Monday, August 31, 2015

YA Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Published: August 15th 2014 by Delacorte Press
Genres: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian 

Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
Source:  Purchased

"If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Everything is going to change.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
Remember. Survive. Run."

Each summer my kiddo and I pick out a series of books to read together.  This one seemed to be high up on the list.  Going in,  I really didn't know what to expect.  I had heard that this might be like the Hunger Game, and having already read that with my kiddo before, I thought we would enjoy this one too.  I am glad that we waited to start this series until all the other books came out, cause it has led my kiddo to independently pick up and read the other two.  Bonus reading!! The Maze Runner really has a lot going on that kept our interest and led to lots of conversations about what might happen next or what certain things might mean.  Where Hunger Games pits each of the characters against each other to survive, The Maze Runner is a shared attempt for survival.  Each of the characters are given a role or job to perform that collectively helps the Gladers.  One of facets of the story that is most intriguing, or frustrating, is that the story unfolds as Thomas experiences it.  Meaning that everyone's memory has been wiped when they arrive in the Glade.  There is no past history to deal with, everything is in the here and now (aside from when the new girl arrives and when they undergo a "Changing" that gives them glimmers of their past).   They don't know how they got there, why they are there, or anything from their past.  You see it as Thomas sees and experiences it.   So in that way, your left guessing as to which direction the plot is going.  Leaving plenty of twists and turns and suspenseful moments but lots of questions along the way.   I felt it lacked some of the intensity of peril that the Hunger Games had, but the Greaver's still are creepy.  Just not sure if I'll continue with the series yet or not.  

Did you read this or see the movie?  What did you think? I'm always happy to have comments.     


Sunday, August 30, 2015

MG Fantasy Review: Crown of Three by J.D. Rinehart

Published: June 2nd, 2015 by Aladdin
Genres: MG  Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library 

"In Toronia, realm of three,
A tempest has long raged.

By power's potent siren call, 

Weak mean are enslaved.

Too much virtuous blood has spilt
In this accursed age.
When the stars increase by three
The kingdom shall be saved.

Beneath these fresh celestial lights, 
Three new heirs will enter in.
They shall summon unknown power, 
They shall kill the cursed king.
With three crowns they shall ascend,
And true peace, they will bring."

So, the prophecy states that triplets will be born who will in turn kill their father and rule in his place, bringing peace to the land.  Yet, when they are born the wizard Melchior fakes their death  and  sends them off in different directions for their own protection.  

This is the first book in what is to be a series, and introduces the now thirteen year old children and their abilities.  Tarlan  has grown up in a frozen wasteland with the ability to communicate with animals, specifically three large birds who are his only friends.  Elodie  was sent to live with Lord Vicerin, who would love to put her on the throne for his own gain.  Knowing that she is King Burtan's daughter, she is the one of the three who I enjoyed reading about the least.  Her character comes off as entitled, over confident, selfish and pretty mean at times.   Her abilities aren't revealed until much later in the story.  Agulphus or "Gulph" is a contortionist with a traveling team of entertainers, he can easily make his way through almost any enclosure.  Early on he becomes a captive of the castle and is locked into a cell.   The story is told in alternating points of view and chronicles their quest to reunite and fulfill the prophecy.   There are plenty of side characters, but they aren't as detailed as the triplets.  Of the characters, Tarlan was my favorite.  He seemed to be the one who was most level headed and I enjoyed his character development the most.  Plus how cool is it to have a huge bird as your best friend and travel companion?  I enjoyed how the characters where connected by the prophecy and how they eventually come together, even if somethings that happened were unexpected.  Like some of the gory descriptions of a particular rescue come to mind, with a few decapitations.   Plus when the King is killed in the first few chapters, I was like what?  Isn't the prophecy fulfilled now?  But yeah, no, despite the cliffhanger ending, I still see myself continuing with the next book in the series when it releases in March.  

For those interested here is a link to the preview for the first five chapters at : Simon and Schuster

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Classic MG Read-along: The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts

The Girl with the Silver Eyes

This month's  pick for the Classic Read along with the Midnight Garden was The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts.    You can follow along or join in the discussion at or #tmgreadalong on Twitter.   

Published: July 1st 1980 by Aladdin
Genres: MG Science Fiction
Pages: 192 pages
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Library 
So my copy from the library was the 1980 hardcover  with the updated paperback cover being the one featured on the left.   I'm partial to the newer cover.   Katie seems to look much older in the older version to me and she kind of looks bored.  In the newer one, Katie's glasses are exactly as I pictured them when reading the story.   I also love the way the apple gleams and feel it gives her telekinetic powers a greater impact.  So this is another new to me book that I really enjoyed reading.  

1179779When Katie Welker was four, her parents got divorced and she began living with her grandmother.  But, now that her grandmother is gone, she has moved to the city to live with her mother.  Katie has always made people feel nervous, even her family.  Maybe it was her silver eyes, or the way that she never expressed any emotion on her face.  Or maybe it was because they suspected that she was peculiar and strange things always happened when she was around.  Objects would move, breezes seemed to appear out of nowhere, doors slammed and papers scattered unexpectedly.   But, people didn't know that Katie had always been able to move these things with her mind.  She'd tried to blend in, seem normal, but it can be exhausting pretending to be normal all of the time.   Now that Katie is in the city, she's faced with her mother trying to get her a sitter and a strange man who is asking a lot of questions about her.   Katie also uncovers that there were three other children born during the same time as her who might be just as peculiar as she is, and she plans to find them.

 I enjoyed reading The Girl with the Silver Eyes, I can't say that I've read many books where the main character has telekinetic powers and telepathy. Well, Carrie does come to mind, but this is no way near that book.  The writing style defiantly had a classic feel to it for me.  A sort of gentler time, where your next door neighbor (Mrs. M)  is looking in on you.  I'm not convinced that this book would work as well now as it might have back then. There isn't nearly enough action and I so wish there had been more about Katie's powers.   There are a few humorous moments where she pulls pranks on her disgruntled neighbor Mr. H.  Like when he doesn't pay the newspaper boy and I did really like Katie's ability to tell what Lobo  (Mrs. M's cat) was thinking.  There were also lots of questions that I was able to ponder with my child as I was reading. For example, Katie questions whether having telekinesis makes her life easier.  Sure it would be cool to swirl leaves around you as you walked, but does putting sugar in your tea with your mind make things easier? When would these powers be most useful?  Also, would it be better to know an animals or peoples thoughts?  Katie ponders each of these as she is learning more about whether her peculiarities are due to something that happened to her, versus due to a freak of nature. What got me the most is how alone Katie feels, not accepted by her family and having no friends.  And what it means to want to be accepted for who you are.  Although, I was happy for Katie when she finally connected with the other children, I couldn't help feeling like the ending wasn't completely resolved for me.    

Were there ever any sequels?  Have you ever read this before?  Feel free to leave a comment.  


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Happy Belated Book Blog-versary

Image result for happy belated image free

To my little ol' blog, so sorry that I missed your special day (August 21st) it has been a wonderful three years together sharing our love of Middle Grade books.  Happy Reading! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

YA/Adult Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

22544764“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Published: May 19th 2015 by Del Rey
Genres: YA/Adult
Pages: 438 pages
Format: Hardcover
Source:  Purchased

I first heard of Uprooted while reading a review at The Midnight Garden.  Both Layla and Kim added this to their "all time favorites" shelves, so I suspected that this would be a book that I would enjoy as well.  I wasn't disappointed.  The first two things that grabbed me about this book were the cover, which is gorgeous and that introduction up there at the top.  Oh my goodness, doesn't it just grab at you with its hints of magic and danger?  

Once again it was time for the Dragon to come down from his tower and select one girl to join him.  Kasia was most likely to be the one picked this year.  The Dragon always picks the most special girl, the most beautiful and smart, and Kasia was all of those things.  Agnieszka has always hated the Dragon,  for he is the one who will be taking her best friend away from her.  But, the Dragon recognizes something in Agnieszka that she never knew she had, magic, and to everyone's surprise she is the one who is selected this year.  Without even a backward glance, she is whisked away to his tower.  Agnieszka is initially in shock and confused as to why The Dragon picked her and not Kasia.  Things get off to a very bumpy beginning in their relationship and training Agnieszka's magical powers will be challenging as well.  

I really enjoyed all the characters in the story.  At first you really feel for Agnieszka being locked up in a tower with The Dragon and looking down at your village below.  Feels kind of like Beauty and the Beast.  She gets thrown into this life that she never expected to have, Kasia was supposed to be picked.  She never prepared herself for the idea that she would have to leave her parents.  But, as The Dragon and her begin to have success in her learning her magical abilities, she  grows and becomes stronger and more confident.  I like this about her.  I also really enjoyed The Dragon, Sarkan.  At first I really thought he was a jerk to Agnieszka, but then he began to grow on me.  He's such a creature of habit that Agnieszka makes him rethink what is important and he too begins to change.   I love how their relationship develops slowly across the book and this one line in which Agnieszka is describing Sarkan, I just love the beauty of this prose

  "Thank you -Sarkan.  His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales.  He eyed me and said stiffly, Don't land yourself into a boiling-pot, and as difficult as you may find it, try and present a respectable appearance." 

 Then there is the forest, which The Dragon has been protecting the villagers from for years.  It is down right creepy and menacing, but you'll have to read the book to understand.  There is just so much to love about this story, highly recommend it.   

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Classic Read-along Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell

trixie belden


I'm happy to be back blogging again after a few weeks of projects around the house.  July was probably not the best month for all of these jobs outside, but at least things are getting spruced up really nice.  

This month's  pick for the Classic Read along with the Midnight Garden was Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion.  You can follow along or join in the discussion at or #tmgreadalong on Twitter.     
 From Goodreads:  "Trixie’s summer is going to be sooo boring with her two older brothers away at camp. But then a millionaire’s daughter moves into the next-door mansion, an old miser hides a fortune in his decrepit house, and a runaway kid starts hiding out in Sleepyside!"   
My Thoughts:

I had never heard of this series before, so I was happy to see it was selected.  I'm always up for a re-read, but it's also nice to see the books that I might have missed out on growing up. The Trixie Belden series was written sometime in the 1940's, it seems to have had great popularity during that time as there are something like thirty-eight books in the series.   It has that classic charm to it that I like.  The kind of book where the kids can go out to play, the doors are left unlocked and parents give their kids chores to do in order to make spending money to save up for a horse (yeah Trixie wants a horse).  It's funny, but as I was reading Trixie and Honey used some of the same superstitions that I had growing up, don't go swimming after you've just eaten, if you're ever bitten by a copperhead be sure to suck out the venom and bad things always happen in threes.  Anyone else hear these growing up?  I've always wondered about the whether the swimming one really was true.   

I'm not sure what I expected The Secret of the Mansion to be about,  maybe a book written somewhat like the Nancy Drew series with some mystery to solve.  There was a little mystery that begins after Trixie's dad ends up taking their grumpy neighbor to the hospital.  But, the mystery mostly centers on where their grumpy neighbor might have hidden his fortune.  It's not quite the same kind of mystery that you would find in a Nancy Drew novel.  It also seems to be geared toward a younger audience than the Nancy Drew books.   Not to say that I didn't enjoy it,  because I really did,  I really think I would have loved reading Trixie as a kid.  I was always into adventures, and Trixie sure does seem to get herself in plenty of predicaments.   

Trixie's older brothers are away at camp, so we don't really get to meet them in this book, but Trixie does have a younger brother who provides for some exciting moments.  He's so adorably cute too.  Love how he still has that baby language going for him too.  "I'm thirsty and hung-gry! Holp!"  Now that a new girl (Honey) has moved in the Manor House up the way, Trixie is pretty excited that she will have someone her age to spend her summer with.  Especially, since Honey has horses and  promised to teach her how to ride, if Trixie will teach her how to ride a bicycle. The two quickly become inseparable.  It really is a sweet friendship that I suspect will continue in further books.  Somehow, Trixie and Honey reminded me of reading Heidi. Honey comes from a rich family and at the beginning of the book she is rather frail, kind of like Clara was until she met Heidi.  It isn't until Trixie begins spending time with Honey that she begins to take more risks and really begins to thrive and develop a confidence in herself.   I just couldn't help thinking about how Heidi was instrumental in helping Clara, it had that sort of feel to it for me.   

The actual mystery comes to light as the two girls sneak over to the Belden's neighbors house, there they find Jim, the great-nephew of their neighbor.  After his stepfather treats him badly, he runs away to stay with his great-uncle, but now that he is in the hospital, he really has no place else to go.  Trixie and Holly vow to find a way to help Jim escape his mean stepfather, and they think the best plan is to try to find his great-uncle's hidden money.  It's not all searching around the house though.  There are plenty of picnics, sneaking food over to Jim, horseback and canoe rides, and lovely sleepovers, which just add to the charm of the story.  Overall, this was a great introduction to Trixie Belden and hopefully someday I will get the chance to pickup another book in the series to read.  

                        Have you read any of the Trixie Belden mysteries?