Author Archives: dknott715

About dknott715

I am a high school librarian and avid reader. I work in a high school library in Chesterfield, VA serving 9th grade students and staff.

Yeah, but is it a romance novel, really?

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I am not a fan of romcoms on the screen or in book form but I do enjoy a good romance, once in a while. Back when I was in high school (just a few years ago), I devoured those bodice rippers. You know the ones I’m talking about where the stunningly beautiful woman stands wrapped in the arms of an equally stunning man who seems to have just (accidentally?) torn her bodice to shreds. I learned a lot about the birds and the bees from those novels (probably why I’m not married now…super high expectations from those bees). My favorite books, however, are those that build the relationship between the characters slowly and there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on around them. These novels are not, technically, romance novels. You certainly wouldn’t find them at Barnes and Noble next to the bodice rippers (yes, they still write those and it’s a billion dollar industry). Mostly, they are contemporary fiction novels or fantasy novels (you know how I love my fantasy stories) that have characters who fall in love. You’ll have noticed that I don’t even have Romance as a genre listed! Honestly, though, that’s more of an oversight than purposeful. Maybe you can help me come up with a list of truly Romance-y novels?

I’ve made an observation after the thousands of books I’ve read throughout my life…many, many YA novels have an element of romance in them but you wouldn’t necessarily label them with the Romance genre sticker. Some revolved around crushes that turn into something or that remain star-crossed. Others, focus on the I-don’t-need-anyone-until-BAM-I’m-in-love stories. Below are some of my favorites. Please forgive me for the overabundance of my favorite genre. I can’t help myself!

Hunger Games – there’s even a love triangle in this one…Katniss, Gale, and Peeta.
Graceling by Kirstin Cashore – This one is about a girl who has the powerful “grace” of being able to kill anyone, any time, with any or no weapon. She’s being used as an enforcer by her uncle but runs a rescue group on the sly. One a mission to save an elderly royal, she meets the only person ever to be able to hold his own against her. Oh, she still beats the daylights out of him but she has to break a sweat to do it.
Matched by Ally Condie – Sure, this one is all about matching young people for mates but, there’s a lot more going on here, still, you definitely get the LUV angle.
Divergent by Veronica Roth – you CANNOT deny the smoldering passion between Four and Triss from the moment they meet.
Sarah Dessen – I mention her because her books ALWAYS have an angsty love story unfolding amongst the dysfunctional family drama (and, they are ALL fabulous books).
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – Based on the Seven Swans fairy tale, the romance in this one builds over three fabulously long books.
Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – This one’s a mashup between the Beauty and the Beast and the Scottish Tam Lin fairy tales. There’s death and destruction, betrayal, and, ultimately love, but with a mind-bending twist.
The Dark Artifices series by Cassandra Clare – the romance in this book started long before this was even published! There are demons, warlocks, curses, betrayal…love?
Harp of Kings by Julie Marillier – This one has a couple of love stories but the main one unfolds slowly with all the infuriating potholes and familial interferences that make a good love story. Bonus: two of the characters are the children of a couple from another of my favorite Marillier books, the Blackthorn and Grim series.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levitan – This story is a borderline love story about two boys, both named Will Grayson, looking for and finding love even though one of them wasn’t looking for it and the other finds it in an unexpected place.
An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green – This is all about a mathematical genius (no, seriously) who is trying to figure out the formula that will explain why he only falls in love with girls named Katherine all while he’s on a post-graduation road trip with his best friend. Is it a buddy story? Is it a romance? You decide.





Pan…dammit

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The last time I posted was March before all of the stuff hit the fan. It’s been a long, difficult road and I have used more cuss words during this time than I ever have before (hence the title of this post). I don’t know if you read the Twilight books but Stephanie Meyer did something in New Moon (book 2) that so perfectly illustrated what Bella was going through when Edward left. There were three pages, blank except for the name of the month. It was a poignant, powerful visual and it perfectly describes how things have been for me since March. I had little motivation to do anything except sit in front of the tv, series after series, and not think (one of these days, I’ll do a post all about my pandemic watchlist). Still, I managed to get a couple of books read; mostly from my favorite authors so I’d know what to expect…fabulousness (the word “unprecedented” is a word I NEVER want to hear, again). I was not disappointed.

Juliet Marillier is in my top 5 favorite author group. Her high fantasy picks me up and whisks me away to worlds long ago and full of magic and mystery. Harp of Kings is her latest.

Liobhan (sounds like leo-bhan) is a strong girl with big dreams to become a warrior. She has the skills and the determination. She and her twin brother, Brocc, have been accepted to Swan Island, a training camp for elite fighters. Their fighting skills are honed as they compete for a place amongst the famed warriors. In the midst of their training, they are recruited for a special mission. They will be traveling as musicians. Liobhan has almost magical skill on the pipes and Brocc has the voice of an angel and the skill of a master on the harp. Together, they will face the most difficult challenge in their young lives…separation.

Sarah J. Maas has become one of my new favorites. Her fairy stories are brutal and beautiful, brash and seductive. Her latest, Crescent City, is also quite steamy! I’d rate it M for mature.

Bryce is a party girl. Dancing, drinking, and having fun is all she wants right up until she watches her best friend torn to shreds by a demon in front of her. On the surface, she seems unchanged. She allows her reputation to remain but behind the scenes she is in turmoil. The man she believed guilty of the crime is behind bars so why have the murders begun again? Who is behind it and why? She is recruited to help in the search by the Asteri Micah, an arch angel. He assigns Hunt Athalar, a famed warrior with his own personal demons to work with her. The two are like oil and water but they think alike and quickly pick up a trail but where it leads them will shatter their souls.

Bam…

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Have you ever read a book, gotten totally hooked on, devouring pages just to see where the story goes then you turn a corner and a huge plank hits you upside the head and the story goes off the rails? Well, that’s exactly what just happened to me as I read I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson

Ruthie moved away three years ago. Now, her mom has died and she’s back but everything is different and, Zahra is missing. Zahra and Ruthie were best friends from the moment they met. They read fantasy books and wrote their own stories. They even created their own “castle” at the local park. Ruthie believes that she can find her friend so, she gets to know Zahrara’s new friends to try to figure out what went wrong. The web entangling them all gets twisted and a sudden twist throws everything topsy turvy. Who is responsible? The answer will shock you.

This book takes me back to the first time I saw Sixth Sense. I had to rewind the VCR tape and watch it again to see if I could spot the moment things went awry. It was one of the few movies that caught me completely off guard. This book is the same except with fewer hints and clues scattered throughout. If you’re a fan of mystery and suspense books and don’t mind a super surprising ending, this one is definitely for you.

Old story, New life

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Once upon a time…when you hear those words, your body leans in toward the tale-teller. Your minds eye opens wide, your ears tune sharply to hear every word. It’s the magic of the story and it’s held in thrall countless people through the ages. One of the best known storytellers is Shahrzad, the girl who saved her own life by telling a story. For centuries, her tales have traveled the globe on their magic carpet. With Renee Ahdieh, she gets a reboot.

No one has ever volunteered before. It’s a death sentence and no one really wants to die but Shahrzad has ulterior motives for putting her life on the line. She wants revenge.

Khalid murdered her best friend, Shiva, and so many other brides on the morning after they become his wife. Shahrzad is determined that Shiva will be his last. She smart and full of sass. She’s also a gifted storyteller. That first night, she spins a tale that enthralls her new husband. When she ends the story before it’s conclusion, Khalid realizes what she’s done but he spares her life and returns night after night. Soon, things begin to change between them and suddenly, revenge doesn’t seem so sweet. How is she to fulfill her mission if she can’t take her mind off of his eyes that are full of pain; pain she finds herself wanting to take away.

Fans of complicated love stories akin to Beauty and the Beast, rejoice. This is a series. Just be prepared for a love hate relationship with cliff-hangers.

Wrecked

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Have you ever read a book that ended up wrecking you as much as it did the main character? I just read I Was Here by Gayle Forman. Teenagers have so many issues to deal with these days. Sure, every generation of teens has “issues” but now, it just seems that there are more unhealthy and even deadly matters weighing upon such young shoulders.

Meg and Cody, Cody and Meg. It’s been that way since they were little. You never saw one without the other. Meg’s parents practically raised Cody since her mom was a bit of a flake. Then, one day, Meg went somewhere Cody could’t follow, didn’t even know Meg was thinking about. That place leads Cody on a downward spiral trying to figure out what went wrong. How could it have happened? How did she fail her best friend?

The road trip to find answers leads Code to people who knew parts of Meg but no one had all of the pieces. Some Cody picks up on Meg’s computer. Other pieces come from people living on the outskirts of Meg’s life, particularly Ben, a one-night-stand for Meg. Cody makes some dangerous choices as she collects Meg’s pieces but will she ever be able to understand and forgive?

Holy Smokes! This was an intense story from the beginning. The range of emotions Forman takes the reader through in rapid succession leave you feeling like you just rode a roller coaster 3 times in a row, after lunch! If you’re a fan of teen drama akin to John Green’s or Sarah Dessen’s work, this should be your next book.

Fabulously horrifying

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Tana wakes to the drip drip drip of water. She’s in a bathtub and the remnants of the party are strewn around the bathroom. The rush of the riot last night has settled and Tana figures that everyone is just passed out. They are not and her day just goes from wet to worse in the single beat of her heart. She isn’t alone, though. In a room, she finds her annoyingly adorable ex-boyfriend chained to a bed and a vampire gazing at her through florid red eyes.

Tana’s world is full of fences, quarantines, and blood. Vampires are real and infected humans are everywhere. Some are infected willingly, others, not so much. Tana has never been one of the wannabes, hanging on to the promises of eternal life and surging strength. She survived her mother turning and just wants to live a normal life. That, however, is not now possible. She finds a scratch, a tooth-shaped mark on her leg and knows there’s only one place she can go; Coldtown. It’s a place for monsters, monster-lovers and those unsure of their place in the world.

Now, Tana will risk everything to save the three of them and the lengths she will have to go will take her to the the cold, dead heart of Coldtown.

 
Holly Black is the horror writer who makes her monsters just human enough to love and her humans just monstrous enough to leave you completely unbalanced…but in a totally delicious way! Coldest Girl in Coldtown will not disappoint.

Do YA Book Riot?

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I don’t know if you know about Book Riot but it’s a great blog that features everything literary. I subscribe to their YA page and get regular updates full of articles, lists, podcasts, etc. about YA Lit. Obviously, they have regular grown-up bookish stuff, too, but that’s not who I am (at least literarily). If you’re looking for a great book to read, check them out! They’ll find you something!

My favorite Book Riot lists:

YA Retellings TBR in 2020

10 Badass YA characters That Inspire our 2020 Goals

9 Solid Gold YA Fantasy Books from 2019

7 YA Books With Unconventional Narrative Structures

10 YA Fairy Books for Fans of Holly Black (I LOVE Holly)

Re-reading: Yes or No?

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Surprisingly enough, this is a controversial thing! I’ve often asked my students if they re-read books and have gotten a mixed bag of responses. Most of them say no, “What’s the point when you already know what’s going to happen?” Like any librarian worth her sensible shoes, I ask, “But what if you are older or in a different place mentally than when you first read it?” Sometimes I get a thoughtful look and answer and sometimes I get a blank stare. Sigh…Hello, My name is Donna and I am a re-reader. You know, there’s actually research and articles written on this topic. There’s even a whole book dedicated to re-reading!!!

I re-read for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I want the comfort of old friends. Yes, yes, I realize I’m talking about fictional characters. I’m not crazy but I do love to meet them again between the pages of my favorite books. Other times, I’m waiting for a book to be released and want to read something I can stop in the middle of. Like when, Holly Black’s newest book, Queen of Nothing wasn’t coming out until November 19 but I finished my other book on Halloween. What’s a girl to do? Not reading wasn’t an option so, I picked up Fire by Kristin Cashore. I settled in and got reacquainted. I also found myself surprised by things I’d forgotten and new things I learned…mostly about myself. You see, when you re-read books, you not only get to see your old fictional friends; you also get to find yourself, both the old you when you read that book so long ago and the new you who found something you didn’t know you were missing. I highly recommend re-reading!

Fire is a monster. Not your typical snarling, ugly, murdering kind of monster. Rather, she’s the last of her kind, a human monster. Her power is both in her looks, which captivate and ensnare those with weak minds and her ability to read and control minds. Though she has great power, she refuses to use it against anyone and goes to great lengths to earn the trust of those around her. Then, one day, Prince Brigan rides into her life. There is a war brewing and her power could tip the balance. She knows she has the ability to save her beloved kingdom but does she have the strength to save herself from becoming the real monster her father was?

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” -Frank Herbert

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I like this quote. I like the idea that stories never truly end. If you’ve ever read Jasper Fford, you know that the characters in the story have full lives when they are not being read. I like that idea, as well, especially when you find a great trilogy or series. I like to imagine the characters living, loving, and moving about their daily lives when I close the book. It helps when you get to the end and you’re sad that it’s over. I mourn the characters lost and the those I love but who aren’t real (SIGH!!!).

Holly Black is one of my favorite authors. Her latest trilogy (?), The Folk of the Air has been dreamy! She writes about the Fey as though she knows them intimately, has seen their revels and danced with Faerie princes. The first two of the series, Cruel Prince and Wicked King paint a picture so vivid and heartwrenching that I was unsure of how the final book would go. I was not disappointed, though she did give me a massive fright toward the end and I almost broke my cardinal rule NOT to read the end before getting there. I am glad that I did not do so for it would have ruined the sweetness.

Jude is doomed to the mortal world indefinitely. She is always thinking, scheming of a way back to Faerie, back to her wicked king to repay his betrayal. In the meantime, though, she is a Fey fixer and assassin, when necessary. On a day that begins like all the rest, her chance for revenge appears in the form of her backstabbing twin, Taryn who has put herself on the wrong side of the Fey court. Being an identical twin has its advantages. Playing the role of Taryn, Jude defies her exile order to confront the charges against her sister and her feelings for Cardan. Upon her arrival, she discovers that Elfhame is in dire straights. War is coming and at its head is her father, Madoc. Soon she is entrenched deep in enemy territory and must find a way to stay alive long enough to warn her king of impending war. In an unexpected and tragic turn of events, a hideous curse is unleashed putting her in the very place she longed and dreaded to be, Queen of Elfhame. She must walk a razor-thin line between love and control if she wants to save her kingdom and her King.

Freedom Riding

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I do enjoy a good historical fiction story, especially when it’s based on a real character. As I started reading Susanna’s Midnight Ride by Libby Carty McNamee, I had to see if the author wrote anything about whether she was real or not. I was surprised to learn about this young girl who played such an important role in the war to create our great nation!

Susanna Bolling, Suki to her family and friends, is living on a plantation in Virginia during the Revolutionary war. Both of her older brothers are fighting further down South in North Carolina and Sukey finds herself frustrated at being stuck at home doing housework. She is sure she could do more for the cause than cleaning the floor for the umpteenth time. What she’s not so sure about is whether she’d have the courage to do something dangerous.

Early one morning, Sukey and her mother hear strange noises coming from down the lane. The ground shivers with the stomping of feet and hooves as General Cornwallis invades the once quiet Bollingbrook Plantation. Her mother puts on a brave face and orders the servants to hide so that they aren’t kidnapped by the army and she serves them dinner. As Sukey moves around the dining room keeping plates and classes filled, she overhears a nefarious plan to capture and kill Lafayette, the French hero of the Revolution. Now, her courage will be truly tested. Will she be able to overcome her fear and the concerns of her mother to do what needs to be done to prevent disaster?