Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham

Level UpLevel Up is a graphic novel that tells the story of a young man trying to live up to his deceased father's expectations for his life, when he really just wants to play video games. I loved how the story was told as if it was a video game itself, with the chapters portrayed as "levels." I give it a B.

The Magic Thief (Magic Thief #1) by Sarah Prineas

Stolen (Magic Thief, #1)
When Conn attempts to pick the pocket of a wizard, he never imagined the changes that would occur in his life. The wizard, Nevery Flinglas, takes Conn as an apprentice. Thrust into the world of the wizards, Conn soon learns of a threat to the town's supply of magic and his own suspicions lead him into danger.

The first of a trilogy, The Magic Thief is a good fantasy/adventure for intermediate grade levels. With the main theme dealing with good vs. evil, the reader is only positive of one character's stand. Plenty suspenseful and action-packed, it will appeal to both boys and girls, regular readers of fantasy and those not as familiar with fantasy. I give it a B.

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized TrophyWhen people first meet Lamar they think he must play basketball or at least football, but no -- Lamar bowls. He's a fabulous bowler too. Too bad his success at the bowling alley is overshadowed by his brother's accomplishments on the basketball court. But Lamar isn't going to let that get him down. There's a spot on the mantle reserved for his first trophy and he's aiming to succeed at the bowling alley, especially when he learns his idol, pro bowler Bubba Sanders is coming to town. When one of Lamar's pranks goes spectacularly wrong, he must try and repair the damage and get back in the good graces of his friends and family before Bubba arrives.

Crystal Allen is a refreshing new voice in children's literature. I adore these characters and read this book in no time. I loved how Lamar was a bowler. He could have excelled in any sport or activity other than basketball and this book would have worked, but the bowling just made it so unique. Lamar's relationship with his best friend, Sergio, seems real, with all the highs and lows friends go through. I can't wait to get some of my kids' reaction to this story. It's an A book for me.

Life Cycles (Living Processes) by Richard Spilsbury

Life Cycles (Living Processes)

As part of the Living Processes series, Life Cycles delivers what it advertises. It clearly outlines life cycles of different types of animals. The layout makes it easy to read and is pleasing to view with the photos and illustrations. Includes glossary and index.I give it a B.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Templar's Gifts (The Book of Tormod #2) by Kat Black

A Templar's Gifts (The Book Of Tormod)

An action-adventure set in the Middle Ages, Tormod has returned home after the death of Alexander, the Knight's Templar to whom he'd been apprenticed. We learn that Tormod is gifted with visions that lead him to leave home once again in order to elude the men searching for him.
Obviously, this is the second book in a series, because many references were made to events and characters from the first tale. I would recommend reading book one before A Templar's Gifts. You could still read this one and not find it confusing, but you would miss out on much. B rating.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Gathering (Darkness Rising #1) by Kelley Armstrong

The Gathering (Darkness Rising, #1)
Maya lives with her parents in the wildlife park just outside the small town of Salmon Creek, which is owned and operated by the St. Cloud Corporation. Maya thinks it's ideal that her dad is the park ranger, since she gets to live there in the park and be that much closer to nature. You see, she's always felt more alive when she's in nature and has a special connection to animals. When a new boy comes to town, she learns more about her paw print birthmark and a possible reason for her connections. Add to that Maya's best friend's drowning death, a mysterious person in town asking questions, several cougar encounters, and the threat of wildfire and you can tell that Maya has plenty to keep her busy.

Be aware that this is the first book in what I assume will be a series. Many questions are left unanswered and the story ends with a major cliff-hanger. That said, I enjoyed the story quite a bit. Maya wheedled her way under my skin, and wouldn't you know, I want to find out more about her. Even though some events in the story were predictable, I'm still curious to know what exactly is going on at Salmon Creek with the St. Cloud Corporation and how it relates to Maya's past. (I do have my suspicions!) Although it has a totally different vibe, I'd say any fan of Stiefvater's Shiver will find lots to like in The Gathering. B rating

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Score! : The Action and Artistry of Hockey's Magnificent Moment by Mark Stewart and Mike Kennedy

Score is a history of scoring in the game of hockey. It describes different kinds of shots, the stars of the sport throughout the years and the most memorable shots. 
Not knowing much about hockey, I found it most informative and interesting. There are plenty of pictures, but not an overabundance of them and they don't distract from the information in the text. Hockey fans and newbies like me will find much of interest here. B rating.

The Doomsday Box by Herbie Brennan (Shadow Project #2)

Opal, Michael, and Danny return in another Shadow Project adventure. This one adds time travel to their astral projection abilities and a new member is added, Fuchsia, who has her own special abilities. The crew partners with the CIA to try and prevent a modern day outbreak of the black plague. The mission sends them back in time to the Soviet Union in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, where they must outwit the KGB and a mole in the CIA to prevent nuclear war.

This will appeal to fans of teen spy adventures, like the Alex Rider or CHERUB series. The kids are sent off on their mission almost immediately and the reader is immersed into non-stop action. I was uncomfortable with the nonchalant way the group acted while in the USSR. I mean, if they are trying not to be noticed, why yell out in English in Red Square? Oh well, it probably will bother me more than other readers. I loved the Epilogue, as it's such a perfect ending. I just wish the end of the mission didn't seem so rushed. I wanted more explanation and I wasn't totally satisfied with how the case was completed. I can't really say much more without spoilers. Overall, a satisfactory read and I know that fans of the first Shadow Project book will be pleased with this one. B- rating

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named HamletHamlet Kennedy just wants to fit in. Eighth grade is hard enough without being in the spotlight, but thanks to a genius little sister and her Shakespearean professor parents that's exactly where she finds herself. Okay, it's weird enough having to live with a name like Hamlet, but how would you like to have a class with your seven-year-old sister? When Hamlet's English and History teachers decide to do a 'Salute to Shakespeare' unit, Hamlet just knows her parents will parade through her school in period costumes and embarrass her further.

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet is all about fitting in, or rather, not standing out. Many a middle school student spends three years trying to be just like everyone else. For Hamlet, there's no way she can do it. Having her little sister in the same school, much less the same class is a major reason. I loved how she desperately tries to seem like her neighbor, while knowing that there's no way she can. Her cringe of embarrassment at having her classmates actually see her mother's odd dress is exactly how many eighth graders feel about their parents. Most parents aren't as exaggeratedly embarrassing as Hamlet's, but I know most middle schoolers feel exactly the same way as Hamlet about their own parents. How Hamlet resolves her feelings and eventually embraces her uniqueness will have readers cheering.

A fun read about the highs and lows of being in middle school, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet will be a must read for anyone who dreams of just fitting in. I give it a B+.