Full review at Cracking the Cover I loved Jennifer A. Nielsen’s “The False Prince” and was anxiously awaiting the next book in her Ascendance Trilogy.Full review at Cracking the Cover I loved Jennifer A. Nielsen’s “The False Prince” and was anxiously awaiting the next book in her Ascendance Trilogy. And, for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed.
Jennifer is a good storyteller. So good that “The False Prince” could easily stand alone. It ended with no real cliff-hanger and the outcome was perfectly satisfying. At the time I finished it, I remember thinking, “well now what?”
Because of that setup, “The Runaway King” feels very much like a new story with the same characters. That sensation fades away as you continue to read, but it’s definitely there in the beginning.
Also disjointing is the character development. While Sage/Jaron has always been the main character, other players have also come forward. In “The Runaway King” it’s definitely the Jaron show. Yes, he interacts with people we’ve previously met, and yes, new friends and enemies make entrances, but they don’t feel as fully fleshed out and a few are one-dimensional and just plain annoying.
It’s easy to pick little grievances apart because Jennifer has set the bar so high. If “The Runaway King” were written by someone else, I may not have noticed or focused on the elements above. Because, in truth, “The Runaway King” is a good book. There’s lots of adventure — swordplay, bandits and pirates — and mystery. The pacing is fast and Jennifer’s prose is comfortable and her plotting well planned out. And I’m excited to see where Jennifer takes us in the final book....more
Full review at Cracking the Cover There’s an innocence and other timeliness to “Water Castle” that is missing in so many of the books coming out for miFull review at Cracking the Cover There’s an innocence and other timeliness to “Water Castle” that is missing in so many of the books coming out for middle readers today. The children aren’t snotty or self-absorbed. Instead, they’re smart and real and relatable. They use their imaginations and their minds aren’t closed to possibilities.
Author Megan Frazer Blakemore doesn’t write down to her audience, instead she writes up to it. Because of that, there’s a sophisticated elegance that runs throughout the book.
“Water Castle” isn’t a fast read, but it’s an engrossing one. You become invested in the characters and you want to know the outcome. It would be interesting to see how a classroom of children would react to this book read aloud....more
Full review at Cracking the Cover “The Inventor’s Secret” came as a bit of a surprise for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into to it, but what IFull review at Cracking the Cover “The Inventor’s Secret” came as a bit of a surprise for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into to it, but what I found was fun, adventure and a compelling mystery.
It also turns out that Cragbridge Hall, has a lot in common with another Shadow Mountain series: Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. Both feature a brother-sister duo that has to save the world with the help of their grandparent (grandparents in Fablehaven) and unlikely allies. The formula worked well in the Fablehaven world and, so far, it works well in the Cragbridge Hall world as well.
Lest you think Cragbridge Hall is a complete copycat, let me assure you it’s not. While Chad Morris and Brandon chose some of the same basic plot elements, they’re writing style and plots are much different. While Fablehaven takes place in a fantasy world of fairies and dragons, Cragbridge Hall takes place in the future while heavily looking back into the past.
“The Inventor’s Secret” is full of some pretty cool elements. Seeing history play out in front of you, becoming an animal or seeing how you imagine literature play out on a screen while you read it would be awesome. I could live without gym in this world or Chad’s imagined one, but it does play nicely into the story.
What makes “The Inventor’s Secret” a complete package, however, is the characters. Without Abby and Derick — and some other lesser players — the book would be just a bunch of fun ideas strung together. The twins and their individual and combined stories are what makes this story shine. Both of the twins are likeable and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. I connected with Abby a little more based on her feelings of being average and dealing with those feelings in a school full of above-average students. Chad handles that element well, never getting too heavy handed, and by the end of the book, I really felt like Abby and Derick, to a lesser degree, had grown.
“The Inventor’s Secret” is exactly what I’d like this genre of middle-grade novel to be — fast-paced and engaging with a little bit of humor on the side....more
I’ve always loved books that tell the history behind things, that explain elements in smaller snippets yet still go intoreview via Cracking the Cover
I’ve always loved books that tell the history behind things, that explain elements in smaller snippets yet still go into detail. So I was excited when I received a copy of “Mathematics: An Illustrated History of Numbers.”
The coffee-table book is more than 100 pages and features various illustrations, pictures, charts and graphics. Following an introduction, it’s divided into four sections based on time/advances: prehistory to the middle ages; the renaissance and the age of enlightenment; ne numbers, new theories; and modern mathematics. A section on “great mathematicians” is also included.
An added bonus is a 12-page removable timeline that features key moments in culture, world events, science and invention, and mathematics dating from 4000 B.C. to today. On the other side of the timeline: all sorts of mathematical enigmas (games, paradoxes, primes, problems, etc.) and a chart of mathematical symbols.
“Mathematics: An Illustrated History of Numbers” isn’t the type of book you read cover to cover — unless you’re a true math geek, of course — rather, it’s best paged through, stopping at your areas of personal interest. Though some of the topics may at first appear over your head, the authors have made them accessible. The writing is well done and there’s not too much jargon to wade through.
Bottom line: Not only is this book interesting, it’s fun, too.
Computers have failed. Electricity is no longer used. The world is bigger and more complex than originally thought. A whole new profession of explorers has evolved, mapping undiscovered lands and discovering new species of plants and animals.
Among those explorers is the brilliant mapmaker Alexander West. His maps and discoveries are world-renowned. And now he’s dead, and the events surrounding his demise are anything but clear-cut.
Alexander left behind three children: Kit the brain, M.K. the tinkerer and Zander the brave. He also left them a secret map — well half of a secret map — that could change their lives forever. It’s up to the three siblings to decode their father’s message before the wrong people get their hands on it.
“The Expeditioners” is an exciting ride from beginning to end. I love author S.S. Taylor’s idea of unexplored places right under our noses.
Steampunk imagery combined with James Bond-like gadgets really help round out the book, but it’s the characters that bring it fully to life.
Middle-sibling Kit becomes the voice of “The Expeditioners” giving familial insight with a slight bias. It’s just the right edge to lend emotion and likability to the West family. While the siblings are brave, vulnerability also shines through, making them feel both real and relatable.
“The Expeditioners” is a fast 384 pages — I read it in one sitting — that’s a perfect choice for either girls or boys looking for a new series that will keep their attention. I can’t wait for the next book. ...more
“Divide and Conquer” is the second book in the seven-book, six-author Infinity Ring series. The first, “Mutiny in Time,” was penned by James Dashner. In the second, YA author Carrie Ryan takes a crack at fixing time, and she does it well.
There are a few things to note straight off the bat.
“Divide and Conquer” does not feel like it was written by a different author than it’s predecessor. Carrie has done a fine job carrying on where James left off, further developing the characters and not straying from their cores. Carrie does such a good job of this that you wouldn’t know two authors were involved without being told. Kudos to the Scholastic editors who coordinated things and smoothed the edges.
Carrie also excels in setting the scene. Her descriptions of Viking warriors and the battles come vividly to life. There is a lot of action, but there’s also a fair amount of humor, too, that really ties everything together and keeps the tone light.
This is a fast read. At 188 pages, there’s not a lot to hold readers back. The added bonus is the inclusion of yet another adventure via the secret compartment in the book’s front cover. The “Hystorian’s Guide” is a collectable map that includes a special code to unlock exclusive content on the Infinity Ring online game.
Bottom line: This series is shaping up to be one that kids will love from beginning to end. Not only is it fun and interactive, but kids will get a kick out of alternate versions of history and recognizing where and when things need to get back on track....more
Sheila has a way of translating complex relationships and situations into something accessible for young readers while maintaining a maturity that defies age limits. “Keeping Safe the Stars” is equally enjoyable for a 10-year-old as it is for a 32-year-old. Her prose transcends expectations as she slips seamlessly into a time a place both new and familiar at the same time.
Each of the main characters are well-developed and likeable in their own way. You come to know the weight of responsibility on Pride’s shoulders, the studious strength of Nightingale’s resolve and the impish curiosity of Baby as their story plays out. And though readers barely meet Old Finn in person, he becomes an old acquaintance through Pride’s remembrances and a stack of old letters she finds.
Like Sheila’s “Sparrow Road,” “Keeping Safe the Stars” is one of those books that will live on your bookshelf long after the latest fads find themselves sold for $1 or given away. There’s a timeless elegance to it that makes it worth the time and money investment....more