Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Summary (From Goodreads): Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell – the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked – as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.
One day Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history – it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returning to court after three years of freedom in the mountains – riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea – the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her – including marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
Flash Review: The Demon King is one of the first high fantasies I read when I decided to read more high fantasy and I loved it! It’s full of magic, mystery, and intrigue; it’s a page turner despite how long it is. It’s written in third person, which isn’t always my favorite, but Cinda Williams Chima really makes it work in this series. Just about every other chapter focuses on either Han or Raisa which I really enjoyed. The set up made me wonder when the characters would come together and connect. It also gave me more insight to their very different backgrounds which really adds to the world building. I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but based on what I know from the movies I think fans of that trilogy would like this series. I highly recommend this series!
Author: John Corey Whaley
Summary (From Goodreads): Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .
In the summer before Cullen’s senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone’s eating “Lazarus burgers.” But as absurd as the town’s carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.
Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.
Flash Review: I’ve really had to think about my feelings towards Where Things Come Back since reading it a month ago. The verdict: I simply didn’t like it. It’s told from two points of view which seem like they don’t have much in common, but as the story progresses and comes to a close the reader makes the connection. I understood the connection, but so much of the story before that connection muddled everything up. There’s was too much going on which distracted from the real story. John Corey Whaley’s writing style didn’t work for me either. Very often Cullen would say something like, “Imagine one does such and such” and then goes off on a dream-like tangent. It’s written in such a way that it’s hard to tell whether it’s a daydream or if any of that tangent actually happened. I would have never chosen this for Printz consideration, let alone honor it with the Printz award.
Author: Tom Angleberger
Summary (From Goodreads): In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.
Flash Review: There are a number of struggling readers in my building, so I’ve been trying harder to read more middle grade books to see if offering those helps those students in need. I have to admit that reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda was a stretch for me since it’s so young in focus, but I really enjoyed it. Reading a book that’s so entirely focused on middle school was fun and a nice change of pace. The humor is spot on for middle school students, but I know my high school students will appreciate it as well (I did). I also have quite a few Stars Wars fans who I’m sure will enjoy Origami Yoda and his predictions. It’s a really cute book and the added illustrations are a nice touch.
As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!