Tangerine-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 4/5

I had never heard of this book before finding out it was a part of the curriculum where I would be teaching. So, like any good teacher, I read the book ahead of time so that I would be prepared to assist students with their understanding, as well as their essays, for the novel. It took me a bit longer to read than I would have liked, but it was an amazing book for the middle grade audience, boys and girls alike. It demonstrates what fear can do to a person, as well as the bonds of friendship and family (or lack thereof).

Known as “Eclipse Boy,” Paul Fisher wears huge glasses that make him look like a bug. His seemingly strange incident of staring at an eclipse too long just does not seem to ring right with him though; something else must have happened when he was in kindergarten, but his memories are hazy.

Moving from Texas to Tangerine County, Florida, in Lake Windsor Downs, proves to be a vital test of friendship and family. Paul loves soccer, but he is always under the shadow of his older brother, Erik, who aims to be a star football player and is heavily backed by his father, leaving Paul a little less love and attention than is desired.

At Lake Windsor Downs Middle School, Paul aims for the soccer team, but his mother making and IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for him because of his vision impairment causes him to be ineligible to play on a sports team (which is ridiculous). His ineligibility problem is solved when part of the school falls into a sinkhole (just a part of Tangerines strange weather/natural weirdness), and Paul ends up having to go to the rival school, Tangerine Middle School.

The Soccer crowd at Tangerine Middle school is almost thug-like, but when Paul befriends them, he finds a new meaning to friendship. He also asks his mom to not transfer over his IEP, because he wants to play soccer. When Paul is asked to do a report in science class with a group, he opts to learn about Tangerine growing from his friend’s brother, Luis.

Paul learns a lot about the labor hardships of caring for the fruit trees, but he also constantly lives in fear of his brother, because his subconscious keeps telling him his brother is a bad person.

When Paul witnesses something that could end up causing a murder, fear continues to instill itself within him, but his fear is enough to bring back his true memories, and to learn that his brother caused his blindness and not an eclipse. 

All-in-all a great middle grade read that demonstrates the importance of being different, as well as showing how those with some kind of impairment feel about being left out. It also shows what a family who favors one child does to the other, as well as what fear can do to someone psychologically. It is an amazing book that highlights a lot of important issues that young people should be aware and mindful of, while embedding the perfect amount of humor as well. Told in a journalistic style, this is a book that is well worth the read, especially for middle grade readers.

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Author Event: Wendelin Van Draanen Comes to Huntington Beach!

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Barnes and Noble in Huntington Beach at Bella Terra generally finds many guest authors. On September 9, 2017, we locals had the pleasure of meeting Wendelin Van Draanen, author of 34 books, her newest of which is Wild Bird.

Wendelin is very ecstatic, boisterous, and maybe a bit of crazy in there, giving her a fun, bright, and brilliant attitude. It was great listening to her talk about her books with such enthusiasm! She was also a school teacher for many years in the past, including continuation school to help students at least get their GED. She is very keen on inclusive education, and for those inclusive needs to be felt in the heart, which many of her books portray.

Wendelin Van Draanen sure knows her stuff, too! She cannot write about something that she has nor done before or something that she does not know about. When it comes to research, she jumps right in to the hands-on kind of experience. For her newest book, the character spends a lot of time cooking, and to learn about these methods of cooking, Draanen did some of her own cooking! She is an expert at camping and building the perfect fire, by the way. One of the other things that is funny about Draanen is that when she starts a book, she has a mortality fear: Will she die before she completes the book? I think it is safe to say that many of us have a similar fear.

One of Draanen’s key ideas and points she wants to pass to readers from her novels is the key idea of “Who do you want to be?” She encourages others to find who they are, which is one of her reasons for writing Wild Bird. She wants her readers to think about themselves and their own lives in relation to who they want to be, what kind of person.

All authors are different in their own writing process as well. Draanen doesn’t outline, like some authors do. All the ideas are a jumble of soup in her head and she thinks about her stories during down time or waiting time or whenever before she just sits down and writes. She finishes one or two chapters before beginning the research process and explains her writing process as road signs. Sometimes you see something that has you veer off in a different direction, and that is what her writing process is like. It is about a 2-3 year process from the start of page one to the shelves of Barnes and Noble.

The Running Dream sounds like an amazing book about a girl who runs for sport and is the best of her class, but when tragedy strikes, she is unable to continue running. This is the kind of story that we should read to be aware of what being human is all about, having dreams, and keeping faith. Her other more famous novel is Flipped, which alternates chapters between a boy and a girl who flips the first time she meets him in elementary school. When they reunite in 7th grade, things might just flip again. There is also a movie for this one.

One of the cool things Draanen did was support her fans with memorabilia. For any fans who read the Sammy Keyes series, they received awesome shoelaces with a neat horseshoe charm. For her Shredderman and The Gecko and Sticky series (targeted towards younger boys) she had bookmarks available. And for her featured novel, Wild Bird, she handed out various colors of feathers as little wilderness-like bookmarks. That was a very cool thing that I have not seen at a lot of the author events I have been to.

All-in-all Wendelin Van Draanen is an amazing person and writer, the event was enjoyable, and I have three awesome new books that I can’t wait to read (and review, of course).

The Call of the Wild-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Wilderness/Adventure/Literature

Rating: 4/5

This book by Jack London has been considered a great part of the American literary canon. Many students read this book in middle school/junior high (sometimes as an optional choice read), or high school. On my list for years, I finally got around to reading it when my 8th graders has it as an option among two other books to write their first essays of the quarter on, and it is a challenging text.

This story is told from the third person limited perspective of Buck, a saint Bernard/shepherd mix. This fact alone is rather hard to pick up on, because the reader really needs to be looking for the details, making note that not only Buck, but some of the other dogs, are NOT huskies or other types of sled dogs. Overall, this book is hard to picture in the head when reading, which is one of the reasons that this book is a more challenging read, especially for young readers or those who are not big on reading.

Most of this story takes place during the gold rush in Canada (the Yukon area) in the 1890’s, giving the book a historical context that would be harder for contemporary readers to grasp as well. 

Buck starts off as a rather happy dog living with a Judge in the Santa Clara Valley in California. This dog is used to a good climate and being pampered the way a pet generally is (given the basic needs of food, water, and shelter in addition to love). When Buck is stolen by a gambler to make money to pay off his debts, Buck finds that his whole world is about to change.

Eventually, Buck finds his way to two men who train him as a sled dog and bring him onto the team. Buck must learn to work with the other dogs to get the mail delivered, and he learns how to survive in the cold wilderness of Canada. When Buck finds that he is in opposition to the lead dog, Spitz, he eventually challenges the other dog to a fight, killing him to take his position.

When Buck gets new owners, he finds that they are inexperienced, and many dogs suffer and die in their care. Lucky for them, they meed a more experienced outdoors-man who treats the dogs with respect, and Buck even comes to lean what love might be from this new man, Thornton. The relationship between man and dog does not last long, when the native people of the land murder Buck’s master and eventually the other dogs. Buck exacts his revenge, joining the wolves, and follows the call of the wild.

This book is pretty short, which is good for the designated age group. While complex, some versions have images and there is always the internet to help clarify some of the things going on in the novel, because this is not an easy book. Despite that, it is worth the read for its historical aspects and contribution to the American canon of literature.

On a side note: I chose the edition of the given image because that happens to be the edition I have, which is kind of cool considering its nearly 100 years old (circa 1931).

A Silent Voice-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Manga/Young Adult/Coming-of-Age

Rating: 4/5

This is a fantastic series that shows how rough bullying can be, what it can do to other people, oneself, and what it means to be a good human being. The back of each volume contains the following summation of the series:

“A very powerful story about being different and the consequences of childhood bullying…Read it.” –Anime News Network

“The word heartwarming was made for manga like this.” –Manga Bookshelf

Basically, this is an excellent read that highlights what being different means, the struggle that some families have when they have a member with some kind of disability, and what it means to be a true friend.

The first volume begins with Shoya, a bully who is reunited after six years with Shoko, a girl he bullied so horribly in grade school that she had to switch schools (again). While the main girth of the series follows the events of their senior year in high school, the first volume follows Shoya and Shoko. When Shoko enters Shoya’s class for the first time, she introduces herself with her notebook, explaining that she is deaf and that she would like to get to know her classmates through writing in her notebook.

Things seem okay at first, but Shoya makes a statement by yelling at Shoko, who sits in front of him, just a general yell to test if she really cannot hear. Some of his classmates find this rude and appalling, but as time passes, Shoko’s classmates, and even her teacher, begin to bully her. One girl is tired of Shoko asking what the teacher said (through writing), and begins to brush Shoko off as an annoyance. In choir, Shoko is off key, considering she can’t hear her own voice. This causes even more bullying, as students begin to write terrible things about her on the board in her homeroom. When a teacher offers to teach sign language for Shoko’s sake, nobody cares, except one girl, who becomes bullied because of her interest in sign language.

Shoya, following the lead of bullying that his groups of friends have evoked, eventually rips out Shoko’s hearing aid and destroys it. When school officials question the class, everyone points their fingers at Shoya, his friends and even the teacher who told him to stop the bullying but snickered at his own students remarks, all pointed their fingers at Shoya, not taking their own blame.

Shoya is neglected by who he thought were his friends, becoming the bullied in the same way as Shoko. After Shoko transfers schools again, Shoya enters high school with no friends, and blocking out everyone’s faces with a conscious X, as they are not important and do not matter to him.

Now, reunited with Shoko, who runs at first sight of Shoya, he aims to apologize and repair the wrongs he had done many years ago. He has Shoko’s special communication notebook, which was thrown in the water six years prior, and returns it to her. When she moves on with her life, Shoya aims to find out more about Shoko and wants to learn what it means to be true friends.

When Shoya somewhat grudgingly comes to the aid of a likewise ostracized classmate, they become friends, and discuss what it means to be able to call someone a friend. He also meets Shoko’s sister, Yuzuru, a girl who has chosen to look an act like a boy to defend Shoko from being bullied. Yuzuru does not approve of Shoya’s friendship or aim to make amends for what he did in the past. When she learns that Shoya learned sign language over the years so that he could better communicate when he met Shoko again, Yuzuru eases off, but only after she posts an article that puts Shoya in a bad situation at school.

Eventually, Shoya and Shoko reunite with some of the people from grade school, including those who were likewise bullies, as well as defenders, and together, they learn what friendship truly means.

This series has a great deal of drama, which demonstrates the human feelings we all have when we are harmed or choose to harm others, as well as the effects of bullying and how it can affect our mental state over time. This series was excellently written, powerful, and the beautiful art adds to the height of the reading experience. As an educator, I would recommend this to anyone and everyone in that it demonstrates how differences make us unique and shows how wrong and serious bullying can be.

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On a side note, the movie was recently released in Japan and will be showing for a select time in select theaters in the U.S. October 2017. The art of the movie and the vibrancy of the setting and colors makes it look amazing, and I am hoping the movie will convey the same message that the manga does, even though it will have to take out a number of chapters/scenes for the sake of time. I will also be looking for this as an English Blu-ray release…eventually!

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 11

A Long Conversation by Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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This is a short story that takes place between Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows. It features Isabelle’s engagement party, among other things. We learn a number of things about Alec and Magnus’s kids, the Lewis family, the outlook of Robert Lightwood, and of course we see a bit more between Jace and Clary. With the excitement of the engagement party, Jace wants to make his own engagement, but when an alert from the L.A. Institute arrives, Clary must postpone her answer!

I have actually read this twice, once in the first edition of Lady Midnight, and I also bought the e-version, because why not? I love seeing Cassandra Jean’s artwork every time I turn on my kindle, and re-reading this short story was a nice refresher of what the original characters are like. Also, reading Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy adds a bit to this in that it does mention George Lovelace, if briefly, something that I previously did not pick up on in my initial read, altering the meaning of this short story for me as a reader. Overall, a great little addition to the Shadowhunters adventures.

 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Genre: Adolescent Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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This Newbery Award-winning book is about a gorilla named Ivan who lives in the Big Top Mall with his elephant friend Stella, a trained dog, a stray dog named Bob, and a parrot. These animals are admired by Julia, the daughter of the janitor, who comes in to draw and spend time with the animals. When Mack, the owner, buys a new baby elephant, Julia is not happy at the treatment of the animal. Now she and Ivan devise a plan to get the animals saved, taken care of, and sent to a zoo where they can be much happier than their tiny mall cages.

Told from the perspective of the gorilla, this is an interesting take on how an animal might see the world of humans and how they interpret things around them. We learn from Ivan’s perspective about his past with Mack as well as how he approaches his new experiences. This is a great read for 4th-8th grade readers in that it helps define some new vocabulary, has smaller chunks of writing on the pages with an occasional illustration, and raises awareness about the treatment of wild animals in captivity. Overall an enjoyable read.

 

Waiting for Spring by Anashin

Genre: Young Adult Romance/Manga

Rating: 4/5

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This is a newer manga released for the first time in English July 2017. It features Mitsuki, a girl who cherished her friend Aya when they were younger, but now in high school, she is a bit of a loner. Her job is her only sanctuary, and she hopes to find that one true friend that is like Aya. Instead of just one friend, she finds four new friends amidst the basketball team, and begins to find feelings for one of them in particular. Because the basketball team’s biggest priority is the sport, they must keep their grades up and are not allowed to fall into the distractions of dating!

I first found out about this manga from a poster advertisement at Anime Expo and decided it looked interesting, so I did a bit more research before finally deciding to pre-order this book. It’s a good thing I did, because the reception of this manga is high, selling out from Right Stuf Anime the day it came in stock. While the beginning was a bit slow and the pacing is a bit odd, such as jumping from just meeting the boys to Mitsuki having known them for a month already, the rest of the manga picks up, and the cliffhanger of volume one has me itching for the next one. Kodansha is a reliable publisher of manga in  the North American division, and I would highly recommend this to any lover of Shojo (for girls) readers.

 

Girl Friends Complete Collection 1 and 2 by Milk Morigana

Genre: Yuri Manga

Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

This is a five volume (2 compiled volumes in the U.S.) yuri manga, which generally means girl and girl romance. It follows the story of Akko, a high energy fashionista, and Mari, a quiet girl who tends to shy away from others. When Akko befriends Mari and changes her appearance for the better, as well as giving Mari a new best friend, the relationship seems normal for two girl friends. When Mari realized that the thinks Akko says and does for her are more meaningful than those of anyone else, she finds that she has feelings for Akko. Conflicted between sharing her feelings and keeping it a secret (since they are both girls), Mari struggles with her first love. When Akko rejects Mari in that way, Mari tries to move on by dating a boy she knew in elementary school, but she still can’t shake her feelings for Akko. When Akko finally feels the same, it may be too late to reciprocate.

I was excited when my husband brought this home and he said “Wow, I should have saved this for you for Christmas…and it’s not even yaoi!” Yes, I generally find many yaoi (boy and boy) manga’s to actually have a well-developed story with high tension that eventually leads into the romance. The first two volumes of Girl Friends was very bland to me and lacked the same kind of story elements that yaoi tends to have. The plot was more simplistic and focused on the girls’ activities like shopping, fashion, and school, which is an average plot for many manga, so there was not much special about it. Once you get to the last three volumes though, the tension of the romance between the two girls and the events that lead up to their eventual relationship are more interesting and increase the rating of the manga overall.

 

Manga Dogs (Vol. 1) by Ema Toyama

Genre: Sequential Art/Manga

Rating: 3/5

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This manga is about a Manga class that starts up at Kanna’s school. Little do the other students know, she has already debuted! Kanna plans to use school time to work on her published manga series, but when three pretty boys show up asking her how to draw manga, she doesn’t know what to do! Keeping her secret and teaching some guys to draw manga who are in it for money rather than the art itself will prove to be a challenge.

I picked up this manga at a used book store and thought it looked interesting and different, but it is actually kind of boring and plain. The plot is very dry until the very end when someone steals Kanna’s manuscript, but the main plot aside from the last five pages does not have me wanting to read the next volume. On another note, the art is fantastic and the genre is interesting, focusing more on a career rather than high school drama or romance, so that was a nice change.

Star Wars Highlight: Comics (Part 16)

There are many, many comics in the world of Star Wars. The ones I have here vary in era, art, publication date, publisher, and style, but they are all interesting releases both to the old Expanded Universe as well as the new canon. They are listed in order based on the Battle of Yavin. Just remember, this is a highlight on a small fraction of a larger whole.

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Knights of the Old Republic: Demon (3963 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (4 Issues)

Writer: John Jackson Miller

Artist(s): Brian Ching, Michael Atiyeh, Michael Heisler, and Benjamin Carre

This volume contains parts 1-4 of “Demon.” Event though Zayne and Jarael have parted ways, their paths will cross once more, because the Mandalorian Demagol is on the loose! When Zayne sees the man behind Demogol’s mask, he is astounded, and the truth clicks immediately. Demagol has switched places with Rohlan, the Mandalorian he thought was his friend. Demagol is actually Jarael’s first teacher, under another name, and Jarael is more than willing to follow him, but with his Sith artifact, Jarael might fall to the Dark side. Now Zayne must capture Demagol and save Jarael from a terrible fate.

While there is still another volume to this series, this volume is conclusive in the Jarael/slaver arc. Compared to previous volumes, this volume seems to have more on the line for the characters, and whatever happens here will define their fate. Another nice addition to Jarael’s character development as well, since she is so interesting (I mean, how often do you see Arkanian Offshoots in the rest of the Star Wars universe?)

 

The Stark Hyperspace War (44 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse ( 4 Issues)

Writer: John Ostrander

Artist(s): Davide Fabbri, Christian Dalla Vecchia, et. al.

This volume actually starts as taking place during the Clone Wars, but, the main story about the entitled war is a flashback to 44 BBY, which entails most of the graphic novel. The Stark Hyperspace War is a war that was triggered by a smuggler names Stark, who has taken possession of all the bacta (the healing component that the galaxy uses the most) in hopes of basically monopolizing the resource and gaining a bunch of money from it. When the Republic joins the Trade Federation, they hope that this alliance will prevent a war from breaking out, but some of the Trade Federation leaders seem unable to embrace the severity of the issue, as well as wanting money for themselves too. Obi-wan and Quinlan are dispatched with their Jedi Masters to the bacta-producing planet in hopes that they can quell the war before it starts or escalates!

I actually picked this graphic novel up because Quinlan is my favorite Jedi from the Clone Wars era, so anything involving him usually piques my interest. While the art in this was good and the writing was classic Ostrander style, the story itself felt a bit lacking. The stakes didn’t seem high enough to give it the title of a “war,” and there was a lot of political conversations and less action than I would have liked from this volume. Other than that, still a nice edition to the Jedi adventures before the Clone Wars era.

 

The Thrawn Trilogy (Graphic Novel Collection) (9 ABY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (18 Issues [6/title])

Writer: Timothy Zahn, Mike Baron

Artist(s): Olivier Vatine, Fred Blanchard, Ellie DeVille, et. al.

This graphic novel trilogy follows the same story as the three novels, but with a few things switched around a bit for the sake of visual flow. In short, Heir to the Empire introduces us to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has seemingly taken the Emperor’s place, and some members of the New Republic have a hard time believing that there could possibly even be another Grand admiral that they did not know about. We are also introduced to Mara Jade, former Hand to the Emperor and a current second to Talon Karrde, a renowned smuggler. Thrawn has a plan to take the Emperor’s old cloning facility on Wayland, steal some fabled dreadnaughts, and create a whole new army, but cloned Jedi Master C’baoth stops him. With his wit, Thrawn aims to use the Jedi Master to his needs, but he will need some ysalmiri (creatures who naturally reject the Force) to help him keep control over the Jedi Master. Meanwhile, Leia is pregnant with Jedi twins, and Luke is being hunted by both Thrawn and Mara! The main feature of Dark Force Rising is basically a race to see who can find the fabled Katana Fleet with its 200 Dreadnaught class ships first, the Empire or the New Republic. With Thrawn having his own secret Intel within the palace on Coruscant, nothing is safe to speak of. And of course, it all wraps up in The Last Command, where Luke must face himself, and Mara must come to terms with whether she can kill Luke Skywalker as the Emperor’s last command. To see more full summaries of the actual novel (since the story is the same, just adapted, in the graphic novel) just click the highlighted links in the passage.

Some things about the graphic novel: it is very text-heavy with an annoying font. The amount of text per page is nearly overwhelming, since I red graphic novels for the art as well. The font is confusing, because the H’s look like U’s and I had to reread a few different things. The art is older too, the images not representing the characters in a very attractive light, but the space ships and battles (and basically everything except people) are finely detailed, which is nice. The flow is also confusing at many times, because the way the speech bubbles are drawn and the way the dialogue is supposed to go is not clear at all, and I reread many of those parts as well. Overall, a cool collectible to have, but possibly not worth the time it takes to read because of the text-heavy convolutedness of the graphic novel. Try the novels, though; I greatly enjoyed those!

 

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Star Wars: Union (19 ABY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (4 Issues)

Writer: Michael A. Stackpole

Artist(s): Robert Teranishi, Christopehr Chuckry, et. al.

This graphic novel takes place after Luke and Mara have already had numerous adventures, reflecting on how their relationship started as one of hate. “Union” brings Luke and Mara together on their wedding day. Like most weddings, a lot of set up is involved, and it is being broadcast across the galaxy, for a Jedi and a once-Imperial Agent are joining together for the rest of their lives. Mara shows her girly side with friends and searching for the perfect dress, and Leia aims to have the location perfectly set up for her brother. Despite their union, some Empire remnants find this to be an appalling affair and aim to kill those involved.

I enjoyed this four-part series in seeing Luke and Mara together at last, with my favorite character becoming Mara Jade Skywalker. The art is decent, but I feel like Mara wasn’t portrayed well, that she was too soft and feminine. Despite it being a wedding, Mara should still be headstrong and sharp. One of the other interesting things about this book is that a bunch of characters from previous novels (Talon, Kam, etc.) make appearances, so it is good to have read a good number of the novels from the Thrawn Trilogy onward. All in all, it was a decent read and shows that even 19 ABY, there are still conflicts between the New Republic and the remnants of the Empire.

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2)-Should You Read It?

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/New Adult Paranormal

Rating: 4/5

This is the second book in the Bloodlines series and can also be classified as urban fantasy. While no one else I have seen will say this is a “new adult” genre novel, I place it there because the point of view character, Sydney, and potential love interest, Adrian, are 18 and 21 (or 220 respectively, which is a wobbly zone for being young adult versus new adult: So it’s both!

Just as great as the first novel, this novel picks up a month or so later. Sydney Sage, loyal alchemist and protector of the secret society of vampires (Moroi and Strigoi), aims to be an intellectual individual with at least some normal aspects of life. Her independent study teacher really begins to push her boundaries by having Sydney study small charms in witchcraft, on top of all her Alchemist work. It’s tough enough keeping Jill Dragomir, cousin to the Moroi queen, a secret, let alone adding witchcraft to the mix, and let’s not forget a new boyfriend!

Trey, a student at the boarding school Sydney is staying at, has found the literal perfect match for Sydney, a brainiac and lover of Greek and Roman history. When Sydney and Brayden begin their romantic relationship, they are both new to having another person around in a romantic way and are both a bit awkward about it.

When Adrian finds out, he love to make fun of Brayden, but could there be a hint of jealousy there for some reason? When Sydney offers to drive Adrian to meet his dad in a city a couple of hours away, she is drawn into lunch with them (at both her and Adrian’s misery) and sees firsthand just how Adrian’s father treats him. The drive back involves a slushee break to cheer Adrian up, but the small act seems to have greater impact than either of them anticipate.

The Halloween dance is ever looming, and the fashion designer that Jill had done some work for previously, continues to seek out and use Jill because she is perfect model material. The designer makes and sends beautiful costumes to Sydney and Jill in hopes of coaxing Sydney to let Jill model again, but to no avail. The costume Sydney receives is meant to be more of a Roman toga style, but resembles a flashy sexual dress that Sydney couldn’t ever imagine wearing (but she does). Adrian gets a glimpse and says she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, a comment she would rather have had from her boyfriend, Brayden, but does not get.

On top of all this good stuff, Sydney oversees Adrian, Sonya, and Dimitri’s experiments with spirit. They are aiming to find some link between spirit and the fact that a restored Strigoi cannot become a Strigoi again. During their experiments, Sonya and Sydney are attacked in an alley, and later, Sonya is actually captured as a known Strigoi by the Warriors of Light, a group once connected to the Alchemists.

The group, not believing Sonya to be back to Moroi form, aims to kill her. Sydney infiltrates their hideout with the help of Trey, a member of the Warriors, and is rescued by an organized group of Dhampir’s sent by Sydney’s superior. While Sonya is safe, something the leader of the Warrior said bothers Sydney, something about starting with Strigoi, but going after Moroi as well.

With a new threat on the horizon, Sydney finds that the Alchemist may be keeping a few too many secrets to themselves, and Jill may not be as safe as expected. With the mention of a name, Marcus, Sydney has something to go off of, to find a man who has seemingly left the alchemists and “broken” his tattoo.” On top of everything, Adrian finally admits his feelings, and while Sydney seems to feel the same way, she rejects him for the sake or tradition.

I absolutely love the pacing of this series as well as the conflicts. While there are ongoing issues that continue through the series (Such as Sydney and Adrian’s relationship, her family relationship, or what is going on in the Moroi world for Jill’s concern), there is always a plot that is contained within the novel itself. The books read very quickly, and the end always has some cliffhanger from the ongoing arcs that keep the reader itching for more. Mead’s craft is pretty good for the target audience, but I come across more typo’s and syntax errors in these books than I have seen in any other book for quite some time, which is one of the reasons I lower the rating of the novels. Despite how excellent these books are, I feel that I cannot give them a five just because there are more unique books or writers with better overall craft out there, but these are still some of my favorites, and I would highly recommend them! (And if you couldn’t guess by now, I would say YES, you should read this book).