Book Review: The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’Brian
Book Reviews / August 30, 2005

Here is the seventh of twenty novels in a series of adventures in historical / naval fiction that inspired the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. As in the other books, this one views the Napoleonic wars from the eyes of experienced Royal Navy Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, and his best friend, ship’s surgeon and intelligence officer, Dr. Stephen Maturin. The action picks up where The Fortune of War left off, with the pair escaping from the hostile American navy, along with the woman who has repeatedly broken Stephen’s heart.

Book Review: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
Book Reviews / August 24, 2005

This book was the basis for the MGM/UA animated movie The Secret of NIMH. It (the book, not the movie) won the Newbery Medal in 1972. The main character is Mrs. Frisby, a widowed field mouse who, with her two sons and two daughters, lives under a tree in a meadow in the summer, and inside a cinder block in a farmer’s field in the winter. As the story opens, the time for moving out of their winter house approaches (when the frost breaks up, the farmer will plow his field, so their home will be destroyed). But Mrs. Frisby has a problem. Her younger son, Timothy, a frail but very intelligent and kind little mouse, comes down with pneumonia and while he is recovering (thanks to medicines made by an old white mouse named Mr. Ages) he cannot be moved. He has to stay in bed, and he can’t survive even a breath of cold or damp air, the likes of which he is sure to run into if they move to their summer house now. Mrs. Frisby is desperate to figure out a solution to her dilemma: for as it stands, they can either move, and Timothy will die; or they can stay put, and all die together.

Book Review: The Reality Bug (Pendragon Book Four) by D.J. MacHale
Book Reviews / August 17, 2005

Suppose you’re Bobby Pendragon. Suppose you’re a fifteen-year-old, suburban basketball star whose life has been turned upside down. Your family has disappeared, your home has vanished, all trace of your existence has been erased, and you have been launched into a dangerous, deadly-serious adventure through time and space, in which the fate of ten worlds depends on stopping the evil plans of the shape-changing, demonically clever Saint Dane. Suppose you have watched some close friends die, and you have been forced to make terrible life-and-death decisions, and the only thing that keeps you going is that you are more scared of failing than of the danger you face.

Book Review: The Never War (Pendragon Book Three) by D.J. MacHale
Book Reviews / August 17, 2005

Cocky, yet down-to-earth. Hip, yet grounded. Well-liked, yet lonely. Scared out of his mind, yet known for his exceptional bravery. That’s 15-year-old Bobby Pendragon, the “Traveler” from Second Earth, who flumes from territory to territory, putting a stop to each of Saint Dane’s evil plans to throw all Halla into chaos.

Book Review: The Magickers by Emily Drake
Book Reviews / August 17, 2005

Jason Adrian seems like an ordinary boy…except that he lives with his stepmother and stepfather; and he has really wicked nightmares that wake him up every night at midnight; and he keeps getting attacked by a crow that once lured him into falling out of an attic window; and now, when an injury at tryouts sidelines him from summer soccer camp, he gets picked for an “English-geek camp” somewhere in Northern California. But Jason doesn’t know how extraordinary he really is, until he finds out that Camp Ravenwyng is really a school for the magically talented!

Book Review: The Lost City of Faar (Pendragon Book Two) by D.J. MacHale
Book Reviews / August 17, 2005

Bobby Pendragon, 14-year-old cosmic hero, was last seen plunging through a “flume” with his Uncle Press, traveling to another territory (planet? dimension? time?), leaving his nerdy best friend Mark and his jockish girlfriend Courtney to wait, wonder, and read the journals that he occasionally sends them. His parents, his sister, his dog, and their whole house had vanished into nowhere. Not much of a welcome back from his first death-defying trip to another world (reality? universe?) in The Merchant of Death, in which Bobby experienced danger, warfare, responsibility for the fate of millions, failure, triumph, the death of a friend, and an unresolved vendetta with the Evil One himself: Saint Dane.

Book Review: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins
Book Reviews / August 17, 2005

Somewhere or other, Suzanne Collins claimed that she conceived the Underland Chronicles as a modern, urban answer to Alice in Wonderland. To be sure, what Gregor finds at the bottom of a manhole in Central Park is jarringly different from the topsy-turvyland Alice found at the bottom of her English rabbit hole. It is so different, in fact, that I am inclined to think of Underland as more of an Oz for the 21st century.

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Book Reviews / August 16, 2005

In Scholastic’s “About the Author” blurb, Suzanne Collins explains her first novel as a 21st-century, New York City version of “Alice in Wonderland” – in the sense that instead of a rabbit hole, you might fall down a manhole – and what you would find at the bottom would be quite different too. What 11-year-old Gregor finds is an underground kingdom populated by purple-eyed people who live in harmony with giant bats (“fliers”). Their uneasy allies include giant spiders (called “spinners”) and giant cockroaches (“crawlers”). And their chief enemy is a race of man-sized, man-eating rats (“gnawers”).

Book Review: The Thief and the Beanstalk by P. W. Catanese
Book Reviews / August 10, 2005

I think this is the first book written by the author of The Brave Apprentice. Both books, and presumably The Eye of the Warlock also, belong to a series called “Further Tales.” The Brave Apprentice is the further tale of what happened after the classic tale of the Brave Little Tailor. And naturally, The Thief and the Beanstalk is the further tale that happens after “Jack and the Beanstalk.”