Monday, October 31, 2011

Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Book Jacket

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem - when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery - although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely - enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophecy of Seven.


Percy is back!  I'd forgotten how awesome he is.  My love for him made me a little peeved that the chapters switched narrators between him, Ruth, and Frank.  For about one chapter each, and then I fell in love with these new Roman demigods.

Ruth's past and her curse made her exactly tragic enough to be a daughter of Hades.  And Frank's slowly revealed history felt the most mythological of any character we've encountered so far.  I loved getting to know them, and I can't wait to read more about them (plus the other four demigods from Camp Half-Blood) in the series finale!

There seemed to be less "mythological character of the day" appearances in Son of Neptune.  Mostly the bad guys were creatures I was unfamiliar with.  However, I very much enjoyed Iris's store and her non-Hostess cupcakes.  And really, I didn't notice the lack of characters until the book was over, so maybe it wasn't such a big deal.

Excellent fast read.  It's great to have Percy back, and I can't wait for the conclusion.

Four out of five super fast horses.

Release Date:  October 2011
Reading Level: Grade 5+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL RIO

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Book Jacket

"I can steal anything."  After Gen's bragging lands him in the king's prison, the chances of escape look slim.  Then the king's scholar, the magus, needs the thief's skill for a seemingly impossible task--to steal a hidden treasure from another land.

To the magus, Gen is just a tool.  But Gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own.


I read Turner's trilogy (when it was just a trilogy) a couple years ago, and loved all three!  When her fourth book came out, I happily began reading...only to realize that I barely remembered the minor characters or settings.  And so I had to read her series for a second time.

Which is brilliant, because The Thief is one of those brilliant books that, in the end, leaves you sputtering, "What!?  But how?  That means that--!  Oh my word, and so he--!  MY MIND IS IS PIECES."  Best of all, it is one of those mind-blowing twists that, upon reread, is totally set up.  Turner is a genius.

The countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia are vaguely Greek, which makes the fantasy feel a lot more rooted and easy to picture.  The magus, Pol, Ambiades, and Sophos are well-conceived minor characters.  When they aren't forcing Gen around and treating him like a slave (okay, even then), they are very nice!  They all have their own motivations and stories, which fleshes out the whole thing quite nicely.

And then there is Gen.  I love him.  I have the softest of spots for tricksters, mostly because I love intelligence and confidence.  Gen is whiney and charming, vain and kind.  Awesome.  Can't wait to read more about him in the next books!

Five out of five hidden temples.

Release Date:  December 2005
Reading Level: Grade 6+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL TUR

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mr. Linden's Library by Imaan

He had warned her about the book.  Now it was too late.  He had said not to chant the poetry aloud.  He had exlaimed not to carry it with her.  He had said it all.

So now she lay hardly breathing in her bed.  The book laid open on her side.

It all started during his own childhood when he himself checked out this very same book.  He had chanted aloud its dark mysteries and sang its mysterious poetry to himself.  Little did he know that his chants were magic.  Little did he know of this book's power.  For all the words that he had uttered came to life and haunted his years.  He had dreams and visions and hallucinations as he slowly went mad.  Eventually, the last poem he had sung caught up to him.  The poem had been about death.  Death by poison.  His breath caught as he collapsed to the ground gasping.  He was lucky to be healed and nurtured back to life.  But he knew that others before him had not been so lucky.  He believed that the book should be destroyed forever.  He made up his mind to put his life to good use.  However, his efforts were useless, for the book was indestructible.

Now, all these years later, his very own niece was in possession of this book.  He remembered as if it were yesterday.  She came home from Mr. Linden's library with it tucked under her arm.  He recognized it immediately.  But he had warned her.  He had warned her about the demon book.  She didn't listen.  She read aloud the death poem.  Sang it just how he had sung it, in a sweet childlike, angelic voice.

And now she lay hardly alive with it still tucked at her side.  He had warned her about the book.  Now it was too late.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull (BB)

Kendra and Seth are going to their Grandpa Sorenson's house, but they discover an enchanted preserve filled with unsafe creatures.  Soon they find the dangers of Fablehaven.

Recommend to:  All 4th and 5th graders.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Peoria Storytellers Halloween Tales

Last Thursday, the Dunlap Public Library was lucky enough to host three performers from the Peoria Storytellers' Guild.  They told stories that were a little bit spooky and a lot hilarious.  The kids (and the adults, myself included) participated in telling the stories, and burst out laughing at surprising turns of events. 

This is an excellent group of storytellers.  Their upcoming performances are advertised in our library, including a Christmas event on Thursday, December 8th at the Dunlap Library.  Get excited!

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Book Jacket

Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.


The end of Deryn and Alek's story!  Their journeys through an alternate reality of the early 20th century have made me far more interested in WWI, science and genetics, and machinery than any class ever did.  Such is the power of fiction.

The Leviathan continues to be the coolest flying ship in all existance, traveling through Siberia, Japan, Mexico, and the United States.  Famous people from that time period make appearances, as well as some of my favorite minor characters from the first two books in Westerfeld's series.

The adventure is high, but I was more interested in our main characters.  I couldn't wait to find out if Deryn would share her secrets or if they would be revealed without her consent.  I wanted to know how Alek would grow into his role as prince.  I wanted to see if the two of them could make some kind of future together, or if their incredibly different stations in life would hold them apart.  When these questions were answered, I was sometimes surprised but always happy.  This is an excellent end to an excellent series! 

Oh, and I really want a perspicacious loris of my own.

Five out of five mad geniuses.

Release Date:  September 2011
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL WES

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Book Jacket

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy.  It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite.  The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner.  Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt.  But when disaster strikes the Leviathan's peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.  Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what's ahead.


Istanbul is one of my favorite cities, but there are very few books set in that fantastical bridge between Europe and Asia.  Behemoth is one of the few!  I loved exploring the winding streets with Alek and Deryn, and especially imagining spice battles raging throughout the Grand Bazaar.

Of course, this isn't the Istanbul I remember.  The Ottoman Empire (the series is set during an alternate World War I) is a mostly Clanker nation who makes machines that look like animals.  That means the taxis are shaped like beetles, and the delegates are taken to the sultan's palace in a giant elephant-shaped walker.  I so wish Istanbul were really like that!

Westerfeld once more tells a great adventure story set in a wholly believable world of fabricated beasties and steaming machines.  Alek is a bit more relatable in this second book, I thought, and Deryn is still absolutely wonderful.  They have to deal with their secrets and the surprises that inevitably crop up--including maybe the most awesome animal in all imagination--Bovril, the perspicacious loris.

Five out of five revolutionaries.

Release Date:  October 2010
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL WES

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Book Jacket

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion...she believes in costume.  The more expressive the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better.  But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future.  And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket--a gifted inventor--steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.


Perkins has a knack for writing absolutely absorbing stories (she also wrote Anna and the French Kiss).  I started Lola at breakfast, continued it during my lunch break, then went home and read it until it was done.  I couldn't stop! 

I happen to be in awe of manic pixie dream girls, but I know many people find them unrealistic and tiresome.  I believe that Perkins has successfully written a MPDG that everyone can understand and empathize with, and that is no small feat.  It helps that Lola's world is generally more fantastical than real life.  She wears elaborate costumes.  Her neighbors are professional ice skaters and genius inventors.  She's dating a rock star.  Her dads are overprotective and her mom is an embarrassment trying to make things right.  Everything is over the top, and I love it.

However.  The spectacularness of the book is given gravity by the simplicity of its story.  Girl likes boy, and boy likes girl.  Misunderstanding occurs!  Girl and boy have to work through it.  All ends well.  Perkins' characters are believable and relatable, even though I've never once met an inventor or rock star.

Also, Cricket?  Is completely wonderful.  I want my own boy next door.

Five out of five colored wigs.

Release Date:  September 2011
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL PER


3-5 graders get quite excited about making scary things.  FYI.  We had diving boards of death, rooms of doom, and robots that kill crowds at a time.  I'm 85% sure one of them will grow up to be a mad genius.  Hopefully I can get on their good side now.

Pictures below the cut!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Storm Runners: The Surge by Roland Smith

Book Jacket

Chase Masters and his father are storm chasers.

He and his friends Nicole and Rashawn have just survived Hurricane Emily, the storm of the century, but their troubles are just beginning.  Although they've made it to the safety of Nicole's family's farm--the winter home of the Rossi Brothers' Circus--the floodwaters are rising, and they need to reach higher ground.  The circus's lions have escaped their cages, and a dangerous and unpredictable leopard is also on the loose.  Have Chase and his friends lived through a terrifying night only to face a new disaster?


I would have liked this sequel a lot more if both stories had been published as one book.  They are extremely short books, and it literally cuts the action in two, so I don't see why someone decided to make this two books.  It was hard for me to jump right back into the horror of surviving a hurricane, and it took me a few chapters to remember who everyone was.  Even then, I didn't really have time to remember to care about anyone before the book was over.

If Storm Runners and Storm Runners: The Surge had been published together, I probably would have found it more enjoyable.  I remember being so freaked at the end of the first book when the leopard made a quick appearance outside its cage.  So I should have loved seeing Chase and Nicole and Rashawn outwit both a leopard and a lion.  But--there was so little emotion.  I nearly missed the paragraph where a lion attacks Chase because it was written so sparsely. 

And really?  Chase is THAT much of a genius?  And kids who have never been trained in storm survival make such great choices and randomly call elephants "pachyderms"?  I don't believe it. 

That's just Chase's side of the story.  I found his father's rambling attempts to find Chase pretty boring.  And unnecessary. 

The more I wrote, the more I realize how much I disliked this book.  Sad.

Two out of five Pocos.

Release Date: September 2011
Reading Level: Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL SMI

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

LEGO Construction Club

This is a bit late, but last Wednesday the K-1st graders made scary things from LEGOs.

A massively tall elevator that takes you up and down floors super fast.  Yes, that legit terrifies me.

A secret lair and rocket ship, though I'm pretty sure his gleefully evil expression is what is really scary.

He created a bunch of scary men, incluing one invisible guy, and then at the last minute a gold tower.  I don't remember what was scary about that.

Super Diaper Baby by Dave Pilkey

One guy who turns into poop.  The baby spanked the doctor.  People step in the poop.

Recommend to:  fans of Captain Underpants.

Alex (Grade 3)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Book Jacket

Every girl who has taken the test has died.  Now it's Kate's turn.

It's always been just Kate nad her mom--and her mother is dying.  Her last wish?  To move back to her childhood home.  So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry.  Dark.  Tortured.  And mesmerizing.  He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead.  Now saving her mother seems crazily possible.  If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails...


This was a great quick read, but it still didn't satisfy my craving for a really awesome retelling of the myth of Hades and Persephone.  Although I liked Henry and Kate well enough, I think my main problem was the lack of grittiness.  Henry was a complete gentleman, and Kate had no idea about boys.  Neither of them seemed all that into each other until suddenly they were. 

Personally, I want to see a messed up Hades with inner pain expressed through, you know, kidnapping and crazy stunts.  I want to see how a relationship begun in selfishness and horror can turn into something beautiful.  It's like Beauty and the Beast!  Without puppies and everything handed to you on a silver platter, okay, Henry?  You're not dark enough for me.

The mystery of who is which god or goddess didn't live up to its potential either.  Because Kate didn't really care who anyone was, there was no drive to the reader to care either.  And without giving anything away, a few of the revelations felt a bit like copouts. 

Really, the book was too happy.  Hahaha.  So maybe that means everyone else will love it!  And I did very much enjoy it, and I couldn't put it down.  But if someone else knows of a really great reinterpretation of Hades & Persephone....let me know!

Three out of five near death experiences.

Release Date: April 2011
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL CAR