Monday, October 27, 2008

The Sea of Monsters

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

A little note of disclaimer on this book, it is the second in a series and I just realized I never reviewed the first book, The Lightening Thief. The first book is awesome and a great read for middle schoolers on up. I especially like to recommend it to my boys who are a little reluctant to read.

This book picks up about a year after the last one. Percy Jackson, our hero, is a demigod or hero (the son of Poseidon and a mortal woman). Percy spent the first twelve years of his life not knowing his true identity, that is until a centaur and a satyr found him and brought him to Camp Half-blood, a summer camp for demigods.

In the first book, Percy goes on a quest with his satyr pal Grover and another half-blood named Annabeth to retrieve the lightening bolt of Zeus. Now, Percy must save his beloved camp as well as his best satyr friend. With the help of Annabeth and a baby cyclops, Percy journeys into the Sea of Monsters to save Grover and bring back the one thing that will save the camp.

Deterring Percy on his quest is the new activities director for the camp, Tantalus, and an evil half-blood named Luke. Percy also faces his normal disadvantages, such as being unlucky and dyslexic, not to mention being one of the least favorite person of some of the gods. Did I also mention all the monsters he will have to face along the way? Hey, it is all in a day's work for a thirteen-year-old hero.

I really enjoyed this book. I find Percy to be an every man's hero and a good role model to kids who may feel like they don't fit in or who struggle academically/socially. I once again recommend this book to middle schoolers on up (upper elementary would probably enjoy it as well).

Friday, October 24, 2008


Private by Kate Brian

Never have I read a novel so lacking in any kind of moral fiber or general humanity as this book. Private is all about Reed Brennan a fifteen-year-old girl from small town America who has just received a scholarship to attend a prestigious private boarding school. Reed brings to this wealthy school little money and a lot of baggage.

At Easton, her new school, Reed meets the Billings Girls, a group of rich girls who live in the best dorm on campus. Reed learns from them to forget about herself and do what the others want with little or no consequence for their actions. I was sickened by how Reed went from a girl who didn't care if she was popular to a girl who only went to this new school to be popular.

The characters seemed very one-dimensional filling in stereotypes found so commonly in young adult literature (I use the term literature very loosely here). There was no moral growth of any kind from the characters and in the end Reed succumbs to the pressures of the cool girls and does whatever they say with little to no resistance.

Unless you are dying to read a vapid, shallow read with nothing to it, I suggest you stay far away from this book.

Note: Sexual situations, Foul language, Drinking and Drug use

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gregor the Overlander

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

I just finished listening to Gregor the Overlander. This is a fantasy story about an eleven-year-old boy (Gregor) and his two-year-old sister (Boots) who fall down a shaft in their New York City laundry room into an underground world. In this world, humans live side-by-side with giant bats and cockroaches.

Gregor, whose father disappeared two years ago, learns that his falling into the Underland was prophesied centuries ago. He is the one who will be the "warrior;" the one who will defeat the evil giant rats and bring light to the Underland. Gregor doesn't see himself as a warrior, just as a kid who is trying to get him and his sister home.

Gregor, much like Frodo Baggins of Lord of the Rings fame, is sent on a quest with several inhabitants of the Underland, including two members of the human royal family and two cockroaches. Along the way the group encounters mental and physical challenges that tests the group's strength and resilience. An action-packed adventure reminiscent of Lord of the Rings or The Lightening Thief, young readers will enjoy the story of Gregor, an unusual hero of extraordinary talents.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and look forward to the next installment, I did not care much for the reader on the audiobook version. I highly recommend this book, especially for middle schoolers, but suggest maybe skipping the audio version.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Vampire Kisses

Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

Have you ever been the odd man out? Have you ever felt like an outcast? Well, if you have you are in the same boat as Raven Madison. Raven is the goth chic at her all preppie school. Her town is so boringly suburbia that she has nicknamed it Dullsville.

Live in Dullsville is pretty horrible for Raven. She is constantly being bullied by soccer snob Trevor. She only has one friend, a farm girl named Becky, and her once cool hippie parents have fallen under Dullsville's spell. Raven feels all alone, until one day when she sees a mysterious figure standing in the attic window of the abandoned mansion in town.

Raven starts to investigate and even breaks into the mansion to discover the secrets of the new family who has recently taken up residence. Her snooping leads her to Alexander, the seventeen-year-old, home schooled only child of the family. Alexander is the man of Raven's dreams. A goth guy who sleeps all day and is as misunderstood as Raven.

Tension rises between Raven and her new beau Alexander when Trevor begins to spread rumors that Alexander and his family are vampires. Could this be true? It would mean the answer to Raven's biggest wish, to be a vampire, but is she ready for eternity?

Although this book is in the vampire genre, it is all about acceptance and being different. Teens who love books like Twilight will enjoy this tale of young love, but so will those teens who have ever felt like an outcast. It is also a nice quick read; I read it in a day. This book is the first in a series, so those who enjoyed this first book can get more of Raven and Alexander.

Warning: Contains sexual situations and inappropriate language

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Doomed Queen Anne

Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer

Another book in the Young Royals series (see Beware, Princess Elizabeth), this book follows the life of Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII and mother to Queen Elizabeth I. Readers are introduced to Anne at thirteen when she is in France and reuniting with her older sister Mary, mistress to the King. We are then taken back to when she was just six years-old and sent away for the first time.

The most intriguing parts of this book start when Anne leaves France to join the court of King Henry VIII. Anne starts off as a sweet girl who is trying to over come her deformities (a sixth finger on one hand and a large mole) and her dominating older sister. As the years go by, Anne is turned from a sweet young girl into a manipulative woman bent on becoming queen, even though there is already one.

Anne plays a complicated game of cat and mouse as she lures the King to her. It is interesting to see how the King at first loves her and then discards her for another. It would be fascinating to read his side of this story, but alas at over forty in this book, he does not qualify as a "young royal."

Once again, I recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical fiction or who want to learn more about Anne Boleyn. It is a quick read that would be perfect for a rainy weekend.

Beware, Princess Elizabeth

Beware, Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer

Beware, Princess Elizabeth follows the life of England's Queen Elizabeth I, from her father's death to her coronation. Meyer does an excellent job of introducing teen readers to the life of someone they have no doubt heard of, but know little about. Even this adult reader learned a lot from this book, but I'm not sure how much is fact versus fiction.

Told from the perspective of Elizabeth, the story spans eleven years. Readers will be intrigued by Elizabeth's patience as she first lives through her nine-year-old brother's reign as king (a mere six years), where she watched as her brother was controlled like a puppet by his two maternal uncles. Then, Elizabeth must suffer through the rule of her sister, Mary, as she burns Protestants at the stake and imprisons Elizabeth.

The book not only gives readers a look at Elizabeth's life, but also but what life was like for the ruling class in 16th century England. Courtly manners are observed as well as strange customs, such as Elizabeth being required to attend the birth of the next heir to the throne. There is also some political material as we learn of the two Seymour brothers (Elizabeth's brother Edward's uncles) and there goal of seizing power for themselves, and the use of marriage to gain power.

Overall, this book does a wonderful job of introducing readers to Elizabeth and proves to be a quick read. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially fans of the Dear America: Royal Diaries books. This book too is part of a series, Young Royals, other women such as Anne Boleyn, Bloody Mary, Catherine of Aragon and more are the subject of the others in this series.

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

This is the first book in a fantasy series that follows the trial and tribulations of thirteen-year-old Thomas Ward. Tom, born the seventh son to a seventh son, is starting his apprenticeship, but instead of being a farmer or a blacksmith, Tom is going to be a Spook. Spooks protect the people of the county from the supernatural: witches, ghosts, boggards, etc. Each county has a Spook and it is a thankless but important task.

Spooks are almost as feared as the creatures they hunt. Old Gregory, Tom's mentor, has had 29 apprentices, some who have lived, some who have fled, and some who have died. Tom, it is prophesied, will be Gregory last apprentice and he has a lot to learn about his trade. One thing he needs to learn, never trust a girl with pointy shoes.

As we follow Tom through his first few months of training, we are given the basic understanding of what a Spook is and how Tom isn't ready to be one. As young heroes are apt to do, Tom messes up in a big way, but is determined to clean-up his own mistake. At times his naivete is frustrating, but the reader is compelled to keep reading.

Young readers will enjoy the adventure as well as the fantasy aspects of this story. While older readers will want to delve further into Tom and Gregory's world. I found this book quite enjoyable and I look forward to reading the sequel. I not only recommend this book to middle school and up, but I also recommend the audiobook which is done quite nicely as well.