Ryan’s Snow Day Post: Fall & Winter Reading Roundup

Since school started, life has been a lot busier than it was in the summer. I have been doing swim team and the new robotics club at my school. I earned my brown belt in karate! Even though there has been so much going on, I still managed to read a lot of books this fall and early winter. If you are looking for something new to read, here is a brief synopsis of each book or series.

The Hunger Games Trilogy: This series is about a teenaged girl named Katniss Everdeen, who lives in District 12 of Panem, which is basically North America in the future. Panem is ruled by President Snow in the Capitol, and the society is a dictatorship. To keep order in the districts, every year each district is required to send two teenaged tributes (a boy and a girl) to an event called The Hunger Games. The annual Hunger Games is a reality television show during which there literally can only be one survivor. It is a fight to the death. The only reality television I watch is The Amazing Race. In that show, the contestants are fighting for a million dollars, not their lives. At the end of The Hunger Games, Katniss and her friend Peeta turn out to be two survivors. In the following two books in the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, Katniss and Peeta have to go back to the arena for another terrifying Hunger Games. Uprisings and rebellion lead to a civil war. I read this entire series in less than two weeks. It was a page-turner! I really liked how the author had me guessing about the geography and what part of the current United States different parts were set in. She gave clues about where they were. I enjoyed looking online at some maps artists have drawn about what the boundaries of Panem might look like.

So far I have watched The Hunger Games and Catching Fire movies. I always like to see someone else’s vision of what people and places might look like. It’s fun to compare the movie against the book. The Capitol people in the movies didn’t look quite as weird as I pictured them in my mind. This is an exciting series to read if you don’t think you will be bothered by kids killing each other, which is pretty scary.

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods: I was very excited for this book to come out; we went and bought the first day it was released. It is a large format book which makes it different from Rick Riordan’s other books. This book tells Greek myths from a teenager’s perspective and it is very funny.

The Maze Runner: I have read the three books in this series. There is a prequel called The Kill Order, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. In this series, a boy named Thomas ends up in the midst of a bunch of strangers in a huge glade that is surrounded by a maze. He has no memories at all except for his name. He has no idea how he got there. I picked up context clues that, like The Hunger Games, this book was also set in the future United States. Thomas is basically a prisoner because he can’t escape where he is without going through the maze. There are other teenaged boys with him (no girls) but no one knows who is holding them captive. No one knows how they got there. Spoiler alert: by the end of the story, Thomas and the others do get out. In the next two books, The Scorch Trial and The Death Cure, the boys find out that they were in the maze as a sort of government test. The rest of the world had been hit by sun flares, was scorched, and was therefore uninhabitable. To achieve population control, the government released a disease that killed tons of people. The boys in the maze were immune to the disease and the maze served as a testing facility for other government experiments. It sounds depressing and awful but it is actually a very exciting story, and the ending is hopeful. I need to get my hands on the prequel so I understand more of the back story. There is also a film for this book, which I saw with my Dad and really liked.

Alex Rider: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

This is the first book in the Alex Rider series. Alex Rider is a teenaged boy. Notice a theme in what I am reading lately? His parents were killed. He lives with his uncle, which isn’t actually a bad thing. Usually when the main character is an orphan and has to live with a relative, the relative is horrible, but that’s not the case in this story. Example: Harry Potter and the Dursleys. So. Ahem. Uncle Ian is a banker like my Dad, or so Alex thinks. Uncle Ian is killed in a “car accident,” and Alex finds out he was actually a spy for the Brisith government. Did I mention they live in England? Alex ends up needing to finish the job Uncle Ian was doing, which was stopping a bad guy from poisoning the entire population of England. He succeeds. I assume in the rest of the series that Alex Rider becomes the spy, but I haven’t gotten to read another one yet. I’m looking forward to another story about Alex Rider. Apparently there was a movie version released in 2006 but I haven’t caught it yet.

The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

My copy of this book was autographed by the author! I got it at an event last year when I heard him speak. Eoin Colfer is very funny in person. This book is about a teenaged girl (for a change!) named Chevie Savano who works for the F.B.I. This is the first book in a series. Chevie ends up having to guard a broken time machine after messing up another job very badly. She gets up to all kinds of trouble; the time machine somehow ends up working and she sends herself back to Victorian England. There she meets former a magician’s assistant who is running away from the magician, who also happens to be a killer! This is another exciting plot with lots of action and mysterious characters. I recommend it to anyone who likes the Artemis Fowl series, also by Eoin Colfer.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Okay, so this book was good, but I really only read it so I could watch the movie. I could not get into the second book in the series and I gave up. There are too many good books to read for me to waste time on one I don’t like (unless I have to read it for school.) Anyway, Ender’s Game is about a boy around my age named Ender. Even though he is only a kid, he is extremely smart. The story is set in the future. Ender gets chosen for Battle School, which is a training academy for space fighters. Ender is so talented that he is promoted to the Command School within a few short months. Ender stops an alien threat that was advancing for its third attack within a few years. He is a hero. I did watch the movie with my Dad, and in this case, the movie was actually better than the book. I hardly ever say that.

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale

Usually my Mom picks out books for me to read, and she has an excellent sense of what I will like. I don’t really like to go shopping, but we happened to be in a bookstore in New Hampshire and I actually picked this one out myself! This story is about a boy named Stephen who lives in a zoo in the middle of the Amazon jungle. His father is one of the greatest explorers in the world. People come there for vacations all the time. Stephen finds it hard to communicate with people because he has a terrible stutter and is hard to understand. His special gift is that he can talk to the animals and they understand him. One day his father catches a big, black jaguar. The jaguar gives Stephen the gift of understanding. He could always talk to the animals, but when they talked back to him, he didn’t understand them. Now he does. In the end, the jaguar is saved from being killed and everyone is happy. This book is different from what I have been reading lately, because it’s not related to technology and it is set in present day rather than in the future. I liked this story a lot and need to see if the author has written any other books.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Well. This is the first book in a really long time that I have completely disliked. Okay, I hated it. It was an option on my summer reading list and it took me more than a month to get through it. I really only like to be reading one book at a time so that I don’t mix up their plots in my head. Because I disliked this book so much, I didn’t read much during the month of August and early September. This taught me about how important it is to choose my books wisely. My Mom kept telling me I didn’t have to finish it if I didn’t want to (as I had already finished plenty of books on the school list) but I also hate leaving books unfinished. However, this experience taught me that it was okay to quit the Ender’s Game series when I was not enjoying it. (See above).

This story was about a girl named Janie who lives in 1950s England. She moved to England with her family because her father was suspected of communist activity in the United States. When she moved to England, she met a person in school named Benjamin whose father was an apothecary. An apothecary is like an old-fashioned version of a pharmacist. Secretly, the apothecary makes potions. When he gets abducted by Russians, Janie and Benjamin have to use his potions to rescue him and stop a nuclear bomb being launched in the middle of Norway. This sounds like an exciting story that would be right up my alley, don’t you think? But it was just boring and slow and I couldn’t wait to be done with it. Therefore I don’t really recommend The Apothecary.

The Fire Within by Chris D’Lacey: Finally! A dragon story! This book is about David, a young man in his 30s, who comes to live with a woman and her daughter. After his first few days with them, David knows something is “up” in their household. One day he goes into the forbidden pottery room. (Should’ve been a clue right there that something weird was up. Forbidden pottery room?) In the forbidden pottery room, David finds a bunch of clay dragons. The woman finds him in there and allows him to keep one of the little guys. He takes it to his room but it keeps disappearing. David soon finds out that the little clay dragon is actually alive and so are the others…he ends up saving the dragons. Something made the dragons sad. When dragons are sad, they cry. When dragons cry, they lose their fire. When they lose their fire, they die. Aaaaw. David catches one of the dragon’s tears and has him drink the tear. It makes that dragon better, so he does it to all the others. And they live happily ever after. There are four more books in the series; I got some for Christmas but haven’t gotten to them yet. This book is a little below my reading level but I love dragon stories. I recommend it for 3rd/4th grade and up.

Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

More dragons! Yay! This story is about John, who (spoiler alert!) is actually J.R.R. Tolkien in the story! In case you didn’t know, Tolkien was a real person and the author of the legendary Lord of the Rings (haven’t read yet because my Mom wants me to wait) and Hobbit stories. The Hobbit is one of my favorite books of all time, so this was an exciting development. One day John comes to England and finds that one of his professors is dead. He also finds out that the dead professor was guarding a special map of the Archipelago of Dreams, aka Avalon, which is a fictional place to us (like Middle Earth or Narnia) but it is real in the story. Another guardian of the map was Bert, and he takes John, Jack (C.S. Lewis in the story) and Charles (Charles Williams in the story) to Avalon. C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams are also famous fantasy authors. They all get to Avalon by taking the Indigo Dragon, which is a living dragon ship. They find that Avalon is in a big mess because their king (Arthur Pendragon) is dead and people are fighting over who should be the new king. One contender for the throne is Mordred, also known as The Winter King. Mordred tries to get the map from Bert because it is the key to summoning the dragons. At the end of the story, John, Jack, and Charles end up defeating Mordred with the help of the dragons and all the dragon ships. This book was awesome! We found it by accident at the library book sale. Anyone who likes Tolkien, Narnia, or fantasy stories should give it a try.

Ranger’s Apprentice books Six thru Nine by John Flanagan

The Siege of MacindawErak’s RansomThe Kings of ClonmelHalt’s Peril

I’m actually reading book nine now, but just wanted to write an update that I am continuing to enjoy this exciting series. You can read about earlier books in the series by clicking here.

Space Encyclopedia by Peter Bond

This book is so cool. I’ve learned a ton of things about space and space exploration that I didn’t know. It has made me more interested in studying astronomy if I can.

TodHunter Moon: Pathfinder by Angie Sage

This is the book I am keeping at school right now for when I have a few minutes to read. It is written by Angie Sage and is related to another series of hers that I follow, about a character named Septimus Heap. Stay tuned…

Just in case you are wondering, I did not type all this. My Mom and I had a long talk about my bookshelf this afternoon and she typed while I talked.