Friday, May 24, 2013

Wednesdays in the Tower -- Jessica Day George

A castle that is constantly rearranging itself, and a young royal family sworn to protect it . . . Celie, Rolf, and their beloved Castle Glower are back in this exciting sequel.

Strange things are afoot in Castle Glower: new rooms, corridors, and even stables keep arriving, even when they aren't needed. Celie's brother Bran, the new Royal Wizard, has his hands full cataloguing an entire storeroom full of exotic and highly dangerous weapons, while Celie has her hands full . . . raising the creature that hatches from a giant egg she finds! Will they be able to find out what's making the Castle behave this way in time?

An absolutely delightful sequel to Tuesdays at the Castle. I felt I knew the characters better this time, and I was more familiar with the castle's quirks, which made the story easier for me to follow. I bought two copies for the junior high school library and had a half dozen students read it before the library closed for the school year. All of them loved the book as much as I did.

This series would be an excellent addition to literature circles or read aloud to the class for grades 1 through 7, or I highly recommend the book as a welcomed gift for wither boys or girls in the same age range. 

The book opened in the New York Times Bestseller list. Bravo, Jessica!

Only one thing to note, I'm not looking forward to waiting an entire year before I know what happens on Thursday!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Clockwork Angel -- Cassandra Clare

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all. 

Deliciously gruesome steam punk, not for the feint of heart. I could hardly devour this one fast enough to satisfy my curiosity. Happy that book two is already sitting on my to be read pile. It's no wonder the students and teachers have made it hard to keep this one on the shelves.

Some content is graphic, and I would not recommend this to anyone younger than 9th grade.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret -- Chad Morris

Abby and Derick have been accepted to the most prestigious secondary school in the world: Cragbridge Hall. Due to the inventions of their grandfather, Oscar Cragbridge, they will be able to experience history in 3D, use their minds to literally project visual interpretations of classic literature, and become animal avatars for zoology. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, Abby and Derick must follow clues Oscar left for them that will reveal a dangerous secret. Along the way, they discover there is much more to one of their grandfather's inventions than anyone has ever dreamed. Saving their family will take all of Derick's mind and Abby's heart as they come face to face with a crazed scientist who desperately seeks to change the past. If they fail, the world past and future will never be the same.

Shadow Mountain has brought us what appears to be another delightful, and popular fantasy series for young readers. In the vein of Margaret Peterson Haddix's Missing series, The Infinity Ring series under the tutelage of creator and author James Dashner, and a dash of the 39 Clues series tossed in for good measure, Morris's novel takes us to the delightful possibility of time travel in an incredible school, unlike any in existence, and teaches a bit of history along the way.

Although some of the history was obscure and likely not familiar to the majority of young readers, they will immediately recognize, and experience the suspense, of the sinking of the Titanic. A little more development about Ernest Shackleton, Hugh Glass and John Colter, and the complete omission of the reference to Joseph Smith would have improved the historical aspects of the novel. The paragraph about Smith was confusing, causing me to reread three times and still not understanding why such an obscure event to the non-Mormon world was even included, other than to serve as an all-too-obvious head-nod to the local community of readers.

With that one exception, I loved the book and will recommend it to my junior-high students. The addition of discussion questions lends the book to small group study, such as literature circles.