The Lightning Thief

June 12, 2009

lightningthief1Another series that I picked up later than I should have is Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson & the Olympians.  I knew it had won awards and praise from pretty much everywhere, but I think maybe I expected it to be a little bit too much of a boy book for me.  I was so wrong!

If you haven’t read the series yet, book 1 is called The Lightning Thief.  Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old boy who tends to get in a lot of trouble.  He’s been in numerous boarding schools already, and he’s about to get kicked out of another one.  Percy eventually learns that he is a half-blood:  His mother is mortal, but his father is one of the Greek gods.  He sets out on a quest to help his father, knowing that he may not return alive.

The Lightning Thief was really enjoyable.  It has a lot of the same elements as Harry Potter – boy hero finding out something about himself that allows him to enter into a new world, heading off on a quest still learning about this new world, and he even has two sidekick friends- Grover, a satyr who also serves as Percy’s keeper; and Annabeth, another half-blood.  True, Harry Potter also had references to Greek mythology, but it didn’t rely on it as heavily as Percy Jackson, nor did it make Greek mythology as interesting.  Several times while reading I stopped to find more information on an important figure.  Rick Riordan deserves a lot of credit for making the subject so interesting.  Another thing that I think is great about this book is that it may help kids with dyslexia and ADHD feel less self-conscious.  Percy and the other half-bloods do too as it’s a sign of being a demi-god.  The book had a lot of adventure, mystery, action, and humor.  I highly recommend it, especially to Harry Potter fans.  I will definitely be reading the rest of the series!


48 Hour Book Contest

June 8, 2009

48hbcOver the weekend I participated in the 48 Hour Book Contest hosted by MotherReader.  If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is to read as much as you can or want to over a consecutive 48 hour period.  Time you blog about your process or the books you’ve read also counts toward your time.  This year socializing – time you spent reading other participating blogs, commenting, or twittering – was also allowed to add into your time.  My friends and I decided to participate together at NerdGirlBlogging, the blog we share, so head over there if you want to see our posts.

I ended up with a grand total of 15 hours, 30 minutes and 1162 pages.  It was a great experience, and I got to read & hear about a lot of great books.  These are the books I read.

specialsSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book in the Uglies series, published in 2006.  It has quite a bit of action in it, especially toward the end.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I had Uglies.  Probably because then the series and concept of the books were still new to me.  I  see Specials as the final act of the UgliesPrettiesSpecials trilogy.  However, there is a fourth book called Extras, but Tally is not the main character.  I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I’ve been told by others that they really enjoyed it, so maybe I’ll pick it up after a little break from the series.  I would definitely recommend Uglies to any YA reader, and you can read my review of that book here.

drums20girlsDrums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

This is a really great story from 2004 about Steven, a geeky 8th grader trying to deal with school,  a girl who doesn’t know he exists, and an annoying five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, all while finding time to get better on the drums.  Steven’s year quickly goes downhill when he learns that Jeffrey has lukemia.  Written in first person, Drums really gives us a feel for what Steven and his family are going through.  It has a lot of really sweet, sad, funny, angry, and quirky moments, and I cannot recommend it enough.

devilishDevilish by Maureen Johnson

This was my first Maureen Johnson book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It turned out to be a fairly quick read with supernatural elements.  Jane attends an all-girl prep school with her best friend Allison, who has somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Allison changes drastically when new girl Lanalee arrives at school, suddenly owning expensive things, dying and cutting her hair, and stealing Jane’s ex-boyfriend.  Jane soon discovers Allison has sold her soul to Lanalee, a devil-in-training who also wants Jane’s soul.  I enjoyed the character of Jane; she’s intelligent, witty, and fiercely loyal and protective of her best friend.  Devilish is a pretty light read, though it does have some slightly graphic descriptions at times, so I would recommend it to older readers who like out-of-the-norm supernatural books.

savvySavvy by Ingrid Law

This 2008 book has won numerous honors, including 2009 Newbery Honor and ALA Notable Book for Children 2009.  Main character Mibs is about to turn 13.  A big deal for anyone, yet in her family, turning 13 means you get your savvy — a special talent.  Mibs’ oldest brother creates electricity and another brother can cause hurricanes.  Two days before her birthday, Mibs’ father is in a bad car accident.  Mibs KNOWS her savvy is to wake him up, so she, her older brother Fish, her younger brother Samson, and the preacher’s kids Will & Bobbi embark on an adventure.  Along her journey, Mibs learns a lot about herself, her family, and growing up.  This was a fantastic story with great characters and an exciting adventure.  Highly recommended!  I’m looking forward to more from Ingrid Law.

lincolnsThe Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

I have only read the first two chapters of this massive book so far, but I’m enjoying it.  It’s a nice book to pick up every now and then to supplement reading typical chapter books.  I love the scrapbook feel, with the pictures and various chunks of text.  It’s such a great way to learn about two important figures in history and what living in their time was like.  I’m looking forward to finishing the book and learning more, but I can already see why it’s so popular and has earned so many praise.  A great book for a variety of ages!

masterpieceMasterpiece by Elise Broach

I’m still working my way through this chapter book too, but so far it’s very enjoyable.  Published in 2008, Masterpiece is the story of Marvin, a beetle who lives in a NYC apartment with a human family, including 10-year-old James.  Of course, the humans don’t know they are there, until one day when Marvin goes into James’ room to leave a birthday present and ends up creating a beautiful ink picture.  When James awakes and sees the picture, he’s amazed and even more surprised when Marvin reveals himself as the artist.  I love that the book is from the perspective of a tiny beetle.  I can’t to find out how Masterpiece ends.


What Really Happened to Humpty?

April 22, 2009

humpty

In this new picture book by Jeanie Franz Ransom, Joe Dumpty (Humpty’s detective brother) sets out to prove that Humpty’s fall was no accident.  Kids will recognize lots of nursery-rhyme characters from Little Miss Muffet to the Three Little Pigs.  Adults will recognize the spoof of classic detectives.  The story, which has quite a bit of narration, includes mystery and crime, but not murder – Humpty is not dead, just broken (since all the King’s men can’t put him together).  However, the bright, full illustrations will help readers who may have trouble with lots of words.  All in all, this is a very fun book and would be great as a read-aloud.


Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

April 10, 2009

sorceryceceliaWritten in letters between two cousins, this 1987 (re-issued in 2003) book by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is a fresh change from the typical novel style.  Throw in a setting of early 1800s England and some magical elements and the story becomes extremely interesting.  While Kate is off in London for the season, Cecelia is stuck back in the country without her.  The two describe their encounters with new friends, “odious” men, and mysterious events and soon realize their separate adventures are connected.

The story begins a little slow.  I had to start it twice after putting it down for awhile the first time, but it was great once I got into it.  Both Kate and Cecelia are relatable characters despite the time period that may be foreign to readers.  They possess a spunk that will make readers laugh and forget about the (now) strange customs of 19th Century England society.  Sorcery & Cecelia is perfect for readers who love the elements of Jane Austen but have trouble with the language of the classics.  If you like Sorcery & Cecelia, I’ve just discovered that there are two follow-ups:  The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia and The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After.  I’m adding them to my to-read list now!


Zorgamazoo

March 23, 2009

zorgamazooZorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston is definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year!  It’s an adventure story filled with strange creatures, a reluctant hero, mystery, bravery, and so much more.  Here’s the best part:  It’s written entirely in verse!  The whole book — all 283 pages — is in perfect rhythm and rhyme, which is certainly not easy to do, but Weston appears to write his story so effortlessly.  This book would be great for either a solid individual reader or for reading aloud.  These words would be fantastic read aloud, and the story is filled with excitement and drama.  It’s an absolute must read!

Need a second opinion?  Hear what Jen has to say here!


Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

April 24, 2008

Not only was this my first exposure to the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer but also to the typical style of graphic novels. Colfer creates a fascinating world of reality and fantasy where fairies, dwarves, goblins, and centaurs exist. However, I was most surprised by the human main character Artemis. He’s a 12-year-old boy genius, rich, extremely knowledgeable of technology, smart-alecky, and generally not a good guy. In this first book of the series, Artemis (and his private bodyguard, Butler) manipulate, threaten, even kidnap a fairy for gold. Another surprise for me in this book was the shift in point of view. Even though the series is about Artemis, readers are still able to hear the thoughts of the secondary characters, which, for me, created even less loyalty for Artemis. Still, the book is plot-driven with a lot of action, which I enjoy. Fans of Artemis Fowl would probably enjoy the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, and vice versa.

Although I didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy the story, I did like the graphic novel version of it. Sometimes I have a difficult time visualizing as I read, so the graphic novel allowed me to give my brain a break, especially since the graphic novel is not very text heavy. Reading this has inspired me to check out other series in graphic-novel form, including Nancy Drew and The Baby-sitter’s Club. I’ll review those soon.


The Golden Compass

March 1, 2008

In Book 1 of his “His Dark Materials” series, The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman creates an adventurous fantasy with a strong female main character in young Lyra. Despite the appearances of talking animals and the young ages of the characters, this book is not ideal for young readers. At times, the violence seems graphic, though it is probably nothing worse than readers view on television.

In The Golden Compass, Lyra joins many adults who head North to rescue kidnapped children. Along the way, she learns the truth about various aspects of their universe and about her own history. The book and the movie based on this book have been very controversial lately, but I did not see how this book could have created such controversy.

Rating (out of 5): 4