February 15, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
First there was Cinder, the Lunar cyborg who risked her life to save her prince. Then there was Scarlet, the outspoken pilot who joined forces with a rebel wolf operative to find her grandmother. Now there is Cress, a brilliant hacker trapped in a satellite orbiting Earth. Marissa Meyer gives old fairy tales a sci-fi update in The Lunar Chronicles, and the third installment, Cress, is my favorite so far.
Cinder, Scarlet, Thorne and Wolf are on the run, hiding in their stolen Rampion. What they don’t know is that Cress has been shielding them by hacking into the surveillance satellites and turning them the other way. When Cress finally makes contact with them, they set off to rescue her from her lonely satellite. When the rescue goes horribly wrong, they are separated. Can they find each other again in time to stop Queen Levana from marrying Prince Kai?
I loved seeing how the separate storylines converge and how different characters have to learn to work together. Once Scarlet is wrenched from Wolf, he and Cinder must learn to work together despite his changed genetic makeup. They reunite with Dr. Erland, but Cinder is still not sure how much they should trust him even though he has information that is key to their success.
Cress and Thorne must make their way across the desert, and they have earned a favorite place in my heart. Thorne is still a charming rake, but he just might have found a reason to care for some one other than himself. As he and Cress struggled over dune and dune, I fell for him every bit as much as Cress did. Cress believes that she is worthless as a shell, but she discovers strengths she didn’t know she had. Earth is quite a bit to take in when your only glimpse has been through a satellite window or newsfeeds. I gasped along with her at every new revelation–and there are many surprises in these pages.
We even see a glimpse of Winter, the star of the fourth and final book. Since each book in this series has gotten better and better, I can’t wait to read it. Write fast, Marissa!
February 10, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
In the author’s note in the back (yes, I’m that geeky reader that reads those, too), David Lubar shared that he did not want to write a sequel to Hidden Talents. I am glad he gave in to reader requests and wrote True Talents (A Tom Doherty Associates Book 2007).
Trash, otherwise known as Eddie Thalmeyer, wakes up in a concrete cell and knows he is in trouble. He is seeing gorillas on the wall and has vague memories of pain. A guy named Bowdler insists that he use his mind to move a marble across a table. If he can use his powers and his strength and his wits, he just might be able to escape. But who has him and why do they want him? Who can he turn to once he escapes?
Even though this story focuses on Trash, all the other guys from Edgeview Alternative School find themselves drawn to Philadelphia. As they come together to first help Trash and then rescue Lucky. This time the bad guys are much worse than a few school bullies. Along the way the pull on their powers, and more importantly, they count on each other to discover their true talents.
I enjoyed the shifting points of view that allow glimpses of each of the boys and their different paths to Philly. Martin still runs his mouth, but he is learning to control it around everyone except his dad. My favorite, though, is Torchie. Torchie has taken up a new hobby–playing the accordion. He is in constant wonder at the generosity of the neighbors, who gladly take up a collection to send him to accordion camp (in Philly, of course) and then to purchase a piano. Too bad they won’t get to enjoy any more of Torchie’s traveling concerts. Flinch has put his impeccable timing to use in a stand up comedy routine. Cheater meets his match when he tries to outplay a group of poker playing friends who don’t like losing money. Poor Lucky is finally driven over the edge by the voices of lost objects.
January 24, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
When Neal Shusterman started the Unwind Dystology, he created a world that is both terrifying and all-too-familiar. While I am horrified at this dystopian world that literally tears apart its unwanted teenagers in order to harvest them for body parts to transplant, I am also reminded of our own society where people with money routinely undergo surgery to improve their looks and where politicians call for ever more punitive policies toward poor students (such as denying students a free lunch or tying food assistance for families to student test scores).
UnSouled, Book 3 in the series, continues to raise questions about our society even as Connor, Lev, and Risa continue their fight to change their world. Connor and Lev are on the run to find answers from the woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to eliminate from history. Along the way the pick up Grace, a low-cortical girl who is much smarter than most people suspect. They also detour to the Arapache Reservation Lev had previously visited with disastrous results. Risa is on her own now that she revealed Proactive Citizenry’s blackmail to the world. Cam, the perfect being of rewound parts, is determined to bring down the the organization that created him in order to win back Risa. Just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, Starkey is back to rescue his fellow Storks and exact revenge.
I love the shifting points of view that give this book the complexity it deserves. While there are definite right and wrong sides, no one person is entirely right or wrong. They all have conflicting motivations and incomplete understanding of events. I like being able to connect pieces that the characters cannot see while trying to wrap my own brain around the conflicting bits of information.
I’m not sure if UnSouled is the end of the story. Connor, Lev, and Risa certainly haven’t stopped Proactive Citizenry and their unwinding, but the seeds have hope have taken root. Even if they can’t see how the can stop it or how soon, they believe there is a way out. I hope the same is true for the problems facing our world. We may not see a way out immediately, but hope still simmers and waits to come out of hiding.
January 21, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
Marie Lu has created a stunning and satisfying conclusion to the story begun in Legend. If you haven’t yet read Legend and Prodigy, you may want to stop reading this review now and go find yourself a copy of the first two books. Champion (G.P. Putnam’s Sons 2013) picks up where Prodigy left off.
Day and June have returned to the Republic to throw their support behind Anden, the new Elector, but they have gone their separate ways. Day is reunited with his little brother Eden, who is still blind from the Republic’s former experiments. Day is fighting to stay alive. June serves as Princeps-Elect, but hates the politics of the Senate.
It takes another crisis to bring them back together. The Colonies attack and invade the Republic because of a deadly plague outbreak. This one has no known cure and the only one who might hold the answer is Eden. Even though the people of the Republic hail Day as a hero now, neither he nor their government trust each other enough to work together. June might be able to bridge the gap, but is she willing to hurt Day even more than she already has?
Even though Day weakens throughout the story, he is still capable of running up walls and kicking butt when needed. He is also a thorn in Anden’s side, constantly reminding Anden to remember the common people–in emergency evacuations, housing, and medical treatment. Oh yeah, he still makes June swoon. June may not be cut out for politics, but she is still at the top of her class and is itching for an opportunity to go out on the streets again.
Just like the first two books, this one is impossible to put down once you start reading. The alternating voices of Day and June give two very different perspectives on this dystopian world that seems way too close to our own–especially the Colonies. I can’t wait to see what Marie Lu comes up with next.
January 17, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
Jonah and Katherine hope to have a little time to spend in the twentieth century before going on another time adventure, but the past catches up with them when Daniella (Anastasia Romanov in 1918) shows up on their doorstep with their friend Chip. Before they know it, Gavin (formerly Alexei Romanov) has whisked them back to Russia on July 16, 1918, where time is running out for the Romanov family. How can Jonah and Katherine save their friends without a fully working Elucidator and without any contact with time agents. Is there any hope at all when modern day scientists have discovered the remains of the entire family, including the bones of Alexei and Anastasia?
Just like the first five books in the series, Risked by Margaret Peterson Haddix is packed with nonstop action and history. Just when Jonah and Katherine come up with one solution, ten more problems pop up, including bad guys Gary and Hodge, who have escaped from time prison and are determined to make their money from selling the missing children from history. As the series progresses (and as the characters grow through their experiences), Haddix explores more of the philosophical issues of time travel and fate and destiny and God.
Of course, we still don’t learn who Jonah was in history, but we do know who he is through his time adventures. We still have a lot of missing children to account for and to save from history.
January 10, 2014
by Mrs. McGriff
I first met Matteo Alacran when he was still the clone of El Patron in The House of the Scorpion. I cheered when he escaped his fate and cried when he learned of the cruelty of El Patron that even reached out from beyond the grave. When I learned that Nancy Farmer had written a sequel, I wasn’t sure what to think. Of course, I wanted to know what happened to Matt, but how could a second book live up to the mind-blowing experience of reading the first one?
I needn’t have worried. The Lord of Opium is every bit as powerful as The House of the Scorpion. Now that El Patron is dead, Matt is the new drug lord for the country of Opium. He has grand plans for the future of Opium, but first he must convince his people and the outside world that a fourteen-year-old can lead a country besieged on all sides–and from within. He’s not sure who he can trust. His beloved foster mother Celia now treats him differently. Cienfuegos, head of the Farm Patrol, is deadly and dangerous, but he is the only one left who knows how Opium is run. Maria’s mother is determined to keep her away from Opium and Matt. Even his friends from the plankton factory–Chacho, Ton-Ton, and Fidelito–don’t know how to react to this new, powerful Matt. Dr. Rivas has worked for years to find a way to reverse the eejit operation, but he has his own hidden agenda.
All Matt needs to do is find a way to reverse the eejit operation, find new crops to grow in Opium, negotiate with Esperanza Mendoza to end the drug trade, keep competing drug lords from invading, discover the many secrets of Opium, and hope that biometric security features recognize him as El Patron instead of disintegrating him on contact.
Just as in the first book, Matt holds the story together. He wants to do the right thing–if he can figure out what the right thing is when there are no easy answers. Is he any better than El Patron if he must sacrifice a few in order to save many more? How can he take on all the responsibilities and threats that come with being Lord of Opium when he doesn’t even know the details of its daily operation? How can he free the eejits without destroying them?
This is another book that leaves me with plenty to think about.
December 27, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
In writing XVI, Julia Karr created a chilling future world where advertisements for the latest trends blare from personal listening devices and change according to where you are. Sound familiar, Facebook and Google ads? Girls are constantly told how to be sexier, and when they turn 16, girls must get a tattoo that reveals their age–and their availability–to any and all men. Truth continues the story with the same breakneck speed as the first.
Nina Oberon grew up in a house of quiet resistance with her mom, sister, and grandparents. Now that she is 16, she not only has to wear the tattoo ordered by the Governing Council, she is ready to reveal the truth to the world, but the world is not ready for the truth to come easily.
Nina is tired of waiting while others work to bring truth to light. She joins a small force within the Resistance and soon finds ways to use her art to portray the truth. She must also confront the truth within her own life–her little sister is growing up and her grandparents aren’t always able to protect them. She fights jealousy when Sal is gone for long stretches of time with the beautiful, top tier Paulette, and she fights a growing attraction for Wei’s older brother Chris.
Just when I thought I could see what was coming next, Karr surprises with another twist or turn that makes perfect sense from the other side. The roots of this world sink deeply into our own, and give much to think about.
December 26, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
The Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans is among the hot books in my classroom library this year. I was lucky to get my hands on the third book in the series, Battle of the Ampere (Simon Pulse/Mercury Ink 2013) to read over Christmas break.
Just like the first two books, this one is packed with action and adventure. Michael has been taken in and protected by the Amacarra, but they cannot shelter him for long with both Hatch’s guards and the Peruvian army searching for him. While with the tribe he meets, Tessa, yet another of the electric children disillusioned with Hatch. Together they reconnect with people working with the mysterious Voice.
Michael is determined to rescue the rest of his friends, who are being held captive by the Peruvian army as terrorists. For some reason, Peru did not take kindly to having its power supply cut off, and they are blaming the Electroclan. At first the Voice is adamantly against the rescue attempt, holding out for diplomacy.
But once Hatch disposes of the Elgen board and accelerates his plan for world domination, Michael must rescue his friends and then carry out an impossible plan to sink the Elgen navy–or at least its lead ship the Ampere. Will they succeed, or will their differences tear them apart first?
December 18, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
As a soccer mom, the injury I fear the most for the girls on the field is a concussion. Broken bones are painful and can lead to long recoveries, but an injury that messes with your brain is terrifying. As Cat, Ben, Sarah, and Quentin discover, their concussions are only the beginning of the fear they will face in the Florida Everglades.
Kate Messner delivers fast-paced adventure and action combined with cutting edge science in this thriller of a good read. Wake Up Missing is my favorite kind of science fiction. It starts out perfectly believable. Concussions frequently make the news, and I’ve seen students struggle through the effects of them. Many of the treatments given at I-CAN clinic (thanks for the author’s note at the end!) are cutting edge treatments being used successfully today. The science twist (provided by an evil scientist running an experiment gone amok) is introduced so gradually that it seems perfectly possible.
I love Cat, the bird watcher. She wants so badly to become herself again, but she doesn’t quite trust Dr. Ames or the I-CAN clinic. The questions keep nagging at her even when she can’t quite force her brain to connect the dots. As she and the other patients–hockey player Sarah, football star Quentin, and horse-lover Ben–start to figure out what is wrong, they don’t want to trust their healing brains. How could they possibly be right? But if they are right, time is running out for their escape.
Then the excitement ramps up as they navigate through the deadly Florida Everglades. If they don’t get lost, if they don’t get eaten by alligators, if they don’t run across drug smugglers, they just might have a slim chance to survive–if they can convince any one to believe their story.
December 11, 2013
by Mrs. McGriff
Thanks to one of my students, Olivia–who donated the copies–, the second and third installments of the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans have been among the most in demand books in my classroom library. I was fortunate enough to snag Rise of the Elgen (in a combo book with the first–Prisoner of Cell 25) before being home for three snow days and a weekend. Needless to say, I devoured book 2 as quickly as I did book 1.
Michael and his friends have escaped the Elgen facility in California and are headed home to Idaho. But when they get there, they find it is not safe to go home. Houses have been burned and parents have been kidnapped. The Elgen are hunting them down and seem to know their every move. Then a mysterious cell phone connected to an unknown voice offers to help Michael and his friends track down and rescue his mother who is still being held by the Elgen. Meanwhile, Dr. Hatch is leading the Elgen (or at least his faithful children and guards) in an attempt for world power and domination. Will Michael and his friends be able to stop them in time?
Just like the first book, this one is packed with non-stop action. Is it believable? No, but that’s not the point. Michael and the electric children are a new breed of superheroes–or villains–depending on their allegiance. Throughout this installment, all of their powers grow stronger as they practice and use them. The power surge is even more dramatic for Michael, who just might be the strongest of them all.
One of the things I liked most about this book is how all members of the Electroclan must learn to trust each other and work together. It is easier for the electric children to accept Ostin with his superior brain power, but even Jack and Wade have the chance to be heroes on their journey across North and South America. Before their journey is done, those who were most at odds with each other (I’m looking at you Jack and Zeus and Ostin) must learn to respect each other before they bring the whole group down.
Now who is reading book 3? After the surprising ending, I don’t know how long I can wait.