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 historical fiction 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 is by Walter Dean Myers. It is the multi-cultural realistic fiction 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 historical fiction 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 historical fiction classic. It does use the "N" word 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.

A Living Nightmare

A Living Nightmare is by Darren Shan. The first book in the Cirque Du Freak fantasy series. Darren and his friends find a flyer for a Freak Show, and as all teenage boys would, want to attend. The problem is there are four of them and only two tickets are available. Darren and Steve get to go and that's when the problems begin. Darren steals a poisonous spider from a vampire; his friend Steve gets bitten and to save his life Darren must become a vampire himself. Boys will LOVE this series. It is gross, exciting, entertaining, easy to read, and in a word - creepy! If the rest of the series is this good, move over Stephen King. A great horror story, especially for young boys.

Ratings: 8th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Arm of the Starfish

The Arm of the Starfish is by Madeleine L'Engle. Adam heads for Portugal the summer before he goes to college to work for a noted marine biologist and finds himself in the middle of international espionage and intrigue. He's caught between the beautiful Kali and the enchanting Poly. Whose father is the good guy? Which girl is telling him the truth? How do you decide what is right and wrong? Deals well with the ethical questions and complications that can arise from scientific research. I have seen this book rated for 6th graders, but I think most 6th graders will have trouble with the language and style of writing - unless they are very good readers. It is a great book and a fun and exciting realistic fiction read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is by Mark Twain. Classic Americana at its best! A must read for everyone, especially young boys. The engaging tale of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher growing up in turn of the century Hannibal, Missouri. It has everything from tricking your friends into doing your chores, to loving the girl next door, hating school, hiding in the graveyard with your best friend, exploring caves, to witnessing a murder and doing the right thing. A true classic and a must read! This is a historical fiction period piece and does use the word "nigger" as it was used at that time in history. It also uses the dialect of the period which can be hard for some modern teens to readily grasp.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Blood Roses

Blood Roses is by Francesca Lia Block. A set of nine short fantasy stories in typical Block style; easy to read, some profanity, non-graphic sex references, and very strange. Teenage girls seem to love Block's work, but she is definitely an acquired taste. These stories deal with vampires, changelings, fairies, aliens, and other oddities. If you are a fan of Block's work you'll love these as well. Block knows how to relate to teenage girl angst and her style is compelling; I just happen to prefer stories that make a little more sense - I guess I'm getting old (deep sigh).

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

Owl in Love

Owl in Love is by Patrice Kindl. Kindl's writing reminds me of Francesca Lia Block, though not as graphic or strange. Owl is a fourteen-year-old were-owl. She is struggling to fit in with humans she doesn't really understand and be true to her owl nature at the same time. Oh, did I mention she thinks she's in love with her science teacher; can we all say ewwww! One night she notices a boy in the woods outside Mr. Lindstrom's house. Why is he there? What is it about him that Owl can't seem to resist? An interesting, if fantastical, look at crushes, coming of age, and first love from a very different perspective. It took a while to get into this fantasy, but once in was hooked.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.


Loch is by Paul Zindel. Loch is a young boy whose father is one of a team of scientists trying to find a monster in a lake in upstate New York. The question is, do they want to find it or kill it? Three kids try to save a baby plesiosaur from evil cryptozoologists and keep their families together at the same time. Zindel was a chemistry teacher and so brings scientific realism to a rather unrealistic story. This is a good science fiction pick for kids who don't like to read. It's easy, fun, and quickly engaging.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is by Robert Louis Stevenson. You can't possibly be considered well read and not have devoured this classic tale of pirates and buried treasure. Young Jim Hawkins comes into possession of a treasure map and with the help of Squire Trelawney he sets out to find it. He meets many memorable characters on the way, including Long John Silver and Ben Gunn; and learns that doing the right thing isn't always easy. A wonderful historical fiction story of derring-do on the Seven Seas and it will be a beloved classic for many years to come.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Giver

The Giver is by Lois Lowry. This is an amazing dystopian fiction story! It is one of my personal favorites. 12-year-old Jonas lives in a world where everything is controlled. There is no poverty, no sickness, no unemployment, no unhappiness, but also no freedom and no individuality. Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories and what he learns from "the Giver" is as amazing as it is terrifying. Jonas learns that nothing comes without cost and that the cost of this "perfect" society is very high. The ending is intentionally vague and that will irritate the OCD folks out there, like me; but it is a wonderful story and provides much food for thought and discussion.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is by Mildred D. Taylor. This is another in Taylor's series of books depicting the struggles of African Americans in history. The multi-cultural historical fiction story is set in the deep south of the 1930's. Cassie Logan has been sheltered by her family and can't understand why a white person would consider her inferior. This story follows one year in her life where he family is terrorized by "night riders" and she, and her brothers, learn why the land they own means so much. A touching story of overcoming adversity with the love of family and community.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

In the Forests of the Night

In the Forests of the Night is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. The debut fantasy novel by Atwater-Rhodes, who was thirteen when she wrote this story. Yes, my fellow poetry addicts; the title is taken from William Blake's poem The Tiger. This is the story of Risika, a three-hundred-year-old vampire. She struggles with her past and what she has become, and she carries a major grudge against another vampire, Aubrey. He is even older than Risika and she really hates him. This is a very good, albeit dark, story. Amazing when you consider it was written by a teenager.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Brian's Return

Brian's Return is by Gary Paulsen. A companion book to Hatchet, Brian's Winter, and The River. This book follows the adventures of Brian. He has returned to civilization and is having a hard time adjusting. He returns to the northern forests first written of in Hatchet. It is a simple realistic fiction story, but a very good one.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Moonstruck is by Susan Grant. Cool science fiction romance. This tale reminds me of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Coalition and the Drakken Horde have signed a peace treaty after years of war. They have formed a new alliance and are building space ships manned by crews representing both factions (i.e. Federation and Klingons). It is actually a very good tale. Admiral Brit Bandar (aka Stone-Heart) is a legend. Her very name inspires fear and hatred among the Drakken. Her new assignment is the Unity, the flagship of the newly formed Triad. Her second in command is Warleader Finn Rorkken (aka the Scourge of the Borderlands). Can they keep the fledgling Triad from falling apart while they fall in love? The first book in the Tales of the Borderland Series, this is actually a very exciting book, filled with political intrigue, danger, and of course romance. The sexuality is quite mild when compared to other books in this genre.

Ratings: Adult - 9 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content) - S (mild sexuality).

Green Angel

Green Angel is by Alice Hoffman. This is a great dystopian fiction tale! Green survives a tragedy that kills her entire family. She must learn to deal with survivor's guilt, as well as just learning to survive. You watch her struggle to just live again, then to help others touched by the tragedy as well. The story is touching and sincere. You can feel Green's pain and are uplifted by her success. A highly recommended read!

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.


Coraline is by Neil Gaiman. Coraline discovers a doorway to an alternate reality in the family's new townhouse. She discovers her "other" mother and "other" father. They say they love her and want her to stay, but after they kidnap her real parents Coraline must free herself and her parents before it's too late. This is a very unusual fantasy story. It is interesting and a great read.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Liberation of Gabriel King

The Liberation of Gabriel King is by K.L. Going. This is the tender historical fiction multi-cultural story of two 5th graders, one black and one white, growing up in 1976 Georgia. It is a story of family, friendship, strength, bravery, and standing up for what's right. Gabriel is afraid of everything, including bullies, his best friend Frita decides to help him find courage over the summer by facing each of his fears. A wonderful story, both heartwarming and funny.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.


Sasquatch is by Roland Smith. Dylan's father goes on a camping trip with friends and thinks he sees Bigfoot. Determined to discover if he's going crazy or really saw what he believes he saw; he gets involved in a Bigfoot hunt. But do these scientists want to save Bigfoot or kill it? Dylan teams up with a former Park Ranger to protect both his father and Sasquatch. A fun and exciting science fiction story.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Parsley Sage, Rosemary, & Time

Parsley Sage, Rosemary, & Time is by Jane Louise Curry. Rosemary goes to stay with her strange Aunt on an old farm. While exploring in an old herb garden, she discovers a time portal to early 1700's New England. How does she get home? How does she escape being labeled a witch? A wonderfully classic science fiction tale and an easy read.

Ratings: 5th grade - 8 out of 10.


Everlost is by Neal Shusterman. Two young teens die in a car accident and discover themselves in the realm of Everlost. First they have to accept their deaths, can they get home, can they find a way to the light at the end of the tunnel, and how do they deal with the other Afterlights in Everlost? A great tale and a fun fantasy read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Isabel of the Whales

Isabel of the Whales is by Hester Velmans. 11-year-old Isabel falls off a boat on a whale watching field trip and instead of drowning turns into a humpback whale. Her whale guide, Onijonah, explains that she is one of a select few humans who are turned into whales for a short period of time, sort of a whale exchange student program. She travels with the whales and eventually has to decide whether to stay with them or return to her human form. A cute, if predictable, fantasy story.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

The White Dove

The White Dove is by Christoph Von Schmid. This is a classic historical fiction tale of nobles and knights, robbers and thieves, friendship and sacrifice. A young girl gives up her precious white dove to prove her friendship and through this act of sacrifice many lives are saved. Von Schmid wrote many classic tales in the mid to late 1800's and this is one of the best. A wonderful story!

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

A Peep Behind the Scenes

A Peep Behind the Scenes is by Mrs. O.F. Walton. This book was published in 1877 and sold over two and a half million copies at that time. It is a classic historical fiction book written from the Christian perspective. Rosalie dances in a traveling circus, everyone who sees her thinks her life must be wonderful - but is it? One day an old man gives her a picture of a Shepherd who loves her and as she tries to find a better life she shares the Shepherd's love with others. An extremely touching story, it will be especially meaningful to Christians - but it is a fantastic read for anyone. They truly don't write books like this anymore.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.


Rainsong is by Phyllis A. Whitney. Another Whitney classic mystery, this is the story of songwriter Hollis Sands whose world collapses when her husband, legendary singer Ricky Sands, commits suicide. She flees to Long Island to stay with a family friend only to discover that even here she cannot escape the mysterious circumstances surrounding Ricky's death. As she struggles to make sense of the past, she may have found a new love for the future - but wait, is her new love involved in her ex-husband's death? The book has some mature content: murder, drug use, adultery. If you are a Whitney fan, you'll love this book.

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


Dragonwings is by Laurence Yep. This historical fiction story is part of Yep's Golden Mountain Chronicles which tell the tale of Chinese immigration to the West Coast of the United States. This story takes place in 1903 in San Francisco. 8-year-old Moon Shadow Lee travels from China to join his father and other relatives in America. This is a story of prejudice and the strength of family. Moon Shadow and his father must leave Chinatown and after finding shelter elsewhere begin to build a flying machine, but are interrupted by the great San Francisco Earthquake. A great story of the effort required to follow your dream.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.


Sackett is by Louis L'Amour. This classic western historical fiction is the story of Tell Sackett, the oldest of the three Sackett boys, and his discovery of an old Spanish gold mine; but that's not all he discovers. A classic tale of the old west that tracks fairly well with the move The Sacketts which stars Sam Elliott as Tell, Tom Selleck as Orrin, and Jeff Osterhage as Tyrell. The movie version combines the story contained in this book and The Daybreakers. If you like the book you'll love the movie (which is over three hours long by the way). Nobody does the American western like L'Amour and this book is a classic of the genre. A must read for anyone who loves the old west when men were men!

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.


Inkheart is by Cornelia Funke. A suspenseful yet tender fantasy tale of a daughter's love for her father and his for her. Meggie's father has an amazing talent; when he reads a book the characters in it come to life. Cool huh! Well maybe not. When he read the book Inkheart, he read some of the most evil characters out of the book and read her mother into it. Capricorn wants to capture Mo so he can use his talent for his own evil purposes and the best way to get to Mo is to use Meggie. A fun and magical tale that makes you want to read every book you can get your hands on. Hope the sequels are as good.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Mister Monday

Mister Monday is by Garth Nix. It is the first book in the Keys to the Kingdom fantasy series. Arthur's school year is not going well. First he has an asthma attack during which a mysterious man gives him a key in the shape of a clock; a sleeping sickness seems to be sweeping the town; evil dog-faced creatures are trying to get the key back; and only he can see the strange new house in their neighborhood. He ventures inside the house, meets more characters (none of whom are what they seem) and battles Mister Monday for the key. If you are familiar with Nix's other books, this is more of the same. A strange tale that does not fail to draw you in.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Thin Man

The Thin Man is by Dashiell Hammett. This is a classic mystery noir set in the 1930's. It is the story of ex-detective Nick Charles, his rich wife Nora, and their dog Asta. FYI: The movie version starring William Powell and Myrna Loy is a must see (as are all the films in The Thin Man series), so rent it! While in New York for the Christmas holidays Nick runs into Dorothy Wynant, the daughter of an old client. Wynant has gone missing and Dorothy wants Nick's help to find him - then the murders begin. The dialogue is witty and wry, this book is a classic period piece. A great introduction to this most American of genres. There is some profanity, but it is rare and fairly mild.

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

Wolf Brother

Wolf Brother is by Michelle Paver. This is first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness Series. It is the story of 12-year-old Torak who watches as his father is killed by a giant demon possessed bear. He soon takes up with a recently orphaned wolf cub with whom he is able to communicate. He races against time to solve a riddle and find three lost artifacts that will rid the ancient forest of the demon bear; all the while trying to say one step ahead of the bear who is hunting him. Paver has done excellent research into the beliefs of ancient tribes; this story is set in an ancient forest 6000 year ago. This is a thrilling fantasy story and a fun read.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey is by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This realistic fiction story is written in journal format. It is the story of Tish who is supposed to write twice a week in her a journal for English class. The teacher, Mrs. Dunphrey, has said she will not read any entries marked "Do Not Read", a promise as a teacher I never would have made (FYI to my students, I read everything). Tish starts writing about her terrible issues at home, and we watch her life unravel through her journal entries. This a very good story and one that probably occurs more often than we would like to believe. Tish's struggles are so real, you really feel for her as a real person.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Skye Cameron

Skye Cameron is by Phyllis A. Whitney. Skye and her mother move from New England to her uncle's house in New Orleans with her invalid father. Skye believes her uncle is the only answer for her paralyzed father. She can't understand why her mother is less than loving towards him. But as her uncle tries to mold her into his image of a Creole lady and arrange her marriage to his assistant, Skye begins to see a secret evil lurking below the ever polite and sophisticated surface. A great example of a classic Gothic mystery romance novel.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Big Wander

The Big Wander is by Will Hobbs. In the summer of 1962 two brothers head from Seattle to Arizona to search for their missing uncle. When his older brother decides to return home, he misses his girlfriend, 14-year-old Clay finds a job at a trading post to stay and continue the search. He travels into Utah with a mule and a puppy, meets some friendly Navajos, a nice Mormon family, and ultimately his uncle. This is a great story about friendship, growing up, and doing the right thing no matter what. A highly recommended historical fiction read, especially for boys.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Grave Peril

Grave Peril is by Jim Butcher. This is the third entry in the Dresden Files fantasy series. Harry Dresden, wizard, is facing his biggest challenge ever. The ghost of an evil demon is stalking Harry and everyone he cares about, his evil faerie godmother is trying to trap him in the Nevernever, and he is about to start a war between the White Council and the vampires. Scary and thrilling, this book is very hard to put down. Just when you think Harry has got things under control the other shoe always drops. An excellent read!

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

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A Series of Unfortunate Events is by Lemony Snicket. Welcome to the dreadful adventures of the Baudelaire orphans. This thirteen book series tracks their misfortunes which are truly unfortunate. They go from disaster to disaster ever seeking to escape the dreadful Count Olaf. A cute fantasy series of books and would be good for reluctant readers.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Four to Score

Four to Score is by Janet Evanovich. Number four in the Stephanie Plum mystery series. Stephanie is looking for another FTA (failure to appear); this one is a waitress who stole her sleaze-bag boyfriend's car. As she follows clues left by the waitress for her ex, people wind up missing fingers, getting scalped, and turning up dead. In this one not only does Stephanie's car explode, but her apartment is firebombed as well. Unwilling to move in with the family (to avoid familial eye twitch syndrome), she decides to "rent" an extra room from guess who - Joe Morelli; a choice sure to heat things up. One of the best in the series, riotously funny.

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

Three to Get Deadly

Three to Get Deadly is by Janet Evanovich. The third installment in the Stephanie Plum mystery series. Stephanie is out to bring in the beloved Uncle Mo, the candy store owner everyone in the "burg" thinks should be nominated for sainthood. But is Uncle Mo really so saintly? The body count starts rising and cars start exploding and Stephanie is her every so "Jersey Girl" self. Another great book in this series.

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

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Vampireville is by Ellen Schreiber. The third installment in the Vampire Kisses fantasy series. Raven and Alexander are back together. Can they save Trevor from Jagger and Luna who are trying to turn the soccer snob into a bloodsucker? This entry is as much fun as the other two. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

King Solomon's Mines

King Solomon's Mines is by H. Rider Haggard. The story of Allan Quartermain famous African adventurer. If you've seen the movie, forget it. There are no women in this book. It is an adventure written for men by a man. Quartermain is bribed into taking a safari into unexplored Africa to locate a missing man who was looking for King Solomon's fabled diamond mines. The men face every deadly danger in Africa as they travel with the mysterious Umbopa who has a secret of his own. A must read classic work of historical fiction. 

Ratings: 8th grade - 10 out of 10.

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None is by Agatha Christie. This fabulous mystery is also known as Ten Little Indians. It is one of my favorite mysteries by the goddess of mystery writers. Ten people with seemingly no connection are invited to an island by a mysterious host (Mr. U.N. Owen - unknown, get it). It turns out none of the guests even knows their host and then one by one they begin to die. Is the killer among them? Who is Mr. Unknown? Why is he killing them? Often considered one of the best mysteries ever written, be prepared for a surprise ending like none you have ever encountered. A fantastic read.

Ratings: 8th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Princess Academy

The Princess Academy is by Shannon Hale. 14-year-old Miri lives on Mount Eskel, a place a princess would never come from. One day it is announced that the prince will choose a bride from their village and all the young girls are taken from their homes for a year to attend the Princess Academy to learn the skills necessary to be a princess. Who will the prince choose? Does Miri really want to be princess? This is a charming realistic fiction story of families, relationships and the importance of home.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story

Time for Andrew: A Ghost Story is by Mary Downing Hahn. This is more a story of time travel than a ghost story. 12-year-old Andrew is dying of diphtheria when he falls through a hole in time and finds himself in 1990 instead of his own time 1910. He trades places with his great-great-nephew Drew, who happens to be his exact double. Will Andrew die? Will Drew ever return to his own time? This is a very enjoyable science fiction story of family and growing up.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Pharaoh's Daughter

Pharaoh's Daughter is by Julius Lester. This book is a retelling of the story of Moses from the point of view of his sister. It begins when Moses is found by Pharaoh's daughter and ends when he runs from Egypt after killing an Egyptian. The Egyptian scholarship in this book is stellar. You feel like you're actually there. Some Christians however, might find parts of this story disturbing. The writer is not writing from a Christian worldview, don't expect Charlton Heston and The Ten Commandments here. If this is not a problem for you, you will find this historical fiction enjoyable.

Ratings: 8th grade - 6 out of 10.

Kissing Coffins

Kissing Coffins is by Ellen Schreiber. The second novel in the Vampire Kisses fantasy series. Raven is out to find Alexander. She tracks him to a city several hundred miles away. She uses a visit to her Aunt as an excuse to hunt for Alexander; but before she finds him Jagger (an evil vampire, who is also looking for Alexander) finds her. Can Alexander and Raven be together? Can they survive Jagger's evil plot? Another good entry in this fun series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Vampire Kisses

Vampire Kisses is by Ellen Schreiber. This is the first book in the Vampire Kisses fantasy series. If you liked Twilight you will like this series. Raven is a goth, the only goth in town. She is surrounded by yuppies and is a total outsider. Then on her 16th birthday the Sterling's move into an old abandoned mansion near the cemetery You guessed it, they happen to have a 17-year-old son named Alexander - and they also happen to be vampires. This is a very cute story of first love. It doesn't have the magic of Twilight, but it's a very good tale.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fool Moon

Fool Moon is by Jim Butcher. This is the second book in the Dresden Files Series. Another fantastically gripping tale of fantasy and the supernatural. Harry, the wizard, is back and is now up against werewolves - lots of them! Which are friendly and which aren't? And what in the world is he going to do about Murphy who is trying to arrest him? How does he keep her alive and himself out of jail. This one is gorier than the last and there is still profanity, but this is a great story. It's a scary thrill ride, a great story.

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Storm Front

Storm Front is by Jim Butcher. This is the first book in the fantasy Dresden Files Series. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a wizard; think Philip Marlowe combined with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The only wizard listed in the Chicago Yellow Pages; Harry is more of a paranormal detective than a wild wizard. He lives in a basement apartment with a thirty-pound cat with half a tail and an oversexed talking skull who loves romance novels. In the first book there have been two grisly murders; Harry is called in by Karrin Murphy, head of the Special Investigations Unit that handles "unusual" crimes. Add to the mix a woman with a missing husband, a crime lord, and an evil wizard and you've got a great tale. This is a wonderful read. It's supernatural fantasy mixed with a hero straight from a Dashiell Hammett novel. There is some violence and profanity, but the story is gripping.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - MC (mature thematic content) - V (Violence).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Two for the Dough

Two for the Dough is by Janet Evanovich. This is the second book in the Stephanie Plum mystery series. Stephanie is still working for cousin Vinnie as a bounty hunter. This time she's after one of Morelli's relatives, and as "everyone knows the Morelli and Mancuso men are jerks". Stephanie also decided to take a side job for Spiro Stiva, of Stiva's Mortuary fame, to locate 24 stolen caskets. A wild thrill ride of action and humor; watch out folks Grandma Mazur is "packing" in this one. Evanovich's blend of crime drama and Jersey humor combine in a tale that makes you think you're in New Jersey. Again, this series is for older readers. There is heavy profanity, violence, and non-graphic sexuality. But if you're old enough, this book is a winner!

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

Timothy of the Cay

Timothy of the Cay is by Theodore Taylor. If you have read The Cay this is a must read. This book is a prequel/sequel to The Cay. Some chapters are dedicated to Timothy's past and some to Phillip's efforts to regain his sight with a very risky operation. It is a good historical fiction book with a very satisfying ending.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.


Marked is by P.C Cast and Kristen Cast. It is the first in the House of Night fantasy series. This novel is set in a world much like ours – except in Zoey Redbird’s world vampyres have always existed. Sixteen year old Zoey steps into this mystical society after being Marked to begin the change from human to vampyre – a change that takes about four years to complete. But not everyone who is Marked will change – many fledglings cannot survive the physiological adaptations and will die. As if that’s not stress enough, Zoey has been Marked as special by Nyx and given powers never before seen in a fledgling. When all she really wants is to fit in to her new life, Zoey comes to understand that she must assume the leadership of the school’s most elite club, the Dark Daughters. Will Zoey have the strength to do what Nyx asks of her? Will Zoey even survive the Change?

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - S (Sexual Content).