unRequired Reading Blog
Scandinavian raiders, known as Vikings, are all over movie and TV screens these days. Thor movies, a show on the History Channel, and, in general, an uptick in interest as well as a "rehabilitation" of their reputation in some circles. You can visit a "Viking" village in York, England—Jorvik, as it was known then, in the heart of the Danelaw lands. There is even a "Viking" school in Norway!
Amani Al’Hiza isn’t exactly up to no good. Sure, she snuck out of her house disguised as a boy and riding a stolen horse in order to enter a sharpshooter contest at the most notorious pistol pit in town. But Amani needs the prize money to get out of Dustwalk. She has to escape before she winds up dead—or worse, married.
I never saw my grandfather read a book; his reading was confined to maps. He and his fishing buddies would pore over maps for places and routes for their fishing treks way up into Canada. That was my first inkling of the function of maps; Gramp always came back.
Zayele, a lovely and strong-minded girl, did not wish to be on her way to Baghdad to marry a prince she had never met. She certainly did not wish to be separated from her blind brother who relied on her to help him.
So, when a girl jinni appears—a girl who looks surprisingly like Zayele—the unwilling bride-to-be Wishes, as one does with jinnis, that they can change places, and that she, Zayele, can go home. But Zayele doesn’t go back to her village and her family. Instead, she is transported to the magical cavern-city that is home to all the jinni. Sworn enemies of humanity after decades of living as their slaves, the jinni hate humankind even as they are intrigued by them. Trying to pass for a jinni girl is both harder and easier than Zayele expects.
If you go to high school in Sticks, Louisiana, you’re not just off the beaten track from mainstream America. It’s a long way to the interstate, and you’re surrounded by something else entirely—the Swamp. They’ve tried to fence it off to keep people safe for decades. Yes, there are alligators, but there’s something else out there that’s far worse. It’s a wise move to Beware the Wild.
When Princess Adrienne’s parents lock her in a tower guarded by the fiercest dragon in the kingdom, they expect her to wait patiently for rescue by a handsome prince. But Adrienne would rather be Princeless than helpless . . . and she can save herself, thank you very much.
Finley Jayne, The Girl in the Steel Corset, could not have known that her wretched night, indeed her wretched life, was about to take a turn for the better. Whilst fleeing the scene of an assault—which she did not start but did finish—she encounters a gentleman of a very different caliber. She discovers Griffin, the young Duke of Greythorne, is a person to be trusted. Like Finley, he has secrets, though, which will either draw them together or rip them apart—perhaps literally.
April is National Poetry Month, which is a perfect time to highlight all the amazing poetry that is out there, but . . . UGH . . . POETRY. At least, that’s how I used to feel. When I was a kid I LOVED poetry, especially Shel Silverstein. But as I got older, and school started requiring me to think about the poetry we were reading and what the deeper meaning might be, I started to resent it. I mean, couldn’t I just ENJOY the poetry instead of trying to decipher how the poet might have been feeling when he wrote it? Apparently not.
Then I started working as a youth services librarian, and I was introduced to novels in verse. All of those middle school and high school memories came flooding back, and I wanted nothing to do with it. Until I read one. Then I read another and another. Finally, I realized I LOVED novels in verse! Why? Because they are complete stories told through a collection of poetry. Poetry rarely takes up a whole page, which made the books super fast to read! It also amazed me how by simply changing the spacing or even font size within a poem an additional meaning was made clear.
Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity starts with something different and unexpected, a story’s protagonist, or hero, not being very heroic. Our protagonist, a young female British spy, is being held hostage in an aristocratic hotel in Nazi-occupied France. While other spies would withstand any amount of torture in order to protect their friends, family, and country, Code Name Verity’s protagonist, whose name and identity are a secret, begins by making a deal with the Gestapo. She will give them anything and everything they want to know, including writing the story of how she arrived in Nazi-occupied France, and, in return, they will feed her, clothe her, stop torturing her, and they will not kill her—for now.
A gray day, perfect for revisiting a twitchy acquaintance: Edgar Allan Poe. Roderick Usher and family inhabit their cracked, creepy house in one of his best short stories, “The Fall of the House of Usher." The Poe story has been used by other authors since he wrote it, even made into an opera. One offers a different perspective from Roderick Usher’s doomed sister, Madeline; the other features the descendants of Madeline and Roderick, from a master of modern horror, Robert McCammon.