Black Widow: Forever Red

After the success of nearly every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, many people–myself included–have been clamoring for a Black Widow feature film. Sure, she’s one of the Avengers, and she played a vital role in Captain America: Winter Soldier, but where’s her movie?! Where’s the story of Natasha Romanoff?

Well, thanks to the brilliant Margaret Stohl (co-author of the fantastic Beautiful Creatures series), I think we have a pretty amazing basis for a Black Widow film. Black Widow: Forever Red takes a look at what–or who–made Natasha into the kick-butt assassin we know and love. (This was briefly alluded to in Age of Ultron, but this book gives a much more in-depth, gritty peek into Natasha’s disturbing past.) Now, though, there are two more people Natasha has to worry about, a girl who shares remarkable similarities to the famed Black Widow and a boy who is somehow connected to both of them.

Natasha Romanoff didn’t have a typical childhood. Very few other girls know what it was like to be trained by the evil Ivan Somodorov in his infamous Red Room in Moscow. This horrible man taught Natasha how to be lethal, how to lie with conviction, and how to follow orders blindly.

Natasha is not that girl anymore. She’s moved on from her life as one of Ivan’s girls, and she’s done all she can to put things behind her. Unfortunately for Natasha, the past has a way of catching up to her…

Ava Orlova once encountered the woman the world now knows as the Black Widow. After Ava was rescued from the clutches of Ivan Somodorov, Natasha Romanoff promised to look out for Ava. That was the last time Ava saw her. After escaping SHIELD custody, Ava is now on her own, virtually homeless on the streets of Brooklyn. She fences at the Y, sketches the boy who haunts her dreams, and takes care of Sasha Cat, a stray like herself. Like Natasha, though, the past that has always haunted Ava is about to become a very real part of her present…

Alex Manor is a normal kid. He goes to school, he hangs out with friends, and he argues with his mom. Typical stuff, right? So what if he often feels like he’s being watched. So what if his instincts completely take over when he fences or fights. So what if he doesn’t seem to fit in his own life. Well, Alex will soon realize that “normal” is not a word that should ever be used to describe him. Especially not after he encounters Ava, a girl he’s immediately drawn to, and Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow herself.

Natasha, Ava, and Alex come together at a fencing tournament…and nothing is ever the same. Almost immediately, they must escape an enemy threat, unravel a convoluted mystery, and figure out just what they mean to each other. None of them are truly prepared for the answers they find…or the sacrifices they’ll have to make to get out of this alive.


I don’t want to give away too much more about this book, so I’m going to wrap this up. I think it’s enough to say that this Black Widow fan is ecstatic about this book–which will be released next Tuesday, October 13th–and I hope to see more Black Widow (or Red Widow) novels in the future. (There may have been a spoiler in that last sentence. I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out.)

Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book a little early. I loved everything about it, particularly the awesome female characters (who displayed many different kinds of strength) and appearances from Agent Coulson and Tony Stark. Black Widow: Forever Red whetted my appetite for all things Marvel, so I see a movie and comic book marathon in my immediate future.

If you are a Marvel nerd, I strongly urge you to read Black Widow: Forever Red (which I think is fine for libraries that serve middle grade and teen readers). You will not be disappointed.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about this wonderful book, check out the video below for an interview with author Margaret Stohl.

Published in: on October 5, 2015 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Saint Anything

This next statement may shock some of you. Until a few days ago, I had never read a Sarah Dessen book. I know, I know. It’s a true scandal for someone who loves YA literature as much as I do. The good news is that I have remedied that situation, and I’m now prepared to read everything that Dessen has ever written. Her newest book, Saint Anything, is outstanding, and if her other books are in any way comparable, I’m already hooked.

In Saint Anything, we meet Sydney, a girl dealing with the fallout of her brother Peyton’s mistakes. Several months ago, Peyton, after claiming that he was finally going to get his act together, had a few drinks at a party and proceeded to get behind the wheel of a car. On his way home, Peyton hit a kid named David Ibarra, paralyzing him for life.

Now, Peyton is in prison, and Sydney is left to deal with her guilt and shame over her brother’s actions. And with all of her parents’ focus on Peyton and his issues, Sydney wonders if they really see her. Even her decision to transfer to public school doesn’t seem to faze them. (They don’t appear to realize that Sydney’s decision was based partly on the financial burdens created by Peyton’s actions.) She’s invisible in her own home.

At first, Sydney feels invisible at her new school as well, but that changes rather quickly. When Sydney encounters the Chatham family, she feels like she’s finally seen.

The Chathams are a close-knit family with their own share of issues. The family owns a local pizza parlor, and, almost immediately, they treat Sydney as one of their own. Layla soon becomes Sydney’s closest friend. Layla has no luck with guys, but she’s always searching for the one who will be true to her. (Also, she has a weird obsession with fries.) Then there’s Rosie, a recovering addict who is trying to get her figure skating career back on track. Mr. Chatham runs the pizza parlor and plays in a bluegrass band in his spare time. Mrs. Chatham struggles with multiple sclerosis, but that doesn’t stop her from keeping her entire family in line. And then there’s Mac…

Mac is Layla’s older brother, and Sydney is drawn to his quiet, protective nature. Even though she knows it could damage her friendship with Layla, Sydney can’t seem to help growing closer to Mac…and he feels the same way. Sydney finally feels like there’s someone who really gets her, and she won’t let go of that without a fight.

After an argument with Peyton and discovering Sydney breaking a couple of rules, Sydney’s parents finally turn their attention to their daughter. (I say “they,” but I really mean “her mother.” She leads, and Sydney’s dad sort of follows along.) They don’t want her to go down the same path that Peyton did, and they seem to think that the Chathams have something to do with what they perceive as changes in their daughter’s behavior. (They don’t see their own lack of attention as a problem, in my opinion.) They tighten the reins on Sydney, talk about transferring schools, and basically try to keep Sydney away from anything that could be a “bad influence.” What they don’t realize is that the true danger to their daughter has been right under their noses all along.

Sydney knows her parents are being unreasonable, but she doesn’t know how to convince them that a couple of mistakes do not mean she’s headed for trouble. She’s tired of being punished for Peyton’s actions, and she’s unwilling to let go of the relationships that have come to mean so much to her. What can she do to make her parents finally see her? Can Sydney reconcile her own feelings about her brother while helping her parents to see her for herself? And how will her closeness with the Chatham family help–or hinder–her efforts? Discover the answers to these questions and many more when you read Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen.


I adored this book. The characters were wholly relatable, and I honestly felt like the Chathams made me a member of their family as I was reading. I was charmed by that entire family, particularly Layla, Mac, and Mrs. Chatham. This family was a beautiful example of how a family should come together in tough times. That provided a perfect counterpoint to Sydney’s own family.

Sydney’s parents, blinded by the experiences with their son, were exasperating. At several points during the book, I wanted to reach through the pages and smack Sydney’s mom. (I’m sure I’m not alone in this.) I know she was dealing with a hard situation the only way she knew how, but it was still frustrating to read, and Sydney’s dad didn’t really help matters. When he was around, he meekly followed along with whatever his wife wanted, even though it was clear that he often disagreed with her. Neither of them paid enough attention to their daughter…until something happened that forced them to.

Saint Anything, which I think is suitable for both middle grade and teen readers, is a wonderful book about a girl discovering herself and what it truly means to be part of a family. The Chathams provide her with the love and attention she’s craved, but they also show her that every family experiences difficulties. Those connections help Sydney cope with what is happening at home. In her own family, Sydney comes to realize that her perceptions, of her brother and her parents, may not always reflect what’s really going on.

I hope you enjoy Saint Anything as much as I did. If you’d like to learn more about it and author Sarah Dessen, click here. You may also want to connect with the lovely Ms. Dessen on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

As for me, I’m now going to add every other Sarah Dessen book to my already staggering TBR pile. Wish me luck!

The Fiery Trial

I’m tired of giving spoiler alerts before these Shadowhunter Academy posts. Do what you will.

It’s time, once again, to discuss Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. The latest installment, The Fiery Trial, was released on Tuesday, and I finally have enough energy to share my thoughts. (I actually did read the story on Tuesday, but I didn’t get around to posting on it until today. It’s been a trying week.)

As usual, I enjoyed learning more about Simon’s perception of the Shadowhunter world, and, even more, I loved seeing glimpses of what we might encounter in the next full-length Shadowhunter novel, Lady Midnight. Special appearances by Magnus Bane and Jem Carstairs didn’t hurt, either.

The Fiery Trial continues Simon’s journey through the Shadowhunter Academy. He’s nearing the end of his second year, and he’s thinking of the whole parabatai thing. Two of his classmates have already decided to form this nearly unbreakable bond, and Simon wonders if it is even a possibility for him.

Luckily (depending on one’s point of view), Simon is still eligible to form the parabatai bond, and Clary is his obvious choice. Even with his memory loss, Simon realizes that he and Clary have something special, a relationship that goes beyond that of best friends. They are family, and they’d do anything for each other. Well, that love is soon put to the test.

Unbeknownst to both Simon and Clary, a few familiar characters–Magnus Bane, Jem Carstairs, and Catarina Loss–are about to lead them through a trial of sorts, to see if they are truly suited to be parabatai.

This strange test precedes Simon and Clary serving as witnesses for the parabatai ceremony, or Fiery Trial, of Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs. After his own recent ordeal, Simon looks for signs that Julian and Emma are as close as he and Clary. They are, but…something is a little off. Does it have anything to do with the recent tragedies the two young Shadowhunters have endured? Or could it be something else? And what could it mean for their new parabatai bond?


If you, like me, have been wondering when/if Simon will get all of his memories back, I think The Fiery Trial offers a little more hope than some of the previous stories. Simon may not always know what some of his glimpses into the past may mean, but, in this story at least, he’s showing signs of understanding. And he’s working harder to really remember. (Clary and Jace help with this a bit.) You’ll know what I mean when you read this story, particularly the “test” Simon and Clary are subjected to.

So, The Fiery Trial is the eighth story in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. That means we only have two more to go, and I’m honestly not ready for the end. The next story, Born to Endless Night, will be out on October 20th, and it should revolve around Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood. (Woohoo! Love me some Malec!) The tenth and final story, Angels Twice Descending, out on November 17th, is the tale of Simon’s Ascension. I’ve already got goosebumps over this one, and it’s nearly two months away.

When this collection of stories comes to an end, we’ve only got a short-ish wait for Lady Midnight, book one of The Dark Artifices, which really delves into Emma’s and Julian’s stories in the larger Shadowhunter world. This highly anticipated book will be out on March 8th, 2016.

For more information on this collection and all things Shadowhunter, click here. Have fun out there.

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Fall

It seems fitting that a book like The Fall should be released during National Suicide Prevention Month. This latest book from James Preller is out today, and it takes a look at one boy’s reaction to a classmate’s suicide.

While The Fall is a quick read, I think it forces readers to examine their own actions and reactions to things that are happening in schools, on social media, and everywhere in between. If this book can help just one person to be a little kinder, then it’s done its job.

When Morgan Mallen jumped off the town water tower, Sam was forced to take a long, hard look at himself and his actions (or inactions, as the case may be). Everyone knew that Morgan had been bullied relentlessly at school and online. Even Sam participated. What everyone didn’t realize was that Sam knew Morgan. He was perhaps one of her only friends.

Why, then, did Sam take part in tormenting Morgan even though he knew it was wrong? Why didn’t he want anyone to know they hung out? Was he partly to blame for her suicide, and could he have done anything to prevent it?

Sam explores his friendship with Morgan and the aftermath of her suicide through writing in a journal. He’s brutally honest with himself about his relationship with Morgan, his own weaknesses, and his part in this tragedy.

Sam knows that he wasn’t the only one making Morgan unhappy–and on some level, he realizes that Morgan’s decision was her own–but he’s struggling with all of the events that led up to that fateful day. Why was she bullied in the first place? Could anything have stopped Morgan from ending her life? Why did she feel she had no other option?

As Sam works through his feelings and all of the questions plaguing him, he comes to understand that, even though he can’t change what happened with Morgan, he can change his own behavior. He can do whatever possible to somehow make amends. He can confront those who were the worst offenders and own up to his own mistakes. And he can try to be kinder to everyone around him. After all, no one really knows what demons someone is battling. A little bit of kindness could make all the difference in the world.


I think The Fall and other books on the subjects of suicide and bullying are vitally important to young people (and even adults). These books make us examine what we say and how we act toward others. We really never know how one cruel or kind word can impact the people around us.

I would pair The Fall with Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why to give a gritty glimpse at the aftermath of a person’s suicide. Some parents may not be entirely comfortable with the subject matter, but it’s something that will likely touch their children in some way. I’d much rather a young person explore this topic through fiction than have to face the horrible reality. (A friend of mine committed suicide when I was in the 8th grade. It would have been nice if I’d had a book that let me know that I was not alone.) For that reason, I would recommend this book for libraries that serve both middle grade and teen readers.

For those who’d like to learn more about The Fall, visit author James Preller’s website. And if you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please get help. Talk to someone–a parent, a friend, a guidance couselor, a librarian, a religious leader, someone. Go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or It Get’s Better. You are not alone, and things will get better.


Published in: on September 22, 2015 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Diviners

My favorite historical period (in America, at least) is the Roaring Twenties. I also enjoy reading books about people with supernatural abilities. Well, my latest read combined those two things in an amazing story that I’m still thinking about.

This book, The Diviners by Libba Bray, was a lengthy tome, and I couldn’t read it much at night because I’m a wuss, so it took me longer than I would have liked to finish. That being said, I adored this book, and I look forward to reading the second book, Lair of Dreams, which came out last month. I’m fairly certain it will give me the same case of heebie-jeebies that I got while reading the first book.

Evie O’Neill doesn’t quite fit in her boring Ohio hometown…and everyone knows it. When scandal erupts–a scandal that Evie had a part in revealing–she is sent to live with her uncle in Manhattan, and Evie couldn’t be happier. She knows she’ll find the life she’s always wanted in the Big Apple, and she’s ready to take the city by storm.

As Evie explores the speakeasies, parties, and good times that are so much a part of New York in the 20’s, she’s also being introduced to her Uncle Will’s work in the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Uncle Will is soon called to assist with a strange murder investigation, and Evie finds herself right in the middle of it.

You see, Evie has a special ability that helps her to know much more about these gruesome murders than she should…and this ability may just make Evie a target herself. Evie is quickly caught up in an investigation that leads her to learn more about a dangerous cult, ritualistic killings, ghosts come back to life, and someone’s quest to bring about the end of the world.

How can one girl hope to stop such horrible events? Evie will have to use all of her considerable wits to combat the evil to come, but it still may not be enough. She’s on a collision course with a vicious killer, and her charms and abilities may not get her out of this mess.

And Evie is not the only person with abilities that put her in a killer’s cross-hairs. Theta, a chorus girl with a tragic past, has her own dangerous secret. Memphis once had sought-after healing abilities that left him after his mother’s death. His brother, Isaiah, is showing signs of his own special–and disturbing–gifts. Then there’s Sam, a pickpocket who has the handy ability of going completely unnoticed when he wishes to. And let’s not forget Jericho, a student of Evie’s uncle, and a young man who isn’t completely what he seems.

All of these people will, on some level, come face-to-face with the horrendous evil that is waking in New York, and each of them will have to do what they can to protect themselves and those they love. Will they be able to stop what’s coming before it’s too late? Or will one of them be a murderer’s next victim?

Answer these questions and many more* when you read The Diviners by the fantastic Libba Bray.

*Warning: For every answer you receive, about a thousand questions will pop up in its place. It’s kind of awesome.


To say that I like The Diviners would be a major understatement. This book was rich, terrifying, entertaining, complex, and filled with characters that I want to know more about. (If you’re familiar with Libba Bray’s other books, this is probably not news.) Luckily, The Diviners is only the first book. Lair of Dreams was released on August 25th, and there are rumored to be two more books in this captivating series.

In my most humble opinion, The Diviners a series more suited to teen readers, but some mature middle grade readers may be able to handle it. There’s a certain amount of rule-breaking and alcohol use–completely true to the historical period–that might keep it from being a must-purchase for libraries that serve middle grade students. (For instance, I definitely wouldn’t put this book in the hands of sixth or seventh grader.) I simply think mature teen readers will be able to read this book and keep social and historical context in mind. That’s all, really.

If you like your historical fiction with a supernatural twist (or vice versa), I’d highly recommend The Diviners. To learn more about the series as a whole, I urge you to visit the series website. There’s loads of information on The Diviners, Lair of Dreams, and the amazing Libba Bray.

Another Day

Another Day is a companion novel to Every Day by David Levithan. I strongly recommend you read Every Day first. Is it absolutely essential? Well, no…but it will help to alleviate a bit of confusion if you read A’s story first. (There will still be some confusion, but that’s to be expected with books like these. If you don’t already, you’ll soon realize what I mean.)

Two years ago, I read Every Day by the wonderful David Levithan. I admit that I wasn’t totally sold on the book at first. The more I thought about it, though, the more intrigued I became. So when I got the opportunity to read the long-awaited companion novel, Another Day, via NetGalley, I jumped on it. Well, as it so often does, life interfered with my reading plans, and I wasn’t able to finish Another Day as quickly as I would have liked. (I wanted to read it before its release on August 25th, but I didn’t quite make it.) Anyway, I finally finished the book last night, and I think I liked it even more than I did the first book. It may have had something to do with the protagonist being a little more relatable. I don’t know, but I’m hoping another book in this series will help me–and the characters–figure things out.

For Rhiannon, each day is basically just like every other. She deals with her parents (who seem to be totally checked out), she goes to school, and she tries to figure out what kind of mood her boyfriend Justin is in. Sometimes he notices and seems to appreciate her presence; at other times, he’s distant, moody, and even mean. She never really knows what she’s going to get with him, but it’s never what she wants.

One day, though, Rhiannon notices a change in Justin. He’s nice to her. He’s attentive. He wants to spend the day with her. Has he turned a corner and realized just what she means to him? It certainly seems so when he suggests they skip school and spend the entire day at the beach. They really talk to each other for the first time, and Rhiannon feels like she’s seeing a whole new Justin, a Justin who is the boyfriend she’s always hoped for. Unfortunately for Rhiannon, this perfect day cannot last…

When Rhiannon encounters Justin the next day, he’s distant once more and doesn’t remember much about their day at the beach. Rhiannon isn’t sure what’s going on, but she knows it’s something big. She just doesn’t realize how big or how this something is going to change her life, her relationships, and how she perceives the world as a whole.

On that one perfect day, Justin wasn’t really Justin. He was A, a boy (?) who inhabits a new body each day. Every day, A is someone different, and when Rhiannon is confronted with the reality of what’s happening, she’s confused, disbelieving…and enthralled with this being who goes to great lengths to be with her when her own boyfriend barely notices her.

As A and Rhiannon grow closer, Rhiannon is torn by the double life she’s leading. Part of her still loves Justin, but another part realizes that A is the one who truly loves and sees her. How can she reconcile these two existences? Should she stay with Justin because he’s always the same, or should she take a risk on a very uncertain future with A? Can she cope with the fact that she never knows what A will look like–or even what gender he will be–from day to day?

Very soon, both Rhiannon and A will have to make some difficult choices. Will they try to work things out despite the obstacles? Or will they go back to the lives they knew before? Is that even possible now?

Read Another Day to learn how a seemingly impossible situation opens one girl’s eyes to the truth about love, perception, and relationships worth keeping at all costs.


Another Day takes a close look at a girl in a bad relationship. No, Justin never hit Rhiannon or anything like that, but he chipped at her self-esteem and made her feel like she had to walk on eggshells all the time. I imagine that quite a few teens (and adults) will relate to this experience. Maybe Rhiannon’s relationships with both Justin and A will help some people to realize that there’s more out there. They don’t have to stay with a person who treats them badly. “At least he doesn’t hit me” is no reason to keep someone around. Good guys (and girls) are out there…but even being alone is better than being with someone who’s bad for you. (I’m personally a big fan of being alone…but that’s just me.)

I don’t know what else I can say about this book. I enjoyed it. I think it was better than Every Day. (I do admit that it’s been two years since I read the first book. I might feel differently if I reread it.) The series as a whole is rather different from most other stuff out there, and I really hope that there’s another book coming out in the future. (I have reason to hope that there will be.)

If you’re intrigued by the premise of both Every Day and Another Day (and the prequel novella Six Earlier Days), you can learn more at author David Levithan’s website. Enjoy!

Published in: on September 16, 2015 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bitter of Tongue

I’ll dispense with the pleasantries. At this point, if you haven’t read all of the Shadowhuntery goodness by Cassandra Clare, stop whatever you’re doing and correct that situation. (Also, I’m silently judging you from the comfort of my desk chair.)

Now, let’s move on to the seventh installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, Bitter of Tongue

In Bitter of Tongue, we continue to follow Simon Lewis, former vampire, through his second year at the Shadowhunter Academy. Things seem to be going well for Simon. He’s stronger and happier than he can remember being. (Given the state of his memory, I’m not sure how much that says.) His relationship with Isabelle Lightwood is starting anew, and he’s coming to terms with his future as a Shadowhunter.

Or so he thinks…

While on a mission to capture a faerie, Simon unwittingly finds himself thrown into the faerie realm. He is imprisoned, and his only hope of escape comes in the form of Mark Blackthorn, former Shadowhunter and current member of the Wild Hunt.

Even though the Clave (the Shadowhunter “government”) has essentially turned its back on Mark because of his faerie blood, he decides to help Simon escape…but not without first sharing a bit of his pain and misery over being separated from his family.

Simon takes in everything Mark says, and he vows to do something about it. He’ll not only keep an eye on Mark’s family, but Simon will also work to change how Shadowhunters view themselves and others. He won’t simply accept that the Shadowhunters are all-powerful or superior to mundanes and Downworlders. Not anymore.

Simon is reawakening to the truth of his new life, and he may have some powerful allies on his side. Will they be able to make a difference? Time will tell…


When I first started reading Bitter of Tongue, Simon really bothered me. He wasn’t his usual snarky, sarcastic self, and I didn’t like the change. Luckily for me (but maybe not for him), that didn’t last long. I guess being captured by faeries will do that to you. By the end of this story, Simon was back to seeing Shadowhunters as they are instead of how they should be. The rose-colored glasses were off once more, and Simon realized that battling prejudice remained a huge problem with Shadowhunters.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I loved seeing more of Mark Blackthorn in this story, even though what I saw was heartbreaking. Seeing the Blackthorn siblings through Mark’s eyes brought tears to my own and made me even more eager to read Lady Midnight, the first book in the highly-anticipated Dark Artifices trilogy (due out on March 8th, 2016).

Before we get to Lady Midnight, though, we still have three more installments in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. Story #8, The Fiery Trial (released on September 15th), involves the parabatai ceremony of Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. Story #9, Born to Endless Night (out on October 20th), features my favorite warlock and yours, Magnus Bane! The tenth and final story, Angels Twice Descending (expected on November 17th), is the tale of Simon’s Ascension and should be quite the nail-biter. I can hardly wait!

If you, like me, love the world of Shadowhunters and want to learn more, you may want to check out and the ABC Family site for the upcoming Shadowhunters TV show. Exciting stuff!

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 2:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Trouble Is a Friend of Mine

Given that school starts this week and I still have 795, 463 things to do, I’ll endeavor to keep this post short. Here goes…

If you or any teen readers you know like Sherlock, then you definitely need to give Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly a try. If Sherlock Holmes were a 16-year-old American boy, he would be Digby…and awesome. In this highly entertaining book, Zoe (a teen girl version of Watson) encounters Digby after moving to a new area, and life as she knows it is about to get a lot more interesting.

Zoe Webster is just biding her time. All she really wants to do is transfer to the elite Prentiss Academy and get out of this new town, but she’s got to deal with her present circumstances first. A clueless mom, a new school, and no friends.

Well, the “no friends” thing may be easier to change than Zoe thinks. One day, a weird kid named Digby shows up at her door and basically informs Zoe that they’re going to be friends. Almost against Zoe’s will, Digby is right. Even when it leads her directly into the path of trouble, Zoe follows Digby into odd and often dangerous situations, but this strange and brilliant young man usually manages to talk their way out of nearly anything.

Digby and Zoe, along with a couple other colorful characters, manage to find themselves involved in a mystery that includes drugs, kidnapping, cults, attempted murder, and more mayhem than they ever could have expected. (Well, Digby may have expected some of it. Not much gets by him.) They’ll have to break every rule on the books–and some laws of common sense–in their attempt to uncover what’s really going on.

But why is Digby so invested in this stuff? And why does he insist on bringing Zoe along? Is Digby just a manic genius, or is something more going on? Read Trouble Is a Friend of Mine to find out.


After reading Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, I must say that Digby is one of the most entertaining, charming characters I’ve encountered lately. He really keeps this book going simply because the reader never knows what he’s going to do or say next.

The parallels between Digby and Sherlock Holmes (as played by the delightful Benedict Cumberbatch) are unmistakable and wonderful. Digby has his own version of the Homeless Network, he bends the rules to get answers, he works with law enforcement (when it suits him), and he observes every little detail around him.

Zoe, for her part, is something of a stabilizing force for Digby, much like Dr. John Watson. Yes, she follows him into danger, but she also, in my opinion, keeps him grounded and lets him know that she’ll be his backup. Through the course of their friendship, both Zoe and Digby learn more about themselves, who they can really count on, and just how important their relationship is.

At various points, I think this story wanted to be a romance between Digby and Zoe. It didn’t quite happen, but I can see how it might if there were a sequel. (If there is one on the works, I haven’t heard about it yet.) Part of me wants Digby and Zoe to get together, but a bigger part wants them to be “just friends.” There are too many books out there that force a romantic relationship between two characters, and it would be nice to see a story–or series of stories–where male and female characters can keep things platonic. It would be refreshing, to say the least, and these two characters simply don’t need to hook up to continue being their hilarious, charming selves.

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine was released on August 4th, so it’s available wherever books are sold. I highly recommend it to any library serving teens (or older readers) who love Sherlock.

If you’d like more information on this excellent book, you can connect with author Stephanie Tromly on Twitter. As far as I can tell, Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is her first book. I sincerely hope this is only the beginning.

Published in: on August 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Heart of Tin

Those who regularly visit this blog likely know that I’ve become slightly crazy about Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series this past year. (For those who are new here, this series recounts what happens when Dorothy returns to Oz.) Well, my obsession has only gotten worse, and the latest novella in the series, Heart of Tin, is to blame.

For those who are new to this series, I highly recommend you read the following stories before proceeding with this post. There could be spoilers ahead, and I really don’t want to ruin this wonderful series for you.

Now, let’s move on to this latest story, shall we?

If it’s not already obvious, Heart of Tin takes a closer look at the Tin Woodman (or Tin Man, if you prefer). Now, anyone who’s ever watched (or read) The Wizard of Oz knows this character to be a bit of a softy who longs for a heart to beat in his metal chest. And, of course, the Wizard grants his wish…eventually. What we don’t see, though, is what happens to the Tin Woodman after Dorothy leaves Oz behind…or the impact her departure had on one of her closest companions. All of that is about to change…

Oz has been rather quiet of late. The Tin Woodman rules over the Winkies and rarely visits the Emerald City anymore. Why would he? Not long after Dorothy and the Wizard left, Ozma, the true heir to the throne of Oz, returned to claim her rightful place, and the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodman were left to their own devices. But the Tin Woodman just received startling news that changes everything, and his quiet life with the Winkies is coming to an end.

Dorothy has returned.

The Tin Woodman’s heart immediately tries to beat out of his chest. His Dorothy is back, and he finally has the opportunity to show her how much he loves her. He just knows she’ll return his feelings and want to make a life with him. He dashes off to the Emerald City to see his sweet Dorothy, but his welcome is not quite as warm as he would have hoped.

Dorothy is not the darling girl she once was. She’s grown up quite a bit, and, with Glinda at her side, she’s learned to harness the magic of Oz. The Tin Woodman isn’t sure that Glinda (or the Scarecrow) have Dorothy’s best interests at heart, but he’ll do whatever he can show Dorothy–and all of Oz–just what she means to him…even if it means allowing others to twist and manipulate his precious heart.

The Tin Woodman, in his quest to prove himself to Dorothy and ensure her protection from potential enemies, turns his heart–and the Winkies–over to Glinda and the Scarecrow, and he becomes someone capable of unspeakable acts…all in the name of of “love” for a girl who is using his obvious feelings to further her own wicked agenda.

Even though he is uncertain about what’s really happening in Oz, the Tin Woodman will do absolutely anything for his beloved Dorothy, even if it means losing his heart in the process…


So, the previous stories in this series have made me despise Dorothy, Glinda, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Woodman. Well, Heart of Tin didn’t eradicate my negative feelings about the Tin Woodman, but it did change things a little. I now pity him. Glinda and the Scarecrow–both of whom are nothing short of evil–use his love for Dorothy to turn him into a monster. Yes, Dorothy is partly responsible as well, but I think she’s also being manipulated, particularly by Glinda.

At any rate, the Tin Woodman is, on some level, a victim here. He reasons that something’s not quite right about Dorothy’s rise to power, Glinda’s involvement, and the Scarecrow’s creepy experiments, but he’s blinded by what he thinks is love, and others use that weakness against him. No, I’m not claiming love is weakness–at least I don’t think I am–but I am saying that the Tin Woodman’s unrequited, obvious longing for Dorothy allowed others to use him for their own nefarious purposes. Will that continue to be the case in future stories? I have no idea, but I am eager to find out.

The next short story in this wickedly fabulous series is, according to Goodreads, supposed to come out on November 10th. I’m not sure how true that is, what the title will be, or who it will be about. (That’s not very helpful, is it?) The next full-length novel should be out in March of 2016 (maybe?). Goodreads has a little information on this one, but there’s no cover or title available yet. I’m on pins and needles here! I need the info!

If Heart of Tin and the entire Dorothy Must Die series sound like your cup of tea and you’d like to learn more, you can connect with the wonderful Danielle Paige on her website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. I love this woman’s work, and I can hardly wait for more!

Published in: on August 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Never Always Sometimes

Yesterday, I finished reading Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid. (You may recognize the name from his previous book, Let’s Get Lost.) Anyway, this latest book, which comes out next Tuesday, is sort of a coming of age story that John Green fans will probably eat up. In fact, at various points, this book reminded me a bit of Paper Towns. If you’re a Nerdfighter, that’s probably all the recommendation you need.

In Never Always Sometimes, readers are introduced to Dave and Julia, best friends who have done their best to avoid becoming high school clichés. Before they even darkened the doors of high school, Dave and Julia made a Nevers List, a list of things they vowed never to do during their time in high school. Some of the items were:

  • #2 – Never run for prom king/queen, student body president, or any other position that would have its own page in the yearbook.
  • #5 – Never dye your hair a color found in the rainbow.
  • #8 – Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school.
  • #10 – Never date your best friend.

Now, almost four years later, just months before graduation, Dave and Julia have done a fairly good job of sticking to their Nevers List. Or so it seems.

Dave, for his part, has been in love with Julia for what seems like forever–breaking Never #8–but he keeps his feelings a secret so that he won’t ruin his relationship with his best friend.

One day, thinking she and Dave are missing out on the authentic high school experience, Julia suggests that they use the time before graduation to cross off every Never on their list. As is usually the case, Dave goes along with Julia’s crazy idea, and pretty soon, the two are dying their hair (and Dave is shaving his shortly thereafter), stalking a teacher, running a campaign for prom king, going to wild parties, and doing all the other things they’ve been disdainful of all this time.

Through all of this, Dave starts to realize that maybe he really has been missing out. This typical teenage stuff isn’t so bad, and it’s even pushing him to be social with people–girls–other than Julia. One girl in particular, Gretchen, catches his eye, and Dave begins to think that, as much as he still loves Julia, maybe he should let that hopeless crush go and move on.

What Dave doesn’t know (yet) is that Julia is coming to her own realizations. Maybe she too wants something more from her best friend, the guy who knows her better than anyone else. Maybe they should finally cross of Never #10 and see what happens. What could possibly go wrong?


How do I feel about Never Always Sometimes now that I’ve finished it and reflected a bit? Well, I’m still not sure. I think it’s a good book, maybe a tad unrealistic, but I kind of wanted to punch the main characters in the face several times when I was reading. Especially Julia. (I guess it’s good that I got so emotionally invested.) She seemed so self-centered to me throughout most of the book, and she tended to drag Dave down with her. Granted, he went–if somewhat unwillingly–most of the time, but I wanted both of them to wake up and see just how codependent they were.

As for the ending of the book, it took some doing, but it was sort of satisfying. I wouldn’t exactly call it happy, but given the events that preceded it, it really couldn’t be a totally happy ending for everyone. If anything, I would say that it was fitting and leave it at that.

For those wondering if Never Always Sometimes is suitable for middle grade readers, I would advise against it. It’s great for a YA audience, but the “sexy times” and rather unrepentant alcohol use and rule-breaking make the book much more suited to older teens. Whatever the reader’s age, I’d hope that all of them would have sense enough to know that some of the items on the Nevers List–like “never hook up with a teacher”–should remain Nevers.

As I said previously, Never Always Sometimes will be released to the masses on August 4th. (Many thanks to NetGalley for letting me read it a bit early.) If you’re interested in learning more about this book and author Adi Alsaid, you can connect with the author on Goodreads and Twitter. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It’s a pretty good intro to Never Always Sometimes, but it doesn’t give too much away.

Happy reading!

Published in: on July 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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