The Last Kids on Earth

My latest read, also a nominee for the 17-18 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, is so popular with my students that I had to buy a new copy and read it quickly before adding it to my library collection. After reading it myself, I can see what all the fuss is about.

The Last Kids on Earth, the first book in a series written by Max Brallier and illustrated by Douglas Holgate, is a hilariously funny look at a world that has been taken over by monsters and zombies. Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like a premise for a funny book, but it totally works here. That’s primarily because of the voice of the main character, Jack Sullivan, and the awesome illustrations peppered throughout the book. You’ll see what I mean when you give this book a whirl.

Move over, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You’ve got some serious competition here.

Jack Sullivan didn’t set out to be an action hero, but it just can’t be helped when the world is ravaged by the monster apocalypse. Alone and on the lookout for his best friend, Jack lives in a tricked-out treehouse, and he occupies his time by completing increasingly dangerous, self-imposed challenges–or Feats of Apocalyptic Success. Anything to keep monsters, zombies, and boredom at bay.

Unfortunately for Jack (who has endured more than his share of misfortune already), he’s attracted the attention of the worst monster he’s ever encountered, a fearsome creature called Blarg. Jack’s going to require some help to defeat Blarg–if that’s even possible–so he needs Quint, his best friend and a scientific genius, more than ever. Luckily, things are about to look up a bit for Jack.

Jack eventually reunites with Quint, and the two really get to work on making their treehouse home into a true fortress. We’re talking spikes, catapults, bottle-rocket launchers, and much more. They even have a souped up vehicle called Big Mama with monster-fighting capabilities. And when they team up with Dirk, a reformed school bully, and Rover, a lovable dog-like monster, these guys may just be unstoppable. Jack may finally have what he needs to complete his ultimate Feat of Apocalyptic Success–rescuing June Del Toro, his longtime crush.

Jack is sure that June is still out there somewhere, a damsel is distress just waiting for him to save her. He and his crew go on a search for June in their old middle school, but they’re not exactly prepared for what they find. It seems that June doesn’t really need rescuing. (She’s saved herself, thank you very much.)

June is a warrior in her own right, and she somewhat reluctantly agrees to join forces with Jack and company…and just in the nick of time, too. The ferocious Blarg is making a beeline for Jack, and he’ll need all the help he can get to defeat this big baddie.

Will Jack and friends be able to destroy Blarg so they can get back to their regularly scheduled monster apocalypse? Stay tuned to find out!


Given that this is the first book in a series, I’m pretty sure you can guess how the action in The Last Kids on Earth turns out. Read it anyway. The humor alone makes this book worth reading, whether you can predict the ending or not.

When it comes to using this book in a classroom setting, I can see this being hugely popular as a read-aloud, especially in 4th or 5th grades, maybe even in middle school classrooms. Kids (and adults) are sure to laugh out loud, and they’ll experience a truly stellar example of a character’s voice driving a story.

I am 100% terrified of zombies, but I couldn’t get enough of this book, and I’m eager to read the second installment, The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade. (Yippee. More zombies.) If book two is anything like the first, I’m sure I’ll be highly entertained. It’s already out, and I have several new copies in the library, so I’ll read it in the near future.

According to Goodreads, there should be at least one more book in this series, The Last Kids on Earth and the Nightmare King. It should be out on September 26th of this year. If that’s the case, I’ll make a run to the bookstore as soon as I can to get a bunch of copies for my students…and myself, of course.

If you’d like to learn more about The Last Kids on Earth, visit author Max Brallier’s website. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It gives a bit more information on this book than I covered in my post. Enjoy!

Ruin and Rising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Carry On

If you’ve read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, you’ve already been introduced to the characters of Simon Snow and Baz Grimm-Pitch. These two characters are the subjects of Cath’s fanfiction in Fangirl. In Carry On, Rowell graciously gives readers the story Cath was working on. Now, it’s not totally necessary for you to read Fangirl to follow what’s happening in Carry On, but I do think it helps.

*I hope the paragraph above makes sense. It does if you’ve read Fangirl. It may not if you haven’t. Of course, it’s pretty easy to remedy that situation.*

Simon Snow is, by all accounts, the Chosen One. It doesn’t seem to matter that his magic is unreliable at best and totally explosive at worst. The leader of all mages–called the Mage, obviously–is sure that Simon will save the World of Mages. Simon isn’t all that convinced. (Neither is his roommate, Baz.)

Simon is starting his final year at the Watford School for Magicks, and he’s fairly certain that he’ll have to battle the Insidious Humdrum, the strange figure who’s creating holes in the magical world, at some point this year. (Simon has no clue how he’s supposed to win against this guy.) He’s also worried that he and Baz are probably going to end up killing each other. That is, if Baz ever shows up.

When the new school term begins, Baz is nowhere to be found, and Simon becomes obsessed with figuring out what’s happened. There’s simply no way Baz would voluntarily miss his final year at Watford…or any chance to torture Simon. Does his disappearance have something to do with the Humdrum or the increasing negative feelings about the Mage? Could it be related to Baz being a vampire (which he has never actually admitted to Simon)? Or could something more be going on? Whatever’s happening, Simon needs to know where Baz is…and what he’s up to.

Soon, though, Simon has one less thing to worry about. Baz returns to Watford. Why was he gone? Well, that’s sort of complicated.

“Complicated” is the perfect word to describe nearly everything about Baz’s life. He’s a vampire, he’s returning from being kidnapped, he’s trying to find out who killed his mom, his infuriating roommate has more magic than anyone in the world (but doesn’t really know what to do with it), his family is working against the Mage, and…oh, yeah…he’s in love with Simon. How could he possibly fall for someone he doesn’t like most of the time and may have to destroy in the near future? Well, the heart wants what the heart wants…

Eventually, Simon and Baz realize that they’ll have to form a truce and join forces to discover what’s really going on in the World of Mages…with the Mage, the Humdrum, all of it. Can these two work together without killing each other? Will Baz reveal his feelings for Simon? How does Simon truly feel about Baz? Is there hope for the future when the World of Mages is in so much turmoil?

Only one thing is certain: It’s going to be a very interesting year at Watford.

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I love this book so hard. (This is true for every Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read.) The dialogue is compelling, the mysteries are intriguing, and the characters are wonderfully complex. And I haven’t even mentioned the delightful love story…

Those who’ve read Fangirl (or any of this post) likely already know that Carry On features a developing relationship between Simon and Baz. This is commonly known as slash fic, and is very popular in fanfiction writing. If you ever wanted Harry Potter to end up with Draco Malfoy instead of Ginny Weasley, definitely give Carry On a try. It’s a very sweet love story, but there’s enough danger, magic, drama, and even humor to satisfy all readers (even those who don’t particularly like slash fiction).

As I wrap this post up, I realize that I haven’t begun to express just how wonderful Carry On really is. I don’t know if I can. Read it for yourself. Hopefully, you’ll love it as much as I do.

If you’d like more information on Carry On and other books by the absolutely fabulous Rainbow Rowell, check out the author’s website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram. You may also want to check out the video below. It features Rainbow Rowell herself talking about Carry On at Book Expo America.

 

Siege and Storm

Warning: Read Shadow and Bone before proceeding. I’d hate to spoil this amazing book for you, but I will. That’s just the kind of gal I am.

Truth time: It took me over a month to finish Siege and Storm, the second book in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. This is not a commentary on how great the book was. The book was just as wonderful as I expected it to be. No, the fault lies with me, my book fair, and the general craziness that comes with this time of year. Honestly, I’m shocked that I found the time to finish the book yesterday.

Anyhoo…I did manage to finish Siege and Storm, and this second installment takes us further into Alina Starkov’s world and her place as the Sun Summoner. Those of you who’ve read the first book know that Alina has escaped the Darkling after his massacre on the Fold (and her part in it), and she’s now on the run with Mal. Well, what little peace these two have managed to find is about to come to an end…

After their close call with the Darkling and his allies, Alina and Mal are in hiding. They’re trying to find their place in a new land, working for pittances and attempting to keep their identities a secret…but at least they’re together. On some level, they know that they won’t stay hidden for long and that the Darkling–who they know did not perish during the horrific events of the Fold– will catch up to them eventually. That reckoning is coming sooner than they think…

What Alina and Mal couldn’t realize is that the Darkling has now tapped into a frightening new power, a darkness they are nearly incapable of fighting. He’s caught up with Alina and Mal, and he seeks to bind Alina more closely to him than she ever was before. But how? What more could the Darkling do to her, and is there anything–or anyone–who will stop him?

Alina and Mal receive the help they so desperately need in the form of Sturmhond, an infamous privateer who is keeping secrets of his own. Why is Sturmhond willing to go up against the Darkling? What is he hoping to gain from an alliance with Alina and Mal? Exactly what is this mysterious figure hiding?

Alina and company are growing ever closer to a showdown with the Darkling and his forces. Alina is doing everything in her considerable power to make sure they emerge victorious, but will it be enough? Can she rely on those closest to her, or are they working on their own agendas? And why is Alina still so drawn to the Darkling and the power he wields? Is she becoming like him? If so, what could that mean for her relationship with Mal and those who look to her for hope?

Join Alina in her continuing battles with the Darkling and the darkness within her own soul when you read Siege and Storm, the powerful second book in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy.

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There’s so much going on in Siege and Storm that I know I’ve left out huge chunks of what happened. If I really delved into everything that occurred, this post would take me hours upon hours to finish. (As much as I love this blog, I don’t have that kind of time.) You’ll simply have to read the book to really appreciate everything Alina, Mal, and friends face in this book. I can tell you that it’s definitely whetted my appetite for the no-doubt thrilling conclusion, Ruin and Rising (which I hope to get to sometime during my upcoming winter break).

If you’re still not convinced to pick up Siege and Storm (and the rest of this series), take a look at Fierce Reads’ book trailer below. It’s pretty great.

For more information on The Grisha trilogy and other works by Leigh Bardugo, check out her website and connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Enjoy!

Shadow and Bone

What can I say about Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo that has not already been said? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a go…

Shadow and Bone, the first book in The Grisha trilogy, came out three years ago, and it’s been in my TBR pile almost as long. (The entire series is now complete, so I guess I did okay. No waiting for me!) Well, I finally dove into the book a while ago, and I finished it earlier today. Here are my thoughts in a nutshell:

Holy crap on a cracker.

Why did I wait so long to read this book?! It is so freakin’ good that I’m about to unleash my inner (and outer) fangirl. I am super-eager to get my hands on every other book, novella, or anything else I can find in this series. I predict I will be virtually useless this weekend because I’ll be in a Grisha fog. (I am not, of course, counting the time I spend with my nieces on Halloween. That break in reading is non-negotiable.)

Let’s take a quick look at Shadow and Bone so that I can commence with reading book two, Siege and Storm.

Orphaned at an early age, Alina Starkov believes that her life is destined to continue on the same uneventful path. She’s a mapmaker for the First Army, and though the danger of the Shadow Fold is ever present, as long as her childhood friend Mal is close by, nothing can be too terrible.

If only…

When Mal, Alina, and many others are sent into the Fold, they are enveloped in a darkness so absolute that it feels like a living being. Horrible creatures called volcra attack their vessel, and it seems as if all is lost. One of the monsters goes after Mal, and Alina taps into a power that she doesn’t even realize she has. She summons light to push back the darkness…and everything she ever knew about herself or her place in the world changes in an instant.

Alina is spirited away to be trained as a Grisha. The Grisha, who are mysterious and magical beings, are led by the Darkling, the most powerful of them all. The Darkling sees Alina, a Sun Summoner, as the hope for the future of their land, but Alina is not so sure. She struggles in her training, and something seems to be holding her power back. How can she save the world when she’s still trying to figure out how she fits into it?

The Darkling is convinced that Alina is what he needs, and he does whatever he can to convince her of this. Alina eventually discovers the power within herself, and she begins to believe the Darkling. She’s also growing closer to this enigmatic figure and all he represents.

But Alina soon learns that all is not what it seems. After reuniting with Mal and uncovering a terrible truth, Alina must choose between the future offered by the Darkling and one where she is alone in the world once more. No matter which path she chooses, Alina will soon come face-to-face with her destiny. Is she the master of her fate, or is someone else holding the reins?

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With that, I’m going to wrap things up. Read Shadow and Bone. It’s awesome. I’m sure the other books are equally wonderful, and I plan to find out for sure very soon.

For more information on The Grisha trilogy and other works by Leigh Bardugo, check out her website and connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It gives a brief glimpse into Shadow and Bone without giving too much away. Enjoy!

The Vengekeep Prophecies

Once again, yours truly is here with another nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. This time, I bring you The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey. This book, the first in a new series, brings to mind the wonderful fantasy stories of Tony DiTerlizzi, Rick Riordan, and, J.K. Rowling (also known as The Queen of All Things), and I think it is a great fit for readers–young and old–who are looking for a bit of magic in their lives.

In The Vengekeep Prophecies, author Brian Farrey introduces readers to the Grimjinx family. This family of thieves is rather notorious in the town of Vengekeep, but no one can ever really prove that they’ve done anything wrong. Young Jaxter Grimjinx is supposed to be a master thief like everyone else in his family, but he has a bit of a problem. He’s clumsy. So clumsy that he can’t pick a simple lock. So clumsy that he sets a house on fire during his first solo job. A life of thievery doesn’t look promising for Jaxter.

But Jaxter is skilled at one thing that his family values. He can create natural mixtures that break low-level magical locks. Pretty handy when his family runs into trouble beyond their skills. And trouble is definitely on its way…more trouble than the Grimjinx clan has ever seen.

Each year, a tapestry is unveiled in Vengekeep that reveals a prophecy. This prophecy provides a sort of guide for the town on how they should proceed during the year–what troubles to avoid and the like. Well, this year, the tapestry is especially disturbing. It foretells the utter destruction of Vengekeep and essentially states that the Grimjinx family may be the town’s only salvation.

Jaxter knows his family isn’t really hero material, but they may not have an option this time. Even though they did so without intending to, the Grimjinx clan set events in motion that could actually level Vengekeep, and it’s up to them–or, more specifically, to Jaxter and his friend Callie–to set things right.

Jaxter and Callie set off on a mission to ultimately destroy the magic surrounding the tapestry. Their journey will be perilous, and they will encounter both friends and foes–and it won’t always be easy to tell the difference between the two.

Will Jaxter and Callie be able to get what they need before Vengekeep is destroyed, or will their efforts be for nothing? Will Jaxter Grimjinx be the savior Vengekeep needs, or will he be its ultimate end?

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The Vengekeep Prophecies reads a little like a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. There’s some vocabulary that many of my students won’t be familiar with. Some of that vocabulary seems to belong in a work of historical fiction. (The words “cistern” and “gaol” come to mind.) Other words, of course, are unfamiliar because they are unique to the world built by the author. Readers who give this book a whirl, though, will be able to use the vivid descriptions in the text to overcome most of the issues they may have with vocabulary.

The Vengekeep Prophecies is an ideal read for upper elementary and middle grade readers who are looking for a great fantasy. I know I’m always looking for more books to give to Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Spiderwick fans, and now I’ve got one more series to add to the list.

The second book in this series, The Shadowhand Covenant, is already out. As soon as I return to school, I’ll be adding it to my first order. I look forward to learning more about the fascinating Grimjinx family!

If you’d like to learn more, check out Brian Farrey’s website or Twitter. You may also want to check out the video below from HarperKids. It features the author telling a bit more about The Vengekeep Prophecies…and doing so much more eloquently than I ever could!

Sweet Legacy

Caution! It is absolutely essential that you read the first two books in Tera Lynn Childs’ Medusa Girls trilogy (Sweet Venom and Sweet Shadows) before proceeding to the third and final book, Sweet Legacy. As a matter of fact, go ahead and read them over again (or at least skim) before starting the finale. I wish I had. I spent way too much time trying to re-familiarize myself with the events of the previous two books, and that had a big impact on my reading.

Well, it’s not often that it takes me seventeen days to finish a book, but that’s just what happened with Sweet Legacy. (If you read the warning above, you can probably figure out why.) It’s not the book’s fault. If I had read the books in this series back-to-back, my reading would have gone much more smoothly. As it was, I had a hard time remembering what happened in the previous two books, so, when I found myself totally confused, I had to revisit the previous books to refresh my memory. (Ah, the perils of loving books in a series!) This was rather time-consuming. Add this to my job responsibilities, spending time with family, keeping a semi-clean house, and other stuff, and my reading of Sweet Legacy didn’t go nearly as fast as is normal for me.

Once I finally got into Sweet Legacy (and remembered everything I needed to), the story was rather engrossing. It picks up the story of triplets Gretchen, Greer, and Grace, modern-day descendants of Medusa, and their quest to either close or open the door between the monster and human realms. (This may seem like a simple decision, but it’s really not…as you’ll see.)

Grace, Greer, and Gretchen, sisters who didn’t even know each other just days ago, are doing everything within their considerable power to set things right in the world. But what is right? That’s not always clear, and when both monsters and gods are set on killing you to prevent you from fulfilling your destiny, it muddies the waters even more.

The sisters travel through the abyss, through the halls and dungeons of Mount Olympus, and even through their fair city of San Francisco looking for help in finding the lost door between the realms. They will find help among monsters, gods, gorgons, and humans alike (including a trio of guys that do their part to muddle the girls’ thoughts), and all of them will be tasked with fighting in the battle ahead. Ultimately, though, destiny resides in the hands of Greer, Grace, and Gretchen, three young girls being asked to determine the fate of the world as they know it.

Will the sisters seal the door to the abyss forever (and trap all monsters, good and bad alike)? Will they open the door and let whatever happens happen? Or will they truly fulfill their purpose as descendants of Medusa and claim the legacy that has been foretold for centuries? What do the Fates have in store for Grace, Gretchen, and Greer? Discover the answers for yourself when you read Sweet Legacy, the thrilling conclusion to Tera Lynn Childs’ Medusa Girls trilogy!

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Even though it did take me longer than I would have liked to get into this book, I will say that, once I did, I was impressed with how action-packed it was. Truly, there was never a dull moment, and the strength of the sisters was awesome to behold, especially since their strengths manifested in very different ways. Each of the girls presented a role model that embraced not only her strengths but her flaws as well. The sisters experienced growth throughout the series, and they also grew closer to each other and young men who didn’t try to make them fit into a mold of the perfect teen girl. The sisters are loved as they are, fangs and all.

I would definitely recommend this series to middle grade and young adult readers. Those who’ve enjoyed any of Rick Riordan’s books will likely find something to enjoy in this series, and it’s also kind of interesting to compare the mythologies in both authors’ works.

If you’d like more information on the Medusa Girls trilogy or other books by Tera Lynn Childs, I encourage you to visit the author’s website at http://teralynnchilds.com/. I’ve read almost everything she’s written at this point, and there’s not a stinker in the bunch!