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.

A Dash of Diversity

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I’ve been focusing on ordering books with diverse characters, settings, and backgrounds. Diversity in YA fiction has been a struggle for a long time. When you were in school (are in school?) and you read the classics, how many of them had people of color in any other role than servant, slave, or bad guy? Book Riot did a survey of the 3,000+ ya books published in 2019 and broke them down; 41.8% of main characters were white. This number is far better than, say, 5+ years ago, but we still have a long way to go to have a truly balanced selection of books for our very diverse young adults.

Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know that the first of my diversity books was going to be a fantasy. Yes, yes, I’ll get to other genres later but I’m a eat dessert first kind of person (or even east dessert for dinner).

Malik and his sisters are on the run. They escaped their village and assumed new identities since the Eshran people are maligned by nearly everyone. When they reach Ziran, amid a crush of people arriving for the Solstasia festival, a spiteful specter kidnaps young Nadia. In order to free her, Malik makes a bargain that will mean death to the young princess Karina, who has her own deadly intentions to bring her recently murdered mother back to life. Forces are working around them that neither are aware of or understand and each one is determined to see their mission through, no matter the cost. The evil they unleash will take strength, cunning, and magic to overcome.

 

Roseanne A. Brown is of West Africa decent and Song of Wraiths and Ruin was inspired by the folklore of her ancestors. Her princess is lonely, angry, clever, spoiled and lost. Her hero is timid and uncertain yet he’s also brave and selfless. As they move through the intricately woven tale, they grow and change and they learn that wisdom isn’t always easy to find and betrayal can come from the least likely places.

The Damned…Sequel did not disappoint!

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I do love it when the next book in a series is just as good as the first. It doesn’t always happen but, when it does HALLELUIA!!!

War is eminent in the beautiful city of New Orleans. Bastien is remade and reborn and is the catalyst but could he also be a peacemaker? Celine remembers nothing about that horrible night or the deal she made, at least that’s what was supposed to happen. But there are ghost memories that keep niggling at her mind, trying to break through. What do they mean and why is everyone lying to her about what happened? One evening, she crosses paths with Bastien, a man she’s sure she knows and to whom she feels a powerful attraction. As her memories begin to bubble to the surface with a vengeance, there are shadowy forces at work all around her; forces that are as dangerous as they are mysterious. What choices will Celine and Bastien be forced to make to survive what is coming?

Again with the Vampires?

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I have always been fascinated by vampires. They are gruesome, bloody creatures and there is a romantic mystique about them. Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice has explored this dichotomy most entertainingly…especially the movie (yes, I do get that the cheese factor in it is immense…still, I loved every second). Stephanie Meyer reignited my love of these bitey creatures, though the movies were, UGH!!! I’ve read the True Blood, Jaz Parks, and Blood ties series with relish. P. C. Cast (a mother/daughter team) wrote the House of Night series and Rachel Mead wrote Vampire Academy, both are excellent vamp stories.

I’m not sure what it is that I find so scintillating. Is it that they bite the neck, a vulnerable place so close to the heart? Is it that they are always beautiful? Is it that they live forever (Nah…I DEFINITELY don’t want to do that the way the world is today!!!)? Vampires are worldly and they know a great deal about many things because they’ve lived so long. They have touched every corner of the earth and a bit of the exotic has become part of their essence. Whatever it is, I will never tire of reading about them and will always pass on what I have learned. The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh is the latest vampire-ish book in my arsenal.

New Orleans is a mystical city. The light and the dark are drawn there for reasons they, themselves, do not understand. Celine Rousseau is running form her life and the dreadful deeds she has done. At the Convent, she is taken in but they seem to sense something about her, something that is just a little off and they treat her with caution. During a fund-raising endeavor, she meets a fascinating woman who hires her to design a gown for a fancy party. This one decision draws her inexorably into a dark and dangerous group. La Cour des Lions is a place unlike any other. Magic seems to sparkle in the very air. Those who live there are strange and, maybe, not quite human? When tragedy strikes and a girl from the convent is murdered in the most horrible way possible, a pall is cast over everyone. She is the second girl to meet this fate in as many weeks. As she draws closer to the group and its inscrutable leader, Bastian, she makes herself a target for the evil lurks in the shadows. Celine has never backed down from a fight in her life and she’s not about to start now. A plan takes form in her mind and a third murder in her own cell at the convent spurs her to action but surviving and encounter with this creature may be more than even she can handle.

This tale will surprise and delight readers as Ahdeih moves you through the streets of New Orleans in the late 1800s. It is a masterfully told fantasy that twists and turns through the streets like a manic carnival parade. I look forward to reading the sequel, Damned.

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)