Fresh hot pizza. Ice Cold Gelato. A classic Italian meal. But this picture perfect image is shattered for Max when his parents, archaeologists obsessed with the Maya, decide to cancel the family vacation in Italy and go on a ‘dig’. He is furious that he isn’t going to Italy and he has to stay with the family’s strange housekeeper, Zia. With his parents gone, Max has nothing to do… until Zia tells him that his parents need him and she gives him a ticket to San Xavier, where the dig is located. In San Xavier, Max has a spectacular adventure with a smart, pretty Maya girl (“out of his league” he thinks secretly), a quirky archaeologist and professor, talking monkeys battling against the evil schemes of Count Antonio de Landa. Read Middleworld by J&P (Jon and Pamela) Voelkel and you will not regret it.

AWESOME website for the Jaguar Stones series accessed here.

Click here for the publisher’s (EgmontUSA) review of the book.

Buy this book from Amazon.com!

Don’t forget to read Book Two of the series, The End of the World Club… it’s just as good.

Click on the cover of the book (↑) to buy the book from Amazon.com.

The False Prince

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy

by Jennifer A. Nielsen

342 pages of fast-paced, unpredictable adventure

The future of Carthya is an unsettled, unknown.  Can it remain a kingdom at peace or will it soon be plunged into the turmoil? Rumors are spreading throughout the kingdom that the beloved royal family has been murdered.  With no king, the court is divided and noblemen are gathering allies to insure their own ascendance the throne. A civil war seems imminent, unless Carthya is united. One nobleman, Conner devises such a plan.  He says he wants to unify the people and save the kingdom. Four years earlier strong willed Prince Jaron had been sent to Bymar.  He was to be educated there and “tamed” but pirates attacked the ship and all were lost.  Prince Jaron’s body, however, was never recovered and it is this point that Conner is basing his plan upon.  He seeks to find an impersonator of the lost prince of Carthya.

Conner purchases four orphans to train and compete for the role.  Each has his unique set of assets.  Tobias is rather well educated for an orphan.  He will read and rule well because of it.  Roden is strong and determined. He’ll be a good swordsman and rider.  Sage is defiant, independent and unpredictable.  It makes him difficult to work with, but it gives him the personality traits closely associated with the lost prince. In two weeks the boys must leave their orphan selves behind and become royalty.  They must learn to act like princes – in fact they must become Prince Jaron, or die.

Throughout the book Sage listens, watches and tells the story as Conner’s plan is revealed.  Layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold. Sage finds himself caught in this terrible game.  He is pulled along until finally, a truth is revealed that may very well prove more dangerous than all the previous lies put together.  Orphan or Prince, no life is easy, nor should it be taken for granted. 
The False Prince is an extraordinarily detailed adventure filled with unanticipated dangers and actions that will have you eagerly turning the pages and awaiting the next part of the Ascendance Trilogy.  Since I was never certain of what would be happening next in the first part of this trilogy, I can’t wait to discover the fates of each of the characters as their tales unfold.  How will Tobias and Roden’s lives develop?  Not orphans, but what exactly? What will become of Imogen?  What of Princess Amarinda of Drylliad?  Mott?  There is so much more story to know!

Ranger’s Apprentice Book 2: The Burning Bridge

Your favorite Rangers are back, and they have an exciting new adventure in store.

The kingdom of Araluen is preparing for a battle with the evil warlord, Morgorath, and they need allies. Will and Gilan, the Rangers, and Horace the knight are chosen for the quest to obtain these allies. But as soon as they arrive in Celtica, a neighboring kingdom, they are suspicious. The patrol booth at the edge is deserted. Unlike the Celticans to leave something in a messy state, the group is intrigued and they keep on going until they reach the first city. Their suspicions are confirmed; the Celticans have, “abandoned ship.” The group soon finds out that this is Morgarath’s doing, and they suspect that he has some of the Celticans, for who knows what. Gilan departs, and now it is up to only Will and Horace, once orphanage enemies to face evil straight on.

 If you are a HUGE Ranger’s Apprentice fan, you might want to download this great wallpaper, accessed through clicking this link:


The link to the first book’s review here, where you’ll find some other links.

Buy this book from Amazon.com!

Sparrow Road

Sparrow Roadby Shiela O’Connor

246 pages to ponder – what if, what was what could be…

How would you feel if your mom took a new job and all of a sudden your summer changed?  How would you feel if you found yourself at a strange dilapidated mansion populated by a few eccentric artists?  You’ve got lots of questions, but you get no answers.  You know Grampa Mac, back in Milwaukee, is angry about it.  You know that your mom isn’t telling you the whole truth.  And Viktor, the guy driving the truck out from the train station, is less than friendly – he’s almost creepy in fact.

That’s how Raine’s summer begin – with one added twist, no talking at all until dinner six days a week, no electronics either.  Fortunately Raine and her mom arrive on a talking day.  Raine meets the artists: a confused elderly poetess, Lillian, a severe reclusive writer Eleanor, a vibrant joyous fabric artist, Josie and an optimistic collector mosaic artist, Diego.  She learns about Sparrow Road, Sorrow Lake, and the orphanage that once stood there.  But what’s a 12-year old supposed to do with her days, with her summer?

“But silence until supper?” I asked.  “Every day?  That sound absolutely horrible.”

“I know.”  Diego nodded.  “It sounds bad in the beginning.  But trust me, you’ll learn to like it, Raine… And Sparrow Road’s the perfect place for dreams.”


“Sure.  Like the way you start to daydream when you’re bored.  Or, there’s nothing but quiet so you dream.”

“Six days a week till supper?  That’s a lot of bored.”

“Oh, it’s not boring really.  Because an artist just gets busy and creates.  All the time alone becomes a painting or a poem or a quilt”

“When I was young I used to dream up stories,” I said.  “But that won’t keep me busy until supper.”

Diego laughed again.  “You’re still young, Raine.  And you might be surprised how much you create in all that quiet.  You could write a book at Sparrow Road.”

“About what?” I asked.

“Who knows?” Diego smiled.  “That’s part of the discovery.  Just start out on  a journey.  Ask yourself, What if?  Or think about what was or what could be.  And suddenly” – he snapped his fingers – ” like magic, you’ll be drifting in a dream.”

“What if?” I asked.  “What was?  Or what could be?”  Diego makd the silence sound enchanted.  Not a rule, but a chance.

“I swear it works for me,” Diego said.  “Just give it a try tomorrow.  Let me know what you dream up.”  (p 31-32)

There are dreams for Raine and challenges and mysteries.  There are joys and grave sorrows.  There are choices and changes.  What if?  What was?  What could be?  Go to Sparrow Road to find out.  You’ll be glad you did.


Wonderby R.J. Palacio

320 must read pages full of challenges that could help you decide what kind of person you want to be

August (Auggie) Pullman is about to start 5th grade.  The first unusual thing about that is up until then he has been home schooled.  The second unusual thing is that Auggie was born with mandibulfacial dysostosis.  This means he has no outer ears and it looks as if the rest of his facial features have been melted off.  After 27 surgeries it seems as though he is strong enough and ready for a new step.  Is he?  He’s used to being looked at, but not looked at.  He’s used to being called Freak or Freddie Kruger or Gross-out.  He’s used to people averting their eyes when they see him.  Up until now when that happens he can leave.  That won’t be the case in school.  He knows what he looks like on the outside but on the inside he’s pretty ordinary. He’s a Star Wars fan.  He loves his x-box.  He decides to give Beecher Prep a try and courageously goes off to middle school – like “a lamb to the slaughter” as his father says.

Auggie is smart, funny, thoughtful and brave.  He tells his story of that year, with all its ups and downs.  Mr. Brown his English teacher asks them to consider various precepts – one each month.  He calls them “rules about really important things.”  The first one is: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”   —Dr. Wayne Dyer  Auggie thinks he is going to like Mr. Brown.  (I know I do!)  The other important characters in Auggie’s life tell their side of the story too.  His sister, Via, just starting high school, explains what its like to have Auggie in her life.   Jack and Summer, the kids he thinks are his friends – one who was asked to befriend him and one who just feels it is the right thing (after all who wants to sit in the cafeteria alone) share their relationships with him.  Miranda, Via’s old friend and Julian, her new boyfriend, also explain tell what it is like to have Auggie in their lives. Middle school is hard.  Everyone wants to fit in and melt into a pool of sameness while being importantly different.  Auggie is definitely that in so many more ways than his appearance.

What an amazingly thought-provoking book.  Visit the Wonder book site  for more thoughts and connections.  I hope everyone reads Wonder and thoughtfully chooses how to be true, steadfast and kind – in fact “ always be more kind than necessary.” J.M. Barrie

The Enchantress

by Michael ScottThe Enchantress (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #6)

509 pages of action, mythology and history combined into a very satisfying series.

Read them all.

The two that become one – the twins of legend – the gold and the silver- one to save the world and one to destroy it.  The entire six-book series happens in the space of ten days.  The Enchantress wraps this series and story up beautifully bringing all the time, mythology and magic of each age together to create a new world of energy and hope.

Josh and Sophie Newman, the gold and silver, are on one island, Danu Talis.  They have the four elemental swords and are seeking to understand the powers arranged around and before them.  Will one age fall so another can rise?  Is all of time known and foretold since the mysterious beginning?  Is the path of one’s destiny defined, or are there choices?

At the same time Nicholas and Perenelle Flammel are on Alcatraz with the monsters of old trying to defend the right of the humans to take their place in the flow to time.  The aftermath of these two epic battles create the magic of our time.  Some Immortals have reached the end of their times, others remain and still more will learn of the elemental magics that unite us all in the ebb and flow of time and life.

Michael Scott does a masterful job combining and entwining mythologies, gods and magically strong characters throughout history.  It is interesting how order emerges only from chaos and the dawning of hope only begins after a clash of power.  Where are we in this process of time today?

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pies

Steven Alper is your average eighth grader. He is a talented drummer, hangs out with his group of friends, has a mom, dad and little brother,  and constantly thinks about his secret crush on Renee Albert, a girl he has known since kindergarten. But Steven’s world is turned upside-down when his little brother, Jeffrey falls off a stool in the kitchen… and is diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer. Leukemia is a very dangerous cancer, and to make things worse, Steven’s mom has to quit her job to tend to Jeffrey, and things go downhill from there. In this story, Steven will have to juggle Jeffrey’s sickness, school and the family. Can he do it?

Read Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pies by Jordan Sonnenblick and it may very well be one of those books that you will remember for a long time.

Click here for the official Jordan Sonnenblick website.

Click on the link to buy this book! www.amazon.com/drumsgirlsanddangerouspies

Click here and view below for more info on the sequel to this book, After Ever After.

The Hero for Wondla

A Hero For WondLa (WondLa, #2)by Tony Diterlizi

437 pages of adventurous questioning

Summertime!  At last I have read the sequel to Tony Diterlizzi’s science fiction novel, The Search for WondLa and I liked it even more than the first.  This book continues all that was well done in the first and adds details to the plot, deepens the history surrounding the story and adds depth to the characters. The author continues to grow his wonderful world, building on the science and humnity that must coexist.  There is a real sense of danger and menace in this book created through the actions and choices the humans that Eva Nine, at long last, eagerly meets.  You’ll be wondering, “how can this be?” at the same time you’re thinking, “of course that is how it is, just look at what we are doing now in our world.”

A Hero for Wondla starts off where the last story ended when the human pilot, Hailey Turner, arrives claiming to have come to bring Eva home. Wise, loyal Rovee agrees to join her on this fantastic journey.  He believes his place is by Eva’s side.  Although Eva occasionally finds Hailey irritating, her excitement at meeting another of her kind quells these feelings. He promises to bring her to the human city, but first stops at his settlement outside.  Here Eva meets Hailey’s wise grandfather.  His stories ignite the flicker of a doubt in Eva, but those questions soon disappear when the glitter and color of New Attica surrounds her. Through her omnipod, one little machine, all of Eva’s history is known in the city.  Because of this she is able to get all she wants and needs, and yet, something does not feel right.  Even though Eva is surrounded by her kind and seems to have everything she has ever wanted, she longs for Rovee and his advice. She finds herself alone and afraid, confused and conflicted.

Eva wonders why there are no aliens in this city.  Why do some in the city have everything, while others have nothing?  Why is Eva the only human who knows that something good exists beyond the city’s dome?  Why is what exists in the city untrue and so controling? She wonders if she should follow laws to have what she needs if it feels all wrong.  Eva knows she is part of the human clan, but her experiences have helped her evolve into something more.  It is this difference will save Orbana, the planet Earth has become.  What can Eva Nine do for Earth, for  Orbana?    It is not knowledge of the past, awareness of the future or strength.  It takes time to show, but in the end it is the only thing that matters.

Enjoy The Hero for Wondla.  I hope you will show yourself to be the Eva among us!  What courage and calm.

Dead End in Norvelt


Dead End in Norvelt

352 pages for middle grade readers and beyond

Summer has finally come, but nothing is going as Jack had planned. His vacation freedom is quickly lost when he is grounded “grounded for life” for accidentally discharging the rifle his father brought home as a souvenir of WWII.  The blast from the gun caused his elderly neighbor to drop her hearing aid into the toilet and so the only thing he will be allowed to do is to help her.  At first helping Miss Volker seems like torture – after all he has to be there at 5:30 am -, but he quickly realizes it might be the only way he will survive the summer. Miss Volker cannot write because of her arthritic hands, but she is the author of the town’s obituaries and the keeper of the town’s history and someone must tell the story.  Jack becomes her scribe.  He doesn’t think there’ll be much to do, but soon it becomes apparent that all is not as it should be.  Not only are the original residents dying off at an alarming rate, but the town of Norvelt itself, may be nearing its end.

History, obituaries, nose-bleeds, Hell’s Angels, Eleanor Roosevelt, Girl Scout cookies and a homemade airplane combine to create a laugh-out-loud story that will make you think and wonder.  It has a serious side too.  How do promises get made and twisted?  What is the importance of history and how do we know and understand it?  How do communities work?  Can you every really be alone and disconnected?

Jack Gantos has combined truth and fiction to present you with an interesting view of small town life in the early 1960’s – an time of change.  It is interesting to me to come to the end of Dead End in Norvelt and realize that my life has now become historical fiction.  All three of the books selected by the Newbery committee this year are set in the time when communism was on our mind as the evil opposite of democracy.  It has been interesting for me to read and wonder at how that mystique was created and to wonder what is being created now.  Vietnam was the war of my youth.  Afghanistan is the war now.  What things change, and what things stay the same?

Clementine and the Family Meeting

Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker

162 pages of smiles for middle grade readers

(older readers may enjoy finding their younger selves in the pages too.)

I would love having Clementine in my class at school.  She is herself at all times.  I admire that.  She would be a great friend.  She is creative and funny.  Although I have to say she does some things that would make my 9-year old self a little nervous.  (I didn’t like getting into trouble.) She is committed to her family and she always tried her best.  It’s just that things don’t always work out smoothly.  When this book begins Clementine’s having a nervous breakdown. The “Family Meeting!” sign is up in her house.  She knows she must be in trouble for something, but she can’t figure out what it is.  Try as she might to find out what’s on the agenda, her parents won’t give her even the smallest, teeniest clue before the meeting.

Clementine gets through that meeting just fine, but in the end initiates a meeting of her own to let her family know how she would like to deal with the changes in their lives.  In between she tries to work with Waylon to create a science project – he wants to try transmogrification – and with Margaret her year-older neighbor who is thinking makeup is the coolest thing.  Clementine is not so sure.

One of my favorite parts of the story is how Clementine (named after a fruit) always calls her little brother Squash or Yam or Bean Sprout throughout the books.  It seems as though she might find him annoying, but really he turns out to be a pretty great kid to be a sister to.

Read all the Clementine books.  They’re fun and refreshing and real.