Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Aquamarine is by Alice Hoffman. Nothing like the movie! This is the story of two friends, one of whom is about to move away. As the deadline for the move approaches the girls return to their favorite place, a deserted and neglected beach club that is about to be demolished. In the old pool after a huge storm they discover a mermaid. The girls attempt to befriend the stranded mermaid and return her to the sea before she is discovered. A cute story.

Ratings: 4th grade - 6 out of 10.

The Three Weavers

The Three Weavers is by Annie Fellows Johnston. Another in the fabulous Rare Collector's series from Lamplighter Publishing. Three weavers each have a daughter. The ‘watcher of weavers' prophesied that a prince would marry one of them, but she must weave a mantle for the prince that must be beautiful, and must fit him perfectly. Each father must teach his daughter how to prepare for her prince. When should he begin? The father's approach, coupled with his daughter's cooperation, will decide the fate of her future. A wonderful fairy tale from a Christian perspective.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Call It Courage

Call it Courage is by Armstrong Sperry. When he was three a Polynesian boy named Mafatu, now 15 years old, was nearly killed when his mother drowned. He now has a phobia of the ocean. He must learn to conquer his fear. He goes off alone to another island and finds the courage within him to survive and return home. Sperry, who had traveled throughout the South Pacific, apparently based his story on an old Polynesian story. Boys will enjoy this short tale.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Finger Lickin' Fifteen is by Janet Evanovich. The latest installment in the Stephanie Plum series. Lula witnesses the murder of a famous chef. She will only talk to Morelli, she has a "thing" about cops but he is a "hottie". She persuades Stephanie and Grandma Mazur to enter a cooking contest to help her identify the murderer and collect the reward. Stephanie is also hired by Ranger to help hunt down a possible traitor within his organization. While the plot in this book is not as inventive or suspenseful as previous books, the humor is every bit as fantastic as always. Worth reading for the humor alone.

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

Hunters of the Dusk

Hunters of the Dusk is by Darren Shan. The seventh book in the Cirque Du Freak series. Mr. Tiny informs the vampires that Darren, Mr. Crepsley, and Vancha March will have four chances to kill the Vampaneze Lord. If they fail one of them will survive to watch the fall of the vampires and the other two will be dead. The three hunters set out to find the Vampaneze Lord and save the vampires. Will they succeed?

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10 - V (some violence).

The Best Poems Ever: A Collection of Poetry's Greatest Voices

The Best Poems Ever: A Collection of Poetry's Greatest Voices is edited by Edric S. Mesmer. A small booklet of some of history's greatest poems. The collection includes poets such as Keats, Dickinson, Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Pablo Neruda, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, and many others. A charming introduction to excellent poems by some of the world's greatest poets.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Opal Deception

The Opal Deception is by Eoin Colfer. Book four in the Artemis Fowl series. Artemis Fowl has had his memories of faeries erased. He has now returned to his criminal ways and is about to steal a painting from a secured vault in Germany. Meanwhile, Opal Koboi has escaped and is planning to seek revenge on everyone who foiled her last plot - including the unsuspecting Artemis. Holly must restore his memory and get his help to save her reputation and all of faerie from discovery by the humans. A fabulous tale, quite suspenseful and enjoyable.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Cheat

The Cheat is by Amy Goldman Koss. This is a book about six students who are involved in cheating to one degree or another. Each chapter in the book is written from the point of view of a different student. Koss does a really good job of showing us the different perspectives of a typical cross section of middle school kids. The frequent switch in point of view may make this a difficult book for some readers. As a teacher, I find it annoying that while the students have to deal with the consequences of cheating not all of them ever understand why it is wrong.

Ratings: 6th grade - 6 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

Maniac Magee

Maniac Magee is by Jerry Spinelli. A charming tale of a young orphan who changes the lives of everyone he meets. His strange abilities and antics have a way of bringing people together and in the process he finds himself a home and family. Spinelli at his best.

Ratings: 5th grade - 7 out of 10.

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters is by Rick Riordan. The second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned. Percy and Annabeth must find the Golden Fleece and get it back to camp before monsters destroy everything. The way Riordan weaves Greek myths into this modern story is fantastic. Boys and girls will enjoy the read.

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

Small Favor

Small Favor is by Jim Butcher. This is the tenth installment in the Dresden Files series. Mab shows up and reminds Harry he still owes her two favors and she is calling in one of them. He is to be her emissary for the time being, which doesn't make Titania and the Summer Court happy at all. Summer sends the Billy Goats Gruff (yep, only Harry) to kill him. As if that isn't enough Marcone has been captured by the Denarians. Harry and Michael must free him before he is turned, but is Marcone the real target? Another spectacular read from Butcher!

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

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Haunting of Derek Stone

The Haunting of Derek Stone is by Tony Abbott. This is the first book in a new series. The link goes to the first book in the series only. Amazon will direct you to the remainder. This series is a new twist on the zombie tale and has a very Gothic feel. The dead are coming back! Derek Stone, his father, and brother are in a terrible train wreck exactly where another train wrecked many years before. At first he believes his brother Ronny to be dead, then Ronny's body returns inhabited by the soul of Virgil Black who was killed in the original accident. The books are not really stand alones, each leaves too many unanswered questions that you hope will be forthcoming in the next of the series; hence the entire series being listed under one entry.

Ratings: 6th grade - 6 out of 10.

Soul Stealer

Soul Stealer is by Martin Booth. This is the sequel to The Alchemist's Son. Sebastian has not returned to his hibernation and that must mean evil is still abroad. Another enemy from the past has emerged and is trying to steal souls using an ancient book of spells. Can Sebastian, Pip, and Tim stop this evil magician in time? This book really makes you wish there was a third book in the series. A clever tale, filled with historical references and information.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Peter and the Starcatchers

Peter and the Starcatchers is by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson. The first book in a delightful new series. Ever wonder how Peter Pan became Peter Pan? Ever wonder how Captain Hook really got his hook? How did all those kids get to Neverland anyway? Well then this is the book for you. Much like The Looking Glass Wars in that it completely re-works Barrie's original tale; but it does so in a wonderfully exciting adventure tale that is hard to put down. Girls and boys alike will enjoy this book.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Water Mirror

The Water Mirror is by Kai Meyer. This is the first book in The Dark Reflections trilogy. A unique and very different fantasy. Merle is an orphan with a magic mirror. She is apprenticed to a mirror maker. She meets a boy named Serafin, who was once a master thief, but is now apprenticed to a weaver of magic cloth. Venice is under siege by the Egyptians and their army of mummies, all that protects the city is the Flowing Queen. When Merle and Serafin uncover a plot to kidnap the Flowing Queen they decide they must save her and protect Venice, even if it means releasing the Ancient Traitor.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Silver is for Secrets

Silver is for Secrets is by Laurie Faria Stolarz. The third book in the Blue is for Nightmares series. Stacey, Jacob, and their friends take a summer vacation to the beach. Stacey then begins to have nightmares about a young girl she meets there named Clara. She believes Clara is about to be killed and she must save her; but everything is not as it seems. Probably the best in the series so far. The ending is unexpected and sad, but I won't be a spoiler.

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

The Looking Glass Wars

The Looking Glass Wars is by Frank Beddor. The first in a trilogy of books that completely re-work Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Princess Alyss Heart watches as many of her family and friends are killed by her evil Aunt Redd. With the help of Hatter Madigan, her bodyguard, she escapes through the Pool of Tears and arrives in England. She tries to tell her story about Wonderland and the power imagination, but no one believes her. She believes that she's found a sympathetic ear, but he turns her story into the travesty we all know as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." As Hatter searches our world for Alyss, the rebels in Wonderland try to defeat Redd's armies. A thoroughly enjoyable tale for boys and girls alike, think Alice in Wonderland meets Star Wars.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Angel Experiment

The Angel Experiment is by James Patterson. This is the first book in the Maximum Ride series. A unique blend of science fiction and mystery; Max and her "flock" are part human/part bird. Four years ago they escaped from "the school", the lab where they were created, tortured, and treated like animals not kids. When six-year-old Angel is kidnapped by the "whitecoats" from "the school", 14-year-old Max and the other four members of the flock set out to rescue her. But things are not as simple as they appear. A great story. This is going to be a wonderful series. The implied torture of children may be a little rough for some readers, but it is not graphic and is necessary to the story.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity)

White Night

White Night is by Jim Butcher. This is the 9th book in the Dresden Files series. When Murphy calls him in to check out some suspicious suicides Harry discovers evidence that points to Thomas as the murderer. He is still struggling with his duties as a Warden, his new apprentice Molly, the return of his first love Elaine, and now he finds himself neck deep in the intrigue of the White Court. Can Harry save the day - again! One of the best in the series, full of Butcher's witty sarcasm & humor.

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

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bloodline: Reckoning

Bloodline: Reckoning is by Kate Cary. The sequel to Bloodline. A wonderful, very Stoker-like, continuation of the Dracula story. Mary Seward has returned to Purfleet. Now that she knows the truth of vampires she finds she is afraid of the dark. Is she being foolish or has the evil she escaped followed her home? At her father's funeral she sees Quincey Harker and believes he has come after her and killed her father to hurt her? But is Quincey the guilty one? Or is he trying to fight the evil within him as he claims? Mary finds herself attracted to Quincey, but can she really love him or is he out to kill her? Both of Cary's books are wonderful and are great companions to Stoker's book. I wish Cary would continue the saga.

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

The Witches

The Witches is by Roald Dahl. The charming story of an orphan boy who, with his grandmother, must take on all the witches in England. The Grand High Witch of the World has come up with a way to get rid of every child in England. Can a young boy and his aged grandmother stop her? A very cute story.

Ratings: 5th grade - 7 out of 10.

Sir Thursday

Sir Thursday is by Garth Nix. The fourth book in the Keys to the Kingdom series. On his way home from dealing with Drowned Wednesday, Arthur is drafted into the Army of the Architect by Sir Thursday. While Leaf returns to Earth to deal with Arthur's evil double, Arthur must defeat an army of Nithlings that threaten the House and recapture the key and the fourth part of the Will from Sir Thursday. The series gets more suspenseful with each book.

Ratings: 7th grade- 8 out of 10.

City of Shadows

City of Shadows is by Celia Rees. The first book in the Supernatural Trilogy. Davey is 12. He and his sister and two cousins go on a tour of the legendary underground city that is supposed to be haunted. The four young people manage to cross from their world into the world of the dead. They make friends and enemies in their struggle to get home. But once they get home are their troubles over? A very interesting and exciting new series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Icebound Land

The Icebound Land is by John Flanagan. The third book in The Ranger's Apprentice series. Will and Evanlyn have been kidnapped and are on their way to Skandia where they will be sold as slaves. Halt, after being refused permission to rescue Will, gets himself dismissed from the Rangers and sets out with Horace to find both Will and Evanlyn. Can they manage their own adventures and get to Skandia in time to save the young people from a hideous life of slavery?

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The King of Attolia

The King of Attolia is by Megan Whalen Turner. The third and final book in The Queen's Thief series. Eugenides is now the King of Attolia. He wanted the queen, not the crown, but can he have one without the other? He now finds himself in a web of political intrigue. Costis is a young palace guard. He, like everyone else, dislikes the new king and wishes he was out of the picture. Slowly he discovers the new king is not the fool he thought he was and soon finds himself involved in a corrupt court that is subtle and dangerous. As good as the second book, makes you wish there was a fourth.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark is by Charlaine Harris. The first in the Southern Vampire Mystery (Sookie Stackhouse) series. The series is set in rural Louisiana. Sookie is a waitress in a local bar. She's pretty, quiet, and doesn't date much. She has a small problem, she can read minds. Then in walks Bill and Sookie discovers she can't hear his thoughts. There's just one thing, he's a vampire and he's got some really icky friends. Then the murders start and Sookie wonders who is killing people she knows and is she next? A wonderful series! I can't wait for the next installment. It's not as good as The Dark Hunter series, but it is a fun and enjoyable read. This series is not recommended for those under 18.

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Tail of Emily Windsnap

The Tail of Emily Windsnap is by Liz Kessler. The first in a series of "swishy" tales about a young girl who discovers she is a mermaid. Emily is now caught up in a mystery. Who is her father? Why doesn't her mother remember him? Is someone making sure her mother forgets? If Emily wants to live happily ever after she must face King Neptune and convince him to free her parents. A very cute tale girls will enjoy.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Lost Queen

The Lost Queen is by Frewin Jones. The 2nd book in the Faerie Path series. Edric and Tania continue to search for Queen Titania in modern London. When Rathina frees the Sorcerer King all of Faerie is endangered and Tania must find the queen and return her to Faerie before all is lost - and before Gabriel Drake and the Gray Knights find her. This series continues to be suspenseful and fun to read. Girls will love it.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Rise of the Evening Star

Rise of the Evening Star is by Brandon Mull. In the second installment of the Fablehaven series Kendra & Seth return to Fablehaven as the Society of the Rising Star tries to steal the powerful artifact hidden there. The only hope the Sorensons have is to find it first and keep it safe. The Society has placed a traitor in their midst. Can they discover the artifact before the traitor does? Can they discover the identity of the traitor? Who really controls the Society of the Rising Star? A great sequel! It will really keep you guessing and anticipating the third book for more clues to the puzzle.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Leven Thumps & the Gateway to Foo

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo is by Obert Skye. Leven is 14 and lives in Oklahoma with his mother's half sister and her wretched husband. They never wanted Leven and always make sure he knows it. Then he learns about Foo, a place created to make dreams and hope possible, and Leven is the key to finding the gateway to Foo. Together with Clover, a cat-like sidekick, and Winter, a girl with powers of her own, Leven must find the gateway and save our world and Foo from the evil Sabine and his shadows. An interesting start to a promising series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

The Awakening & The Struggle

The Awakening & The Struggle are by L.J. Smith. The first and second books in the Vampire Diaries series. Elena can have any boy she wants, but the one she wants is a vampire. Stefan vows to protect Elena from his tortured and hidden past, but can he stop himself from falling in love with her? Damon hates his brother and would do anything to hurt him, even kill Elena. Elena finds herself caught between two vampire brothers at war, but is there something worse out there in the night? A riveting series, quite a bit darker than Twilight.

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

The Blue Djinn of Babylon

The Blue Djinn of Babylon is by P.B. Kerr. The second book in the Children of the Lamp series continues the adventures of John & Philippa Gaunt, two 12-year-old twins who happen to be djinn. The Solomon Grimoire is reported missing and only John & Philippa can get it back. Unfortunately it's a trap and when Philppa is kidnapped only John can rescue his sister before it's too late. This book is better than the first one. I hope the series continues to be this good.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Chase

The Chase is by Zizou Corder. This is the second book in The Lionboy trilogy. Charlie and the lions are taken to the King's palace in Venice. Here he hopes to find his parents and then return the lions to Africa, but Edward has other plans. Can Charlie and the lions escape? Will Charlie ever find his parents? Will Maccomo recapture the lions? Will Rafi capture Charlie? Will Charlie ever discover why the Corporacy is so interested in his family? What is the secret of the Allergenies? A great sequel to the first novel and sets up the action for the third.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Little Sir Galahad

Little Sir Galahad is by Lillian Holmes. Another in Lamplighter Publishing's Rare Collector's Series. A Christian oriented story of a young crippled boy. He longs to be a physically strong and valiant young man, but learns what it is to be strong and valiant in character and spirit. He wants to support his aunt, and finds a way in spite of his weakness. A charming tale of character and how to triumph over adversity in life.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Smith of Wootton Major & Famer Giles of Ham

Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham are by J.R.R. Tolkien. Not set in Middle Earth, but two tales that are charming on their own. In the first tale the Master Cook returns from vacation with an apprentice. Something amazing happens at the Feast of the Cake. A delightful tale of fantasy and the gift it is to humans. In the second, a farmer is sent to slay an invading dragon who refuses to fight.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Brian's Hunt

Brian's Hunt is by Gary Paulsen. Brian is now 16 and having trouble adjusting to life away from the woods. He returns to the remote woods and lakes of Canada, where he encounters a mysteriously injured dog. Something about this incident doesn't seem right to Brian and he begins to worry about his Cree friends. He decides to take the dog and travel to their camp and see for himself that they are alright. Some of the details of this installment in the Brian saga are a little gory, but it's a great tale all the same.

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

The Ravenmaster's Secret: Escape from the Tower of London

The Ravenmaster's Secret: Escape from the Tower of London is by Elvira Woodruff. Set in London in the 1700s, Forrest is the Ravenmaster's son. His father's job is to care for the protected ravens, and some of the prisoners, in the infamous Tower of London. Forrest and his friend Ned, the rat catcher, want nothing more than to escape their lives in the Tower. Then one day a young girl, the daughter of a Scottish rebel, is confined to the Tower. Forrest must decide whether saving Maddy is worth the risk of discovery and the danger to himself and his family. A wonderful piece of historical fiction that discusses the cost of courage and the importance of friendship.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

Star Split

Star Split is by Kathryn Lasky. A disturbing, but thought provoking, tale of the dangers of cloning. Set in the third millennium, Darci is a Genhant, a genetically enhanced human. Everyone she knows is genetically engineered; "Originals" are few and outcasts from society. They go to a different school, study a different curriculum, and are not allowed to associate with Genhants. The gravest sin in the Bio Union is the unauthorized cloning of individuals. This crime is punishable by death for the offenders and all "copies". At a climbing camp Darci meets her "copy". She and Vivian are terrified realizing what this could mean for their families and themselves. Lasky's writing can be somewhat more technical than some readers would prefer, but her discussion of the dangers of cloning and what it could mean for humanity if taken to the logical extreme is frightening. An excellent way to introduce younger readers to Huxley's Brave New World.

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

In The Cards: Fame

In The Cards: Fame is by Mariah Fredericks. The second book of the In The Cards trilogy. Eve has Anna read the cards to see if she will get the lead in the school production of Cabaret. The cards seem to indicate success, but Eve will have to achieve her success at the expense of someone else. Is fame under those circumstances worth it? Are there some prices that are just too high? A tale of teenage desire, meanness, and self sacrifice.

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

Dolphin Song

Dolphin Song is by Lauren St. John. The sequel to The White Giraffe finds Martine heading out with her school chums on a field trip to see the Sardine Run. While on the trip seven children, including Martine and Ben, are swept overboard in a storm. Dolphins save the children and take them to a deserted island. They must learn to work together to survive and solve the mystery of beached dolphins. Once they discover the danger to the dolphins, can they save them? Will they themselves be rescued? Another charming tale from St. John; steeped in environmental political correctness, but charming nonetheless.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street is by Sandra Cisneros. This classic book is a collection of vignettes woven together into a seamless work by Cisneros' skillful writing. The narrator, Esperanza Cordero, comes of age in the Latino section of Chicago. Esperanza shares her experiences growing up on Mango Street and her desire to leave. She discovers that while she may leave Mango Street, Mango Street will never leave her.

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

Midnight for Charlie Bone

Midnight for Charlie Bone is by Jenny Nimmo. The first book in the Children of the Red King series. All the children of the Red King are "endowed" with special powers. When Charlie Bone finds he can hear the thoughts of people in photographs he discovers he is one of the Red King's descendants. Now he must go to Bloor's Academy for special training. But as Charlie and his friends try to discover the secret of a mysterious case and find a missing girl things began to get difficult. Can Charlie find Emma? Are his grandmother and great aunts really as evil as they seem? Can he count on Uncle Paton for help? A charming new series for lovers of Harry Potter.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Spirit Walker

Spirit Walker is by Michelle Paver. The second book in The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. A mysterious sickness is sweeping the Forest Tribes. When the Raven Clan is stricken Torak decides to head into the Deep Forest to find a cure. Missing the still absent Wolf and leaving Renn behind he heads into the forest. After being told the cure he seeks is at the Sea he is captured by the Seal Clan and taken to their island. There he meets Tenris the mage who offers him the cure. Then Renn and Wolf arrive and try to warn Torak that a Soul Eater is on the island. But who is it? Can Torak find the answer before it's too late?

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.