Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Clue at Black Creek Farm by Carolyn Keene

Cover image for The clue at Black Creek FarmIt is funny that Nancy Drew was born (i.e. her first book was published) in 1930, the same year my father was born.  Unlike him, however, Nancy Drew has stayed a teenager all these years, never aging, solving one perilous mystery after another. In this latest in the Nancy Drew Diaries series Nancy is introduced to organic farming.  Her new friend, Sam, has left a lucrative law practice to start his own organic farm, but someone doesn't want him to succeed.  At first his crops are contaminated with e-coli and then his farm is victimized by vandalism.  As Nancy gets closer to solving the mystery, she also gets deeper into danger.  Nancy, as always, is flanked by faithful friends, Bess and George, and ever loyal boyfriend, Ned, and all of them are true millennials, using emails, texts and an electron bug to solve the mystery.  It is not great writing, but a good solid little mystery for a new generation (or 3rd or 4th generation) of Nancy Drew fans. (171 p.)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Rat with the Human Face by Tom Angleberger

Cover image for The Rat with the Human FaceThis is the second adventure of the QwikPick Papers series. After their thrilling adventure to see the Poop Fountain Lyle, Dave and Marilla have been hunting for a new adventure.  They come across what seems to be the perfect quest when they hear a electrician talk about seeing a rat with a human face at a college nature lab near a nearby mountain resort.  The three are determined to get to the resort and see the rat for themselves. The road to the lab is a bumpy one that strains the friendship of the three adventurers, and threatens to destroy the QwikPickadventure club for good. This book was not quite as entertaining as the first.  For one thing, the idea that the kids would actually believe there was a rat with a human face, was just too far out of probability for me. Still the interaction between the three kids is really fun, and the little romantic crush triangle is cute. Angleberger has a good grasp of tween mentality.  Plus, compared to the other one I was reading at the same time (the Sword of Summer), it was a nice quick read. (146 p)

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Cover image for The sword of summerHere is the first book in the new Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan.  Magnus is a homeless teen.  He never knew his father, and his mother was killed in a disturbing and mysterious incident involving wolves some years before.  One day he is reunited with his uncles and cousin (Annabeth Chase) which sets off a series of events that leads to him fighting a fire giant from Norse Mythology.  Magnus discovers that his father was actually one of the Norse Gods and is soon on a quest to help prevent the release of the mythical wolf who is the harbinger of Ragnarok. 

Does this sound like a Norse version of the Percy Jackson story?  It is.  It is a little different, in that Magnus is a little older than Percy was when he came to Camp Halfblood, and is a little edgier.  There is a a small amount of swearing in the book, as one would expect from a street kid, and Magnus doesn't have the squeaky clean character of someone like Jason Grace.  It has the same fast-paced, episodic fantasy action as the Percy Jackson books, with a lot of scenes where Magnus or Sam (his female sidekick) are either fighting or outsmarting the monsters.  There is also a lot of pithy humor, sometimes at the expense of the Percy Jackson books.  For example, when Magnus gets his magical weapon, his mentor asks him how he would like to carry it.  He suggests it could be a pen and he could carry it in is pocket.  Magnus replies that the thought of a magic sword disguised as a pen is pretty lame, and he decides to wear it as an amulet instead. If you accept the book for what it is, it is a fun read.  I think I liked it better than the first book in the Kane Chronicles.  It is supposed to be a trilogy like that series, and I will probably read them all. (497 p)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

First Born by Tor Seidler

Cover image for FirstbornMaggie is a magpie who was born on a farm in Montana.  She makes friends with a young wolf, Blue Boy, who has wandered out of Yellowstone Park.  She follows Blue Boy as he finds and joins a small pack and eventually becomes its leader. Together, Maggie and Blue Boy lead their pack back to the safety of Yellowstone Park, where they brave the wrath of other established packs to make a home for themselves. 

Not many people now days have read the original Bambi book.  It is very different from the Bambi movie, more harsh and raw, and this book reminded me of that one.  Even though the animals are anthropomorphized, the book doesn't gloss over the realities of "kill or be killed" in the wild.  The book was nicely written and I believe the author did quite a bit of research in Yellowstone before writing it.  The forward by the author also notes that he was inspired to write about wolves by his friendship with Jean Craighead George who wrote Julie of the Wolves. (227 p)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein

Cover image for The island of Dr. LibrisHere is the first in a series by Grabenstein who wrote Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  In this story Billy is spending the summer in a vacation cabin owned by the mysterious Dr. X. Libris.  Near the cabin is an island and Billy quickly discovers that when he reads books from Dr. Libris' library, they come true on the island.  With his new friend, Walter, Billy goes to the island where he meets famous character from books; some friends, and other enemies.  Can Billy and Walter keep characters like Hercules and the Three Musketeers from killing each other, while searching for a way to save Billy's parent's marriage?

This was a decent adventure fantasy/science fiction, full of familiar literary characters in funny situations.  The whole premise of an island where imagination becomes real is interesting, and Billy and Walter are endearing characters.  The mental image of Hercules wearing Robin Hood tights that were a little too small tickled my fancy. Grabenstein left the story wide open for a sequel, but I haven't heard when it might be coming out.  I will probably read it. (242)