Six Crimson Cranes

I know it’s not good practice to judge a book by its cover, but I did.  This cover art intrigued me.  And what’s better, the gorgeous cover is a clear nod to the writing inside.  In Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim has deftly woven East Asian folklore, dynamic characters and suspenseful adventure creating the vibrant Kingdom of Kiata.  Lim’s writing filled my senses and captured my heart from start to finish.  Here’s the opening paragraph:

“The bottom of the lake tasted like mud, salt and regret.  The water was so thick it was agony keeping my eyes open, but than the great gods I did.  Otherwise, I would have missed the dragon.”

So begins our journey with Princess Shiori’ama.  She is fiercely independent, dedicated to her family, impulsive, rebellious and … magic?!  How can this be?  Magic in a kingdom where magic is banned?!  Will her secret be discovered? Will  she be cursed and exiled, discovered and burned, safe and hidden?  None or all?

Silently Shiori travels across her kingdom to discover what fate has in store.  What can be completed?  What can be undone?  What is yet to finish?  Six Crimson Cranes is a joy you won’t want to miss… or to end.  Be patient.  The next part of the tale is planned for 2022.  I can’t wait!

The Royal Ranger

17465470an exciting adventure for intermediate and middle grade readers – love the characters, the action and commitment of people to others

I was so excited to see Ranger’s Apprentice  by John Flanagan.  I admired the characters of the Ranger’s Apprentice series –   Will, Evenlyn, Horace.  I appreciated how time passed in the series and how these characters changed and grew to accept the responsibilities of leadership in their beloved Araluen.    I lived along side them and walked every step of the way in their efforts to stand for all that is good among people.  I celebrated with Halt and Pauline and mourned the loss of Alyss.   I knew her death would be so devastating to Will.

And it was.  It cast Gillen into the disturbing dilemma where he might be force to remove Will from the Ranger Corp.  On the brink of being forced to make this devastating decision, Halt has an idea.  He makes a suggestion that could lead Will away from the path of self-destruction, aid Cassandra and Horace at a time when their leadership must be sure and unclouded and bring new life into the faltering Corp.  Everything is about to change in The Royal Ranger – the balance rests in the heart, hands and head of one girl.  Will she rise to the challenge of change and demands of commitments made?  Is she strong enough, talented enough, dedicated enough?  You’ll have to read book 12 to find out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed – unless you’re like me and found it over too soon.

Seconds – Waiting for Thirds

I’ve been reading – but with the beginning of school, I have not taken the time to tell you about the books.  I’ve decided to remedy that.  I have a large pile to tell you about – so here’s a start.

The White House (I.Q., #2)Right after reading I, Q: Independence Hall, I went to the bookstore to get the next book.  It had taken me quite a while to read this series after all, Skye and Matt recommended it to me four years ago.  But good books stay good until you find them.  That is certainly true for this series.  I, Q: The White House continues following “Match” on their national concert tour.  After performing in Philadelphia they make a quick stop at the White House to perform a private concert for the President, his daughter and son and select invitees.

That is exactly what the terrorist ghost cell has been waiting for.  They quickly activate their plan, sure to cause chaos in the United States.  They have infiltrated the White House staff and are waiting for the perfect moment to disrupt the country.  The twist and turns of the plot had me eagerly following Q and Angela through the White House, meeting the President, learning more about the SOS and keeping track of the plots and counter plots.   Complicated, exciting and intriguing!

Boone and Croc remain a the key to the puzzle of who is working with whom and how they are connected.  Though as more of the past is revealed, and the actions of the present become clearer, questions emerge and linger.  The more you learn, the more mysterious it all seems.  Will Angela’s mother stay alive?  Where is the next ghost cell waiting?  Will the President’s daughter, Bethany be safe?  Are people really who they claim to be?

This thrilling spy adventure surrounds you with interesting characters, richly detailed places and exciting action.  You’ll be wonder “what-if” all the way to the end and when you finish, just as you did when you finished the first I, Q, you’ll have to get the next one and keep reading.

The Silver Door (The Three Doors Trilogy)When I finished The Golden Door, I couldn’t wait to read The Silver Door.  Though there are many books waiting in my pile, I began reading it as soon as it was in my hands.  I love how Emily Rodda creates places and bring their inhabitants to life.  Weld is not a nice place to live, but because Rye and Sonia live there I want to be there with them.  I want to understand why life is the way it is there.  I want the best for them and I so hope their lives will be easier. I hope those they care about will find some happiness by the time their quest comes to an end, but I am not certain my wishes will come true.

I think this is one of the beauties of these books.   While good prevails, evil still exists and I am left wondering what will happen to the characters I care deeply about.  What will happen to the Warden’s daughter?  How are the lands found by going through the gold door connected to the lands that are found on the other side of the silver door? How did magic come to be and why does it seem so corrupt?  Is it only about power and who has it?  What has upset the balance so that so many people live in fear and endure so much deprivation?  I can’t wait until September 24 for The Third Door, the last part of the trilogy so I can find the answers to my questions.  Emily Rodda’s characters, stories and writing are a real treat that I hope many readers find and enjoy.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Libraryby Chris Grabenstein

288 pages of puzzles, games, books, fun and friendship – don’t ever give up until it’s time.

(Izzy, you’ll love this one!)

“Don’t worry,” said Kyle.  “Mrs. Cameron isn’t the final judge.  Mr. Lemoncello is.  And since he’s a genius, he will definitely pick the essays you guys all wrote.”

“Undoubtedly,” said Peckleman.

“Thanks, Kyle,” said Miguel.

“I just wish you could win with us,” aid Akimi.

“Well, maybe I can.  Like you said, this is just a Move Back Three Spaces card.  A Take a Walk on the Boardwalk when someone else owns it.  It’s a chute in Chutes and Ladders.  A detour to the Molasses Swamp in Candy Land!”

“Yo, Kyle,” said Miguel.  “Exactly how many board games have you played?”

“Enough to know that you don’t ever quit until somebody else actually wins.”(p. 27)

The grand opening of Alexandriaville’s new public library is in a few days.  Twelve twelve-year olds have a chance to win an essay contest to be selected for an overnight preview party.  The library has been under top-secret construction for five years.  No one had worked on it long enough or on a large enough part of the project to know what the final outcome would be, but no one doubted that it would be anything short of amazing.  The project is being funded by the town’s own “bazillionaire,” Luigi Lemoncello.  As a boy living in a crowded downtown apartment, the library had been his quiet place to think and dream.  The librarian at the time had taken special interest in Luigi – in fact it was she who helped him publish his first game, “Family Frenzy.”  The rest was history.  Luigi Lemoncello had been creating wonderfully, wild games of all kinds since then – the age of 12- and now he was giving something to his town as thanks.

Kyle loved playing games.  He played them all the time, but he wasn’t much into reading and writing and it wasn’t until the day the essays were to be passed in that he knew he had blown it.  But just as he said in the passage above – he decided not to give up until he was certain he had lost and it paid off.  Kyle became one of the essay winners and found himself in the most amazing game of his life.  You see the library sleep over is more than just a special preview.  “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” is the most incredible game ever created.  The whole library is a game board and the children are the pieces.  To win they’ll need to solve riddles, decipher clues and use all their powers of observation.  Once given the rules, they have twenty-four hours to find the secret exit.  Kyle always plays to win, but so do the other eleven players in the game.  Game on!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is an amazing adventure.  I smiled my way through every page and ended up with even more books on my reading list.  After all the “library is more than a collection of dusty old books.  It is a place to learn, explore and grow!”  Mr. Lemoncello will prove it to you!

To learn more about the books and the author check out this link.  There’s more to book than just the story.  Did you notice it?  I didn’t.




Take Me to the River

Take Me to the Riverby Will Hobbs

184 pages of suspenseful whitewater adventure, fast paced and flowing with excitement for intermediate and middle readers

Dylan has packed his bag.  At fourteen he’s flying from to Asheville, North Carolina to Alpine, Texas and then taking a bus to Terlingua Ghost Town.  His long lost uncle and cousin live there. Dylan’s never met them before and he’s looking forward to his first chance.  His uncle leads wilderness adventure trips.  Dylan’s been to camp and learned about canoeing, rafting and white water, but this is his first trip out west to give some serious rapids a try.

After hours of grueling travel Dylan arrived at the hotel where he is supposed to meet his cousin and uncle.  They’re not there, but they’ve left a message to hitchhike 80 miles to meet at a ghost town restaurant.  Dylan has to decide:  call home and bring the trip to an end or take a chance – a big chance. He takes the chance.  Fortunately he arrives without harm but again the unexpected happens.  His uncle isn’t there.  He has suddenly been called away to Alaska.  His fifteen-year-old cousin Rio still wants to do a rafting trip.  Again Dylan has to decide:  call home and end he trip, let his mom and dad know no adult is around, or agree to a smaller canyon trip.  He agrees and sticks with his decision even after they are warned about Hurricane Dolly and even after they see suspicious Black Hawk helicopters flying up and down the river.

The first part of their trip is uneventful.  The water is calm and low.  The boys have fun getting to know each other. It kind of cool to know you know what to do in the wilderness.  It’s clear Rio has had a lot of experience, but Dylan can hold his own as well.  One night, while were setting up camp, two figures appear – man and seven-year-old boy.   Both of them are in bad shape.  The boy has red marks on his hands as if his wrists had been tied, his head is cut and his hands are scatter with cactus needles.  They claim one story, but Dylan and Rio don’t believe it is true.  They’d like to help, but something tells them to be wary.  They end up sharing some supplies and even give the strangers their tent before heading off along the river toward the Mexican border.

The predicted bad weather arrives.  Torrential rain comes, filling the river and turning their placid trip into a harrowing challenge for survival.  On top of that they come upon the strangers again.  The man is bad news – but the boy must be helped.   Only Dylan and Rio can help him, but how?  Dylan and Rio are engaged in a suspenseful struggle you’ll be racing to the end to see who comes off the river alive?  Take Me to the River is an exciting ride to the very end.  It’s full of details and description that make you want to raft the Big Bend River and explore the canyons – just not in a hurricane.  Read Take Me to the River.  You’ll be glad you did.

New Lands

New Lands (The Chronicles of Egg, #2)by Geoff Rodkey

325 pages of adventure and intrigue for middle and upper-grade readers

New Lands is the second book in the Chronicles of Egg.  I have come to care about the characters of these books and to wonder how their society and culture evolved.  Nothing is quite as it seems – Egg is running for his life.  He has discovered the truth behind too many secrets and Roger Pembroke needs him silenced.  Roger Pembroke wants to create his own empire.  To do this he must sow the seeds of distrust, feign alliances where none exist and create a facade of charity to mask the cruelty of slavery.  Roger Pembroke is willing to lie, cheat, maim and kill – he is even willing deceive and betray his own daughter.

Mystery and ancient tales surround these lands; there are rumors and misunderstood edicts.  There are pirates and slavers and cannibalistic tribes.  Each event weaves together until you know that what has been considered “good and helpful” is not, and yet you are not totally certain that the opposite is true.  At the end of Deadweather and Sunrise, Egg was orphaned, friendless and alone trying to elude those who would find and murder him.  At the end of New Lands, Egg is with his friends, Guts and Kira, his thought-dead brother, Adonis and his uncle, notorious pirate, Burn Healy.  Certainly much has changed for Egg and yet he is still running for his life from Pembroke only this time he is running from him on a sinking ship that is being hunted down by Ripper Jones.

With Pembroke involved it is hard to tell who is friend and who is foe and that makes for an exciting adventure.  When I finished the first in the series I wasn’t sure how I felt.  I don’t like characters that are cruel because it makes them happy.  I had a hard time reading through the meanness and thoughtless disregard.  Obviously I was intrigued enough to give the second a try and I am glad I did.  I am looking forward to discovering how the battles develop and how the Fist of Ka is eventually discovered – as I am sure it must be in some way or another.  I like Egg and Guts.  I wonder how Kira and Millicent will support them.  What battles will develop.  Usually good triumphs over evil – but will it in these books and do I know which is which?  I don’t think so and that makes the reading interesting for sure.  Discover more about the books here  .  I will be looking for the next books as soon as it’s available.  I think you will too.

Never Say Die

Never Say Dieby Will Hobbs

for middle grade readers with a love for adventure and the outdoors – Alaska in particular

Never Say Die opens with a grolar bear attack.  Neither you nor I would have made it, but the savvy hunter, aware of the ways of bears in the tundra does.  Nick Trasher is Inuit – in his blood he’s only half; in his outlook he’s full.  Nick’s grandfather, Jonah, is the most important influence in Nick’s life.  They have spent fifteen years in the wilderness together.  Jonah has taught him the old ways, as well as the new adapted ways using up-to-date tools for hunting and fishing and gathering.  That is the only way to maintain family in the Arctic – and Nick means to stay.  Nick understands the balance that must exist between the hunter and his environment in order for all to survive.  That way of life is changing, however.  The environment is changing.  The effects of global warming are evident all around them – ice is less, herds are smaller and animals that would never be sited are frequently.  Jonah, and Nick through him, isn’t totally sure he approves of the work of the environmental biologists and scientists as they track animals to understand changes.  Nick thinks, “Just ask the hunters – ask the old hunters – they know all there is to know.”   Life is changing one way or another in Inuvik and Nick wonders what his future will bring.

Right now Jonah is struggling with a cancer that will soon claim his life.  That change is sure for Nick and he is making the most of every moment. Then comes the second change. Nick is invited by his older half-brother Ryan to take a raft trip up the Firth River in search of the caribou herds. Ryan is a professional photographer.  He is working with many scientists and wants to write an article on the effects of climate change on caribou, their migration and numbers. It is the brothers’ first opportunity to get to know each other.  They’ve been raised by their moms and know little of their dad.

Nick hesitates to leave, but Jonah urges him on. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity- one that Jonah wishes he had been able to share with Nick himself.  He tells Nick to go and says he will surely wait to hear Nick’s stories of the trip before he “lets the bear and wolf enter the town.” Nick decides to join his brother and promises to bring back all the stories he can of his trip, the land and especially, the caribou.

Full of uncertainty at his leaving, Nick draws hope from the school motto, “Never Say Die.”  – meaning:  always think, always survive.  It is a motto he will think of often over the coming days because on the first day of the trip the raft flips over and Nick and Ryan are separated on opposite shores. Now they must find each other and survive in a brutal environment with limited supplies. Never Say Die is a survival story to say the least, but it is also the story of brothers who learn from each other, come to understand their differences and grow in respect of each other. They form a bridge between old way and new way through understanding and respect.

Never Say Die is an amazing journey both for what you learn about the land, and for what you learn about the ways people of different backgrounds and outlooks can come together for a common good.  Having finished this, I am off to read all the Will Hobbs’ books I can find.  If I enjoy them half as much, I’ll be pleased.  I appreciate having another author to recommend to realistic fiction, with a fast pace readers.

Horten’s Incredible Illusions

Horten's Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange AdventureHorten’s Incredible Illusions picks up where Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms leaves off.  The illusions Stuart found stored in the bandstand are moved to the museum for preservation and 10-year-old Stuart Horten is given a job curating his uncle’s magical contraptions.  Stuart and April (the one of the April, May, June triplets who is serious about uncovering a mystery) are charged with naming and describing these illusions.  They give them enticing names like “The Cabinet of Blood,” and “The Book of Peril,” but the magical devices each hold a secret – a secret that must be revealed in order to find Uncle Tony’s long-lost will.  Once activated, the contraptions whisk Stuart and his friend April away to other realms, where their wits and their friendship are gravely tested.

 “So maybe that’s how it works,” said April.  “We find how the trick operates – the switch or the swivel or the lock or the handle or whatever – and that’s where the Magic Star goes.”

She gave a bounce of excitement.  “So let’s get going!  This is the next one, isn’t it?  The next adventure.”

There’s more going on in this story than illusion and adventure.  Have you ever thought that maybe illusions work by knowing what people will look for instead of seeing what is actually there?  Have you ever wondered what the difference between seeing and observing is?  You might after reading this book.   How often to you slow down enough to notice how you might help those around you?  When you’ve finished reading Horten’s Incredible Illusions the magic will stick with you.  You’ll be hoping for more.

a note:  You don’t have to have read the first to enjoy the second – but I bet when you finish, you’ll find the first and read it too.  The characters and the story are too fun to miss.

The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate

imageby Scott Nash

355 pages of swashbuckling adventure

This book is fun for bird and pirate lovers alike!  Blue Jay, feared captain of the Grosbeak, was said to be the most fearsome and bloodthirsty pirate of the skies.  Those who saw the Jolly Robin flying from the mast offered little resistance and so Blue Jay’s gruesome reputation as a ruthless pirate grew and grew.  The crew, though pirate to be sure – in a ship faster than most of the merchant vessels sailing though the Thrushian skies – knew Blue Jay to be a fair, just captain, thoughtful and a stalwart optimist.

One habit that set Blue Jay apart was his fascination with eggs – not as food but as treasure.  “The trouble with eggs,” Jay would often joke to is adopted offspring, now part of the Grosbeak’s crew, “is that they sometimes grow legs!”  That statepment is rather prophetic as the adventure told of The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate begins with the finding of one very rare egg indeed.  A large oval beauty, plain, though with a certain elegant majesty. Brought onboard and stored with the other specimen in the Egg Gallery, the egg causes Junco, the chief navigator to behave oddly which precipitates an unusual meeting with the sparrows of  Briarloch which in turn leads to a confrontation with Teach, head of the murderous mod of crows plaguing and terrorizing the land.

A string of bad luck leaves the Grosbeak shipwrecked, many of the crew lost or wounded and the survivors left for dead with the flight feathers clipped on the forest floor – all seems lost, but Blue Jay – the eternal optimist and The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirateendless schemer will find a way out of the dilemma…if only there is enough time and a good wind for sailing.  Read The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate to see how the wind blows and who ultimately prevails – it won’t be all you expect.

I am hoping more adventures will come along.  I would like to know what happens to Henry and Gabriel and Hillary.  What about Poppa and what of Briarloch?  What do you think?

Mark of Athena

The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, #3)I thought the challenges and actions in this book were outstanding.  I appreciated the twists and turns that were added as new myths and legends were told.  I think it is one of Riordon’s best stories so far.  My review definitely sounds like a teacher – I really appreciate when people are challenged and their efforts are respected.  I’ll try to tone it down, but if you know me, you know that taking risks, being committed to achieving greatness and being kind are my top three.  I think this book has that, along with lots of interesting twists. Enjoy!

574 exciting pages of adventuring quest

Working together is the only way to save humankind.  This is more challenging than it seems. The Greeks don’t like the Romans.  The Roman’s don’t trust the Greeks.   Gaea is working to gather  the power and energy she needs to reawaken,  That means that  nothing touching earth is as it seems when you’re a demigod.  The Giants are hoping to regain their authority.  That means nothing is as it seems underground.  The Gods are in chaos – which strength, which image should they let appear to the demigods charged by Hera/Juno to bring peace to Earth.  That means being in the air may not be safe either.  This is the turmoil Leo, Hazel, Jason, Percy, Annabeth, Piper and Frank must journey through.  If they fail, our world will fail too.  What will rise in its place?

The Mark of Athena continues the story begun when the Prophecy of the Seven was foretold.   Greek and Roman demigods must not let Gaea rise while defeating the giants, thwarting the eidolons and gathering long lost secrets along the way.  When the way for the quest was established, the makers could not conceive of cooperation among enemies, but so far in the quest it has been cooperation that helped them through each challenge; cooperation and genuine care for others and humanity.  Each one of the heroes has his or her special talent and unique weaknesses.  Only through accepting both the good and the bad and making a total commitment to  respect and trust each other can they discover what the world needs.

It is comforting to know that gods get scared, that they make bad decisions and that they have to deal with the consequences of their mistakes.  It is also comforting to know that self-centered, egotistical power is undone and outwitted while friendship, family and dedication struggles on.  There is strength in this quest because of the trust and respect shown by and for each of the characters.  You’re sure to enjoy The Mark of Athena.  The only down side is that The House of Hades is a year away.