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.


Ryan’s Summer Reading Log #4

Last week I finished two books. I read the first book in a new “Warriors” series called “Dawn of the Clans” by Erin Hunter. The book itself is called The Sun Trail. The other book I finished was Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier and I’ll tell you about that one first because I have a lot to say!

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is one of my “choice” books for summer reading for 6th grade.

Peter Nimble is a ten year old blind orphan who has learned to be a thief. He is a very good thief and he steals everything: food, jewelry, money, art work. One day he steals a mysterious locked box from a carriage. This is the first lock he has ever come across that he cannot open. It takes him a long time but he eventually opens the box and inside he finds three pairs of eyes. When he tries on the first pair, or the golden pair, he is transported to the last place the golden eyes had been, which happens to be an island on top of the world. There he meets Sir Tode, who is part man, part horse, part cat. Peter Nimble and Sir Tode are sent on a quest by Professor Cake, who owns the island.

All the messages people send out in bottles end up at this island. The most recent message in a bottle came from the Vanished Kingdom on the island itself. Together Peter and Sir Tode must find the mysterious Vanished Kingdom because someone inside the Vanished Kingdom is in serious trouble.

One exciting thing that happens on the quest for the Vanished Kingdom is when Peter finds out he is a prince! He is actually the prince of the Vanished Kingdom. This reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Spaceballs, in which the character Lonestar finds out he is an “honest-to-God prince.”

Peter and Sir Tode become good friends, and they make other friends along their journey. They meet up with Peter’s long-lost sister, Princess Peg. Actually, Peter is kind of the long-lost brother. They also make friends with good old Frederick, the giant dogfish. Unfortunately, they also make some enemies: King Incarnadine, who is Peter and Peg’s uncle, and LongClaw, who is the captain of the King’s Royal Night Patrol.

In about the middle of the story, Peter tries a second pair of eyes, the amethyst eyes, which are purple. The amethyst eyes turn the wearer into the last animal they’ve seen. While wearing the amethyst eyes, Peter turned into a beetle, a sparrow and a sea serpent. This helped him out of several unpleasant situations.

Spoiler alert! By the end of the story, Peter and Peg eventually kill the King and become King and Queen themselves. When Peter puts on the third pair of eyes, the emerald pair, they eventually become his own, normal eyes.

I loved this book. I mean, I didn’t kiss it or anything, but the idea of seeing things with different eyes was really cool.

You can read my overview of Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” series by clicking here.

“Dawn of the Clans” is a prequel series to the other “Warriors” series. In The Sun Trail, the tribe of Rushing Water, who live in the mountains, is starving. Two brother cats named Clear Sky and Gray Wing lead most of the tribe in search of a new land. They are kind of like pioneers. They arrive at a forest where there is a lot of prey available. Some of the cats want to live on a moor nearby instead because those cats are better at hunting in that area. Gray Wing leads the cats that want to live in the moor and they set up their own separate camp. The two groups are separated for so long that they start to become hostile toward one another. Gray Wing and Clear Sky become enemies. Their conflict does not resolve by the end of this story and because I have read the series that come later, I don’t think it ever will. I love the “Warriors” books so I am glad to have another series to read.

In this post, Robin asked questions, Ryan talked, and Robin typed.

Ryan’s Summer Reading Log #3: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl #4: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer

The Artemis Fowl series is set in Ireland, and it is about a very rich boy who has a big, tall bodyguard named Butler. One day Artemis and Butler meet Captain Holly Short, who is a fairy. Together with Butler and Holly, Artemis Fowl has many adventures in saving the fairy world and human world from different evil enemies that threaten it.

In book four, The Opal Deception, an evil pixie named Opal wakes up from a self-induced coma after a whole year. Opal wants the human world to find out about the fairy world, but that could be dangerous to the fairies. She wants to make this happen to get revenge on the Fairy Police because they stopped a rebellion she started right before she went into the coma.

Holly comes back together with Artemis and Butler after being separated from them for the same year that Opal is asleep in the coma. Holly is a fugitive from the law as she is suspected of murdering someone even though Opal is the real killer. Together they stop Opal from making her evil plan happen and Holly eventually clears her name.

I recommend this series to readers who like science fiction and fantasy. Recently I heard Eoin Colfer speak at the Mega Awesome Adventures event and I thought he was very funny. Hearing him speak made me want to read more of his books. I think he should be a comedian, too!

In this post, Robin asked questions, Ryan talked, and Robin typed.

Maegan’s Summer Reading Log

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

Stanley Lambchop is a regular boy until one day a bulletin board falls on top of him and makes him flat. He is about my size except he is only one inch thick! He learns there are a lot of things you can do when you are flat, like slip under doors, be a kite for someone, and mail yourself in a giant envelope.

I have my own Flat Stanley I can take around with me this summer. I wonder where we should take him?

Grimmtastic Girls: Cinderella Stays Late  by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Cinderella is just starting at Grimm Academy. She finds out that the lockers they have are actually trunks that stand up the tall way!  She makes three new friends: Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater’s pumpkin gets lost, but the friends find a map that shows where the pumpkin is going. If it jumps over a certain wall, it would be in “our” world and not the Grimm Academy world. The mystery is continued to the next book, which is called Red Riding Hood Gets Lost. I can’t wait to read it.

Ivy & Bean Take the Case (#10) by Annie Barrows

I love Ivy & Bean. They didn’t like each other at first but now they are friends. In this story Bean watches a mystery TV show and the girls decide they want to make their own mystery TV show. They do not make a TV show in the end but they are happy anyway because they thought it was fun just pretending to have their own show.

In this post, Mom asked questions, Maegan talked, and Mom typed.

Ryan’s Top Ten

#1 Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

This five-book series has action, mystery, and humor all in one.

Percy Jackson is twelve years old. He lives with his mom and stepfather, but he does not get along with his stepfather. One night while driving in the car, Percy and his mom and his friend Grover are attacked by a minotaur, which is a creature that is half man, half bull. The minotaur is wearing some tighty whitey underpants! It is very funny. Mrs. Jackson is banished to the underworld and Percy is knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a place called Camp Half Blood. Here Percy learns that he is a demi god, the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. He also learns that his friend Grover is a satyr, which is a half man, half goat! Camp Half Blood is the only safe place in the world for demi gods and other interesting creatures. There are many others like him and Grover. Together they make friends and enemies and go on the first of many quests with their friend Annabeth, who is another important character in the series.

Readers will laugh through the whole first book, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and soon be asking for the second.

#2 The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

This book is a bit more serious than the Percy Jackson stories, but that doesn’t mean the whole book is solemn. The Hobbit is a story of a hobbit called Bilbo Baggins. The first chapter is a very funny scene in which twelve dwarves and a wizard unexpectedly show up at Bilbo’s cozy home and disrupt not only his dinner and his house, but the rest of his life. Bilbo reluctantly agrees to go on a quest to the Lone Mountain in search of a treasure and to defeat the dragon called Smaug.

I loved this book because there is so much action and it is funny and exciting. This story shows readers that you must show courage in order to know your true self. Bilbo did not want to leave his cozy home, but in doing so he learned that he does love adventure and being out in the world. I can’t wait to read the Lord of the Rings series, but my Mom won’t let me yet.

I also really like this graphic version of The Hobbit because it gives more images.

#3 Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.

Is there a person in the muggle world who does not know the Boy Who Lived?

This series is about a boy who lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin who hate him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. He has an unhappy life until his eleventh birthday, when a giant named Hagrid shows up and gives him a letter accepting him to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry Potter is a wizard! This was the first very long book that I read.

The whole series is great because you get to know all the characters so well. I don’t like them all but the ones I do like feel like old friends. Harry’s birthday is the same as mine, July 31. This summer when I turn eleven, I hope an owl brings me a letter from Hogwarts.

#4 Warriors series by Erin Hunter

Recently my Mom told me that there is no such person as Erin Hunter!These books are all written by different authors under her name. This is called ghostwriting.

There are a lot of different Warriors series. The one I read first was about warrior cats who lived in different clans that all fight each other. It’s kind of like a civil war when people fight inside their own country. Each clan has its own leader and the leader’s name has the word “star” at the end. So in the book The Power of Three, the leader of the clan is Firestar. This is another series where you get to know the characters very well but I also like that every chapter is narrated by a different important character. This helps the reader to see the story from different perspectives.

The special edition books really help the reader understand the history of the clans and get to know the characters in more depth. Beside the Warriors series about cats, “Erin Hunter” also writes similar ones that feature other animals such as bears and dogs but I like the cats’ series best.

#5 Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling

This is a series recommended to me by the people who work at our favorite bookstore, The Blue Bunny. They really know what I like!

Wereworld is supernatural and sci-fi, which I obviously like, but it is different because it is about a boy named Drew who just happens to be a werewolf. The world he lives in is ruled by werecreatures. It sounds like Drew would be scary but he is a good guy. There are also werebears, werelions, werepanthers, etc. It is a really neat world to read about. One night he is attacked by a wererat and his mother is killed. Drew runs away because when his father returns home on this terrible night, he assumes that Drew is the one that killed his mother. Drew is rescued by two members of the Woodland Patrol, which is kind of like the police. After many adventures and other stories, eventually Drew becomes the leader of his country.

The message of this series is not to give up because even though Drew suffered many losses during his life, he eventually became a great leader and person with friendship and love in his life.

#6 Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

This is a classic series that my Mom gave me to read last summer when I was entering fifth grade and I loved it. The first book is called The Chronicles of Narnia and there are seven books altogether. This series is about two brothers and two sisters who accidentally discover the enchanted world of Narnia one day when they were hiding in their wardrobe during a game. During this series, the children go back and forth between Narnia and their home in England. They love Narnia but they can’t plan to go there. It always happens by accident. They have many adventures in Narnia and wish they could stay there forever. Narnia time is 50 years to one year on Earth/real time, so whenever they return to Narnia it is always different.

There are three Narnia movies so far and I like them but they don’t follow the books and the books are better.

I love Narnia because it shows children becoming leaders and that makes me feel like I can do anything even though I am just a kid. It would be cool to live in a place where anything is possible. Wait, maybe I already do.

#7 How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowl

I first learned about this series when I saw the How to Train Your Dragon movie.

My whole family loves Toothless (the dragon) and Hiccup (the boy). I was excited to find out it was a book series. Even though the books are pretty easy for me to read now, I still love to read any new ones that come out. I recommend this series for 3rd & 4th grade, or maybe really good 2nd grade readers.

Hiccup lives on the island of Berk and is the son of Chief Stoick who is the leader/chief of the Hooligan tribe. This tribe trains dragons for hunting, fighting and riding. This is different from the popular movie. Right from the beginning of the movie, the humans fight and kill the dragons and only start to train them at the end. Pretty much any book with dragons in it is good by me. Kind of the way I feel about Dr. Pepper. If a restaurant serves Dr. Pepper, I like it.

#8 Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate is a graphic novel. This means it is like a big comic book. I also like to read the Big Nate comic in the Sunday paper.

Nate is a middle schooler who is not very smart, gets a lot of low grades, and is hated by his homeroom/social studies teacher. I do not look up to Nate but I do like him because he is very funny. Nate’s best friend, Teddy, is also very funny but he is actually a good student. These books are always good for having a laugh or when you want something that’s not too serious.

#9 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

This is another graphic novel, which again means it is like a comic book. This one has more text/reading than Big Nate.

The wimpy kid’s real name is Greg Heffley. He gets himself into a lot of trouble and awkward situations during his time in middle school and early high school. Gret and Rowley are each other’s only friends and try to help each other through school and social situations.

Greg’s older brother Rodrick isn’t very smart and is a bully to Greg all the time. Greg also has a younger brother named Manny who drives him crazy by doing things like drawing on Greg’s bedroom door with permanent marker. I think Greg loves his Mom and Dad but he gets annoyed at them because he thinks they are overprotective.

The movies are good but my Mom thinks Greg is not a nice person and treats Rowley very badly. But it’s not that way in the book.

A few years ago I got to meet Jeff Kinney at The Blue Bunny and he was very nice!

#10 The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

This three-book series is written by the same author as the Percy Jackson books, so of course it is good.

The main characters are Carter and Sadie Kane. They are brother and sister but were separated after their mother’s death. Carter lived most of his life with his Dad and Sadie spent most of her life with her grandparents. They are kind of normal, regular people before one Christmas they go out together with their father and visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. They see the Rosetta Stone and their father suddenly begins some weird chanting and the stone blows up. Whoa.

When they wake up in the rubble, they find they have strange powers. Two Egyptian magicians summon a magic portal and transport Carter and Sadie to the capital of Egypt. Their father has disappeared. Again, I say, whoa.

Once in Egypt, Carter and Sadie find themselves in an underground city filled with yet more Egyptian magicians. And for a third time, I say, whoa. Their mission becomes to prevent an Egyptian snake-god from eating the sun. Yes, correct. Eating the sun.

I like the Kane Chronicles because it is very creative and filled with new ideas. I also like learning about Egyptian mythology. There are a lot of “whoa” moments in this series. It is quite a page-turner.