Thursday, November 25, 2010

Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

No, your eyes are not deceiving you.  I am actually posting a review!  I'm almost at the deadline for having this book finished, but I finally got to just read for 2 days and I've finished it!  My grad school classes have been tons of work this semester, leaving me little time to read.  But now, I just have one paper left to write and I'm finished for the semester!  ::does a happy dance::

I have to say that I wish I had just sat down with this book earlier.  At first, I found this book hard to get into.  Or at least harder to get into than the first book.  However, I think that is probably because I was distracted by the classes I teach, the classes I take and running the 12 year old to cheer practice.  This forced me to read in short little spurts instead of being able to just sit down and focus on the read.

I really, really liked this book.  I think I still liked the first one better, but perhaps that is only because the ending of "Always a Witch" is so bittersweet.  Once I was able to sit down and focus on the story, it pulled me in and I found it was hard to put down.  Just like in the first book, you get engrossed in the action and mystery of the story, hoping Tamsin will defeat the "bad guys" and save the day.  I know that sounds corny, but it's really not!

I love the character of Tamsin.  She's smart and courageous and you find yourself always rooting for her.  I love Gabriel also.  In this book, Liam is one of the more interesting characters, but I don't want to divulge any spoilers, so I won't say more than that.

At first, I thought this book was going to be a disappointment, but when I sat down and had time to focus on really reading it, I found that it really lived up to my expectations.  I still think I liked the first book better, but this one was definitely great!  Ms. MacCullough wrapped things up pretty well at the end.  I will admit that I was sort of disappointed that there will probably not be a sequel.  Of course, she didn't close that off entirely, I suppose, but then again, she really did.  I guess I can just keep my fingers crossed.

I have found that I have grown attached to Tamsin and Gabriel as characters and I really would love to know what happens to them next.  Even though the story of the Greene family is fascinating, Tamsin and Gabriel are the ones that readers will want to know more about.  I don't really think that will happen though, since she really has completed the story in quite a satisfactory way.

Just as an aside-- I know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I just have to say that this cover is gorgeous!  It's much better than the cover on the first book.  It would definitely make me want to pick up the book.

I originally checked out the first book at the library where I teach as part of the stacks that I take home over the summer.  I am so glad that I did and I will definitely tell the librarian that we need to order "Always a Wtich" to go with it.  Unless I am the librarian next year--then I'll order it myself! : )

So, the grading period has ended and it's time to see how this book scored.  It's definitely above others, but it fell just a little short of the first book. However, since it is still an EXCELLENT read,  I would give this book an A-.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

39 Clues Book One: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

39 Clues Book One:  The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

I enjoyed this book.  I didn't love it the way I loved Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, but it was a good read.  I can really see the appeal for 10-11 year old boys!  My literature circle for evaluation of children's literature chose this book for the whole group to read.  I was a little skeptical at first.  However, it does have some pretty novel concepts for a book series.

Here's the setup:  There are 10 books.  Each book comes with trading cards.  There is also a website for the series.  You have to use the trading cards, the website and the books in order to find all of the clues.  See the 5th grade boy appeal?  I have to admit that I did NOT go to the website......yet.  I want to go there now because I'm intrigued by the ending of the book.  Like any good mystery, it ends with a doozy of a cliffhanger, so I may be forced to read the next book.

The story is good.  It is told at a rapid pace and the clues are fun to try to figure out.  I really felt for the characters right from the beginning.  You can easily sympathize with both Amy and Dan and it's also fun trying to figure out if anyone else can be trusted.  Also, I ended up really liking the babysitter, Nellie.  I didn't think that I would, be she really started to grow on me and I found that I had warmed up to her by the end of the book. 

Rick Riordan is, of course, a wonderful writer and he knows how to write for kids without writing down to them.  The pacing is perfect.  The kids find the clues and follow them without getting the reader lost or bored.  I also loved the concept that all of the world's most influential people come from the same family! : )

I would definitely recommend this book to the 9-12 age group.  It has received starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal and I'm putting my stars right there with it.

My grade?  A solid A!