Review: Infinity Ring- Book 1: A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner

Goodreads: Scholastic’s next multi-platform mega-event begins here! History is broken, and three kids must travel back in time to set it right!

When best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste stumble upon the secret of time travel — a hand-held device known as the Infinity Ring — they’re swept up in a centuries-long secret war for the fate of mankind. Recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society that dates back to Aristotle, the kids learn that history has gone disastrously off course.Now it’s up to Dak, Sera, and teenage Hystorian-in-training Riq to travel back in time to fix the Great Breaks . . . and to save Dak’s missing parents while they’re at it. First stop: Spain, 1492, where a sailor named Christopher Columbus is about to be thrown overboard in a deadly mutiny!

Historical fiction for the middle school crowd usually isn’t my thing, but there has been so much buzz about this new series that I was excited to receive it as an advanced reading copy from Scholastic.  As the first book in the multi-author collaboration, it served to lay the background story, introducing the characters and explaining the alternate universe and the importance of the infinity ring.  Some explanations and theories were hard to wrap my head around, but I found Sera’s explanation of the breaks the useful.  She explains, ‘Breaks are great big boulders that have been plopped into the time stream. The stream keeps flowing but it has to veer a little bit from it’s natural course’.  As Sera, Dak and Riq attempt to fix these breaks, readers are treated to tons of humour, adventure and action (including multiple explosions!)

Overall, I think middle graders, reluctant readers, boys and girls, and fans of The 39 Clues would LOVE this book.  Don’t forget to extend the reading experience with the online component- http://www.infinityring.com  I tried it out- tons of fun!  ‘A Mutiny in Time’ is available TOMORROW-August 28th 2012. To hold the reader’s interest, the remaining six will be spaced out and released shortly after one another.  Big thumbs up!

Bookit Review: Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

I am still trying to learn and remember all the different types of literary and book awards that are out there, and can lead us to fantastic reading experiences. This was my first time coming across the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, an annual award given to a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. This award was first given in 2009 by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The award is named after an innovator of the publishing world, who was a strong advocate of promoting literature for children and teens. Paper Covers Rock is one of five 2012 finalists, and the 2012 winner is Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (which also won the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award).

From Goodreads:

At the beginning of his junior year at a boys’ boarding school, 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend. When questioned, Alex and his friend Glenn, who was also at the river, begin weaving their web of lies. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind Moby-Dick. Caught in the web with Alex and Glenn is their English teacher, Miss Dovecott, fresh out of Princeton, who suspects there’s more to what happened at the river when she perceives guilt in Alex’s writing for class. She also sees poetic talent in Alex, which she encourages. As Alex responds to her attention, he discovers his true voice, one that goes against the boarding school bravado that Glenn embraces. When Glenn becomes convinced that Miss Dovecott is out to get them, Alex must choose between them.

I do not usually enjoy reading books that deal with depressing topics such as drinking fatalities, blackmail, and betrayal despite their strong messages for readers. However, I found the author’s writing abilities captivating. She was able to weave Alex’s guilt ridden confession into a poetic yet fast paced unravelling of secrets and life altering moments. Author Jenny Hubbard’s gift for writing poetry and language comes out not only in the poems that Alex writes for his English teacher, Miss. Dovecott, but throughout the entire book. Written in diary form the reader is able to fully grasp the complex emotions and thoughts that the main character is dealing with from his anguish over the death of his friend to the sexual desire yet respect he has for Miss. Dovecott.

I was also fascinated by the private all boys boarding school culture that the author captures through the story. All be it is quite a negative one and set in the 1980s, she brings forth the pressures these boys faced and may still face in fitting in, in living up to the expectations of their family legacies, of the sexism and objectification towards females, and of the connotations with being gay. However, what also shines through is their dedication to higher education, which shines through in Miss. Dovecott’s English class as they study American literature and poetry and she helps to mentor the gift for poetry she sees in Alex as well as his soul.

She calls me a natural-born poet. As she says all of these things that no one has ever said to me before, she follows my eyes with hers, which are dark and deep like pockets.

“You are on my side,” she says.

“What side is that?” I ask.

“The winning side,” she says, and smiles. “The team of artists.”

“Who are we playing?”

“The barbarians,” she says. “We are always playing them.” (Hubbard, p. 67)

I give it 4 out of 5.

Happy reading,

Bookit

p.s. I think that this book pairs well with the movies Dead Poets Society and The Emperor’s Club.

Review: The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers

From Goodreads: Tink Aaron-Martin has been grounded AGAIN after an adventure with her best friend Freddie Blue Anderson. To make the time pass, she decides to write an encyclopedia of her life from “Aa” (a kind of lava–okay, she cribbed that from the real encyclopedia) to “Zoo” (she’s never been to one, but her brothers belong there).

As the alphabet unfolds, so does the story of Tink’s summer: more adventures with Freddie Blue (and more experiences in being grounded); how her family was featured in a magazine about “Living with Autism,” thanks to her older brother Seb–and what happened after Seb fell apart; her growing friendship, and maybe more, with Kai, a skateboarder who made her swoon (sort of). And her own sense that maybe she belongs not under “H” for “Hideous,” or “I” for “Invisible,” but “O” for “Okay.”

Scholastic sent me some new fall releases and I immediately gravitated towards this middle school junior fiction novel about a witty pre-teen girl, Isadora. Like many girls her age, her life revolves around family, friends, and obsessing about first crushes. I remember being that age and going through similar experiences- especially feeling the confusion and hurt over the demise of a friendship.

Written in encyclopedia format, I found that sometimes the random entries (like ‘Stephen King’ or ‘Mesopotamia’) disrupted the storyline. They definitely acted as filler, as only a couple of the entries like ‘Mega Mall’ were much longer in comparison. These longer entries were used to help move along the plot and storyline. There was also use of photos (hairless cat, paella, etc.) and footnotes throughout Tink’s encyclopedia to allow for her random (yet hilarious) thoughts.

Although sometimes fluffy, the book also includes deeper issues like: being bi-racial, bullying, autism, and social pressures. I think Rivers did a great job at ensuring that Tink acted age-appropriate when dealing with those issues.  From the beginning to the end, Tink’s character grew and matured.  I was rooting for her the entire book, so her transformation was truly satisfying to read.

Pick up this touching and hilarious book September 2012. If you don’t take my word for it, Meg Cabot endorses the book too, declaring: ‘What every girl will be reading this year!’

PS-For all those still wondering what ‘quince’ is… it’s an Asian fruit tree.

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