December 31, 2011

The Project by Brian Falkner

In Iowa City, there isn't much to do. Luke and Tommy pull a prank, defacing their school's founder's statue. Luke gets caught, and makes a deal with his school's vice principal and his English teacher. He doesn't want to read Last of the Mohicans, as he feels it is the most boring book ever written. The deal is a summer project; to either prove Mohicans is the most boring book, or through research prove which book is the most boring ever written. In his research Luke finds out that the most boring book published is Leonardo's River, written in the 1800's. There was only one published, has been missing for years, and is worth millions. Floods rise in Iowa, leading Luke and Tommy to help the university library save thousands of rare books, stored in the basement, from the flooding. Luke comes across Leonardo's River, and convinces Tommy that they need to steal it. The adventure that follows is something Luke and Tommy never could have imagined, and comes nothing close to boring.
Falkner spends some good time setting up the plot, trying to make this fantastic adventure somewhat plausible, but there is little character development for Luke or Tommy. Given the audience, it's of little consequence as the reader seeking adventure will be drawn into it.
Reed Reads Score: 3

December 26, 2011

Legend by Marie Lu

If you are a fan of dystopian novels, Legend will grab you from the beginning. While the plot becomes somewhat predictable, Marie Lu sets up a believable future dystopian Los Angeles. The United States has split  into two warring factions; the western portion, The Republic, of which Los Angeles is central, and the eastern portion, The Colonies. The book is told in two voices in alternating chapters. Day is a fifteen year old boy who is a sly criminal, wanted by the Republic. Day is smart, athletic, beyond his years, and steals to help support the poor living in his sector of the city. The second voice, June, is a fifteen year old aristocrat girl, who is a prodigy of intelligence, physical ability, and a quick rising agent for The Republic. Day is motivated by his sick younger brother Eden, who has recently contracted the plague, for whom Day is seeking the cure, usually only available to the very wealthy. June is motivated by the murder of her brother Matias, a soldier killed by a young boy trying to steal medicine to cure the plague from a Republic hospital. You get the picture....
Marie Lu does a good job in the first half developing the setting and her characters. Most of the action takes place in the second half, where there are a few unexpected plot twists. I read through this one rather quickly. It is a perfect set up for sequels, but is satisfying on its own. Of course, a movie is in the works.
Reed Reads Score: 4

December 22, 2011

Underdogs by Markus Zusak

Underdogs is a trilogy of Zusak's first three novels; The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl. I read Fighting Ruben Wolfe first, whose review is below. The three books have so successfully been blended in my mind that I can't differentiate them, so this review covers all three. This is a story about seventeen-year-old Cameron Wolfe, an insecure, seemingly lost soul that beautifully emerges and finds himself. He lives in the shadow of his oldest brother Steve and older brother Ruben. Steve is a perfectionist that seems to have it all together; looks, athleticism, and a great job. Ruben is a fighter, both literally and figuratively, with strapping good looks that always gets the girls. Cameron has a deep affection for his brothers as well as for his sister Sarah, and his parents, for whom he also has tremendous respect. Living in a blue collar, working neighborhood, Cameron and Ruben are looked upon as slackers. Their reality is one of fighting for respect, and finding their way. Told in the first person by Cameron, Zusak's writing style emerges. While not as quite developed as his later novels, the poetic, short sentences that bring out the deep emotions and angst of a seventeen year old boy, bring depth to the novels. The book is for more mature readers who will appreciate these character driven stories.
Reed Reads Score: 4

November 27, 2011

Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #6) by Jeff Kinney

I read and reviewed the first of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series in April 2009. You can read that review and plug it in here. The book is a quick read both literally and figuratively into the mind of a middle school boy. Greg Heffly's journal is funny and REAL. I enjoyed every tangent he goes off on, and could relate to his feelings of frustration with friends and family, the feelings of isolation when he gets into trouble, and his constant fear of being apprehended by the police when he gets into BIG trouble. Jeff Kinney just seems to get it. And while he thanks teachers and librarians for putting his books in the hands of readers, I'd like to thank Mr. Kinney for writing books that are so easy to put in the hands of readers, especially boys that are often reluctant to read anything. This book is for them, and for anyone else that wants to read just for the pleasure and humor of it.
Reed Reads Score: 4

November 20, 2011

Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

Put your headsets on and get ready to go...
Brain Jack is a sci-fi thriller set in the near future. A future where rather than keyboards and trackpads, a computer user simply places a neuro-headset on, and let their brain control their computer. Computer hack Sam Wilson wants in on the new craze, so he hacks into the country's largest telecommunications company to have a pair sent to him for free. He has no understanding of the sequence of events he has just set in motion. Sam will soon realize that rather than you controlling the computer, the computer will control you. The government has been watching, a government that has become even more paranoid since Las Vegas was nuked by a terrorist. The government wants Sam in the worst possible way; not for what he has done, but for what he can do.
As a sci-fi fan this was a great read. Lots of techno babble, action scenes and some unexpected twists. For you non-computer nerds, don't let the technical language scare you off. Once the action goes into full gear, it pretty much dissipates....
Read Reads Score: 4

October 26, 2011

The Death Cure by James Dashner

Thomas has been reunited with his friends and are awaiting WICKED's promised cure to the Flare, the virus threatening to eliminate the human race by reducing them to psychotic, cannibalistic animals. Can WICKED be trusted? Is their true motivation to save mankind? The Death Cure comes full circle in this conclusion to The Maze Runner trilogy. Thomas again comes up against unforeseen road blocks, fights and death. He must make the ultimate choice to save mankind, or save himself and those that he has created strong bonds with.
      Clearly The Maze Runner,  is the strongest of the three books, but if you enjoy a lot of action, and one fight after another, The Death Cure will not disappoint. Personally I wanted more than action out of this book. Each fighting sequence stops the progression of the story, and does little to provide insight or meaning to the characters.
Reed Reads Score: 3

October 19, 2011

Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak

Cameron and Ruben Wolfe see despair and little hope in their Australian working class home; their father out of work, mother doing domestic labor, and their sister getting a reputation for "getting around." The boys themselves are not held in high esteem, hanging out at dog races, and sparing in the back yard, each wearing a single boxing glove. At school, a bloke makes a comment about their sister, and Ruben beats him to a pulp. Word gets around, and when arriving home from school, the boys are greeted by a tough-guy with an offer: come and fight in an illegal boxing syndicate and make some money. Ruben is wanted for his fighting ability, and Cameron, because he will illicit sympathy tips for his inability to fight. Both sign on, and "Fighting Ruben Wolfe" takes on a double meaning....
This is far more than a story about brothers who box. This a story about brothers with a strong bond, and deep affection for each other and their family. The writing is simple, street-wise, and poetic. This book is the second of a trilogy, but Markus Zusak's (The Book Thief) first book to be released in the U.S. You can now find the entire trilogy published as one title called Underdogs, also available in the Reed library. This is an outstanding read.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

October 2, 2011

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

From the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret comes a new novel, that from the moment you open the cover, you know that this is something very special. While using the same illustrative technique as Cabret, Wonderstruck is different because it uses the illustrations to tell one story, and the text another. The pictures tell the story of Rose Kincaid, a young girl growing up in 1927, Hoboken, New Jersey. She is a lonely girl, who seems to be obsessed with a movie star of the period. The reader quickly learns that she is deaf, hates her tutor, and escapes from home by her bedroom window. The text tells the story of Ben Wilson a young boy growing up in 1977, Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. His mother, the town librarian, has recently passed away, and with no knowledge of his father, is staying nearby with his aunt. He has avoided going back home, but a light in his mother's house draws him back in. Here, as he reminisces in his mother's room, he discovers clues about his father, leading him to New York City to find him. The journey causes Ben to discover what friends and family really mean, and how intertwined our lives can be.
Reed Reads Score: 5

September 25, 2011

No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko

The Thompkins kids, India, Finn and Mouse, have been placed on a plane by their mother, as their home has been repossessed, and they will stay with their Uncle Red in Denver, as their mother finishes teaching her classes in California. Fourteen year old India is gorgeous and typically self-absorbed and influenced by her friends. Finn, the middle child, is cursed with constant worry, and takes his responsibility seriously. Mouse, the youngest, is bright beyond her years, scientific and questioning, supported by her invisible friend, Bing.
As the plane experiences severe turbulence, the plane lands, the children disembark, and find themselves in a strange world called Falling Bird. "No, Toto, this isn't Kansas," as this Oz like world provides them with everything they wished for, except for the one thing they need; each other. As the people of Falling Bird try to tempt and lure them to earning citizen status and a life without conflict or worry, each child eventually realizes that they need family more than anything, and attempt to escape this wacky, illogical world. A fun, but predictable read.
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

August 30, 2011

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

In the near future, off the Gulf coast, Seventeen year old Nailer is part of a light crew whose mission is to strip old oil tankers of their valuable copper wire. Life is bitterly cruel, with little to live on and survival is dependent upon your personal will, wits and strength. Nailer's father is a sadistic drug user who is heartless and murders at whim. Nailer almost loses his life, when a crew mate abandons him after he falls in a pool of oil. Nailer faces another near death experience when a hurricane hits, and he decides to put his own life in danger to save his father. Following the hurricane, he discovers a ship wrecked cruiser, which has the promise to make him wealthy. While scavenging on board, he discovers the body of a teen-aged girl. Ready to cut off her fingers to take the gold surrounding them, he discovers she is alive. Torn if he should kill her, and take the bounty surrounding him, or save her, Nailer flashes on his own brush with death, and decides to spare her. He learns that the girl, Nita, is the daughter of a wealthy shipping company owner, and is being pursued by enemies of her father. The unlikely pair...a dirt poor crew member, and a wealthy "swank" form a relationship that is unlikely, yet compelling as they must escape their pursuers...Nailer's father and the enemies of Nita, who want her as a pawn to gain control of her father's wealth. A fascinating read, combining a violent dystopian world, with the strength and importance of trusting relationships.
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

August 2, 2011

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

You may remember Doug Swieteck from Gary Schmidt's Wednesday Wars. Doug is now the main character, in another warm Schmidt novel that takes place in the 70's. Doug is angry, and has good reason to be, with an abusive father, a cruel brother, and forced to move from Long Island to a small town in upstate New York as he enters the eighth grade. He hates his new town, he hates his new school, but finds solace when he visits the library where he discovers a book by James Audobon, and his beautiful illustrations of birds. The librarian, Mr. Powell, takes the time to teach Doug how to draw like Audobon. Doug is able to make parallels from what he sees in the drawings to his own life, which creates the organization for the book (each chapter is named and illustrated by one of the drawings from the book). Told in Doug's voice, you meet Lil Spicer whose friendship with Doug allows him to work for her father's grocery store, making grocery deliveries to people in the town, some of whom Doug gets close to. You will be angered and frustrated with Doug's father, his brother, Principal Peattie, and Coach Reed, but be uplifted by the others that support Doug in overcoming the adversity he faces. This book is touching, and will bring tears from the hurt Doug must confront, and joy from the support of those that care for him.
Read Reeds Score: 5

July 18, 2011

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

In the second installment of The Maze Runner trilogy, Thomas and the surviving Gladers, must now endure an Earth scorched by solar flares and ravaged by the Flare; an epidemic, causing insanity. Now infected by the virus, Thomas and the Gladers are promised a cure, but only if they survive a trek across a landscape ravaged by scorching heat, unpredictable weather and populated by Cranks, people infected by the virus, and whose insanity causes them to behave in unpredictable ways. Thomas and Theresa, the girl with whom he has telepathic communication, are separated and Thomas must find her, before time runs out and before he reaches the destination that WICKED has promised will provide them passage to the Flare's cure.

The Scorch Trials is clearly the "middle book" of the moves the story along, none of the questions are answered, and many new questions come into play. Why was there a parallel maze, populated by girls and one boy? Why has Teresa disappeared and seemingly become the enemy of the boys? Why is WICKED investing so much in this experiment? The answers to these and many other questions lie in the third and final installment. In the meantime, the Scorch Trials leave the reader with no resolution, and a somewhat ungratifying reading experience. I compare this to Catching Fire, the second installment of The Hunger Games just leaves you still hungry, wanting more.
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

June 30, 2011

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thomas can only remember his name. He finds himself alone in an elevator, and then greeted by a group of boys. Thomas must acclimate himself to the Glade; a community closed off by walls and inhabited by a group of 60 boys. The boys have created their own society, where each has a specific role for survival; farmer, butcher, cook. The most honored role is that of maze runner, for outside the walls lies a labyrinth which maze runners have attempted to document to figure out an escape. The problem is that the walls move. The walls surrounding the Glade close every evening to protect the 'Gladers' from the horrible beasts that lurk outside at night. Thomas makes a connection with another recent arrival, Chuck. He also has a connection with Theresa, a girl that appears in a coma, with a note revealing that things are going to change. We learn, as Thomas learns, about the boys of the Glade, how their society works, and what Thomas' real purpose is.

If you enjoyed Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, though not as strong, you will most likely enjoy The Maze Runner for its mystery, adventure, and the will to survive. There are no real answers in this first of a trilogy.
Reed Reads Score: 4

June 2, 2011

Morpheus Road: The Black by D.J. MacHale

Spoiler Alert: This review contains spoilers for the first book in the series! The Black is the second installment of the Morpheus Road trilogy. Here, the voice of the narrator switches from Marshall Seaverto Cooper Foley, Marshall’s best friend who is killed in book one (Morpheus Road: The Light). Most of the plot elements from the first book are retold from Cooper’s point of view. The plot goes further in this telling explaining what the Morpheus Road is… a middle world where one confronts one’s life and contemplates the good and the bad, before moving on the road or being condemened to the Blood. As Cooper learns to navigate his new world and existence, he meets his deceased grandfather, a young girl, an evil and powerful warrior called Damon, and Marshall’s mother (who's death set everything in motion).  Cooper is determined to fight the earthshaking mayhem caused by Damon, whose goal is to dominate the world of the afterlife as well as the living, who is responsible for Cooper’s death, and who is haunting of Marshall Seaver (which occurs in book one). I didn't enjoy The Black, as much as The Light, as it is not as fast-paced, nor as scary. Still, and entertaining read, and looking forward to book 3: The Blood.
Reed Reads Score: 3

May 16, 2011

A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata

A story of inhumanity, humanity and survival in the jungles of Vietnam, shortly after the Americans pull out of Vietnam. Y'Tin is now 13, but has been an elephant handler since the age of 11. He loves his elephant Lady, whom he treats with a courage and compassion uncommon to the other elephant handlers in his village. His village is attacked by the North Vietnamese, and Y'Tin is captured, separating him from his family and beloved Lucy. He witnesses horrors and cruelty but escapes to search the jungle for his family and Lucy, while trying to avoid being re-captured or killed. A good novel, that will help make students aware of the Vietnam War, it's horrors, and the courage and hardships the Vietnamese people faced, though the commitment and love that Y'Tin and Lucy have for each other is what really drives the story
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

May 6, 2011

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Rigg has lived his life trapping furs with his father. His father has trained him well for the wild, the world, and a special talent that only Rigg possesses; he is able to see the paths taken by people of the past. There is only one path he cannot see, and it is that of his father. His father is unexpectedly killed by a falling tree, and on his return from the forest, Rigg witnesses a young boy in danger. As he attempts to save him, a figure from the past, occupying one of the many paths Rigg sees, suddenly appears and prevents Rigg from saving the boy. The boy dies, and the boy's older brother, Umbo, accuses Rigg of killing him. With the town enraged, Rigg takes refuge with one of his father's friends, where he learns of a message and artifacts left by his father. It is decided that Rigg must leave to escape the town's rage, and get answers to the message left by his father. As he leaves, Umbo admits to Rigg, that he lied, and to keep the blame and his fathers rath away, he wants to leave with him. Umbo and Rigg are very different, but they discover each other's power, creating a symbiotic friendship between the two. Their journey is filled with adventure as they try to get answers to the mystery left by Rigg's father. This is a must-read, fantastic tale that intertwines intergalactic space travel with a story of unusual powers and royalty.
Reed Reads Score:5

May 4, 2011

And Then There Were None by Agatha Cristie

Ten travelers, all strangers, have all arrived on Indian Island for a vacation. There are just two things that they all share. First, they don't know the hostess/host. The second, is that they all have, to say the least, a murky past. After they all are settled, they witness some strange things happening. One by one, they're being killed off. In the duration of just two days, they are all dead. The only people who are innocent, are those who are dead. For who can kill when they're already dead?
And Then There Were None was a page-turning novel. Well, at least two-thirds of it. At first, you might think this book is boring. Sure, at the beginning, you start wishing you had never picked it up. For me, I had to make myself remember the back flap and how cool it sounded, to make me forge ahead. You must too. As soon as the first murder takes place, the ball starts rolling pretty quickly. I'm not much into creepy books, but this one oddly enough didn't kill me with fright. In it, you're dealing with psychologically twisted people who are scared out of their wits, sleepy, hungry, and wide-eyed with desperation for life and suspicion. Most of all, they're all haunted by their past. Agatha Christie has been called the "Queen of Crime." I have to agree that she is an exquisite writer. There are so many puzzles and she keeps you on your toes. The ending leaves you intrigued, struggling for more information, and grasping for more answers.
Reed's Read Score: 3.5

April 25, 2011

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker has been left by her father in Manifest, Kansas under the care of an old friend named Shady, as he works on the railroads in 1936. Abilene finds the town curious, but boring...until she finds a cigar box, filled with mementos and letters. Who is this spy called Rattler? Who are the letters from? What is the significance of these objects? And, why did her father leave her here and what is his relationship with these people? The mystery is what drives this story that is told in two time periods, Abilene's present, and the period of the mystery person's box, World War I.

Honestly, I didn't enjoy the book's start. It was a too sweet, rural America, historical fiction. Then the story grew on me and I realized the simple apple pie I was reading was far more complex than it first appeared. This is a story that you savor slowly; one that gets more interesting as it develops, and brings a huge reward at the end.
Reed Reads Score: 4

April 11, 2011

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

The peaceful planet Lorien is attacked by vicious Mogadorians. The planet will soon be destroyed, but before total annihilation, nine young Gardes, each accompanied by a guardian adult, their Cepan, are blasted into space. The Gardes will travel light-years to a planet called Earth, where they will disperse, and, with their Cepan, will develop their powers so they can defeat the Mogadorians and return to their home planet. A special protection is placed upon the nine Gardes. Each are numbered, and can only be destroyed, if killed in numerical order. The Mogadorians have followed them to Earth with the intention to kill the Loriens and then complete their mission by destroying Earth. One, two, and three have been killed. Now it is number four's turn. Number four, John, with his Cepan, Henri, have currently settled in a rural Ohio town, where he will meet his first love, Sarah, an arch-enemy, Mark, and a nerdy friend, Sam. Little do they understand, and little do they know...they are about to fight the battle for their lives.
Strong plot moves this story forward in this thrilling science-fiction. I am looking forward to reading the soon to be released sequel,  I Am Six.
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Mariller

Have you ever heard of the twelve dancing princesses? Once upon a time, there were twelve princesses, regular ordinary princesses. The only thing weird about all of them was that every morning, their father would find broken shoes. Yet, they hadn't made any noise in the night or left their bedrooms. What was happening? 
The princesses were going to a different world, a world where they danced every night. Wildwood Dancing is somewhat like that. Every full moon, Jena and her three sisters cross into a fairy world, existing parallel to their own. These little crossovers go on through out Jena's childhood. Suddenly, when she turns 17, her world is turned upside down. Her father far away on business, becomes fatally ill. Her nosy cousin is trying to kill everything magical, as well as woo her, and take over her life. Her older sister, Tatianna, has fallen in love with a sort- of soul-less human. A vampire is trying to make her his victim. And, there is much more. To set everything right, Jena and her frog Gogu must journey farther then they ever have into the magical world and into their own past. I really enjoyed this book and have read it over and over again. There's much detail and it is enchanting. It's not your average fairy tale book. It takes place in Transylvannia and is very cultural. It's not stereotypical at. Unlike most books with fairies, they don't make them out to be perfect. Also, the villain is not who you think it is. Altogether, this book is wonderful. And for those who were wondering, there is a sequel with Jena's sister, Cybele's Secret
Reed Reads Score: 4.5

February 20, 2011

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

First it was The Book Thief, and now I am the Messinger. Markus Zusak has quickly become my favorite author. I had a very deep, personal connection to Messenger. The writing is extraordinary, but more than that, its message is one that will make you look deep into yourself. "...sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are." It is a message that simply says you can be more, you can make a difference; it doesn't take much, the little things count.
The story centers around 19 year-old Ed Kennedy. A slacker whose life centers around driving a cab, playing cards with his three friends Ritchie, Marv, the love of his life, Audrey, and living with his smelly companion, his dog Doorman. Ed's life takes a turn when he and Marv are caught in a bank robbery, and Ed by happenstance becomes a hero by catching the robber. A few days later, a playing card, the ace of diamonds, appears in his mailbox with three addresses written on it. What is he to do? Who is behind this? Why Ed? Each story, the colorful cast of characters, and your connection to Ed will mesmerize, surprise, humor, and touch you in ways you will not expect. Mature content, violence, and language make this (sadly) a read for mature readers.
Reed Reads Score: 5

February 5, 2011

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

Eleven year old Fadi's family is escaping the turmoil of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In the chaos of their escape, Fadi's younger sister, Miriam, is left behind. This nightmare torments each member of the family, as each blames themselves for the loss of Miriam. Emigrating to San Francisco, Fadi's family tries to adjust to life in America, while continuing their search for Miriam. Fadi sees an opportunity, when the grand prize to a photography contest is a trip to India. He will join the photo club at school, win the prize, and find his sister. All does not go smoothly, when the attack on the World Trade Center, creates tension and bullies take revenge on Fadi.
      The story is simply told, providing background information needed to understand the situation. I would have enjoyed more depth to the story, perhaps including Miriam's experience to parallel Fadi's.  It is still a decent read, and I enjoyed the warmth and affection between Fadi, his parents, older sister, and extended family... a testament to the strength of family.

Read Reads Score: 3.5

January 22, 2011

Morpheus Road: The Light by D.J. MacHale

Marshall Seaver is a 16 year old geek who's summer plans with his best friend Coop are destroyed when Coop gets in trouble and is sent away for the summer. Marshall's mom was recently killed in an earthquake while doing a photo shoot in eastern Europe. Traveling the world, she often sent Marshall "stuff" from her travels. One was a mysterious glass ball, for which Marshall was clueless as to its purpose. One evening, after a heated argument with his father, Marshall throws the ball against his bedroom wall. It bursts into pieces, sending a blood like liquid all over. Moments later the liquid disappears, and strange things start happening. His friend Coop mysteriously disappears, strange patterns appear out of nowhere, and he gets a horrifying visit from a character that Marshall created in his art class named Gravedigger. This is the beginning of Marshall Seaver's nightmare, one in which he tries to find his friend Coop, while being hunted by forces with powers beyond his imagination.
          I'm not a fan of horror, nor does anything I read really scare me, BUT The Light, first in the Morpheus Road series is really creepy, and will send a chill to those that scare easily. It is a wild roller coaster ride of continuous mysterious events that will leave you exhausted.

Reed Read's Score: 4