Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ghost Buddies: Zero to Hero

Zero to Hero (Ghost Buddy Series #1)

Billy Broccoli's mom remarried and now the whole family is moving into a new neighborhood.  All Billy wants to do is get onto the baseball team and make some new friends.  One night Billy's clothes begin to float in the closet and now he is sharing his room with a ninety-nine year old child ghost named Hoover "Hoove" Porterhouse.  Hoove has taken Billy on as his pet project because until he can impress the "higher ups" by getting passing marks on haunting, invisibility and helping others, Hoove can't leave the boundaries of his families house.  Hoove makes it his mission to help Billy get on the baseball team and win over some friends.  Only problem is the school bully Rod has it out for Billy and Hoove's plan to deal with him may be more then Billy bargained for.   

 I was one of those kids who grew up watching Happy Days with their parents.  Even now, I still enjoy watching it for the humor and what some would say was an ideal family life.  So, one can see why I choose to read this particular book from Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver. (Who maybe are more known for their Hank  Zipzer series).  I really enjoyed this first book there are some nice contrasts between a boy who is less confident, a little clumsy and a more rambunctious ghost boy.  The language is on target for this younger grade level and a story that while slower in some parts has some very nice messages about doing the right thing, how to handle a bully and overcoming ones fears.  Probably geared for second graders or the struggling reader.  My copy was from the library.

Favorite quote: "
Mornings are for roosters, he said. "And I do not cock-a-doodle-do."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jinx by Sage Blackwood


"In the Urwald, you grow up fast or you don't grow up at all."  You also never stray from the path, but when Jinx's stepfather Bergthold does just that, even at a tender age of six, Jinx knows something is wrong. Jinx thinks that he is about to be killed but Bergthold  has decided instead to abandon him.  This may be even worse because there are equally horrible things in the woods.  While forging along the path, Bergthold and Jinx come upon Simon, a wizard who offers to buy Jinx.  Bergthold is a greedy man and tries to barter for more money.  Suddenly a troll appears and carries Bergthold away.  Jinx and Simon are protected by a concealment spell but Jinx still fears that this wizard could be evil. Simon offers Jinx a place at his home cleaning and keeping things organized.  Unsure whether Simon is trustworthy or not but left with very few other options, Jinx accepts.   Jinx begins to learn more about the Urwald and also what Simon's intentions are with him. " But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic—and magicians—can be as dangerous as the forest, and soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat."

Sage Blackwood introduces characters into the story slowly.  Partly to give time for the reader to get immersed in the characters of Jinx and Simon and their relationship.  In these early chapters, you get a chance to care about Jinx.  He's only six and is growing up with a wizard who often is cranky and as a reader we are never sure of what Simon intends to do with Jinx.  With the addition of new characters more questions arise.  Why can't Jinx read Dame Glamer's thoughts.  Where did Simon's wife come from?  Why is she so curious about how Jinx came to Simon's employ?  Rather then tell us all of these answers, Sage Blackwood instead reveals it through actions, emotions and colors that Jinx sees as clouds of color above the characters heads.   The first part of the story is therefore somewhat shrouded in mystery, but once Jinx's magic is stolen, the plot changes to an adventure/quest to regain his abilities.  The pace picks up as Jinx encounters new people along the path (Elfwyn and Reven) each who adds new layers to the story.  Jinx's magical abilities actually grow as he is forced to adapt by reading peoples facial features and body language to interpret their intentions.  I really liked Jinx, the battle between Simon and the Bonemaster over something that each stole from one another was reminiscent of a Wizard's duel  with poor Jinx stuck in the middle.  The addition of Elwyn and Reven and their own curse made for some entertaining dialogue.  Overall a fun story with wonderful characterization and some nice messaging about growing up and realizing our own strengths. Copy reviewed was from the Library. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Seven Wonders: The Colossus Rises

The Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, #1)

Jack McKinley is the kind of kid who can take a coffeemaker and papier-mache volcano, and rig it to catapult a plastic dinosaur as an alarm clock to wake him up in the morning.  He's also the kind of kid who doesn't believe that he has any hidden talents either though.  The Colossus Rises begins with that dinosaur smacking Jack right between the eyes.  Peter Lerangis provides some back story on how Jack has au pair's (or a  "don't-care-giver") watching over him as his father travels the world.  Jump ahead to Jack sticking up for  a kid when he gets this feeling like "something had crawled into my head and was kickboxing with my brain."  He falls down and the last thing he remembers is a car speeding toward him.   When he awakens, Jack is in the hospital with a mysterious doctor examining him and  ends up being injected in the arm.  I must admit that all sounds horribly sinister.  That isn't the worst either, Jack finds that he has been kidnapped, gets holes drilled in his head and is now stuck in some weird Institute.  Better yet, Jack has a rare genetic condition that is connected to the lost ancient civilization of Atlantis.  Everyone who has this condition is marked by a lambda on the back of their head and usually die before the age of  fourteen.   Jack isn't the only one either, he's a part of the team of Select which includes Cass (amazing photo recall and can speak backwards),  Aly (hacker and movie genius expert), and Marco (strong athletic type).  Being connected to Atlantis has some major disadvantages.  For instance, the power that controls it was destroyed and hidden all over the world.  Hence the title, Seven Wonders.  It will be these four children's quest to find these items and bring them back to Atlantis.  

The Colossus Rises is part science fiction with mythology.  Some of the heavier science fiction parts delve into medicine and possessing of a  "G7W marker or a piece of genetic code." I found this to be an interesting concept but was lost with some of the more detailed descriptions of "ceresacrum's feeding off of powers from Atlantis."  I found the mythology interesting  especially when Lerangis was discussing the Atlantean rulers and how the Loculus were first made and why they were separated.  Also the parts when they discover ancient paintings on the walls.  This is some of the parts that I think would have been wonderful as a Pre-Novella.  Although, I realize that Lerangis probably wrote The Select after he had already completed The Colossus Rises, not like you can rip that part out now.  I just think it would have made an interesting short story, maybe it comes back later in the series though too.   I found that The Colossus Rises could have been a wonderful  introductory look into the ancient Seven Wonders of the world.  With the first focusing around The Colossus of Rhodes, I think I expected to learn more about this ancient wonder. Even when the children enter a Library in the city of Rhodes to do some research there are only bits and pieces of information given about The Colossus via conversations with the librarian.  It seems a missed opportunity to give a little history, but maybe that is just the parent in me talking.  If anything maybe if the historical information didn't fit into the storyline it could have been put into an authors note or somewhere in the back of the book?   Again it's probably just the parent in me talking.  Overall, I felt The Colussus Rises was a wonderful first adventure, science fiction mythology there is plenty of room left for the story to progress further, what with six more Ancient Wonders to visit as well as determining who else is out to locate the Locolus. Copy Reviewed was from the Public Library. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Cypher (Guardians Inc., #1)

The Cypher (Guardians Inc., #1)       I liked the two main characters in the story, Morgan and Thomas.  Their interactions seemed genuine.  I also enjoyed the idea of a library that houses all of the books ever written, even ones that don't exist in your local public library.  Throughout The Cypher there are references to movies, literature, and some history thrown in as well.  Some explain Thomas' history with his parents and some illustrate how the Guardians have been beneficial across time.  Julian Rosado-Machain's use of magic being real but held in check by technology was slightly difficult for me to follow.  I get that every 500 years the Oracle comes to write a book that can shift the balance but some other aspects were lost to me.  For instance, who are the other forces that are out there trying to either save or hurt Thomas' quest?  They are never really clear to me or what their purpose is.  I did enjoy the team that is put together to help Thomas, the Elven Queen, a Protector/martial artist, a butler named Bolswaithe who is an advanced human robot and Henri the Grotesque a Guardian gargoyle created of stone.  Each is unique and add some nice science fiction elements but I wish there were more details or some back story on them. Overall great concept of being able to read all the texts ever written, nice action scenes with some mystery thrown in as well.  Free ebook from Apple for IBooks.  
The story starts out really intriguing.  16 year old Thomas' parents mysteriously disappeared while on a vacation and since then he has been living with his seventy-two year old grandfather Morgan.  Although Morgan has been retired for a number of years, he feels that he should look for a job to provide for a future for Thomas.   While Thomas helps Morgan, he comes across a mysterious newspaper ad for a assistant librarian at Pervagus Mansion.  Thinking Morgan would be perfect for the job, Thomas encourages his grandfather to go to the interview.  However, Thomas learns that he is the one that they have been looking, for Thomas is a Cypher, or has the ability to read any text ever written.   Both Morgan and Thomas are offered a position with the company but is it all that it seems?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Library Holds

The Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, #1)

JinxSo I had a bunch of holds at the library and low and behold they all came in at once.   My main problem now is, I really don't know which one to start first.  I know, tough problem right?  I just can't choose what mood I am in.  Is it the realistic humorous fiction, fantasy mythology or magical fantasy?   Do I pick alphabetically by author, title?  I could flip a coin if I had two books but with three that doesn't seem to work. 

O.k. Fellow bloggers any thoughts/recommendations?  

 Better Nate Than Ever

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Prequel Novella's

A post on Project Mayhem recently was talking about the different ways that authors are trying to attract readers to their books, including the idea of writing a novella to grab the readers attention.  I had received a free copy of Seven Wonders Journals: The Select and decided to give this one a go to see if it spurred my interest for Book One Colossus Rises.  The full blog post from Project Mayhem  is here: 
and if your intersted you can start reading book one here
Seven Wonders Journals: The Select From Goodreads:  " It's the year 1894, and thirteen-year-old Burt and his father are on an archaeological expedition gone wrong. After a tumultuous boat ride, Burt and the archaeologists find themselves stranded on what seems to be a deserted island. That is, seems to be deserted until Burt starts hearing music that no one else can hear . . . and blacking out with no explanation. Maybe there is something to Burt's father's expedition after all? All but tortured by his surroundings, Burt ventures to find out. He can only hope to survive." 

The story ends on a cliff hanger.  We can only assume that things didn't go well for Burt cause the author leaves us with "something nearby" and then "I think I hear"  where the journal suddenly cuts out.  

 I also received an excerpt for Book One Colossus Rises, which included the first two chapters.  

The Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, #1)
 Here is the summary from Goodreads of Colossus Rises
"Jack McKinley is an ordinary kid with an extraordinary problem. In a few months, he’s going to die.
One Mission
Jack needs to find seven magic loculi that, when combined, have the power to cure him.
One Problem
The loculi are the relics of a lost civilization and haven’t been seen in thousands of years.
Seven Wonders
Because they’re hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World."

This book takes place sometime way into the future from the prequel. So, my thoughts are that both of these are heavy on the mystery surrounding these loculi.  However, I can't say that the prequel novella hooks me on to the first book in the series.  The Select could have been its very own book and would have made for an interesting read on its own.  In terms of whether The Select ties into the next book.  I would say kind of.  The subject matter is the same.  Boys who find themselves in interesting predicaments and appear to be about to die.  It's just the jump in time periods and characters doesn't seem to tie into the first book.  Maybe it will in future books but again The Select would have made an interesting book all on its own.   I will however be looking for the Seven Wonders series.  I kinda like stories that talk about ancient worlds and I'm up for some mystery. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Genius Files

Mission Unstoppable 
As soon as school lets out for the summer, twelve year old twins Coke and Pepsi are going on a cross country RV trip with their parents from San Fransisco to Washington D.C.  for their Aunts wedding.  Little do they know there is a lot in store for them before they will even arrive at their destination. For instance, by walking home from school rather than taking the school bus they end up having this guy wearing a bowler hat follow them in a golf cart.  Trying to escape, Coke and Pepsi race to the top of a cliff only to have bowler hat guy try and shoot  tranquilizing darts at them.  This results in the twins jumping off of that cliff in order to escape.  If that isn't enough, the twins even land in afterschool detention with their crazy health teacher and the school mysteriously catches on fire with them trapped inside.  If the twins didn't know any better someone seems to be out to get them, but who and why?

 I liked the characters of Coke and Pepsi.  Even the names just glide.  I bet your thinking they were named after soft drinks, well you'd only be half way right.  You'll just have to read the story to see what the other one is named after.  I also liked that each of the twins has abilities that seem realistic. Coke with his photographic memory and ability to recall things instantaneously and  Pepsi's  "feelings" that allow her to sense when she is being followed as well as her ability to complete ciphers.  Of the two, I think Coke's would be my first choice.  School would have been a whole lot easier with that ability.  Overall, this is an enjoyable book there are the wonderful additions of real life images, map directions, lists of places that are most likely in the Guinness Book of World Records or at least on a website that the twins mom runs called "Amazing But True" (A sampling of the places they visit includes the largest ball of twine, a YoYo Museum, House on the Rock and even the Pez dispenser factory).  Although, I never followed the Mapquest like directions or Goggled the locations, it was very nice to have something tangible to look at while reading the story.  I also think the information presented about each of these places was never boring and the author found a way to  intertwine it into the plot.  This is the kind of story that opens itself up for further educational exploration with lesson plans about some of the places visited or even to just use the ciphers to create your own.  I should mention that my child and I both read the book and collaborated on the review.  This was one book that we discussed for a few days with each of us talking about our likes and dislikes.  When I put on my parent hat, the things I disliked were kids driving an RV and the numerous attempts at killing the twins.  From a child's perspective the book was "awesome but why did each chapter have to give away spoilers in the chapter title?"   I should also mention that the reading of Book 2 Never Say Genius has already begun.  Both books were purchased, so I guess at some point I'll be reviewing Book 2.  Overall four out of five.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Monstrum House

My library just added the first four of this series in ebook format.  So, I thought I would check out the first in the series, Locked In by Z. Fraillon.  It was Published September 1st 2011 by Hardie Grant Egmon.  Jasper Mc Phee seems to have landed himself in trouble.  When you put a banana down the tail pipe of your principals car, your going to earn yourself a ticket to a school for troubled children.  In this case, Monstrum House.  On his first day,  Jasper finds that he's changing schools already, but changing schools means boarding a plane to a school that looks like Monstrum House but with icicles.  In this new school, there are prefects who look like mini "incredible hulks" and a teacher named Stenka that seems to have it out for Jasper.  The principal informs the class they are going to learn survival skills and most importantly how to hunt monsters.  To prove his point, they are shown a Blibberwail.  And if that isn't enough, Jasper is tested by being dropped off into "The Spooky House" and must catch the monster that resides inside.  Jasper just wants to go home and thinks he might have a plan to get out but a Red Alert on campus may change everything.  Overall, I thought the illustrations were very well done and quite detailed.  Actually, I don't think there were nearly enough of them.  I do love the covers, I think they jump out at you.  There are all the kind of things that you expect in a school for Monster hunters, classes in Species identification and even face to face encounters.  I would recommend this as a read aloud for Halloween for third grade and up. Overall creepy but in a funny way, three out of five. 

Locked In

Monday, March 4, 2013

Drawing and Doodling

Stick Dog

The Doodles of Sam Dibble (Book 1)

I was introduced to both of these books at a book fair recently.  Having someone in the family who likes to doodle, especially during class, I thought these both would have some instant appeal.  

The Doodles of Sam Dibble is written by J.Press and Illustrated by Michael Kline. The story covers a 28 hour period before Sam's birthday.  Sam gets himself into a little hot water by making a promise  that famous wrestler Demo Dan is coming to his party.  He even makes a deal with Max that if Demo Dan doesn't show, then he'll give him his Halloween candy his been saving up.  I really liked the illustrations and think this will have some instant kids appeal.  To give you an idea, there are chapters titled "An Underarm Fart Doodle, A Barf Doodle, A Superhero Shark Doodle, etc."  Even Albert Einstein makes an appearance.  The story is probably best for second to third graders who aren't quite ready for Diary of the Wimpy Kid and parents who don't mind the chapter titles.   It must be doing pretty well cause Double Trouble is already out and Robots Don't Clean Toilets is due out in July.  I give it three out of five.  My copy was from the public library.  

Stick Dog is by Tom Watson.  The story begins with the narrator explaining that Stick Dog is not named for a love of sticks but instead because Tom doesn't feel he can draw very well.  Even his art teacher says that Stick Dogs don't have "right angles.  If you draw stick dogs all your dog drawings will look the same."  This didn't turn out to be true because as we'll see from the other characters in the story,  Tom is able to draw a dachshund, dalmatian, poodle and mutt that look nothing like Stick Dog.  The story is cute, Stick dog and his pals are on a quest for hamburgers.  Each of the dogs has a different idea on how to get these hamburgers except Stick dog is the only one who's plan is really gonna work.  The narration is funny and there is something about the cute puppy dog faces that I enjoyed.  Especially the one that is face on like in the letter O on the cover.  I give it four out of five stars it's the one that maintained the appeal.  My copy was from the public library.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Runaway King

 The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2)

"I had arrived early for my assassination."  Whoa, what a great opening line.  It brings up so many great questions.  Who's about to be assassinated?  Why? For what reason? Did they make it out alive? In my opinion, it's just what a great story needs.  Something that captures your interest right away, something that leaves you wondering what will happen next. At the same time that statement is so Jaron, full of humor.

It also describes how I felt while reading The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen.  I loved the twists in this story.  Just when I think I know where the plot is heading, the author puts Jaron into a whole new challenge.  Where the first book, The False Prince was a sort of  battle of wills between Sage and Conner. The Runaway King introduces new foes into the mix and the stakes for our King Jaron are much higher, not only is the Kingdom of Avenia poised to attack but now the pirates want to finish off what they started.  Jaron is left to choose between what is "unacceptable or impossible." 

 My favorite dialogue is between Erick and Jaron after Jaron retrieves his sword from Erick.    "You're incorrigible," he said.  "More than you know."  I attached the sword and its scabbard around my waist, then said, "Shall we go?"  Erick continued to look at me.  "I think I may grow to hate you before this is over."  "But you don't already and thats got to be some sort of record."  The thing I like about Jaron is that he tries to take his destiny by hand.  Even if the choices he makes are dangerous and the risks may be more than he realizes.  Through it all though he seems to know what is at stake if  he fails and gotta love him for trying.  It was nice to see Imogen, Tobias and Amarinda were in the story but it was Mott that most impressed me.  I'm not gonna say how cause you really need to read the book.  Overall giving it a five out of five.  I purchased the hardcover for my review.