If you haven’t already read the first three books in Alyson Noël’s Riley Bloom series (Radiance, Shimmer, and Dreamland), do that before reading this post about book four, Whisper!

In Whisper, Riley Bloom finds herself on her most difficult assignment as a Soul Catcher.  Riley, Bodhi (her guide), and Buttercup (her dog), travel toRome where it’s up to Riley to convince a ghostly Roman gladiator to cross over into the Here & Now.  There might be a couple of problems with this, though.  The gladiator, Theocoles, also known as the Pillar of Doom, is seemingly stuck in his last moments.  Riley doesn’t know how to get through to him, especially when she realizes that Theocoles can neither see nor hear her.  Riley isn’t sure what to do, but a girl she encounters in Rome may be able to help her.

When Riley first meets Messalina, trust doesn’t come easily.  She knows that Messalina is up to something, but she needs all the help she can get to convince Theocoles to cross over.  So Riley takes Messalina’s advice and immerses herself in the gladiator world.  Riley transforms herself into the young woman she’s always wanted to be and becomes a part of this strange life in ancient Rome.  She may have even found her very first boyfriend.  Riley, or Aurelia as she’s known in this new dream world, soon begins to forget why she was sent to Rome in the first place.  What was her mission again?

Every once in a while, Riley/Aurelia gets a feeling that she’s supposed to be doing something important, but the answer slips away from her whenever Messalina is near.  Can Riley wake up in time to complete her mission?  Or will she be forever trapped within the world that has captured so many before her?  Can both Riley and Theocoles learn to ignore the cacophony around them and listen to the whisper of truth that will lead them home?  Read Whisper by Alyson Noël to find out!


Warning!  Read the first book in Alyson Noël’s Riley Bloom series, Radiance, before reading this post.

After the success of her first assignment as a Soul Catcher, Riley Bloom is enjoying a bit of a vacation with her dog, Buttercup, and her guide, Bodhi.  Surely she can keep herself out of trouble on one tiny vacation, right?  Yeah…not so much.

It all starts with a scary black dog and a conversation with Bodhi on free will.  Riley decides to exercise her own free will, follow the black dog, and find out just what he’s guarding.  This decision leads Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup on a journey that will introduce them to another “ghost” (for lack of a better word) and force all of them to relive the most horrid experiences of their short times on earth.

Rebecca, in spite of her unfortunate tastes in afterlife clothing, seems to be relatively harmless when Riley first meets her, but Rebecca is holding on to a lot of anger, and she’s determined to make everyone as miserable as she is.  She keeps everyone around her—those who she blames for her death—imprisoned in the most horrible memories of their lives.  She even finds a way to make Riley, Bodhi, and even poor Buttercup experience the worst moments of their lives.  Can they escape the horror and anger that holds them captive?  Is there any way to get away and lead these tortured souls to the Here and Now?

Riley is determined to help everyone escape Rebecca, but she fears she may not be up to the task.  After all, she’s only twelve years old (and she always will be).  What could she possibly do?  She can barely let go of her own anger over the abrupt end to her life.  How can she possibly help everyone else let go of their anger and cross the bridge to the other side?  How can she convince Rebecca to let go of what happened in her life when Riley’s having such a hard time with the same thing?  Find out what “letting go” really means when you read Shimmer, the gripping second book in the Riley Bloom series, by Alyson Noël!

Although there are some scary moments in Shimmer, I would recommend this book—and Radiance, of course—to readers from fourth grade on up.  There may even be some third grade students who will be able to handle it.  I really think this book in particular will generate some discussions on the plight of slaves in the early Americas and the impact slave revolts had on slaves and their former masters.  According to the author’s note, the story was inspired by actual events, a 1773 slave revolt in the Danish West Indies (now St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands).  Realizing this made Shimmer even more poignant for me.

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book, in a nutshell, is Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book with a twist.  Instead of a little boy being cared for by jungle creatures, he’s cared for by inhabitants of a graveyard, namely ghosts.

Nobody Owens, Bod for short, is just a baby when his parents and his sister are brutally murdered.  He is the only survivor, and the man who killed his family wants to kill Bod, too.  When young Bod stumbles into the local graveyard shortly after the death of his family, the ghostly inhabitants agree to take care of the young boy until he reaches adulthood.

Bod is given freedom of the graveyard.  He learns to disappear, or fade, at will.  He receives lessons in reading, writing, mathematics, and history from ghosts who know of such things.  His mysterious guardian, Silas, provides him with food, clothing, and other things required by the living.  Bod goes exploring within the graveyard and encounters friendly and not-so-friendly beings, but he is not allowed outside of the gates.  If Bod ventures into the world outside the graveyard, he becomes vulnerable to the man Jack who killed his family and is still looking for Bod.

As Bod grows up, he gradually recognizes a desire to see the world and to seek revenge for the wrongs committed against his family.  He chafes against having to always remain within the confines of the graveyard.  What will become of Nobody Owens?  Will he get his revenge on the man Jack?  Will he be an inhabitant of the graveyard forever, or will finally join the land of the living?  Read Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece, The Graveyard Book, to find out how one boy bridges the gap between the living and the dead.