Angels Twice Descending

If you are not totally caught up with all things Shadowhunter, go no further. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that should tell you something. Stop right now, go to your nearest library or bookstore, and read everything Cassandra Clare has ever written. Start with City of Bones.)

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s proceed, shall we?

Last night, I read Angels Twice Descending, the tenth and final installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, a collection of short stories centered on Simon Lewis, his struggle to restore his memories, and his journey toward becoming a Shadowhunter. This last novella focuses on Simon’s Ascension, and, while I was expecting something big to happen, I wasn’t totally prepared for how hard it would hit me. (After reading so many of these stories, one would think I’d know better. One would be wrong.)

Simon and his fellow Academy students are getting ready to finally enter the world of the Nephilim. For mundanes like Simon, this means going through the Ascension ceremony and drinking from the Mortal Cup. After two years of grueling work, it should be a no-brainer on whether or not to go through with this final step…except for the whole “drinking from the cup could kill you” thing.

After one of the mundane students decides not to Ascend, Simon is forced to reflect on his own feelings. Does he truly want to become a Shadowhunter? Who is he doing all this for? Will he get his memories back once he Ascends? If he does, what could that mean for the person he is now? How will he deal with never seeing his mom or sister again? And what if the worst happens? What if he doesn’t have what it takes to be a Shadowhunter and drinking from the Mortal Cup destroys him?

In the end, Simon follows his heart and decides to become a Shadowhunter. But the Ascension ceremony is not without its heartbreak. One of the Academy students does not survive the process, and Simon is once again faced with the question, “Is it worth it?”


I can’t go any further here without some major spoilers. (I already feel like I’ve written too much.) It’s enough to say that I cried…a lot.

Now that we have all ten of the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories, we also have the full picture formed by the covers. Check it out:

shadowhunter academy

As for when the entire volume of stories will be released in print, I’m not sure. From what I’ve heard, it will be sometime in 2016.

So, where do we go from here?

The next Shadowhunter story is the full-length novel Lady Midnight, due out on March 8th. This begins the Dark Artifices storyline and centers on Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs at the Los Angeles Institute. We also have the new TV series to look forward to, and that starts on Freeform (aka ABC Family) on January 12th.

If you, like me, still want more Shadowhunter goodness, click here for the official TV series website and here for the novels’ website.


Published in: on November 19, 2015 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Rule of Thoughts

Warning: Read The Eye of Minds before proceeding with this post. Spoilers ahead!

I spent most of yesterday in a reading fog thanks to James Dashner. When I began my day, I was only a few pages into The Rule of Thoughts, book two of Dashner’s Mortality Doctrine trilogy. By 9:30 last night, I was finished with the book and moving on to the third installment, The Game of Lives (which will be released to the masses tomorrow, November 17th). So, yeah…I guess you could say that The Rule of Thoughts was just as gripping as the first book, The Eye of Minds.

The Rule of Thoughts picks up right where the first book ended. Michael now knows he’s a Tangent, a sentient computer program, and he has essentially taken over the body of someone else. He had no say in this process. Kaine, an evil Tangent bent on merging the virtual and real worlds, downloaded Michael into another’s body in an effort to further his own agenda, known as the Mortality Doctrine. But just how does Michael fit into Kaine’s plan? And is there anything he can do to stop the Mortality Doctrine before it’s too late?

As Michael deals with all of the problems that come with inhabiting a strange body in an unfamiliar world, he’s also attempting to reunite with Sarah and Bryson, his friends from the VirtNet. He knows that it will take all of them to defeat Kaine…and it still may not be enough.

It quickly becomes clear that Michael and his friends are being hunted by multiple parties, and they don’t know who they can trust. They’re basically fugitives in the real world, and Kaine is always on the look-out in the virtual world. Is there anywhere they can hide? How can they figure out what’s going on–and stop it–without endangering their freedom…or their lives?

Once again, Michael, Sarah, and Bryson are realizing that nothing is what it seems. Kaine is manipulating events and people to further his agenda…but there are some that are fighting against him. Will help come for Michael and company before Kaine’s insane plot becomes reality…or is the Mortality Doctrine already taking over?


I’m going to wrap things up here…before I give too much away. Also, I really want to dive back into The Game of Lives, the third and final (?) book in the series.

I will say, though, that The Rule of Thoughts is an exciting, action-packed read that continues to convince me that I will never be a gamer. It is an excellent book that keeps readers interested from start to finish. Like The Eye of Minds, I highly recommend this to readers in middle grades and up.

For more on The  The Mortality Doctrine, visit the Dashner Army website. You can also connect with author James Dashner on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Published in: on November 16, 2015 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NEED by Joelle Charbonneau hits stores tomorrow. If you’re looking for a book that will scare people away from social media, this may be the book for you. Some aspects of the book seem a bit outlandish, but most of it is all too plausible, especially when one considers how gullible some younger (and older) social media users tend to be.

It all seems fairly innocuous in the beginning. NEED, a new social media platform just for students at Nottawa High School, promises to meet every need…for a small price. At first, all users have to do is forward a NEED invitation to a few friends, and then they get what they’ve asked for–cell phones, gaming systems, cash, and more.

Soon, though, NEED begins asking users to do more than just forward an email or two. As the number of users grows, so do the demands of NEED. A special delivery here, a forged signature there. A picture of bank or government records. A harmless act of vandalism. Some students abandon NEED when they see what’s going on, but the majority go along with the site. How else will their needs be met?

But when people start committing truly heinous crimes–even murder–some begin to realize that NEED is more than just a simple social media site. Who is in charge of NEED? What is their endgame? Why are they targeting the students of Nottawa High, and is there anything that can be done to stop them?


Given what I witness on social media every day–as well as all of the time I spend around young people–it’s easy to imagine the events of NEED as a reality.

Many people are looking to get “something for nothing,” and that’s just what NEED offers in the beginning. I bet we can all think of someone–perhaps even ourselves–who would fall prey to a site like NEED without asking the important questions. Why would a site like this exist? Who is in charge of it? Where does it get its funding? What is it trying to accomplish? Why would it focus only on teenagers? Would it all come tumbling down if–insert gasp of horror here–a teen were to confide in (and be believed by) a trusted adult?

I think those who read NEED will find themselves wanting to discuss its implications and likelihood of becoming a reality. (As for me, I would hope that it wouldn’t, but I don’t have that much faith in my fellow man. Perhaps that’s a failing of mine.)

Anyhoo, if you’d like more information on NEED, visit author Joelle Charbonneau’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

For those still not convinced to give NEED a read, check out the book trailer below. It makes me want to read the book all over again.

Published in: on November 2, 2015 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Shadow and Bone

What can I say about Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo that has not already been said? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a go…

Shadow and Bone, the first book in The Grisha trilogy, came out three years ago, and it’s been in my TBR pile almost as long. (The entire series is now complete, so I guess I did okay. No waiting for me!) Well, I finally dove into the book a while ago, and I finished it earlier today. Here are my thoughts in a nutshell:

Holy crap on a cracker.

Why did I wait so long to read this book?! It is so freakin’ good that I’m about to unleash my inner (and outer) fangirl. I am super-eager to get my hands on every other book, novella, or anything else I can find in this series. I predict I will be virtually useless this weekend because I’ll be in a Grisha fog. (I am not, of course, counting the time I spend with my nieces on Halloween. That break in reading is non-negotiable.)

Let’s take a quick look at Shadow and Bone so that I can commence with reading book two, Siege and Storm.

Orphaned at an early age, Alina Starkov believes that her life is destined to continue on the same uneventful path. She’s a mapmaker for the First Army, and though the danger of the Shadow Fold is ever present, as long as her childhood friend Mal is close by, nothing can be too terrible.

If only…

When Mal, Alina, and many others are sent into the Fold, they are enveloped in a darkness so absolute that it feels like a living being. Horrible creatures called volcra attack their vessel, and it seems as if all is lost. One of the monsters goes after Mal, and Alina taps into a power that she doesn’t even realize she has. She summons light to push back the darkness…and everything she ever knew about herself or her place in the world changes in an instant.

Alina is spirited away to be trained as a Grisha. The Grisha, who are mysterious and magical beings, are led by the Darkling, the most powerful of them all. The Darkling sees Alina, a Sun Summoner, as the hope for the future of their land, but Alina is not so sure. She struggles in her training, and something seems to be holding her power back. How can she save the world when she’s still trying to figure out how she fits into it?

The Darkling is convinced that Alina is what he needs, and he does whatever he can to convince her of this. Alina eventually discovers the power within herself, and she begins to believe the Darkling. She’s also growing closer to this enigmatic figure and all he represents.

But Alina soon learns that all is not what it seems. After reuniting with Mal and uncovering a terrible truth, Alina must choose between the future offered by the Darkling and one where she is alone in the world once more. No matter which path she chooses, Alina will soon come face-to-face with her destiny. Is she the master of her fate, or is someone else holding the reins?


With that, I’m going to wrap things up. Read Shadow and Bone. It’s awesome. I’m sure the other books are equally wonderful, and I plan to find out for sure very soon.

For more information on The Grisha trilogy and other works by Leigh Bardugo, check out her website and connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It gives a brief glimpse into Shadow and Bone without giving too much away. Enjoy!

Published in: on October 30, 2015 at 2:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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Spoilers ahead! This post focuses on Unspoken, book 3 in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls After Dark series. If you haven’t read the entire Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls After Dark series, you might want to take care of that before proceeding. Here’s a list of books you need to read posthaste:

Now that we’ve taken care of that, let’s move on to Unspoken, the third and final (?) book in the Shadow Falls After Dark series…

Unspoken, which will be released to the masses tomorrow, continues the story of Della Tsang, a young vampire who is struggling with more than anyone should have to bear. Her father, who barely speaks to her, is about to go on trial for murdering his sister many years ago. Della knows he didn’t do it, but gathering the evidence to prove his innocence is difficult. She’s convinced that her uncle, long thought to be dead, knows something–or is guilty of the crime himself–but she can’t find him and get answers to her questions. And why is her uncle so elusive? Well, Chase Tallman may be partly to blame for that.

Chase wants to do everything he possibly can to help Della, but, just like Della is convinced of her father’s innocence, Chase is certain that Eddie, Della’s uncle, didn’t commit this horrible crime. But if neither of the brothers killed their sister, who did? And how can two vampires with their own issues work together to find a killer who’s been on the run for decades?

Part of Della wants to trust Chase, but another part feels like she’s being forced to rely on him. Yes, they are bonded, but is that the only reason they are so drawn to each other? Does Della really have any choice in her mixed-up feelings for Chase? She’s spinning out of control, and Chase isn’t exactly helping. He’s trying to be honest with Della, but his omissions are just as bad (in Della’s eyes) as outright lies. What exactly is he hiding? Is he trying to shield Della from the truth, or is he protecting someone else?

As Della, Chase, and an assortment of other friends at Shadow Falls work to reveal what really happened in Della’s father’s case, another heinous act is also demanding their attention. And, as they begin to examine evidence (and as Della gets information from a couple of ghosts), it seems that the two crimes are somehow linked. How is this possible? And can they find the real culprit before time runs out?

Are Della and Chase ready for what lies ahead? Read Unspoken by C.C. Hunter to find out.


I thought Unspoken was a rather satisfying end to Della’s story in the world of Shadow Falls. I liked how things worked out for the main characters, and the story made me feel okay about how they’ll move forward. (I’m trying really hard here not to spoil anything for anyone. Can you tell?)

One thing that I didn’t really touch on in the recap above was Della’s relationship with her father. If you’ve read any of the previous books, you know it’s strained. Well, it definitely gets worse in Unspoken. By the end of the book, I sort of understood why her father acted the way he did, but that did not help my urge to give him a good smack. He was horrible to Della, and here she was, busting her tail to keep him out of prison–something he wasn’t even aware of. She could have turned her back on him–just like he did to her–but her love and loyalty were more powerful than anything, including what her father believed she was capable of. (You’ll have to read the book to figure out what I’m talking about here.)

I’m hoping we’ll see more of Della and the gang in future books. Although things are cool now with Della–and with Kylie from the Shadow Falls series–Miranda’s future is still up in the air. We saw a bit of her story in Spellbinder, but I’m thinking there’s a lot more to come–hopefully in a full-length novel or even an entire series.

Speaking of more to come, all of the e-novellas in the series are finally coming out in print. All four of them will be released in one volume, Almost Midnight, which will be out on February 2nd. According to C.C. Hunter’s website, this collection will also feature a new story from another Shadow Falls character. No idea who at this point.

For those considering adding Unspoken or any of the other books in the series to your libraries, I would recommend these stories to libraries that serve teen readers. It’s not that I don’t think some middle school students can handle it. Some likely can, but the books do have some mature situations that are more suited to young adults. Just my two cents.

In closing, I’d like to thank NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read Unspoken and the rest of Della’s story. I truly appreciate it!


Published in: on October 26, 2015 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Born to Endless Night

This post revolves around the ninth story in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. At this point, if you haven’t read everything Cassandra Clare has written about Shadowhunters, I don’t know what to tell you.

As you’ve likely gathered, I recently finished reading Born to Endless Night, story #9 in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. I don’t know that this is my favorite story in the bunch…but it’s definitely in the running.

What’s so great about it, you ask? In a word: Malec. (For those who aren’t familiar with this series, this is the “couple name” for Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood.) Yes, Simon continues to play a big role in this story (as he should), but the focus this time is on Magnus, Alec, and the little newcomer who is going to change everything…

Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of Brooklyn, thought this was going to be a fairly uneventful trip…even for him. He’d give a few lectures at the Shadowhunter Academy, spend some time with Alec, and go on his merry way. He couldn’t know that something is about to happen that will throw his entire world into a tailspin…

Shortly after Magnus arrives at the Academy, several young Shadowhunters-in-training, including Simon, discover a small bundle at the Academy entrance. Everyone is shocked to discover that this bundle is a baby with navy blue skin. A warlock child. The baby has been abandoned by his mother, and Simon immediately thinks to go to Magnus about this situation. Surely, he’ll know what to do.

As it turns out, it’s not Magnus that jumps in and takes charge. It’s Alec. Alec cares for this blue-skinned child as if he were born to do so. And the entire Lightwood family jumps in to help. While Alec seems totally sure of what needs to happen with the warlock child, Magnus is the one who is uncertain. In all of his centuries on earth, he’s never encountered a situation like this one. What is he supposed to do, and how will all of this change his relationship with Alec?


I’m going to stop here before I give away every single thing that happens in this story. I will say, though, that I loved seeing more of Alec. I think he’s often overlooked–especially when either Magnus or Jace are around–so it was wonderful to see him get his chance to truly shine…and he did. And even though I didn’t mention it in my little recap above, I also liked how both Alec and Magnus reassured Simon about his actions–both past and present–and his place in the larger Shadowhunter world.

With that, I guess we move on to story #10 in the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy collection. This final installment, Angels Twice Descending, will focus on Simon’s Ascension ceremony, and it will be out on November 17th. I don’t know what to expect at this point, but I’m fairly certain that it will be a story to remember…and should be a great lead-in to Lady Midnight (out on March 8th).

Speaking of Lady Midnight…have you all seen that absolutely gorgeous cover? If not, check it out below.

Pretty, pretty, pretty. I eagerly await what is sure to be another fantastic book in Cassie Clare’s Shadowhunter saga. (I’m also pretty stoked about the TV series which premieres on ABC Family–soon to be FreeForm–on January 12th at 9/8c. I’m not a huge fan of the time slot–that’s when I watch Agents of SHIELD–but I’ll still be tuning in.)

For more Shadowhunter fun, click here for the official TV series website and here for the novels’ website.

Published in: on October 23, 2015 at 1:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Lair of Dreams

Caution: Read The Diviners by Libba Bray before proceeding. There may be spoilers ahead!

Last month, I finally made time to read the first book in a thrilling, terrifying series. That series, of course, began with The Diviners. Yesterday, I finished reading the second book in the series, Lair of Dreams. Well, if The Diviners scared me, Lair of Dreams terrified me to the depths of my soul. Thanks to the fabulous Libba Bray, I can now add dreaming to the long list of things that scare me. (If you’re curious, that list includes–but is not limited to–clowns, balloons, thunderstorms, zombies, most forms of social interaction, the dark, and failure. Yes, I’m aware I have issues.)

Moving on…

Lair of Dreams picks up where The Diviners left off. Let’s dive in, shall we?

After the horrendous battle against Naughty John, the whole world knows of the existence of Diviners, and Evie O’Neill is determined to be the most famous of them all. She is now the “Sweetheart Seer,” and she performs her object readings on a very popular radio show. Evie is a media darling, and she’ll do almost anything to keep it that way…even aligning with her nemesis, Sam Lloyd.

As for Sam, he has own agenda, and he needs Evie’s help to finally discover what really happened to his mother. He knows she’s still out there somewhere, but he’s having no luck in uncovering the truth behind “Project Buffalo,” the shady government project that may have something to do with locating (or even creating?) Diviners. Sam knows his mother was involved in the project, but he doesn’t know how…or why. He’s hoping that Evie’s object-reading ability will clear things up, but can he work with Evie, a girl who craves the spotlight, while keeping his own abilities a secret?

Evie and Sam have the media’s attention at the moment…but something else is in the news as well. A mysterious sleeping sickness has taken hold, and it has all of New York on edge. People are being trapped in their dreams, and there appears to be no cause or cure for this strange illness. Is there anyone who can figure out what is happening?

As it turns out, there is. Two young Diviners, Ling Chan and Henry DuBois, are dream-walkers, and the ability to discover what–or who–is responsible for the sleeping sickness may reside with them. But what if they don’t want to leave the dream world? What if it’s so much better than the prejudice and ridicule they face every day?

For many people–Ling and Henry included–dreams are quickly turning to nightmares, and there appears to be no escape. Diviners and their allies will have to work together to stop this evil from spreading and taking those they hold dear. But how? How can they stop an evil that exists in dreams?

On the fringes of this terror, there’s always the odd gray man in the stovepipe hat, known to some as the King of Crows. This shadowy figure, who was also present during the Naughty John fiasco, seems to thrive on terror, but his endgame is unclear. What does he have to do with the sleeping sickness, and how will the Diviners play into his plans?

As the Diviners navigate the terrifying dream world threatening to invade even their waking hours, they must also unite to face the uncertain future ahead of them. Something big is headed their way. Will their abilities be enough to fight it? Who or what will try to get in their way? And what will they discover about themselves and their “gifts” in the process?

Find out just how dangerous dreams can be when you read Lair of Dreams, the thrilling second installment in Libba Bray’s Diviners series.


To say that I liked Lair of Dreams would be something of an understatement. Granted, I could not read it at night, especially right before bed, but I still enjoyed every bit of it. This book, like The Diviners, is rich, complex, and provides a rather interesting, alternate-history type look at life in the 1920s. Those who read this book may just find themselves doing a bit of research into just how much of it is historically accurate. (A lot of it, by the way.)

If you, like me, are already eager for more of The Diviners, well…we’re all out of luck for now. According to Goodreads, there will be two more books in the series, but there is no timeline on when we can expect them. Given that the two books we already have come in at around 600 pages each, I imagine it takes the wonderful Libba Bray quite some time to research, write, rewrite, and otherwise prepare the books for publication. So, I guess we’ll just have to be patient.

As news of future books in The Diviners is released, I imagine it will be on Libba Bray’s website first, so check there often. You can also follow the fantastic Ms. Bray on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.

If you’d like to hear more about Lair of Dreams from Libba Bray herself, check out the interview below from BookCon 2015. Enjoy!

The Eye of Minds

When I read The Maze Runner series, I immediately became a fan of James Dashner. I fully intended to read the first book in his next YA series, The Eye of Minds (book one of The Mortality Doctrine), the minute it came out. Sadly, though, that didn’t quite happen.

Now, it’s two years later, and I just finished this first book. The second book, The Rule of Thoughts, is already out, and the third book, The Game of Lives, will be released next month. (There’s also a prequel novella, Gunner Skale, that’s out.) Well, I may be a bit late to the party, but there is an upside here. No long, agonzing wait for the next book! As soon as I finish a few other reads-in-progress, I can dive right back into the world Dashner created for this Mortality Doctrine series. And let me tell you, it is quite the interesting–and often horrifying–world…

The “real world” holds little appeal for Michael. He is a gamer, and, like many other people around him, he spends the majority of his time in the VirtNet, or the virtual world that offers a totally realistic, immersive experience, especially if one has the hacking skills to get everything he desires. (Michael does.) But for Michael, things in the VirtNet are about to get all too real…

When Michael witnesses a girl committing suicide in the VirtNet–and realizes that she’s also killing herself in the real world–he comes to understand that all is not what it seems here. And when the VNS, a government agency, solicits his help in tracking down someone who can only be described as a cyber-killer, Michael must decide if he wants to remain blissfully ignorant or if he’s willing to risk his life to find Kaine, the greatest–and most dangerous–gamer the world has ever seen.

Michael soon realizes that he has no choice in the matter. If he doesn’t do what the VNS asks of him, everything he knows and loves will be in peril. So Michael enlists the help of his two best (virtual) friends, and the trio goes on a quest to locate–and hopefully stop–the mysterious Kaine.

Even for a group of gifted hackers, though, this experience is like nothing they’ve ever encountered before. Danger lurks around every corner, and it appears that Kaine is leading them exactly where he wants them to go. At times, they are not hunting Kaine. They are the hunted.

The lines between the real and virtual worlds disappear for Michael and friends the closer they get to Kaine. Will they be able to finish their quest? What will they discover about Kaine in the process? What is his endgame, and why is Michael such an important part of it? Is there any way for Michael and his friends to make it out of this “game” with their minds–and their lives–intact?

Uncover the truth when you read The Eye of Minds by James Dashner.


I am not a gamer. (It’s probably the only non-geeky thing about me.) After reading The Eye of Minds, I will not be gaming anytime soon. It freaked me the crap out. My mind is already a fairly dark place, so I don’t need to add to that by immersing myself in a video game….especially one that is controlled by a maniac with his own nefarious agenda.

I think the scariest part of this particular book–and perhaps the entire series–is that I can see it happening in the not-too-distant future. Technology takes over more aspects of our lives daily, so it’s not too much of a stretch that it could one day take over our minds…or our bodies. Now, I’m not advocating doing away with all technology. That’s absurd. (Also, I’m a school librarian, a webmaster, and a blogger. Technology is kind of my bread and butter most of the time.) I’m just saying that it could be dangerous in some instances, especially when it takes over everything else or is placed in the wrong hands. This book definitely shines a light on that and could lead to some interesting ethical discussions.

For those wondering if this book is okay for middle grade readers, I would say that it is. Like The Maze Runner series, it is scary, action-packed, and will definitely keep readers guessing. The book has its fair share of violence, and some younger readers may not be prepared for just how terrifying things get, so watch out for that. I would say, though, that this book is a great pick for libraries that serve middle grade, YA, and adult readers. There something here for everyone, especially patrons who’d rather play video games than do nearly anything else.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, the second book in the series is already out, and the third will be out on November 17th. I’m hoping to get to both of them very soon. (Thanks to NetGalley, I don’t even have to wait until next month to read The Game of Lives. It’s on my Kindle right now!) I’ll be back with my thoughts on both of those books as soon as I get around to reading them.

Until then…check out more on The Mortality Doctrine on the Dashner Army website. You can also connect with the author via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You may also want to take a look at the video below for a teaser trailer for The Eye of Minds. Enjoy.

Published in: on October 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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!


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