Finished with the Secret Hour and looking for your next book? Try this one!
Written by the creator of the worlds first live fantasy role-playing game, Epic by Conor Kostick is a exciting mix of video game and fantasy. Many, many generations ago violence was banned on the planet of New Earth. Now, disputes are settled and justice is served through a virtual reality game called Epic. All people of New Earth play Epic, and how well you play the game determines how well you do in life. If you are a good gamer, skilled at acquiring money and equipment, then you might have a chance of going to college, earing a good job or buying a house. If your character is weak or you fight poorly, you risk losing everything you own. Unfortunately for Erik, his parents just lost an important battle within the game causing his family to lose their house and all their possessions. With the loss of their home, Erik and his parents face the possibility of being made to work in the salt mines, a very dangerous and smelly job to have. To help his parents, Erik creates a new character within Epic – Cindella the Sailor. With his friends by his side Erik decides to use Cindella to go a a quest and seek out one of the mythical dragons of the game. Slaying a dragon will bring Erik and his friends great riches and fame, but it will also bring them to the attention of the Committee. The Committee is a group of very skilled gamers who have almost total control over the game and thus control over all the people of New Earth. Angering the Committee could mean ruin for Erik, his friends and his parents. However, defeating the Committee would mean that Erik and his parents would never again have to worry about losing their home or being shipped off to the salt mines. The danger is great, but the rewards are greater in this fast-paced and thrilling science fiction novel.
It is time to recommend another great book as you read beyond reality! Lyra’s Oxford, by Philip Pullman, is an account of a brief but revealing episode in the life of our heroine, Lyra Silvertongue, and her daemon Pantalaimon, a pine-marten. Studying on the roof of Jordan College, Oxford, Lyra and Pan see a large flock of birds mobbing a larger bird, and their adventure begins when they realize that the large bird is actually a flying daemon, curiously and unusually separated from its person. As they decide what to do, Lyra and Pan are drawn into a small conspiracy, and set out to solve a local mystery.
The book is rich with additional material from Lyra’s world, including pages from the Oxford City Directory, a brochure for a cruise on the S.S. Zenobia, a postcard written by Dr Mary Malone to Angela Gorman, and a great map of Oxford as it exists in Lyra’s world.
The author’s introduction applies equally well to Lyra’s Oxford and to Bixby, Oklahoma as inhabited by Melissa, Rex, Dess and Jonathan in Scott Westerfeld‘s The Secret Hour. Examining the items included in the book, Pullman concludes that they
might be connected with the story or they might not; they might be connected to stories that haven’t appeared yet. It’s not easy to tell… They might have come from anywhere. They might have come from other worlds. That scribbled-on map, that publisher’s catalog – they might have been put down absentmindedly in another universe, and been blown by a chance wind through an open window, to find themselves after many adventures on a market stall in our world. All these tattered old bits and pieces have a history and a meaning….
As Rex and Lyra both know, you just need to be able to read the lore to find out what that meaning is.
You may already be familiar with the aeronaut Lee Scoresby, his rabbit daemon Hester, and their friend, the armored bear Iorek Byrnison, from Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, but do you know how they met? It is a classic adventure story, and it all happened Once Upon a Time in the North.
The tale begins as Lee Scoresby, the aeronaut, drops his cargo balloon into the town of Novy Odense, “blown by the winds of chance … and very slightly aided by the first half of a tattered book called The Elements of Aerial Navigation.” Scoresby is a man who knows how to handle himself, and he soon attracts attention from both sides of a political disagreement in town. Ivan Dimitrovich Poliakov is gaining great public support by running for Mayor on an anti-bear platform, but is really a candidate who is in the pocket of the local mining corporation, Larsen Manganese. Scoresby soon recognizes one of Poliakov’s associates as a gun-for-hire, and begins to see that the situation is not what it appears.
When Lee intervenes to break up a fight and assist the Dutch sailor Captain van Breda, he is drawn deeper into the town’s intrigues. Van Breda has been put in an impossible situation by Poliakov. He’s been forbidden from loading cargo onto his ship, but the cargo will be repossessed and sold at auction if it remains in the warehouse. To escape from this bind, Van Breda needs help from those who seek justice, and Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison may be just the man and the bear for the job.
This short, quick and lively read contains additional material that puts the story in context, including newspaper articles and the board-game “Peril of the Pole.” If you want to read beyond reality, take a look at Once Upon a Time in the North.
Leviathan begins with a story we all learned in history class – the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary sparked World War I. But from there, Scott Westerfeld’s fire burns much differently. The two sides of the Great War are separated by stronger differences. One side, the British Empire, France, Serbia, and Russia makes up the Darwinists. The other side, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire makes up the Clankers. The Darwinists use airbeasts made of combined DNA bits from different animals to make a beast that is full of hydrogen much like a living blimp. The airbeast is full of other fabricated animals that help the ecosystem thrive and even fix itself given enough food. The Clankers use steam-powered metal war machines, from zeppelins to walking tanks that must be driven by a well trained operator and kept well oiled to work in peak condition.
The two main characters of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan are 15 year old prince Aleksander Ferdinand and 15 year old Deryn Sharp. Alek is the non-heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary because his non-royal mother is not recognized by the emperor. Deryn, or Dylan, as her fellow crew members on the fabricated whale airship Leviathan know her, has disguised herself as a boy to join the British Air Service. Alek and Deryn begin on separate sides of the burgeoning battle between the Darwinists and the Clankers. Alek, hastened away in the night after the assassination of his father, suddenly finds himself homeless, parentless, mostly nationless, and on the run with only his last four loyal subjects. Deryn, preparing to join the British Air Service, is in the middle of a test of her “air sense.” When a storm hits her and the Huxley, a hot-air-balloon-like tentacled flying beast, they are whisked halfway across the country and later picked up by the Leviathan which she excitedly joins as a crew member.
When the Leviathan is attacked while carrying an important Zookeeper and some mysterious cargo, the mighty whale is forced to make an emergency landing for repairs. They land in the middle of a glacier in Switzerland, where there is no food for the beasts of the ship to eat. Without food, the beasts are unable to repair themselves. Alek happens to be hiding out nearby and compassionately sneaks out to bring the stranded crew some medicine – and that’s when it all goes wrong for him as he and Deryn are suddenly forced to decide what’s more important, taking sides or surviving.
So you’ve finished The Secret Hour. What’s next? You can probably tell that there’s more to this story, and you’d be right! Check out the next book in the Midnighters trilogy, Touching Darkness, in which our heroes must confront a dangerous new enemy—and not even daylight can keep them safe.
The beginning of the book finds each of our midnighters caught up in their own struggles: Dess is plagued by strange dreams that tease her with the possibility of mapping the shape of midnight itself, a task that will lead her to uncover shocking truths about Bixby’s history. Melissa and Rex begin experimenting with Melissa’s mindcasting powers, forcing the normally withdrawn girl to confront her aversion to human contact. She may finally learn to control her talent, or she may destroy herself (and Rex) trying. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Jessica deal with their own troubles as they discover that Jessica seems to have acquired a stalker—no, not her pesky younger sister, Beth, although she’s definitely up to something, too. The strange man in Jessica’s bushes has a camera pointed at her window… right at the stroke of midnight. Could he somehow know about the secret hour?
The midnighters’ investigation leads them to a disturbing conclusion: a group of ordinary humans seems to be collaborating with the darklings. Worse yet, one of the five teenagers is the shadowy group’s next target. But is Jessica really the midnighter they’re after?
If you thought The Secret Hour was an exciting introduction to the dark and mysterious world of the midnighters, then you’ve got to read Touching Darkness, in which some of Bixby’s deepest secrets are revealed, and the machinations of its darkling neighbors grow ever more cunning… and cruel.
Still waiting for the Secret Hour? Here’s another choice for while you wait.
The book follows “the flock”, made up of Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel after they successfully escape from the “School” where they were created. Obviously, “School” is an interesting word choice…how many schools do you know where rogue scientists splice human DNA with bird DNA, giving the kids…you guessed it: wings! The flock is continually trying to escape the ever-searching grasp of the “erasers”, a group of quazi-humans sent out with a mission of returning the flock back to the School.
In this installment of Patterson’s Maximum Ride collection, the kids follow a series of events which lead them to an extended stay in the home of seemingly-kind FBI agent. The kids welcome the steady roof over their head as well as the promise of three square meals after being on the lamb for so long, but the constant question, “are we safe?”, never goes away. Another piece of the puzzle is the search by the members of the flock to find their birth parents, which lead only to more questions and dead ends. This, in combination with the harsh realization that life with the FBI agent is not as idealike as it had seemed, leads to the flock being on the run once again, this time from erasers AND a clone…MAX’S clone.
We highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. The action keeps your eyes glued to the story and your fingers flipping the pages.
…and thanks to Bryce for suggesting we review it!
Don’t forget to read, register, and pass….
Are you still waiting for the Secret Hour? Why not read a little something else, while you wait?
The Twilight Saga covers the adventures of Edward Cullen, an early 1900’s vampire from Chicago, and Bella Swan, a-not-so-typical teen from Arizona. Their love story is set in the perpetually overcast, but scenic town of Forks, Washington. Like Jessica Day, Bella is brought into a world beyond her High School reality…a world where she may have more power than she first imagined.
We realize many of our fellow book passers have probably already discovered and read (and reread) Twilight. The series has sold over 70 million copies worldwide, in 38 different languages. So sound off! Are you avoiding these books? Are you a Twihard fan? Here are some of our thoughts on this series that has taken the world by storm – feel free to add your own!
1. If you have only seen the Twilight movie, you are missing most of the excitement. Miley Cyrus in an interview with Teen Vogue said it best: “I’m not a huge Rob Patterson fan. Girls aren’t really in love with Rob; they’re in love with Edward”
Books are usually better than the movie, and in our humble opinion, this one was not unusual in that way. You can be fans of both, but the book’s tension is way beyond anything the big screen could possibly deliver.
2. Guys like Twilight. No really….They do!
An interesting stat: While teen girls seemed to be the target audience of the first Twilight film, Summit says 40% of its audience was male, with most of those viewers under 25. So the story is a bit gushy, but you can’t say it’s not interesting. If you want to find out what the craze is all about, read it. For moral support check out twilightguy.com, and soon you’ll see why “Real Men Read Twilight”. Also, we have heard reports that the graphic novel version from Yen Press is likely due out in 2010.
3. You should re-read New Moon before the movie comes out. Stephenie Meyer actually asked her fans to read New Moon twice so as to fully appreciate “the wondrousness that is Jacob Black”.
4. Did you know that each of the Twilight books is loosely based on a literary classic?
5. More Twilight @ your library for the true fan:
Muse: Black Holes and Revelations – Listen to the band that inspired the books.
Twilight : The Motion Picture Soundtrack
Twilight the Motion Picture Score
New Moon Soundtrack
New Moon the Motion Picture Score
And be sure to check out: Twilight Movie Night: Nov 19th, 6:00PM @ Miller Branch.
Twilight still not your thing? Check out other read-a-like titles.
Don’t forget to read, register, and pass!
So Yesterday is another one of Scott Westerfeld’s books. This title examines our appetite for stuff and for the right labels, as well as looking at the ways information about what’s cool is passed around society. In this version of reality (not so far removed from our own, perhaps?) the corporations employ “cool hunters” to hang out with the cool kids. It is the job of the cool hunters to observe people very closely and document the behavior of “innovators,” who are the first people to do something. That way, the corporations can decide which trends they’re going to take into the mainstream, and which will remain as individual eccentricities.
When Hunter (a cool-hunter for a mysterious agency) meets Jen (an innovator with fabulously-tied shoelaces,) he crosses a line by inviting her to a commercial screening. Mandy (Hunter’s boss at the agency) arranges to meet them the next day to talk about something big, but fails to make their meeting. Hunter finds her cellphone and a box of “the coolest shoes he’s ever seen.” Hunter is intrigued, because there’s no label on the shoes, and that is something very unusual in his world. He sets out to find out what happened to Mandy, uncovering a conspiracy by following a series of clues around the city, and learning something about how “cool” is created in the process.
For a unique reading experience, enjoy the beginning of So Yesterday on Westerfeld’s website with flash animation and photographs to illustrate the story, reminding us that we’re constantly surrounded by design, innovation and messages that prompt us to behave a certain way. After you’ve read, registered and passed your copy of The Secret Hour to a friend, check out So Yesterday to enjoy more provocative fiction from Scott Westerfeld.
Miranda’s life is as ordinary as any. With divorced parents, she lives with her mother, but is counting on seeing her father and stepmother after the school year is over. Her older brother is away at college, but her younger brother is still at home being his baseball loving self. Her friends may not be the greatest, but she does have friends, and lots of them. So when it is announced that a meteor is going to crash into the moon and that the impact will even be visible to the naked eye, Miranda has no reason to believe that anything bad will happen, besides the assignment of extra homework.
But the meteor knocks the moon out of its regular orbit, and now life is crazy. Natural disasters are happening everywhere, and people are dying all over the world. Schools close, stores begin running out of food, gas prices go up, and electricity goes out indefinitely. Miranda’s family doesn’t know what to do, or even if they will live, as life as we know it becomes “life as we knew it.”
Well, this book has a great and original plot, but it seems as if the author left it at that. While it does point out how lucky we are multiple times, this seems to be the only point of the book. Miranda’s diary entries should give us insight into her thoughts, but instead simply skip around the edges of who she is and what she is thinking. The book is simply a chronicle of the family’s progression from a normal situation to bad to worse, but the family seems overly lucky, and the reader is led to wonder if the book would be more of a success if told from a third person point of view. Sure, Susan Beth Pfeffer should be commended on her creativity and research, but could certainly have made this into a better book. While “Life as we Knew It” is readable and enjoyable, it is nowhere close to outstanding.
Reviewed by Bethany Davis for Howard County Library’s Teen Zine.
Editor’s Note: Reserve Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Watch this space for reviews of other read-a-like titles that we recommend. Please add your own review of Life as we Knew It in the comments.
Raised by the scholars of Jordan College, Oxford, Lyra Belacqua has been more comfortable outside the school than within it. She has spent her childhood roaming the back halls of the college, crossing the rooftops, and playing with the local street-children in the alleys, wharves and canals of town, keeping her daemon, Pantalaimon, close at hand. There’s a world out there that Lyra knows nothing about – a world of Gyptians and Gobblers, Armored Bears and Texan Aeronauts, Witch-clans and Tartar guards with their wolf-daemons. A world of severed children and the mysterious dust. Lyra’s way through this world will be pointed by The Golden Compass.
This first book in Philip Pullman‘s classic “His Dark Materials” trilogy follows Lyra as she realizes that the world is much bigger than she thought. Just as Jessica Day’s discovery of The Secret Hour will change her perception of reality forever, Lyra’s adventures will leave her with broad horizons and an appetite for exploration. Join Lyra as she journeys to the ends of the earth in Philip Pullman‘s The Golden Compass.
…and don’t forget to read, register, and pass!