Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

By J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffa


AR level: Not available
Lexile Level: Not available

My recommended age: 9 and up... let's face it, if they've read the other 7 they are fine!


And they are back!!  Harry, Ron, Hermione and their kids!  Ok so I have to admit it- I really like reading about Harry Potter and his friends.  Maybe that's pathetic for a grown up mom, but it is what it is.  The thing is, after a 9 year break (not that I haven't reread the original series in that time... quite possibly more than once), I was reluctant to pick up this book for several reasons.  


First and foremost, I wasn't sure how I would feel about reading the story as a play.  Outcome- didn't bother me at all!!  Once I started reading and got into the story, my mind just converted the dialog to reading as if I had a novel in front of me, and I didn't even notice.  

Second, I really liked the ending of Deathly Hallows, and I was happy with how everyone turned out.  I was worried that reading this new book would tarnish the "warm fuzzy" feeling I had about all the characters from the original books.  Outcome?  It wasn't a problem at all!  For the most part I liked how every one turned out and there were even a few characters that I liked even better by the time I finished!!

Finally, I wasn't sure how I felt about new authors taking over the story writing.  Now I realize that J.K. Rowling consulted or helped or whatever on the book, but this story wasn't her writing... and on this one I did notice a bit of a difference.  I felt like there was just a slightly different style of writing and that there were several situations that just weren't believable...even despite the fact that it's a book about witches and wizards in hiding!  There were just too many "no way" moments that I felt couldn't have been resolved nearly as easily as they were.  Let's put it this way, in the original 7 books I always felt like even though the wizarding world wasn't real- it could be.  That the wizards were just doing a great job of keeping us muggles in the dark.  But in this story there was just a bit too much over the top that I thought "well that was a stretch, even for magic".  This definitely is not a deal breaker for me, but for sure it's not up to the previous series' standards.

Overall, I am happy that I read the new Harry Potter book, and I'm sure I will read future installments.  I did hear a rumor that Harry won't be featured in any more of the books, which would be a huge disappintment!! While this book was not as great as the originals, it was definitely worth 2 hours of my time on a Saturday afternoon!!  And it helped me remember that I really do love reading about Harry's adventures!!

Enjoy!

Becky

The Thirteenth Princess

The Thirteenth Princess
Diane Zahler
Juvebile Fiction
Lexile Reading Level: 850L

My Recommended Age: Based on ability 8 and up


We have all heard of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, but how many of us are familiar with their youngest sister Zita, the thirteenth princess.  Because her father desired sons, and received only daughters, Zita was sent to the kitchens to be raised by the servants and as such was treated as one.  The story begins as Zita learns of her noble birth and the circumstances surrounding her role as "kitchen help".   Upon realizing her noble birthright, she secretly seeks out her sisters and is excited to find that they love her as a sister just as much as she loves them.  The story unfolds as Zita's older sisters mysteriously fall ill.  The only clue to the illness being their worn out shoes.  With the help of her friend Bracken, one of the stable boys, Zita sets out on a magical adventure in a place where magic has been banned for years.

Being the first to admit that my only experience with the Twelve Dancing Princesses involves the Barbie movie, I can honestly say that I enjoyed this story.   I  opted to listen to the audio book with my daughters,  all three of them (ages 8-12), and was pleased with the reader as well as the story.  A fun twist on a classic fairy tale, it was an enjoyable, entertaining story for all of us.   Bear in mind it is a little slow at first, but quickly turns into a charming tale with nothing inappropriate or worrisome.

Happy Reading
~Liz
The Mark of Athena: Heroes of Olympus book 3
Rick Riordan
AR level: 4.8
Lexile Level: 690L

My recommended age: 10 and up

The time has come for Greeks and Roman to unite and save the world... if only everyone would just share their toys and play nicely.  Unfortunately when the heroes from Camp Half Blood fly into New Rome on their megaton warship, complete with big guns and a giant metal dragon head, things don't go exactly as planned.  The prophecy of seven quest starts out with a bang as Leo, Jason, Piper, Anabeth, Percy, Hazel and Frank have to hightail it away from the Roman army determined to end the journey before it begins.  Can this unique group of demigods really make it to Rome, lock the doors of death and save Nico?  Can Anabeth have the strength and wisdom to succeed in saving her mother?  Just another day in the life of a demigod!

Ok, I admit it, I love the Heroes of Olympus series!  My favorite feature of these books is how Riordan takes ordinary things and turns them into something totally random as part of the story.  It seriously makes me laugh out loud at the things he comes up with.  After finishing Son of Neptune I couldn't wait for this book, and the only thing I didn't love was that I have to wait again for book 4.  I had really hoped this series would be a trilogy, I need resolution!  This book was pretty much the same as the others, fight a monster, kill a demon, find a lost treasure, and somehow manage to retain all of your limbs.  Nothing to be offended about unless you are extremely sympathetic to psychotic gods and giants, in which case you might want to try Jane Austin.  Another great read, looking forward to book 4... can we please have a tetralogy?  (yes I had to google that)

Enjoy!
Becky

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian
Artemis Fowl Series Book #8
Eoin Colfer
lexile: 930L
My recommended reading age: 9 and up 

Here we go again, why can't that darn Opal Kobai just stay put in jail?  This time she has unleashed an army of dead fairy-like warriors on Fowl Manor in her never ending battle to take over the world.  Unfortunately these spirit warriors don't actually have bodies so they must possess any living thing they can find, including Artemis's younger brothers Miles and Beckett.  With Holly's help Artemis must destroy Opal and save his brothers, the fairy city of Haven, and the human world... all before breakfast.  That might be too much to expect of anyone except Artemis Fowl.

This is the last and final book in the series.  Well all great things must come to an end, and the Artemis series finally did.  I enjoyed reading this book quite a lot, although it is definitely not my favorite of the bunch.  There were a few unexpected plot twists which kept up the suspense, but overall this story was par for the course with the rest of the series.  I didn't find anything offensive in this book, just good clean fun.

Enjoy!
Becky


Prized

Prized
Birthmarked Trilogy: Book 2
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
My Recommended Age: 15 and Up

I can't think of a book that I have read that has left me as baffled/irritated as this one.  In fact, I have been asked by several friends if I have read it and what I thought.  My answer is the same with all of them..."I really don't know what to say...so I guess I am speechless".   You can not imagine how hard it is to write a blog post when you are speechless.

Finally escaping into the wasteland with her newborn baby sister,  Gaia Stone is hoping that the rumor of a community of outcasts will prove true.  Having escaped the city with out her new found love Leon, Gaia is captured and taken to the community of Sylum.  Here, the men drastically outnumber the women, yet the women rule.  In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, which is opposite of everything she has just learned and become.

While there is little blatant questionable material in this book, the book is littered with mature ideas and themes.  Without spoiling too much, parents need to be aware that Gaia is asked to perform an abortion and her internal dialogue is full of holes and reasoning that is less than desirable for young impressionable minds.   Additionally, the nature of males and females is questioned and is frankly downright weird!  Again, if my daughter were reading this, I would want the conversation regarding gender to be with me...

There is little romance, however, the well developed strong Gaia has been replaced with a flighty young girl who can't resist the striking good looks of a young man, she barely knows.  Kissing is the extent of the relationship, but again, it happens in such a way that I would want to be the one to talk with my kids about it.

In a nutshell, if you read "Birthmarked", forget everything you learned and start over.   Everything from the characters to the setting to the story line is totally different...I still think Birthmarked was very well done and one of the better YA books I have read. Prized, however, is taking time to get over, but as we learned in "Birthmarked", there’s always hope.

~Happy Reading
Liz

Insurgent


Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth
My Recommended Reading Level: 15 and Up

While the word insurgent sounds more like a fancy insurance company than a book title, its actual definition refers to a rebellion.  It means to "rise in active revolt".  After finishing Divergent, you may be asking yourself, who is there left to rebel against?  Which is where Veronica Roth starts in...

The Erudite (intelligent) faction has just used mind control to cause the Dauntless (brave) to invade the Abnegation (selfless) compound and kill many of its members.  After escaping the slaughter,  Tris and Tobias (Four) are trying to piece together the events of the mass killing and the reasoning behind it.  The two travel with a small group to the various factions in order to seek answers as well as allies.  It is only when they decide to align themselves with the factionless that answers come and Tris must weigh her love for Tobias against her desire for the truth.  

If you are thought the synopsis sounded violent, then you will not be surprised by the shear number of deaths and injuries in this book.  It has a high body count both from "unknown" characters as well as those who we have known through the series.  There are intense occasions when both Tris and Tobias are threatened with execution. Characters are tortured and the injuries received while under mind control are almost morbid.  The violence in the last scene of Divergent carries into Insurgent and if anything increases. 

As if violence weren't enough, the romance takes a few steps up as well.  Tris and Tobias's intense relationship far surpasses the superficial romances in many other young adult books. More than once, the two "passionately make out" including once while lying in a bed with her only wearing a nightshirt and him in pants.  While there are several references to "wanting", for the most part, the two keep it together.

If you loved Divergent then you will enjoy this book.  While I did finish it, I felt that I could have used a refresher course in the various factions as well as a character breakdown.  I also felt that it was a little too violent and passionate for my tastes, and I definitely don't want my kids reading this, so I/we may sit the third book in the series out.  

Happy Reading
~Liz

Savvy

Savvy
Author: Ingrid Law
Lexile Measure: 1070
Grade Level Equivalent: 8.5
Newbery Honor Book
My Recommend Reading Age: 11 and Up

When my daughter brought this book home, she was less than excited to read it.  I, on the other hand, was so excited!  Any time a book has a Newbery Sticker I am drawn in!  Add to the sticker, characters with magical talents, and a close-knit family, and I'm sold!

The Beaumonts are an unusual family. On their 13th birthday (and sometimes before) each family member gets their "savvy" -- an unpredictable super natural power.  One family member controls the wind to cause storms while another generates electricity.   On her 13th birthday, Mibs is hoping her Savvy will save her family.  A few days before her birthday her father was in a car accident and now lies in a coma in the hospital.   Knowing that she has the power to wake her father, she sets out on an adventure to reunite them! 

I loved this book!  The story is fabulous and I loved the relationships among all the characters.  It is wonderfully clean with nothing offensive and I believe it will appeal to readers of all ages!  

Happy Reading
~Liz

Witch and Wizard


Witch and Wizard

Author: James Patterson
Interest Level: Grade 8 - Grade 12
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.9

My Recommended Age: Let me make it clear that I do NOT recommend this book, but if your kids are begging... Ages 15 and Up.

Fifteen-year-old Wisty Allgood and her Seventeen-year-old brother, Whit, are awakened in the middle of the night to soldiers invading their home and dragging them to prison. Trapped because of their unknown magical powers, they are sentenced to death as soon as they turn eighteen.  They break out of prison to find their parents, but find a resistance army of other teens and children, multiple realities, and a very violent world in chaos. As they search for their parents they discover their destiny is in far greater things and they must conquer their powers in order to save the ones they love.

Sounds pretty cool, huh...which is exactly why I picked it up, only I wished I hadn't!  It is almost too intense and scary for younger readers, but boring and slow for older readers.  There is plenty of violence including murder, and imprisonment, as well as creatures eating humans.  There is mention of Whit drinking and some minor partying, but it is all past tense.

The theme of the book is pretty dark and depressing.  Not the thrill ride I had hoped for.  Keeping that in mind, if you are looking for Witches and Wizards, perhaps Harry Potter might be a better choice.

Happy Reading
~Liz


Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

Sequel to The Princess Academy
Author: Shannon Hale
Lexile Level 890L

In the months since her time at the Princess Academy Miri has started a school in Mount Eskel and improved the living conditions for the people of village.  Now she and the other Mount Eskel girls have been raised to the status of nobles and been invited to the Asland capital as the Princess's ladies in waiting.  Expecting everything in the Asland to be perfect, Miri is surprised to find that life for those in the capital isn't as wonderful as she expected it to be.  The "Shoeless" who live there are starving, just as the people of Mount Eskel once did, and resentment is building.  Miri finds herself in the middle of a revolution, where a few well chosen words may be the only thing that can save her, the princess, and even Mount Eskel.

As an avid fan of Shannon Hale's books, I was so excited to see this sequel to the Princess Academy.  From the moment I pick it up, I was brought back into Miri's fairy tale kingdom and lives of the Mount Eskel girls.  The story moved along nicely and kept me involved to the last page.  Nothing offensive here, just a good clean read!  This is a don't miss book!

Enjoy!
Becky

Chasing Lincoln's Killer

The Search for John Wilkes Booth
Author: James L. Swanson
Lexile Level: 980L
Grade Level Equivalent: 8.3
My recommended age: 10 and up

One of the most tragic events in American History, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, has been written about and rehashed countless times over the years.  This tale is the story of the plot to murder Lincoln, the escape attempt, and the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth and his accomplices written for a juvenile audience.  Based on newspaper accounts, journals, trial transcripts and other historical documents, this fascinating account takes us through the conspiracy and eventual capture of Booth and those involved in the terrible tragedy.

This book was a teacher recommendation for my 6th grader.  I found it a great telling of the Lincoln story written for a younger audience so as to keep their attention.  It moves well through all of the details, without getting bogged down in "too much information". Obviously there is the shooting along with a stabbing, and the associated details, but there was nothing that was offensive.  This is a great way to learn history without actually reading a textbook!

Enjoy!
Becky


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