Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Picked this one up at a book fair a few months back. Probably best suited for 7th grade and up. It was a quick read. I found myself quickly caring about all of the main characters and curious to learn more about their backstories.


America's children are being affected by a mysterious disease. Around their tenth birthday some children are dying but others are affected differently. They develop a variety of powers. When powers are discovered children are swept off to camps and segregated by color. Children that are too dangerous disappear from the camps. The story follows Ruby, who cleverly manages to hide her true powers for a long time. With assistance, she eventually breaks free of her camp and manages to discover other children that have also escaped. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery (including a mild love story) in a world that has changed dramatically.

I kept telling myself that the book was entertaining, but I wouldn't likely read the next book. However, by the dramatic ending chapter...Bracken had pulled me in. I will likely pick up book two, Never Fade, in the near future to see how Ruby's story unfolds. I watched the movie immediately after finishing the book with my wife and 11-year-old-son. They both really enjoyed the movie. I liked the movie, but their were too many dramatic changes for me and I felt disappointed by the end.

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Sunday, June 2, 2019

St, George's Cross and the Siege of Fort Pitt

by Calvin J. Boal

Calvin J. Boal is the author of several historical fiction books. He uses genealogy research to find real people from his family tree to build characters and stories around in his books.

Let me start by saying this book is incredibly well researched. Boal presents an incredibly detailed account of the French and Indian War time period. He documents battles and leaders of both the British and French forces in great detail. If you love the colonial era and are fascinated by the conflicts that shaped North America this is definitely for you. As a United States History teacher, I learned a lot of interesting facts that I will use in the future when teaching this time period. 

The first one-hundred pages started as a fast-moving adventure story featuring young Thomas Doty. Events transpire that allow Thomas to leave his family's Pennsylvania farm on a ship and travel far from home. Shipwrecks, islands, pirates, Caribbean ports, and sabotage contribute to a compelling tale. Thomas eventually finds his way home to face shocking news that leads to another adventure, this time to the Ohio Territory to the west. 


This is where I started to become concerned. Lovers of history and teachers of history will likely continue to enjoy the story. However, the rest of the book is loaded with details. So many, that at times the story of Thomas and those close to him disappears for pages at times. I found myself thinking of my students and wondering if the book had become to text-bookish for them. Boal eventually finds the story again, providing an emotional and well-written ending.

Again, if you love history, this is an author I would highly recommend. His books cover many different time periods or eras and in my opinion he is a very good writer.

Books by Calvin J. Boal are available here https://www.amazon.com/Calvin-J-Boal/e/B00JZNLLTW

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows (352 pages)
by J.M. Bergen

A new series for those who love Harry Potter! There is plenty of magic and unsolved mysteries to fuel a handful of books here. Speaking of book series, this is a conversation that has come up with my middle school book club members in the past. Middle Grade Readers love a book series! Almost all of them prefer it to one hit wonders.


For me, this book started slowly. I struggled to identify with the characters at first and a few of the early chapters dragged. However, around page 100 we were introduced to a secondary character named Professor Reilly. He is quirky and mysterious and before long pieces of the story began to fall in place every time he shows up. The pace of the action picked up and I found myself caring more about Thomas and his side-kick Enrique. We accompany Thomas on a journey of discovering his family's hidden past and then learn about the potential he and Enrique each possess (their relationship develops into a Batman and Robin thing later in the book). A bunch of other interesting characters materialize as the action picks up and classic questions about good v. evil arise.

This isn't the type of book I would pick up at the bookstore, but it was entertaining and hard to put down as I read the second half of the book. To get your copy through Amazon click here. Book two is called Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria and is already out. Visit www.jmbergen.com for more information.                        ⭐⭐⭐⭐