The Wicked Will Rise

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, turn back now. This post focuses on the second full-length novel in the series, The Wicked Will Rise, and I’d hate to ruin this journey for you. That doesn’t mean I won’t, though.

If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple of weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve become a tad obsessed with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series. It all started, of course, with the first novel, but I quickly became enamored with the three prequel novellas that I read. (For reference, those are No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn, and The Wizard Returns.) In short, I love this series and the fact that it turns everything I thought I knew about Oz on its ear.

I had a feeling that I would also adore the second novel, The Wicked Will Rise, and–aside from one minor thing that may just be my issue–I was right. This book, which was released a couple of days ago, kept me entranced from the very beginning, and I was reluctant to see it end…mainly because I now have to wait a really long time to find out what happens next.

If you’re new to this series–and you ignored my warning above–I’ll try to quickly fill you in on where things stand as The Wicked Will Rise begins. Here goes…

In Dorothy Must Die, Amy Gumm was transported to Oz from Kansas in a cyclone. This, however, is not the Oz she remembers from books and movies. It’s dark, dangerous, and terrifying. Why? Well, because Dorothy returned some years ago, took over, and proceeded to become the most heinous you-know-what in the history of the world. The Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodman are working for her, and Glinda is also doing her part to drain the magic from Oz and keep Dorothy in power (supposedly). Amy, who is new to Oz and walks into all this trouble, teams up with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked (a bunch of witches who actually blur the lines between good and wicked) and trains for the most important mission in Oz. She must kill Dorothy. Well, things don’t exactly go as planned, and that’s where we pick up our story in The Wicked Will Rise. (As you can imagine, I just left out a crap-load of details. Do yourself a favor. Read the book.)

Amy Gumm has failed. She had the chance to kill the evil Dorothy, and she totally blew it. Now, she’s on the run with Ozma (the true leader of Oz) and a couple of flying monkeys. She doesn’t know where the rest of the Order is, where Dorothy ran off to, or what has become of the Emerald City.

She does, however, know that she must regroup and continue with her tasks. She’s already eliminated the threat of the Tin Woodman. Now, she must neutralize the Lion and the Scarecrow before she has any hope of killing her true enemy, Dorothy. To do this, Amy taps into the magic that is coming much more naturally to her now. She becomes so in tune with the dark magic around her, though, that she hardly recognizes who she is becoming. And neither do those around her. Amy is now feared…and she kind of likes it. Is she becoming a Wicked Witch…or something far worse?

As Amy works to reunite with the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, she encounters a couple of beings that may help her on her way. First is Lulu, Queen of the Wingless Monkeys. This feisty ruler wants little to do with the war that is overtaking Oz, and she lets Amy know that…but she does give Amy a bit of direction on where she should head next. Amy also seeks the aid of Polychrome, the Rainbow Fairy. Polly also wants to stay above the fray, but, as with Lulu, she isn’t given choice in the matter. Oz is being destroyed, Ozma is almost literally being torn in two, and Amy will need every ally she can gather to fight her formidable foes.

With all of this going on–and all that is ahead of her–Amy still tries to hold on to the girl she once was. She doesn’t want to lose herself to the darkness swirling inside and all around her, but she may need every bit of that darkness to fight against Dorothy, Glinda, and those who seek to betray her. And when Amy realizes that the war in Oz may put her home in Kansas in serious peril, Amy knows she’ll have to harness all the power she can to prevent the destruction of everything she’s ever known.

Is Amy willing to make the hard choices to save both Oz and the home she left behind? Is she prepared for who she’ll have to become to defeat Dorothy and her cronies once and for all? Will she ever truly know who can be trusted and who is orchestrating the chaos around her?

Nothing is clear for Amy and her allies, but one thing is certain. If Oz is to have any hope of survival, the Wicked must rise!

_______________

So…I really, really liked this book. It was action-packed from start to finish, and Amy’s journey was fascinating to see. I’m not just talking about her physical journey here, either. Despite her assertions that she’s still the same girl from Kansas, Oz has changed her. She’s more confident and–dare I say it–bad-ass in this book than she was in Dorothy Must Die. I kind of like it that she’s in touch with her dark side. (I imagine, though, that will come back to bite her in the posterior later on.) She’s definitely a strong female character who “don’t need no man” to fight her battles, but she’s smart enough to seek help when she really needs it. Given how the book ended (which I refuse to divulge), I look forward to seeing how this plays out in the future.

Now, for my one teeny issue with this book. Queen Lulu. I have no problem with talking wingless monkeys. More power to them. I’m sure they’re lovely. My problem with Lulu is the way she speaks. No, I’m not talking about the fact that she actually, you know, speaks. I’m talking about the words and phrases she uses. One that really stood out was when she said that something wasn’t “kosher.” How does a wingless monkey from Oz even know what that word means? It just seemed totally unrealistic to the setting, and that’s just one example. Maybe language from the Other Place has seeped into Oz over the years, but, if that’s the case, it needs to be made clear. I’m sure other characters made similar comments that seemed out of place in Oz, but Lulu’s seemed more pronounced to me. Probably because she’s a monkey…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

All in all, I feel that The Wicked Will Rise is a great book that will appeal to all sorts of readers, but it may not be for everyone. There’s quite a bit of “saucy” language, violence, and a girl learning to harness dark magic, so if you’re looking for a nice little retelling of The Wizard of Oz to share with kids, you may want to look elsewhere. If, however, you’re looking for a book that turns what you think you know upside down, explores the line between good and wicked, and features a kick-butt female protagonist, this entire series may be right up your alley…or your Yellow Brick Road, as it were.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Sadly, it seems we have quite the wait ahead of us. Even though there is another prequel novella, Heart of Tin, that will be released on July 28th, according to Goodreads (which I know may not be the most reliable source, but it’s all I could find), we’ll have to wait until sometime in 2017 for the third full-length Dorothy Must Die novel. *Cue epic Dorothy-inspired temper tantrum here.*

In the meantime, if you want more information about this wicked awesome series (Ha!), visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. You may also want to check out Epic Reads’ book trailer (below) for The Wicked Will Rise. If I hadn’t already read the book, this short video would likely convince me to pick it up. Enjoy!

Published in: on April 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Wizard Returns

Warning! Read Dorothy Must Die, No Place Like Oz, and The Witch Must Burn before continuing with this post. The Wizard Returns is the third prequel novella in the Dorothy Must Die series, and I’d hate to ruin this magical journey for you!

So, it’s the first day of my Spring Break, and I kicked things off by finishing The Wizard Returns this morning. (I would have posted on the novella sooner, but I decided to take two naps today. Priorities, people.) This prequel is the perfect lead-in to the second full-length novel, The Wicked Will Rise, which comes out on Tuesday.

In No Place Like Oz, we learn how Dorothy made her way back to Oz and rose to power. In The Witch Must Burn, we see the new power struggle through the eyes of Jellia Jamb, and we learn more about Glinda’s thirst for control. Now, in The Wizard Returns, we’re (obviously) off to see the Wizard.

Everyone thought the Wizard headed back to Kansas when his hot air balloon left the Emerald City. Everyone was wrong.

It is only as his balloon was leaving Oz behind that the Wizard realizes he doesn’t really want to leave. Well, it seems there are powers at work that also want him to remain in Oz, and, mysteriously, the Wizard never quite makes it back to the Other Place. Instead, he crash lands in a field of poppies…

Fast forward twenty-five years, and the Wizard wakes up…with no memory of who he is, what he’s done, or how much time has passed. He’s met by a curious figure named Pete. This boy gives the Wizard (who doesn’t know he’s a wizard) the name of Hex and takes steps to ensure that no one will recognize him. Why? Has Hex done things so horrible that being recognized would put him in danger? (In a word–yes.)

Pete informs Hex that he’ll have to pass three tests–tests of Wisdom, Courage, and Love–to have his memories restored, but Hex isn’t sure if all this trouble is really worth it. If he was such a horrible guy, does he really want to remember everything? Maybe it’s better to have a fresh start.

Unfortunately, those who were victimized by Hex’s actions don’t have the luxury of forgetting, so Pete guides Hex through the tests that will determine his fate. Hex must prove that he is willing to put the good of Oz over his own interests, but that proves easier said that done.

Something in Hex wants the power he knows he once had. He hungers for the magic that flows through Oz. Have these trials revealed and repaired the weaknesses in the Wizard’s character, or have they made him more convinced of his own superiority than ever before?

Will the Wizard do his part to restore Oz to its pre-Dorothy glory, or will he be this magical land’s ultimate doom?

_______________

In Dorothy Must Die and the previous novellas, I was unsure about the Wizard’s motives in everything that was going on. After reading The Wizard Returns, I’m even more unsure. Sometimes, he really seemed sincere, repentant, and more concerned with others’ well-being than with his own. At other times, he was clearly looking out for his own interests. I just don’t know where that leaves us going into The Wicked Will Rise. Hopefully, things will become clear as I read that book.

One thing I will say about the Wizard is that his behavior toward the monkeys was thoroughly despicable. *Spoilers* When I learned how he essentially sold them into slavery to the Wicked Witch of the West, I was horrified. He seemed to feel the same way when he got snippets of his memory back, but I don’t know if that was enough to change his behavior. He still seemed to have a bit of a superiority complex, and I predict that will get him into trouble.

So, what’s going to happen to the Wizard when things come to a head with Dorothy, Amy, and the Witches of Oz? I don’t know, but I look forward to seeing how this intense power struggle plays out. Only a few more days until this wonderful series gives us some answers!

If you’d like more information about The Wizard Returns and the other Dorothy Must Die stories, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. Enjoy!

Published in: on March 28, 2015 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Witch Must Burn

If you haven’t read Dorothy Must Die or the first prequel novella, No Place Like Oz, I urge you to do so before reading prequel novella #2, The Witch Must Burn. That is all.

Welcome to my new obsession. I have quickly fallen in love with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, and that adoration only continues with The Witch Must Burn. It is absolutely fascinating to see the political maneuvering and machinations behind Dorothy’s rise to power upon her return to Oz. Yes, Dorothy is horrible, but she’s not the only one. In The Witch Must Burn, we get a closer look at Glinda, who seems to have forgotten that she’s supposed to be a “Good Witch.” The lines between Good and Wicked aren’t exactly clear anymore.

Jellia Jamb has lived in the royal palace of Emerald City as long as she can remember, and she’s worked her way up to the position of head maid. Jellia has seen lots of changes during her time at the palace, but the current state of things give her cause for great worry.

When Ozma, the land’s true leader, was in power, life was idyllic. Now that Dorothy’s in charge, however, things are different. Everyone walks on eggshells, people are punished–and often disappear–because of the smallest infractions, the Scarecrow is conducting strange experiments, and much of the magic has gone out of Oz.

Jellia, who has her own magical abilities, does what she can to ease the way for herself and the other maids, but a mighty force soon realizes that Jellia’s gifts may be more powerful that even she realizes. Glinda sees something in Jellia, something she can possibly use to mine the magic deep within Oz’s core.

Glinda borrows Jellia from Dorothy and spirits her away to her own estate for the summer…a summer that will throw Jellia into a situation more dangerous than she ever could have foreseen. She’ll learn that Glinda is the real force behind Dorothy’s rise to power, and she’s working to gain more magic and control than ever before. Jellia will also discover that a revolution is in the works…a revolution that is trying to restore Oz to its former glory.

Jellia is now in a position to help those who seek to put an end to Glinda’s–and Dorothy’s–reign of terror. Is she willing to trust these people–the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked–who know more about Jellia than she does herself? Will she put her fate and that of Oz in their hands? And what may she learn about herself and her own abilities in the process?

Join Jellia, a seemingly simple maid, as she navigates the power struggles in Oz. What can she do to turn the tide? Read The Witch Must Burn to find out!

_______________

I’m so glad this novella is told from Jellia’s perspective. We see this character in Dorothy Must Die, and, by the end of that novel, we know that she plays a much bigger role than originally thought. It’s wonderful to see how that role developed. Given what happened at the end of Dorothy Must Die, though, I wonder how much intel Jellia was able to gather and how that will help Amy Gumm and the Order overthrow Dorothy, Glinda, and their associates. That’s something to ponder before the second novel, The Wicked Will Rise, comes out on March 31st.

Before we get to The Wicked Will Rise, there’s still one more prequel novella to dive into. The Wizard Returns is next on my to-read list, and I will begin reading it as soon as I finish a couple other reads-in-progress. The Wizard has made appearances in the other Dorothy Must Die stories, but his loyalties and motives have been a little suspicious. I’m hopefull that The Wizard Returns will clear things up a bit. We’ll just have to see.

For more information about The Witch Must Burn and the other Dorothy Must Die stories, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

 

Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No Place Like Oz

Warning! Even though this post is on a prequel to Dorothy Must Die, I strongly urge you to read that book before proceeding with this post or with No Place Like Oz. And if you have a special fondness for Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz…well, that’s about to change.

For those of you still with me, you’ve probably guessed that I’ve become slightly obsessed with Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series. The first book simply took my breath away, and I just had to dive in when I learned there were several prequels detailing events leading up to Amy Gumm’s journey to and through Oz. Last night, I finished the first of those prequel novellas, No Place Like Oz, and it was everything I could have possibly hoped for.

In No Place Like Oz, we see almost sixteen-year-old Dorothy in Kansas. Her adventurous trek through Oz is over, and she’s back to her humdrum life on the farm.

When Dorothy was in Oz, all she wanted was to get back home. Now that she’s actually home, though, Dorothy dreams of going back to Oz. In Oz, she was important. In Oz, she was the hero and had some very close friends. In Kansas, she’s the girl with the crazy stories. In Kansas, she’s poor, has no friends, and is always left wanting. Why wouldn’t she want to go back to Oz?

Well, it seems that someone out there wants the same thing for Dorothy. On her sixteenth birthday, Dorothy receives a pair of shoes. Now, these are not just any shoes. (They’re never “just shoes” when it come to Oz.) These towering red heels were supposedly sent to Dorothy from Glinda, and they fill Dorothy with a feeling of magic–of power–the minute she puts them on. The shoes are so powerful, in fact, that Dorothy is able to use them to take her–and Toto, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry–straight to Oz.

Dorothy is thrilled to be back in Oz, but Aunt Em and Uncle Henry don’t find the place as wonderful as Dorothy does. They only want to go back to Kansas, but Dorothy honestly has no intention of returning to that boring, dreary life. She plans to stay exactly where she is, and she’s willing to do just about anything–including using the mysterious power and magic of her new shoes–to make that happen.

As Dorothy becomes more obsessed with staying in Oz, her true nature (?) becomes apparent. She’s tired of always wanting. Shouldn’t she get something out of saving Oz? Shouldn’t she be revered and given anything she wants? Of course, she should! And with her special red shoes, anything she wants is possible…even taking over Oz herself.

But what price will Dorothy pay in her quest for fame and power? Is she that willing to do anything (and I do mean anything) just to feel special? Why was she given her magical shoes in the first place, and is there more at work in Oz than even Dorothy knows?

Learn how a seemingly innocent farm girl from Kansas is transformed into a megalomaniac bent on showing everyone just how special she truly is when you read No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige!

_______________

When I was reading Dorothy Must Die several days ago, I wondered how Dorothy left Kansas once again and came to rule over Oz. Well, this novella went a long way in answering my questions. It showed how Dorothy progressed from innocent (but still kind of annoying) farm girl to the power-hungry monster she grew to be. I was captivated from start to finish, and I’m hoping the other prequel novellas–two of which are already out–continue to clarify how the current state of things in Oz came to be.

The next two novellas, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns, are pretty high up on my to-read list, and I’ll tackle those as soon as I can…hopefully before the next book is released. The Wicked Will Rise, the second full-length novel in the series comes out on March 31st, which is the second day of my Spring Break. Woohoo! A fourth prequel novella, Heart of Tin, will be out on July 28th.

If you’re interested in learning more about this wonderful series, visit author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 11:42 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Dorothy Must Die

I grew up loving The Wizard of Oz. I watched the movie almost incessantly, and I read the book as soon as I was old enough to understand most of the words. As I got older, though, I was less intrigued with Dorothy’s journey and more interested in the Wicked Witch. (Dorothy seemed like kind of a goody-two-shoes to me. Boring.) That interest only intensified the first time I saw Wicked (which remains my absolute favorite musical).

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die, a book that delves into what happened after the Wicked Witch was gone and Dorothy returned to Kansas. It seems that Dorothy didn’t stay in Kansas very long, and she didn’t exactly remain the good girl that everyone remembers…

Amy Gumm’s life in Kansas is less than stellar. She’s something of an outcast at school. She gets in trouble for fighting with a pregnant girl (who totally started the fight in the first place). Her relationship with her mother is strained to say the least. She’d dearly love to escape her many worries. Well, Amy should probably be careful what she wishes for…

When a tornado rips through town, it takes Amy and her home with it. And where does Amy land? Oz, of course. (Where else would a girl from Kansas caught up in a tornado land?!) But this is not the Oz Amy remembers from film and books. No, this Oz is terrifying, bleak, and seemingly devoid of the magic that should be all around. What happened here?

Well, as it turns out, Dorothy happened here. After her time in Oz, life in Kansas just couldn’t compare, so she found her way back…and proceeded to completely take over. Now, the monkeys, Munchkins, and other creatures are essentially enslaved. They do Dorothy’s bidding or they find themselves in for a world of hurt. That “hurt” comes from the Scarecrow (who performs horrifying experiments on those who anger Dorothy), the Tin Woodsman (who has knives for fingers and leads an army of tin soldiers), and the Lion (who has left cowardly behind and delights on feeding off of others’ fear). And let’s not forget Glinda, the “Good” Witch, who is now Dorothy’s adviser and oversees many of the twit’s projects. So, yeah, it’s not a great time to be in Oz.

So what is Amy to do in this frightening, unfamiliar Oz? How can she get back home? She doesn’t exactly have the warm-ish welcome that Dorothy enjoyed all those years ago. All she knows is what she remembers from the book and movie based on this place, and there’s no resemblance to that now. Even the yellow brick road is crumbling.

Amy does the only thing she can think of. She starts toward the Emerald City…but that may not be the smartest thing to do these days. Amy encounters many dangers–and a couple of potential friends–along the way, and she finds herself in the clutches of Dorothy herself (who turns out to be the most evil, sadistic you-know-what imaginable).

Luckily (depending on one’s point of view), Amy eventually receives help from a rather interesting source. The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. This group of Wicked Witches rescues Amy from certain death at the hand of Dorothy and the Scarecrow, but the witches’ help is not without its price. They want Amy’s assistance with something. Something that only Amy, a girl from Kansas, can do.

They want her to kill Dorothy.

Even though Amy has seen Dorothy’s cruelty first-hand, she doesn’t quite know how she feels about killing her. (The lines between Good and Wicked are becoming blurrier by the second.) Even so, she trains with the Order and discovers she’s got a bit of magic of her own. Amy’s new-found skills and powers give her confidence, something she’s never really had before. She’s strong, and she knows she can put an end to Dorothy’s reign of terror…but will she?

Amy’s resolve is soon put to the test, and, as she learns more and more about what’s really going on in Oz, the more determined she becomes to see this thing through. But will things be as straightforward as she’s been led to believe? Who can she depend on to have her back when things go sour? And is she really getting the whole story from the Order, or is more going on in Oz than even they know?

Read Dorothy Must Die, the first book in a thrilling series by Danielle Paige, to see just what Amy encounters when she goes “over the rainbow.” No happy little bluebirds here, folks.

_______________

If it wasn’t already apparent, I adored this book. I can hardly wait to dive into the three prequel novellas that are already out (and waiting on my Kindle). If you’re curious, those are No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn, and The Wizard Returns. The second full-length novel in this series, The Wicked Will Rise, comes out on March 31st, and a fourth prequel novella, Heart of Tin, will be out on July 28th. Lots to look forward to!

Dorothy Must Die is a perfect read for those who enjoy fractured fairy tales or readers who always wonder what happens after the story ends. This wonderful book tells us that it’s not always the happily ever after we envision…which is kind of cool.

I have to admit that this book has forever changed how I look at The Wizard of Oz. I don’t think I can ever view the Scarecrow as the lovable dolt I’ve always known. No, both he and the Tin Man are now the stuff of nightmares. The Lion is in another category entirely. He is beyond nightmare status, and I really wish he’d stayed cowardly.

I don’t know yet where this series will lead or how it will further change my perception of Oz and its inhabitants, but I look forward to the journey!

If I still haven’t convinced you to give this book a try, check out the book trailer below. You may also want to connect with author Danielle Paige on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.

Published in: on March 9, 2015 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Illusions of Fate

Last night, I finished reading yet another excellent story by Kiersten White. After reading her other works (the Paranormalcy trilogy, The Chaos of Stars, Mind Games, Perfect Lies, and In the Shadows), I was expecting a great book, and I’m thrilled to say that I got one in Illusions of Fate. The wonderful Ms. White did not disappoint.

In her latest novel, Kiersten White weaves an intricate tale of magic, suspicion, and intrigue. Illusions of Fate is something of an historical fantasy and reminds me a bit of Cassie Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy (a mark in the book’s favor). In this stand-alone novel, however, the world seems to be entirely fictional. It bears some resemblance to Victorian England, but White’s nation of Albion has it’s own societal constructs, political maneuvering, and disregard–and even rebellion against–the status quo. That’s where our main character, Jessamin, comes in…

Jessamin is perfectly aware that she doesn’t fit in with the majority of people in drab, colorless Albion. In fact, she wouldn’t even be there if not for persuading her father to see to her education. And if Jessamin were still on her island home of Melei, she probably wouldn’t find herself in the midst of a power struggle like none she ever realized could exist. Then again, fate may have had plans for Jessamin all along…

Jessamin couldn’t know that her life is going to change forever when she decides to walk through an unfamiliar alley. That decision leads her to a young man named Finn, a noble with strange abilities who can’t seem to help his fascination with Jessamin. Both parties do their best to ignore the other, but fate, circumstances–and observant foes–continue to throw the two together. Soon enough, it becomes clear that Finn’s enthrallment with and connection to Jessamin have made her a target of perhaps the most dangerous man in all of Albion.

The nefarious Lord Downpike, also Albion’s Minister of Defense, wants something from Finn, and he sees Jessamin as his way to get what he wants. And what is it that Downpike desires? Control of all magical lines and limitless power. Only Finn stands in his way. Or so he thinks.

It seems that Jessamin isn’t as easily swayed as most of the young women of Lord Downpike’s acquaintance. She doesn’t take being tortured or threatened lightly, and she is determined to stand up to the evil bearing down on those she cares for. She won’t run away and hide as Finn suggests. She won’t allow Finn–a young man who is coming to mean more to her than anyone else–to fight this battle alone. No, she doesn’t have the magical abilities of Finn or Lord Downpike, but she does have her wits…and a smart woman can certainly be the downfall of an overconfident man. But how?

What will Jessamin have to do to outwit the evil Lord Downpike? What sacrifices will she have to make to prevent this vile man from taking away everything she loves? What secrets will Jessamin uncover along the way?

Will fate decide the path of Jessamin’s life, or will she be the mistress of her own destiny? Answer these questions and many more when you read Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White.

_______________

I hope I’ve hit the highlights of this wonderful book, but I’m sure I’ve left out quite a bit. (Actually, as I’m typing this, I realize that I didn’t even mention the birds and what they meant to the plot. Kind of a big deal. Oh well.) There’s a lot going on in this book, so I can’t possibly address all of it in a single blog post. I wouldn’t want to anyway. That would ruin things, wouldn’t it? Suffice it to say, Illusions of Fate is a magical story that kept me enraptured from the very beginning, and I hope you will feel the same.

If you’re looking for one more book featuring a kick-butt female character, I urge you to add Illusions of Fate to your list. Jessamin experienced some true horrors at the hands of a powerful man, but she didn’t cower like some shrinking violet…even though that would have been infinitely easier. No, she stood up for herself and those she loved. She used her brain to outsmart those who would oppress, torture, or kill her. She remained true to herself, even when it meant defying those who sought to protect her. Did it all work out in the end? Well, I won’t tell you that, but I will say that Jessamin is a character to be admired, and I hope many teen (and adult) readers follow her example of doing what she must to halt the spread of evil.

For those who want to learn more about Illusions of Fate and other books by the fabulous Kiersten White, I encourage you to visit the author’s website and Twitter feed. As for me, I’ll just sit here and eagerly await Kiersten White’s next book.*

*Not really. I’ve got loads more books to read in the meantime, but I guarantee I’ll be on the lookout for the next great book from this outstanding YA author.*

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

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…

_______________

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.

Published in: on January 26, 2015 at 2:12 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

All the Answers

I’m a world-class worrier. I can obsess over the smallest thing and make it into a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. This has been a skill of mine for years (and still drives my mother crazy). I have to force myself to stay away from things like WebMD because a cough is never just a simple cough. In my head, it’s always much, much worse.

No one–including myself sometimes–really understands why I worry so much, so it’s often refreshing for me when I encounter someone–real or fictional–who “gets it.” A couple of days ago, I finished reading a book about a character who definitely “gets it.” In fact, she may worry more than I do. The book is All the Answers by the always entertaining Kate Messner, and the character is young Ava Anderson.

Ava Anderson knows what it means to be anxious. She worries about everything. She panics before every test, and this morning is no different. She’s got a big math test today, and Ava knows she’s going to flub her way through it. She knows the material, but when tests roll around, Ava’s anxiety always gets the best of her. This morning, however, is going to be a little different…

It looks like an ordinary pencil, the kind someone would pick up at a conference or something, but this one turns out to be very different. When Ava grabs it out of her parents’ junk drawer, she has no way of knowing that this pencil is going to change her life.

Ava uses the pencil during her dreaded math test, and, wonder of wonders, when she presents questions to this strange pencil, it gives her the answers! For the first time in forever, Ava feels great about how she performed on a test. But does this magical pencil only work on math questions? Well, Ava and her best friend Sophie are about to find out…

Ava and Sophie soon realize that the special pencil will only answer factual questions, and it won’t answer anything with free will involved. The girls decide to use their new “power” to get some important information. For instance, which boys at school have a crush on Sophie? (This information leads to some rather sticky situations, as you can imagine.) They also use the pencil to figure out what would make Ava’s grandfather and his friends at the nursing home truly happy.

One day, though, Ava asks the pencil a question, and the answer rocks the girl’s entire world. This information has the power to change Ava’s entire family, and Ava can’t stop herself from worrying about what it could mean. Is Ava strong enough to handle what is coming, or will panic take over?

As Ava deals with everything revealed by this mysterious pencil, she begins to wonder if having all the answers is really so important. Does knowing so much make things better, or does it give people even more to obsess over? Can Ava put her worries–and her pencil–aside and finally trust in her own strength? And will that strength get her through the tough times ahead?

For the answers to these questions and many more, read All the Answers by Kate Messner.

_______________

All the Answers, which will be released on January 27th, is a definite purchase for any libraries serving upper elementary and middle grade readers. Many readers will surely identify with Ava’s test anxiety and her worries about navigating the perils of school, friends, and new experiences.

While being a thoroughly entertaining (and totally relatable) book, All the Answers also delivers an important message. Having all the answers may sound awesome, but it’s not the most important thing in life. Yes, a magical pencil like the one in this book may sound appealing, but it could also be a crutch, something that one learns to rely on instead of developing his/her own inner confidence, strength, and faith. (This was really brought home for Ava when she discovered her grandfather’s history with the pencil. It definitely opened her eyes a bit.) There’s nothing out there that can magically erase anxieties, but, like Ava discovered, there are some strategies that can make it easier to deal with.

As I wrap up this post, I’d like to thank NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read another book that I’ll be adding to my school library as soon as it’s released. I’d also like to send my heart-felt gratitude to author Kate Messner for writing another story that so many students will enjoy. I wish I’d had a story like this when I was younger. It would have helped so much to read about a girl who worried about stuff like I did.

_______________

Happy holidays to all of my friends out there! Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts about books this year, and I hope you’ll follow me into next year. I’ll be taking the next couple of days off to bake and spend time with my family, but I’m always reading and looking for more awesome books to share with all of you. So…merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a wonderful winter solstice, and a fun Festivus for the rest of us! (And if you choose not to celebrate any winter holidays, I hope you have an excellent time as well!) Happy reading!

 

The Iron Trial

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you probably know that I will read anything that Cassandra Clare cares to write. So it should come as no surprise that I was eager to read the first book in her new middle grade series co-authored with Holly Black. Well, I finally got around to reading The Iron Trial, book one in the pair’s five-part Magisterium series, over this holiday weekend, and I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it…and it’s something I can add to my school library and promote to my students. (I think it’s a great read for upper elementary on up.)

There are elements that many readers will find familiar in The Iron Trial. A boy learns he has magical abilities, goes to a hidden school for those of his kind, becomes close to two other kids (a boy and a girl) at this school, gets into a bit of trouble, and works to solve a mystery that could endanger his life and the lives of those around him. Sound familiar? Yeah, the similarities to Harry Potter can’t be ignored…but they can be used to urge Potterheads to pick up this book. Readers will undoubtedly notice the parallels, but I also believe they’ll be pleasantly surprised by how things are different. Clare and Black take the story we expect to read and turn it around on us, and I think most readers will be both shocked and intrigued with how this plays out. I know I was.

What kid wouldn’t want magical powers? What kid wouldn’t want to attend the Magisterium, a super-secret school to learn how to use those abilities? Callum Hunt, that’s who.

For as long as Call can remember, his dad has told him that the Magisterium is evil and that he must do whatever it takes to fail the Iron Trial, a series of tests used to determine who earns a place at this magical school. And Call does his best to fail…and it looks like he’s succeeded. He fails spectacularly and gets the lowest possible marks at the Iron Trial…but he’s selected for the Magisterium anyway. Not only is he accepted; he’s with one of the best mages, in the group with the most gifted apprentices. What’s going on here? Why would anyone want him as an apprentice? What is so special about Callum Hunt, a kid with a bum leg who wants to be anywhere but here?

As Call begins his Iron year at the Magisterium and learns more about magic, he begins to wonder just what his dad had against the school and magic. Call is learning so much…and he’s actually getting pretty good at his studies, despite his rather horrible start. His fellow apprentices, Aaron and Tamara, soon become his closest friends, and that’s kind of a big deal to a kid who really didn’t have friends before now.

Call is becoming more and more comfortable with himself and his abilities, so he’s eager to learn just why his dad didn’t want him here. Since Call is a curious sort with a certain disregard for rules, Call begins to investigate. He stumbles upon a few things that might answer some questions…or they might create even more.

It seems that Call’s past is tied to the most feared being in the magical world, the Enemy of Death. This figure, cloaked in mystery, is responsible for the deaths of many, many mages–including Call’s mother–and he’s still out there, biding his time until he can use the forces of chaos to rise to power. The Magisterium has recently discovered its own weapon in the coming war with the Enemy…but will that be enough? What if the Enemy has already infiltrated the Magisterium? What will that mean for the Magisterium then? And what does all of this have to do with Call?

Soon, Call will come face-to-face with his past, his place at the Magisterium, and what it could mean for his future. He learns just why his father wanted to keep him from magic. What will Call do with this new and disturbing information? Time will tell…

_______________

I hope I haven’t given too much away in this post. I want readers to be just as floored by the ending–and what it could mean for future books–as I was.

The second book, The Copper Gauntlet, is expected to be released sometime in the fall of 2015. I, for one, can hardly wait to read more about the adventures of Call, Aaron, and Tamara, and what they do with everything they learned in The Iron Trial. Should be interesting to say the least.

If you’d like to learn more about The Iron Trial, I encourage you to visit the official website. It has loads of information on the book, the authors, and the world of the Magisterium. There are also some games and other extras that look like fun. You may also want to take a quick peek at the video below. Enjoy!

Published in: on November 30, 2014 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

The Map to Everywhere

Next week, an outstanding new book will be released to the masses. That book is The Map to Everywhere, the first book in a new fantasy series by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis. I was lucky enough to read a review copy of this book via NetGalley, and I was thoroughly enchanted. I would have liked to see the artwork that will be included in the final copy, but I guess that’s one way to ensure reviewers like me buy the book! (And I will buy several copies of this one for my school library.) I’m sure the illustrations will only add to what is already a wonderful, captivating story!

Fin, a young thief living in the treacherous land of Khaznot Quay, is a boy who is easily forgotten. Seriously. As soon as someone meets him, they forget he ever existed. Pretty handy if you’re a thief, especially one surrounded by pirates, con artists, and, well, other thieves. Not so much if you need help looking for something…or someone.

Marrill is a girl who’s just been handed a shock, and she’s trying to make sense of her new circumstances. That is going to be much more difficult after she sees a huge ship sailing through what was a parking lot just minutes ago. So what does Marrill, girl adventurer, do? She climbs aboard the ship…and quickly realizes that she can’t find her way back home.

Marrill does have a bit of hope, though. The ship she’s currently on is home to a wizard, Ardent, and his companion, Coll. This unlikely pair is looking for a mysterious map. The Map to Everywhere. This map will lead anyone wherever they need to go. So what’s the problem? Well, the map is in pieces, and it could be quite the quest to find the pieces and put them together. Marrill, Ardent, and Coll will have to navigate the magical waters of the Pirate Stream to even attempt their mission.

And that’s where Fin comes in…

Marrill and company sail into Khaznot Quay. After getting herself into a sticky situation, Marrill encounters Fin (who is also in a sticky wicket of his own). Unlike everyone else he’s ever met, Marrill actually remembers him, and Fin is eager to hold onto that tenuous connection to someone. He stows away on Marrill’s ride, and joins the crew’s search for the Map to Everywhere (an object that he’d also like to get his hands on).

Also, Fin would kind of like to get away from the Oracle, an evil wizard who spreads sorrow wherever he goes. Fin has something that the Oracle wants, and this shadowy figure will stop at nothing to claim his prize. It seems he is also searching for this powerful map, but what he wants to do with it could be devastating for everyone, everywhere.

Now, Marrill, Fin, Ardent, and Coll are on the hunt for the pieces of the Map to Everywhere, each for their own reasons. Can they work together to complete this dangerous puzzle before everything is torn from them? Will they succeed in their quest to bring the Map together, or will the Oracle beat them to it? Will Marrill ever find her way home? Will Fin find what he’s looking for? Nothing is certain, but one this is clear. We’re in for one heck of an adventure!

_______________

I think The Map to Everywhere is an excellent addition to any library that serves upper elementary and middle grade readers. It’s action-packed, full of humor, and it teaches some pretty valuable lessons–the importance of friendship, how horrible it is to be forgotten, the destructive power of rumors, etc. I can’t wait to add this book to my own school library and, more importantly, talk about the book with my students!

My favorite part of this entertaining read was probably Ardent, the wizard. This guy was as powerful as you’d want a wizard to be, but he was also kind of hilarious. He reminded me a bit of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series. He didn’t take himself too seriously, but you also wouldn’t want to meet him in a fight. Ardent was very wise, but that didn’t always show. It seemed that he wanted those around him to learn lessons for themselves instead of him jumping in to save the day constantly. (And that came in handy when one of his companions had to jump in and save him.) An admirable character and one that I think readers will take an instant liking to!

I look forward to seeing the illustrations in the finished book. If they’re anything like the cover, I’m sure they’ll be just as fantastic as the book’s text.

There’s no word yet on when we can expect the second book in The Map to Everywhere series, but I’m guessing we’ll see something in November of next year. Here’s hoping!

To learn more about this fantastical tale, go to http://www.themaptoeverywhere.com/.

 

Published in: on October 28, 2014 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 254 other followers