Nothing but Shadows

Two days ago, Shadowhunter fans were graced with yet another Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy story from Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. In case you’re not caught up, the first three stories are Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy, The Lost Herondale, and The Whitechapel Fiend. Get to reading, my friends!

For those who are still with me, the fourth tale, Nothing but Shadows, continues Simon’s journey through the Academy and gives readers a look at the relationship between James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild.

As Simon Lewis navigates the rather gloomy halls of the Shadowhunter Academy, he’s learning more and more about those who came before him. It seems he’s not the only one to question the absolute certainty that Shadowhunters–especially those born to the life–are superior to everyone else.

Many years ago, two very different young men also questioned things…and, even though they had a rocky start, they eventually formed a virtually unbreakable bond. These two Academy students were James Herondale (son of Will and Tessa) and Matthew Fairchild (son of Henry and Charlotte).

James, a rather serious boy, really just wants to make a friend, but he’s shy, unsure of himself, and often prefers the company of his books. Matthew, on the other hand, seems to be James’ exact opposite. Matthew is popular, witty, outlandish, and, no matter what shenanigans he pulls, everyone is charmed by him. Everyone except James.

When a shocking truth is revealed about James, his heritage, and his abilities, he retreats even further from his fellow students. He’s now a total pariah, and he thinks that no one will ever want to befriend him now. As it turns out, he’s as wrong about that as he is about what really drives Matthew Fairchild. When James learns just why Matthew behaves the way he does, he finds himself as drawn to this charismatic boy as everyone else.

James and Matthew eventually form a strong friendship, and, when James’ future at the Academy is called into question, Matthew is right there by his side. He doesn’t care that James has some odd abilities passed on from his mother. He doesn’t care that others are afraid of James. Matthew sees James as a friend, a parabatai…and a way home to his father.

When Simon discovers what James and Matthew experienced during their time at the Shadowhunter Academy and beyond, how will that color his own experiences (and his slowly returning memories)? Is there someone at the Academy–or perhaps back home–who Simon would ask to be his own parabatai? Is Simon, the former Daylighter, finally coming to terms with his own murky past by learning about the complicated history of the Shadowhunters? Stay tuned to find out…

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As most of you likely know, I adore all things Shadowhunter (except for the crappy movie adaptation of City of Bones *shudder*). Going into this story, I didn’t think it was possible to love any characters more than Magnus Bane and the casts of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Well, I may have been wrong. (It’s too soon to tell.)

Granted, the glimpses I got of Will and Jem in Nothing but Shadows were amazing, but James and Matthew were definitely the shining stars (as they should have been), and I can’t wait to see more of them. James spoke to the shy bookworm in me, and Matthew was just too outrageous not to like. Their journey to friendship, though not without its bumps along the way, was a joy to witness, and I look forward to seeing how their parabatai bond changes how they view each other and the world around them.

I’m not sure James and Matthew will be shown in any other Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories, but I know we’ll see them again in Chain of Gold, the first book of The Last Hours (due sometime in 2017). A sixteen-year-old James Herondale is featured in the fourth book of The Bane Chronicles, The Midnight Heir, if you want to see him a few years after the events of Nothing but Shadows. What happened in those few years? At this point, I can only begin to speculate…

The next story in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is The Evil We Love, and it will be out on June 16th. This story will tell readers about Valentine’s Circle and their time at the Academy. I am giddy* with anticipation.

*Not really. I don’t think anyone has ever used the word “giddy” to describe me. I’m way too reserved for that. At most, I’m simply eager to read the next story in this collection. Do with that what you will.

Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

I’m amazed that I just got around to reading The DUFF (which came out in September of 2010), especially considering that I’ve been one for most of my life. (We really can’t count those preschool years, right?) I’m not going to go into my “duff” experiences through middle school, high school, college, and even into my adult years, but let’s just say that the title of this book alone speaks to me. What’s between the covers of the book…well, that’s another story.

Bianca Piper is fiercely loyal to her two best friends, Casey and Jessica, even when they force her to go to a local dance club with them. Bianca usually just sits at the bar and nurses a Cherry Coke, but on this particular night, she’ll engage in a conversation that will change how she views herself, her friends, and how the entire world looks at her.

When the vile, loathsome–and totally hot–Wesley Rush starts talking to her at the club, Bianca’s pretty sure there’s been some sort of mistake. She makes it pretty clear that she hates Wesley, so why is he chatting her up? Well, the answer is rather simple. He’s trying to hook up with one of Bianca’s friends, and he thinks that paying attention to the “duff”–designated ugly fat friend–of the group will win him some points. Bianca, of course, is livid at this description, so she throws her Cherry Coke in Wesley’s face. (Quite right, too!)

But the more Bianca thinks about Wesley’s description of her, the more she thinks…he may be right.

Being branded as a “duff,” though, is not the worst thing going on in Bianca’s life right now. Her mom is never around, her dad is a mess, and her ex-boyfriend (who completely crushed her heart) is coming back into town. So what does Bianca do to distract herself from her problems? She lays a big kiss on her nemesis, none other than Wesley Rush.

Well, the kiss with Wesley probably wouldn’t have been a huge deal…if she had stopped there. No, instead Bianca continues to escape her problems in Wesley’s arms, and she’s soon avoiding even the good things in her life to spend more time with Wesley (who has issues of his own that he’s trying to escape). Bianca still officially hates Wesley (who continues to refer to her as “Duffy”), but it’s getting harder and harder to convince herself of that, especially when he’s there for her during the most difficult situation she’s ever encountered.

So how can Bianca reconcile her growing feelings for someone she swears she hates? Does Wesley have feelings for her even though she’s supposedly a “duff?” Do these two kids have a shot at a real relationship, or will their various issues drive them apart? I’ll leave that for you to find out…

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So…first of all, let me say that I love Bianca’s voice in this book. She’s cynical, sarcastic, moody, and she doesn’t pull any punches. At the same time, she’s vulnerable and struggling with her parents’ crumbling marriage. Even when she’s being surly and self-destructive, Bianca is a sympathetic character. And even though I don’t particularly like how Bianca distracted herself from her problems, I can see where she’s coming from. Her mom escapes through traveling, her dad escapes into a bottle, and both Bianca and Wesley escape into each other. (I escape into books, Netflix, and food…which may go a long way in explaining why I still see myself as a “duff.”)

For those of you thinking of giving The DUFF a read, let me go ahead and tell you that the book doesn’t shy away from sex. Bianca and Wesley get pretty hot and heavy, and that definitely comes through in the book. Even when Bianca hates herself for turning to Wesley, she enjoys sex with him. (Why else would she keep doing it?) And I may get angry messages for saying this–especially here in the Bible Belt–but I think it’s important for teen readers to see examples of enjoyable sex lives in the books they read. I can’t think of many YA novels that make it a point to say that characters–particularly female characters–have positive, even fun, sexual experiences. Something to think about there.

So…given all of that, I would recommend The DUFF to teenage readers (probably age sixteen and up)* who like books with totally relatable characters, sexy times, and a rather happy–if somewhat unrealistic–ending. It’s also a great book for readers who sometimes struggle with their self-perception. (That didn’t narrow things down, did it?) All of us have thought of ourselves as ugly, fat, or some other negative adjective. Are we all “duffs” at one point or another? Maybe. But, as Bianca discovers, other people don’t get to decide who and what we are. Our identities are up to us.

*This is NOT a book for middle grade readers. Aside from the sexual situations, there’s also quite a bit of language and some other themes that may be more suited to mature readers.*

There’s another book set in the world of The DUFF coming out tomorrow! Lying Out Loud features Wesley’s sister Amy and includes cameos from the characters we’ve come to know and love. I, for one, look forward to seeing how Bianca and Wesley are faring.

For more information on The DUFF and other books by Kody Keplinger, check out the author on her website, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and YouTube.

**I know there was a movie adaptation of The DUFF released a couple of months ago, but I didn’t see it. From my understanding, quite a few liberties were taken with the plot, so I doubt I’ll see it now. If I’m wrong on that, please let me know, and I’ll give the movie a try.**

 

Published in: on April 27, 2015 at 3:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Whitechapel Fiend

Before proceeding, read everything Cassandra Clare has ever written. Seriously.

It’s been a big week for my fellow Shadowhunters. We get the news about the casting of Jace in the upcoming Shadowhunters TV series on ABC Family. (Thank you, McG!) And the third installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, The Whitechapel Fiend, comes out. (The first two stories are Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy and The Lost Herondale, in case you’re behind on your reading.) Good times.

I read The Whitechapel Fiend on Wednesday, but, as it so often does, life got in the way, and this this the first opportunity I’ve had to get my thoughts down. Basically, I loved it. (Shocking, I know.) How can you go wrong when you combine the world of Shadowhunters with Jack the Ripper? Answer: You cannot. It also didn’t hurt that this particular story let us spend a little time with Jace, Tessa, and even Jem.

In this third episode in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, Simon is continuing his grueling training to become a Shadowhunter. It’s by no means easy, and the newest lesson seems to be falling out of trees. He and his fellow students are instructed in this oh-so-important skill by none other than Jace Herondale. Simon’s friendship with Jace gives him a little bit of cred at the Academy…but not much.

Simon is also learning more about Shadowhunter history and how Shadowhunters have played a part in covering up or changing perceptions of things in the past. Case in point: Jack the Ripper. For this particular lesson, Tessa Gray, a woman who actually lived through this time in Victorian London, speaks to Academy students about what really happened. She talks about the fear that gripped the Whitechapel district, the grisly crime scenes, and how she, her husband Will Herondale, his parabatai, and their fellow members of the London Institute discovered who–or what–was actually behind these murders.

As Simon learns the truth about Jack the Ripper (and why this case seemingly remained unsolved), he also urges Jace to connect with Tessa. He doesn’t miss that Tessa was married to a Herondale, and Simon knows she could shed some light on Jace’s true family history.

Through all of this, Simon may even learn to deal with his own rather murky past before it does irreparable damage to his future. Time will tell…

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What else can I say about this story? Oh yeah…I. WANT. MORE!!! More Simon.More Jace. More Tessa. Definitely more Jem. I loved reconnecting with these beloved characters, and I can hardly wait to see more of them in the Shadowhunters TV series, The Dark Artifices, The Last Hours, and the other novellas in the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy collection.

Speaking of this particular collection, the fourth installment, Nothing but Shadows, will be out on May 19th. In this episode, we’ll learn a bit more about James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild. Woohoo!

In closing, I’d like to thank Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson for giving us The Whitechapel Fiend. It was a great read, and their explanation of Jack the Ripper and his crimes totally creeped me out. In a good way. I’m guessing other readers will feel the same.

Published in: on April 24, 2015 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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All the Rage

For the past week or so, I’ve been reading All the Rage by Courtney Summers, and I was finally able to finish it last night. (Thank you, NetGalley.) This book, which will be released on Tuesday, is not a light, easy read. It deals with some very serious, sensitive issues, and it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Sometimes, I simply had to put the book aside and read something a bit less intense and disturbing. And if this book–which addresses things like date rape, victim-blaming, bullying, etc.–doesn’t disturb you on some level, then you’re not paying attention.

Romy Grey is the town pariah–and it’s not just because she’s the daughter of the town drunk. She receives dirty looks from nearly everyone, people talk about her behind her back (and to her face), she’s bullied incessantly, and she can’t rely on anyone to truly have her back. Why? Well, not so long ago, Romy was raped…by the sheriff’s son, a golden boy who everyone believed could do no wrong.

After Romy came forward with what happened, it became crystal clear that no one would ever take her seriously. People blamed her for trying to ruin a “good kid’s” reputation and figured she was just a slut from the wrong side of town looking for some attention.

But Romy knows the truth. She still bears the scars of that horrible night. She fears nearly every guy who crosses her path, and she can’t trust that this won’t happen again. She’s dead inside, and she doesn’t think she has anyone to lean on. Romy certainly can’t depend on her former friends–friends who abandoned her when everything went pear-shaped. No, they’re too busy making her life miserable…and they’re not the only ones. Some of the adults she should be able to trust fail Romy at every turn.

Romy’s only respite is her job at a diner in a neighboring town. No one knows her or her story there. She can blend in and try to have something (or someone) good in her life. But all of that ends when Romy’s former best friend, Penny, comes in the diner one night and hints that the guy who violated Romy may have done the same to another girl.

Romy doesn’t want to hear what Penny has to say, but this news–and Penny’s appearance at the diner–sends Romy’s entire world into a tailspin. She seems to go looking for trouble…and she definitely finds it.

As Romy’s life spirals out of control, she realizes that she has once again been victimized by those around her. And that’s not all. Now, Penny is missing, and, for some reason, people are blaming Romy for Penny not being found. Why? Why are people so eager to point the finger at Romy? What connection does she have to Penny’s disappearance?

Facing the comments and looks at school make Romy feel dirty and sick, and that only gets worse when she comes to understand just what happened to her–and Penny–on the night that Penny went missing. Romy wonders if maybe she should be the one in Penny’s place. Everyone else seems to think so.

Romy is struggling with everything that is happening. She doesn’t feel like she can talk to anyone, and all of this pressure is going to make her self-destruct. And if Romy knows anything, it’s this–there’s more than one way to kill a girl.

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I don’t know how appropriate the title of this book is for the characters, but All the Rage definitely fits my feelings about the book. I raged at everyone who made Romy’s life miserable. I raged at a corrupt system that blamed the victim and made her feel totally worthless. I raged at those who bullied this girl so incessantly that she couldn’t feel safe anywhere. And, yes, I even raged at Romy for not speaking up, for seemingly trying to ruin the only good things in her life, and for taking what everyone else dished out. I wanted her to fight to be heard, and I wanted the people around her to stand by her, believe her, and fight for this tortured girl.

All the Rage is a gritty, realistic look at something that happens all too often. When young women are sexually assaulted, people wonder what they were wearing, how much they were drinking, or if they were “asking for it.” Why aren’t we putting the blame where it belongs? On the rapist. If someone–anyone–in power had believed Romy, the entire chain of events that followed could have been avoided…and two girls could have been spared horrible fates.

If I had to say one negative thing about this book as a whole, it would be that the timeline of events could be difficult to follow. I often found myself going back and rereading passages because it wasn’t entirely clear if something happened “now” or “then.” A little confusing there.

All the Rage is definitely a book for mature readers. (I would not put this book in the hands of a middle school student.) It’s raw, dark, and frank. It is not a book to pick up when you’re looking for something light and fluffy. This is a book that will make you think, make you reexamine your own attitudes about very important issues, and, most importantly, a book that will make you rage. Be prepared for that.

You can buy All the Rage on April 14th. If you want to learn more about the book in the meantime, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with the author via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Published in: on April 10, 2015 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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All Fall Down

Late last night, I finished reading Ally Carter’s latest novel, All Fall Down, the first book in her new Embassy Row series. Having read her Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, I figured that I would immediately fall in love with Carter’s newest work. Well, I can’t exactly call it love at first read, but I do think this series is promising. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Three years ago, Grace Blakely witnessed the death of her mother. She tried to convince everyone that it was no accident, but no one would listen to her. They all thought she was crazy, and she spent the next few years moving from therapist to therapist, hospital to hospital, drug to drug. She still believes that her mother was murdered, but Grace has learned to keep her thoughts to herself.

Now, with her military father deployed, Grace is returning to the land where her mother grew up. She’s living with her grandfather now, but her grandfather isn’t some kindly old guy who’s retired and spends his days fishing or gardening. No, he’s the U.S. Ambassador to the country of Adria, and Grace is now living in her mom’s old room at the Embassy. No pressure to act normal here.

As Grace tries to adapt to her surroundings–which are familiar but different at the same time–she also encounters some new–and old–friends who are looking out for her and trying to make her feel welcome. There’s Noah, son of two ambassadors, who appoints himself as Grace’s best friend. There’s Rosie, a young girl from the German Embassy, who has the impressive ability of blending into the shadows (and getting loads of information). There’s Megan, a former playmate of Grace’s, who has depths that surprise everyone. And then there’s Alexei, son of the Russian Ambassador, best friend of Grace’s brother, and her self-appointed protector. Even with all of these people, though, Grace feels totally alone.

Grace is haunted by her past, and her worlds collide when she sees someone in Adria who everyone says is a figment of her imagination. The Scarred Man who killed her mother. None of the adults around her believe Grace’s tales of the Scarred Man, so she seeks the help of her fellow Embassy kids. Together, they search high and low (sometimes very, very low) for information about the Scarred Man, proof of his past crimes, and clues pointing to his next target.

While Grace is seeking the truth about her mother’s death, everything around her seems to be spinning out of control. She doesn’t really know who she can trust, who will believe her…or who will ultimately betray her. And in a world where one misstep can have international ramifications, Grace may just find herself in the middle of something she never could have foreseen. Something that may change everything.

Is Grace prepared for what she will discover about her mom and herself? Or will the truth ultimately tear her apart? Begin to unravel the mystery when you read All Fall Down by Ally Carter.

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Like I said at the beginning of this post, I think the Embassy Row series shows great promise, but I did have a couple of issues with this book. The biggest problem for me was that some of the action sequences and changes were rather abrupt. I found myself going back and rereading several passages because I was sure I had to have missed something. (I even looked to see if pages were missing from my copy of the book. No dice.) Some things just happened way too suddenly, and there was very little explanation about why things unfolded the way they did. (This was especially true at the end of the book.) I’m hopeful that this will be ironed out in the next book.

I also didn’t quite get the relationship between Grace and Alexei. For most of the book, Alexei was a big brother figure with questionable motives. By the end of the book, we’re supposed to believe there’s the possibility of a budding romance between Grace and Alexei…but then he disappears without a word (which was, again, rather abrupt and unexpected). I guess I just didn’t see these two as a potential couple. It didn’t make sense in this book, but I have a feeling we’ll see Alexei again in future books, and maybe that relationship will feel a bit more natural.

Speaking of the next book in this series, it should be released sometime in 2016. There’s currently no title listed on Goodreads, but I’m sure that will be remedied soon. There is, however, a bonus scene available, Before the Fall: Arrival, that is already out, and you can read it for free. Given the title, I’m guessing this 15-page short story highlights Grace’s arrival in Adria. I’ll take a look at it soon.

In conclusion (because it’s almost time for bed), I would like to say that, even with its faults, I did like All Fall Down, and I will likely continue with the rest of the series. I’d recommend this book to both middle grade and young adult readers who like a bit of political intrigue in their books. I look forward to seeing where Grace’s story leads and how this girl navigates the tough waters of international politics while trying to have a somewhat normal life. Should be interesting.

For more information about All Fall Down, the future of the Embassy Row series, and the author’s other books, check out Ally Carter’s website, Twitter, and Facebook page.

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!

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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  
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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?

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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  
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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!

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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  
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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!

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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  
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Die Once More

Caution! If you haven’t read every story in Amy Plum’s Revenants series–Die for Me, Until I Die, Die for Her (an ebook novella), and If I Should Dieturn back now! I’d hate to ruin this magnificent series for you…but I will.

If you’re still with me, I assume you’re caught up on all things Revenant. Today, I’ll be taking a quick look at the second novella in this series, Die Once More. This story, like Die For Her, is told from Jules’ perspective. It takes place just after the events of If I Should Die, which essentially wrapped up what was happening with the Revenants in Paris.

*For those of you who failed to heed my warning above and are still reading this, Revenants are less creepy versions of zombies. Good Revenants, or bardia, originally died saving another’s life and are reborn to continue that cycle for eternity. Bad Revenants, or numa, gain power through killing others or convincing others to kill themselves. There’s a bit more to it than this simplistic explanation, but this will have to do for now.*

Jules Marchenoir has left everything he loves behind. His country. His best friend, Vincent. And Kate, new Champion of the bardia, his best friend’s girlfriend…and the girl who stole Jules’ heart. It’s just too painful to be in the same city as Kate and Vincent, so Jules crosses the Atlantic and joins up with the Revenants in New York.

Almost immediately, Jules is struck by how the bardia of New York compare to those in Paris. Thought there are many more Revenants here than there were in France, things seem to be very efficient here. That’s thanks largely to Ava Whitefoot, a striking woman who seems to loathe Jules on sight.

Jules knows he’s never met Ava in his many years as a bardia, so he doesn’t understand why she dislikes him so much. Soon, however, both people will have to put any animosity aside as they work to take down the building numa threat in New York. The numa in France may have been defeated, but those in New York are gaining strength every day.

In a story that takes us from the streets of Brooklyn to the boulevards of Paris, Jules and Ava will learn much about what makes each other tick, and they’ll discover that first impressions may just be deceiving.

Will Ava be able to look past Jules’ womanizing reputation and see the man he is trying to become? Will Jules be able to support Ava when she needs it the most? Can these two bardia find a way to become friends–or more–with the numa threat and a new challenge facing them? Read Die Once More to find out!

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I know Die Once More is focused on Jules and his developing relationship with Ava, but I must admit that I would have liked to see a little more action at the end. We’re told that there’s this big battle with the numa, but we don’t see the actual battle. That was kind of disappointing.

Other than that one complaint, I did enjoy this quick read. I liked Jules immensely in the previous stories, so (SPOILERS!) I enjoyed seeing him begin to get over Kate, reunite with his brethren, and find a partner of his own. I also appreciated seeing familiar, loved characters from the original trilogy and how they were faring post-battle. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of the bardia (in either Paris or New York).

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this series as a whole, I encourage you to check out my reviews linked above. You may also want to visit Amy Plum’s website.

Au revoir!

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