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.

Plain Truth

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) “The discovery of a dead infant shakes Lancaster County to its core. But the police investigation leads to a more shocking disclosure: Circumstantial evidence suggests that 18-year-old Katie Fisher, an unmarried Amish woman believed to be the mother, took the newborn’s life. When Ellie Hathaway, a big-city attorney, comes to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to defend Katie, two cultures collide–and for the first time in her career, Ellie faces a system of justice very different from her own. Delving deep inside the world of those who live “plain,” Ellie must find a way to reach Katie. And as she unravels a tangled murder case, Ellie also looks deep within–to confront  her own fears and desires when a man from her past reenters her life.”
I found this book very interesting. It is different from what I thought it would be, and it pulls at many different emotions. On the one hand, I believed what Katie said had happened, and on the other I didn’t. Haha. I just couldn’t decide. I liked the characters in the book, except for Katie’s father. I think Ms. Picoult did a good job of creating the characters and making you feel like you know them. I thought she did a good job developing the story and it did have a few twists that I didn’t expect. I did, in the end, figure out the mystery, but (I’m not going to give anything away here so this may be kind of vague) I couldn’t decide how I wanted to take it. I don’t think I can believe this person capable of murder, so I want to believe that what Ellie’s case showed was truly the case, but that this person was……ohhhh I guess I can’t say this without giving it away. Bummer. If you want to know, email me…. Anyway, I liked this book. It was a fairly easy read and it was entertaining and thoughtful. There was a little too much language in it for me, I think she used the “f” word at least once, maybe twice. She also took the Lord’s name in vain a couple of times. If that’s not okay with you then I would say don’t read it. I could have also done without some of the “physical intimacy” scenes. The whole plot revolves around premarital and unprotected relations, but there are only one or two times where it is described.
Rating: R (Remember, the R rating does not follow a movie’s R rating, it just means it is not appropriate for anyone younger than college). Language and physical intimacy.
Recommendation: College and up (The language mostly, but also the physical intimacy scenes, make this inappropriate for anyone younger than college. It’s sad because it could be used to show teenagers the consequences of their actions, but I think it is just too much.)

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.

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2)

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol–a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create. Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.”
Wow. That’s all I have to say….wow. This book is VERY intense! It doesn’t start out as intense, but at the end….wow. The last fifty pages go so fast and there is so much happening I had to reread a couple of paragraphs because I wasn’t sure who was doing what, and there was action everywhere. And the ending…..may I say, “What ending?????” She leaves you hanging on for dear life at the end. I hate it when the book doesn’t end…I kept turning the empty pages at the end begging for more. There are so many twists and turns it’s crazy. And I have to wait until WHEN for the next book??? AAAAHHHHHH! It’s going to be a long couple of months. But I digress….I have to give it to Ms. Collins, she did a very good job on this second book. The characters are much more developed and it is very well written. I felt a lot more as if I were there with the people of District 12, as if I were afraid of the Capitol myself, and as if I too had emotions running wild. Once again, how can you love a book full of death and destruction?? I don’t know, but Ms. Collins’ writing just pulls you in and keeps you there. If you were depressed after the first book I would say definitely read the second one. It is still depressing, but the intensity of it overrides the depressing factor. You still have no idea between Gale and Peeta, and NOTHING is finalized, in fact, on the last page there are more questions that haven’t been answered than have, but it is worth reading because there might be a smidgeon of hope??? You’ll have to decide for yourself on that one.
Rating: R (Remember, this rating does not follow the movie ratings. An R rating simply means there are adult themes that I don’t think are appropriate for younger children.)  There is little to no language. Peeta and Katniss kiss and sleep in the same bed for comfort, but nothing inappropriate happens. It is the violence and death that make this book inappropriate for young readers. The themes are very mature and would be hard for a younger reader to understand and deal with.
Recommendation: Senior year of high school and up. Also, I would only recommend it to adults with the above precautions. As with the first book, death and despair are abundant……but I liked it??? Hmmm. Hopefully the third book brings some happiness!

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 Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before–and suvival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”
Wow. Where to start with this book? Interesting idea, right? And depressing? Yes to both. I like Suzanne Collins’ style of writing. It is an easy read, more like a young adult book, but the ideas, the themes, and the events are very mature and not for young audiences. Younger children would be able to read the words but they would not be able to comprehend and handle all that happens. Some of it traumatized me, as an adult, and I do not want my children reading it. The book definitely draws you in. The story is very compelling and you have to know what happens to this girl. This book really made me think about my life. It made me thankful for our country and our freedoms. It made me thankful for food to eat and a very supportive family, and a good job. It also made me take a harder look at reality TV and my reactions to it. Overall I liked the book. I will read the second one. I was very depressed at the end, so don’t read it if you don’t like depressing. Also, there are some very graphic death scenes, so don’t read it if you don’t think you could handle that. I didn’t like that it sucked me in, that I became the person rubber-necking on the freeway to get a glimpse of the accident. I didn’t like that it had that power over me, but it definitely did. But yes, I did like the book and would recommend it with the above precautions.
Rating: R (Remember, this rating does not follow the movie ratings. An R rating simply means there are adult themes that I don’t think are appropriate for younger children.) There is none to very little language. There are no “physical intimacy” scenes, but they do talk about being naked. There are very mature themes and some very graphic death scenes. A lot of people die. (Happy, right???)
Recommendation: Senior year of high school and up. Also, I would only recommend it to adults with the above precautions. See, death and despair……but I liked it??? It kind of makes you think…..what does that say about me????

The Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “Inside the church of a Benedictine monastery on Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion. When Jessie is summoned home to the island to cope with her eccentric mother’s seemingly inexplicable act of violence, she is living a conventional life with her husband, Hugh, a life ‘molded to the smallest space possible.’ Jessie loves Hugh, but once there, she finds herself drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is soon to take his final vows. Amid a rich community of unforgettable island women and the exotic beauty of marshlands, tidal creeks, and mejestic egrets, Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, with a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right and the immutable force of home and marriage.”
Oh, what to say about this book. After Secret Life of Bees I was very excited to read this book. Well, it was very different. If you step back and look at the over-all story, there are certain things that are similar in the books, but..wow. From  page 2 of this book you know the character is going to have an affair, and you know she is going to destroy her life. So after page 2 I was left wondering if I should even read it. I mean, if you read it are you being immoral for reading about a sordid love affair? You know there will be scenes of “physical intimacy.” You know that it is going to be a bad situation, and yet do you read it??? In one sense I didn’t want to read it because I didn’t know if it was morally right to read it. Then in the other sense I was so enthralled with the other aspects of the story, I wanted answers to my questions. And, I really wanted to see if this stupid lady would come to her senses and do the right thing. So did I read it??? Yes, I did. I am bad at stopping half-way. Was I glad I finished it??? Yes, I was. My questions were answered, and (I don’t want to give anything away) I was satisfied with the resolution. It ended up being a good book. It really made me think at the end. I don’t want to have the feelings she did in 10 more years, so I looked a lot at me, and what I can do to improve my really good marriage now, and also what can I do to help myself? This book shows a lot about human nature, love, forgiveness, mental illness, and friendship. It also shows how what happens to us in our childhood affects what happens in our adult lives. I do love her writing though. It really pulls you in.
Rating: R (Remember, this rating is not congruent with the movie ratings.) My R rating means that there is a lot of language and there is a lot of “physical intimacy.” The first intimacy scene is a little descriptive but from then on they just say they “made love.”
Recommendation: 18+, but really I would say you should be HAPPILY married, and strong in your relationship if you want to read this book. You should also have a good, strong set of morals and NO inclination to have an affair. I just say this because I had such a moral struggle to begin with, just because I knew the premise of the story. But, I think it ended up being a good thing in the end. So there you go…you have the info. so you can make your own choice.

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
(Summary taken from the back cover) “Falsely accused of treason, the young sailor Edmond Dantes is arrested on his wedding day and imprisoned in the island fortress of the Chateau d’If. After staging a dramatic escape, he sets out to discover the fabulous treasure of Monte Cristo and catch up with his enemies. A novel of enormous tension and excitement, Monte Cristo is also a tale of obsession and revenge. Believing himself to be an ‘Angel of Providence’, Dantes pursues his vengeance to the bitter end, only then realizing that he himself is a victim of fate.”
I LOVE this book!!! I have read it (the 1,100 page version) at least twice, and I will definitely read it again! This is another of my all-time favorite books!!! I could go on and on about how much I love this book. There is an abridged version for those who do not like 1,100 page books, and I’ve heard it’s good, but I haven’t read it. Also, do not watch the movie and think you will get the whole picture. I don’t even know why they called the movie by the same name because they are completely different. The movie is good, yes….but it’s not the same story at all. I love Alexandre Dumas’s writing style. I love the description, the attention to detail, the feeling he portrays, the emotion. I love the characters (well, some of them), I love how he describes them and how everything fits together perfectly. It is a little harder of a read because it was written in the 1800’s. I love that language but some people find it hard to get into. There are also a lot of characters to remember, but it’s worth every minute of time spent reading. Okay, hopefully I don’t get your expectations too high!
Rating: PG-13: (Prison talk, revenge, but mostly you have to be a little more mature to read it just to get into the language and really understand the feelings.)
Recommendation: I read it in high school so I would say high school and up. It’s not a good read-aloud. I would recommend it to anyone 17+ who loves  a good read with love, revenge, hate, suffering, remorse, action…it has something for everyone!

The Host

The Host by Stephanie Meyer
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparentlhy unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed. When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Wanderer probes Melanie’s thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of the man Melanie loves–Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, the set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.”
This book really took me by surprise. It takes awhile to get into, to figure out what is happening, but it is so interesting. Stephanie Meyer has outdone herself this time. This book is on a much higher intellectual level than the Twilight series. It really makes you think, and look at those all around you. I really liked this book! Up until the end I had no idea how she would end it, and it is surprising, but it is so good! It is worth the 600+ pages to delve into the lives of Wanderer and Melanie. How would I act in this situation? Would I give up? How do I treat those around me who may be different? My enemies? Could I survive? It is a captivating story. It takes a little bit longer to read at the beginning because you have to figure out what is going on. Meyer has a way of ending her chapters at the right time so you have to keep reading. It was a great read!
Rated: PG-13 (Some violence, death ) It is too much for younger minds to digest, I think. There are a few swear words here and there, but not too bad.
Recommendation: High School and up.