Tag Archives: heroes

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. October 2, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 514 p. ISBN: 9780316341714.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The highly anticipated, thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer, from National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.
 
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Sequel to: Strange the Dreamer

Part of Series: Strange the Dreamer (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes; Mild language

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
At the end of Strange the Dreamer (rev. 3/17), godspawn Sarai plunged to her death from the floating blue citadel overlooking the city of Weep; now the vengeful Minya, still intent on invading Weep, is holding Sarai’s soul in thrall. In interspersed chapters, in another world, another young woman is dealing with her own trauma. After being rejected by the Mesarthim, forcibly separated from her beloved sister, and married off to the highest bidder, Nova uses her own formidable powers to regain control of her destiny. By the time Nova appears in the main narrative, readers have learned how her story fits among the puzzle pieces of the plot. The only thing that remains is to figure out how both Minya and Nova can find a measure of healing, redemption, and peace. As always, Taylor’s prodigious imagination is on full display: marvelous world-building, suspenseful plotting, complex characterization, finely crafted prose, and grand thematic flourishes make her one of the most formidable contemporary writers in the YA fantasy genre. jonathan hunt

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Love and hatred haunt survivors in this otherworldly sequel. It’s been 15 years since the people of Weep slaughtered the gods and godspawn in the seraph-shaped citadel, an event known as the Liberation by the citizens of Weep…and the Carnage by the five godspawn who secretly survived. But an explosion revealed their existence and killed 17-year-old Sarai. Yet she remains, anchored by malevolent Minya and still in love with Lazlo Strange. Grief-stricken Lazlo experiments with his newfound smith powers and reunites with Sarai in exotic, erotic dreams. Also sharing narrative duty: fellow blue-skinned, magically gifted godspawn Ruby, Feral, and Sparrow—absorbed in their own romantic triangle—Minya, literally haunted by lives lost in the Carnage, and the mysterious Nova, fleeing a wintry wasteland in pursuit of her sister Kora and revenge. Freed from isolation, the godspawn struggle to connect, wondering about their parents—both Mesarthim “gods” and unwilling Weep humans—and their missing fellow godspawn. Taylor (Strange the Dreamer, 2017, etc.) dances between fantasy and sci-fi, indulging in gods, magic, alchemy, and lost desert civilizations, only to subvert them with spaceships, interdimensional travel, and alien worlds. Depending on readers’ tastes, this is ornate, emotionally charged, and poetic—or florid, overdone, overstuffed, and angst-y. The people of Weep are brown-skinned, but godspawn turn blue when they are in contact with mesarthium. A sequel that surpasses the original. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author and a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of the global sensation the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the highly acclaimed Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter Clementine.

Her website is www.lainitaylor.com.

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The Flower Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

The Flower Kingdom by Gigi D.G.. October 9, 2018. First Second, 240 p. ISBN: 9781250162953.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.9.

What’s in a name?

In order to defeat the Nightmare Knight, legend dictates that the Dream Sword must be autographed by seven princesses. But things get a bit complicated when our heroes discover that the Flower Kingdom has no royalty! Luckily, the “king” of fashion, Mr. R is on the hunt for the new face of his style empire, and whoever catches his eye will be named… (wait for it…) “Princess R”!

Sequel to: The Melody Kingdom

Part of Series: Cucumber Quest (Book #4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

About the Author

Gigi D.G. is a comic artist from Southern California who does concept work for animation and video games. She started creating Cucumber Quest in 2011, and it is her first published work. Her website is cucumber.gigididi.com

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The Melody Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

The Melody Kingdom by Gigi D.G.. May 29, 2018. First Second, 240 p. ISBN: 9781250159830.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.8; Lexile: 390.

Now with Princess Nautilus as part of their entourage, Cucumber and Almond travel to Trebleopolis to warn Princess Piano that Noisemaster, second of the Nightmare Knight’s minions, might be after her! Unfortunately, they arrive just in time for Queen Cymbal’s birthday and the Queen refuses to stop the festivities . . . that is until Noisemaster succeeds in capturing Princess Piano and threatens to destroy the city.

Adapted from the popular webcomic series of the same name, Gigi D.G.’s Cucumber Quest: The Melody Kingdom is the third book of a clever, adorable, and hilarious four-volume heroic adventure that is sure to make you hungry for sweets and action.

Sequel to: The Ripple Kingdom

Part of Series: Cucumber Quest (Book #3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2018)
In this third series installment, a band of unlikely heroes embarks upon a quest in a magical, musical land.Hailing from the Doughnut Kingdom, rabbit-eared, magic wand–wielding Cucumber and his fierce and feisty sister Almond are on a crusade to save their world from the impending devastation of the Nightmare Knight. Their most recent adventure took them to the Ripple Kingdom, where they met Princess Nautilus and retrieved the Dream Sword, which needs to be signed by six more princesses. Now the gang has ventured to the Melody Kingdom in search of Princess Piano, but soon they discover they must face an array of not-so-nefarious foes: the psychedelic Noisemaster, the Mutemaster, and vainglorious Count Legato. In this adaptation of a former webcomic designed entirely in Photoshop, D.G.’s illustrations utilize an arresting palette of enthralling Day-Glo tones. While each offering recounts a complete quest, the action in this volume seems propelled by a confused silliness rather than intentional plotting, leaving the eventual salvation of the realm feeling like a frustrating impossibility. In each volume, maps of each individual kingdom are provided, but readers may long for a map of the whole realm as well. Those familiar with the offbeat humor of cartoons like Adventure Time will be easy converts and should feel at home in this kooky world. It’s visually engaging as always, but it’s not the strongest offering in the series. (Graphic fantasy. 7-11)

About the Author

Gigi D.G. is a comic artist from Southern California who does concept work for animation and video games. She started creating Cucumber Quest in 2011, and it is her first published work. Her website is cucumber.gigididi.com

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The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G.. February 27, 2018. First Second, 240 p. ISBN: 9781250159823.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 350.

The quest to save Dreamside continues! After a surprise attack at sea, Cucumber finds himself in the Ripple Kingdom, home to white sand, blue waves . . . oh yeah, and the giant, terrible squid monster holding Almond and Sir Carrot captive. Can our so-called “legendary hero” rescue his companions from the nefarious Splashmaster?

Nah, probably not.

Good thing Princess Nautilus is here! With her wit, charm, and positive attitude, there’s no way they can lose. But saving the day won’t be as simple as it seems once a 500,000-year-old secret comes to light . . .

Adapted from Gigi D.G.’s popular webcomic series of the same name, Cucumber Quest: The Ripple Kingdom is the second book of a clever, adorable, and hilarious four-volume heroic adventure that is sure to make you hungry for sweets and action.

Sequel to: The Doughnut Kingdom

Part of Series: Cucumber Quest (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Body humor

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (January 1, 2018)
Gr 2-5-D.G. presents a second print installment based on her hit webcomic Cucumber Quest. This leg of the quest centers on the watery Ripple Kingdom (one of the seven realms of Dreamside), where bunny siblings Cucumber and Almond have been separated. Almond is a fighter but finds herself at the mercy of Splashmaster, a giant squid with an abysmally low intelligence score. Reluctant hero Cucumber has washed ashore and rescues Princess Nautilus from a mob of crabs. Cucumber and Almond eventually reunite to defeat the Splashmaster, who is one of the henchmen of the Nightmare Knight, the “big bad” summoned once every 5,000 years to help a greedy mortal bent on world domination. With the help of a hilarious supporting cast, Cucumber and Almond must save the land of Dreamside once and for all. D.G.’s comic has transitioned from web to page beautifully, with the exception of a few scene transitions that aren’t quite clear. Readers looking for high action and ridiculous comedy will devour this tale. While this title can stand alone, those who are familiar with the first installment will get more out of it. Soft lines and saturated color convey light and emotion perfectly, creating a style sure to draw elementary and middle grade readers alike. VERDICT Jump in! The water in Ripple Kingdom is just fine, even if it is chock-full of sassy crabs and one giant vacuous squid. A recommended purchase for all graphic novel collections.-Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

About the Author

Gigi D.G. is a comic artist from Southern California who does concept work for animation and video games. She started creating Cucumber Quest in 2011, and it is her first published work. Her website is cucumber.gigididi.com

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The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi

The Red Bandanna: Young Reader’s Adaptation by Tom Rinaldi. August 29, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 162 p. ISBN: 9780425287620.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.8.

On a day that changed a nation, one young man found his calling.

Welles Crowther didn’t see himself as a hero. He was just an ordinary kid who played sports, volunteered for the fire department in his town, and eventually headed off to college and then to Wall Street to start a career. Throughout it all, he always kept a red bandanna in his pocket, a gift from his father when he was little.

On September 11, 2001, Welles was at his job on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers were attacked. What he did next would alter the course of many lives.

That day, the legend of the Man in the Red Bandanna was born.

Award-winning ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi brings Welles’s inspirational story of selflessness and compassion to life in this young readers’ adaptation of his New York Times bestselling book.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Terrorism, Graphic description of injuries

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
On Sept. 11, 2001, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, a man wearing a red bandanna lost his life leading others to safety. This is his story, adapted for young readers from Rinaldi’s 2016 bestseller for adults. From an early age, Welles Crowther was obsessed with firefighters. He spent many hours hanging out at the firehouse, cleaning the rigs, and listening to his firefighter father’s tales. But after graduating from Boston College, Welles decided to follow another dream. He accepted a position as a junior associate in a finance firm. His office was on the 104th floor of the South Tower, but the call of his childhood obsession was strong. He confided to his father that he wanted to change careers and become a firefighter. But before he could realize that dream, tragedy struck. Welles kept his cool but lost his life leading others through the smoke to safety. Based on an ESPN documentary, this slim book chronicles the life and the legacy of one 9/11 hero. Readers of this youth version will be inspired by Welles’ dedication to school, sports, and his family, but they will also laugh at his mischievous side. Photographs of Welles’ life are sprinkled through the narrative. The real-life story behind The Man in the Red Bandanna. (Biography. 9-12)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2017)
Gr 6-8-Before leaving for church one day, Jeff Crowther gave his then seven-year-old son, Welles, a red bandanna to keep in his pocket, similar to his own blue bandanna. For the rest of Welles’s life, that red piece of fabric remained a constant reminder of his special bond with his father while also serving a variety of practical purposes-a handkerchief, a headband worn underneath a hockey helmet, and eventually a useful piece of life-saving equipment. Welles was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by a plane on the morning of September 11, 2001. Physically unharmed and able to escape, altruistic Welles chose instead to assist an estimated 18 people to safety using his junior firefighter training. To those he helped that day, he was known only as the man with the red bandanna, until, through newspaper reports from eyewitness accounts, his family was able to piece together his final moments of self-sacrifice and courage. At times a documentation of history, at others an emotional journey, this remarkable true story of bravery and heroism places readers directly inside the South Tower as events unfolded; Rinaldi’s writing heightens the senses capturing the smoke, heat, and smells, while also making the uncertainty, confusion, urgency, and raw human emotion very real-a feat not often accomplished in books for this age group. Drawing upon firsthand accounts from family members and friends, readers receive a sense of Welles’s optimism, leadership, perseverance, and his genuine desire to help others. VERDICT Impossible to read without an emotional response, this title is an essential purchase for nonfiction collections.-Rebecca Gueorguiev, New York Public Library

About the Author

Tom Rinaldi has been a national correspondent at ESPN since 2002. A recipient of ten national Sports Emmy Awards and five Edward R. Murrow Awards, he covers human-interest stories across all sports, including his famous feature story about Welles Crowther. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a native of Brooklyn, Tom now lives in New Jersey with his wife, Dianne, and their two children, Jack and Tess.

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The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel

The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel. May 2, 2017. Random House Books for Young Readers, 248 p. ISBN: 9781101935873.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 400.

The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

Part of Series: 5 Worlds (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Oona is lucky to have grown up in the relative luxury of Sand Dancer Academy, though she’s clumsy and the last person anyone would expect to have any special powers. An Tzu ekes out a meager life in the slums surrounding the academy, and when Toki rebels from one of the moons making up the five worlds attack the main power station, he and Oona—along with Jax Amboy, an athlete with a serious secret—find themselves unexpectedly at the center of the conflict. Together, they navigate the city under siege, flee Toki forces curiously insistent on capturing Oona, and try to make sense of some enigmatic clues they discover along the way. The Siegels’ immersive series starter drops readers right into the midst of its fully fleshed-out world, a multiplanet system with simmering conflicts that might look awfully familiar to contemporary readers. When those conflicts come to a head, the disarray in the city is terrifying, which only amplifies the suspense of Oona, An Tzu, and Jax’s quest. Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun’s richly detailed panels, filled with fluid shapes, swirling sand, and clearly depicted action, imbue the narrative with vivid, compelling atmosphere, while their figures are refreshingly varied in size, shape, and skin tone. With sensitive writing, gorgeous artwork, and a riveting plot, this is a series to keep an eye on.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
A sudden attack on the world of Mon Domani and its inhabited moons drives a young dancer, a street urchin, and an illegal android together.Many pages are crowded with sequential panels that are too small to fit the dialogue balloons or convey the hot action discernibly, but the overall plotline is easy enough to follow. Though generally mocked as a poor student of sand dancing—a psychokinetic art that uses hand and body movements to conjure solid “aniforms” from mystic vapors—next to her vanished big sister, Jessa, Oona Lee finds her powers growing as mysterious forces work to prevent the relighting of giant, long-dark Beacons that may stave off the growing environmental instability that is threatening all five worlds. With but little time to address the crisis by learning how to dance up a mighty Sand Warrior aniform and rediscover the lost technique of Beacon lighting, Oona is plunged into a running battle with minions of the Mimic, an ancient shape-changing nemesis. The three illustrators work seamlessly together to place Oona, a thick-bodied but graceful, pale-skinned strawberry blonde, in exotic, elaborately envisioned settings and surround her with a notably variegated cast of green-, blue-, brown-, black-, and pink-skinned allies and adversaries. The climax features a shocking revelation but leaves one Beacon lit with four to go: stay tuned. A headlong, if visually busy, opener for what promises to be a rare adventure. (Graphic science fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Mark Siegel has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He is also the founder and editorial director of First Second Books. He lives with his family in New York.

 

 

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Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Heroes & Villains by Jon Scieszka. April 4, 2017. Walden Pond Press, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062385611.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2.

Heroes and Villains, the seventh volume in Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read Library of Great Reading, is chock-full of adventure featuring an array of characters—with and without capes.

Featuring ten all-new, original stories that run the gamut from fantasy to comics to contemporary adventure to nonfiction, and featuring eleven of the most acclaimed, exciting writers for kids working today, this collection is the perfect book for you, whether you use your powers for good—or evil.

Authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Cathy Camper and Raúl Gonzalez, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Christopher Healy, Deborah Hopkinson, Ingrid Law, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Lemony Snicket, and Eugene Yelchin, with illustrations by Jeff Stokely.

Part of Series: Guys Read

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence

 

 

 

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. March 28 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 533 p. ISBN: 978031641684.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

Part of Series: Strange the Dreamer (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes; Mention of rape

 

Book Trailer

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. By now, fans of Laini Taylor know what to expect: beautiful prose, strange and whimsical fantasy worlds, sympathetic monsters, and wrenching, star-crossed romance. Her latest, first in a two-book set, certainly delivers on that, and there’s something quietly magical at play here. Lazlo Strange, an orphaned infant who grew up to be a librarian, has had a quiet first two decades of life. But Lazlo, reader of fairy tales, longs to learn more about a distant, nearly mythical city, called Weep after its true name was stolen. When a group of warriors from that very place come seeking help, Lazlo, never before a man of action, may actually see his dream fulfilled. Weep, though, is a city still reeling from the aftermath of a brutal war, and hidden there is a girl named Sarai and her four companions, all of whom have singular talents and devastating secrets. What follows is the careful unfolding of a plot crafted with origamilike precision. This has distinct echoes of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), though ultimately it’s a cut above even that: characters are carefully, exquisitely crafted; the writing is achingly lovely; and the world is utterly real. While a cliff-hanger ending will certainly have readers itching for book two, make no mistake—this is a thing to be savored.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Lazlo Strange is a lowly librarian with a keen and singular interest in the mysterious city of Weep, which lost contact with the rest of the world over two hundred years ago. When an envoy from that fabled city suddenly appears at the Great Library in the kingdom of Zosma, recruiting the best minds for a formidable but undefined problem, Lazlo manages to finagle a spot on the delegation. Meanwhile, we are introduced to teenage Sarai, who is “godspawn”—half-human, half-god—and who for the past fifteen years has lived in an impregnable metal citadel that hovers in the sky over Weep, ever since the gods were slaughtered in retribution for their brutal acts of sexual violence. Sarai has the power to fragment her consciousness into a hundred moth-shaped pieces and send them down to torment the citizens of Weep with nightmares. Much to her surprise, Sarai finds that, unlike others, Lazlo can actually see her when she enters his dreams, and what starts as an uneasy alliance between enemies blossoms into an improbable romance that will have tragic consequences as the plot draws to its cliffhanging conclusion. Taylor’s work (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, rev. 11/11, and sequels) sits at the nexus of the fantasy, horror, and romance genres. Here she has spun another mesmerizing tale with captivating twists and turns, an array of intriguing characters, strange and beautiful language, and baroque flourishes of the imagination; and, once again, she has set her readers up for an epic finale in the concluding volume of the duology. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author and a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of the global sensation the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the highly acclaimed Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter Clementine.

Her website is www.lainitaylor.com.

Around the Web

Strange the Dreamer on Amazon

Strange the Dreamer  on Goodreads

Strange the Dreamer  on JLG

Strange the Dreamer Publisher Page