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 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 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 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 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.