Worlds of the Crystal Moon #1 World of Grayham

Worlds of the Crystal Moon #1 World of Grayham by Phillip “BIG DOG” Jones

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Fellow soul…I have been commissioned to deliver grave news. You are dead–a tragedy of a celestial war responsible for destroying the cosmos. Your soul has been without a body for more than 10,000 seasons and your spirit has been placed inside an eternal tome. This book is filled with mythical creatures and, like us, they are anxious to live again. While we wait, there are devious gods living on Ancients Sovereign. They are power hungry and seek to abolish free will. Their desire: control the new worlds created after The Great Destruction of Everything Known. With the theft of the Crystal Moon, chaos is imminent. Because of the Mischievous One’s malevolence, the worlds which are to be our new homes may not survive. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope. Three beings have been spared the devastation. They are about to begin an epic journey to save our only chance at rebirth. Their failure to reunite the pieces of the Crystal Moon will be be our sentence to an everlasting nothingness. Allow me, your spirited storyteller, to share everything I know to be fact. Welcome to chaos. Welcome to the World of Grayham.”

Wow, where to begin??  I was walking through Costco one day and I saw an author doing a book signing. I couldn’t pass that up, right? So I stopped and talked to him. It happened to be Phillip “BIG DOG” Jones. Now, first off, his name just comes across as arrogant and self-consumed, but the book looked interesting and so I had him sign a book for me. He told me that he had published the book previously as an unedited first draft in hardcover and had gotten feedback from the readers and this was now the edited version and coming out first in paperback. Great! Love paperback! Browsing through the book I really liked the full color photos of the characters and places at the beginning. It is helpful to have pictures of the characters and a correct way to pronounce their names.

This book is 592 pages long. It’s long, and it’s not an easy read like a “Harry Potter” or even an ” Eragon.” This book is heavier like a “Lord of the Rings,” and there is a lot of information to take in and keep track of, therefore it takes a long time to read. As you can tell, I haven’t posted in a long time, and that is why, I have been reading a very long book. This book is fantasy and brings in magic, romance, action, adventure, mystery, and lots of mythical creatures. It took me awhile to figure out who everyone was and why they were there, but in the end it came together. Overall I liked it. Jones’ writing is not of the same caliber as J.K. Rowling or Christopher Paolini, but it is good. Once you figure out what is going on (about the middle of the book) it gets better and the storyline picks up. I really like some of the characters and some of the character development is really good, but others not so much. There is a lot of gore and death in this book. The gruesome descriptions of how people die did not appeal to me. The character George likes to torture and kill people, and it’s not pretty. He also uses lots of “colorful” language, which I also didn’t love. He is a confusing character because he pretends to have a soft lovable side that I don’t find at all believable. I like Sam and Shalee, but Shalee speaks in a southern accent and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what she is saying. When Shalee becomes a sorceress her magic stick gives her moments of “satisfaction” when she accomplishes her goal, and I found it awkward. Luckily it stops after while. It’s also hard to get used to talking animals and a talking book, but it works alright.

Overall I did like it and I have ordered the next one. I like that the next one is already out and in paperback. That is definitely a bonus. I would recommend it with the above warnings. It is entertaining but I can’t say it’s my favorite book. I will read the next one but I’ll most like read a few other books in between.

Rating: PG-13 (There are some really gruesome deaths, and quite a bit of profanity when George speaks. There are murders and assassinations as well. There are also some “physical intimacy” scenes before marriage and after marriage.)

Recommendation: High school and up. With all the above I don’t think it’s appropriate for early teens.

I would recommend it if you’re okay with the above warnings. It is interesting and entertaining and there are some good twists that keep you reading.

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.

Across a Harvested Field

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Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “To Jordan Fairchild, the dark-haired girl renting his basement apartment seems somewhat quiet and reclusive. Just a business arrangement, he thinks, as he watches her sign the name “Nattie Hand” on the contract. Though two thousand miles away, Celeste Betancourt, an attractive Georgetown graduate student he met through a mutual friend, has captured his attention. A budding friendship with Nattie soon begins to bloom. Little does Jordan know his girl-next-door renter is none other than the world-famous pop star, a.k.a. Natalia Antonali, who recently disappeared from the public eye; little does he know how much his friendship will mean to her, how, for the first time, a love begins to grow, untainted by ‘Natalia,’ and how she hopes Jordan never discovers the truth.”

I need to begin by saying that this author, Mr. Goble, found me on Facebook and sent me this book to review. I thank him for the opportunity and hope that he still “Like”(s) my blog after reading my review.  Although I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon are other sometimes used names), LDS fiction has never been my favorite genre. Unfortunately for Mr. Goble, this book did not change my opinion of LDS fiction. One look at the cover and I knew I was in trouble. I would never have picked this book off the shelf. Having said that, I did read it. I liked the characters in the book, but the whole scenario just seemed too impossible. How would a superstar (comparable to Brittney Spears) end up in Magna, UT? It never explained why she chose to go there or how she even knew where it was. I thought Jordan was a nice guy, but the pieces didn’t really fit together for me. I felt bad that he had lost his family at such a young age, and I could have empathy for him, but I just could not see a widowed man in his mid-to-late twenties canning pumpkins, peaches, and pears. My husband does help me when I can fruit, but he would NEVER do it if I weren’t around. That just never felt right to me, but maybe other men would do it. And then the thought that “Nattie” and “Natalia” might be the same person never crossed his mind as he saw her on the news and in magazines, never? I don’t know.

Mr. Goble’s writing style is different. He uses a lot of parenthesis to explain little side-notes that add to the “cheesy” feeling in the book. I was also confused….was it LDS fiction or not? Let me explain: you would expect an LDS fiction book to have references to LDS buildings, church meetings, and standards (not smoking or drinking alcohol, or using profanity), but you would also expect the characters to follow those standards. There was a lot of profanity in this book. Not all the worst words, but a lot of little four-letter words. It drove me crazy. His writing feels forced. He tries in a few instances to have Jordan sound intellectual, but it comes across as someone trying to sound intellectual, not as someone who is actually intellectual.  I think Mr. Goble would have made the whole thing feel better if he had taken all the LDS references out and just made it a fictional love story. To all LDS fiction writers everywhere–that is what readers want, just good, clean reads. We are LDS and we consider ourselves normal, everyday people, not a group that needs special books written just for us. Besides, you will get a lot more readers if everyone can read it and not just one group.

Anyway, this happens to be one of my “soap-box” topics, so please forgive me for going on. Overall, the middle of the book was the best. It actually had me turning pages to see what happened with the paparazzi and with Jordan finding out the truth. Except that I hated how Jordan went into this mad rage and ruined everything in a split second. His rage was over-the-top. The ending was okay but unbelievable. I didn’t hate the book, but I would not recommend it to my friends because I know they feel the same way I do about LDS fiction. If you like the genre and are okay with profanity then I would recommend it.

Rating: PG-13 (Profanity, some kissing and some innuendos)

Recommendation: High school and up. I would recommend it if you enjoy LDS fiction and are okay with profanity.

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!

The Mockingjay

The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding. It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans–except Katniss. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feeling of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost.”

Wow. What else to say?? This book is very intense and doesn’t end the feelings of depression and sadness that permeate the first two books. I know….I also really hoped it could be happy. Unfortunately for us Ms. Collins didn’t follow that same philosophy. I finished it about 24 hours ago and I am still not sure how I feel about it and especially how I feel about the ending. I kept thinking, “There’s no way she’ll be able to finish this in 100 pages (and then 50, and then 35, and then 15, and then 4, etc.).” I don’t know….it’s very gory and violent, angry and intense. It follows Katniss and the other main characters to a war with the Capitol. She still can’t decide between Peeta and Gale, and it drives me crazy (kind of like Bella in Twilight). There is an ending to that, but I don’t know how I feel about it. I think it is well written and there are some twists, but….if this were a movie I WOULD NOT watch it. There is no way they could make it less than Rated R. So….there you go. Did I help at all?? There are definitely mixed emotions with this book. If you have read the first two then I would recommend it, but with a warning that it is much more violent and angry than the first two (is that possible?). As far as analysis, like the first one mimicking the reality tv craze, it does kind of go into a kind of socialism, with everyone getting the same food, living conditions, clothes, etc. Did I like it? That’s what I don’t know yet…yes and no. Was I happy with the ending? Ummmm, I don’t know. I may need to do an update in a week or so as I ponder my feelings about it. Does this make you want to read it? Haha, sorry…..now you know what you have to look forward to if you read it!

***Addendum: Okay, it has been awhile and I’ve thought a lot about it. Yes, I hated it. It was terrible and I heard someone say that it wasn’t true to Katniss, and I agree. I do wish I had not read it, and I don’t say that very often. My recommendation now: if you liked the series and want to read it–read it with caution and listen to the warnings. Don’t be afraid to just stop mid-book if it starts to disturb you. If you don’t think it sounds like you will like it–don’t read it. Stop reading at number 2 and keep on hoping that something happy and good will come of Katniss and her world.

Rating: R (This doesn’t necessarily follow the movie ratings) It is very violent and it is a war. There are many deaths, and very gruesome ones at that. Think of the Hunger Games with a whole country involved…..

Recommendation: College and up. Geez, I don’t even think high school. It really is hard to read. This is NOT a young adult book.

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!