Fablehaven #5 Keys to the Demon Prison

Fablehaven #5 Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “After many centuries of plotting, the Sphinx–leader of the Society of the Evening Star–is after the final artifacts needed to open the great demon prison, Zzyxx. If the legendary prison is opened, a tide of evil is certain to usurp control of the world. In an effort to intercept the final artifacts, Kendra, Seth and the Knights of the Dawn race to strange and exotic preserves across the globe. The stakes have never been higher. The risks have never been more deadly. In this explosive series finale, allegiances will be confirmed and secrets revealed as the forces of light and darkness collide in a desperate, climactic battle to control the keys to the demon prison.”

I loved this book! As you may remember, I didn’t love this series at first. I think it was Book 3 that for sure hooked me, and the finale was all it needed to be. I am really sad to let the story go and to say good-bye to the characters. There is plenty of action and romance and trickery for everyone. I had no idea how Mr. Mull would finish it, and it worked. The last line wasn’t my favorite, for some reason, but it fit. I really liked this series and my son is on Book #4 so it’s fun to talk with him about the stories. It is clean and well-written. Mr. Mull has really grown in his writing since the first book, and it’s fun to take that journey with authors. He is creative and imaginative, and it is a good, fun read. If you are reading the series, you have to finish it off by reading the finale, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: PG-13 Violence (killing the demons, fighting, death of some characters) No profanity or “physical intimacy” scenes.

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up! This is good, clean fun for the whole family. Yes, there is some death and violence, but it isn’t over the top or too gory. If you think your child can handle a few characters dying (they are not the main characters) and some demon-killing then they will be fine reading it.

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This book is about three children who find friendship, life, and healing in a secret garden. Mary was orphaned in India and sent to Yorkshire to live with her uncle. Colin lost his mother shortly after he was born and has been sickly and afraid most of his life. His father rarely sees him. Dicken is the brother of one of the caretakers and he is a source of strength and inspiration to the other two. Both Mary and Colin are spoiled and ill-tempered. Neither cares for anyone. Until they find each other and Dicken and bring to life the secret garden.
I LOVED this book as a child, and I needed something happy to read after reading The Mockingjay. I hoped that I wouldn’t be disappointed because sometimes things aren’t quite so wonderful when you are older, but this book did not disappoint. It was just as magical as I remembered it. I loved it again! And it was amazing how much I remembered. I love the character development in this book, I adore Dicken and Martha, and I love the story. It is an easy read, but so good. It teaches the importance of friendship, positive attitude, and humility. It also teaches the importance of finding yourself in nature and how taking care of something other than yourself can help you find yourself. It teaches about never giving up and finding courage and confidence in yourself. I love this book!
Rating: G This book is great for all ages! There is nothing inappropriate in this book.
Recommendation: As far as independent reading, I think it’s about a third grade level. It does help to know a little about the moors and Yorkshire language, a younger child might be confused by that. I recommend it for all ages!

Fablehaven #4 Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

Fablehaven #4 Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull
(Summary taken from the back of the book) “Two hidden artifacts have been found. More preserves face destruction as the Society of the Evening Star relentlessly pursues new talismans. Desperate to stop them, Kendra discovers the location of the key to a vault housing one of the artifacts in Patton’s Journal of Secrets. In order to retrieve the key, the Knights of the Dawn must enter a death trap–a dragon sanctuary called Wyrmroost. Will anyone who enters the sanctuary make it out alive? Or have Kendra and Seth finally gotten in too deep?”
Brandon Mull keeps getting better. His writing is advancing and so are his twists and turns. I am hooked. This book has been my favorite (did I say that about the last one?) so far. Seth drives me crazy. Seriously. I am way too much like Kendra…a rule follower….I go crazy every time Seth moves or speaks. Ahhhhh. But I digress. I really liked this book. It actually surprised me a couple of times. I did not predict the twist at the end. There is action and romance and suspense. There are dragons and giants and all sorts of other magical creatures. I definitely recommend this book, especially if you have read the previous three and enjoyed them. Now my only problem is finding a copy of #5 to read!
Rating: PG-PG 13 (Dark, some gruesome and gory parts, and there is a death of a main character)
Recommendation: I will still allow my third grader to read this book, but it is a little more gory and dark than the previous books. There are some scary parts and some gruesome parts as well. One of the main characters dies, which I didn’t like. I guess there was a death in the previous book as well, but it wasn’t a character you felt as close to. I’ll definitely talk to my son about what happened and hopefully debrief him a bit. 8-9 and up, depending on the child and his maturity.

Fablehaven #3 Grip of the Shadow Plague

Fablehaven #3 Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull
(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Very strange things are afoot at Fablehaven. Someone or something has released a plague that transforms beings of light into creatures of darkness. Seth discovers the problem early, but as the infectious disease spreads, it becomes clear that the preserve cannot hold out for long. In dire need of help, the Sorensons question where to turn. The Sphinx has always given sound advice–but is he a traitor? Inside the Quiet Box, Vanessa might have information that could lead to a cure–but can she be trusted? Meanwhile, Kendra and members of the Knights of the Dawn must journey to a distant preserve and retrieve another hidden artifact. Will the Society of the Evening Star recover it first? Will the plague eclipse all light at Fablehaven?”
Okay, I have to admit…..I think he finally got me. I liked the last book, but this one is much better. I think Mull has finally caught me….dare I say I might be excited about reading #4??? There is still that young adult flair to the book, but it is much better written and is fun. The whole plague thing really got to me….At this point I am glad I stuck with the series. I almost didn’t even read #2, but since my kids wanted to read them I decided I better keep going. Mull’s writing is getting better and there is more of that spark that keeps me reading. It is still really clean and there is enough excitement to keep the younger kids reading, which I love. I definitely recommend this book. It would be a good read-aloud as well.
Rating: PG (My 7 year-old is reading it. It is a stretch for him, so I keep asking him questions to make sure he understands, but he really likes it. My 8 year-old breezed right through and loved it.) There are monsters and some evil creatures and action with those, but it is good, clean fun!
Recommendation: As a read-aloud I would say 6, maybe 5 if you have a more mature 5 year-old. This is great for 2nd, 3rd, and up to read on their own. I recommend any series that is clean and fun and gets kids reading, and this book does that!  I enjoyed it as an adult so I’d recommend it to my friends for a fun, easy read.

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson Book #1) by Rick Riordan

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warms him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.”

This is a young adult book. It is a fun and easy read. I read it to my kids and they LOVED it! They are downstairs right now playing “Percy Jackson.” It’s great and I love it! I love stories that draw kids in and make them enjoy reading. I liked it myself, even. I liked how Riordan brings boring Greek mythology to life in this modern era. Mount Olympus right above New York City??? Awesome! There was suspense, mystery, action, betrayal, sword fighting, and monsters. What could be better???  I would definitely recommend this book. I wouldn’t quite put it up with Harry Potter, but close. Like I said before, I love books that pull kids in, and this one does just that….plus it’s fun for me too!

Rating: PG  (6 and up) My 4 year-old heard bits and pieces and wasn’t too interested. She didn’t understand a lot of it. It is a great read-aloud. There are some parts where I could tell they may have understood it better if they had seen the writing and so I did show them, but for the most part it was a great read-aloud. My 8 year-old could have read it by himself. He would have understood most of it. He would be able to read the words, but complete comprehension??? I don’t know. There were gods’ names that I didn’t know how to pronounce. The mythology is a little over their heads. They had no idea what the River Styx was or the Underworld or even Mount Olympus. For that reason I was glad I read it to them. I think they would have understood most of it but things like those I mentioned above are important pieces to the story so if they don’t know what they are then they won’t grasp the whole meaning. There is some monster violence but no profanity. Great for kids.

Recommendation: Third Grade and Up. If your third grader is reading it alone, a lesson on mythology is a must! Also, help with pronunciation would also be helpful.

Fablehaven #2 Rise of the Evening Star

Fablehaven #2 Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
(Summary taken from the back of the book) “At the end of the school year Kendra and her brother, Seth, find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures. Grandpa Sorenson invites three specialists–a potion master, a collector of magical relics, and a trapper of mystical creatures–to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient orgainization determined to steal a hidden artifact of great power. Time is running out. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world.” 
I liked this book a lot more than I liked the first one. I think it seemed more “real,” if that’s possible. It caught my attention more. There are still some corny parts, but overall I liked it. It’s a good, easy read that is entertaining and good when you just want a fun book. It is fairly well written and has some good twists and turns. The last page brings a surprise, even though I had thought about the possibility of it while reading. I like the characters and the story. It is good, clean fun. There is some gore and some scarier scenes, but there is no language and no “physical intimacy.”
Rating: PG  There is some gore and might be scary for littler children.
Recommendation: 1st grade and up, if being read to. If reading alone probably 2nd or 3rd grade. My 2nd grader wants to read it. It may be a little too difficult for him, but I think I’ll let him try. I think I’ll read it aloud though.

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
(Summary taken from the back of the book.)  “As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she’ll meet Vizzini–the criminal philosopher who’ll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik–the gentle giant; Inigo–the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen–the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.”
Wow! Do I love this book!!! I have read it before, and I will definitely read it again! My first experience with it was when my Dad read it to my siblings and me. I was hooked from the beginning. We actually read it right before the movie came out, so it was exciting to be able to watch the movie after reading it. I loved it, and as soon as I could read well enough, I read it on my own. It is a great read-aloud, for boys and girls. It has it all–action, romance, suspence, love, sword fighting, drama, ROUS’s, death, miracles, and one of the most beautiful girls in the world. Who could ask for more? I love the humor, the characters, the plot, and I think I have almost the whole thing memorized. Classic. That’s all I can say, classic! I recommend this book for about age 10 and up. I also recommend reading it out-loud for your child’s first time. Don’t worry, you don’t have to read the kissing parts!
Rated: PG (Kissing, I know…..ewww! Sword fighting, poisoning, and the fire swamp)
Recommendation: Fourth Grade and Up. In the book the author says he read it to his son at 10. Great as a read-a-loud or a read-to-self book.

The Last Battle (Book #7)

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (Book #7)
(Summary taken from the back of the book) “The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now: A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia’s only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends of Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, ‘The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do.’ Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter? Will we be forced to bid farewell to Narnia forever?”
I loved this book! I thought it brought everything together really well. I thought the symbolism was really good in this book, and I just loved how it ended. It explained everything well, had action and symbolism, and was well written. I was sad when I finished the series, but it was so good! I highly recommed the whole series! I think it is good for everyone, as I have said before. The older kids will understand it better, especially the symbolism.

Rated: PG

Recommendation: 12 and Up, 9 or 10 if read as a read-a-loud.

The Silver Chair (Book #6)

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (Book #6) (Summary taken from the back of the book) “Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once, is unlocked. It leads to the open moor…or does it? Once again Aslan has a task for the children, and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face to face with the evil Witch. She must be defeated if Prince Rilian is to be saved.”

I really liked this book. It can be hard to remember some of the instructions Aslan gives the children at the beginning when you get into the middle, but it is very good. The symbolism is very good and even though it can be sad in parts, it all comes out good in the end. There are some interesting characters in this book. I do recommend reading this book, especially if you are reading the series.

Rated: PG

Recommendation: 12 and Up. 9 or 10 if read as a read-a-loud.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book #5)

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (Book #5)
(Summary taken from the back of the book) “The Dawn Treader is the first ship Narnia has seen in centuries. King Caspian has built it for his voyage to find the seven lords, good men whom his evil uncle Miraz banished when he usurped the throne. The journey takes Edmund, Lucy, their cousin Eustace, and Caspian to the Eastern Islands, beyond the Silver Sea, toward Aslan’s country at the End of the World.”
I have to say, this book was just okay for me. It was the one I liked least out of all seven. I would still recommend reading it to go with the rest, but it was a little strange for me.

Rated: PG

Recommendation: 12 and Up. 9 or 10 if read as a read-a-loud.