Tuesday, October 3

Top Middle-Grade Reads of the Month (Oct 2017)

My favorite middle-grade books from this month are definitely on the suspenseful side--spooks, high adventure, demons, mind games, betrayal, ghosts, and even evil robots. Maybe the Halloween spirit was hitting me a little early?

The Empty Grave
(Lockwood & Co. #5)
Jonathan Stroud

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-1484778722
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: September 12, 2017
Age: Grades 5 - 9
Genre: Horror
Format: personal purchase

Themes: ghosts, hauntings, experiments, business practices, friendship, London

"Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kipps on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family's past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle. And to prevail they will have to rely on help from some surprising—and shadowy—allies."

Perfect. I'm serious. It was like...everything I ever wanted. And, really, I'm sorry if you're just now joining me (here, why don't you check out my reviews for book 1, 2, 3, and 4—yes, I've reviewed every one of them on here and I love 'em all). In this, the concluding book of the series, Lucy builds an even stronger bond to those around here (which, in turn, made me, as the reader, build my own stronger bond with these characters), the intrigue is in full force, key ghosts make their appearance, and the climax? Well, it was definitely the right way to end the series. Hugely recommended, especially before Halloween—read this series NOW.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw
(A Sam London Adventure)
Todd Calgi Gallicano

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1524713652
Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: August 29, 2017
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Genre: Fantasy
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: mythological creatures, adventure, curses, national parks

"Haunted by a dream of a mythical gryphon, Sam London uncovers an ancient secret that will change the way he sees the world forever. Recruited by Dr. Vance Vantana, an eccentric zoologist and park ranger sent by the government, Sam is whisked away on an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the globe. Along this journey, Sam learns an incredible truth: mythical creatures are real and living among us in our national parks. A special department in the U.S. government ensures that their existence remains hidden. But Sam’s dream is an omen that the secret may now be in danger. Someone seeks the power to expose these creatures and overthrow humankind—and that power can only be found in a magical talisman known as the gryphon’s claw."

A brilliantly done, epic fantasy adventure that brings the likes of Percy Jackson series to mind. Sam himself, though, is a character unlike most I've seen—his insecurities, home life, questions, doubts, struggles and joys really make him relatable and realistic (yes, even in a fantasy novel). I really enjoyed him, as well as Vance (who has great character history). I also really enjoyed the story and how it was presented (that the author is merely compiling the case files received from the U.S. Department of Mythical Wildlife with "dramatic interpretation") and its thorough details. The storyline, however, was what lost me just a bit, with a lot of hops, skips, and jumps (e.g. breaking the narrative to refer to a future plot point). My biggest complaint (which is still small in the whole scheme of things, mind you) is the presence of a double climax. It almost felt like the book could've ended in the middle and the sequel begun. Still, high excitement, frighteningly detailed creatures, and courageous characters makes for an easily recommendable fantasy adventure.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The World's Greatest Adventure Machine
Frank L. Cole

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0399552823
Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: August 8, 2017
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: eBook from publisher

Themes: special abilities, amusement park rides, friendship, virtual reality

"CastleCorp and the famous Castleton brothers are unveiling the World’s Greatest Adventure Machine! The roller coaster is an experience like no other, and four lucky kids have won the chance to be the first to ride it.There’s Trevor, whose latest stunt got him in trouble at school again. There’s Devin, whose father is pushing him to be the next Internet sensation. Nika’s wealthy grandfather isn’t too pleased about her participation. And Cameron, he’ll be the first to tell you, is a certified genius.

"The whole world is watching. But as the kids set off on their journey, they begin to realize that there is perhaps more to their fellow contest winners than meets the eye. And the Adventure Machine? It might just have a mind of its own. Join the contestants on their wild ride if you dare. Your adventure starts now!"

Oh man, what a ride (pun intended). This was one that I was sad to finish and still thinking about long after I'd read the last page. While it can be hard to balance a book between four main characters and their varying points of view, I would say that Cole managed it quite well. Each had their own secrets, histories, and abilities that shaped them in unique ways to drive the story forward. And then there's the story itself—wow! It's got some trippy mind benders that really get you wondering and puzzling. While the Jurassic Park and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and Mr. Lemoncello's Library, too, now that I think of it) plot points are there, the actual concept is fascinatingly unique and often had me guessing what, exactly, was reality (to the point where it might have been a bit tough for me to follow what was happening exactly). Overall, the Adventure Machine is one super creepy ride—kids will love it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

No comments:

Post a Comment