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Tag: "adventure"

Review: The Field of Wacky Inventions by Patrick Carman

[ 2 ] March 9, 2014

9780545255219_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Field of Wacky Inventions is the third (and final?) book in the Floor Series. I had an opportunity to read the first two books in the series but I passed them up. Now I am regretting it. At the time they seemed a little too wacky and childish, however, the third installment was a very fun and enjoyable book.

Leo is a boy who owns and runs his own hotel called the Whippet Hotel. It is a rather unique and interesting place and it was designed and built by a rather unique and interesting person. Merganzer D. Whippet is a billionaire genius inventor who seems to live life to its fullest. Merganzer has taken Leo and his step-brother Remi on an adventure to a place called the Field of Wacky Inventions. Their mode of travel? Merganzer attached a Zeppelin to the top of the Whippet hotel and took the top floor as ballast.

After flying above the clouds for a while, they met up with five other airships with what looked like other hotel tops hanging under them. As it turns out, that is exactly what they were. Merganzer has planned for a competition between all the managers of his hotels, and the winner will be put in charge of running them all. Leo and Remi spent the night in a tree house and were the last ones to make it to breakfast where everyone else was waiting for them. After breakfast everyone was told about the competition.

I thought this was a very good book and even though it was written for middle school kids I still felt it was a fun read for myself. The writing was not skimped on just because of the target audience; the story was well done and the important things in the story were ‘explained’ to help one understand what was going on. On top of that the story was very upbeat and gave positive reinforcement for many social interactions that people in general should follow. It gives a better way to deal with people that are not so nice without becoming like them.

Overall, an excellent book! I’ll have to try and read the first two.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A World of Trouble by T.R. Burns

[ 1 ] February 23, 2014

cvr9781442440326_9781442440326_hrReviewed by Carrie Ardoin

A World of Trouble is the second in a series and will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, The Bad Apple.

I really liked the first book in this series, and read it pretty quickly. Being introduced to Seamus, the main character of this series, and the entire world of the Troublemakers was a unique reading experience. But much of the magic and humor from the first book seems to have dissipated in the second installment of the Merits of Mischief series. Things took on a more serious and somber tone, which very much took away some of the reading enjoyment I usually get from middle grade books.

The novel starts right where the first left off–Seamus is at home for the semester break, and all kinds of weird things are going on at home and with his parents. His mother in particular is acting very dodgy. Daily gifts start arriving for Seamus, weapons and cool gadgets that he first assumes are being sent from someone at Kilter Academy. But he soon learns that no one at Kilter Academy has anything to do with the sweet stuff he is receiving–and when he sees who it is, it brings up way more questions than answers.

This seems to be a theme that goes throughout the book, and was something I had trouble with in the first book of the series as well. The reader is constantly left in the dark and wondering what the heck is going on sometimes, and even though you get to the end of the book, the questions you want answers to are never really approached.

For example, as soon as Seamus goes back to school for his second semester, the director of the academy asks him to monitor one of his more secretive teachers. This is an important plot point for the majority of the book, but towards the end it is kind of brushed off and neither Seamus nor the reader learn why he was sent on this task. This made me quite frustrated.

As I said, A World of Trouble seems to have more serious moments than humorous ones, and that is a shame because I quite enjoyed all the trouble Seamus and his friends got into when they first met at Kilter. I hope now that Seamus has done the important quest he wanted to do, that things get more lighthearted in Kilter Academy.

I’d love to finish out this series to see how Seamus and friends end their time as Troublemakers.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Aladdin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Bad Apple by T.R. Burns

[ 2 ] February 8, 2014

9781442440302_p0_v4_s260x420Reviewed by Carrie Ardoin

Seamus Hinkle has been in trouble at school before–but nothing as serious as the kind of trouble he’s in now. In fact, he’s done something so bad that his parents decide to send him away to the rough Kilter Academy, which promises to give him a complete turnaround.

But once Seamus gets to Kilter Academy, he’s both shocked and a little bit horrified to learn that the boarding school is actually a training ground for misbehaved kids to develop into professional Troublemakers! Although Seamus is ashamed of what he did to earn his ticket to Kilter, he soon discovers that he has a natural knack for getting into trouble–and at this school, that makes him the star pupil.

The Bad Apple was a cute middle grade novel with heart, and a unique take on the “kid gets sent away to boarding school” trope. Seamus is of course, devastated to be sent away by his parents, even though he understands what he did was serious enough for this to be his punishment. For the first few days, he even tries to make trouble so he can get himself kicked out–but it takes him a little while to understand that making trouble is just what this school wants him to do!

I enjoyed seeing Seamus make so many friends so quickly at Kilter Academy. Though I only saw him in his normal middle school for the first chapter or so, he seemed lonely there, and he was being bullied. It’s great that he found a place and people that fit him, which is something all 12-year-old boys desperately need.

There were a couple of things I thought were questionable, though. For one thing, Seamus’ mother seems to act very callous and detached towards him after he gets sent off to boarding school. The reason why was never really explained, and I found myself truly wanting to know why she was acting this way towards her only son. This is made to look even weirder by the time you get to the end of the book, and was actually annoying to me by then because I still hadn’t found the answers I was looking for.

This book does end with a rather good cliffhanger, so be prepared to dive into the second book of the series immediately! I think anyone who loves middle grade stories with a dose of humor will enjoy The Bad Apple.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Aladdin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Pure Steele by Adriadne MacGillivray & Kim Belair

[ 2 ] February 3, 2014

photoReviewed by Marcus Hammond

In Adriadne MacGillivray and Kim Belair’s novel, Pure Steele, an expedition to Africa in 1910 is brought to life through complex reproductions of expedition materials and artwork. The combination of epistolary storytelling and artwork helps create a unique reading experience. Unfortunately, that combination also causes the reader to get bogged down in the visual aspects, which harms the overall narrative.

The story develops around a band of adventurers brought together by a young woman searching for the truth about her father’s disappearance in Africa. The adventurers hire James Alexander Steele III, a renowned hunter to lead the crew through the dark and dangerous jungles. The story is entirely developed through the correspondence, diary entries, and newspaper articles of the members of the expedition. Each recollection builds the overall narrative and mystique of James Alexander Steele III until he becomes a well-constructed pulp hero.

The details of the expedition of the unlikely band of travelers are enjoyably portrayed. MacGillivray and Belair mix characteristics of old pulp adventure with satire to create an adventure that could rival Burrough’s Tarzan tales. Steele III is a blend of Doc Savage and Indiana Jones. He’s an egotistical, adrenaline junkie with the perfect amount of heroism to be likable. The cast of minor characters also receives a fair dose of satirical development. The expedition party consists of the young woman who is searching for her father, a doctor, a cartographer, an upperclassman, and an accountant. Each of these roles help construct character interactions and plot depth that one may not expect out of a modern adventure novel.

The artwork and visual components of the story are beautifully done, but make the story hard to get lost in. Each page is a collage of artwork and reproduced correspondence. The authors painstakingly created hand-written letters and diary entries to help create a connection to the time period. This aspect, however, is daunting to read. Anyone who reads or writes letters knows it can be a challenge to decipher handwriting, and since the authors do an excellent job of recreating the communication for the time period much of the text is in ornate cursive.

Overall, the plot of Pure Steele is entertaining and the originality and visual depth of the development approach is something to appreciate on its own merits. Don’t, however, expect to tear through this novel from cover to cover because the visuals considerably stymie the pace at which it is read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Blind Ferret Entertainment. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

[ 3 ] January 29, 2014

downloadReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Wow! I definitely found Red Rising to be amazing. I think this is the first 5-star book I’ve read for The story just sucked me right in from the first chapter, and I can’t wait for the second installment to come out!

Red is the color of Mars and it is also the color that defines Darrow’s life. He is a Red, and Reds mine underground for H3, one of the most important gases used in terra forming. The Red’s are watched over by the Greys (police/army) and the colors go up all the way to Gold–yellow haired, yellow eyed, bronzed and god like. The Reds sacrifice for the good of all so Mars can be turned into a paradise for the other colors to come and colonize the planet.

Little do they know that the planet has been colonized for centuries and the other colors have been living on their labor and feeding them lies. It’s a hard life and men who make it to 35 are considered very old. Darrow, a married man at 17, learns one lie after we meet him. The Reds are split into different clans and are competing against each other for the ‘top’ spot as the highest producers. As high producers they are eligible for bonus rations. Darro’s clan reaches the highest production level but the award still goes to Gamma, like it always does. That’s when Darrow learns it’s all about control.

Shortly after this several events in his life coincide, changing his life forever. Darrow is shown the truth of Mars and is asked to do the impossible. He needs to infiltrate the ranks of the Golds, become one of them, be better than them. His mission is to tear down the ziggurat they have built on the backs of the other colors. It is a cast system the likes of which were never dreamed of in India.

Darrow has to rebuild his body and his mind from the bottom up. He doesn’t even recognize himself when it’s all done. Then his first challenge. He needs to get accepted into their most prestigious university, because only the Peerless Scarred, who rule everyone, come from there. These are the best of the best, and the school’s training makes the Spartans look like posers.

This book was incredible. A great story of a man becoming the ultimate double agent. His quest is to bring down those who have oppressed his people by becoming one of them. His challenge is to avoid becoming one of them. Beat them at their own game.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Del Rey. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Devil’s Playground by Cynthia Sens

[ 0 ] January 10, 2014

9781491711835_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Mel Taylor is a genealogist who has anything but a normal career and past. This abnormal past that Mel can never quite escape includes the fact that he is really ninety-five years old vs. the forty-four year old that everyone in his life really thinks that he is. The year is 2011 and Mel survived World War II, but he did not survive the memories and haunting images that accompanied his life then. The time travel for Mel was possible thanks to his possession of a holy relic known as the sapphire staff. The staff may be hidden in Mel’s office, his true age concealed, but no one is ever completely free from the past or the secrets that it contains.

Mel finds all of this out when his friend Joseph passes his number along to a man who is desperate to locate his missing son. Mel is reluctant at first, but finally decides to help the man out. When the past begins to unfold through confirmed suspicions and the research of Mel’s assistant Emily, it seems that the Nazis of Mel’s World War II past may in fact be in the same situation he is in. And, they may not only be connected to the disappearance of the young boy in question, but they are also hot on Mel’s tail. When Mel begins digging more deeply, his research takes him to the cornfields of Iowa and quickly puts everyone that he cares about in deep danger. Overcoming his own fears, his demons of the past and embracing the power of the sapphire staff seem to be the only way that Mel can beat his old foes and their very old game. While the time travel aspects of the novel are a bit far fetched, the story contains modern twists that make the time travel only a part of the story, rather than the entire premise.

Mel is an easily relatable character and one that Cynthia Sens makes very easy to root for. His character is a bit guarded though and his true emotion is a bit hard to pick through at times. There is to be more books in the Sapphire Staff Series and hopefully Mel will continue to unfold in these following novels. The end of the story was dramatic, but pieced together neatly and allowed for a seamless transition for the rest of the series. I do wish, however, that Joseph and Emily were a bit more developed in the story. They were main players and were very active in the story, but there didn’t seem to be much to them. Joseph had an interesting back story and was a character that was also easy to warm up to so more development for him would have really made The Devil’s Playground shine. I would be interested in reading the other books in the series in order to see how Sens continues the story, particularly with the recognition of Mel from someone very close to his past and deeply entwined in his present.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Cynthia Sens. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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