Review: The Familiars

The FamiliarsTitle:  The Familiars
Author: 
Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
Number of Pages:  360

Synopsis:  One day, Aldwyn, a non-magical alley cat, finds himself in a most unusual pet shop full of strange, magical creatures. Jack, a wizard in training, chooses him to be his familiar, an animal companion that can help with his training. He meets two other familiars and tries to act magical, but when their human friends are kidnapped, that will be harder than it seems!

Why kids would like this book:  This book is great for kids because it has characters that you just fall in love with, a perfect mix of exciting parts and suspenseful parts, and so many twists and turns that will keep you turning pages till midnight!

Why adults would like this book:  The concept had a lot of potential, with magical adventures seen through the eyes of animals.  However, for some reason, I could NOT get through this book.  I tried several times to make it past the halfway point of the book without success. The writing seemed tedious and the plot was getting too predictable and formulaic, so it totally lost my interest.  I was very glad that we checked this one out from the library, and hadn’t bought it.  However, this book is a prime example of something that works as kidslit for kids, even if it doesn’t translate well for adults.  I hope your kids like it just as my daughter did……just don’t be tempted to steal this one from your children after they go to sleep!

Miranda’s rating:  I am a lover of cats, and also a lover of magic, so I think I would rate this book a 9 out of 10. I only gave it a nine because some of the parts in the book can be a little unclear, or too fast or slow. But still; overall, I think it is a great book!

Todd’s rating: Sad to say, but to be honest I think I need to say a 4.

Miranda’s favorite character:  Hmm, I can’t decide between Gilbert or Aldwyn. Both of them are funny, and Gilbert is very kind.

Todd’s favorite character:  Kalstaff the wizard.  He refuses to exit without putting up a big fight!

Miranda’s favorite part of book:  I can’t tell you my favorite part without spoiling too much, but I’ll choose another favorite part anyway. One of my OTHER favorite parts is when Aldwyn meets the other two familiars.

Todd’s favorite part of book: Floating “spyballs” down the stream…..creepy, but cool!

Miranda’s recommended age groups:  10+

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Flashback Friday: The Island of the Blue Dolphins

What is a “Flashback Friday?”  On some Fridays, Miranda will provide her opinion of a book I used to like as a child that I am “encouraging” her to read….  Not surprisingly, she hasn’t learned to trust my taste yet, but we’ll see if that changes someday!  I enjoyed The Island of the Blue Dolphins as a child because I was intrigued by the thought of kids having to survive alone in the wild.  Given Miranda’s independent nature (she was previously convinced she should start a solo expedition to the north pole…..), I thought she would benefit from this realistic portrait of a child in the wilderness. AND, this book is a Newbery Medal winner, which is usually a good enough reason to force (I mean encourage) Miranda to read it.  In case you haven’t figured this out yet, the blue bold font introduction means I (Todd) wrote it, and the bold green font introduction means Miranda wrote it, so here is the review in Miranda’s words only:

Title:  The Island of the Blue Dolphins
Author:  Scott O’Dell
184 pages

My reaction when my dad told me to read this: “Blech.” This was because I almost never like to read what my dad suggests I read. Each time, he says I will like it. Each time, I said I wouldn’t. And each time… I was wrong.

Synopsis: Karana is left behind when all of her people leave the island of the blue dolphins. She has to fight her enemies (the wild dogs), make weapons, and hunt food. All by herself. For years, she waits for a boat to land on the island, reuniting her with her family and friends. Will they ever come back for the girl they left to fend for herself?

Miranda’s favorite character: Rontu because he is funny and he was almost always wanting to be by Karana’s side.

Miranda’s favorite part of book: My favorite part is when she talks with her friend, even though they don’t know each other’s  languages. It is a very heart-warming moment, and it shares a message: It’s always good to make new friends.

Miranda’s rating: 7. This book has some sad parts that make you want to cry yourself.

Miranda’s recommended ages: 9+ because it has a few scary parts, and has some words that younger children might not know.

Why kids would like this book: it is sweet and is not historical fiction. It’s just historical. I was reading it one night and stayed up reading WAY past my bedtime! (I was super sleepy the following morning!)

Review: “The Gideon Trilogy”

Title: The Gideon Trilogy (The Time Travelers,  The Time Thief, The Time Quake)
Author:  Linda Buckley-Archer
About 400 pages each

Synopsis:  Two kids stumble upon a science experiment that transports them across time, and they find they are stuck between the 18th and 21st centuries. They learn how the 18th century can be a very dangerous place, but with the help of good friends they may survive the pursuits of villains who want to exploit them and the technology that brought them through time.   Across the trilogy, they learn what special abilities time travel has created for them, and how that can help them when they really need it.  What part of modern life would you miss most?  What would it be like for someone from 1763 to live today?  Just how bad could it get if someone evil and power-hungry could go back and change key moments in history?  Find out in this incredible series.

Why kids would like this book: This book is exciting, and has a lot of twists and turns that you will love. This book contains edge of your seat moments where you can’t stop reading. If you’re reading this at night, it’ll make you say: “Just 5 more minutes, mom!”

Why adults would like this book:  Ok, maybe you are saying to yourself right now, “a time travel book–how cliché!”  I hear ya, and I hate predictable story lines, but this series was so riveting that I LOVED it!  Each book took the story in a new direction while trying to answer the main question of whether our heroes will ever make it home to the world and families they left behind.  Book one made me see life in the 18th century in a whole new way while I was trying to catch my breath between all the action.  Book two shows what could happen if someone from 1763 was thrust into modern city life…..and what trouble they can cause if they are EVIL!  Book three plays with what disastrous consequences come from changing the past. The author creates some very relatable and believable main characters that you want to hug and slap at the same time!  ….and the ways that the main characters deal with the voluntary and involuntary ways they can play with time is INGENIOUS and very entertaining.  …and the way that key plot twists can rip your heart out or make you want to scream.  Did I say that I LOVED these books already??

Miranda’s rating: book 1: 9 book 2: 10 book 3: 8

Todd’s rating: 10 of 10 (For books 1 and 2, but maybe an 8 for book 3 just because it got a little chaotic toward the end.)  These three are probably my favorite books from the last year.  Miranda and I would seriously hide the books from each other so we could read without the other stealing them!!

Miranda’s favorite character: Anjali. When my dad and I first read about her in book 2, my dad said: “It’s the girl with the dragon tattoo!”. She’s sneaky, she has a good sense of humor, and it’s always funny to read about how she deals with the Tar Man.

Todd’s favorite character: The adult version of Peter in book 2.  It was so cool to see how someone would become a man in an entirely set of circumstances, and what selfless steps he took from across time for his family’s emotional and physical well-being.

Miranda’s Favorite Part of the Book: Fast forwarding sequences. They’re kind of funny!

Todd’s Favorite Part of the Book: This is really tough……the climax at the end of book one, or any of the “fast forward” sequences in book two.

Miranda’s recommended age groups for this book: 8+. These are pretty big books, but each one is packed with action and adventure.

Have you read the Gideon Trilogy, and what did you think? What other books involving time travel do the kids or adults in your home love?

Review: “A Hero for WondLa”

Title:  A Hero for Wondla
Author: Tony Diterlizzi ( of The Spiderwick Chronicles)
464 pages

Synopsis: This is the second book in the WondLa trilogy which came out just a week or two ago.  We LOVED the first book (The Search for WondLa), so we preordered this one on Amazon so we could read it RIGHT AWAY, and we were not at all disappointed!

The first book is about our heroine, Eva Nine, who is raised in an underground “sanctuary” by a robot and is trained for life on the surface of the earth, only to learn when her peaceful sanctuary is destroyed that the world outside is nothing like earth, and is filled with fantastic plants (we love the wandering trees) and alien life forms of all varieties–some friendly and many not.

In the second book, Eva Nine learns more about other humans living on the planet, why she was raised underground, and what the future holds between the old human civilization and the new alien inhabitants.  As she continues her adventures with her alien creature friends and some new human friends, she also learns more about her own natural abilities, and just how much she can do to help save her friends.  This is a VERY exciting book, and we love the illustration pages at the start of each chapter.

Miranda’s Rating (from 1-10): 11! This is a very exciting book, and I want all of my friends to read it. I love this book because it has sci-fi, fantasy, and nature.
Todd’s Rating (from 1-10): 8   (I admit I have very high standards, so it takes a lot to get a 10 from me.) This book was a great page-turner and a lot of fun for adults.  It sucked me in and had enough twists and turns to keep me interested. I can’t wait for the third book–we’ll definitely pre-order that one too.
Miranda’s Favorite Character and Why: Rovender because he’s wise and helps Eva.

Todd’s Favorite Character and Why: Huxley–he’s good-tempered, a big help in some “tight spots” (wink wink), and faces life-threatening situations with courage and a positive attitude. 

Miranda’s Favorite Part of the Book: My favorite part of the story is when Eva comes into the city and meets everyone because it’s funny and I love it when the three teenage Gens say: “That is sooo rocket!” I also like it when one of the Gens’ omnipods classifies one girl’s hair as a monkey, because of the way she colored and styled it.

Todd’s Favorite Part of the Book: What happens when Eva Nine and Rovender go to Rovender’s home village–I always love a good reconciliation story!!!

Miranda’s recommended age groups for this book: 9+ because it’s stressful, has some sad parts, and it’s a pretty good sized book.

Have you read either of the WondLa books?  What did you think of them?