City of Saints & Thieves

Dearest readers, do you ever get to a point where you don’t feel like reading much of anything? Well, that’s been me for the past week or so. (I blame end-of-year testing and other assorted craziness at school.) I’ve cleaned off my DVR, spent some quality time with Netflix, and taken quite a few naps, but I just haven’t had the energy to read much lately. Hopefully, though, I’ve turned a corner and can devote the more of my oh-so-valuable time to the books that mean so much to me.

Today, I bring you a book that took me nearly a month to get through, City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. It’s a good book, but it’s not exactly an easy read. It’s dark, gritty, and real, and, to be perfectly honest, that’s not something I’m always in the mood for. I have to be in the right frame of mind to really delve into a book like this one, and I just haven’t been there. I did, however, find the will to finish this book over the course of the past couple of days. While it was kind of slow to start, in my opinion, the action really picked up near the middle, and it didn’t let up until the very end.

Tina, a girl surviving by her wits in the heart of Sangui City, Kenya, has her mind set on one thing–revenge. Her mother was brutally murdered five years ago, and Tina has made it her mission in life to make the killer pay. She thinks she knows who did the deed, and she’s working with a local gang to bring the man to his knees. But what if she’s wrong?

Tina believes with ever fiber of her being that Roland Greyhill, an influential businessman in Africa, murdered her mother. Mr. Greyhill had a relationship with Tina’s mom, and they had a child together, but that didn’t stop him from threatening her, an act that Tina witnessed late one night. Of course he’s the one who made good on his threat. All Tina has to do is prove it…and that may be harder than she anticipated when Michael, her former friend and Mr. Greyhill’s son, catches her breaking into the Greyhill estate.

After a somewhat rough reintroduction to each other, Michael convinces a reluctant Tina to at least consider the possibility that his father did not murder her mother. He had nothing to gain and everything to lose. So who else could have done it?

Tina and Michael, with some major assists from Tina’s hacker friend, BoyBoy, go on the hunt for evidence that will either prove or disprove Mr. Greyhill’s innocence. What they find, however, makes Tina question everything she thought she knew about her mother. What was she hiding? What really drove her from their home in the Congo to the Greyhill estate in Kenya? And could uncovering the truth of it all put Tina and her friends in the same crosshairs that were aimed at her mother?

Who really killed Tina’s mother? Was it Mr. Greyhill, or is there another, more sinister, and even closer threat that Tina never could have imagined?


I hope I’ve at least piqued your interest with this post. Even though it took me a little while to get into this book, I did enjoy it, and I especially liked that the book featured non-Western perspectives. I haven’t read many YA books set in Africa–that’s my own fault–and this book definitely made me want to change that.

City of Saints & Thieves, in my opinion, is suited to a mature teen audience. Like I mentioned before, it is dark and gritty, and it does deal with issues like war, rape, murder, and the aftereffects of all of those things. The author’s note at the end of the book indicates that a lot of what we see in the book is based on real events. For that reason, this book could be a springboard for discussions on the plights of women and refugees in Congo and other parts of the world.

If you’d like to learn more about City of Saints & Thieves, billed as a cross between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl, visit author Natalie C. Anderson’s website. You can also follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

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Circus Mirandus

I’ve never been a big fan of the circus. I think I went once when I was a kid, and I was so freaked out by the clowns that I never thought to go back. If, however, there had been a whisper of something like Circus Mirandus during my childhood, I may have changed my tune.

As you’ve gathered by now, Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley is my latest read. It’s a nominee for the 17-18 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, and it’s simply magical. This book is perfect for readers who enjoy Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, and pretty much everything by Roald Dahl.

Micah Tuttle has grown up with his Grandpa Ephraim’s stories of Circus Mirandus, a magical circus that has to be believed to be seen. Micah believes. He believes in Bibi, the invisible tiger that guards the circus; the Amazing Amazonian Birdwoman, who flies and commands an enormous flock of birds; Big Jean, the smartest elephant ever; and, most importantly, the Man Who Bends Light, or the Lightbender, an extraordinarily powerful magician. Micah knows that all of it really exists, and he’d dearly love to see it someday, preferably with his beloved grandfather by his side.

Unfortunately, Grandpa Ephraim’s health is failing. Micah knows even telling stories about Circus Mirandus would make him feel better, but Aunt Gertrudis, Ephraim’s vile, mean-spirited sister isn’t having it. She thinks Ephraim’s stories are nonsense, and she does everything she can to keep Micah from seeing his grandfather and talking about the circus they both hold dear.

But Aunt Gertrudis may not have much choice in the matter. Circus Mirandus is real, and the Lightbender owes Grandpa Ephraim a miracle. Micah just knows that this miracle can save his grandfather’s life, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that Grandpa Ephraim gets what he needs. Micah is joined in his efforts by his new friend, Jenny, a girl who doesn’t exactly believe Micah’s tales of the circus. She simply wants to help Micah.

Micah and Jenny set off to find Circus Mirandus and bring the Lightbender back to Grandpa Ephraim. The two find the circus, and it’s more magical than either of them could have ever thought. Micah is enchanted by it, much like his grandfather was years ago, and he knows something this wonderful surely has the power to save Grandpa Ephraim. But it may not be so easy.

The Lightbender seems hesitant to honor Ephraim’s requested miracle, and Micah doesn’t know why. He’s disheartened, but he soon learns a shocking family secret that may explain why the Lightbender is reluctant to fulfill his promise. Will that stop Micah from doing everything he can to help his grandfather, though? Absolutely not.

Will the Lightbender perform the miracle Grandpa Ephraim requested? Will Micah’s grandfather become healthy again so that Micah doesn’t have to live with his horrible Aunt Gertrudis? Or does destiny, and the Circus Mirandus, have something else in store for Micah’s future?


I know I’ve given too much away in this post, but once I got going, I didn’t want to stop. To be honest, I could write a lot more about this book. It’s poignant and spellbinding, and it calls to the reader’s imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hope my students feel the same way.

I think this book is great for readers in upper elementary and middle grades. Readers as young as third grade will find something to love in this book–and even something to despise. Aunt Gertrudis is truly awful. For those Harry Potter fans out there, she’s almost as bad as Dolores Umbridge.

Circus Mirandus is the perfect book for anyone who’s ever wanted to run away and join the circus. Even if that’s never appealed to you, the book is excellent for readers who believe that there’s magic in the world. We really just have to open our eyes and be willing to see it.

For more information on Circus Mirandus, visit author Cassie Beasley’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

A word to the wise: Read Three Times Lucky before diving into The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing…or this post. While it’s not absolutely necessary to read the first book before the second, it is a good idea. Also, if you read the second book, you’re going to want to see what preceded it, so you might as well read the books in order.

A few years ago, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage was a nominee for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Now, the sequel, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, has made it to the same list for 2016-17. If you go back and read my post on the first book, all the same stuff applies to this one. This series–which currently includes three books–has one of the best examples of character voice and descriptive language that I’ve come across in my six years as an elementary school librarian. Readers of all ages are sure to adore Mo LoBeau and her trusty sidekick, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, and the trouble they find with their work in the Desperado Detective Agency.

All anyone can talk about lately in the small town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, is the auction of the old–supposedly haunted–inn. Mo LoBeau, co-founder of the Desperado Detective Agency, doesn’t go looking to take on a haunted inn as one of her cases, but things have a way of falling into her lap, especially when Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton sort of accidentally purchase the inn in question.

Pretty soon, Mo and Dale are doing their best to solve the big mystery of the Tupelo Inn…while getting a bona fide supernatural source for their big history report. Sure, it gets scary at times, but these Mo and Dale–along with a new and unexpected ally–are on the case, and they’re determined to find out what this ghost’s story is.

As often happens, especially when it comes to matters involving Mo LoBeau, things get complicated quickly. Someone–or something–is trying to keep Mo and company out of the inn. What could anyone else possibly want with an old, broken down inn? Besides a ghost, what other secrets could this old place be hiding?

Mo and Dale are getting closer and closer to discovering the truth about the Tupelo Inn and its ghostly inhabitant, but what else will they discover along the way? Some people may not encounter an actual ghost, but they may be haunted by their pasts just the same. Can Mo and Dale solve more than one mystery surrounding this inn…before it’s too late?

Help Mo and Dale unravel the mystery of the Tupelo Inn when you read The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage!


I don’t think this post in any way captures what an outstanding book this is. It is moving, mysterious, and laugh-out-loud funny. That’s not a combo one sees all that often, but Sheila Turnage makes it look effortless. I am now super-eager to get my hands on the third Mo and Dale book, The Odds of Getting Even. Like Three Times Lucky and The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, the third installment stays checked out of my library, so I’ve got a wait ahead of me.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and the other books in this series would serve as excellent class read-alouds, particularly when discussing voice or figurative language. Readers will fall in love with the character of Mo, but they’ll also appreciate all of the other unique characters in these books. Many readers who live in small towns may find something familiar–and rather comforting–about Tupelo Landing and its odd assortment of citizens. Maybe they’ll be inspired to write their own hometown tales.

If you’d like to learn more about The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and the other books in this series, be sure to visit author Sheila Turnage’s website. You can also like her Facebook page and check out the totally spoiler-free book trailer below. Enjoy!

The Girl I Used to Be

A few minutes ago, I finished reading The Girl I Used to Be, the newest offering from YA suspense author April Henry. This book comes out on May 3rd, and, while I have a couple of issues with it, I do think it will be a good fit for mystery lovers and reluctant readers.

Olivia Reinhart hasn’t always been the girl she is now. Once upon a time, she was Ariel Benson. When she was just three years old, her mother was brutally murdered, her father disappeared, and Ariel was somehow left at a Walmart miles away. For the longest time, everyone thought her father must have killed her mom, but new evidence has come to light indicating that’s not what happened. It seems that Ariel’s dad was killed at the same time as her mom, and the killer was the one who took Ariel to a place he/she knew the little girl would be found.

Now, Olivia/Ariel is returning to her hometown for her father’s memorial service, and she decides to stick around to find out what really happened to her parents. She tells no one who she is. After all, if the killer is still around, she doesn’t want to be his next victim.

As Olivia spends more time in this small town, she learns more about her parents and their friends, she finds herself experiencing flashes of memories, and she begins to form theories on who may have committed such a heinous crime. But she can’t do too much snooping around or people will get suspicious as to her true identity. That’s where Duncan comes in.

Duncan, a childhood friend who recognizes Olivia as Ariel almost immediately, offers to help Olivia get the information she so desperately needs. No one will question a local kid curious about this horrible event and what’s going on with the investigation now. Together, the two begin to piece together a puzzle, but even they aren’t prepared for the truth.

Can Olivia figure out what happened to her parents before the killer strikes again? Is she destined to be the next victim? Find out when you read The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry.


Even though this book kept my interest, I kind of felt like it moved too fast. There wasn’t a ton of build-up, and the big reveal was too abrupt for my taste. Also, I figured out “whodunit” pretty early on, and I was sort of disappointed to learn that I was right. I think a few more chapters and red herrings would have fleshed the book out a bit and made it much stronger.

Another issue I had was the somewhat forced, out-of-nowhere romance between Olivia and Duncan. I just didn’t buy it. Maybe I’m alone in that and in the sentiment that not every book needs a romantic arc.

Aside from all that, though, I did think The Girl I Used to Be was an entertaining book, and it will find its place in many libraries that serve middle and high school readers. It’s a quick read that will appeal to mystery lovers, most especially those who’ve read the author’s previous works.

If you’d like more information on The Girl I Used to Be (which drops on May 3rd) and other mysteries by April Henry, check out the author’s websiteTwitter, and Facebook.

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!