Review: Independent Study (The Testing, Book 2) by Joelle Charbonneau

independent studyReviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Independent Study (The Testing, Book 2)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 310 pages
Grade Reading Level: Grades 9-12

Summary: Cia was excited to find out she pass the Testing, but when she finds a recorded transmission in her own voice telling her of traumatic experiences during the Testing she’s terrified and battles with denial. She doesn’t want to believe it. But the recording is convincing because it is in her voice. Which leads to the question… What if the warnings are real? How can she validate her message? Does Tom still have his memories? Is it true that Will, her friend, tried to kill them? What’s in store next? Do more perils lurk on the University campus? The answers need to be found and Cia better make sure she finds the right ones or there will be consequences!

Why I started this book:

I devoured the first book in the trilogy. It reminded me of Hunger Games while being a fresh take on the dystopian genre. The hardest part about waiting for this book was the wait for my local library to process it and place it into the collection when I was first on the reserve list!

Likes:

  • Independent Study is more intrigue than actual violence (though there is some). It’s the threat that creates the suspense. The intrigue goes larger-in-scale than the Testing and incorporates rebel factions and politics.
  • I like the initiation tests the kids goes through to get into their departments. The students in the departments devised the tests – you can see that something from the Testing bled through the memory blockers… well, that, or the kids are as sadistic as the adults who administered the test.
  • I like that Cia is tricked in whom to place her trust.
  • Spoiler: The rebel faction twist near the end of the book – I only caught a glimpse of the twist ending happening just before it did happen. Who would have thought the rebel faction was set up by the person they’re trying to rebel against? It definitely takes the saying keep your friends close, and enemies closer to a new level.

Dislikes:

  • I was looking for more connections with the kids. Stronger friendships and it was still superficial or surface. Like Cia and Will, I was looking for a different side of Will (not necessarily as a romantic interest, but on the friendship side).

Final Thoughts: I hope the romance gets a little more attention in the next book. It had some ups and downs in Independent Study. The book was more focused on the intrigue and developing the setup for the next book.

Buy: Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2

Rating: 4.5 Treasure Chests
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Review: Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher

by First Mate Keira

Title: Stoneheart
Author: Charlie Fletcher
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 450
Grade Reading Level: Grades 5-8

Summary: 12 year old George Chapman is on a field trip with his class to the Natural History Museum in London. When he’s removed from the rest of the class for something he didn’t do, George escapes the museum and vents his anger on an innocent dragon statue and winds up breaking it. Unknowingly falling into a layer of unLondon, George looks up to see if anyone has noticed and finds a pterodactyl carving peeling off the side of the building. Rescued by Gunner, George learns that he set into motion things that have been precariously balanced for a long time and now he has 24 hours to make things right or become enslaved to the Stone of London and maybe even start a war.

Why I started reading this book:

I saw this trilogy first in the bookstore. Then I saw the trailer for Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the first thing I thought was that it was going to be this book series. It’s not, but the gargoyles in the trailer reminded me of the back blurb to the book. I immediately hightailed it to the library and put them on hold.

Likes:

  • Gunner a is World War 1 statue who acts as protector, guide, and friend to George and Edie as they explore the many layers of unLondon.
  • I liked the world-building that Charlie Fletcher did throughout the novel. There are the good statues known as Spits that are imbued with a sort of soul by their Makers. And then there are the evil Taints which are soulless carvings that are half or all beast in appearance.
  • It’s very cool to learn that all the statues that Fletcher mentioned can actually be found in and around London. That would make for a very interesting tour!
  • Some statues (cough Dictionary cough) use very big words which might be difficult for younger readers, but Fletcher does a good job defining them in character conversation or contextually in the sentence.

Dislikes:

  • I didn’t like Edie as a character. She was too closed off, hardheaded, and stubborn to be very likeable.
  • The Stone didn’t really seem as sinister as it was made to sound. The Walker seems like the bigger enemy even though he’s enslaved to the Stone and acts on its orders (some of the time).
  • The Black Friar and Little Tragedy are very ambiguous. I don’t know if I really like them or not because of this. I’m worried the Black Friar will do something to hurt the kids.
  • The writing is a little stiff, generally speaking.

Buy: Stoneheart (The Stoneheart Trilogy, Book One)

Rating: 3 Treasure Chests

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Audio Review: House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus, Book 4) by Rick Riordan

house of hadesReviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 4)
Author: Rick Riordan
Format: Audio Book
Length: 17 hrs and 32 mins
Narrator: Nick Chamian
Grade Reading Level: Ages 12+

Summary: Annabeth and Percy must escape the Underworld (or more precisely Tartarus). Their friends must reach them from the mortal side of the Doors of Death and shut them. Will the two groups meet up? Will they be able to stop Gaea’s forces from escaping death and complete their mission before the Roman Camp rains war on the Greek’s Camp Half-Blood?

Why I started this book:

Read the Percy Jackson series, started this series. Love both!

Likes:

  • Nick Chamian, the narrator. He did a good job. Very entertaining.
  • Leo and Calypso. More! I want more! Seriously. Leo was kind of ho-hum to me until this particular development and then woah! Watch out ladies, he’s going to break hearts. I approve and want even more. This ship just jumped far and ahead of Percy and Annabeth.
  • Tartus and any time spent in the novel focused on Percy and Annabeth getting the heck out of dodge. Great tension, great build-up, great conclusion. Loved that most of the time hell was described in body parts… I was like, yep, that’s a Titan. Watch where you step. I was right.
  • Bob and Small Bob for comic relief.

Toss-up:

  • Nico has had a crush on Percy. I can’t say I like it (although it is better than Nico crushing Annabeth). He’s the only gay character mentioned outright in the series. I feel bad for him. How necessary is knowing this piece of information? What does it change or will it change going forward?
  • Frank becomes praetor when Jason gives it up. Not clear on how I feel about this. Being praetor was a huge part of Jason and now… it’s a huge part of Frank.
  • Character development time spent on characters I couldn’t really care all that much about – however it did flesh everybody out and provided motives and hints to future fallout.

Dislikes:

  • Hazel and Sorcery. It was too much like the Kane Chronicles.
  • Gaea didn’t really feature in this book… she was more threat then presence.

Final thoughts: Lots of names, characters, and everything. Good thing I’ve followed the series from the start. NOT A STAND ALONE! You will not understand. And as for book five, let’s go!

Buy: The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades

Rating: 4 Treasure Chests
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Review: The Abduction (Theodore Boone, Book 2) by John Grisham

the abductionReviewed by Captain Evelyn Knifenose

Title: The Abduction (Theodore Boone, Book 2)
Author: John Grisham
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 256 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 10+

Summary: Theo’s young friend April, who is from a troubled family, has gone missing. Usually they text and phone each other. April was petrified because her mother left her alone in the house for a few days. Now April is gone; her mother is crying. Someone has taken her, but who?

He rounds up his friends to post flyers about her disappearance. The police are involved. A body is found in the river — is it her? And a distant relative, escaped from prison, and now in town is a prime suspect. And Theo, hardly able to function, is still on the case. His uncle Ike plays a big part, as do his parents.

Why I started this book:

This is the second in the Theodore Boone series, and it is equally as good as the first.

Likes:

  • Theo, in the line of the classic young detectives, such as Nancy Drew or the Hardy boys, must solve the mystery. On top of that he is grief stricken, feeling that he is responsible. He should have told someone of her plight.
  • It is a subject matter more for older kids, but it all turns out well in the end.

Final Thoughts: I look forward to book 3.

Buy: Theodore Boone: The Abduction

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests
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Review: The Testing (Testing, Book 1) by Joelle Charbonneau

the testingReviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: The Testing (Testing, Book 1)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Format: Ebook
Page Count: 336 Pages
Grade Reading Level: Agest 14+

Summary: The Seven Stages of War devastated much of the planet. To ensure future generations rebuild what the previous generations destroyed, the Testing was created by the United Commonwealth. From the Testing, teenagers would be selected to be turned into leaders. They would get college educations, rewarding careers, and become one of the elite. What theses teenagers don’t know is that the Testing is brutal and quick to punish the weak-willed and weak-minded.

Why I started this book:

I had recently finished the Hunger Games trilogy (late comer) and was offered this book on Net Galley by the publisher. Couldn’t resist! So glad I didn’t too!

Likes:

  • Cia Vale is one of two candidates chosen for the Testing in her community. They are the first in a long time. Cia wondered why this was until her father pulls her aside and says ‘trust no one.’ Great suspense right from the beginning!
  • The Testing itself is very unique and interesting. I wonder why it’s set up as it is and can only wonder at what the sequel will bring.
  • Tomas, the handsome candidate from her own community and their alliance.
  • World-building. The United Commonwealth (once the US, then taken over by China, and now….) has an interesting history and must deal with consequences of several world wars involving nuclear weapons. Will they be able to rebuild and what exactly is required to rebuild that needs such stringent testing of future leaders? What is the big secret?!

Dislikes:

  • The serious cliff hanger at the end… while brilliant is terrible because now I simply cannot wait for the next book to come out! :)

Final thoughts: If you love the Hunger Games, read this book!

Buy: The Testing

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests
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Review: Kid Lawyer (Theodore Boone, Book 1) by John Grisham

kid lawyerReviewed by Cap’n Evelyn Knifenose

Title: Kid Lawyer (Theodore Boone, Book 1)
Author: John Grisham
Format: Hardback
Page Count:
Grade Reading Level: Ages 10+

Summary: Theodore Boone is a charming, smart, resourceful 13 year old. His parents are both lawyers, and he is aiming in that direction himself, because he loves everything to do with it. He is expected to be at his parents’ office after school, where he picks up legal nuances, has his own office of sorts, and does his homework. Dinner is always at 7.

He knows his way around the court house, and he knows the people who work there, including the judges.

And on the side he offers sound advice on legal matters to the students who come to him for help. He knows which lawyer would handle their case, and he knows if they need a lawyer. Some of the things he is asked about or knows the answer to are: a girl’s custody when her parents divorce; getting a dog back from the dog pound; how to save a house (and family) from foreclosure through bankruptcy; and who would help with a brother’s possession of a small quantity of drugs.

Why I started this book:

A friend gave it to one of my daughters. I’m sure everyone is familiar with John Grisham’s books for grownups. This is from his series for kids, but it is suitable for adults or tweens or teens.

Likes:

  • I expected that some of his actions might result in someone attacking him, but perhaps because this is a kids’ book that does not happen.
  • Meantime there is a murder trial about to being, with the perfect crime. A woman is found strangled, and her husband is on trail. Through interesting circumstances, Theodore knows the truth about what happened, and he has promised to keep it secret for good reasons.
  • What should he do when he knows what he knows will change the course of the trial? I liked that he talked to his parents, finally, on the advice of his uncle Ike who has been disbarred. And I like the solution they came up with.
  • The book is full of courtroom information, but given in a way that is easy to read and part of the story.

Last Minute Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Perfect score! I’m going to read the others in this series.

Buy: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Rating: 5 Treasure Chests
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