Sunday, October 16, 2011

Matched, byAlly Conde


This is one of the most intriguing young adult books I have read in a while.  Cassia lives in a post-apocalyptic world where the Society tells its members what job they will have, where they will live, and when they will die.  They believe their statistics give their members the best chance to live "full and healthy" lives.  Cassia has turned 17 and goes to the Capitol to be matched with her statically preferred match.  To her and everyone's surprise she is matched with someone she knows, Xander.  He has been her best friend for a long time.  The Society gives her a data card with all of her information about her match.  When she puts it in she is surprised yet again.  There is another match...someone else she knows.  Cassia secretly tries to figure out what is going on in her "perfect" life.  She comes to realize it may not be as Utopian world she thought she did.  This book is an adventure as much as a reflection of what it means to live with or without choices.  It left me pondering about the life we choose and what is best for us as a "society". 

Book 2- Crossed,
Casia is preparing to go against the Society to find Ky.  She is working in the outer Providences and is trying to figure out how to get to where Ky is stationed.  In Crossed, every other chapter gives us Ky's perspective as well.  Ky is stationed on the outer border pretending to be a villager and watching other Aberrations die in fire storms.  He is smart and lucky and is managing to tempt fate by staying alive.  He thinks of Casia all the time, but doesn't realize how far she will go to find him.  Casia sees her chance to get to him when she pretends to be an Aberration being sent to the border.  She is risking everything to be with Ky.  Will they find each other?  Will they stay safe from the Society?  This is an exciting, bridge to a great trilogy.  

Tentacles, by Roland Smith

I started reading Tentacles because it was recommended in Storm Runners- which I LOVED (see post).  As I got about 5 pages in, I realized that this is a sequel to Cryptid Hunters.  I was too intrigued to wait to get the first book, so I dove in....and it didn't matter that I didn't read book 1.  I instantly liked our hero Marty, a 13 year old boy who is quick on his feet and truly funny.  Marty, his cousin Grace, and his best friend Luther go to stay on his uncle's sea vessel in search of a Giant Squid.  Not only has no one ever seen this great predator, but they also live in an impossible location to get to.  Marty, Grace, and Luther are all on a much bigger adventure than they thought.  Come on this incredible ride...if you can hold your stomach contents in!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Out of my mind, Sharon Draper

Can you imagine being trapped in your own head.  You have feelings, thoughts, experiences and you can't share them with anyone.  Melody deals with that every day of her life.  She has Cerebral Palsy and cannot walk, eat, dress herself, or talk....and never will.  When people look at her (when they bother to look), they think she is stupid.  How can she know anything- since she is drooling, moaning, and flailing about.  They can't see that she capable of feelings as complex as our own.  Sharon Draper writes a beautiful tale that is so moving that it will change the way you interact with people in wheelchairs.  Melody shows us that there is more inside them than they can get out.  I promise this book will change your life. 

People often ask me, "What was your inspiration for Out of my Mind?" I reply, "All great stories emerge from deep truths that rest within us." But the real truth of a story often can be found in places that not even the author has dared to explore. I suppose the character of Melody came from my experiences in raising a child with developmental difficulties. But Melody is not my daughter. Melody is pure fiction--a unique little girl who has come into being from a mixture of love and understanding. Out of my Mind is the story of a ten-year-old-girl who cannot walk or talk. She has spirit, determination, intelligence and wit, and no one knows it. But from buildings that are not wheelchair--accessible to classmates who make fun of her she finds a strength within herself she never knew existed.

I was fiercely adamant that nobody feel sorry for Melody. I wanted her to be accepted as a character and as a person, not as a representative for people with disabilities. Melody is a tribute to all the parents of disabled kids who struggle, to all those children who are misunderstood, to all those caregivers who help every step of the way. It's also written for people who look away, who pretend they don't see, or who don't know what to say when they encounter someone who faces life with obvious differences. Just smile and say hello!

--Sharon M. Draper 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Storm Runners, by Roland Smith

lexile leve: 700
   I found myself on quite a rollercoaster of a ride when I read Roland Smith's Storm Runners.  Chase Masters and his father have an unusual life.  After weathering some tough storms in their lives, Chase's dad moves him away from everything that was familiar.  John Masters now runs after storms, the big ones, to help people clean up after them.  Yet, Fate step in when John Masters miscalculates hurricane Emily.  Follow Chase to see how he rides out the storm. 

The Surge, book 2 is an excellent sequel!  I was on the edge the whole time.   Chase is still battling a hurricane beating the coast of Florida, but now he is also fighting with escaped circus animals.  Not your average problem; especially when you are only a teenager!  Chase's father is still braving a hurricane to try to get to his son, before something awful happens to them.  Come join the adventure!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier
    Kerstin Gier wrote an impressive first book to her Ruby Trilogy.  Over the centuries Gwen's family has kept a secret.  They are part of team of time travelers who are working to solve a very old puzzle.  Gwen thinks she is a common 16 year old girl.  Her cousin is the one destined to be special.  Charlotte was trained her entire life to be ready for when it was her turn to travel through time.  Yet, the family was wrong.  It wasn't Charlotte who trips into the past but instead it was Gwen.  One minute she's heading out to the store for sweets, the next minute the scene changes.  Gwen couldn't believe she can travel back in time.  Her family is quite upset to find out that she is the magical Ruby that they have been waiting for.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ancient Egypt nonfiction (informational text) book

Code Quest, Hieroglyphs, by Sean Callery
This book is a great combination between mystery, adventure, and codes.  Anybody who is interested in Ancient Egypt needs to learn the basics of hieroglyphics to understand better.  This is a great introduction to them. 

Mummies of the Pharaohs: Exploring the Valley of the Kings (National Geographic Investigat)

Mummies of the Pharaohs, Exploring the Valley of the Kings, by Melvin Berger and Gilda Berger
age age 8 and up (grade 4-7)
This book is an excellent book to learn more about the Pharaohs of the Valley of the Kings.  It has great pictures and diagrams. The pictures are so clear, the items look like you can touch them. 
*Mrs. B's Tip:  If you are reading either Theodosia or Kane Chronicles, understanding the Valley of the Kings and the Pharaoh's buried there will help you visualize when reading. 

Product Details
The Living Tomb, by Jacqueline Morley
I liked this book because the illustrator draws the whole scene and then magnifies smaller parts.  So for example you see the Pharaoh's palace across two pages and then 6 different close ups- Pharaoh's throne, Queen and her sons, scribes at work, etc.  I think this book helps you visualize how these ancient ruins once looked. 

Graphic Library, The Curse of King Tut's Tomb, by Michael Burgan
Grade 3-6
King Tut is the most famous pharaoh.  Why?  Is it partly because it was the first find in the Valley of the Kings that wasn't robbed?  Yes, but that is not the reason why people remember him.  The reason is because his tomb was said to be cursed.  Read the graphic novel to find out the whole story. 

Pharaoh's Boat, by Daid Weitzman
This book really explains how the Ancient Egyptians built boats.  It is very interesting and the story behind the boat is intriguing. 
*Mrs. B's Note: In Kane Chronicles, Sadie and Carter ride this kind of a boat down the Nile.  Helps for visualizing the story.

Secrets of the Sphinx, by James Cross Giblin
One of Egypts mysteries sits in front of three pyramids.  The Sphinx is part lion part man.  It is the World's largest statue.  It was built around 4,000 B.C.  This book talks about the Sphinx's long forgotten history. 

Theodosia, by R. . LaFever

Theodosia Throckmorton and the Serpents of Chaos     Click to see a larger image   Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus   Coming April, 2011!  Love this website!  It offers a blog written by Theodosia, books she's reading, and information about the time period Theodosia lives in.  You can also read a section of the book here.

     This series quickly became a favorite for me.  Theodosia's parents work for a museum in London.  They are very neglectful parents so they often forget all about Theodosia.  She practically lives in the museum and sleeps in her own coffin.  Why you ask? Theodosia is special.  She can feel curses!  She's always careful to keep her hands covered and doesn't lurk in the dark halls of the museum.  Her dad thinks she's very odd, but she's just trying to protect people from these dark curses.  She goes on quite a few adventures trying to stop the Serpents of Chaos from bringing chaos and destruction to London.  She rescues artifacts, control mummies, and even goes to Egypt to save London.  You must read this adventure tale to see how a young girl does it!
*Mrs. B's note:  when reading about ancient cultures, it always helps to research more about that time period, people, and beliefs as you read.  It will surely help you comprehend (understand) so much more.  See my list of Egyptian books to help you. 

Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid 

      Rick Riordan does what only he can...create a mystical tale that pulls you in and makes you hang on for dear life.  The Kane Chronicles (Book 1, Red Pyramid and Book 2, The Throne of Fire, Book 3 Serpent's Shadow) are excellent examples of that!  Riordan weaves Ancient Egypt with modern day in a very real way.  Two siblings, Carter and Sadie are separated by an ocean.  Carter lives with his dad, traveling as a archaeologist.  Sadie lives with her mom's parents in London.  On their traditional get together, their lives change drastically.  Carter's father is not really what he seems.  Not only that, but he helps very powerful Egyptian gods loose.  Carter and Sadie now have to save their dad and figure out how to help out.  Get on board this wild ride and hold on! 
*Mrs. B's note:  It will help greatly if you research Egyptian gods as you read this book.  It will make so much more sense. 

     In book 2, Throne of Fire, Sadie and Carter are back at fighting ancient monsters.  Without giving too much away, Sadie and Carter are now running the House of Life in New York.  Their uncle is away and put them in charge of training the new recruits.  Sadie gets separated from Carter when she goes to celebrate her birthday in London.  Instead of finding Grandma and Grandpa, she finds a vulture and a gorilla- well not really but close enough!  Carter has his own problems back in New York with his new "pet".  This time their adventure leads them all over ancient Egypt.  Their challenge is even bigger this time and they don't have Horus and Isis to help them.  Read more to see if they make it back to New York alive! 
*Mrs. B's note: Keep researching about Ancient Egypt.,  especially the timeline of the Egyptian Empire. 

    In book 3, Serpent's Shadow, Sadie and Carter are trying to save the world- yet, again!  The siblings are trying to stop Apophis from swallowing Ra (sun god) and destroying the whole world.  It doesn't help matters any that they are losing every scirmish that arises with the Serpent of Chaos.  They were responsible for the destruction of the 51st Nome in Dallas.  Sadie is worried about Walt and his curse of a shortened life.  Carter is trying to be a leader, but is suffering from self-doubt.  Throw in the mix a deranged ghost from ancient Egypt and you have quite a head-ache.  This was an excellent final book for the Kane Chronicles. 
*Last book in the series

Friday, August 19, 2011

Favorite Rocks and Minerals books

National Audubon Society, First Field Guide Rocks and Minerals
Every rock collector needs this field guide.  It has great pictures, list each specimen's properties, and similar examples. 

The Pebble First Guide to Rocks and Minerals, by Zachary Pitts
I love this book for early geologists (scientists who study the Earth).  The book has great pictures of rocks and minerals and how they are used.  The book also gives properties, where the rocks and minerals are found, and facts about them. 

Scholastic Science Readers, Level 2, Rocks and Minerals, by Edward r. Ricciuti
This is an excellent book for budding geologists.  It is mostly text, but don't let that scare you away!  The informative text explains how rocks are formed, what are minerals, and the difference between igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks.  Take your rock passion to the next level.

Jump into Science, Rocks and Minerals, by Steve Tomecek
National Geographic published a wonderful book about Rocks and Minerals.  It has cute characters that will teach you about how rocks are made.  Those cute characters also discuss how the rock cycle works.  I really love the graphics and pictures.  They really pop and look real!

How Soil is Made, by Heather Montgomery
This informative text really digs deep to explain what soil is and how it is made.  It has great pictures and the text is given in smaller chunks.  Learn more about what you have been walking on every day! 

Different Kinds of Soil, by Molly Aloian
Did you know there were different kinds of soil?  This book takes you all around the planet to explain all the different kinds of soil there are.  Great pictures and smaller chunks of text make this a very informative book. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Goose Girl, Shannon Hale

She was born with her eyes closed and a word on her tongue, a word she could not taste. Her name was Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she spent the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s stories and learning the language of the birds, especially the swans. And when she was older, she watched as a colt was born, and she heard the first word on his tongue, his name, Falada.

From the Grimm’s fairy tale of the princess who became a goose girl before she could become queen, Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original, and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can lead the people she has made her own.

Once Upon a Marigold,, Jean Ferris

Once Upon A Marigold

     Happily-ever-after turned upside down, inside out, and completely over the top! Christian is gaga for Princess Marigold. He's just a commoner, though, and no match for royalty. Heck, he lives in a cave with a troll! And now he's discovered another reason to put his love-soggy heart on ice: Queen Olympia is scheming to take over the kingdom--and she ll bump off Marigold to do it! Can Chris foil her diabolical plans?

Savvy and Scumble, by Ingrid Law



      Mib's family is special.  When they turn thirteen, the Beumont family savvy appears.  What is a savvy?  Each family member has a special power.  Mib's brother Fish controls weather- or at least tries to keep his savvy in control.  Her other brother has power over electricity.  So, Mib's and her family was waiting to find out what her savvy would be.  Two days before her birthday, Poppa got into a terrible accident.  Now Mib's and her younger siblings are on a mission to get to Poppa.  Her journey shows not only her savvy but also friendship and love.  Read this wild ride!!!!


     Ledger Kale's savvy is a total dud -- all he does is make little things fall apart. So his parents decide it's safe to head to Wyoming, where it's soon revealed that Ledge's savvy is much more powerful than anyone thought. Worse, his savvy disaster has an outside witness: Sarah Jane Cabot, reporter wannabe and daughter of the local banker. Just like that, Ledge's beloved normal life is over. Now he has to keep Sarah from turning family secrets into headlines, stop her father from foreclosing on Uncle Autry's ranch, and scumble his savvy into control so that, someday, he can go home.  excerpt from the two books

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck

Tiger's Curse (Tiger's Curse Series #1) by Colleen Houck: Book Cover      

  I LOVE this book!  Colleen Houck weaves an amazing tale filled with what every great fantasy needs: a heroine that thinks she's plain Jane but something so much more special, a dark and handsome stranger with magical abilities, and a strange, exotic land to explore.  Kelsey, an 18 year old, plans to spend her in summer working for an animal trainer at the circus.  She becomes entranced with a white and black striped tiger. She is drawn to him and feels no fear around him.  The tiger leads her to a world quite different from hers. old, rich culture that Kelsey tries to understand as her new reality.  I think if you like Twilight, Hunger Games, or will find Tiger's Curse even better!

  I loved Tiger's Curse so much that I didn't want to leave Kelsey and Ren.  I had a deep desire to find out what happened next.  So, I dropped everything and went to the book store to BUY it (which I never do till I KNOW I love a book- the library is free)!  Kelsey and Ren are separated just as they begin to understand how they feel about each other.  Ren's brother, Kishan helps Kelsey continue on her quest to free the brothers from their curse.  Of course, Kelsey has a very powerful pull on both Indian brothers.  Kishan sees Kelsey through a dangerous test and sees her through an even more dangerous emotional trial. 

  I am smitten by Colleen Houck's characters.  Kelsey is a great female heroine.  She is brave- but in a last minute, trust that you can, kind of way.  She is deeply in love, and honest.  She is loyal to both her tigers, even though it can be painful.  Kelsey continues to try to break the spell that has taken Ren's memories.  Though painful, Ren tries to reconnect to the remarkable American that works tirelessly to save his brother and him.  After an accident, Kelsey is rejected by Ren.  Confused, Kelsey doesn't understand why her love would scorn her.  Kishan tries to console Kelsey.  She finds she trusts Kishan and allows him to help stabilize her.  As the tiger brothers and Kelsey visit dragons, they journey to find their own identities, loyalties, and passions.  This is an excellent book- join them for a voyage you will not forget. 

*PS I am so excited that Colleen's books will become a reality.  The movie will be made in the next year! YEA!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, Nathan Bransford

age 9-12

    Jacob and his friends trade a corn dog for a space ship.  Once aboard the luxurious ship, they begin zooming out of the solar system in a hurry.  In a panic, Jacob and his friends cause an asteroid to collide with a planet- which collides with another planet- which collides with a few stars causing the Cosmic Space Kapow.  You would think that would be enough for one book, but it is just the beginning for the three friends.  They are stopped by cops, hijacked by a royal pirate, banished to a planet of dust, try to steal a huge diamond, and so much more.  If you enjoy a fast paced adventure- this book is for you.

The Secret Zoo, Ryan Chick

Grade 4-6, first book in a series of 3

Noah's sister disappears mysteriously.  His parents are worried sick...and so is he.  One night as Noah thinks about what could have happened to his sister, a bird visits him in his room.  Noah can't believe his first clue came from a bird!  His adventures are about to take an even weirder turn.  Noah and his friends begin to search for Megan in the zoo next to their house. Noah, Ella, and Ritchie discover an entirely different side to the city zoo.  Read to find out if they rescue Megan....if you dare! 

I did enjoy this story.  The Scouts (Noah, Ella, Ritchie, and missing Megan) are great characters.  I particularly loved Ella- she kicks butt!  The setting of a secret zoo is perfect for so many strange and wonderful adventures.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Horton Halfpott, by Tom Angleberger


Grades 4-7

    Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami Yoda, writes a clever and twisting story about a young kitchen servant way back in the days of old.  Horton Halfpott is an honest kitchen boy who works hard, doesn't steal or break the rules, and is trying to earn enough money to save his father.  That is until he meets a certain young lady, way out of his reach.  Horton suddenly is motivated to break the rules to see her again.  Meanwhile, Horton's friends from the stable are trying to solve crimes of theft around the castle.  Someone that lives there is also breaking the rules, but for a more fiendish reason.  Find out what Horton, his young lady, his friends, the thief, and Horton's father. 

     I loved the drawings in this book.  They help add to the humor that Angleberger writes with and move the story along.  The characters have many funny details that really help you visualize them.  I think it would be an enjoyable book for any tween. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sidekicks, by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Ages 12 and up (7th grade and up for content)

   Most super heroes have a trusty side kick.  Batman had Robin, Green Hornet had Kato, and Phantom Justice has Bright Boy.  Bright Boy, Scott Hutchinson, is a normal high school student...he just has a few secrets.  Instead of worrying about teenage dramas or playing sports, Scott scours the city at night for unrelenting evil.  Yet, his world is about to get very complicated.  He has an embarrassing moment when he saves a beautiful woman from falling to her death.  As the world around him is laughing at him, Scott no longer feels comfortable as Bright Boy or himself.  His relationship with Phantom Justice is also not what he thinks.  As he navigates high school, feelings of insecurity, and good vs. evil, Scott finds out who he is and what he wants.  
     Ferraiolo writes an exciting, funny twist on the super hero tales we fondly know.  I am NOT a fan of the embarrassing incident with Scott's costume.  I think it wasn't necessary because the book is already funny.  With this exposure, I can't recommend this book to 4th-6th graders. 

Jeff Corwin, The Wild Wild Southwest

The Wild, Wild Southwest!

     Jeff Corwin is know all over the world for his love of animals.  He has been working for Animal Planet working to conserve wildlife on the earth.  His show, The Jeff Corwin Experience is very popular with kids and adults both! 

    His Jeff Corwin Junior Explorer Series for young adults is an excellent first chapter book- GREAT for 3rd-4th grade!  Lucy, Benjamin, and Gabe take a trip to New Mexico to visit Gila National Park and other great National Parks.  They learn about animals and plants that are native to New Mexico.  I loved that you enjoy the story of these characters exploring the world around them- and also learn about animals and plants that I didn't know about. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz

  I LOVE this book!  It has quickly become my favorite of the summer (and that's saying something since I've read about 30 books so far...).  Adam Gidwitz has weaved a marvelous tale that you end up devouring!  Using the Grimm tales, he takes Hansel and Gretel on an amazing journey filled with beheadings, oracle crows, a faithful servant, the devil, and even a dragon.  I love how the narrator keeps warning you to stop- which if you are anything like me, makes me want to read on all the more!  Please read this book and change the way you remember fairy tales forever! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Junonia, by Kevin Henkes

  age 9-13

      Kevin Henkes writes a beautifully written tale.  Alice and her family visit Florida every year.  She has a mission to find a Junonia shell, a rare find.  Each year she looks forward to playing in the sand and surf with her "big extended family".  This year Aunt Kate brings her boyfriend and a young girl named Mallory.  Alice finds herself entertaining a sullen six year old.  Alice feels displaced and uncomfortable on her familiar trip. 
     Kevin Henkes does an excellent job of writing from Alice's perspective.  You sense her conflicting thoughts and anger.  He spins a tale that you can really relate to. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens

Lexile level- 720, age 8-12

John Stephens is a talented story teller.  He has woven a compelling story about three children who find themselves on a surprising, terrifying, exhilarating journey. Right from the beginning, this story catches you off guard.  Late on Christmas Eve, Kate, Michael, and Emma's parents reluctantly give them away to an old man who hides them in an orphanage.  The children go from one orphanage to another.  After angering their latest headmaster, they find themselves traveling to a remote city where people are strange and their new home stranger.  The new orphange only has three children in it- them. Their new headmaster, Dr. Pym has many secrets. 

I really enjoyed this story.  John Stephens really developed strong characters.  I found that I was rooting for the children throughout the book.  I would warn that the plot is SUPER twisty.  So, if you are a younger reader, you may want to keep notes (or draw pictures) to keep the events in order. 

This is the first book in a jump on now!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blackout, by John Rocco

John Rocco's picture book is beautiful!  They are so wonderful that Rocco uses mostly the pictures to tell this story.  It is about a family who is too busy to play a game with the youngest boy.  Then, the lights go out throughout the city.  The family finds that the darkened night isn't so black after all.  Enjoy this story on your own busy summer night!

Hothead, by Cal Ripken, Jr.

Lexile Level: 810, grade 3-6

Connor Sullivan is a hot shot baseball player in middle school.  His team, the Orioles, look to him to bring the team to victory.  Connor usually feels at home on a baseball field, but after his dad lost his job Connor feels stressed out. He feels he is letting down his team when he starts making errors. Conner gets into hot water when he starts to throw tantrums on the field.  Read to find out how Connor handles the stress at home and on the field.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Great Informational Text Books on VOLCANOES

After looking at over 30 informational text books on volcanoes, these are my favorites.  I looked for great pictures, good content- ( a must if we want children to learn something from them), understandable diagrams, and unique!  Here's the list- happy learning!

  • Anatomy of a Volcano, by Mary Lindeen
  • Volcanoes, Inside and Out, by D. M. Souza
  • Volcanoes!, Time for Kids
  • Visiting Volcanoes with a Scientist, by Catherine McGlone
  • True Book, Volcanoes, by Elaine Landau
  • Into the Volcano, by Donna O'Meara, grade 6-8, Lexile 960
  • Why do Volcanoes Erupt?, by Wil Mara
  • comic book, The Explosive World of volcanoes with Max Axiom, by Christopher L. Harbo
  • Volcano, a Visual Guide, by Donna O'Meara
  • Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis, Projects and Principles for Beginning Geologists, by Matthys Levy and Mario Salvadori

Friday, June 24, 2011

Monster High

Lisi Harrison's Monster High is a great blend of fantasy fiction and an emotionally charged story of finding yourself.  Her characters Frankie and Melody have to navigate the terrors of high school as they learn to find pride in their monstrous appearances.  Harrison's close ties to MTV allows her to write using the foreign language of the materialistic youth.  Reading this fun story made me repeatedly laugh.  The characters, whether they are monsters or not, are very familiar character to any high school.  I can't wait to read Harrison's next book, Monster High, the Ghoul Next Door.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fablehaven, #5, Keys to the Demon Prison, by Brandon Mull

      In Brandon Mull's final book, Keys to the Demon Prison, Seth and Kendra's adventures come to a conclusion.  Normally, I like to give a partial summary to tell you what the book is about.  Unfortunately, I don't think I can do this without giving away Mull's complicated conclusion to his five book series.  Instead, I will give my review of this final book.  I think one of the pitfalls to ending a series, is the author tends to throw everything into the story including the kitchen sink.  Mull falls into this trap.  He has multiple characters that have developed over the previous four books.  As the characters separate to try to prevent the Demon King from escaping the prison, Mull has to tell numerous side stories.  In parts, I found myself losing attention.  This 588 page book is about 100 pages too long in my opinion. 
       I liked the way Seth and Kendra finally come into their powers and together make a difference in the events.  Seth really becomes a favorite for me. He continues to make childish mistakes, but shows how wrongs can be set right.
      I am not sure I would search out this book- except for it shows how the fight of good and evil ends.  In the end, I find myself wanting a few more books to see how Seth and Kendra grow into their roles in the world of fantasy they live in. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fablehaven, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, by Brandon Mull


In the fourth installment of Brandon Mull's fantasty series, we find his young heroes fighting against the mightiest foes in mythology.  Kendra is still heavily guarded due to her fairykind status.  She feels safe as she roams around her hometown.  If there was trouble, her trusted allies- Tanu, Warren, and Coulter would come to her rescue.  Meanwhile, Seth grows excited about the upcoming Christmas break.  Just as we are comforted knowing Kendra and Seth are back in the "real" world and at peace, Mull reminds us this is a story of action and nothing is as it seems.  Kendra starts to act odd. Seth is irked that his Coco Krispies are all gone, but thinks his sister may be finally lighting up.  He is wrong and ends up mourning for his dead sister.  In his grief, Seth allows Grandpa Sorenson to take him back to Fablehaven.  Once there, Seth and the others stumble upon a plan the corrupt Sphinx has hatched to retrieve the hidden key at the secret dragon sanctuary, Wyrmroost.  Seth finds that he is also gifted by the powerful creatures of Fablehaven.  When he pulled the nail to save the day (in book 2), he was gifted with powers of the dark.  The evil demon Graulas dubed him an ally of the night.  A shadow charme. He now can understand languages of dark beings, walk among shadows unseen, and still is not effected by magical fear.  Seth continues to try to prove his improved maturity to Grandpa.  Seth desperately wants to go with the team to Wyrmroost, yet no one considers him valuable to the mission.  In all things Seth, he sneaks into a hidden compartment and stows away. 
      In this book, Mull continues to weave deception and trust into his plot.  Who can the children trust?  How do they own their own talents?  How are they going to defeat the evil Sphinx?  Will they survive? Mull answers some of these questions and sets the ground work for the conclusions in book 5.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

What an exciting debut book!  I am fascinated by stories with strong heroines.  This story delivered a strong, ferocious teen who challenges herself at every turn.  Katsa has a Grace- she is lethal.  At a time when most children are surrounded in love and gentleness, Katsa is separated from humanity.  She is an outsider who is always watched and feared. 
     Katsa's Grace is controlled by her uncle, King Randa.  He is a power hungry king who uses his deadly niece to maim and kill his enemies.  Katsa is so separated from her humanity, that she believes what others believe of her.  She is animalistic and not to be trusted to interact with others.  Yet, her Uncle doesn't control all of her actions. 
    The young Graceling tries to balance her gruesome acts by restoring the wrongs in her kingdom.  She creates the Council to help the innocents escape the petty war-mongering of the 7 kings of the kingdom.
     The book opens with Katsa on a dangerous, dark mission.  She rescues an old man.  The readers are unsure of her motives, but are astonished at her skill.  She moves swiftly and catlike.  She is able to demolish all of an enemies guard without raising a single alarm.  Kristin Cashore surprises the reader because Katsa does so without killing a single one of them.  We know she could kill any of them easily, yet she demands the guards will not forfeit their lives. 
Cashore does a great job to develop her heroine.  Katsa struggles emotionally with the age old question of who she is, what she wants, her struggles to fit in.  She may be Graced, but she struggles with emotions that an ungraced teen can relate to. 
When Cashore introduces Prince Greening, he is the only person who can challenge Katsa.  He is also a Graceling.  He understands her problems, but also understands how to interact in the world around him.  His Grace in fighting provides him enough skill to keep him alive.  Without fear of Katsa’s killing Grace, he is able to force humanity onto her.  This makes her incredibly conflicted and confused. 
     The Prince is mysterious in his own right.  He shrugs off titles and prefers to be known as Po.  When he looks at Katsa, he seems to look into her.  He senses her confusion, anger, and curiosity.  As she relates to him through her physicality, he relates to her with his easy communication. 
     I don't want to spoil any of the plot or story for you, so I will not give away any more of the delicious events.  This is an adventure story that will capture your heart.  I saw similarities to Katsa and Po in some of my other favorite literary characters.  She is strong and capable at defending herself, like Katniss in Hunger Games.  Katas also struggles with what she is and what she has done like Jasper in Twilight.  I wouldn't say Cashore stole or copied these characters.  They just seemed so familiar to me.  I understood so much more of whom they were and possible choices they would take.  Great job for a debut book!