Saturday, December 27, 2008

Witches' Children

Witches' Children is by Patricia Clapp. There have been hundreds of books written over the years about the Salem Witch Trials, but this is the first I have ever read written from the point of view of one of the children involved. This is the tale of Mary Warren, the bound servant of John and Elizabeth Proctor. Mary explains how she became involved with the other girls in the tale and how what started as an adolescent prank spiraled out of control. It is a griping tale of mass hysteria, power hungry adults, and attention starved teenagers. As the story progresses Mary honestly confronts the girls, herself, what she has been a party to, and the heartbreaking sorrow it has caused. It is a realistic and painful story, but one I think needed to be told.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Sword of Shannara

The Sword of Shannara is by Terry Brooks. The first of the Shannara books is a fantasy with much of the depth of The Lord of the Rings. While Brooks is no Tolkien, his story is magnificent. One day the mysterious Druid, Allanon, arrives in Shady Vale and informs the orphan Shea Ohmsford that he is the missing, and only, heir of Jerle Shannara who alone can save the world from the evil Warlock Lord. Shea and his half-brother Flick flee their home to escape the dreaded Skull Bearers seeking to destroy the missing heir of Shannara and the adventure is on. Filled with suspense, deadly battles against overwhelming odds, betrayal, honor, friendship, and soul searching moments of personal discovery this is a great tale for fantasy adventure lovers.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Midnight Predator

Midnight Predator is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. This is the fourth book in the Den of Shadows series, and is another stellar tale from the author. It combines just the right amount of suspense, betrayal, and romance. Turquoise and Ravyn are rival vampire hunters. They are hired by a witch to go undercover in a vampire stronghold to kill the evil vampiress Jeshickah. They allow themselves to be sold as slaves into Midnight, which is run by the half vampire/half shape shifter known as Jaguar. Will they succeed in their mission or only in getting themselves killed? Will Turquoise be able to come to grips with her past and discover the path to her future? A must read for fans of Atwater-Rhodes.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Many Stones

Many Stones is by Carolyn Coman. A strange and somewhat depressing character study of a young girl and her relationship with her estranged father. Berry's sister Laura was murdered in South Africa and she and her father are flying there over a year later to dedicate a memorial in her honor. Will they be able to share their grief and rekindle their own relationship? Will Berry be able to sort out her own tangled feelings about Laura's death and the long silence between she and her father? The shared interests Laura had with their father always kept Berry on the outside. Can she learn to cope with her grief, not only regarding Laura's murder, but with her father's desertion? A poignant tale, the ending leaves you wondering whether either Berry or her father have really learned anything about themselves or each other. The workings of Berry's mind are sometimes hard to sort out, but this is only natural under the circumstances. How do you work through this kind of grief and uncertainty?

Ratings: 9th grade - 7 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Vampire Mountain

Vampire Mountain is by Darren Shan. The fourth book in the Cirque Du Freak series finds Darren and Mr. Crepsley on their way to Vampire Mountain to present Darren to the Vampire Princes. Mr. Tiny sends two of his Little People along with a message for the Vampire Princes that causes quite a stir. Will Darren be accepted by the vampires or will he be rejected? Will the vampires and vampaneze go to war and what will his part in this be? Another creepy and stirring installment in the series. True fans will not want to wait to read the next book and discover what happens.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (some mild violence).

The White Giraffe

The White Giraffe is by Lauren St. John. Eleven-year-old Martine goes to live with her grandmother on a game preserve in South Africa after the death of her parents in a house fire. Her grandmother doesn't seem to want her and she doesn't fit in at school. But Grace, a local native, tells her she has the "gift" and her coming has been foretold by the ancestors. Then Martine discovers a rare white giraffe and everything begins to change for her. But there are problems as well, who killed her grandfather? Who is poaching animals from the preserve? Are they after her giraffe? A tender story of the love of a child and an animal. The book makes you want to travel to Africa and check out the animals for yourself. A great story.


Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror

MEG: A Novel of Deep Terror is by Steve Alten. Yes it's predictable and cliched, but it is still a fun read. There is enough blood and guts for adventure and horror fans and enough real science to snag the more nerdy among us. Ex-sub pilot, and now paleontologist, Jonas Taylor thought he saw a shark, a really BIG shark, in the Mariana Trench. He's spent the years since trying to prove the megalodon might still exist in deep waters. Back in the Challenger Deep Trench to help a friend discover why his earthquake sensors have stopped working he runs into the living proof that his theories are correct. And you guessed it, it's all blood, guts, and destruction on a massive scale from there. The ending really stretches credibility, but it's a fun way to spend a couple of hours if you enjoy death and gore aplenty.

Ratings: 10th grade - 7 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content).

Secret of the Spotted Shell

Secret of the Spotted Shell is by Phyllis A. Whitney. One of Whitney's many mysteries for young readers, this is a charming tale of suspense, mystery, and a family's need to stick together. Twelve-year-old Wendy is sent to live on St. Thomas with distant relatives while her father is building a bridge in Portugal. She arrives to discover that tragedy has struck her new family and the welcome she expected may not be forthcoming. She also discovers a mystery surrounding a spotted shell that everyone seems to want. Can she discover the secret of the spotted shell? Will she ever be a part of this new family? Will they ever accept her or will she once again have to move somewhere else? A great story, especially if you love Whitney. Her work is as good for young readers as it is for adults.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Avalon High

Avalon High is by Meg Cabot. Cabot, who is also the author of The Princess Diaries, does a wonderful job of combining modern suspense and romance with the history of the Arthurian legends. Of course, it doesn't hurt that she quotes liberally from Miss D's favorite poem The Lady of Shallot by Alfred, Lord Tennyson - and yes I can hear all of my students past and present groaning! Ellie comes to Avalon High and discovers that while it seems normal on the surface there are strange events swirling around several students, including herself. Is the star quarterback really the reincarnation of King Arthur? Are his best friend, Lance, and his girlfriend, Jennifer, cheating behind his back? Is his weird step-brother Marco really Mordred? And what about her own part in this Arthurian drama? A thoroughly enjoyable tale of romance, betrayal, and suspense, and a great introduction to the Arthurian legends. And did I mention there's Tennyson - OK, OK!

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Monkey

Monkey is by Jeff Stone. The second in The Five Ancestors saga continues the tale of the young Cangzhen monks as they struggle to escape the evil Ying and his soldiers and protect the four Dragon scrolls. This tale is told from the point of view of eleven-year-old Malao the master of the Monkey style of king fu. As each book in the series progresses you find out more about the characters' past and piece together the puzzle along with them. This tale is full of excitement, humor, the importance of family, good vs. evil, and of course kung fu. Boys will love this series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Westing Game

The Westing Game is by Ellen Raskin. An entertaining mystery involving 16 bizarre characters, a rich old man, his $200 million dollar estate, and a game he wants to play with his 16 heirs. Was Samuel Westing murdered by one of the heirs? If so, by which one? The judge? The deli owner? The owner of the Chinese restaurant or his wife? The door man or the cleaning lady? Or one of the other strange and amusing characters found in this delightful tale? This tale is reminiscent of Christie's And Then There Were None and Clue on steroids. A little slow in places, but a fun read. Good luck solving the puzzle yourself.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reef of Death

Reef of Death is by Paul Zindel. When P.C. McPhee goes to Australia to spend time with his uncle and help him run his tourist centered diving business he never expects to become involved in a life or death mystery. Then his uncle is killed by a sea monster and he must help an Aboriginal girl find buried treasure and save her tribe while avoiding evil scientists and the horrifying sea creature. A fun read, even if it is a little darker than some of Zindel's works. Boys and girls alike with enjoy reading about P.C., Maruul, and Wally Wallygong.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10 - V (some violence).

Forest

Forest is by Janet Taylor Lisle. This is the story of two towns that exist side by side, or rather above and below each other. There is Lower Forest inhabited by people and Upper Forest inhabited by mink-tailed squirrels. These two groups have ignored each other for years until Amber Padgett and her family intrude in Upper Forest and are seen by Woodbine and the other squirrels. Misunderstandings abound and soon the two Forests are at war. Can Amber stop the fighting before it starts and restore peaceful co-existence between the two towns? A delightfully fun and quick read.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Icefire

Icefire is by Chris D'Lacey. In this sequel to The Fire Within, David must uncover the secret of the clay dragons to save Liz and Lucy from the evil clutches of the sibyl Gwilanna. He must discover the link between the Arctic polar bears and the fire of the last dragon Gawain. He must also deal with two girlfriends, a strange visiting college professor, a white hedgehog, a pushy publisher, and Mr. Bacon next door. An enticing sequel, sure to make you want to read more of this series. It's a very fun read even with the global warming, save the polar bears political correctness. A little more intense than the first book.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Pearl of the Soul of the World

The Pearl of the Soul of the World is by Meredith Ann Pierce. This is the concluding book in the Darkangel Trilogy. Aeriel has gathered the army Prince Irrylath and his brothers will need to battle the White Witch. She has found the ancient Ravenna and been given a pearl that holds the magical power to save her world. She must now come face to face with the White Witch and defeat her. Can she unlock the power of the pearl, save her world, and find her destiny? Not the ending I would have liked, but realistic and powerful. True love is about sacrifice and this is the lesson Aeriel must learn.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Wild Wood

The Wild Wood is by Charles De Lint. Eithnie lives in the Canadian woods near Ottawa. She is a painter who is struggling to find the lost passion in her art. She returns to the woods for inspiration and discovers Faerie instead. Strange creatures began to creep into her sketches and then into her dreams and then into her life. The world of Faerie is crying out to her for help, but what can she do? What is it they want her to remember? Can she save their world and what will happen to her world if she does? One of De Lint's early masterpieces finally back in print. It is magical and yet mildly frightening at the same time. These aren't your charming little English flower fairies.

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Incantation

Incantation is by Alice Hoffman. A powerful tale of the persecution of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. Estrella de Madrigal does not know her family is part of a group of secretly practicing Jews. She doesn't realize that she is different from those around her. Then her life is shattered by the jealousy and hate of the Spanish Inquisition. Will she lose everything? Will she stay true to who she is? A more mature Hoffman book, but very thought provoking and powerful.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (some violent content).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blood Rites

Blood Rites is by Jim Butcher. The sixth installment in the Dresden Files series. Harry faces off against the White and Black Courts this time. This book really changes things in the series. Harry finds that many things he has always believed are not what they seem; and he is not as safe from his past as he might have thought. He is set up in this one for a real crisis of faith in books to come. Another great story filled with Butcher's incredibly dark plots and Harry's intensely sarcastic sense of humor. A pivotal entry in the series.

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fearless Fourteen

Fearless Fourteen is by Janet Evanovich. The next installment in the saga of Stephanie Plum bounty hunter. Stephanie is working for Rangeman to help Ranger with security for a celebrity who is in town for a concert - and boy is she a piece of work! She is also looking for one of Morelli's distant cousins who has disappeared and she and Morelli are playing mom and dad to the missing woman's teenage son - oooh boy! She is also on the hunt for $9 million missing from a ten-year-old bank robbery. All in all this makes for a typically roller coaster good time for readers, if not for Stephanie.


Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Gathering of Gargoyles

A Gathering of Gargoyles is by Meredith Ann Pierce. This is the second book in the Darkangel trilogy. Aeriel has freed her Darkangel from his curse, but the White Witch is far from defeated. Aeriel must now leave Irrylath and continue her quest to overcome the witch and the other darkangels. She has been given another riddle to solve and finds friends and enemies along the way. This is a fascinating trilogy and quite an enjoyable read. It is darker than Twilight, but without any problematic content.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Crystal Prison

The Crystal Prison is by Robin Jarvis. The second book in the Deptford Mice trilogy is darker and even more exciting than the first. A wonderful tale of the power of evil and redemption. Audrey, Arthur, and Twit are commanded by the Starwife to take Madame Akkikuyu to Twit's home of Fennywolde. But evil comes with them and affects everyone in the field. Mice are murdered, evil magic abounds, and the mice struggle to find the source of all their troubles. But have they found the real culprit? A great sequel, can't wait to read the third and final book.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Death Masks

Death Masks is by Jim Butcher. Book five in the saga of Harry Dresden, wizard extraordinaire. Harry is hunting for the missing Shroud of Turin for the Catholic church. He is being hounded by hit men, demons, and vampires; and if that isn't enough Susan has returned. Will he fight a duel with a Red Court warlord to end the war? Will he win if he does? Will he and Susan get back together? Oh, and did I mention the headless handless corpse Murphy wants him to look at. This is a darker tale than the previous ones and has more sex in it - although it is non-graphic. Still a great read!

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Skeleton Key

Skeleton Key is by Anthony Horowitz. The third book in the Alex Rider series. Alex has fallen afoul of a Chinese Triad and they are out to kill him. MI6 loans him to the CIA to get him out of the country until they can negotiate with the assassins. He ends up in Cuba checking out an ex-Russian general who the CIA thinks may have just purchased a nuclear bomb. Can Alex save the world again? Another exciting installment in the series. If you love Bond, you will adore Alex Rider.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lean Mean Thirteen

Lean Mean Thirteen is by Janet Evanovich. The next installment in the saga of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. Stephanie's ex, that two-timing weasel lawyer Dickie Orr, is missing and Stephanie is blamed for his murder. Ranger thinks Dickie was involved in something shady and, no surprise, he was. Now she and Ranger try to find Dickie while Joyce Barnhardt tries to find Stephanie. Morelli again finds himself in the unenviable position of having to trust Ranger to take care of Stephanie. Another great installment.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Snakecharm

Snakecharm is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. This is the second book in the Kiesha'Ra series. This fascinating tale of palace intrigue and political strategy is told from Zane's point of view. He and Danica struggle to keep the fragile peace between the avians and serpiente. When Danica becomes pregnant no one seems willing to accept a mixed blood heir to either throne. Then a messenger arrives from the falcon court to foster even more political nightmares. A great second book in what started out to be a fascinating series. Atwater-Rhodes gets better and better with age and experience.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Coffin Club

The Coffin Club is by Ellen Schreiber. The fifth book in the Vampire Kisses series finds Raven back at The Coffin Club. She has returned to Hipsterville to visit her Aunt Libby and to find Alexander who has not returned as soon as he promised from delivering Valentine to his family. She finds Alexander and she also discovers that The Coffin Club has changed. It's not just a club for goth kids anymore; there is an underground club for real vampires. Yeah, ah but all is not well in paradise. There are two factions fighting for control of the club; one wishes it to remain a secret gathering place for vampires and the other wants to make a stand and out their kind to humans - and Raven is caught in the middle. Will someone else turn her before Alexander gets the chance? Another cool entry in this "Twilight Light" series, although this one is darker than the others.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Dark Chances

Dark Chances is by Allan Gilbreath. The sequel to Galen finds Brenda still angry even though it's been two years since Galen turned her. She is struggling to find her place in the world and to adjust to what she has become. Along the way she discovers there are others like her and has to wonder if she is the predator or the prey. She meets two human bounty hunters led by two vampires who are seeking a rogue vampire who is turning people willy nilly. Will she find a "family" or will she be a victim of the others? This book flows better than the first novel and the action is all a vampire lover could wish for. The human bounty hunters, John and Scott, are a hoot.

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10 - S (non-graphic sexual content) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Plum Lucky

Plum Lucky is by Janet Evanovich. The third Between-the-Numbers novella is set around St. Patrick's Day. Grandma Mazur finds a bag of money lost by a guy who thinks he's a leprechaun and decides to go to Atlantic City and play the slots. It turns out the money was stolen from the mob and not only are they after the thief so is Diesel. Another amusing fill in between the really meaty stories.

Ratings: 11th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Plum Lovin'

Plum Lovin' is by Janet Evanovich. The second Between-the-Numbers novella finds Stephanie struggling through Valentine's Day. Diesel is back and both Morelli and Ranger are out of town. Diesel knows the whereabouts of her latest FTA but he won't share the information unless Steph helps him by playing matchmaker to a whole host of very un-matchable Jersey-ites, among whom is Albert Kloughn. While these novellas are not as good as the regular novels; they are mildly entertaining.

Ratings: 11th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hawksong

Hawksong is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. This is the first book in Atwater-Rhodes' new series called The Kiesha'Ra. The author has left vampires behind and moved on to create a world of shape shifters. The avians and the serpiente have been at war so long no one remembers what started the war anymore. In a fantasy Romeo and Juliet would be proud of the two young heirs to their respective thrones decide to end the war by pair bonding and joining the two royal families. Can centuries of hatred and mistrust be undone overnight? Can their union bring peace to their war torn lands? Can Danika and Zane find love in a relationship where trust is hard to come by? A great new series from a fabulous young writer. Can't wait for the next volume.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Fire Within

The Fire Within is by Chris D'Lacey. The first in The Dragon series begins when David moves in with the Pennykettle's. He only wants a cheap room near college but finds more than he bargains for; a potter who makes clay dragons that come to life, her 11-year-old daughter who is a never ending source of trouble, a wacky squirrel hating neighbor, and a motley collection of animals. David begins to write a story for Lucy's 12th birthday, but is the story fact or fiction? A great tale filled with laughter and tears. Where can I get my own special dragon?

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Tiger

Tiger is by Jeff Stone. The first book in Stone's series entitled The Five Ancestors. This is the story of five young monks who are masters of various types of kung fu. When their temple is raided by a monk who was once their brother they are left alone. The Grandmaster and their brother monks are dead; the secret scrolls of the temple have been stolen; and the five young masters are unsure what to do next. This appears to be the start of a great series that boys will enjoy very much. It combines action, adventure, mystery, and kung fu. What more could a guy want?

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Twelve Sharp

Twelve Sharp is by Janet Evanovich. This is probably my favorite book in the series to date. It is full of suspense and drama and, of course, all the craziness you have come to expect from the life of Stephanie Plum. Ranger's daughter has been kidnapped and he is the prime suspect. He needs Stephanie's help to find her so he moves into Stephanie's apartment. Morelli, not liking the arrangement, moves in as well - no testosterone overload there huh! The drama is captivating and the ending leaves you breathless. Another thoroughly enjoyable read.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Eleven on Top

Eleven on Top is by Janet Evanovich. The 11th in the outstanding Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie has had enough! She's rolled around in garbage for the last time. She quits; her bounty hunting days are over. She needs a real job. Except...she's fired from the button factory, Lula gets into a shoot out with her boss at the dry cleaners, and she burns down Cluck-in-a-Bucket. That leaves...Ranger. While she struggles with real employment she's being stalked by a killer who runs Morelli over with his car. Another great installment. You gotta love Plum!

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - V (violence).

The Darkangel

The Darkangel is by Meredith Ann Pierce. This is the first book in the Darkangel trilogy. A sweeping science fiction/fantasy set in a distant time and place. Aeriel has been kidnapped by the Darkangel, a vampyre who not only drinks blood, but souls. He brings her to his castle to serve his thirteen "brides", soulless wraiths he keeps there. When he finds his 14th bride he will come into his full powers and he, his 6 full vampyre brothers, and witch mother will rule the world. Aeriel, with the help of a creature called the Duarough, sets out to destroy the Darkangel and free the brides. Can she succeed? Does she really want to? A extremely interesting detour from standard vampyre fare and a moving tribute to the power of love and mercy.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ten Big Ones

Ten Big Ones is by Janet Evanovich. The tenth in the Stephanie Plum series is another winner. OMG Stephanie is in deep this time. She has run afoul of the Slayers, a murderous Trenton street gang, who have hired a contract killer to take her out. Not wanting to endanger either her family or Morelli (with whom she is living - again), she decides to move into - the "Bat Cave". How does she find Ranger's hidden lair? What happens if he comes home while she's there? What will Morelli say? But more importantly, where can she buy some of Ranger's shower gel? Another laugh-a-minute roller coaster through the life of Stephanie Plum, her lunatic family, her strange friends, and her sexy boyfriends. Another gem!

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence) - S (non-graphic sexual content).

The Silver Wolf

The Silver Wolf is by Alice Borchardt. This is the first book in the Legends of the Wolves trilogy. Borchardt, the sister of vampire maven Anne Rice, spins an amazingly descriptive tale set in the waning years of the Roman Empire as Charles struggles to become Charlemagne and Hadrian struggles to remain pope. Regeane is a shape shifter, woman and wolf, cursed and blessed, hunter and hunted. Distantly related to Charlemagne she is betrothed to a barbarian chieftain she has never seen to secure a mountain pass needed to keep Charlemagne on the throne and Hadrian on the seat of Peter. Caught up in events beyond her control she struggles to retain her humanity in a world almost totally bereft of human decency. Never have I read a tale so full of plots within plots within plots. It graphically describes the poverty, cruelty, and barbarism of the Dark Ages and the struggles of a young woman to find freedom, and perhaps love. The tale starts slowly; but if you stay with it through Borchardt's intense description you will find a satisfying tale filled with suspense, violence, and hope.

Ratings: 11th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual content) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content).

Montmorency On the Rocks: Doctor, Aristocrat, Murderer?

Montmorency On the Rocks: Doctor, Aristocrat, Murderer? is by Eleanor Updale. The second book in the Montmorency series is better than the first. Five years have passed since Montmorency made his way out of the sewers of London. Montmorency and his friends, Lord George Fox-Selwyn and Dr. Farcett reunite to solve a series of London bombings and the mysterious deaths of children on a remote Scottish island. Montmorency is also battling a personal problem that may lead to his downfall. Will he come clean with his friends about his past? Will he survive this suspenseful tale of murder, espionage, and vengeance?

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Heat

Heat is by Mike Lupica. This is the story of Michael Arroyo, a Cuban refugee. His father died of a heart attack and he and his 17-year-old brother Carlos are trying to make it on their own. He is the star pitcher on his Little League team bound for the playoffs, but he needs a birth certificate to play. Can he and Carlos evade immigration and Children's Services, get the birth certificate, and manage to make enough money to live? Will Michael realize his dream of pitching in the "big game"? A satisfying, if somewhat predictable, story of triumph in the face of overwhelming odds. Boys will love this story because of the baseball angle.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Girls

The Girls is by Amy Goldman Koss. This is the story of five girls and their struggle with popularity, friendship, and a bully. Each chapter in this book is told by one of the five girls from her individual point of view. You really get a good look into the inner workings of why these girls continue their relationship with a popular, but mean, little snot. The look into the mental processes involved in "the clique" is fascinating. A great story of young girls.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Night's Touch

Night's Touch is by Amanda Ashley. The sequel to Night's Kiss, Roshan and Brenna DeLongpre struggle with their adopted daughter Cara. Now twenty-two she still doesn't know her parents are vampires; then she meets Vince Cordova and falls head-over-heels in love. One problem, Vince is a vampire too. She is also being courted by Anton Bouchard the son of her parents' worst enemy. Will Cara be able to handle the truth about her parents and Vince? Will she survive Anton's advances? Will love win out? Another great tale from Amanda Ashley.

Ratings: 12th grade - 8 out of 10 - MR (mild romance) - MP (mild profanity).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Crocodile on the Sandbank is by Elizabeth Peters. The first book in the Amelia Peabody Mystery series. Agatha Christie fans have found a new heroine. Amelia Peabody is the perfect Victorian combination of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Amelia is a wealthy British woman, a perfect product of her time, who decides to take a trip to Egypt. While in Italy she rescues a younger Brit named Evelyn who has been abandoned by her scoundrel lover. Once they arrive in Egypt they meet the handsome, but irritating, Radcliffe Emerson and his brother Walter. As they help them with their excavation they encounter a walking mummy. However being British, superstition is nonexistent in her blood and Miss Amelia seeks to discover the real identity of the mummy and its sinister purpose. The description of Victorian Era Egypt is absolutely beautiful. The story starts a little slowly, but picks up once the ladies reach the dig. A great story. I hope the series is as good.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

To The Nines

To The Nines is by Janet Evanovich. The 9th installment in the Stephanie Plum series. This is one of my favorite stories in the series, except for the weird stint in Las Vegas - "Yo Steph, stay in Jersey where you belong." The killer in this one is really creepy and psycho which makes for lots of tension between Stephanie and the two men in her life as they try to keep her alive. It all starts when she goes after Samuel Singh, a Indian on a visa bond who disappears with his girlfriend's cockapoo, Boo. To make matters more complicated, Stephanie's sister is having a baby, and Joe's Grandma Bella is having visions, again.

Ratings: 11th grade - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence) - S (non-graphic sexual content).

Visions of Sugar Plums

Visions of Sugar Plums is by Janet Evanovich. The first of the "Between-the-Numbers" novels. This book fits between books 8 & 9 of the regular series. It's only five days before Christmas and Stephanie hasn't even started her shopping. She's busy trying to find Sandy Claws, I know it's really corny. While honestly not my favorite Stephanie adventure, it is worth the read for the "attack of the killer elves" scene. Think of this as It's a Wonderful Life Stephanie Plum style.

Ratings: 11th grade - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual content) - V (violence).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hard Eight

Hard Eight is by Janet Evanovich. Number eight in the Stephanie Plum saga, this is the most thrilling ride yet. Mabel lives next door to Stephanie's parents and her granddaughter and great-granddaughter are missing. She put up her house for her granddaughter's custody bond when Evelyn divorced her jerk husband Steven. Mabel asks Stephanie to help her find Evelyn and Annie and save her home. Before the case is solved she's been involved in three (that's right three) car bombings, a kidnapping, an attempted kidnapping, snakes in her apartment, spiders in her car, a dead guy on her sofa, and an attack by a killer rabbit. Throw in Ranger, Morelli, and some killer geese and Stephanie is having a really bad week.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - V (violence) - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shattered Mirror

Shattered Mirror is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. The 3rd in the Den of Shadows series tells the story of Sarah Vida, youngest daughter of the matriarch of the Vida witch family. The Vida clan lives to hunt and kill vampires. The vampire they would most like to kill is Nikolas, an evil killer who carves his name into his victims. As Sarah poses as a student in a local school she meets Christopher and his sister Nissa who are vampires, but vampires who don't feed on humans. Sarah finds herself attracted to the siblings, which puts her at serious odds with her family. Then Nikolas comes to town. Can Sarah survive their battle? Another great Atwater book. She is a phenomenal young artist whose work is tight, poignant, and very easy to read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Point Blank

Point Blank is by Anthony Horowitz. The second in the Alex Rider series, finds Alex again forced to work for MI6. Something is up at a fancy school in the remote French Alps that only accepts the sons of the rich, famous, and powerful. Can Alex figure out what's going on in time? Will he get out alive? What will he do when he meets himself?

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Water Song: A Retelling of "The Frog Prince"

Water Song: A Retelling of "The Frog Prince" is by Suzanne Weyn. This is a touching fairy tale made modern. Emma is trapped in her family's Belgian estate during WWI. Her mother has been killed in the bombings and she can't get back to England to her father because of the German U-Boats patrolling the Channel. Then she finds Jack at the bottom of the well. Jack is an American soldier who has been seriously wounded by a chlorine gas attack. His skin is peeling and his eyes are so swollen he looks like a frog. Will the "frog" and the "princess" fall in love? Will they survive the German occupation of the estate? A very enjoyable tale and a fun read.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why is by Jay Asher. Clay receives a box of cassette tapes from Hannah. She committed suicide and in the tapes she says there are thirteen people who caused her suicide - and he is one of them. Clay is staggered. He really liked Hannah, but he was afraid to speak to her - at least until that last party. This is the story of a young woman's descent into hopelessness, guilt, and despair. When we hear of a suicide, especially a teen, we always ask "why?". This novel explores that horrible question. It is a phenomenal novel, a tragic yet magnificent work that is almost impossible to put down. You find yourself angry and humiliated with Hannah; then cry and mourn with Clay. I highly recommend this fantastic book. Hannah's truth is hard and brutal, yet heart-rending.


Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Land of Loss

Land of Loss is by K.A. Applegate. This is the second book in the Everworld series. David, Christopher, Jalil, and April are still searching for Senna. They are also trying to stay alive in Everworld. They travel with the Vikings to attack the Aztecs only to be captured and taken alive to be sacrifices to Huitzilopoctli, the Aztec god of death, who likes to eat the hearts of his victims - num num.... This book is told from Christopher's point of view and is a little darker than the first. You get the distinct impression in this one that Senna is not the victim she first appeared.


Ratings: 7th grade - 7 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - V (violence).

Sinbad's Seven Voyages

Sinbad's Seven Voyages is retold by Gladys Davidson. This small book is a collection of four tales from The Arabian Nights. It includes Sinbad's Seven Voyages, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Abou Hassan or the Caliph's Jest. For those who are unfamiliar with these classic tales this is a great introduction; for those who have heard them it is great reminder of why these tales are so timeless and popular.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Goats

The Goats is by Brock Cole. This is a disturbing, yet tender, tale of two outsiders who learn to trust each other and in turn discover themselves. At the summer camp from hell two teens, a boy and a girl, are the victims of a cruel "prank". They are designated "goats" by the other campers and tricked into a trip to an island in the middle of a lake. They are stripped of their clothes and left there; the intent is that the others will come back later and spy on them and gloat over their misery and fear. The two manage to escape from the island, naked and alone, and begin a journey of self discovery that changes them both. Along the way they discover both kindness and cruelty from adults and children alike. This is a powerful tale, and though the style of writing is at times difficult to follow it is a must read. I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone who has ever been a "goat".

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

Five Children and It

Five Children and It is by E. Nesbit. Set in early 1900s England, this is the story of five children who discover a sand fairy who grants them wishes. Sounds cool huh? But as the saying goes, "be careful what you wish for, you might get it." This is a wonderful story of the love of brothers and sisters for each other, their family and friends. Nesbit is known for her wonderful children's tales. This can be a difficult read as the setting and language are very 1900s British. It is still a wonderful story and Nesbit is a writer whose books are worth getting to know.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

Bimbos of the Death Sun

Bimbos of the Death Sun is by Sharon McCrumb. HOLD ON! It's not what you're thinking. Don't dismiss this book so quickly. This novel is not science fiction but a wonderfully witty and enticing murder mystery. Dr. James Owens Mega is a professor of engineering at a local college. His girlfriend teaches science fiction/fantasy writing in the English department. He writes a serious science fiction novel about "the effects of sunspot activity in relation to polymer acrylic on capacitive interaction among high-frequency micro components in thick film circuits." His girlfriend, Marion, helps him make it into a marketable product which the publishers decide to title Bimbos of the Death Sun, much to James' embarrassment. Marion books him as a featured author at Rubicon, the ultimate science fiction/fantasy convention, to help sell his book. While there he meets a Clue-like cast of wacky characters, and his fellow guest author Appin Dungannon who created the famous novels about Viking warrior Tratyn Runewind. Dungannon's writing is popular, but the man himself is a real jerk - and he ends up murdered. James finds himself helping the police solve this "murder most foul". This quirky mystery pokes fun at all things sci-fi/fantasy and even if you've never been to a science fiction/fantasy convention you will recognize some of the goofy characters portrayed in the book. A thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended read, for mystery fans everywhere.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).

Uninvited

Uninvited is by Amanda Marrone. Jordan's life is a mess. She runs with the party crowd: drinking, drug use, sexual stupidity are rampant in her life. Her ex-boyfriend, who was hardly a paragon of virtue, kills himself - or did he? The evening of his funeral he shows up at her window begging her to let him in. Jordan quickly discovers Michael is a vampire. He says he loves her and wants to be with her and her life stinks so badly his offer is looking really good. But is an eternity with Micheal the best choice? Is he really all he seems? This novel started very slow and was a hard read since Jordan is seldom sober and her alcohol/drug influenced thoughts are sometimes hard to follow. It definitely gets better as you move through it and watch Jordan struggle to get herself together. The ending is certainly hopeful. Jordan's life will resonate with far too many teen girls - unfortunately. There are lots of references to teenage drinking, drug use, and sex although they are not graphic.

Ratings: 10th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Practical Magic

Practical Magic is by Alice Hoffman. The Owens women have been thought of as witches for more than 200 years. The aunts certainly make a living dealing in love charms and spells. Sally and Gillian, who were take in by the aunts when their parents died in a fire, only want out. Sally gets married and Gillian runs away. However you can't run away from your destiny or from the strong ties of family. Not at all like the movie, this is a wonderful story of family and the bonds that hold it together. It's also a love story; false love as well as true love. It almost makes you feel there really is someone out there for everyone.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Demon in My View

Demon in My View is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. The sequel to In the Forests of the Night also draws its title from poetry, this time Edgar Allan Poe. This is the story of Jessica, a teen shunned by her entire school. Under the pen name Ash Night she is writing books about vampires. But are they only stories? She thinks so until Aubrey, the vampire in her book, enrolls in her senior class. Is her writing fact or fiction? Has she somehow linked to the mind of a vampire? If she has, she is re-telling their histories and secrets -and they are not happy little vampire campers. Will Aubrey kill her or not? A spectacular continuation of the series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Tattoo

Tattoo is by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This is a very interesting book. Four friends buy temporary tattoos at the mall and discover that once they are applied they have strange magical powers. Bailey is the link between the group of girls and the powerful Sidhe, ancient fairies, who need the girls to help them save the world from a powerful evil. This book was an unexpectedly appealing and fun read.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).

Untamed

Untamed is by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast. The fourth volume in the House of Night series is a thrilling roller coaster ride of suspense. Zoey has lost all three of her boyfriends and her close knit group of friends no longer trusts her. The only friends she has left are Aphrodite and Stevie Rae, and they have "issues". Things at the House of Night go from bad to worse as Neferet's true intentions come to light, loyalties are tested, life-altering choices are made, and an ancient evil awakes. This novel is mesmerizing! It's a fabulous hard-to-put-down read that will leave you counting the days until March when the next volume in the series is released.

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seven Up

Seven Up is by Janet Evanovich. Number seven in the Stephanie Plum saga, this outrageous tale is delightfully witty and enjoyable. Eddie De Chooch is old and an FTA - he got caught smuggling cigarettes; he also has a dead body in his tool shed - oh and he's dating Grandma Mazur. As if things aren't complicated enough, Dougie is missing, Steph's apartment is broken into (again), her "perfect" sister returns from California, and Morelli wants to "get married!?!". To solve this case Steph must make a deal with Ranger, but is she willing to give him what he wants in trade. Another fantastic and riotously raunchy tale.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

Summer Knight

Summer Knight is by Jim Butcher. This fourth installment in the Dresden Files series is the most intense yet. Poor Harry, his life is falling to pieces. As if things aren't bad enough in waltzes Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie. The Summer Knight has been killed and war is brewing between the Winter Court and the Summer Court, and as usual humanity is caught in the middle. Only Harry Dresden can prevent all out war and preserve the balance needed to protect the world - but at what cost? Another wonderful tale from Butcher. It's wonderfully intense and suspenseful, and hard to put down.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth is by Norton Juster. Milo is a young boy who is bored with everything. One day a tollbooth is delivered to his room and he embarks on a journey through the Kingdom of Wisdom. The rulers of Dictionoplois (who love letters) and Digitopolis (who love numbers) have banished the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason. It's up to Milo, Tock the Watchdog, and the Humbug to free them. A delightful tale full of fantasy and many pearls of wisdom, if you look for them. A must read for well-read individuals.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lost in the Labyrinth

Lost in the Labyrinth is by Patrice Kindl. A wonderful re-telling of two famous myths from a very different point of view. Xenodice is the daughter of King Minos and Queen Pasiphae. Her brother is the fabled Minotaur and she is in love with Icarus, whose father built the labyrinth. The myths of Thesus and the Minotaur and Daedalus and Icarus are re-told from Xenodice's point of view. An extraordinary tale from a very strange point of view; which is Kindl's typical style. A must read for lovers of Greek mythology.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - AC (some more mature thematic content).

Deep and Dark and Dangerous

Deep and Dark and Dangerous is by Mary Downing Hahn. Ali goes to Sycamore Lake with her artist aunt Dulcie to babysit her young daughter, Emma, while Dulcie paints. While there they meet a girl named Sissy. Ali is frightened by her influence on Emma. Sissy is mean and spiteful, and a....ghost. How did Sissy die? Was she really killed by Ali and Emma's mothers? This is one of Hahn's creepier tales. It is also a story about how secrets can destroy lives in more ways than one.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Dive

Dive is by Gordon Korman. This series consists of three installments: The Discovery, The Deep, and The Danger. Four teenagers are offered a summer internship as divers for a respected marine research institute in the Caribbean. Upon arrival they find the crew they are supposed to be working with want nothing to do with them, why? Why are they charting caves when that has nothing to do with the mapping they were supposedly to work on? They discover the scientists are really treasure hunters. The question becomes now what do they do? The ocean is a dangerous place? Another good series from Korman who also wrote the Island series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Dark Portal

The Dark Portal is by Robin Jarvis. Book One in the Deptford Mice Trilogy, this is a fascinating tale in the mold of Watership Down. Albert Brown is a married mouse with two children, Audrey and Arthur. He takes a trip into the dangerous sewers where the rats live. The rats who worship an evil god called Jupiter. Albert discovers Jupiter's evil plans and sets in motion a series of events that could destroy his entire family. Will Jupiter succeed or will the Brown children stop his evil plans? A fantastic story! Jarvis has invented a complete society and mythology for the mice, rats, and bats who inhabit his world. A wonderful tale of good vs evil.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The City of Ember

The City of Ember is by Jeanne DuPrau. The first installment in the Book of Ember series. Doon and Lina live in Ember, a city that is dying. All the supplies are running out and the generator that supplies electricity is on the verge of a breakdown. Lina discovers a box with "instructions". Instructions for what? She and Doon believe they have found the way out of Ember. Have they? Will anyone believe them? A great story, well written and suspenseful.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tunnels of Blood

Tunnels of Blood is by Darren Shan. The third in the Cirque Du Freak series, Darren and Evra go off with Mr. Crepsley. They suspect him of murdering humans, but is he? And what is a vampaneze? Darren must chose between his friend Evra and his new girlfriend, Debbie. Another excellent entry in this fast-paced series.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (some violence).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Boggart

The Boggart is by Susan Cooper. When Emily and Jessup's parents inherit an old Scottish castle, they don't realize they have also inherited the boggart who lives there. The boggart, an invisible mischievous spirit, has lived in Castle Keep for generations. When the boggart accidentally gets himself shipped to the Volnik's home in Toronto, nothing will ever be the same - for the Volnik's or the boggart. He wreaks unending havoc on the family and wants desperately to go home. Will he make it back to Scotland? A very cute story.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hot Six

Hot Six is by Janet Evanovich. Number six in the Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie's life just got even more complicated, and you thought that wasn't possible. Her friend Carol is threatening to jump off a bridge; things between Steph and Morelli are really heating up; she's being trailed by two thugs; the corpse count is rising; her grandmother just moved in with her; she's been tricked into dog-sitting a lab; and Vinnie has just given her a new F.T.A. - Ranger. You know McDonald's is hiring, and that would mean free fries!?! One of the funniest in the series thus far. A real gem! A must read for Morelli fans everywhere - and those of us who wish we were Stephanie too.

Ratings: 11th grade - P (profanity) - V (violence) - S (non-graphic sexual content) - AC (mature thematic content).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Search for Senna

Search for Senna is by K. A. Applegate. This is the first book in the Everworld series. There's always been something strange about Senna, even her sister (April) thinks so. One day her sister and three friends follow her to the lake. Suddenly a huge wolf appears and grabs Senna. The four friends attempt to save her and find themselves in Everworld. A world full of ancient races and gods. This is an interesting tale full of ancient Viking, Aztec, and Egyptian mythology with a touch of alien insects thrown in for good measure. It should make for a fun thrilled packed series.


Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

High Five

High Five is by Janet Evanovich. The fifth installment in the ever rollicking and enjoyable Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie's at it again. Her Uncle Fred is missing and her mother and grandmother talk her into trying to find him: after all that's what she does, find people. In typical Stephanie fashion she is forced to deal with a dismembered body, a nasty bookie, an snotty Arab sheik, an angry midget who takes up residence in her apartment, Benito Ramirez (the rapist and killer) who is out on parole, and Grandma Mazur with a stun gun. Oh, and did I mention she's trying to chose between Morelli and Ranger. What is a Jersey Girl to do? These books just keep getting better and funnier. A must read for Stephanie wannabes everywhere.

Ratings: 11th grade - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

The Foretelling

The Foretelling is by Alice Hoffman. This is the story of Rain, a young Amazon girl coming of age on the steppes of Russia. A child born of pain and sorrow, the daughter of a Queen, a master horsewoman, sister of the bear, Rain struggles to come to terms with her past, her present, and her future. She is touched by Deborah's foretelling and begins to see there is more to life than war and prowess in battle. Will she have the strength to seize her destiny or will she succumb to the harsh life her people have always known? Is it really possible for one young girl to change the future of her people? A wonderful story of overcoming tragedy and learning to trust yourself.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Galen

Galen is by Allan Gilbreath. This is the first book in The Galen Saga. Galen is a vampire. He's been around for a long time and he's having a really bad month. He's forced to kill another vampire, he's being tracked by person or persons unknown in a van, his accountant is out for his head - literally, and he has now ended up "turning" his dinner. Jeez! What next! This is a dark and very strange tale. It hooks you enough to keep you reading hoping that you will eventually get to the crux of the matter. You don't and you are left with a vaguely unsatisfied feeling. However, you do end up wanting to read the next book to see if Galen gets what he has coming or not. Worth a read if you enjoy dark vampire tales.

Ratings: 9th grade - 6 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Wicked

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is by Gregory Maguire. When we read The Wizard of Oz we only heard one side of the story, Dorothy's side. Now let's hear from the other side. This is the story of one of the most hated villains in all of classic literature: the Wicked Witch of the West. Where did she come from? Is she really wicked? What made her that way? This is a fantastic story on the true nature of evil. It is not L. Frank Baum's tale. This book is for adults. It contains profanity, sexual references, and mature thematic content. In some ways it's even a political thriller. A wonderfully gripping book for those readers old enough to grasp its complexity.

Ratings: Adult - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (sexual references).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dance With a Vampire

Dance With a Vampire is by Ellen Schreiber. #4 in the Vampire Kisses series, this is the continuing saga of Raven (a goth girl) and Alexander (her vampire boyfriend). In this installment Raven and Alexander are trying to date, get ready for the prom, and protect Raven's younger brother Billy Boy from Jagger's younger brother Valentine. But is Valentine really evil? What does he really want? Can't wait for #5.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is a book of short stories starring the great detective Sherlock Holmes and his indomitable sidekick Dr. Watson. If you love mysteries you have to love Sherlock Holmes and these are some of the best of his tales. I highly recommend this classic book for mystery lovers of all ages.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Cold Tom

Cold Tom is by Sally Prue. Tom is an elf. He has never been to the city of the demons (humans). He gets into trouble and has to run from the world of elves and ends up with the demons. The whole new world he discovers changes his life forever. This is a very interesting story from the perspective of an elf.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Kensuke's Kingdom

Kensuke's Kingdom is by Michael Morpurgo. This is the story of a 12-year-old boy who finds himself shipwrecked on an island with a old WWII Japanese soldier. It is a great survival tale, but it is also a story of understanding and courage. It is a great story for boys especially.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Baseball in April & Other Stories

Baseball in April & Other Stories is by Gary Soto. This is a book of short stories about Latino youth. These stories are enjoyable and entertaining. Boys will especially enjoy these stories. It is an easy collection to read and has a glossary of Spanish words, phrases, and expressions used in the book to make them easy to understand by non-Spanish speakers. This is a wonderful introduction to Soto's writing.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Track of the Cat

Track of the Cat is by Nevada Barr. The first novel in the Anna Pigeon Series is really something. Anna is a park ranger working for the National Park Service in the west Texas desert. While tracking mountain lions that have been resettled into the park, Anna finds the body of a fellow ranger. It appears she has been killed by one of the mountain lions; but Anna doesn't buy it, too many things just don't make sense. She sets herself to solve the mystery and catch the murderer. If you like detailed description of the beauty of the American wilderness this is the book for you. You feel like you're in the desert. I kept finding myself reaching for more water while reading this book. The ending was not what I expected and I didn't figure out "who done it" until the end. There is profanity and adult content, making this a great read for older mystery buffs and outdoor enthusiasts.

Ratings: 11th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Stormbreaker

Stormbreaker is by Anthony Horowitz. The first adventure in the Alex Rider Series, this book is a joy to read. 14-year-old Alex Rider doesn't know his uncle is a spy, until he's killed. Then MI6 recruits Alex to finish his uncle's mission. He finds himself involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse with thousands of lives at stake, including his own. This book reads like a young James Bond thriller. It will delight boys, and girls, of all ages. You'll find yourself longing for Alex's next adventure.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Cut

Cut is by Patricia McCormick. Callie cuts herself; not enough to die. Now she's at Sea Pines, a residential treatment facility, and she is surrounded by other girls also struggling with problems. She doesn't want anything to do with them. She won't even speak. But she can't get better if she doesn't talk to anyone. This is an excellent tale of a young woman's struggle with mental illness and self mutilation. There is some profanity, but it is not gratuitous. It is typical of this type of situation. This is a hard story to read, but it is also touching and encouraging.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity).

Skeleton Man

Skeleton Man is by Joseph Bruchac. One morning Molly wakes up and discovers her parents have disappeared. Social Services turn her over to a man she doesn't know who claims to be her uncle. Soon he begins to haunt her dreams and she realizes this man is not her uncle and he does not mean her any good. Can she escape his clutches and save her parents? This is a thoroughly creepy tale based on Native American mythology. If you liked The Dark Pond you'll love this one as well.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Akhenaten Adventure

The Akhenaten Adventure is by P.B. Kerr. The first installment in the Children of the Lamp Series. John and Philippa Gaunt are 12-year-old twins, they seem like normal children. One day they discover they are descended from a long line of djinn - that's right, just like in Aladdin. Their parents send them to London to visit their eccentric Uncle Nimrod. He is determined to teach them all about their djinn history and powers. However they soon find themselves involved in a battle against the evil Iblis and together with their uncle they must save the universe. Can they succeed? This promises to be a fun thrill-packed series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

True Stories of D-Day

True Stories of D-Day is by Henry Brook. This is a collection of true stories of the Allied invasion of France on D-Day. It is a moving and stirring collection of the exploits of heroes. It accurately describes the odds and difficulties and the overwhelming courage of the Allied forces. A great non-fiction book for boys.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Silver Kiss

The Silver Kiss is by Annette Curtis Klause. Zoe is a teenager whose mother is dying of cancer, her father is overwhelmed by her mother's illness, and her best friend is moving to another state. She needs someone to understand her loneliness and pain . Then Zoe meets Simon who understands pain and loneliness all too well. He is a vampire, hunting the vampire who turned him and killed his mother. Will these two lost souls be able to help each other? This is a very good book. It is not typical vampire fare and the ending is not what you would expect. If you are looking for Twilight, this book isn't it. It is gruesome, but tender and touching, and deals well with the issue of the effects of terminal illness on a family.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tantalize

Tantalize is by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Quincie Morris is an orphan. Her parents died in a car accident and left her in the custody of her uncle. They also left her the family restaurant. Her Uncle D decides it would be cool to turn the failing Italian restaurant into a vampire themed establishment. Then the chef is murdered and a new chef is hired. But there's more to Henry Johnson than meets the eye - and did I mention Quincie's boyfriend is a werewolf. Wow! This book was a totally unexpected surprise. The plot does not follow expected lines and the ending leaves you begging for a sequel. A must read for those who enjoy vampire tales.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity), S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content).

Bearstone

Bearstone is by Will Hobbs. Hobbs is such a wonderful author, especially for boys. If you like Gary Paulsen, you'll love Will Hobbs. This is the story of 14-year-old Cloyd, a Ute Indian boy who has been sent to a group home in Colorado. For the summer he is sent to a farm owned by elderly Walter Landis. Walter and Cloyd struggle to understand each other, even as Cloyd seeks to understand himself and his heritage. A wonderful story set in the beautiful Colorado mountains. Starts a little slow, but picks up quickly. A very enjoyable read.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Sailor Returns

A Sailor Returns is by Theodore Taylor. Jane Pentreath Bryant's father was a sailor. He abandoned her after her mother's death thirty years ago. Now she is married with a son and another child on the way. She receives a letter from the father she's never known who wants to come visit. Eleven-year-old Evan is thrilled; he can't wait to meet his grandfather the sailor. Grandfather Tom wants to be part of the family, but he's hiding a secret; will his new family be able to forgive his past? This is a touching and endearing story. A real gem.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Vampire's Assistant

The Vampire's Assistant is by Darren Shan. The second installment in the Cirque Du Freak series. Darren and Mr. Crepsley have rejoined the Cirque Du Freak. Darren is fading fast, if he doesn't drink human blood soon he will die. He doesn't want to because he's afraid he will become a monster. Will Darren die? Will he be able to find a friend? This is a great story of fighting against the inevitable. It is creepy and somewhat violent. It certainly does not have a happy ending. Boys, especially, will love this series.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (some violence).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chosen

Chosen is by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast. This is the third book in the House of Night Series. Vampyre fledgling, Zoey, is really in the middle of a mess. In the last book vampyres were killing humans, now humans are killing vampyres. Zoey is finally caught up in the web of half-truths and secrets she has woven around herself and makes a typical young girl tragic mistake. Will she lose everything? This book was sad. As an adult woman you see the horrible error in judgment coming and it is painful to watch. There is profanity in this book as well and non-graphic sexual references. If you liked the first two, you'll love this one and wait impatiently for the next volume in the series.

Ratings: 10th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In The Cards: Love

In The Cards: Love is by Mariah Fredericks. This is the story of Anna whose elderly neighbor dies and leaves her a cat and a deck of Tarot cards. Anna has a crush on the hottest boy in school and wants to know if there is a chance for them to get together. This is a great story that realistically portrays what it's like to not be with the "cool" kids. It frankly discusses bullying and what students, and school staff, can and should do about it. Anna struggles to maintain her friendship with Eve and Syd, her own identity, and her relationships with her divorced parents and younger brother. This was a really good story, if a somewhat easy read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Betrayed

Betrayed is by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast. This is the second book in the House of Night Series. The saga of Zoey Redbird continues as she takes over as leader of the Dark Daughters & Sons. As she prepares for her first Full Moon Ritual she struggles with her possible imprinting of her ex-boyfriend Heath; her infatuation with Loren, the Vampyre Poet Laureate; and her desire for her boyfriend Erik. Then human teenagers start to die and Zoe knows all of them. Is someone from the House of Night killing humans? This is a really good series. I am finding it fascinating and intriguing. There is profanity and non-graphic sexual references, but the suspense of the plot is killer.

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - S (non graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn is by Stephenie Meyer. This is the final volume in the Twilight Series. All I have to say is "WOW"! This book is not what I expected at all. You think you knew at the end of Eclipse how the story would progress, wrong! The wedding day has finally come and it goes better than anyone expected, but afterwards in typical Bella and Edward fashion, the problems begin to develop. This book is darker than the others in some ways and is in places hard to read for those who have become attached to the characters. As the old cliche notes, "it is always darkest before the dawn." Nevertheless it is, in my opinion, the best book in the series. It loses the innocence of Twilight, but the characters have grown and with adult choices come adult consequences. A fantastic read!

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Words By Heart

Words By Heart is by Ouida Sebestyen. A touching story of a black family trying to make a new life amongst a white population in the early 1900's. Lena thinks that by winning the Scripture recitation contest she will finally have others notice her for her abilities rather than the color of her skin. After winning the Bible-quoting contest she finds it doesn't bring her the attention she expects or wants. After violence breaks out, Lena, who believes in vengeance, must learn to forgive. This book does use the "n" word as it was used during this time period.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Spinners

Spinners is by Donna Jo Napoli & Richard Tchen. This is a magnificent, if more adult, re-telling of the story of Rumpelstiltskin. It encompasses everything love, pride, magic, greed, revenge. It is the story of two spinners; one a man crippled by love and the other the daughter he has never met. It tells how they eventually meet and how things don't turn out as either hopes. It certainly does not have a happily-ever-after ending; the ending leaves you wondering what becomes of both spinners and how love could have gone so wrong. A wonderful heart-rending story.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain is by Esther Forbes. One of my favorite pieces of historical fiction, this book is set during the American Revolution. Johnny Tremain is an orphan apprenticed to a silversmith. Jealous of his talent, another apprentice causes him to be injured and he must now find another way make a living. He finds his destiny delivering papers for a pro-revolutionary paper. He becomes involved with the Sons of Liberty and discovers the cost of freedom. A wonderful and engaging read. You feel for the characters and grow up with Johnny as he learns hatred and vengeance are not always the best way. He struggles to overcome his bitterness at the hand fate has dealt him and becomes a man in the process.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Across Five Aprils

Across Five Aprils is by Irene Hunt. This is the story of a family caught up in the horrors of the Civil War. Young Jethro has to grow up quickly as both his brother and his beloved teacher leave to fight in the war on separate sides. This book gives a balanced portrayal of the issues involved in the conflict and a realistic look at the way families were torn apart by the War. The historicity of this book is wonderful and it gives information on little known battles. It can be a slow read for modern teens who expect lots of action quickly; but it is moving and powerful and worth the time needed to read it. A little background in the Civil War era is helpful.

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10.

Scorpions

Scorpions is by Walter Dean Myers. It is the story of Jamal, whose brother is in jail for murder. He is being pressured to lead the gang his brother headed before his arrest. He and his friend Tito try to resist the lure of gang culture. When he is given a gun, he finds himself both feared and respected - a heady combination for a young boy. A realistic tale of a young boy who wants to do the right thing but is caught up in a culture of violence. A powerful, and sadly too realistic, read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

The Bronze Bow

The Bronze Bow is by Elizabeth George Speare. The classic tale of Daniel a young Jew living in the time of Christ. When his grandmother dies he must move to the village to care for his younger sister, but he is still driven by his hatred of the Romans and his determination to drive them back to Rome. He is captivated by Jesus and wonders if He is truly the Messiah who will free the Jews from Roman rule. This is not a religious book per se, but it is a powerful tale of hatred, obligation, and ultimately forgiveness. I highly recommend this book. It is old, but every bit as powerful and moving today as it was when it was written.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is by Mark Twain. The companion piece to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, this book continues the tale of Huck Finn as he escapes civilization and floats down the Mississippi River on a raft with the runaway slave Jim. The dialect in this book can be overwhelming for modern readers, but it is well worth the effort. While this book is every bit as anti-slavery as Uncle Tom's Cabin, it is less pointed in its critique. Huck really struggles with what he believes in his heart and what he has been taught to believe. This work is a must read classic. It does use the word "nigger" as it was used at the time and is full of examples of racial bigotry and hatred. A sometimes daunting, but exceptional read.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Raven and Other Poems

The Raven and Other Poems is by Edgar Allan Poe. Scholastic put together this excellent collection of Poe's better known poetry. It is a great introduction to Poe's work. Some of the poems included are The Bells, To Helen, El Dorado, Annabel Lee, Ulalume, and course The Raven. The introduction to the poems is written by Philip Pullman of His Dark Materials fame and is very well done. Like all poetry these poems are meant to be read aloud and are wonderful examples of Poe's dark, but beautiful, style.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.