Author Archives: dknott715

About dknott715

I am a middle school librarian and avid reader. I work in an independent school library that serves grades 6-12.

Queen of the Long Read

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As some of you know, I’m a huge Cassandra Clare fan. Her book City of Bones was absolutely fantastic and I devoured that entire series. This series, The Dark Artifices, was even better, if that’s even possible. Reading the three books made me laugh out loud, cry angry tears, yell at the characters (embarrassing but I managed to control myself until I got home), and cry over broken hearts. The last book, though, was the most difficult to get through. Lord of Shadows ended tragically. It took me weeks to get over that horrifying loss. Queen of Air and Darkness picked up in the aftermath and barrelled through, picking up speed and terror along the way. It literally took me from the day it came out (Dec. 4 2018) until today to finish it. I NEVER take that long to read a book, regardless of how long it is.

Throughout this series, Cassandra took on issues currently plaguing our society without flinching, namely racism and bigotry, and carrying them through to their inevitable and deplorable end. Along the way, each of the characters endured pain and love, loss and discovery. So much emotion that it seemed like I was on a roller coaster. I just had to get off to rest and breathe for a bit every so often.

So why do I do this to myself? Because reading about it makes the reality a little more palatable and it gives me hope that maybe we, too, can defeat hatred and bigotry. That’s what books do, particularly Young Adult novels. I wish that I could infuse my student with my love for books and stories. I am a big believer in bibliotherapy, that is giving books about certain topics to students who are struggling with them. They can experience, vicariously (and safely) the ills of the world and maybe get some insight into how to survive, themselves. Reading stories about people just like you is a very good thing, especially for teens how might be living in places where they don’t know anyone else who looks the same, thinks the same or feels the same as they do (think really small, rural towns, etc.).

The moral of this story? If you are dealing with something difficult, take time to tune out and pick up a book. You can either read about someone else dealing with your difficulty or you can completely escape from your reality and vacation somewhere else for a while and breathe for a bit.

Wicked King, Wicked Sequel

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Why, oh why must authors taunt me like this. Why can’t I discover these fabulous series’ AFTER they’ve all been written so I can binge read them? I’m like a 3-year-old being told to wait for, well, anything. I do love Holly Black and her fairy stories. They are so real and awesome and scary. Cruel Prince has more twists and turns than the biggest, baddest roller coaster on the planet and Wicked King will have you on the edge of your seat. Be prepared because Ms. Black will leave you desperate for the next installment.

Cruel Prince

Jude witnessed the murder of her parents and was taken by the murderer, Madoc, to live in Faerie along with her twin sister Taryn and older sister Vivian. She has very little memory of her life in the mortal world, and the man who slew her parents has become her father. It’s little wonder that Jude isn’t is unusual. She is the brunt of cruel jokes and tricks by the other fey teenagers, but she has a goal. Jude wants to serve the High King as a knight. Crazy, impossible, insane but she wants it more than air. It isn’t long before she gets her chance. However, it’s not quite what she expected. Things rarely are in Underhill.

Wicked King

When last we saw Jude, she had tricked and schemed her way around Madoc’s power grab for the throne and put her most fearsome enemy in his place with her as the puppet master. Cardan is under her control but just barely and not for very long. Their hold on Faerie is tenuous at best, and it soon it comes to light that someone close to Jude will betray her. Meanwhile, the love/hate relationship between Jude and Cardan builds creating tension that you could cut with a sword. The Fae may not be able to lie but they are adept at tricks and the one played on Jude will send her reeling but will it unravel all of her devious plans?

Mystery, Drama, Suspense…What’s not to love?

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I needed a quick read today so I browsed the teen titles on Overdrive and stumbled upon Margaux Froley’s Keaton School Novels. At first, they seemed like typical teen angst novels with private school snobbery for thrown in for flavor. But it soon became apparent that there was much more to these novels and now, I’m hoping that there are more to come!

In Escape Theory, we meet Devon MacIntosh, a scholarship kid at a prestigious private school overlooking the Pacific ocean. To say she feels out of place is an understatement. She’s managed to get to her Junior year under the radar but with college applications looming, she decides to get involved with the newly created peer counseling program. She wasn’t prepared for how quickly her services would be needed. The school year started with the suicide of one of it’s most popular and well-liked students. Jason Hutchins, known by all as “Hutch” was the golden boy who really had a heart of gold. As his friends came to her, they slowly began to trust her and let out their secrets and fears but, as they did, Devon began to realize that there was more to Hutch’s suicide than anyone else thought. Maybe she was crazy or obsessed with losing him before figuring out what was really between them but she just knew that he did not kill himself. Proving it, though, opened a whole other can of very dangerous worms.

In Hero Complex, Devon and her classmates are doing what they can to move past the losses of the semester before and get on with their lives. New Year’s Eve, Cleo convinces her to go to a party on a yacht to have a bit of fun and to get away from things for a while. At first, it was working. The lights, the swaying of the boat and the single glass of bubbly have Devon thinking that things are going to be okay. Suddenly someone hits her on the back of the head. Cleo finds her a few minutes later but there’s no sign of her assailant. Now, everyone thinks she’s paranoid and obsessive. Ironically, she is required to go through therapy because of the trauma she suffered. It seems that solving Hutch’s murder was just the beginning of a much deeper mystery and Reed Hutchins, Hutch’s grandfather, know the answers. With the help of Reed’s diary from his youth, she uncovers something someone is willing to kill for. The truths long hidden from her come out that will change her life forever.

A Great Return

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I don’t know if you’ve read anything by Tamora Pierce before but if you haven’t, you need to pick up any of her books. My favorites were the Song of the Lioness series and the Trickster’s Choice duet. It’s been a while since she’s published anything new so when I heard that she had another book coming out and that it was going to be set in Tortall, I was over the moon! I couldn’t wait until the fall when the book would be available through my school (I pre-ordered) so I checked it out from the library. It was absolutely fabulous, as expected. Tamora is a consummate storyteller. Her characters are always interesting and always flawed in the coolest ways. She keeps you guessing and coming back for more. Her latest book is called Tempests and Slaughter.

Arram has a knack for getting into trouble. His burgeoning powers are becoming too much to handle so his family sends him The Imperial University for his training and education. He is the youngest student there. On his first day of class, he performs a complicated spell that works a little too well, earning him deep distrust from one teacher and great interest from others. He is moved into private tutoring and a new dorm where he befriends Ozorn, the “left-over” prince and Varice whose gifts are powerful but often go unnoticed. They form a bond that seems unbreakable but one day, Arram will have to make a choice about where his loyalties lie.

This is a bit of an origin story for a major character in some of the other books and you will meet characters you will see again.

OMG OMG OMG

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I’m going to geek out a bit right now. One of my most favorite authors JUST ANSWERED MY EMAIL!!! Okay, now it’s probably not actually her but an assistant or something but I’m going to pretend it was really her. it seemed like her, anyway. Either way, how cool is that! I emailed Juliet Marillier to see if she was going to continue the Blackthorn and Grim series. If you’ve not read it and you enjoy high fantasy full of reluctant heroes, then it’s a must-read! I will put a brief description later in this post. Anyway, Juliet is an Australian author who wrote the Seven Waters series (Daughter of the Forest, etc.), Wildwood Dancing (there’s an earlier post about that one) and so many others. Many of her books are retellings of fairy tales but with many more twists and turns. Sigh…I get the same thrill when M.T. Anderson answers my posts on his Facebook page.

It is dark, dank and rat-infested in Mathiuin’s prison. She barely resembles a human much less a woman. He is an enormous lump of a man huddled in the back of the cell across the way. A guard delivers the devastating news that she is to be executed in the morning, quietly and without a hearing. She thinks she’s lost. He is afraid of losing her. As it turns out, though, fate has another idea. When the prison walls seem to explode and collapse, they make their escape but it doesn’t come without strings attached and they are held by a very powerful Fey being. She must forget vengeance for 7 years and use her wise woman powers for good. She calls herself Blackthorn and her companion is Grim. Together they must survive trials and tribulations but most difficult of all, they must survive their healing.

Virginia Reader’s Choice: Girl in the Blue Coat

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This is a mystery wrapped up in war and hidden by the lies we tell ourselves to survive.

It’s late in World War II and Amsterdam has been overtaken by the Nazis. Henneke is a resourceful young woman who helps her family survive. Food and everyday items are in short supply but she has a reputation for being able to find anything. Officially, she does paperwork for the local undertaker but her unofficial job is to fill black market orders for her clients around the city. On her usual delivery route, Mrs. Jensen makes an unusual and dangerous request. She wants Henneke to find a young Jewish girl whose family was wiped out in a raid in which Mr. Jensen was also killed weeks before. There are a million reasons not to take on this task but there’s something deep inside that makes her need to find this girl. Accepting this assignment takes Henneke on a journey to places she never imagined she’d go and the danger she puts herself into borders on reckless but the horror of watching what is happening to her country, her neighbors and friends are too much. She must do something but there are twists and turns in this hunt and, in the end, someone is found but another is lost. Such is life in war.

 

Virginia Reader’s choice: The Serpent King

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Have you ever read a book that touched your soul making you laugh out loud and cry your eyes out? The last one I read like that was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I love books like that; so real and raw.

Dill lives in the deep rural South where there are snakes both inside and outside. Dill’s father is a Pentecostal, snake-handling, poison-drinking preacher whose fall from grace hangs around Dill’s neck like a noose. The only things that keep him sane are his friends Travis and Lydia who hang out at the bottom of the social ladder like him and his music. Things are different this year, though. This is the year for doing things they are afraid of. Travis, a 6′ 6″ gentle giant, loves his fantasy stories and the chat rooms he hangs out in. It’s in one of these rooms he meets Amelia, and he’s smitten. Lydia convinces Dill to perform in the talent contest which has a $50 prize. Lydia is applying to colleges and working on her very popular (everywhere but home) blog. It’s their senior year, and everything is about to change in ways they do not expect.

Your heart will break and mend a dozen times in this book. If you are, like me, phobic about snakes, it will add another level of discomfort to your reading. Still, the story is apropos for these times we are living in, sadly. As a Southern woman, I had to cringe sometimes at the spot-on portrayal of the culture in certain areas of my home. It’s an important book, though, because it highlights the resilience of youth, the power of friendship and the influence (both positive and negative) of family.

No Good Deed

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“No good deed goes unpunished” is how the saying goes. I never really understood what it meant. I thought doing good deeds was, well, good. The kids in the book No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky takes good-deed doing to a whole new and often painful level.

Gregor is a typical teen, but only if the typical teen wants to save the world. Specifically, he wants to feed all of the starving children and has been working to do just that for two years. Now, though, he has the chance to kick his campaign skills into high gear. He’s been selected to attend the elite Camp Save the World along with dozens of other do-gooders from around the globe. Things start off fairly normal but quickly derail when “The Prize” is announced. Suddenly the mood turns ugly. A mural is destroyed, rumors run rampant and every night another camper is unceremoniously dumped into the lake. Regardless of how zany some of the camper’s campaigns are, they all fight like mad to get points but Gregor finds out something about the camp and its founder, Robert Drill, that changes everything for him and turns his dreams into something else.

This has to be the wackiest story I’ve read in a while. It had me laughing out loud at some of the antics of the campers and scratching my head at some of the actions of the “adults”. This is a great book if you like lots of twists and turns that don’t make sense sometimes (kind of like walking through a maze and running into a dead end over and over again but the scenery is so vivid and weird that you don’t really mind).

Virginia Reader’s Choice: Piecing Me Together

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If the first two books I’ve read from this list are any indication, judging the best one will be difficult. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson is a powerful and apropos story for today’s climate. I kept thinking that I’d love to see some of Jade’s art. I love collage. It’s a uniquely beautiful art form and the descriptions of it made me curious. Oh well, I’ll just have to imagine it.

Jade is an artist, a scholar and an all-around bright girl who knows full well that the only way she becomes successful is if she gets out of her neighborhood, maybe even out of Portland. She’s a scholarship kid at a swanky private school, where she’s one of the very few black students. She’s determined to take every opportunity that the school provides; Saturday morning SAT test prep and tutoring are in her regular rotation. One opportunity, though, she’s not sure she wants. She’s been invited to take part in Woman to Woman, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Her mentor, Maxine, is a graduate of the same private school and is black but that doesn’t mean she understands what Jade is dealing with. Still, completion of the program means a scholarship to a good university so Jade decides to hunker down and get what she can out of it. Soon, though, she’s frustrated with everything and decides to teach these women a thing or two about what girls like her really want, really need to be successful. Jade finds her voice and her light which she uses to guide those around her and herself to a whole new level of respect and understanding.

There’s a lot to unpack in this book. Issues of race, police brutality and gender inequality are woven into the narrative of a strong, self-aware young woman determined to be more than just a statistic. Renee Watson is a consummate storyteller, deftly dealing with these charged issues with compassion but with a little bit of a bite. I look forward to reading more from her.

Virginia Reader’s Choice: Imagery

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Have you ever read a book so beautifully written that, upon closing your eyes, you can see everything? I am always awed by an author’s ability to use the same words that the rest of us use but in a way that evokes an image that the reader feels a part of it. Inkheart is one such book and that Cornelia Funke’s first language isn’t even English makes it even more astounding. Another book to add to the list is The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. This is one of the VA Reader’s Choice (high school) titles for the 2018-2019 school year.

“I could see where the winds yawned with silver lips and curled themselves to sleep. I could glimpse the moon folding herself into crescents and half-smiles.” Maya is a princess who has been left to her own devices for most of her life. She has free reign of the castle and grounds and takes advantage of it. This day, however, she cannot spend daydreaming. Her father has an announcement about the impending war. From her perch in the rafters, she is shocked when his solution involves marrying her off to appease the rebels. Her days of freedom are over, or so she thinks. As it turns out, being the queen of Akaran gives her the voice she’s never had and a power she never expected. Not all is as it seems in her new kingdom, however. There are doors that are locked to her and secrets hiding behind Amar’s eyes. Soon, she will make a decision that will shake herself and everything around her to the core and she must find her way through the secrets in order to save herself, Amar and the very world she loves.

This story is fantasy, mysticism, and magic; a tapestry woven with human strands that fray and end. It is a story of betrayal and rebuilt trust but most of all, it is a story about the power of love.