The Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders #1) by Peter Lerangis
Review Source: ARC won from HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Summary (from Goodreads): One Boy
Jack McKinley is an ordinary kid with an extraordinary problem. In a few months, he’s going to die.
Jack needs to find seven magic loculi that, when combined, have the power to cure him.
The loculi are the relics of a lost civilization and haven’t been seen in thousands of years.
Because they’re hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Colossus Rises is the first book in a series for middle-grade readers. In the beginning, we meet Jack, who I think is 13. He's just a regular kid. Except that he's going to die. He just doesn't quite know it yet. In The Colossus Rises, we get to follow Jack as he learns why he's different from most kids, meets kids that are just like him, discover the special mission he must go on, and face adventures most kids only dream of. The big question for this series is whether or not the kids can find and save all of the lost loculi before their time runs out.
My favorite thing about this book was the characters. Jack is great as a regular kid. He wants his dad to care more about him and be around more, he worries about tests at school, he wakes up late, he builds crazy contraptions that act as alarm clocks, and he doesn't like to see the little kids get picked on. Everything he does, both before and after we learn about his condition, seem like natural actions a kid his age would take. He doesn't seem to be super mature for his age but he's also not dumbed down. He understands the importance of what their group is doing and he works together with his new friends to accomplish their goals. I enjoyed seeing the different characteristics and special talents of all four kids in the book. I liked that they all took care of each other and became each other's family when they could no longer be with their own families. No matter what else was going on in the book, the pull the kids felt to each other could be felt by me. It was very nice to read about.
I also liked how well this book crafted its backstory. While the book is fantasy and everything (except the Seven Wonders) is made up, the explanation behind the kids' condition and the loculi and the reasons they were created and why they are needed now and everything is very solid and thorough.
I think kids who read this will really enjoy the non-stop action in the book and the way the kids all work together. There are always convenient excuses for why the adults are left behind (which I think actually works for kids books much better than young adult books). There were very few down-times once the action started and some of it gets a little intense (kidnapping, near-death, scary creatures). There are also a couple emotional moments that might be hard for the younger kids. My guess is that kids who've read and enjoyed the Percy Jackson series will really enjoy this one as well.
Final Thoughts: For me, as an adult, I actually found the book to be about 50 pages too long. At points the action seemed to happen for no reason, neither furthering the story nor adding anything to the plot. I also found a few of the transitions to be rough. At one point we are in an airplane and the next we are in a taxi with no explanation to how we got there or what happened in between. For kids, these things are all fine. Tons of action gets kids excited and keeps them reading. But I want there to be a reason for everything that happens in a book, and in this one, not everything had a reason. But ultimately, this books is for kids and I think it was done really well for them. And I'll definitely keep reading the series. I want to learn more about Jack and his friends Marco, Aly, and Cass. They are what really made the book work for me. I also want to learn more about Professor Bhegad and his motives. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Will he turn out to be a Snape, mean but hiding something deeper, or more of a Professor McGonagall, tough on the outside, soft on the inside? Or maybe even a Barty Crouch, Jr, appearing to be someone else to get what he wants? Or maybe he really is just a plain old good guy. There's still a lot to learn about all of these characters and many more adventures to go on. And I'll be there to see where they lead. I gave The Colossus Rises three and half stars and would recommend it for kids 10 and up.
Summary (from Goodreads): One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.
When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.
She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.
To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.
From "New York Times" best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope.
My Likes: I really loved this book. And I'm not surprised at all because it's Lauren Oliver. Her writing is beautiful, her world-building is amazing, and her characters become my favorites. Liza is no different, nor is the world she enters when she sets off to save her brothers from the spindlers that have taken his soul Below during the night. She is always brave, smart, loyal, and never forgets about her brother, Patrick. Below is full of creatures we both know well, like rats and moles, and ones we don't, like the spindlers and nocturni. They all live in the world Below and Liza meets them all. One of my favorites is Mirabelle, a rat that helps Liza find the spindlers' nest where Patrick's soul is being kept until the feast. Even though Mirabelle is a rat, Liza is sure she can trust her and they experience many adventures together. Of course along the way there are many surprises for Liza. But the unexpected twists keep the story moving along and never boring. As soon as one thing ends, another comes right on top of it. As a middle-grade book, I really appreciated the fast pace of the book.
Another one of my favorite parts of the book is Liza's love for her brother. She never shies away from the fact that he annoys her, so it's not sugar-coated, but she also willingly admits that she loves him. She feels protective of him and doesn't care that she is scared, she goes after him anyway. It's a beautiful representation of a sibling relationship and I really appreciated seeing an older sibling being so open about her love for her younger brother.
My Dislikes: There isn't much that I didn't like about this book, but there were a couple of minor things that annoyed me. First, I wasn't fond of Liza's parents. They were disinterested with their kids, unconcerned with anything Liza said, and Liza doubted their love for her. I know (believe me!) that adults can easily get caught up in the responsibilities of everyday life, but almost nothing annoys me more than when kids doubt whether their parents love them or not. I know this book is from a kid's perspective, so maybe it's just realistic, but I wish her parents had shown a bit more concern. And secondly, the book did take a little for me to get into. It seemed to start off slow, which seems silly now because SO MUCH happened in such a short book. But I wasn't really hooked until about halfway through. So nothing major to complain about here, but I just needed to mention them.
Overall Feelings: I loved it! How does Lauren Oliver do it? This book was full of action, wonderful imagery, and the beautiful narration we have come to associate with Oliver's work. Add a brave and loyal heroine out to save her little brother and the book becomes epic! Just when you think Liza has reached the end, another challenge is laid at her feet. With the reminder of saving her brother's soul to keep her going, Liza never looks back, no matter what creature comes after her in the Below. It is a beautiful sibling relationship, even if the parents aren't involved. The non-stop action should keep the younger kids' attention while Oliver's writing will help keep parents interested as well. The Spindlers is a fantastic middle-grade book that would be a great read-aloud with your kids. I can't wait to read it with my kids when they're a little bit older. I gave The Spindlers five stars!
The Giveaway: I have a hardback copy of The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver to giveaway to one lucky reader. Just fill out the rafflecopter, make sure you have a US shipping address, keep entries to one per person, and remember that I'm not responsible for items that get lost or damaged during shipping. The giveaway will be open until midnight October 26th.
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Level: Middle Grade
Review Source: ARC won from Claire Legrande
Publication Date: September 27, 201
Published By: Dutton Children's Books
Find It: On Goodreads On Amazon
Rating: 5/5 Stars
My Summary: Jack is a dreamer whose father wants him to grow up and be a man. Jill is a princess whose mother is only concerned with how beautiful they are. Both children are disappointments to their parents. But they are cousins who are also best friends and set out on an epic journey together that will change who they are and what they believe is important. They will outsmart giants, befriend an enormous salamander, run away from goblins, and face terrible power-hungry witches. But will they be able to find the most valuable hidden treasure all are seeking and the key to true happiness? Jack and Jill go on an incredible journey that will take them far from home and teach them some very important lessons.
My Likes: I loved reading about Jack and Jill and all of the other fairy tale creatures we've known since childhood but haven't known the true stories. This is a perfect combination of dark and intense but also sweet. We get a taste of the fairy tales we know growing up alongside the twisted tales Gidwitz has created for us. We don't miss out on the friendships of the Disney-type tales nor the dark, sometimes gruesome, always twisted tales that were full of morals like the originals. I really love the transformations that both Jack and Jill go through during the book. If you want to read a book about two kids who grow up and learn how to be happy with themselves, this is it!
My Dislikes: Nothing. This book was perfect for me. But I will say that this book does have some intense moments and its fair share of gore, so if your child is sensitive to that, I would either read the book first yourself to judge its appropriateness or skip it for now all together. I would not recommend it to kids under the age of ten, either way.
Overall Feeling: I loved this book. And I absolutely love the cover. They are beautiful. This is how fairy tales were meant to be, dark, not always happily ever after, with important messages to learn. I also loved the writing style for the younger audience. Almost every gross, violent, or emotional part was preceded by some sort of warning or funny commentary from the author. It broke up the tension a little while still keeping the stories dark. My son is six and still a little young for this book, but I hope this'll be one we can read out-loud together when he gets a little older.
I also want to mention that I haven't yet read A Tale Dark and Grim. In a Glass Grimmly is only a companion novel, not a sequel. So while I assume the style is similar, I don't actually know. All I know is that you can absolutely read In a Glass Grimmly without having read the previous book. Although, A Tale Dark and Grimm is definitely much higher up in my TBR pile now! I gave In a Glass Grimmly five stars.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Rating: 5/5 Stars
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?
Wonder is beautiful. But in the end, August is not just like his classmates. He is better. Stronger, braver, smarter, and kinder. But he is teaching them and changing the way they think. And that is what's most important about this book.
Wonder is about August. A normal ten-year old boy who was born with a facial deformity. He's been homeschooled by his mom, mostly due to multiple surgeries and sick days that kept him from attending school regularly. But before he enters 5th grade, his parents think it might be time for him to attend school with other kids. August is fully aware of what this means. He's noticed the way people behave around him, sees how they are afraid of him, and he understands that he looks different from everyone else. And he deals with it well, when he's at home with his family and close friends. But he's not sure he can handle being around kids that don't know him, not sure he's ready to face the real outside world.
Wonder is told from several different point of views. We mostly hear from August, who is a wonderful and honest narrator. We also get to hear from his family, friends, and some random people. I actually really enjoyed the differing views in this book because they all had different feels to them and offered thoughts that we wouldn't have gotten from August alone. And they all felt real. My favorite POV may have even been Via, August's sister. She was fantastic. Her love for Auggie was incredible, even when she knew things weren't quite fair for her, she just wanted to protect and love her brother. I wish all books with multiple points of views were done as well as this one.
The best part of August's story, out of everything he goes through during his first year in school, is his ability to teach the people around him what's truly important. It doesn't matter how popular you are, how much money your family has, who your friends are, or what classes you take, it matters how you treat people. It matters how nice you are. It matters what, and who, you stand up for. As August says, "The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you.” How do you want people to remember you?
Wonder is a book that will make you think. It will make you think about how you treat people, how you view the world, and how you can be a little bit kinder to those around you. Wonder may not be entirely realistic, but it is heartfelt. And a wonderful coming-of-age middle grade book that everyone should read. I definitely recommend this book and give it 5 stars.
In My Mailbox is a weekly event hosted by The Story Siren as a way to share the books we've gotten during the past week. I didn't get much, but that's actually a good thing. My pile of books is already way too big. Here are the few I did pick up this week anyway:
I bought Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout for my Kindle app from Amazon and I'm really excited to read it. I've heard tons of great things about this series (as well as her Lux series which I also haven't read yet) and I'm hoping it lives up to the hype.
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins was another Kindle book I couldn't pass up. I've been curious about this since I learned that The Hunger Games wasn't the only series Suzanne Collins had written. I can't wait to read more from her. And something completely different!
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is the only book I checked out from the library this week. I need to get caught up on books but I can't go to the library and come back with nothing! I'm definitely intrigued by this one. I just hope it doesn't end up scaring the crap out of me!
That's it for my mailbox this week. What do you think? Which one should I read first? And don't forget to leave me a link in the comments so I can come and check it out your mailbox too!