Space case

Spaced out is another awesome book by Stuart Gibbs and is the first book from the Moon Base Alpha series.

spacedoutDashiell Gibbson (also known as Dash) is seemingly a normal, average kid…except for one thing.  He lives on the moon.  People on Earth think life on the moon is awesome; but the truth is, the moon really stinks.  Dash is always bored and there is only one kid around his age whose name is Roddy.  But, Roddy isn’t very fun to be around because he obsessively spends all his time on virtual reality video games.

Dash’s days were boring, that is, until Moon Base Alpha’s top scientist, Dr. Holtz, gets murdered.  Dash has a feeling the murder was done on purpose, but nobody believes him.

Everyone thinks that Dr. Holtz just went out on to the lunar surface without his suit properly fixed.  But Dr. Holtz was on the edge of releasing a new discovery.  Dash soon finds out Dr. Holtz’s secret…and it’s a secret that could change everything for the moonies (people who live on the moon).  The secret is so deep, so critical, so intense that it could justify a murder. Read Spaced Out to find out what happens!

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Poached

Poached is another wonderful book by Stuart Gibbs.  Poached is from his Funjungle series. I recently reviewed his first Funjungle book: Belly up. Poached is his second book.

poachedIn the book, Vance Jessup threatens Theodore Fitzroy (also known as Teddy) into doing an evil scheme for him. But then the plan doesn’t go as expected and causes a terrible situation to arise.  Teddy goes to hide in the koala exhibit to wait for everything to calm down. But the next morning, after the chaos seemingly subsided, people begin realizing that the koala was missing.

The zoo reviews the security cameras to find out what happened.  But, the only footage they see is  Teddy and he is accused of stealing the koala!  Now it’s up to Teddy to prove everybody wrong and hunt down the real thief…because if he doesn’t, he will have to go to juvenile camp as a convicted koala napper.

I highly recommend this book!  It was so captivating.

Stuart Gibbs is a talented writer that keeps your attention the whole time.  I’ll be reviewing all of his books, so be sure to follow along!  Thanks for reading!

Hello!

Hi everyone! My name is Elise.  I will be the new contributor to this blog.  As my cousin mentioned, I love to read a lot.  I read day and night.  Every opportunity I get, I am reading.  One of my favorite authors is Roald Dahl.  I love the way he incorporates poems into his work.  I enjoy a variety of books though and I’m really looking forward to sharing my point of view with all of you.

My favorite kind of genre is mystery.  I love mystery.  My favorite mystery book is Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.  It was suspenseful and unpredictable, you never know what is going to happen next.  I have so many books I’ve enjoyed though and I’m excited to now have a forum to share them with others.  Now, for my first book review (eek!)…

BELLY UP

For my first book review I will review Belly Up.  Belly up is written by one of my all-time favorite authors, Stuart Gibbs.  Stuart Gibbs has three very popular series.

belly-up-9781416987321_hr

Here are the three series:

1.  Moon Base Alpha

2.  Spy School

3.  Funjungle

The book I’m reviewing today is from the series Funjungle.  And the book is called Belly Up and it. is. so. Good!!!

So, Funjungle is a zoo and is owned by a famous billionaire named JJ McKracken.  And in the book, Belly Up, an animal murder mystery takes place.  The main character’s name is Teddy Fitzroy and it’s up to him to solve the mystery when nobody else will. JJ’s daughter, Summer McKracken, is a big help to Teddy and helps investigate.

I give this book 4.5 stars.   It’s a page turner and it’ll make you want to read the other books in the series.

Belly Up is the first book in the Funjungle series.  I know that once you read Belly Up, you’ll be motivated to read the next book in the series, which is Poached.  I’ll be reviewing this entire series, and books in his other series. So stay tuned folks!

ARC Review: The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

the changelings by christina soontornvat

Izzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange things start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door.

Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.

Description taken from Goodreads.


I feel like if I had read this during my middle-grade years, I could’ve loved it to death, but when I was reading it now, all I could do was point out the clichés to it. I think the problem with the story is that there’s next to nothing fresh about it. It’s interesting, and the characters are heartfelt, and the writing is cute, but there’s nothing super memorable there.

That being said, I did love Izzy and her adventures with the outlaws. Their trip through Faerie was entertaining, and I loved Izzy’s voice as a character. She’s bookish and clever, not necessarily strong or brave, but she grows over the course of the story and comes to home both within herself and with her family/friends.

Overall, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one. It’s cute, but it’s just not what I’m looking for. I’d much rather recommend Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series, which has many of the same themes and was one of my first of these kinds of novels. Good read, but nothing I would come back to. 2 stars.

ARC Review: Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

time traveling with a hamster by ross welford

Back to the Future meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in this original, poignant, race-against-time story about a boy who travels back to 1984 to save his father’s life.

My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine and again four years later, when he was twelve. On his twelfth birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a letter from his dead father. It directs him to the bunker of their old house, where Al finds a time machine (an ancient computer and a tin bucket). The letter also outlines a mission: travel back to 1984 and prevent the go-kart accident that will eventually take his father’s life. But as Al soon discovers, whizzing back thirty years requires not only imagination and courage, but also lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and keeping your pet hamster safe. With a literary edge and tons of commerical appeal, this incredible debut has it all: heart, humor, vividly imagined characters, and a pitch-perfect voice.

Description taken from Goodreads.


I was prepared for the worst with this book. Between the blurb, the cover, and the title, I was fully prepared to put it down 20% of the way through as an unfortunate disappointment. But no, Time Traveling with a Hamster demanded to be loved and read, and it reminded me why I continue to read middle-grade lit.

I think what I love about this story is that it’s so no-nonsense. It gets right to the heart of the story, never stopping to dwell on the ridiculousness of the situation. Between Al’s authentic voice and the great pacing, it’s easy to get lost in the magic of the story. I’ll admit that I was skeptical in the beginning, but shortly after I got into the story, I realized it’s perfectly reasonable to write a story about time traveling with a hamster.

The plot and writing were spot-on. I especially loved the way that Al got to explore his relationships with his dad and grandpa because of the time travel, though I wasn’t impressed by his bad relationship with his step-sister. There were points in the story that were cliché or felt like they were formatting ideas derived from other writers (ten facts about one of the characters, a chapter move that I dislike immensely because it breaks the story apart). I was disappointed by this, especially in the beginning, because of how impressed I was by Welford’s writing.

All in all, I would recommend Time Traveling with a Hamster to boys and girls through middle school and maybe a little younger. Honestly, it’s great for anyone willing to give it a chance. The humor is spot on, the story is exciting enough to keep impatient readers going, it has heartfelt characters, and the ending is satisfactory. A great read. 4 stars.

Review: Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard

beetle boy by m.g. leonard

The glorious start to a middle-grade trilogy about a brilliant boy, his loyal friends, and some amazingly intelligent beetles that brings together adventure, humor, and real science!

Darkus Cuttle’s dad mysteriously goes missing from his job as Director of Science at the Natural History Museum. Vanished without a trace! From a locked room! So Darkus moves in with his eccentric Uncle Max and next door to Humphrey and Pickering, two lunatic cousins with an enormous beetle infestation. Darkus soon discovers that the beetles are anything but ordinary. They’re an amazing, intelligent super species and they’re in danger of being exterminated. It’s up to Darkus and his friends to save the beetles. But they’re up against an even more terrifying villain–the mad scientist of fashion, haute couture villainess Lucretia Cutter. Lucretia has an alarming interest in insects and dastardly plans for the bugs. She won’t let anyone or anything stop her, including Darkus’s dad, who she has locked up in her dungeons! The beetles and kids join forces to rescue Mr. Cuttle and thwart Lucretia.

Description taken from Goodreads.


This book was a Tweens Read August pick. Check out M.G.’s post on the blog here

I’m no huge lover of beetles or insects, but I was initially interested in M.G. Leonard’s debut because I heard it was reminiscent of the kind of writing in another book I loved as a kid but can’t remember now (has snow and a red machine on the front? anyone?) Anyway, I went into Beetle Boy with high expectations, and almost all of them were met.

Starting with what I liked, I loved the factoids on beetles! M.G. clearly loves beetles, and she worked them into the novel without making it seem unnatural. There weren’t any info-dumps, and I came to appreciate beetles over the course of the story. I went it a bit skeptical of how well that element would be handled, but I was pleasantly surprised. I grew up on movies like Antz, The Ant Bully, and A Bug’s Life, and this book brought many great memories back for me.

Along that same vein, the writing and plot were spot-on. The writing captured the feel that I was looking for. Like some of the other books I’ve reviewed lately, it had this feel of older middle-grade fiction, books that aren’t narrated in such a whimsical way. I appreciated that, and I loved getting to know the characters. Each person was nuanced, and characters were distinctive.

What I disliked had to do with writing though, as much as I loved both of the execution of this story. I can’t truly see myself recommending this story to many kids in its target audience. It’s just too out-there, I guess. It’s a fun story, but enthusiasm for reading about bugs (no matter how cool they are) doesn’t transfer easily. I’d still recommend this to lower middle-grade readers.

Overall, not a bad read by any means. I was entertained, and I enjoyed learning about beetles. However, for the most part, I probably won’t be recommending this one. 3 stars.

Review: School of the Dead by Avi

school of the dead by avi

From Newbery Medalist Avi comes the spine-tingling story of Tony Gilbert, who must solve a mystery surrounding the ghost of his uncle Charlie.

For most of Tony Gilbert’s life, he always thought of his uncle as “Weird Uncle Charlie.” That is, until Uncle Charlie moves in with Tony and his family. He’s still odd, of course—talking about spirits and other supernatural stuff—but Uncle Charlie and Tony become fast friends. Between eating ice cream and going to the movies, Tony is having more fun with Uncle Charlie than he ever could have imagined.

So when Uncle Charlie dies suddenly, Tony is devastated. So sad, in fact, he starts seeing Uncle Charlie everywhere! Tony recently transferred to the Penda School, where Uncle Charlie went as a kid. The school is eerie enough on its own without his uncle’s ghost making it worse. On top of which, rumors have been circulating about a student who went missing shortly before Tony arrived. Could that and Uncle Charlie’s ghost be related?

Full of twists and turns that get spookier by the chapter, School of the Dead is a fast-paced mystery that Avi’s fans will devour!

Description taken from Goodreads.


I’ve never been a huge fan of Avi, but the premise of School of the Dead won me over. I was curious to see what the story would be like, and I ended up enjoying it much more than I expected. However, as others have correctly noted, the twist at the end is a bit easy to guess by the middle of the novel. I’m sure mature middle-grade readers will be able to guess it fairly easily, but I still had a lot of fun with the story, so I don’t think it’ll be a major turn-off.

Even though I enjoyed the plot and the characters, two things wavered for me throughout the story. The first is the fact that the book isn’t scary. I don’t think it would be scary for anyone. It does the ghost cliché, it works within its premise, but it’s nothing shocking or wholly original.

The second is the writing. Avi’s writing doesn’t give me the voice of a middle-grader. Tony felt much older than his age much of the time. Avi’s writing tends to favor the same kind of cool detachment as Kate DiCamillo’s work. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, I enjoyed it, but I don’t know how the target audience will receive it. If you’re looking for whimsical and action-packed, this isn’t the book for you.

It’s lack of originality and it’s writing made me question how easily its target audience will fall in love with it, but I know a few kids who loved books like Anya’s Ghost that could appreciate a story like this. The rest of the book was pretty solid, and I’ll be recommending it. 3 stars.

ARC Review: The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano

the peculiar night of the blue heart by lauren destefano

Lionel is a wild boy, who doesn’t much like to be around other people. He’d rather be a purring cat or a wolf stalking the woods.

Marybeth is a nice girl. She doesn’t need to be told to comb her hair or brush her teeth, and she’s kind to everyone at the orphanage . . . Lionel most of all.

Different though they are, Lionel and Marybeth are best friends in a world that has forgotten about them. So when a mysterious blue spirit possesses Marybeth—and starts to take control—they know they must stop it before the real Marybeth fades away forever.

Description taken from Goodreads.


As short as this story is, I think it could’ve been a little shorter.

That aside, this is definitely one of the best middle-grade novels I’ve read this year. It has this sleepy quality to it, in the next way possible. I loved DeStefano’s writing throughout the novel, from the world to the descriptions to the underlying humor in some scenes.

 

Oh, and the relationships in this story.

Middle-grade friendships tend to drive me crazy because they can be fragile or ridiculous. Sometimes I get sick of how shallow they are, and very few middle-grade books make me think wow, this is it is to love someone.

The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart did that in a way that was strange and lovely and utterly magical. I loved getting to know both Marybeth and Lionel and follow them on their journey. All of the relationships in the book were spot-on, and I was thoroughly impressed by this story. I haven’t been very interested in DeStefano’s writing up until now, but I’m going to be checking out her other works in the near future.

It’s been a long time since a middle-grade novel truly spoke to me, and The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart did that perfectly. It’s also paced well, though some of the scenes were too drawn out for my taste, and the author did a good job of spreading out the plot events. I was never bored. Although I think it may be a tough sell for boy readers, I’ll be recommending this one.

And, as I mentioned on The Silver Words, if the author is interested in writing another book for Lionel and Marybeth, I’d love to check it out! 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 208

Review: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

the wild robot by peter brown

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz’s only hope is to learn from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her….

Description taken from Goodreads.


This is an adorable, strangely relevant kind of story. It’s scatter throughout with graphics, making it feel like it’s targeted for a younger audience, but I can easily see kids 7 to 13 enjoying this book, give or take a year depending on reader maturity.

The Wild Robot manages to be mature and entertaining despite its child-like voice, and I loved following Roz on her adventures. Honestly, the entire thing struck me as a My Side of the Mountain told from a robot’s perspective on an island.

I don’t know if he had an agenda in writing this, but Brown did a remarkable job of fitting in current issues into the context of The Wild Robot. In my opinion, regardless of whether he did or not, he handled those issues very well. There’s not too much bias throughout the story.

One thing I was very surprised with was how engaging the story was. It would’ve been easy enough to let the potential of the story run through the cracks and right out of his hands, but Brown held onto the book. It almost reads like a slice of life, where every chapter or so is its own adventure. This kept the plot fresh and interesting.

Overall, I’ll be recommending. I was really excited for this one, and it lived up to my expectations. The writing was a bit distant, but I’m almost never a fan of the oh dear reader, Roz was not yet out of her troubles yet type narrative anyway. All in all, it was very well-done. 4 stars.

ARC Review: The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen

the scourge by jennifer a. nielsen

As a lethal plague sweeps through the land, Ani Mells is shocked when she is unexpectedly captured by the governor’s wardens and forced to submit to a test for the deadly Scourge. She is even more surprised when the test results come back positive, and she is sent to Attic Island, a former prison turned refuge — and quarantine colony — for the ill. The Scourge’s victims, Ani now among them, can only expect to live out short, painful lives there. However, Ani quickly discovers that she doesn’t know the whole truth about the Scourge or the Colony. She’s been caught in a devious plot, and, with the help of her best friend, Weevil, Ani means to uncover just what is actually going on.

But will she and Weevil survive long enough to do so?

Description taken from Goodreads.


First things first: Jennifer A. Nielsen is a solid fantasy writer, and I’m very much a fan of hers. However, I can’t go into every one of her books expecting it to be like The False Prince. That’s only going to leave me disappointed in another good (but different) story.

Second things second: The name Weevil drives me crazy. It’s what you name a pokémon, not a book character, but I’m being petty.

The Scourge is a great book that draws attention to the stigma associated with disease and the depths of friendship. I’ll focus specifically on the second part of that, because it was my favorite part of the book. I love it when stories go into friendships, and Jennifer did it beautifully. I loved the relationship between Weevil and Ani, and I was rooting for them every step of the way. They face many trials, but they get through all of them together.

Speaking of trials, this isn’t like The False Prince. You shouldn’t go into it expecting lots of action and adventure and a fast pace. The Scourge has none of those things. It took some getting used to, but I came to love this story for what it is versus what I hoped it would be.

All in all, I would recommend this one. It’s not quite so action packed. In fact, I think it resembles the last book in Jennifer’s Ascendance trilogy the most with its political focus and steady plot. The storytelling was great, as always, and I loved seeing the exploration of each character and his or her relationships. The Scourge wasn’t what I thought it would be, but I’ll definitely still recommend this one and maybe use it to get more girls into Jennifer’s writing! 3.5 stars.