Toby really wants to become a chef and often fantasizes about becoming famous like the people he watches on the Food Network. He doesn’t exactly have any cooking experience, though, and recognizes that as a major barrier to his dream. So, he decides to apply for a summer job at a new restaurant called Killer Pizza. Working in the KP kitchen is fun and, in addition to making new friends (Annabel and Strobe), Toby gets major satisfaction out of knowing that he has some natural culinary skills. It seems that this is definitely the perfect job… until he is let in on a little secret; Killer Pizza is actually just a front for a monster hunting organization! There’s nothing quite like hearing that MONSTERS ARE REAL and that some of them have taken up residence in your town. And, as if learning about the monster infestation wasn’t scary enough, Toby, Annabel, and Strobe find out that they’re being recruited as MCOs (Monster Combat Officers) to help actually hunt down and kill the monsters.
This book was not quite as gruesome as The Monstrumologist, but I could see fans of that book choosing this for a light summer read. It’s probably somewhere between R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series and his and Fear Street series. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Cirque Du Freak because it’s a little funny, just a bit creepy, and even a little gross, but still tame enough that it didn’t give me nightmares (which is all too easy a feat). If you’d rather have a horror story that might give you nightmares, though, you should head on over to read Ashes by Ilsa Bick. [shudder]
Somehow, my son and I didn’t hear about The 13-Story Tree House until after we already had our hands on this book… So, we went ahead and started this one with hopes that we would not be too confused. The good news is that a lack of familiarity didn’t take away from our enjoyment of this story. The bad news is that we had too little self-control to make this book last! ;-) We read this book in only two sittings. Granted, there are a lot of interior illustrations; but, we also read for about twice as long as normal for each of those two sittings. It was just so funny that we didn’t want to stop reading! Although it’s much sillier and more fantastic than the Wimpy Kid books, I think fans of that series should definitely check this one out — and to stay tuned for news about when The 39-Story Tree House and The 59-Story Tree House will make it to the US. (The 59-Storey Treehouse will be released in Australia on August 26th.)
Armstrong and Marr have done for Norse mythology what Rick Riordan has done for Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. So, Riordan fans who need something to read while they anxiously await the final Heroes of Olympus book [The Blood of Olympus, coming October 7th] should definitely check out Loki’s Wolves. Much like the Percy Jackson books, all the action and humor easily disguise the fact that you’re learning a metric ton of information about mythology. My only complaint is that there’s not a glossary and/or pronunciation guide. I mean, lots of kids have heard of Thor and Loki… but that might be as far as their previous knowledge of Norse mythology extends. And, even as an adult with a pretty decent grasp of language, I had a hard time figuring out how to say some of the more exotic names.
Matt Thorsen lives in a small town called Blackwell, South Dakota. He is extremely familiar with the legends of Norse mythology because his family are *literally* the descendants of Thor. Matt has never been as successful as his brothers in school, but he is becoming a pretty awesome boxer — which should come in handy now that he is responsible for saving the world. Seriously! Ragnarok (basically, the apocalypse) is approaching and Matt is going to have to find a way to work with the descendants of other Norse gods — some of whom haven’t traditionally gotten along with Thor, like Loki — if he wants to find a way to save himself, and the rest of the world, from sure death.
Today’s installment of I Read YA Week is RelationSHIP Day — and I am supposed to “play matchmaker to the YA universe.” While I am guessing most people will be matching up couples, I think I am going to be different and match up some BFFs. I recently listened to the audiobook of Grave Mercy, and I kept thinking of Katsa, from Graceling. After all, she was also an assassin with mystical powers who was being used as a pawn in someone else’s plans. I think these young women would find great comfort in each other’s company, and I can almost imagine them meeting up for tea or a glass of wine and to kvetch about the people they had to kill that week! (To learn more about Katsa’s story, check out my Graceling review.)
The really cool thing about Ismae is that she was fathered by Death — aka Saint Mortain. This was first discovered when she resisted the herbs her mother bought in an attempt to expel her from the womb. The turnip farmer who raised her as his child despised her and treated her terribly, then he sold her off as a bride to a brutish man when she was seventeen. On her wedding night, when her husband discovered the marks that had been left behind by the poison, he flew into a rage. Ismae managed to escape and was taken away to live in a convent with the Sisters of Mortain, who trained her to be handmaiden of Death. Ismae was trained to mix and administer a variety of poisons, to conceal and use all manner of weapons, and to use “womanly arts” to search potential targets for the mark of Mortain [which both confirmed that a person should be assassinated and also indicated how they would die]. Add in some double-agents, hidden plots, and a dash of romance, and you get an audiobook that made me sad to run into only light traffic on the way home!
Sunday Woodcutter, like her six sisters, was named for a day of the week. I assume it was the day of the week on which they were born, though I cannot honest recall at the moment. I do remember, though, that her sisters all seemed to be the embodiment of the old nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child,” which predicts children’s characteristics based on their days of birth:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
The number seven always seems to hold some magical and mystical powers in fantasy stories, and this story is no exception. Being the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter has set Sunday up to be especially magical. She loves writing, but is hesitant to do so because what she writes often comes true. After meeting a talking frog, and telling him about her stories, Sunday finds that she finally has a friend to confide in. He disappears, of course, when Sunday bestows a kiss on the his little froggy head — turning back into Prince Rumbold, whom her family despises. Prince Rumbold is certain he can make Sunday fall in love with him, though, if only he can get a chance to talk to her and explain…
I am pretty sure the only Ann Brashares books I had read before this ARC were from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. It looks like I never reviewed them on this blog, though, so I can’t simply link to what I thought of them. Instead, I will quickly summarize by saying that they are basic contemporary “chick lit” books. They primarily dealt with friendship, dating, and body image — and they were both realistic and well written enough that I’m not surprised to see that they’re still popular. While this book was also well written and has a romantic element to it, it was VERY different in that it has a science fiction angle.
Prenna James is an immigrant, but she didn’t come from another country — she came from another time. She, along with the rest of the people in her tight-knit community, traveled back in time from a future in which global warming had destroyed the world. Warmer temperatures melted the polar ice caps, caused massive floods, and also allowed mosquitoes to thrive. Even though cancer had been cured, human existence was threatened by a blood-borne plague reminiscent of AIDS. Prenna’s time-traveling community has many rules, but the most important rules are to blend in, to avoid making any changes to “the past,” and to avoid intimacy with outsiders. Despite worries about getting in trouble, Prenna has a hard time following the rules. She just can’t understand how they can just sit by and watch people destroy the world instead of trying to make a difference. Plus, of course, there’s the fact that she’s falling for an outsider named Ethan…
I thought this book was kind of like a Davinci Code for tween and teen readers. There is a lot of mystery, tons of action, and a “bigger picture” that readers catch glimpses of throughout the story. (This is the first in a series.) Although I feel this book probably could have been edited down to be quite a bit shorter, I think the fast-paced action is likely enough to keep even reluctant readers turning pages. Plus, the movie rights have been bought by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures, so I have a feeling this book will be in high demand as soon as the trailer starts making the rounds.
Will West’s parents constantly remind him to be as average as possible. They won’t tell him why, but they think it is very important for him to fly under the radar. So, he stays in the middle of the pack in cross country, he gets average grades, and he doesn’t do much else. All his careful calculating is wasted, though, when he slips up and scores off-the-charts high on a national standardized test. As a result, he gets invited down to the principal’s office for a meeting with a woman named Dr. Rollins, who extends an offer for a full scholarship to a secret, elite prep school… and men in black also start following him. When his mom starts acting like a robot/zombie and his dad sends strange text messages, Will decides he needs to run for it. With the help of a local taxi driver, who assumes Will is on the run from the police, he makes a mad dash for the airport — where he boards a plane for the secret prep school with the hope that he will soon begin to make sense of what is happening to him.
I made it a point to listen to this audiobook last June because it had been added to a local summer reading list. Since I had already been thinking about reading it, I didn’t even feel like I was doing homework as I sometimes do when I am trying to familiarize myself with summer reading titles. How lovely! While I am willing to admit that it wasn’t quite what I expected, though I can’t quite put into words what exactly that means, I was far from disappointed.
Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s outrageous stories about strange children with amazing powers — like invisibility, super strength, and levitation — as they looked through pictures from the home in which his grandfather had been raised. He believed his grandfather when he was very young but, as he got older, started to think that the pictures “proving” their peculiarities looked so fake. After all, what sane person would believe that there was a girl with a mouth on the back of her head and another who could float like a helium balloon? Still, it was kind of fun to imagine. That is, until the day his grandfather called him absolutely terrified about being unable to find his guns when the monsters were coming to get him. When Jacob found his grandfather’s body in the woods, and saw something he couldn’t explain, he had to decide whether he would choose to believe in the bizarre stories his grandfather had told him or if his grandfather had simply been suffering from delusions or dementia. And only one thing would set his mind at ease — a trip to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Fans of this book should be happy to learn that movie rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox. According to Ransom Riggs’ blog, Tim Burton is set to direct and the screenplay with be adapted by Jane Goldman [who also wrote the screenplays for X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and The Woman in Black]. IMDB has a projected release date of July 31, 2015 but no further information. I, for one, am pretty excited to see how this develops.
18-year-old Becky Randle, a recent high school graduate, works for a local grocery chain and lives in the trailer she inherited when her mom died (from complications of diabetes/being morbidly obese). One day, Becky thinks she hears her mom’s ringtone and, while searching for the phone, unearths a phone number on a scrap of paper inside an otherwise empty jewelery box. She wonders if the phone number has anything to do with the cryptic thing her mother said on the day she died — “[S]omething is going to happen to you. And it’s going to be magical.” So Becky decides to take a chance and calls the number. It’s almost too good to be true when the person on the other end of the line offers her $1000 and a plane ticket to New York City, but she has nothing to lose and decides to check it out.
Upon her arrival in NYC, she is brought to see fashion designer Tom Kelly, who offers to make her three dresses and to transform her into the most beautiful woman in the world. Becky doesn’t believe him at first, but her best friend Rocher uses some extremely colorful language to convince her to go for it. (Rocher’s expletive-laden exclamations were often hilarious, and one was so good that I actually pulled over and recorded it with my cell phone so I could later play it back for my husband. AFTER the kids had gone to bed, of course!) Anyhow… Tom comes through and works some sort of crazy magic and Becky really is transformed! She becomes Rebecca — who is tall, thin, and gorgeous, with perfect skin and hair. She can eat anything she wants without gaining an ounce, and this gives her loads more confidence than Becky ever had. The only problem is that Rebecca needs to fall in love and get married within a year or everything will go back to the way it was before.
I was initially going to read this by myself, but I had to keep stopping to read things out loud to my son because he kept asking, “What’s so funny?” After a few chapters he asked me, “Can you just start over and read that book out loud to me? It sounds really good!” Well, I couldn’t say no to that! And, I must say, even though this book is cataloged as YA, it really didn’t have anything in it that made me uncomfortable reading it out loud to an 8-year-old.
15-year-old Jennifer Strange works as the manager for Kazam Mystical Arts Management. Since wizidrical power has been dwindling for quite some time, wizards are reduced to using their power for more mundane purposes, like delivering pizzas and rewiring houses. Jennifer spends her time and energy trying to find enough work for the Kazam employees, but demand seems to be drying up just as quick as magic. Until, suddenly there is a magical surge and people start whispering about the possibility that Big Magic is involved. When “precogs” start picking up on the impending demise of the last dragon, Maltcassian, everyone in the UnUnited Kingdoms starts going mad about claiming a portion of the untouched Dragonlands — and Jennifer learns that SHE will become the Last Dragonslayer. Reluctant to believe that she will have to kill Maltcassian, since he hasn’t yet done anything to break the Dragonpact, Jennifer does her best to wield her power as Last Dragonslayer with integrity. This book has a winning combination of a strong female character with a good moral compass and plenty of wry humor. I can see this book being a hit for fans of Harry Potter who want a lighter fantasy read.