Monday, July 9, 2012

19, 20, 24 & 25: Riley Bloom Series by Alyson Noel

I read the first book of the Riley Bloom series, Radiance and quickly decided I needed to pick up the next, then the next, and so on.  Easy to read, Noel has created a world beyond the living that is captivating.  An afterlife that is full of colour, growth and new experiences greats the reader, no static rainbow heaven here. Riley doesn't just die and go to heaven, she lingers a while on the Earth plane to look in on her sister who survived the accident.  Noel does not have Riley simply accepting what has happened, but rather gives her characters depth and tenacity while holding on to her pre-teen exuberance.  Riley is challenged to choose her future in "Here".  While her life is over, she is by no means finished living.  There are  And I personally love that her dog, Buttercup, gets to stay with her and still have his own afterlife.

Aimed at middle graders, readers who like the Riley Bloom books can grow into Noel's Immortals series, which follows the story of Riley's older sister, Ever.  The Bloom books can each be read as standalone but of course reading them in order will enhance the understanding of Riley and provide some continuity in the development of the evolving relationship between Riley and her guide/teacher, Bodhi.

Riley Bloom left her sister, Ever, in the world of the living and crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. Riley and her dog, Buttercup, have been reunited with her parents and are just settling into a nice, relaxing death when she's summoned before The Council. They let her in on a secret—the afterlife isn't just an eternity of leisure; Riley has to work. She's been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a curious boy she can't quite figure out.
Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup return to earth for her first assignment, a Radiant Boy who's been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But he's never met Riley...
Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a young ghost named Rebecca, Riley soon learns Rebecca's not at all what she sees. The daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?

Riley's finding that the afterlife can be a lonely place when all you do is focus on work. So she goes to the place where dreams happen, hoping to find a way to contact her sister, Ever. She meets the director, who tells her about the two ways to send dreams. As a Dream Jumper, a person can jump into a dreamer's dream, share a message, and participate. As a Dreamweaver, an entire dream can be created in a studio and sent to the dreamer. But Dreamweaving was outlawed decades ago, and the studio was boarded up. Thinking it's her only way to reach out to her sister, Riley goes in search of the old studio. There she finds a ghost boy, who's been creating and sending nightmares to people for years. In order to stop him and reach out to Ever, Riley is going to have to confront and overcome her own fears.

After the problems with her last mission, Riley practically begged the Council for a more challenging Soul Catch. She is determined to prove herself. But this time her challenge may be more than she can handle. Now she's been assigned to a real Roman gladiator. So fearsome he was named the Pillar of Doom. How is Riley, a scrawny twelve-year-old, supposed to get through to him?
When Riley stumbles upon Messalina, the beautiful girl who has been around for centuries, she may have found the answer. Messalina convinces Riley her only chance is to become a part of the gladiator world. To do this, Riley must go through a dramatic make-over and become the teenager she's always wanted to be. She's beautiful, she's mature, and she may even find her first boyfriend. But with a dream this enchanting, will Riley complete her mission and return to Bodhi and Buttercup, or will she stay in Messalina's world forever?

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