Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Heir Apparent

Heir Apparent
It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?Title: Heir Apparent
Author: Vivian Vande Velde
Publication Date: June 1, 2004
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Science fiction
Pages: 352
Age Rating: Readers over 9
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       Have you ever dreamed about being transported into an entirely new world?  In Heir Apparent, characters have access to virtual reality video games that immerse their minds in fantastical and fictional worlds for short periods of time.  Heir Apparent is a fun and exciting read, but it is also becoming relevant to modern day society due to the fact that virtual reality games are becoming possible.  This review of Heir Apparent is a part of It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?, a blogging meme hosted by Teach Mentor Texts, Book Journeys, and Unleashing Readers.

       Giannine, who has just turned fourteen, receives a certificate to her local Rasmussem Gaming Center that allows her to play a virtual reality game for half an hour.  She is thrilled to try out a new game, choosing "Heir Apparent", and her mind is virtually transported to the Medieval ages.  She is faced with the task of becoming the next King of a small country, and starts off as a lowly goat herder with no allies.  However, as soon as Giannine starts the game, the Rasmussem Gaming Center has technical difficulties and she becomes stuck in the alternate reality.  She must complete the difficult and perilous quest as quickly as possible - if she takes too long, she risks brain damage and even death in real life.

       Heir Apparent has a very creative plot line, but it is also comparable to Conor Kostick's novel, Epic, and the popular movie, Groundhog Day.  Specifically, Kostick's Epic also involves virtual reality games, but it is geared towards an older audience.  Plus, Heir Apparent is reminiscent of Groundhog Day in that Giannine is stuck repeating the same quest over and over until she manages to complete it successfully.  She doesn't know if she will be able to escape from the game, just like Phil from Groundhog Day when he has to relive the same day until he changes his attitude.  I love Vande Velde's writing because it shares characteristics with these other two works; however, I'm not sure if these similar aspects are intentional or not.
Other Rasmussem books by Vivian Vande Velde

       Virtual reality games are beginning to make their mark in modern day society.  Just about a week ago, Entertainment Magazine had an article all about how these games are becoming more available to society through video game systems such as the Wii and the Xbox Kinect.  Users can immerse their bodies in the games; for example, in Wii bowling, the user swings his or her arm as if throwing a bowling ball.  However, with new inventions like Google Glass, these games are about to become a whole lot more realistic.  I have high hopes for these inventions, but after reading Heir Apparent, I realize that we must be very careful with technology.  Heir Apparent is a very engaging read, especially for younger readers who are late elementary and middle schoolers.  I would recommend it to science fiction lovers as well.

Happy reading!

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Fugitive X

Fugitive X
It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?Title: Fugitive X
Author: Gregg Rosenblum
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Science fiction, dystopian
Pages: 272
Age Rating: Readers over 12
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       Sometimes I feel annoyed with authors who write sequels because they feel the need to completely recap their previous novel in the first few chapters of the sequel.  Therefore, for this It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? (a blogging meme hosted by Teach Mentor Texts, Book Journeys, and Unleashing Readers), I chose to review Fugitive X, by Gregg Rosenblum, because it skips the usual sequel boredom and jumps right into the action.

       Nick, Kevin, and Cass are the returning main characters from Revolution 19, and they have escaped the City and are on the run from killer robots in the wilderness.  The "Bots" wish to capture the three siblings in order to return them to the City for Reeducation, meaning wiping their brains of all memories and integrating them into society.  However, the siblings have other plans - they want to rescue their parents from the City and stay clear of Reeducation.  Things do not go as planned when Cass is captured by the Bots and Nick and Kevin are split up.  They have to put their trust in a sketchy rebel organization if they want any hope of helping their sister and rescuing their parents.  Along the way, they discover some horrifying secrets about their pasts and futures.

       This sci-fi novel is one of the most action-packed books that I've read in a while - there are killer robots and dangerous rebels on every page.  Nick, Kevin, and Cass are double-crossed, tricked, and played, and they struggle to figure out who they can trust in the wilderness.  I think that the most interesting aspect of the novel is the relationship between humans and robots.  Although there is a unified feeling of hatred towards the City Bots, Kevin especially has to interact with a new race of bots and discovers that they are not all as bad as they seem.

Revolution 19
Book one of the
Revolution 19 series
       The biggest positive and negative about Fugitive X is that it stays true to the point of a sequel - it is entirely a continuation of the first book in the series.  Characters from the previous novel are not reintroduced, so unacquainted readers will be extremely confused about what is going on.  However, the novel both starts off and ends with a plot twist, so it is an excellent bridge between the first and third books.

       Fugitive X has both male and female appeal in that two of the main characters are boys and one is a girl.  There is plenty of action and violence to satisfy a young male audience, most likely aimed towards middle- and high-schoolers, and there is a great deal of suspense.  Any science fiction lover will appreciate the unique world that Gregg Rosenblum has created in his Revolution 19 series, but watch out - you must read the books in order!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: The Final Four

The Final Four
Title: The Final Four
Author: Paul Volponi
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 256
Age Rating: Readers over 10
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       First of all, I want to congratulate both the men's and the women's UConn basketball teams for having amazing finishes and winning the NCAA championships!!!!!  Way to go!  After such an amazing NCAA tournament, this is the perfect opportunity to spotlight a book that is all about basketball - The Final Four, by Paul Volponi.  The novel spotlights individual basketball players from two different teams that are playing one another in order to get to the championship game.  It is a fantastic and relevant read for all sports lovers.

       The Final Four starts off in the middle of the action-packed semi-final game of the NCAA tournament, where the Michigan State Spartans are facing off against the Troy Trojans.  The Trojans are major underdogs who are lucky enough to have made it into the tournament in the first place, but they come out on the court with a vengeance like no other.  The Spartans, on the other hand, have been predicted to win the match up with ease.  When the Trojans give the Spartans a run for their money and the game goes into overtime, team drama begins to unfold and tensions run high.  The Final Four is narrated by four different players, Malcolm and MJ from the Spartans, and Roko and Crispin from the Trojans.  Each player's past, present, and future come into play as they each fight to bring their team to the NCAA Championship.


       Talk about a book that is spot on with current events.  Aside from the NCAA championship recently ending, there has also been talk of changing certain NCAA policies.  In The Final Four, Malcolm from Michigan State has high hopes of becoming an NBA player after his freshman year.  He protests the rule requiring players to attend college for at least a year before joining the NBA.  Malcolm also dislikes how the NCAA tournament generates so much revenue while the college players receive "nothing" in return.  Malcolm's controversial comments ring true in real life as seen in Northwestern University football attempts to unionize as well as in the new approval of unlimited meals for athletes, spurred on by UConn's Shabazz Napier's comment on going to bed hungry.

       My favorite part about The Final Four is it's narration by four different characters.  Each player has a very distinct point of view, and author Paul Volponi does an excellent job of connecting their backgrounds and upbringings with their current views.  Another thing that I enjoyed about the novel is how it blends basketball with relationships between the players, so it is action-packed as well as thoughtful.

       The Final Four has a particular audience - if you do not follow basketball or understand the rules, you will probably be confused while reading.  Also, I would recommend that high school boys read The Final Four because of its young male narration.  Although it has a specific audience, it is a thrilling read that brings up a number of current social issues.

Happy reading!

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride
It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?Title: Along for the Ride
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publication Date: June 16, 2009
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 383
Age Rating: Readers over 12
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       I never thought that I would read so many realistic fiction books in such a short period of time!  Realistic fiction used to be my least favorite genre, but it is slowly growing on me.  For this week's It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?, a blogging meme hosted by Teach Mentor TextsBook Journeys, and Unleashing Readers, I chose to review Along for the Ride, a realistic fiction novel by Sarah Dessen.  I have seen so many raving Sarah Dessen book reviews that reading Along for the Ride was practically a necessity, and I am glad I gave it a chance.

       Auden has missed out on a normal childhood due to the fact that her mother and her father forced her to grow up early.  Her mother is a college professor who is in high demand, and her father is a budding author who devotes all of his time to writing.  After her parents' divorce, Auden strives to be the perfect child by earning stellar grades and staying out of trouble.  The summer before Auden goes to college, she gets the opportunity to spend the summer at her dad's beach house.  Her entire perspective starts to change as she grows close to her step-mom, Heidi, and becomes less focused on school work.  Auden begins to make friends for the first time ever, and she is romantically intrigued by the mysterious former biker, Eli.  After a thrilling summer full of changes, Auden has to decide if she wants to revert back to her former studious self or embrace her adventurous side.

       When I saw the cover of Along for the Ride, I thought that it would be a sappy romance novel.  Girl wearing pink dress, boy in jeans.  Pretty typical.  However, by the time that I finished the novel, I realized that the cover of the book was completely wrong.  For starters, Auden would never be caught dead in a pink sundress!  Auden is not a typical girly girl who has the summer of her lifetime; instead, she is a tomboy that doesn't even like the beach.  Auden is not exactly a relatable main character, due to the fact that she had absolutely zero friends growing up, but she is considerate and kind to those around her, and she is a pleasure to read about.  

       One of the most interesting character dynamics in the book is that of Auden and Heidi.  Auden initially resents Heidi because she is still upset at her parents' divorce.  Plus, Auden can't see past Heidi's girly pink exterior.  However, when Heidi struggles to care for her newborn baby girl, Auden really steps up to the plate and is extremely helpful.  She is able to find a strong leader and a role model in Heidi and comes to love her by the end of the novel.

       Overall, Along for the Ride was a pleasurable and happy read that would be great for an afternoon on the beach, but it certainly is not hard hitting or particularly memorable.  It deals with issues such as divorce and drunk driving, but the novel is more cutesy and fun than deep.  I would suggest that teenage girls read Along for the Ride because it has absolutely no male reader appeal, and grown ups may not appreciate Auden's coming of age story.

Happy reading and happy Monday!