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/.

 

Beauty Queens

Just when I think author Libba Bray cannot outdo herself, she goes and proves me wrong.  I thought her Printz-award-winning novel, Going Bovine, was pure genius, and I thought nothing would be able to top it.  I was mistaken.  Her latest book, Beauty Queens, is absolute perfection, and it hooked me from the very first sentence.  This book is kind of Lost meets Miss Teen USA meets James Bond, and the not-so-tongue-in-cheek pop culture references are alarmingly spot on.  One of my favorite things while reading this book was trying to figure out who the “real life” people were who matched up with the book’s characters.  (More often than not, it wasn’t too difficult.)

A plane full of Miss Teen Dream pageant contestants has crash-landed on a remote island.  Not all of them make it out alive.  How are these girls to survive without drinking water, without food, without shelter, without moisturizer?  Some of the girls are convinced that help is sure to come soon, and they better be ready with their pageant faces on, their talents ready, and their interview answers prepared.  Other girls are more worried about actually, you know, surviving in the wild.

As it becomes clear that help will not be coming anytime soon, the girls, while still doing their best to be the next Miss Teen Dream, take matters into their own hands.  They build shelter, they hunt for food, they develop an irrigation system, and they learn a little about themselves and each other.  In short, they work together and learn that they really can do anything if they put their minds to it.  And that includes figuring out just what is happening on this mysterious island…

You see, things are not as they seem on this island.  Secrets abound–government conspiracies, corporate espionage, other evil villain type stuff–and the Miss Teen Dream contestants will have to face who they are and who they wish to be if they have any hope of uncovering the truth and escaping the island.  Can they become strong women willing to fight for their lives?  (Note:  This becomes even more complicated when a ship full of hot, wannabe pirates enters the picture.  Guys have been known to have an adverse effect on a girl’s brainwaves.)

Join the remaining contestants of the Miss Teen Dream pageant as they discover themselves and what they’re are truly capable of accomplishing.  They’re not just pretty faces!  Enjoy the beauty, madness, hilarity, and suspense when you read Beauty Queens by Libba Bray!

All too often, when a book is as awesome as this one, I have difficulty putting my thoughts into words, and this time is really no exception.  Beauty Queens is a stellar piece of literature that teens and adults will enjoy, and I will be extremely disappointed if this book does not win the Printz award for excellence in young adult literature.  This book, while funny, also made me think about the importance we place on beauty in this culture and how beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  Bray also represents the LGBT community in her characters, and the book is stronger for their presence.  All in all, Beauty Queens is one of the best books I’ve read this year.  I hope you feel the same way.

For more information on Libba Bray and her wonderful books, visit http://www.libbabray.com/.

Mad Kestrel

My latest read is Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey (who just so happens to be a media clerk in Rock Hill).  This book is (more or less) about a female pirate named Kestrel.  (She’s almost like a female version of Jack Sparrow.)  Kestrel is no ordinary pirate, though; she can make magic.  When she whistles or sings, weird things happen.  Her parents died to prevent her from being taken by the Danisoba, mysterious beings who tear children with magical powers from their homes.  Since then, Kestrel has been on the run from these beings, and the water is her safe haven.

When her captain, Binns, is arrested, Kestrel must use her wits and her powers to save him.  She faces many enemies, even some among those she trusted, and she is aided by an unlikely source.  What will happen to Kestrel?  Who can she trust?  Can she find and rescue Binns without dying herself?  Read Mad Kestrel to find out!

This is an awesome book, and I was psyched to find out that the author is from my home state!  A must-read for people who like pirates (and who doesn’t like pirates)!