BOOK NAME: The Schwa Was Here
AUTHOR: Neal Shusterman
Calvin Schwa, also known as “the Schwa,” is not invisible. He is just easy to overlook. He is a nobody, so much so that he might as well be part of the scenery. Even his own father cannot be particularly sure of his whereabouts. Some call this “The Schwa Effect”, a condition that renders one virtually invisible to all but the extremely observant. It is said that this effect is terminal, eventually causing the person to simply fade away.
Anthony “Antsy” Bonano barely even noticed The Schwa when they first met. Calvin seemed to blend in perfectly with his surroundings, virtually unnoticeable. Moreover, the Schwa had sat next to Antsy in class for a long time without Antsy ever noticing until that fateful day. Antsy decided to befriend his “invisible-ish” classmate and assist him with his unusual predicament. After doing extensive experimentation on the effectiveness of the Schwa Effect, Antsy had the “brilliant” idea to use the Schwa’s stealth as a profit generating opportunity. The two-some completed spying tasks as well as dares for the entertainment of the other students, as well as for cash.
All is not well, however. Antsy and the Schwa may have just accepted one triple-DOG-dare too many. Furthermore, the Schwa is having trouble coming to grips with his Schwa Effect. He feels as if he is fading away, and that one day, possibly in the very near future, he will cease to exist. There will be emotional pain, there will be cold hard truth, and there will be plenty of ferocious dogs…
This book was excellent. My favorite part was the author’s style of writing. The book was full of humorous lines and phrases. Sarcasm, jokes, puns, and idioms were all present in this book. Such sayings as, “He didn’t have a cow, he had a whole herd,” and “It smelled like something had died in there because it had smelled something else that had died in there,” were commonplace. I could not stop chuckling to myself, and some were good enough to read aloud to family members for more laughs. Even the titles of the chapters were funny. Behind all of the humor, the plot was excellent as well. There were many unexpected twists and turns, as well as several shocking events. I will not spoil these, so read the book. I have also read another book in the series, called “Antsy Does Time”, which was similar to this book in many ways. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story with plenty of laughs thrown in.
Want another opinion? Read Mairen’s review!
BOOK NAME: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
AUTHOR: David Lubar
Scott Hudson is just starting high school, and already the troubles are beginning. His bus driver is an
obnoxious grouch of a man. The school’s Spanish teacher can’t speak a word of English, and seems to
believe her students can comprehend her. The seniors are attempting to make Scott’s life as miserable
as possible with their egregious pranks. Julia, a girl Scott was acquainted with in kindergarten, is now a stunning teenage “goddess”. She has become so gorgeous; she now seems far out of Scott’s league. The list of difficulties expands with each passing day. At least Scott has his longtime buddies, Kyle, Patrick, and Mitch, to help him survive.
The news Scott’s parents reveal, however, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Scott is
going to be an older brother. How is THAT going to work? He’s always been the younger brother, and
his older sibling Bobby has some dark predictions of how a baby can throw its sibling’s life into chaos.
That’s horrible news for Scott.
The baby isn’t due to arrive for a while, and Scott has more current issues to face. Will he ever
understand the Spanish teacher? Will the cruel gangs of seniors grind him into dust before the end of
the year? How can he possibly win Julia’s heart when she doesn’t even notice him? What catastrophes
await him as the year drags on?
This is a phenomenal book, beyond phenomenal in fact! I couldn’t put it down! It is absolutely hilarious! It is filled with sarcasm, witty jokes, comical situations, irony, and just about every other type of humor imaginable. The story is not too shabby, either! The humorous aspect prevents it from ever becoming dull. The ending has some unexpected twists, and is quite a heartwarming close to the story. I won’t spoil it though! You’ll just have to read this incredible book and find out what happens.
BOOK NAME: Across Five Aprils
AUTHOR: Irene Hunt
9-year-old Jethro Creighton has lived on his father’s farm in southern Illinois his entire life. He is finally old enough to work on the farm and do his part to provide for the family. Jethro is proud to pitch in, and is extremely content with his boyhood. All seems peaceful to him, but underneath the placid mask lie turbulent times. The United States is being torn apart. Civil war seems just over the horizon.
Then the first shots ring out at Fort Sumter. The American Civil War has begun. As the men around him rally for war, Jethro doesn’t think much of the battle, just faraway gunfire on a faraway building. How could it possibly affect him?
As the battles rage on, his brothers begin to leave. Tom Creighton, John Creighton, and Jethro’s cousin Eb Carron, all leave to fight for the Union side. Jethro still doesn’t think much of war. His brothers will live; it will be the Southern Confederates, the enemy, who perish on the battlefield.
Then, Jethro’s favorite brother, Bill, quietly slips away to fight for the Confederacy, discreetly telling Jethro of his intentions. What if Bill is one of those Confederates who dies in battle? Could Bill die by another brother’s bullet, or will it be the other way around? How will a Union-favoring town react to the news of a Confederate in their midst? Most importantly, how long will the brutal war rage; will all of his brothers return home?
This book was not the greatest book I’ve ever read, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. The storyline was a little dull. The beginning of the book, before the Civil War begins, is especially slow and boring to read. It does have its moments, especially during the war years. I found the recounts of the battles to be especially interesting. Still, there was one main characteristic of this book that I found somewhat annoying. To authenticate the Illinois setting, the characters speak with a drawl. All of the slang, improper grammar, and accented words made the dialogue difficult to understand. Still, if you like history, you should definitely give Across Five Aprils a try.
BOOK NAME: Project Jackalope
AUTHOR: Emily Ecton
One of the most famous mythical animals is the jackalope. According to legend, jackalopes are rabbits
that sprout massive antlers. They are known to like whiskey, sing campfire songs, and wreak havoc with
their deadly deer-like appendages.
Jeremy doesn’t think anything of jackalopes, mostly just trying to earn a C- on his 8 th grade science
fair project. That’s when a live jackalope turns up in his room, courtesy of his crazy scientist neighbor,
Professor Twitchett. Not only is a make-believe creature chewing on his dirty laundry, it seems that a
bunch of shady men in suits are after Twitchett and his experiment, the experiment that Jeremy now
has. Jeremy doesn’t want the jackalope, and would gladly get rid of it, but there is something about
these men that is just too sinister.
Jeremy needs help, so he asks his know-it-all classmate Agatha for assistance. Now Jeremy, his partner
in crime, and their fuzzy little killer, are on the run. They need to find Twitchett, rid themselves of the
jackalope, and get out of this mess.
This book was pretty good. It was very funny. Jeremy incorporated his sarcastic personality into the
storyline with humorous comments and side notes. It really added to the reading experience. I found
it unique that this story made the concept of creating a jackalope somewhat believable. Through some
DNA transplants, Twitchett created an animal hybrid with the body of a rabbit and the antlers of a deer.
It was quite an interesting experiment, and was written about in such a way that it sounded nearly
doable. I enjoyed the surprising way the story concluded, although I won’t spoil any of it. This book is
short and is not overly difficult to read, so it would be good for anyone in elementary or middle school.
Want another opinion? Read Parker’s review!
BOOK NAME: Arch Enemy
AUTHOR: Frank Beddor
We have probably all heard of the story Alice in Wonderland. Wonderland is not the fairy tale land the
book describes, but a nation gripped in the turmoil of a terrible war. Alyss herself is the warrior queen
of Wonderland. Her imagination, like the imaginations of many citizens of Wonderland, is not merely
thoughts and dreams, but a carefully honed superpower.
For years, Queen Alyss has held her enemies, especially her evil aunt Redd, at bay by virtue of her
mighty imagination; but now, it has been taken from her. Many others in Wonderland have also found
themselves stripped of their powers. In her weakened state, she cannot defend her queendom. The
ruthless, tyrannical monarch of a neighboring nation, King Arch, quickly takes Wonderland for himself.
Alyss’ last hope for her conquered homeland lies within a prophecy, a prophecy issued by the Caterpillar
Oracles of Wonderland. The all-knowing larvae say that imagination shall not be lost forever, and shall
be protected for Everqueen. Who is Everqueen? How can imagination be protected when King Arch is
already on the verge of destroying it? How will Alyss retake her queendom? Will old enemies, like Redd,
This book is the third in the Looking Glass Wars Trilogy. I have read all three books, and they were all
excellent. However, anyone interested should probably read the first book, The Looking Glass Wars, and
the second book, Seeing Redd, before reading Arch Enemy. This book will be hard to understand without
reading its predecessors. That aside, this book was very well written, and there were many shocking
twists to the story. My favorite character is King Arch. He is smart, crafty, powerful, and unspeakably
evil. I like how this book and the others before it take a very well known story, Alice in Wonderland, and
bend it into a sci-fi war. I highly recommend reading this book, and this series.
BOOK NAME: Boomtown
AUTHOR: Nowen N. Particular
In the state of Washington, one can find the not-so-quiet little town known simply as Boomtown. The town isn’t named for springing up in a few weeks during a gold rush, the meaning is quite literal. In Boomtown, the home of Chang’s Famous Fireworks Factory, exploding just about anything is everyone’s favorite pastime.
Reverend Arthur Button and his family have moved to Boomtown for the peacefulness of small-town life. They did not quite get what they expected. Right from the start, Boomtown, and its wacky citizens, turn out to be much more than the Buttons bargained for. Upon stopping for a quick view of the fireworks factory that is Boomtown’s heart and soul, Reverend Button finds himself nearly beheaded by a rocket being tested by the factory employees. The rocket, which was unintentionally launched by his accident-prone daughter, eventually blasted a research building to smithereens. But perhaps the thing that bewildered the new pastor of the local church most was the town’s reaction, people congratulating him left and right for his family’s part in the destruction.
The oddities don’t stop there. The Button family is given a huge box of fireworks as a welcoming gift, a container with enough explosives to level a house. Even something as simple and ordinary as a haircut turns crazy when Mr. Button is almost smashed by a barber chair flung by the local barber, a massive man with severe anger management issues. The most unusual, and troubling, discovery is made on Mr. Button’s first Sunday as pastor. It seems that all of Boomtown’s 24 previous pastors died from freak accidents, almost as if a curse looms over the ministry. That would explain why Reverend Button was almost killed twice already.
As Reverend Button continues to preach, all the while having near brushes with death, citizen’s belongings start disappearing all over Boomtown. The robberies are the start of a mystery that will add to the excitement, and the insanity, of Boomtown.
Boomtown was a decent book. The main problems I had were some slow parts, such as most of Mr. Button’s first Sunday of preaching. Other than that, there are plenty of wild adventures the Button family experiences, enough to keep a reader interested. The most unique thing about this book is the pictures, drawn to look like actual photographs. The illustrator’s life-like renditions of the events in the book made them seem more real. The pictures also helped me get a general understanding of what the characters and the events looked like. Some even matched the images I had formed in my head of the events. This book is part of a series, so if you like it enough, you may want to read the other books, which should be coming soon.
BOOK NAME: Magician: Master
AUTHOR: Raymond E. Feist
Pug’s life has changed forever. In his earlier years, he lived in the keep of castle Crydee, in the land known as the Kingdom of the Isles, on the world of Midkemia. While there, he was apprenticed to the magician Kulgan, learning how to harness the power of magic. He earned himself a place as Squire of Lord Borric’s court, as well as the affection of the Princess Carline. These were good times in Pug’s life, but all of it to a grinding halt.
The Kingdom was invaded by the Tsurani, a warrior race from another faraway world. The Empire of Tsuranuanni has targeted the Kingdom to obtain metals, which are rare on Kelewan, the Tsurani home planet. Soon after the first soldiers transported to the Kingdom via a rift in space-time, war broke out. It has raged for years. Early on, Pug was captured and enslaved by the aliens during a daring raid on the enemy’s main camp.
Pug toiled in the hot, dangerous swamps of Tsuranuanni . After an encounter with the son of a very powerful Tsurani noble, Pug was taken from the swamps and forced to work as a servant. While tending to the house, Pug’s magical talents were discovered. He was once again whisked away to have his magician skills honed to perfection for servicing the Empire, perhaps even against his own people.
Now Pug wears the Black Robe, marking him a magician of the Empire. His powers far surpass those of his fellow Black Robes, and he is perhaps the mightiest magician in all the land. He may just be powerful enough to close the rift and separate the two worlds once more. It’s time to put an end to the conflict.
This book is the sequel to one of my earlier reads, Magician: Apprentice, and the second book in the Riftwar series. I liked this book even more than the first. This book is interesting at every turn of the page, with questions being answered and new ones being posed. Pug and the other sorcerers’ displays of power were fascinating to imagine, jets of blue flames, and commanding of the elements. The battle scenarios were also interesting reads, as the Tsurani and their allies clashed with Midkemian soldiers, elves, and dwarves. The battles were described in such detail that I could picture them, every clash of the swords and the shouts and battle cries of the ferocious combatants. Though Pug and his adventures are the main focus of this book, it also tells of the exploits of Kulgan, Borric and Pug’s other friends and allies back on Midkemia. I liked how the story was told from many different perspectives. This book was somewhat long, at around 500 pages, but I so enjoyed reading it that it seemed far shorter.
BOOK NAME: The Seer
AUTHOR: David Stahler Jr.
Jacob has just been forced away from all he knows and loves. He used to live in Harmony, one of the colonies on the moon Nova Campi. Harmony’s inhabitants are all totally blind, whether from birth or by choice. They live by the code of Truesight, the belief that blindness erases all of the impurities in one’s soul. Jacob was evicted because he suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, acquired the ability to see. Such an “abomination” must not exist in Harmony, and Jacob needed to escape or face the wrath of Harmony’s High Councilor.
Now Jacob wanders the plains of Nova Campi. Only one thing keeps him from surrendering to the endless sea of grass, from stopping and accepting death alone in the desolate wilderness. It is the hope of finding Delaney, his closest friend, who ran literally “blindly” away from Harmony recently before his escape. If he can find her, then he will have a companion to explore the world of the beyond Harmony.
After trekking for days he meets his first Seer, a man by the name of Xander. At first, Xander does little more than offer Jacob food and water. Xander reappears to save Jacob from a gang of shady individuals, then decides to allow the boy to stay with him. Xander knows of Delaney, as well as where to find her. She is now under the custody a powerful corporation known as Mixel, a corrupt organization that largely funded the colonization of Nova Campi. After the first visit Jacob realizes that Mixel is using Delaney for her singing talents to generate revenue, and a considerable amount at that. They won’t give up Delaney, not without a fight…
Will Jacob be able to take Delaney back? Has he found a friend in Xander? Will he ever adapt to the world of the Seers? Most importantly, can he come to grips with his sight, which may be more than just looking with his eyes?
This book is the sequel to the book Truesight which I have read as well. Both are excellently written science-fiction novels, but I enjoyed this book more than its predecessor. This story had more action than Truesight, from man-to-man combat to undercover rescue attempts. I enjoyed reading about Xander, my favorite character in the story. Xander is gruff on the outside, but kind-hearted inside. He is also street-smart, determined, and an exceptional fighter. He assists Jacob significantly throughout the book. A story is often made by its villain, and The Seer is no exception. The Mixel Corporation and its high-class handlers are the embodiment of greedy, back-stabbing, and dangerous. I would recommend that you read Truesight before you read The Seer, which should not be overly difficult because both books are fairly short. All in all, they are a worth-while duo.
The human race emerged the victor of a horrific war with the Buggers, a hostile alien race. A fleet of human starships, under the command of Ender Wiggin, destroyed the Bugger home world, annihilating the insect-like creatures. In the years that followed, Ender Wiggin vanished, and human colonies sprang
up on habitable planets across the galaxy. Then, a terrible discovery was made by a mysterious human calling himself the “Speaker for the Dead”. The Buggers were not actually bloodthirsty alien beasts; they were intelligent beings who had been willing to make peace with humans! Ender Wiggin went from hero to monster and the human race mourned the unnecessary destruction of the powerful race that was the Buggers.
Then, on a world called Lusitania, another group of highly intelligent beings, the piggies, were discovered. Humans seemed to have a chance to redeem themselves for the destruction of the Buggers. When the piggies brutally murder a scientist attempting to study them, however, the old fears of killer aliens arise again. The Speaker for the Dead is now on his way to Lusitania to discover why the piggies turned to savage, unprovoked killing. He also hopes to right a great wrong he committed earlier in his life. The Speaker for the Dead is… Ender Wiggin, and it is his mission to stop a second alien race from being wiped out.
This was an excellent book, but there are some issues that must be addressed. There are some graphic descriptions of violent death, which may be disturbing to younger readers. There are also some inappropriate references that should only be read by a middle or high school audience. These factors are a drawback, but they cannot alter the fact that this book is phenomenally written. The plot constantly kept me on the edge of my seat. Speaker for the Dead is actually a sequel to another great book, Ender’s Game, but Speaker for the Dead can be read and understood perfectly well without even picking up its predecessor.
BOOK NAME: Ender’s Game
AUTHOR: Orson Scott Card
An alien civilization known as the “Buggers” has attacked the human race twice. Only the leadership of the heroic human commander, Mazer Rackham, saved mankind from certain destruction. However, the Bugger threat still looms, and Mazer Rackham is no longer in a position to command. To prepare for another assault, the International Fleet of starships (I.F.) created the Battle School, designed to recruit and train the genius commanders of the future. These young military leaders will commandeer the I.F. forces against their formidable extraterrestrial foe.
Ender Wiggin is one such recruit. For much of his young life, he has been monitored by the International Fleet. Now, I.F. officials have deemed him ready for Battle School. Ender is still a child, but his intelligence is far beyond his years, and the I.F. wants him to become the next Mazer Rackham. First, though, he must survive many grueling years and challenges at the Battle School, where students are just as capable and dangerous as he is. The Battle School centers on a military combat game in zero-gravity. By competing in the games against the other students, Ender’s talents and abilities will be pushed to the limit, preparing him for the ultimate challenge of saving humanity.
This book ranks highly on the list of my all time favorite books. The futuristic world portrayed by author Orson Scott Card intrigued me. The interstellar wars with aliens reminded very much of Star Wars and Star Trek, two classic sci-fi sagas that I have watched. Ender’s extreme intelligence and skills set him up for greatness. His ability to strategize and think ahead made him an exceptional character to read about. In the story, Ender faces both internal and external conflicts, which tie together to form a multifaceted storyline. For example, while Ender is trying to win the games and crack the code of the mysterious teachers and staff, he must also deal with his longing for his kind-hearted sister. He must also contend with his fear of his evil older brother, who is already planning to take over the world. The book was full of action and suspense, as well as few surprise twists. I strongly recommend reading this book.
Want another opinion? Read Reed’s review!
BOOK NAME: Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark
AUTHOR: Gail Langer Karwoski
I own a dog named Bailey. She is a beloved member of the family, her pack. She is our constant friend, protector, playmate, and comforter. Dogs are known as “man’s best friend”, and have been a part of human history since the Stone Age. Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark describes one such dog in American history.
Lewis and Clark are known as the captains of the first American expedition to the Pacific Ocean. Along with the Native American woman Sacagawea and the other explorers in the Corps of Discovery, Lewis and Clark explored the many wonders of the western United States. A lesser known member of this group of adventurers was Seaman, Lewis’ loyal Newfoundland dog. The four-legged pioneer contributed to the expedition in many ways. Seaman assisted the Corps of Discovery as a sentry and hunter. Most importantly of all, he lifted the spirits of his traveling companions, even in their darkest and bleakest moments. Seaman truly was the dog who explored the west.
Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark embodies a well-written historical fiction novel. The author based the storyline on actual journal entrees by Lewis and Clark as well as other pieces of historic evidence. She also improvises and elaborates on events that are not described as clearly by the journals and other sources. The book did lack some excitement in certain areas, such as when the Corps of Discovery made rest stops or was delayed by foul weather or other conditions. My favorite aspect of the book was that it included illustrations depicting events in the story. It made the book more interesting because the pictures allowed me to see the event as the Corps of Discovery would have seen it many years ago. The captions of the pictures were written accounts of the journey by Lewis and Clark, which were interesting to read. All in all, Seaman was a worthwhile read.
BOOK NAME: Frozen in Time
AUTHOR: Ali Sparkes
Ben and Rachel are sure that their summer is going to be horribly boring and rainy. They’ve been forced to stay with their somewhat eccentric scientist Uncle Jerome. The final straw comes when the TV, the only entertaining device in the entire house, breaks. Devastated, Rachel and Ben decide to explore the garden and woods on the property, despite the foul weather. While trudging through the mud, they unearth a secret chamber. Inside, they discover something astonishing, two children, sleeping inside of a pair of torpedo-like chambers.
When Ben and Rachel awaken Freddy and Polly Emerson, they discover that the children have been asleep for more than fifty years! Shockingly Freddy and Polly haven’t aged at all; in fact, they still believe that they are in their own time. When Ben and Rachel tell them that five decades have passed, the horrified Emerson children complain that their genius father left them in hibernation. Apparently, Mr. Emerson had found a method to preserve the human body for extended periods of time, but it seems strange that he would abandon his children while they were in a state of suspended animation. Ben and Rachel want answers, but first, they have to get Freddy and Polly used to the 21st century. As Freddy and Polly marvel at fast food, modern fashion, and internet, an agency that has been lying in wait for their revival begins to push its own agenda. They want Mr. Emerson’s secrets, and Freddy and Polly are the best way to get what they desire.
Frozen in Time was a fairly good book. It was a little slow in parts, such as when Freddy and Polly were explaining their father’s work and their old lives, or when Ben and Rachel introduced the Emerson children to twenty-first century trends and technology. The excitement picked up toward the end, when the secret organization attacked. The storyline also had some humor thrown in. Freddy and Polly’s interpretations of and reactions to 21st century life were often quite funny to read about. For example, Polly thought a website was an area full of cobwebs. I thought that the prospect of placing someone in a state of hibernation to prevent them from aging was pretty cool, and I enjoyed reading about how the process worked. The book made me wonder what it would be like if I fell asleep and woke up fifty years in the future. How would I react to the new time and all its wonders and troubles?
BOOK NAME: Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan
AUTHOR: John Flanagan
15-year-old Will has grown up in an area of Castle Redmont called the ward. His friends Jenny, George, Alyss, and Horace, are his fellow wardmates. Children in the ward are the orphaned sons or daughters of war heroes or other important figures. Will is a particularly special orphan. He arrived at the doorstep of the ward, with a note simply stating his name and that his father had died a heroic death. Will has believed for all of his life that his father was a knight that died in a fierce battle with the evil Lord Morgarath and his legion of Wargals. Desperately wanting to carry on his father’s legacy, Will hopes to go to Battleschool and become a knight.
Unfortunately, Will is deemed too small to manage the hard physical labors of Battleschool, crushing his lifelong dream of knighthood. Then Halt, a member of a mysterious group of protectors called the Rangers, takes Will as his apprentice. The Rangers are a suspicious lot, and Will is not entirely sure if he likes his new life. Halt is going to train Will to become a fierce warrior, but not a knight. A nagging doubt about what his father would think of him haunts Will. What he doesn’t know is that Morgarath is planning another attack on the kingdom, and Will’s position as a Ranger’s apprentice may put him face to face with Morgarath’s vicious monsters.
Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan, is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The storyline is fantastically written. It has just the right mix of suspense, excitement, humor, and fierce battles. My favorite part of the story is the part where Will, Halt, Baron Arald, and Sir Rodney fight the dreaded monsters called the Kalkara. The description of the battle was so riveting that I could not stop reading until I discovered the outcome. My favorite character is Halt, Will’s teacher. He is crafty, very wise, and a master archer. His skill made him a force to be reckoned with, no matter what enemy he faced. His normally stoic nature and steadfast attitude were sometimes interrupted with sarcastic comments, making him interesting to read about. This book is the first book in a series, and if I can get my hands on another Ranger’s Apprentice book, I will most certainly read it. Definitely read Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan.
BOOK NAME: Belly Up
AUTHOR: Stuart Gibbs
Hippos may not be the cutest and cuddliest of creatures. They rank second behind the Cape buffalo on the list of the most dangerous African animals. They are often ill-tempered and messy beasts. Henry the Hippo was no exception, but Henry’s special title was mascot for Funjungle, a brand-new and extremely popular zoo/theme park. Shortly after arriving at Funjungle, Henry mysteriously died.
12-year-old Teddy is determined to find the cause of Henry’s sudden and unexpected demise. Teddy is the son of a renowned gorilla researcher and expert wildlife photographer. He spent 10 years of his life in the Congo, so he knows his animals. Henry’s death may not have been from natural causes. When Teddy secretly attends Henry’s autopsy, he discovers that Henry was murdered! A small, sharp object was placed in his food, and it poked holes in his digestive tract, eventually killing him. Teddy decides to try and apprehend the perpetrator of this heinous crime. However, the case quickly gets complicated. It turns out that Henry was not well liked by many people, all of whom are possible suspects in Henry’s murder. Not only that, the real murderer wants Teddy off his/her case, immediately! If Teddy does not solve the mystery soon, he might be the next casualty!
I have high praise for Belly Up. The element of mystery regarding Henry’s death kept my interest. As the story unfolded and new clues were discovered, I kept trying to guess the culprit. In a startling twist, the real murder was someone I had never guessed. The book was also very suspenseful. The killer made several attempts on Teddy’s life throughout the story. Those parts were very exciting. I liked how the book included an element of humor. Teddy often uses sarcasm and makes many funny comparisons and points. For example, he compares one security guard’s physique to that of a rhinoceros. The story was told in first person point-of-view, which added depth to the plot. Seeing the events through Teddy’s eyes, and knowing what he heard, smelled, saw, felt, and thought made it seem as if I was experiencing the story myself.
BOOK NAME: Beyonders: A World Without Heroes
AUTHOR: Brandon Mull
How would you feel if you were swallowed by a hippopotamus and suddenly found yourself in a parallel world where heroes are nonexistent and almost no hope is left? Would you have the courage to embark on a dangerous journey to save the world you only just entered?
Thirteen-year-old Jason’s life changes forever when his routine day at the zoo ends with him transporting to another world via hippopotamus. Upon his arrival, he witnesses the demise of a group of musicians as they tumble over a waterfall. No one tries to save them.
Jason eventually learns this strange world is called Lyrian, and it is ruled by a tyrant wizard emperor named Maldor. Maldor has broken the spirits of all the heroes who dare oppose him. The musicians that fell over the falls were trying to summon a hero from another world as a last hope. Jason accidentally stumbles upon information about a magic word that can destroy Maldor, making him a mortal enemy of the powerful monarch. Now, his only hope to ever return home is to embark on a perilous quest to piece together the Word, defeat Maldor, and become a hero.
Along the way, Jason meets Rachel, who was also transported to Lyrian from Earth. She decides to assist him in his search for the Word. How can two teenagers ever hope to destroy a mighty ruler and his legions of followers?
A World Without Heroes was an excellently written fantasy novel that I took great pleasure in reading. The storyline was suspenseful and exciting. Jason and Rachel’s near brushes with death and close encounters with Maldor’s deadly minions were enough to keep me engrossed. I also liked that the book had dashes of humor in some portions. Jason and Rachel both use a fair amount of sarcasm to add a happier outlook to their otherwise bleak situation. Maldor is a perfect villain because he weaves complex schemes and is despicably evil. Instead of just killing his strongest adversaries, he chooses to toy with them and give them false hope before crushing their spirit and any resistance they may create. The only thing I did not like about the book was that the ending was very abrupt. I know that the Beyonders will be a series, but I would have preferred the book to tie up a few more loose ends before it finished.
BOOK NAME: Heart of a Samurai
AUTHOR: Margi Preus
Traveling can be a unique, exciting, and sometimes scary experience. The experiences you have can be remembered for ever and possibly change your life. However, what if traveling came at the cost of never returning home again? Would you still be willing to leave?
14-year-old Manjiro lives in a small village in Japan. One day, in the year 1841, while Manjiro is out fishing with four other fishermen, a terrible storm blows their small boat out to sea, eventually stranding them on a deserted island. Manjiro and the other fisherman are rescued by the crew of the John Howland, an American whaling vessel. Manjiro has grown up hearing tales about “barbarians” from distant lands, but because of his country’s isolation, he is overcome with curiosity about the strange culture of the people around him. It’s this curiosity that leads him on an epic journey to distant countries like America. Even though Manjiro is fascinated by the wondrous places he visits, all he really wants is to go back to his family and homeland. Due to Japan’s isolation policy at that time in history, that may not be possible. If he returns from his travels, he may be imprisoned or executed.
This book was a unique story that I truly enjoyed reading. I am part Japanese, so the story had a special impact on me. I enjoyed learning more about the culture and history of the country to which I owe some of my family’s origins. Manjiro is an interesting character because he is based on a true life diplomat, adventurer, and negotiator. The book even included sketches that Manjiro actually drew about the places he visited and the things he saw. The only aspect of the book that I was not fond of was that it involved whaling. Whales are my favorite animals, and although whaling is a major part of the world’s history, I do not like reading about humans slaughtering such majestic creatures.
BOOK NAME: Hothead
AUTHOR: Cal Ripken, Jr.
Do you play baseball? If you do, you probably know how important sportsmanship is during any athletic competition. Even so, sometimes it’s hard to be a good sport. Have you or anyone you know ever thrown a tantrum about missing a catch, striking out, or making a bad throw?
12-year-old Connor Sullivan is the last person anyone expects to lose his cool during a game. He is usually a very humble but extremely talented shortstop for the Babe Ruth League Orioles. In fact, he is the star player on the team. He has helped the Orioles achieve a perfect season so far, and now he has his sights set on the league pennant. Connor is also normally a good-natured guy who is good friends with everyone on the team.
Lately, however, Connor has been acting very strange. A recent event has greatly affected his family, and Connor’s attitude is taking a turn for the worst. Whenever he misses a catch or strikes out on an important play, he freaks out. His temper tantrums usually involve nasty, condescending remarks to his teammates and kicking and throwing his glove and other baseball equipment. Other players in the league nickname him “Psycho Sully” because of his wild fits of rage. No one else knows why Connor has suddenly started letting his temper get the best of him, but Connor’s coach wants it to stop, immediately! He just might end up forcing Connor off the team, even though he is their best player. A fellow classmate and reporter for Connor’s school’s newspaper plans to do a headline story on Connor’s sudden outbursts. Connor better shape up and get his act together, or his future as a baseball player could be in jeopardy!
I’ve played baseball before, so I can relate to the events that take place in this book. Even though I was a good sport, one of my teammates often went on a ranting rampage whenever he struck out or missed a catch. He yelled at me and the other members of the team whenever we made an error. No one wanted to be his friend because of his foul temper and the way he made us feel about being member of the team. The author of the book, Cal Ripken Jr., also had many of the same experiences as his fictional character. That was the most interesting aspect of the book, both the author and myself could relate to some of the events that occurred in the story. Maybe you will have a similar connection. I could empathize with Connor because of my own personal experiences. Definitely read this “grand slam” of a baseball book!
BOOK NAME: The Shadows (Books of Elsewhere #1)
AUTHOR: Jacqueline West
Do you like to draw elaborate pictures or paint vivid masterpieces? Imagine if you had the ability to enter paintings and make their scenes come to life in a parallel dimension. How would you use this remarkable power?
Eleven-year old Olive Dunwoody and her family have just moved into a massive, old house on Linden Street. The house is full of winding hallways, unusual antiques, and peculiar paintings. At first, Olive doesn’t notice anything particularly remarkable about any of the paintings that cover the house’s aged walls, but then she notices that some of the painted images move and shift ever so slightly. When her parents try to remove one of the paintings off the wall, it won’t budge. It’s as if the painting was attached to the wall with super glue. Olive doesn’t know what to make of all the strange happenings.
Things become much clearer when Olive finds a pair of spectacles in a drawer. When she puts the spectacles on, all of a sudden the paintings come to life! The trees in a forest painting sway in the wind as a faint white figure darts between their trunks. Olive becomes curious about this strange moving shape. When she takes a closer look, she discovers that she can enter the painting! She meets the moving entity, who happens to be a young boy named Morton. She also encounters several talking cats that can travel in and out of the paintings as well. However, Olive soon discovers that there are more sinister secrets hidden in the paintings. A blanket of thick shadows chases her through the forest painting where she found Morton. Olive also discovers a large, brown dog trapped in a painting in the attic. Olive wonders why Morton and the dog are in the paintings. What other secrets does the mysterious house hold?
I could not put down this fantastic book. The suspenseful storyline is what kept me interested. Olive is thrown into life threatening situations. She must also think quickly and imaginatively to overcome obstacles and unravel the mystery behind the paintings. Her curious and determined demeanor helps her overcome many of the challenges she runs into. The book’s ending was definitely the most entertaining to read. In the final chapters, Olive must face her fears and battle the evil being that haunts the house. Every chapter was filled with nail biting moments. The book also leaves a few cliff hangers to hopefully be answered later in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows.
BOOK NAME: Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter
AUTHOR: Richard Platt
Ever wonder what a true pirate’s life was like? The pirates portrayed in the movies are usually heartless, swashbuckling, and usually sport an eye patch. I believe reading Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter, gives the reader a more realistic insight into the life of a pirate.
The story is told from a fictional diary written by a 9-year-old boy named Jake Carpenter. His family has sent him with his uncle to become a sailor. He signs on to sail with the Greyhound and begins his first sea voyage under the command of a brutal and cruel captain. During the voyage, the ship is captured by a band of pirates, and now Jake is forced to become one of them. Jake learns how to live like a pirate. He has to abide by their rules, assist in their raids, and repair their ship. Pirates are considered criminals by the Americans, British, and other European powers; therefore, Jake is now also a criminal. Pirates often have to suffer the death penalty for their criminal actions. There may be no escape from the dangerous and possibly deadly way of life Jake has been thrown into.
The author wrote this book brilliantly. I enjoyed how the book was told in the form of a journal. It was unique to hear the story from the main character’s viewpoint. The journal or diary really gives the reader a sense of what Jake is feeling and experiencing on a day to day basis. I liked the colorful illustrations that make the book more entertaining. The illustrations also vividly portray certain events in the story, making it easier to understand. This book was a short, straightforward, and effortless read, which means that it is perfect for reading in your spare time.
I highly recommend this book to people who like to derive fact from fiction. This book tells the story of true pirate life, versus the Hollywood version seen in movies. Hollywood pirates and real pirates are different in several ways. For example, real pirates are organized bands of raiders that follow a fair system of laws that the crew themselves often create. In fact, many merchant ship captains are crueler and more unjust than pirate captains. Hollywood pirates are often publicized as ruthless, menacing, lawless villains with no respect for each other. The end of the book reports about true pirate, and how they lived. The book also provides an article about some of the most famous pirates that ever lived and revealed some interesting facts. Did you know that Blackbeard’s real name was Edward Teach or that a pirate named Jean Lafitte helped America gain independence by fighting British naval ships? Read this book for “arrr” fascinating adventure, “matey!”
BOOK NAME: Young Fredle
AUTHOR: Cynthia Voight
Have you ever wondered how the world looks from another creature’s point of view? Do you think that everyday things would seem more interesting or exciting if you saw them through a mouse’s eyes? Even the tiniest animals can have some big and exciting adventures.
Fredle is a house mouse. The only environment he has ever known is the kitchen in which he dwells along with his extended family. The nightly routine involves finding morsels of food while avoiding the house cat, then returning to sleep with the family. However, Fredle is quite curious and adventurous. His curiosity gets him into all kinds of trouble, and his sweet tooth puts his life in danger more than once. He strays from his normal routine once too often, and that leads to an unfortunate consequence.
One night, while foraging with his cousin, he devours a new type of food that makes him very ill. Sick or weak house mice are forced out of the nest, because they can no longer contribute to feeding the family. Fredle is pushed out of his nest and finds himself carried outside. Fredle must learn to survive in the wild. He must discover how to find food and water or risk starvation. He must also avoid the jaws and talons of new and ferocious predators. Unfortunately, Fredle’s only lifelines are his own instincts and a couple of field mice who are trying to teach him about staying alive. Fredle longs to get back to his family and his original home in the kitchen where he feels safe.
This book had a good storyline and main character. I liked how the author wrote the story through the Fredle, a house mouse’s point of view. It gave the story an interesting twist because boring things like grass or dirt were described in unique ways. For example, Fredle saw grass as an unending forest of long green stalks. I also liked how the animals could speak to each other, but the humans in the story could not understand them. It made the story seem slightly more realistic, despite the fact that the book is purely fantasy. For instance, the dogs occasionally talk to Fredle or their owners, but all that the humans hear are barks, whines, and growls. The book also had a touch of humor. In one part of the story, Fredle is hiding under the porch when one of the dogs catches his scent. When the dog asks who is under the porch, Fredle whispers “nobody”. The dog thinks that the porch is deserted and walks away confused (It is much funnier in the book). Overall, the book was all right, although the story was a little slow developing.
BOOK NAME: Oathbreaker: Assassin’s Apprentice
AUTHOR: S. R. Vaught
Aron Brailing lives in the world of Eyrie, a place where magical beings, shape shifters, and amazing creatures roam. Eyrie is divided into dynasts, and Aron lives in Dyn Brailing, one of the dynasts. Aron helps his family around the farm and cares for his giant winged lizard, Tek. One day, members of a guild of assassins arrive at his home. They decide to take Aron for their guild and train him because he seems to have a very powerful mind talent. However, that power was not able to save those close to him when trouble and war arose. Now Aron bears a terrible grudge against the lord of his dynast and his guards because they murdered his family, but if he harms anyone other than criminals, he will be an oathbreaker, hated by all in Eyrie. Can Aron pass the difficult tests and training to become an assassin?
This book was a great read because there was so much suspense. Even when you get to the” end” of the book, you will discover something quite surprising. There is no end! This book is fantasy, but this book also made some connections to things that are more realistic. In the book, it was mentioned that humans are what drove the magical beings from Earth and made them travel to Eyrie. Also, magic and human bloodlines mixed and produced ordinary people with just a touch of magic. Including humans and Earth in an otherwise fantasy world is a unique characteristic of the story. The author of the book uses excellent detail and I believe it’s quite clever that his story carries over to another book. Guess you will have to read both…I definitely am.
BOOK NAME: Far From Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage
AUTHOR: Sophie Webb
Do you ever wonder what fabulous life forms dwell in the deep ocean? Would you ever want to travel far from shore and discover what is beneath the surface of the sparkling blue waters? Then maybe a career like Sophie Webb’s is one for you! Sophie is a naturalist and artist with a strong interest in birds. In this book, Sophie describes one of her voyages into the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean (ETP). The purpose of her journey is to count, photograph, and take samples of the vast array of marine life that live in the ETP. This information will help to show the human impact on this unique and diverse ecosystem. Sophie observes the seabirds and dolphins, and through illustrations and writing, describes her unique experiences over the four-month voyage. From tiny flying fish to massive blue whales, Sophie’s art depicts the incredible wonders of nature.
This book was especially interesting for me to read. Marine biology and art have both been my passions for as long as I can remember. I’ve drawn thousands of pictures of ocean animals, and have learned many names and characteristics of many species of marine life. This book taught me about new creatures and incredible facts that I had never heard of before. For example, I learned that spinner dolphins can look different depending on where they are found. I also used to think that sperm whales were the deepest divers, but thanks to this book, I now know that Cuvier’s beaked whales hold the record for deep dives. I also have begun to draw some of animals pictured in the book, using Sophie’s illustrations to create masterpieces of my own. This story took me on a fascinating ocean adventure. It is a short and easy non-fiction read, making it a very unique combination that is a welcome addition to any reader’s collection. The story is written with such incredible detail and paints realistic images of the sea life. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
BOOK NAME: The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing
AUTHOR: Suzanne Jurmain
Do you remember the last time you were sick…really sick? Did you have an icy chill that coursed through your body, followed by a horrible head ache and painful stomach ache, an excessive temperature, yellowing skin and eyes, black vomit containing blood, violent muscle spasms, and excessive bleeding? I assume your symptoms weren’t as severe as the ones that were mentioned. The symptoms being described are linked to one of the most deadly and mysterious diseases in the medical world, yellow fever.
Throughout history, yellow fever has killed over 100,000 people. Both the yellow fever germ and its infecting agent pretty much remained a mystery to scientists for a long time. In a major outbreak in the early 1900s, a group of dedicated scientists decided to try and crack the case of the unknown killer. Walter Reed was the leader of this group of scientists. His co-workers were Jesse Lazear, Aristides Agramonte, and James Carrol. Carlos Finlay was a scientist who conducted independent research and studies related to yellow fever. Through long months of hard work, a complicated series of experiments, and countless failures, this team of scientists searched for answers on why this disease was taking so many lives. Then something finally arose. The work of brave volunteers, dedicated research, and even the tragic death of a scientist, helped one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in history be made, the prevention of yellow fever.
This is the first non-fiction book that I blogged on this year. Yellow fever and the scientists’ quest to discover its source seems like something out of a science fiction movie. All of the odds were against them since they knew very little about the yellow fever germ and how it spread. I am amazed at the teamwork, perseverance, and logic of the scientists trying to crack the yellow fever case. Despite the risks and the fact that they had very little information on yellow fever, the scientists still managed to find the preventative strategies to save thousands of people all over the world from getting infected with yellow fever. The gruesome description of the disease that I referred to earlier was based off of all of the detailed information in the book. The book is short, making it a quick read during your spare time, so I highly recommend picking it up. Another amazing thing is that many modern day scientists are trying to find preventative measures and cures for diseases that are just as mysterious as yellow fever. In fact, a new cure for a disease may be found while you are reading this blog!
BOOK NAME: Atlas’ Revenge: Another Mad Myth Mystery
AUTHOR: Robyn DiTocco
Imagine if you had to fight ferocious monsters and battle evildoers while attempting to save the world all at the same time! For PJ Allen, that is exactly what he has to do. This task becomes daunting at times. PJ appears to be a typical college student in California. If you didn’t include his recent adventure involving the Olympian Gods, Titans, and Medusa, his life mainly revolves around college life. Out of the blue, PJ is called upon by the messenger god, Hermes, requesting that PJ aid the Olympians again! He told PJ that Atlas, the Titan who holds up the heavens, is missing. Hercules is holding up the sky in Titan’s place, but cannot bear its weight much longer. The messenger also reveals that Hercules’ Twelve Labors need to be accomplished in order to save innocent people from deadly beasts. PJ must complete these tasks in Hercules’ place. In addition, he must find where Atlas is hiding and restore him to his rightful place before Hercules falls. PJ must also choose between his ex-girlfriend and his new girlfriend. Little does PJ know that one the girls is the mastermind behind the disappearance of Atlas.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It had just the right amount of suspense and humor. For example, PJ must battle powerful foes, but still manages to find humor in the situation. The plot was both exciting and entertaining. I also like the fact that you can learn a little about Greek mythology, such as the names of the Greek gods, monsters, and other beings from the book. This story nicely blended fact and fiction. Many of PJ’s close friends actually turned out to be mythical beings. I encourage you to read the book and uncover the answers.
BOOK NAME: Code Orange
AUTHOR: Caroline B. Cooney
A historic killer will possibly ravage New York City. This weapon of mass destruction is so small that it is undetected by the naked eye. It takes a microscope to see it. Who or what could wreak havoc on the city and the people who live there? It’s a virus known as Variola major, or smallpox. Throughout history smallpox killed thousands of people until its eradication a century ago. That is, it was believed to be eradicated.
For his biology course, Mitty has to do a report on an infectious disease. Mitty, a known slacker, would rather talk and goof off. As the due date for the report nears, Mitty knows he must begin his report. In a hunt for his topic, Mitty discovers several old books about smallpox. Not only that, he discovers actual smallpox scabs in an envelope lodged in one of the books. Since Mitty has not researched the virus and is unaware of the infectious risk, he unknowingly handles the scabs. Unwittingly, Mitty Blake might become the first smallpox case in over 100 years. Soon after handling the scabs, he begins to show peculiar signs and symptoms. To make matters worse, Mitty lives in one of the most heavily populated cities in the United States, New York City. New York City has been the target for terrorists, including bioterrorists, who could use Mitty’s find to cause a human catastrophe in this great city. Smallpox, one of the most deadly diseases of all time, could possibly infect everyone. What will be the fate of Mitty and New York City?
This book was actually quite tense. The most intriguing thing about this story is that a smallpox outbreak could quite possibly happen if the virus managed to stay alive over time. If a scientist could store and contain infected tissue in which a virus managed to survive, who knows what would be the consequences. The descriptions of the oozing pox or pustules and other symptoms of smallpox made my skin crawl. I actually pictured the horrible disease in my mind, almost like I was seeing it with my own eyes. I enjoyed the constant suspense. Almost every chapter ended with a time line of how long it had been since Mitty had touched the scabs and made me uncertain what would happen next. If you like fiction that seems realistic, and have a strong stomach, this is the book for you!