The Darkest Corners

I had planned to take a break from blogging during my vacation. Well, that’s just not working out for me. Earlier today, I finished reading The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas, and I have to get my thoughts down while they’re still fresh.

So…The Darkest Corners. How can I best describe this book? It’s a murder mystery, but there’s so much more to it. Tessa, our protagonist, is returning to Fayette, Pennsylvania, after a ten-year absence, and her reasons for returning are just as complicated as those that make her stick around.

Tessa is back in Fayette to say goodbye to her dying father. While she doesn’t get the chance for that last meeting, she does find herself once again pulled into the case that changed her life forever…and will continue to do so.

Ten years ago, a serial killer known as the Ohio River Monster was on the loose in Fayette. Tessa and her friend Callie testified at the trial of a man thought to be the killer, but new evidence may set this man free. What if they were wrong? What if an innocent man is in prison and the real killer is still out there?

When another girl is killed in the same manner as the Monster’s victims, Tessa is more certain than ever that she and Callie got it wrong. But how can they prove it? Will they be able to bring the real killer(s) to justice when the police couldn’t? And what will Tessa uncover about herself and her own family throughout the course of her investigation?

Secrets will be revealed, and the truth will soon come to light. How will this change Tessa and everything she believes about herself? Read The Darkest Corners to find out.


While I thought this book was a little slow to start, I absolutely devoured the last two-thirds of it. I couldn’t read fast enough, and I was thrown by the revelations at the end of the book. Totally didn’t see any of that coming. Kudos to author Kara Thomas for keeping me guessing and delivering a whopper of a surprise at the end.

If you’re considering adding The Darkest Corners to your library, I advise caution with younger readers. In my opinion, this is a YA book. It addresses things like murder, drug use, drinking, and teen prostitution. The language used reflects the seriousness and grittiness of these situations. Keep that in mind.

To learn more about The Darkest Corners and other books by Kara Thomas, visit the author’s website. Enjoy!

After the End

After the End by Amy Plum has been on my TBR list for a while. I loved Plum’s Die for Me series, so I was confident I would like this book, the first in a duology. As it turns out, I did like After the End, but I also found it kind of frustrating…especially since I didn’t realize until after I’d finished it that it was only book one. (Luckily, the paperback version of book two comes out today. Hooray!)

Juneau, a seventeen-year-old girl living with her clan in the Alaskan wilderness, has grown up knowing that she is one of the few survivors of the fallout of World War III. She and her clan commune with nature and avoid anything and everything outside of their boundaries. Juneau is set to become the clan’s new sage, she feels connected to Yara, or the force that holds all of nature together, and she is confident of her place in the clan.

Everything changes, however, when all Juneau has ever known disappears in an instant. She knows something is amiss when, while on a hunting trip, she hears helicopters in the distance. Juneau rushes back to her clan only to learn that no one is there. Everyone, including her father, has been kidnapped, and Juneau is the only one left to discover why and where they were taken. It’s up to her to rescue them from an uncertain fate.

Juneau crosses her clan’s boundaries for the first time in her search for answers, but she’s not prepared for some of the answers she receives. It seems that nearly everything she believed was a lie. There was no World War III, no nuclear devastation, no reason for her clan to be so isolated. So why were they? Why have they been taken now? And what do those responsible for her clan’s disappearance want with Juneau?

Someone who may have the resources to answer at least one of these questions is Miles. Miles Blackwell is the eighteen-year-old son of a pharmaceutical firm CEO. While Miles is at home–after being kicked out of school–he overhears his father talking about the search for a young girl in Alaska. He figures that he can maybe find this girl and somehow get back in his father’s good graces. What could possibly go wrong?

Miles is on the hunt for Juneau while Juneau is searching for her clan, and the two eventually cross paths. Miles doesn’t exactly buy all of the Yara stuff that Juneau is talking about. His goal is to turn this girl in to his father. Eventually, though, he comes to realize that there is something special–supernatural even–about this girl, and he begins to change his tune. He wants to help her, but how? And what exactly does his father want with her?

As Juneau and Miles get closer to the truth, they will encounter some uncomfortable realizations about their families and what they believed about the world around them. Will they be able to figure out what’s really going on, find Juneau’s clan, and escape those who would do almost anything to stop them? We shall see…


If you’re as avid a reader as I am, you no doubt know the frustration that comes when you get close to the end of a book and there simply aren’t enough pages for everything that needs to happen. That’s what I endured as After the End drew to a close, so it’s good that there’s another book, Until the Beginning, to look forward to, but I’m still a little dissatisfied. Hopefully, that feeling will change when I read book two.

Minor frustrations aside, I do think After the End is a good book. It’s gripping, puzzling, and thought-provoking. The two different perspectives in the book–and how they come together–make for a very interesting read, and the larger ethical dilemmas presented in the book could lead to some intriguing discussions.

If you’d like to learn more about After the End and other books by Amy Plum, check out the author’s website. You may also want to connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram.

The Copper Gauntlet

Caution: If you haven’t read The Iron Trial, the first book in the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, do that before continuing with this post. Also, if it’s been over a year since you’ve read book one, give it a quick once-over before proceeding with The Copper Gauntlet. (I wish I had.)

I decided that my first book of the new year should be one that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. Truthfully, I’m shocked at myself that I didn’t devour The Copper Gauntlet the minute it came out. (It’s no big secret that I’m a Cassandra Clare fangirl.) This second book in the Magisterium series was released on September 1st, and it’s been staring at me reproachfully from the top of my TBR pile ever since. Thankfully, I’ve now taken care of that little problem.

Since it had been a while since I read The Iron Trial (November 2014), I had forgotten much of what happened in that book. (I’m serious about doing a brief re-read before starting book two.) For that reason, it was a little difficult for my reading of The Copper Gauntlet to pick up momentum at first. Once I got into it, though–and was reminded of the events of the first book–things really got moving, and I was just as invested in this book as I was its predecessor.

Callum Hunt isn’t what one would call a normal kid. Sure, he’s spending the summer at home with his dad, playing with his dog, and getting ready for another school year, but that’s not exactly the whole story.

See, Call is about to enter his second year at the Magisterium, a school for mages, a school that his father absolutely loathes. Also, his dog is actually a Chaos-ridden wolf named Havoc, and this pet could do some serious damage if he really wanted to. Finally, Call might just be the vessel for the Enemy of Death (the big, bad guy in the world of mages). Yeah…Call threw “normal” out the window a while ago.

When Call discovers that his father has some disturbing, dangerous plans for both Call and Havoc, he runs away to the only home he has left…the Magisterium and the friends he’s made there. He finds refuge with his friends, Tamara and Aaron, but he doesn’t reveal his deep, dark secret to them. They wouldn’t understand the whole “I actually possess the soul of the Enemy” thing. Call barely understands it himself. There has to be more to him than he’s been led to believe, and he’ll do whatever he can to convince himself that he won’t turn out to be an Evil Overlord.

When the Alkahest–a powerful copper gauntlet–is stolen, Call knows it’s up to him to find this magical object and return it to the Magisterium. Why? Well, his father may have something to do with it, and Call needs to get to him before either the Magisterium or the minions of the Enemy do. (Also, the Alkahest could be used to destroy Call and his best friend, Aaron. No pressure there.)

Of course, Call can’t possibly get away without his friends and Havoc (plus one more kid he can’t stand), so he goes on the run with some company, and, as one might imagine, the group finds more trouble than they ever expected.

_______________

I’m going to stop before I give too much more away. I will tell you, however, that for every question answered in this book, dozens more pop up. There is some resolution at the end of The Copper Gauntlet, but, given that there are three more books to go in this series, we can deduce that it won’t last.

Speaking of future books, the next installment, The Bronze Key, is expected to be released in September of this year. Book four, The Golden Boy, will be out in 2017, and the final chapter, The Enemy of Death, is expected in 2018. Lots to look forward to.

Like The Iron Trial, I think The Copper Gauntlet is a great read for those in upper elementary grades on up. Fans of Harry Potter and Rick Riordan’s books will delight in this series…and will surely make some interesting comparisons. (The similarities between The Magisterium and Harry Potter are undeniable.) I added this book to my own elementary library collection, and the response has been nothing but positive.

For more information on The Iron Trial, The Copper Gauntlet, and the rest of the Magisterium series, visit the official website. It’s got lots of interactive goodies that you may enjoy.

Now, I must leave you. (Not for long, so no worries.) I return to the “real world” tomorrow, and I have one day left to do all the stuff that I meant to do during my two week break. I can hardly contain my joy.*

*Where’s a sarcasm font when I need one?

The False Prince

I’m a kind of ashamed by how little I’ve managed to read this weekend. (It’s been a four-day weekend for me. Under normal circumstances, I might have finished at least four books.) Thanks to a doctor’s appointment, spending time with family, napping, cleaning, worrying about blood test results (which turned out fine, by the way), and watching way too much TV, I just didn’t have it in me to read much this weekend. It didn’t help that I was finding it hard to get into the book I had chosen to read, so, last night, I picked up a different book. I’d been meaning to read Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince for a while, and I decided that this book would be the one to get me out of my slump. How right I was! This book was totally engrossing, surprising, and it kept me guessing until the very end. I finished it just a few minutes ago, roughly sixteen hours after I started reading it (and that was with breaks for things like sleeping, eating, and trekking to the pharmacy). The False Prince delivers on adventure, humor, and mystery and is an excellent book for readers from upper elementary grades through adulthood. This is one book (of many I’ve read) that can’t be limited to just one age group.

The kingdom of Carthya is on the verge of war. The king, queen, and crown prince have all been murdered, and one man, Conner, has a plan to place a “false prince” on the throne–a boy who will take the place of Prince Jaron, the long-lost second son of the king and queen. He just needs to find the right boy. He searches local orphanages, and four boys are initially chosen to vie for the title of future king. One of those boys is Sage. From the beginning, Sage is hard to control. He wants nothing to do with Conner’s plan…until he realizes that failure means certain death.

It’s not always easy for sage to toe the line with Conner. He gets into considerable trouble and is punished severely. Eventually, though, Sage does what he must to convince Conner that he is the boy who should be prince, but he wonders what Conner isn’t telling him and the other boys. Why is he so sure that Prince Jaron is dead when his body was never found? What does Conner have to gain by placing an imposter on the throne? What will really happen to the boys who are not chosen for this role? Yes, Conner definitely has his secrets–some of them deadly–but he’s not the only one who’s keeping secrets. Sage knows that someone else has secrets that could turn Conner’s many plans into nothing but ash…

As Sage attempts to learn all he can to pass for the missing prince, he’s also on a quest to discover just what is going on around him. Is there anyone he can truly trust? And how will Conner, the other boys, and those he’s grown close to react when Sage’s many secrets are revealed? How will the revelation impact Conner’s plans for the throne? Discover the truth when you read The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen!

I haven’t even hinted how wonderful this book is…even though I may have hinted at a couple of major plot points.:-) The False Prince is an extraordinary beginning in what is sure to be a brilliant trilogy. (Book two in The Ascendance Trilogy, The Runaway King, is supposed to be released on March 1st. Happy early birthday to me!) Sage’s voice is at once humorous, vulnerable, and sarcastic…everything a reader like me enjoys. This is a book that will appeal equally to male and female readers and should be marketed to everyone in upper elementary, middle, and high schools. Adult readers will also find something to love.

I heard a rumor recently that The False Prince has been optioned for the big screen, and an editor for Game of Thrones is adapting the novel. I just went to the author’s website, and, as luck would have it, the rumor is true! Oh, happy day. I think this is awesome, and if anyone can do justice to this story, I’m hoping that someone with a hand in Game of Thrones can live up to the task.

To learn more about The False Prince and other works by Jennifer A. Nielsen, visit the author’s website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook. For your viewing pleasure, I’m also including here a short book trailer for The False Prince (produced by Scholastic) that I found on YouTube. It’s short but powerful. Enjoy!

Bargains and Betrayals

If you haven’t read the first two books in Shannon Delany’s 13 to Life series (13 to Life and Secrets and Shadows), read those before continuing with this post about book three, Bargains and Betrayals!

So, I finished reading Bargains and Betrayals by Shannon Delany last night, and it totally lived up to the previous two books. How can you go wrong with a book that has mental institutions, conspiracies, werewolves, and the Russian Mafia? (There was actually one part I could have lived without. One word. Zombies.)  This book is extremely dramatic, tense, and action-packed, and it kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.  (And how glad am I that the fourth book, Destiny and Deception, is already out?  I started reading it as soon as I finished Bargains and Betrayals.)

Bargains and Betrayals picks up right where Secrets and Shadows left off.  Jessie is being taken to a psychiatric facility, Pecan Place, “for her own good.”  Jessie is not happy about being away from her werewolf boyfriend Pietr, and she’s even more unhappy when she discovers that Pecan Place is not exactly what she thought.  After all, would a real mental institution have zombie guards and dead bodies in the basement?  Would a real psychiatrist murder a patient?  I’m thinking no.

While Jessie is dealing with a bunch of craziness at the mental institution, Pietr is struggling with how he can free the two people he loves the most–Jessie and his mother.  Time is running out for everyone, and Pietr makes a drastic decision that could help to save everyone but may just destroy him.  But Pietr will pay any price, sacrifice almost anything, to save the people he loves.  Will it be enough?

Jessie and Pietr aren’t the only ones having issues.  The entire Rusakova clan is facing an uncertain future.  Jessie’s friend Amy is learning to live and trust again after enduring an extremely abusive relationship.  People are dying all through the town of Junction, and an agency that may or may not have government ties seems to be responsible.  What can Jessie, Pietr, and their families and friends do to stop the madness that is invading their lives?  What bargains will they have to make (and with whom)?  Who will be betrayed so that lives can be saved?  Uncover the truth when you read Bargains and Betrayals by Shannon Delany!

I’ve enjoyed the entire 13 to Life series so far, but I must admit that Bargains and Betrayals is now my favorite (so far), despite the zombies.  I was not prepared for the twist at the end of the book, and I think it will be very interesting to see how that plays out in Destiny and Deception.  Luckily, I don’t have to wait to find out since book four is already out, and I started reading it last night.  I hope to finish it this weekend.

A word of caution:  Bargains and Betrayals deals with some mature themes (sex, violence, rape, etc.), so I would not recommend this book to readers under the age of 16.  Of course, maturity levels vary, so do with this what you will.

If you’d like more information about author Shannon Delany and the 13 to Life series, visit http://www.13tolifeseries.com/index.html.

The Throne of Fire

Spoiler alert!  If you haven’t read The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, do that before proceeding with this post.  You’ll be really confused if you don’t.  (Not to mention that the first book will be totally…well, spoiled for you.  That’s why we call this a spoiler alert.)  You’ve been warned!

I finished reading Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid a few months ago, and I had every intention of jumping right into book two in The Kane Chronicles, The Throne of Fire.  Life, however, has a way of interfering with one’s plans.  (Also, I had a bunch of other books I wanted to read, too.)  So, it’s now nearly three months later, and I’ve finally finished The Throne of Fire.  (I blame my stress-inducing, energy-sapping book fair last week for interfering with my reading speed on this book.)  The Throne of Fire is a good book with a lot of action and suspense, and events are very fast-paced.  If you enjoyed The Red Pyramid or any of Rick Riordan’s other books, you’ll definitely enjoy The Throne of Fire.

Carter and Sadie Kane can’t just have a normal life.  It’s not enough that they’re descended from pharoahs, or learning to harness their skills as magicians, or teaching others like them to do the same.  On top of all this, they’ve got to find a way to prevent Apophis, the god of chaos, from rising while trying to find the Book of Ra so that the sun god can rise and help them to defeat the forces of chaos threatening to take over the world.  Easy-peasy, right?  Um, not so much.  As usual, things don’t exactly go quite as well as the Kane family would like.

Carter and Sadie are encountering new and unexpected things in their latest adventures:  girl trouble (for Carter), boy trouble (for Sadie), two gods taking over the forms of their grandparents, an unbelievably ugly–but helpful–dwarf god, a bad Russian magician lovingly called Vlad the Inhaler (he has some respiratory issues), and a bunch of gods, goddesses, mummies, and magicians who seem to want the Kanes dead.  It wouldn’t be so bad if all of this wasn’t interfering with their search for Ra.  (Did I mention that they have absolutely no idea where Ra is or what condition he might be in when/if they find him?  No?  Well, now you know.)

Things aren’t looking good for Carter and Sadie and their fight to restore order to the world.  Chaos is breaking free, and it will take immense strength and a fair bit of sacrifice to prevent Apophis from destroying everything.  Are Carter and Sadie up to the task?  What–or who–will they have to give up this time to win the battle before them?  And will it be enough to strike a blow in the war that is coming?  The answers are never easy, but you can discover them yourself when you read The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan.

I have to say that I enjoyed this book just as much as I did The Red Pyramid.  (Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will always be my favorite, though.)  I look forward to reading more about Carter and Sadie Kane and their war against Apophis.  The third book in The Kane Chronicles is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2012.  No word yet on the title.

FYI, if you’re in or around South Carolina, Rick Riordan will be at Books-a-Million in Columbia on October 4th to promote his latest release, The Son of Neptune, the second book in his Heroes of Olympus series.  He’s set to arrive in carriage pulled by three black horses–just like Hades.  I don’t have many details on the event yet, but I plan to be there. 

If you’d like more information on Rick Riordan, his books, and his upcoming tour schedule, visit http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.  Have fun!

Mercy Creek

So, I just finished reading Mercy Creek by Matt Matthews–which is good since I’ll be meeting the author tomorrow night.  (He lives just a few miles away from me, so a bunch of librarians and teachers are joining him for dinner and a discussion of his book.)  Should be interesting…

Mercy Creek takes place in a sleepy Virginia town where things haven’t changed much in the last fifty years or so.  The same families live in the same houses, attend the same churches, and hold onto the same old grudges and secrets.  Sixteen-year-old Isaac has lived in this town his entire life.  His father is the local Presbyterian minister, his mother recently passed away, his girlfriend is drifting away from him, and his summer is filled with working at a hardware store instead of playing baseball with this friends.  The only bright spot that Isaac can see is the $5,000 reward being offered to whoever can find who’s responsible for a recent string of vandalism.  That money would go a long way to making Isaac a little happier.  But can he find out what’s going on…without risking his neck?

As Isaac begins digging for information, he comes across some unexpected secrets in his small town.  Prejudices that no one wants to admit to.  Atrocities that the whole town has turned a blind eye to for decades.  Isaac keeps searching for answers amid all of the secrecy, and he finds something he didn’t expect.  Himself.  His hunt for the truth forces him to grow into the person he wants to be instead of the one he’s been since his mother died.  He also finds a friend in someone who knows more about what’s going on in this town than he’s saying.  Can Isaac find the truth before someone gets hurt?  And can he learn to accept the changes around him, including those within his own life?  Read Mercy Creek by Matt Matthews to find out.

I’ll admit to you, dear readers, that it took me a while to get into this book.  It seemed to jump around a lot at the beginning.  (Of course, I was reading an uncorrected proof of the book, so those issues may have been fixed in editing.  I hope so.)  As I kept reading, however, the story grew more interesting, especially since Isaac’s town has a lot in common with the small town I grew up in (and still live in).  Prejudices run deep, and they’re often passed on to the younger generations.  It’s nice to read a book that exposes those prejudices for what they are–complete and total ignorance–while not being too preachy (which is odd since the author of this book is actually a preacher).

I look forward to meeting Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, tomorrow night.  I’ll post a recap of that meeting in the comments, so stay tuned!