She tries to truly listen to the people and what they want, and an old friend seems to be intent on helping her do just that. Eadlyn values his insight and his connection to the people, but she’s not thrilled that he seems to be making more out of their relationship than is really there. Could this young man be making his own bid for the future queen’s heart, or is he working on an entirely different agenda?

It seems as though events are spiraling out of Eadlyn’s control. How can she be an effective leader when she feels so overwhelmed? Can she do what’s right by Illéa and her people, face the threats coming her way, and stay true to herself and her heart? Could her own happily ever after possibly be within reach? Read The Crown to find out!


I apologize if this post seems a little off. I’m on a lot of allergy meds right now. At the very least, I hope that I’ve whetted your appetite for The Crown without giving too much away.

I do think The Crown is a great conclusion to a wonderful series, and I, for one, love seeing how much Eadlyn grew as a person from the last book through this one. She really comes into her own. I also appreciate seeing how things end up for the characters encountered in the first three books in this series. A nice bit of resolution there, and there’s even a surprise revelation that I was not expecting. Good stuff.

For more information on The Crown, the entire Selection series, or author Kiera Cass, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Facebook. You may also want to take a look at the official book trailer for The Crown below. It perfectly sets the mood for this outstanding book. Enjoy!

Summer Days and Summer Nights

A couple of years ago, I read My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of twelve holiday-themed love stories by popular YA authors. It was wonderful. So, when I found out that there would be another anthology, this one devoted to summer romances, I knew I had to read it. I did just that this week.

With authors like Leigh Bardugo, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Tim Federle, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, and others featured in Summer Days and Summer Nights, I figured that I would be getting some outstanding stories in this book. To a certain extent, I was right. Most of the stories were great. Would I describe all of them as love stories? Not really. Many of them had a certain romantic element in them, but, at least in my opinion, that wasn’t always the central focus of the story, and the whole romance thing worked better in some stories than in others. In a few, it felt kind of forced to me.

That being said, there were some stories that did stand out for me. The first, In Ninety Minutes, Turn North, comes to us from the anthology’s editor, Stephanie Perkins. In this story, we are reintroduced to the characters we first saw in Perkins’ contribution to My True Love Gave to Me, North and Marigold. The two have grown apart, and this tale brings them back together atop Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. This story is charming, funny, heart-breaking, and heart-warming, all at once. I honestly think this is the strongest–and most romantic–of all the stories in this book.

I also enjoyed Libba Bray’s story, Last Stand at the Cinegore. I think that this one is more of a horror story with a bit of romance thrown in. This tale brings us some teenagers, Kevin, Dani, and Dave, working in a horror movie house, and they’re showing a movie that is allegedly cursed. Well, that whole “allegedly” thing is about to be proven to be absolutely true. As it turns out, this movie is a portal to Hell, and Kevin and Dani (with an assist from Dave) have to figure out how to stop the madness this movie is creating while dealing with their own budding romance.

Finally–and this will shock no one–I liked Cassandra Clare’s contribution, Brand New Attraction. It like Bray’s story, is a horror/love story. It focuses on Lulu, a girl trying to keep her father’s dark carnival going. Things are about to go belly up when her Uncle Walter and his stepson, Lucas, come along to–apparently–save the day. But Walter’s plans take the carnival from dark to downright evil, and it’s up to Lulu and Lucas to figure out what’s going on and save the day.

The three stories mentioned above may be my favorites, but most of the others are good in their own right. There’s a nice mix of gay and straight relationships featured, we encounter characters from many different backgrounds, several genres are represented, and nothing is especially graphic. I can honestly say I’m relatively happy with all of the stories…except one. Francesca Lia Block’s story, Sick Pleasure, is, in my opinion, pretty far from a love story. I guess it stays true to its title, though, since it left me feeling kind of sick at the end.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the stories in this anthology. Am I way off base in my feelings on Block’s story? What are your favorites and why? And what do you think makes a good love story? Let me know in the comments!

And I Darken

Yesterday, Kiersten White’s newest book, And I Darken, was released into the world. I was lucky enough to get an early copy via NetGalley, but I didn’t manage to finish the book until last night. You know how it is–vacation, work stuff, naps–all of that got in the way.

Anyhoo, I did finish this first book in a planned trilogy last night, and I can say with absolute certainty that it’s unlike anything I’ve read in recent memory. It is a batcrap-crazy ride, and I mean that in the best way possible. And I Darken defied all of my expectations, and I cannot wait to see what awaits the characters I encountered in this book.

So…what’s it all about? While some sources have And I Darken listed as fantasy, I wouldn’t be so quick to attach that label…at least to this first book. There is no fantasy involved…unless you maybe want to call alternate history a type of fantasy (which I don’t). This story takes place during the rise of the Ottoman Empire, and it is the tale of the children of Vlad Dracul (the inspiration for Dracula, of course).

Now, in this telling, Vlad is not exactly the fearsome ruler of legend. He’s still in charge of Wallachia (part of Romania), but he’s weak and under the thumb of the Sultan. He essentially offers his children, Lada and Radu, as collateral to the Sultan.

Radu is a gentle, handsome boy who goes virtually unnoticed by others…unless they’re pointing out his apparent weakness. Forgotten by his father, Radu seeks solace in Islam and finds a measure of peace in his new circumstances.

Lada is fierce and sees being a woman as a liability. She knows that she is equal–if not superior–to any man. She is at once Radu’s protector and tormentor, and, even though she hates that her father has abandoned them to the Sultan, she remains loyal to her homeland of Wallachia.

Eventually, the siblings encounter another child who would become central to their lives. This boy is Mehmed, and he is the Sultan’s heir. Radu is immediately drawn to Mehmed, and the two quickly become friends. Radu is tormented by his feelings for Mehmed and confused about what those feelings might mean.

As for Lada, she soon becomes Mehmed’s confidante. He can drop his shields around her and simply be himself. Yes, he will be Sultan soon, but with Lada, he can simply be Mehmed. Lada resists getting involved with Mehmed. After all, attachment and emotion are signs of weakness. Her primary goal is survival…by any means necessary. As time passes, though, Lada and Mehmed grow closer, and Lada realizes he is becoming an essential part of her life. She does wonder, however, if she is equally important to him.

Set against a background of political maneuvering, betrayal, fighting, and even murder, Radu and Lada must decide what each of them are willing to lose to achieve their own ends. Will Radu be able to suppress his own desires and give up his only family to remain by Mehmed’s side? Will Lada abandon her goal of returning to (and ruling) her beloved Wallachia to form some semblance of a life with Mehmed (and his harem)?

Love and loyalty will be tested in these tumultuous relationships. What–or who–will be sacrificed in the process? Read And I Darken, the first book in The Conqueror’s Saga, to find out.


Like so many before it, this post doesn’t come close to capturing just how rich, dark, and satisfying this book is. (I almost feel like I just described a piece of dark chocolate.)

And I Darken is an intense read that makes a person think about just what they’d be willing to do to serve their own ends or even the good of those around them. Would you be willing to betray the person who means the most to you? Give up your family, faith, or future? Walk away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known? Kill? Those are just some of the things facing the characters in this book, and these situations and how they play out could lead to some very profound discussions.

Other discussions might come when talking about the characters themselves, especially Radu and Lada. In Radu’s case, there’s the issue of coming to terms with his sexuality in a time and place that didn’t even address anything other than heterosexuality. (Apparently, it’s okay to have multiple wives and concubines, but being gay is taboo. Another potential topic to explore there.) How have things changed since the time of the Ottoman Empire? Have things changed at all in certain parts of the world? Is being gay still considered being something “other” even in the so-called “modern” world? So many questions to ponder.

And then there’s Lada…

Lada is a warrior. She buries her feelings deep and displays very few outward signs of weakness. She is vicious and determined to get what she wants. She does whatever she must to survive and protect those she cares for, but she knows that her ultimate goals conflict with those of Radu and Mehmed, and she has to decide what to do about that. Lada is a complicated character, one who rarely even understands herself or her motivations, but she is absolutely fascinating to read about. Lada’s character could lead to many discussions on what it means to be feminine; how women have been viewed historically and in the present, especially as it pertains to fighting, defying expectations, and dealing with patriarchal societies; and even something like negative reactions when women put their own needs and desires first.

I’m curious to see what will happen with Lada in the next two books, and if she’ll truly become the brutal inspiration for a very different legend of Dracula. Should be interesting.

Speaking of future books, I have no idea what the title of book two will be. I’m assuming it will be released about this time next year, but that’s just a guess at this point.

If you’d like to learn much, much more about And I Darken, please visit the book’s official website. I’ve only explored it a little, but it has lots of information to offer, including character descriptions, a book trailer (which I’ve also included below), an author bio, and more.

Lastly, for those wondering if And I Darken is a good pick for the middle grade crowd, I would have to say no. While this book is extremely compelling, I think many of the themes and situations are more suited to a high school crowd. As always, though, read it for yourself to determine if it’s a good fit for your students/patrons.

P.S. I Still Love You

Warning! Turn back now if you haven’t read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. P.S. I Still Love You is not a stand-alone novel. You need to read the first book to fully appreciate the second.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s turn our attention to P.S. I Still Love You by the fabulous Jenny Han. This book as been on my TBR list since I finished the first book, and I finally got the chance to read it this weekend. (Thank you, Overdrive!) Like the first book, it is a quick, light read, and it thoroughly grabs the reader’s attention, especially if you love the first book. What’s more, the main character, Lara Jean, is Asian American, representation that is sorely lacking in a lot of contemporary YA romance. And this book, like its predecessor, is definitely a romance at its core.

Lara Jean Song Covey desperately hopes she hasn’t ruined things with Peter. Sure, at first they were just pretending to be into each other, but it soon became real for both of them. But now Lara Jean doesn’t know what to do. Maybe a letter, like the one that brought them together in the first place, will help the situation. It can’t hurt, right?

As it turns out, Peter is just as eager to start a real relationship as Lara Jean is. The two reunite, but their reunion isn’t as sweet as one would hope. Someone secretly videos what should have been a private moment between Lara Jean and Peter and plasters it all over the Internet. It goes viral. It becomes a meme.

Lara Jean is mortified. Peter is vowing to stop whoever posted the video, but the damage has been done…and Lara Jean is pretty sure she knows who’s responsible. Unfortunately, Peter has blinders on when it comes to the culprit (the vile Genevieve), and this incident is driving a wedge between him and Lara Jean.

Peter and Lara Jean are drifting apart–thanks largely to the machinations of Genevieve, Peter’s ex–but there’s another guy just waiting in the wings for Lara Jean’s attention…another guy who received one of her infamous love letters way back when.

John Ambrose McClaren seems to be the perfect guy. He’s smart, tall, respectful, handsome, and he’s interested in a lot of the same things as Lara Jean. Part of her really likes him and wonders what could come of a relationship…but another part of her still has feelings for Peter. What’s a girl to do when she’s torn between two guys?

Well, as is often the case, Lara Jean follows her heart. Who will it lead her to? Find out for yourself when you read P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han!


So…I don’t know that I liked this sequel as much as the first book, but I still found it to be a very entertaining read. Also, as I think I mentioned in my post on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I related a bit to the character of Lara Jean. No, I’m not Korean, or girly, or a good cook, or at all interested in romance, but I’ve always been a “good girl.” Yes, I argue a bit with my parents, but we’ve always had a very good relationship, and, even as a teenager, I respected them and their rules. (Seriously. I broke curfew exactly one time, and I felt worse about it than they did. I doubt they even remember it.) It’s nice to see that reflected in modern YA literature. More often than not, teens are depicted as rebellious–even disdainful–of their parents (when the parents are in the picture at all), so I really appreciate it when I see something that resembles more of my own experiences.

As far as who Lara Jean should end up with in this book, I have a feeling that will be up for debate with a lot of readers. Will you be Team Peter or Team John Ambrose McClaren? (Yes, it is necessary to say his full name.) I won’t come right out and tell you who Lara Jean ends up with, but I will say that I am most definitely Team John Ambrose McClaren. In my most humble opinion, he’s a great match for Lara Jean. I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.

Even though P.S. I Still Love You is a fairly light read, it does deal with issues like cyberbullying and deciding when it’s the right time to enter into a sexual relationship. I think some middle school students may be able to handle the situations as presented in the book, but others won’t. Know your readers before recommending this book or its predecessor to middle grade audiences.

If you’d like to learn more about P.S. I Still Love You or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, take a look at the author’s website. You can also connect with Jenny Han through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.