Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

prisoner of azkaban

Reviewed by Captain Lyaf Yarr

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: J.K. Rowling
Format: Hardback
# of pages: 435
Grade Reading Level: 5.9; Ages 11+

Summary: School hasn’t even started and there’s and escapee from a high security wizarding prison out to kill Harry Potter. He has been warned not to be looking for Sirius Black by Arthur Weasley, but as Harry said to Arthur, “Why would I go looking for someone I know wants to kill me?” At school the Ministry of Magic has put a guard in place made up entirely of Dementors. The Dementors are only suppose to be in charge of the wizard prison, but Cornelius Fudge seems to think their presence will inspire confidence in the populace. Though how we do not know as Sirius Black has escaped the guards once already! Harry’s life is in danger in more ways than one this year.

Why I Started the Book:

I read this book because I’m continuing to reread the Harry Potter series.

Likes:

  • I liked it when Malfoy got his “just desserts” for insulting Buckbeak the hippogriff.
  • Rowling came up with a really fun artifact– the time turner. I especially enjoyed its use and the turn of events at the end of the story. I thought Dumbledore’s omniscient handling of the predicament to save Buckbeak and Sirius Black was excellent.
  • The Marauders Map was awesome! I liked how it showed where everyone was and where they were going. Now if only it showed the difference between a person in Animagus form and the normal human form.
  • The Dementors were scary, but awesome, and I loved reading the parts where they were mentioned.
  • Remus Lupin is a fantastic character! He was helpful, knowledgeable, and patient. The best Defense Against the Dark Arts teach to date in the books!

Dislikes:

  • I greatly disliked Draco Malfoy and his father. Yes, they’re characters to love to hate, but it really is unfair what they can get away with because they’re Malfoys. For instance when they got Hadgrid in trouble after his first Care of Magical Creature lesson. It clearly wasn’t his fault.
  • I didn’t like Hermoine deceiving and depriving Harry of his new Firebolt. She could have handled her concerns better instead of going above Harry to a teacher.

Last Minute Thoughts: This book is where the series takes off and fleshes out.

Buy: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Paperback), Harry Potter Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-7), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Audio Book), Harry Potter 1- 7 Audio Book Collection

Book Rating: I give this book 5 treasure chests for cleverness, creativity, and creepy creatures!
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Review: The Dark Side of Nowhere by Neal Shusterman

by Captain Lyaf Yarr

Title: The Dark Side of Nowhere
Author: Neal Shusterman
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 192
Grade Reading Level: Grades 6-9

Summary: Jason has always lived in the same town his whole life and thinks it’s so boring. But when Jason’s friend, Ethan dies from a burst appendicitis everything changes. Not only is everyone sad that he’s gone but something really weird happens. Grant, the janitor tells Jason that Ethan isn’t dead. Is he right? How is that possible? Then Jason is given a robotic-like glove by Grant and finds out that his whole life has been a lie. Everybody he knows, including himself, are aliens!

Why I Started the Book:

I started this book because it was a book we were reading in class before school got out for the year. We didn’t get to finish it so I decided to cheek it out of the library.

Likes:

  • The writing in this book was phenomenal! I was at the end of my seat after every chapter. I could understand how the characters felt and their whole experience. It was like I was there in the same situation.
  • I liked how his parents never lied. He told Jason the truth about them through a bedtime story, he just didn’t know it was true.
  • The cover of this book is way awesome and fits the suspenseful  haunting quality of the story.
  • The book’s main point is what it means to be human.

Last minute thoughts: I wouldn’t suggest anyone under sixth grade read this book. It’s very dark and I don’t know if they would understand everything or just be completely creeped out.

Neal Shusterman is my favorite author at the moment! I look forward to reading more of his books!

Buy: The Dark Side of Nowhere

Book Rating: I give this book 5 treasure chests!

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Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

ender's gameReviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Ender’s Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Narrators: Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison
Format: Unabridged Audio Book
# CDs + Minutes: 9 CDs (11 hours, 11 minutes)
Grade Reading Level: 9th Grade
Summary: In a near-future society, the human race is in a war against the buggers, a hostile alien race, who nearly won twice in two wide scale confrontations against humankind. Fearing a third invasion, a system was put in place to discover and train child prodigies in the art of war. This system found Ender Wiggin, and set a course for him unlike any other kid that has gone before. Is Ender the general humankind desperately needs?

Meanwhile a second (side) plot revolves around Earth, Ender’s siblings, and it’s three separate governing bodies. The Hegemon, Strategos, and Polemarch, all struggle for supreme control and threaten humankind on the home front. Peter and Valentine are determined to make the world over in their image and work to achieve this through the “Nets” to influence how the masses think. Are two kids capable of achieving that sort of influence?

Why I Started This Book:

I can name approximately half a dozen boys over the last several years telling me I had to read this book. It was essential, a must read! I caved. Got it in audio format, because I’m grooving it right now and settled in for the long haul. I now have to apologize to the first five guys who said to read it and I ignored. Great book!

Likes:

  • Orson’s style of writing. It’s obviously a style meant to be read aloud; in fact audio format is the best version to meet this book and is something the author mentioned at the end of CD #9.
  • Orson’s writing is very evocative. You see pictures and feel emotions and think thoughts as if you were a part of the book itself.
  • Battle School is fantastic. I loved it when Ender finally goes up in rank and starts commanding. The mock battles are some of my absolute favorite moments.
  • The surprising twist at Command School. It was an ending I did not expect it. I liked it even more when Orson took the story further and explained the aftermath. That too did not go how I pictured it might. Frankly, I was expecting that Ender was going to have to watch out for Peter.

Dislikes:

  • Very little. I was going to say the graphic nature of some of the fights or the violence but as Orson pointed out in his ramble at the end of the CD #9 the language is in fact very plain. All graphic nature is rendered through the reader.

Last Minute Thoughts: It’s definitely a book for boys as it deals on many fronts issues boys face more often than girls such as bullying and warfare. Ender also goes through a crisis of identity of self. He does not want to be a killer (or hurt others) but is forced to become one. I think the following quote explains this very well:

Unlike his brother, Ender does not take pride in destroying others and commits this action because he is often pushed into situations which demand physical defense. This portrayal and situation in the novel justifies Ender’s actions. (Nick M. on Amazon.com)

I am glad I came to this book now instead of earlier in my life. I don’t think I would have appreciated it then. I do now. It’s terrific! I’m giving the audio book to my dad and telling him to listen to it. He’s on CD #2 and loves it so far.

Buy: Ender’s Game (Unabridged Audio Book), Ender’s Game (Paperback), The Ender Quartet Box Set (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind)

Find books by Orson Scott Card on ebay.

Book Rating: 5 Treasure Chests.
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Keira runs a book review blog for readers by readers on romance novels entitled Love Romance Passion. She’s been reading romance since she was in her teens and began blogging about romance so she could share her passion for her favorite genre. She loves reading paranormal, Regency, historical America, and highlander most of all and completely adores blind and wounded heroes.

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Audio Review: Peter and the Starcatchers (Peter and the Starcatchers, Book 1) by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

peter-and-the-starcatchers

Reviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Peter and the Starcatchers (Peter and the Starcatchers, Book 1)
Authors: Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Format: Audio book
Length: 8 hours and 39 minutes
Narrator: Jim Dale
Grade Reading Level: 5th Grade+

Summary:  This trilogy is about how Peter Pan became Peter Pan.

Orphan boy, Peter, and his fellow Lost Boys, are sailing on the Never Land to become servants to King Rundoon when they are attacked by pirates during a storm. The pirates are lead by the vicious Black Stache and Peter barely escapes with his life. Both crews and passengers are marooned on an island inhabited by natives and a monstrous creature called Mr. Grin. Peter and his friend Molly Astor must protect a “treasure” at all costs or risk the bad guys gaining unlimited power.

Why I started this book:

Jim Dale was the narrator. Enough said. This guy is a genius with voices!

Likes:

  • Settings – descriptions – characters – the humor! Very action packed!
  • Lots of fun stuff for boys! Truly a great book series for young readers. It is a swashbuckling adventure not to miss.
  • The descriptions are gripping. I would not want to eat ship food meant for the crew. Shudders.
  • I love how every wild and fantastical idea rolled right into the story of the beloved Peter Pan.

Dislikes:

  • I was hoping the “star stuff” was in fact pixie dust. Oh well. Clever story.

Buy: Peter and the Starcatchers, The Starcatchers Series Box Set

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests
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Review: The Iron King (Iron Fey, Book 1) by Julie Kagawa

by First Mate Keira

Title:The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Format: Kindle Ebook
Page Count: 368 (Paperback)
Grade Reading Level: Grade 7+

Summary: Meghan Chase is just your ordinary unpopular girl trying to navigate the hierarchy of high school, get her driver’s permit, and possibly a date with the hottest boy. Her best friend, Robin Goodfellow, calls her princess, an endearment she despises. What she doesn’t know is just how apt that nickname is because she is the bastard daughter of Oberon, King of the Seelie fairies and of Summer. When her younger half brother, Ethan, is kidnapped and taken to the Nevernever, Robin sheds his glamour and reveals that he is her protector and Puck, yes that Puck, from Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In very little time Meghan finds her whole world turned upside down and that rescuing her brother will require help, loads of help, in the form of a cat, an Unseelie prince, and her best friend.

Why I started this book:

I requested a reader copy from the publisher because I love romances and was eager to read something from Harlequin’s new teen romance line. I picked this novel also because I had seen the title appear a lot on the YA blogosphere.

Likes:

  • Julie Kagawa is absolutely brilliant. Her world building is vibrant, full and lively, and it literally leaps off the page. I enjoyed her new type of fairy species—a masterful stroke that really gives the story a new dimension. I would go into more details but it’s so much more fun discovering the answer for yourself.
  • Ash, the Unseelie prince, is a spectacularly drawn character. He’s that aloof hero whose motives are hard to determine. He hides a soft heart behind a cold hard façade and makes for a truly forbidden love interest. Yum.
  • Puck, he’s the wayward merrymaker who at times isn’t the best judge of when too far is too far. I have a feeling he’s also in love with Meghan but as of yet hasn’t made his feelings known and Meghan views him as her best friend, not a love interest.
  • Grimalkin or Grim, the cat. He reminds me of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland and is another fantastic well drawn character. He’s sarcastic, condescending, and witty. He trades favors and barters without a plan seemingly in mind in order to extract another promise or favor from someone else. You can find him wherever something interesting is taking place.

Last Minute Thoughts: The worst part of the book is that it ended! The next in novel in the series cannot come too quickly for me. I can’t wait to read The Iron Daughter.

Buy: The Iron King (Harlequin Teen)

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests

P.S. The Iron King is the perfect story to read for any Twilight fan looking for a new series to love.

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Review: The Center of the Storm by Ann Simko

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Title: The Center of the Storm
Author: Ann Simko
Format: Digital ebook
Page Count: 210 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 16+

Warning: Parents may decide that they want to read this book first because it does deal with sensitive issues such as cutting, abuse, and suicide.

Summary: This story was written in the first person.

Dodge Landry receives a phone call from his mother in the middle of the night. She’s calling about Storm. Dodge is going to take his son Christian with him. Chris is fifteen and has the typical teenager attitude – especially when the parent wakes them up early.

We learn that Dodge and Chris both have something in common. They were both in the foster care system. Both of their backgrounds were almost similar. Dodge and his wife, Anna, have adopted Chris. And Dodge is hoping to use this trip home as a bonding experience.

Kate and her husband, Mike Landry, own a horse farm which is located in Pennsylvania. As we read this story, we learn that Dodge was just like Chris when he was around the same age. He also had an attitude about him. They also had something else in common as well which you will find out as you read more of the story.

Ann seamlessly moves between the past and the present. The reader will not get lost as she transitions back and forth. She’ll also have you reminiscing about your own attitude and behavior at that age. If you or your child is an animal lover, this story may also pull at your heartstrings.

This is a story that any teenager should read. It may give them a better understanding of why some people are the way they are. It may also help in discussing what they are feeling – what they don’t think they can put into words. It may also help a parent in trying to understand a troubled teen. Maybe it’s a story that both parent and child can sit down and discuss together.

Maybe this is a story that you can relate to – maybe you have personally been touched by some of the issues that Ann covers. She also shows how cruel some people can be. Some scenes may reflect what you and your parent went through during some of your rough times.

Ann writes one scene between Kate and Dodge – typical mother and child stuff. And as I’m reading the scene, I can almost hear my own mother saying the exact same thing. Then in the next breath, Ann has you almost in tears. Then there’s another scene between Dodge and Mike and Ann has me almost in tears again. Plus I’m back to reminiscing about growing up in my household – me, my three brothers, and my parents.

When I first saw that it covered some sensitive subjects, I was not sure that this was a book that I was going to like. I went into reading this book with some preconceived notions. Ann totally changed my mind. By the time I finished this book I was so glad that I was given this chance to review it. With students getting out school for the summer, this is the perfect time for them to sit down, read it and then discuss it with you. They may even want to read more of her work after they are finished.

Buy: The Center of the Storm

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests