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Exposure

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Mal Peet's novel is loosely based Othello by Shakespeare. Interestingly it is set in South America with Otello being a soccer player. Normally, I am not one to read sports based novels, but this was one that made me curious as to how Shakespeare would become a contemporary sports work. There really is not much soccer action in the book, it is more about how a sadistic, racist agent manipulates the tragic downfall of goodhearted, trusting athlete. I am not familiar with South American politics, but the picture painted by Peet is one full of corruption and one which lends itself easily to Otello's downfall. If you are familiar with Othello, you know that a biracial couple marry and must overcome the racism and jealousy of that time. Unfortunately Iago manages to manipulate practically everyone causing Othello to suspect Desdemona of being unfaithful and ultimately kills her. Mal Peet's version does not have anyone dying but one of the minor characters in Exposure. I wish he had let the heartless manipulator come to the same fate as Iago. Since he did not, Exposure left me with the desire to exact my own revenge on the slimbag. I guess I got into the book. I think that those who enjoy Peet's works will like this one too and will be able to relate to a number of the characters.The side story of the children and the journalist who helps them as well as befriending Otello is also interesting and makes you care what happens to the kids.I am familiar with the play and I know the outcome, but I was still hoping Peet would make a different ending since it was "loosely" based on the Shakespeare play but of course he didn't. It is a tragedy for all concerned except for Diego Mendose, the soulless agent. Too bad Emilia couldn't devour him and rid the world of him.
Mudshark

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Another winner by Paulsen. If you are a boy and want a quick read with lots of humor and the kind of guy stuff boys like, this is the book for you.I've always read like a boy so I enjoyed this one.Lyle Williams, otherwise known as Mudshark, is twelve years old and considered very cool. Mudshark is very intelligent and has honed his skills of observation so that he pretty much has a photographic memory. This comes in very handy because he can find anything anyone loses.There are some strange things going on at school and with the appearance of a psychic parrot, things get stranger. Mudshark's principal finally asks Mudshark to help solve the mysteries. You will be very entertained by how Mudshark goes about fulfilling the principal's request. As I said this is short and sweet. It will definitely appeal to those male readers who may not be that thrilled with reading. I think this would be a good read-aloud in a classroom setting. I do believe even the girls would find this funny.It was so quick a read that I found that I wished it would have gone on longer. I also think I would like to read more adventures of Mudshark.
The Fire of Ares

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Greece and Sparta always catch my interest. Usually when novels are written about Ancient Greece they are generally about Athens or Athenians, so it was refreshing to find that the author is aware that Greeces' history goes beyond Athens. While realizing that Sparta was very much the opposite of Athens, I have always admired the stubborn almost seemingly manacial bravery of the Spartan citizens. There were many things wrong with Spartan society during the time The Fire of Ares is set. Ford's descriptions are brutally realistic and he does address the terrible inequity of the Spartan citizens and the helots. Lysander is caught between two worlds. His father was a Spartan and his mother was a helot. He wants a better world for his mother, his best friend (Timeon), himself and other helots. Lysander is sent to the agoge, where Spartan warriors are trained, because his Spartan grandfather discovers that his son Thorakis has left a son (Lysander). The characters are interesting and there is a good amount of action, which should please male readers. Lysander is strong and just manages to hold his own against most of the Spartan boys who hate him. The ending is a bit surprising and Lysander finds himself in a very tough dilemma. It will be interesting to see what kind of path lies in front of him in the sequel.
Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow

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James Rollins wastes no time in getting our hero and his sister into a life or death adventure. The Ransom children's parents disappearduring an expedition in the Yucatan Peninsula. Jake shares his parents' affinity for exploring the past, which is a good thing since those kind of thought processes and his archeological knowledge will come in handy during times of crisis.Jake and Kady become involved with a corporation that is sponsoring an exhibit of Mayan treasures in London. Since this is what their parents were looking for, they are convinced to be a part of the ceremonies on the opening of the exhibit. It is during some private time before the public is allowed into the exhibit that some very strange things happen. The strangest is that Jake and Kady find themselves in a world that is absolutely unbelievable. Trying to survive in this new world and finding themselves in the uncomfortable positon of having to save it complicate their desire to get back home. The Ransoms make new friends and come up with some creative ways of helping their new friends. However, their primary mission is to find a way to get back home.Lots of action will keep the reader turning the pages. The readers will appreciate how much influence and power the young characters have in the book. Jake, Kady and their new friends are all likable and I think that they are characters with whom readers can relate. There is lots of intrigue and mystery. I was left wanting more and wanting to find out if Jake and Kady find out what happened to their parents. So I suppose I will have to wait to read the next installment. Sometimes I really hate series, especially when I have wait for the next book to become available.
The Magic Thief: Lost: Book Two

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Lost is the sequel to Magic Thief. The first introduces us to Connwaer, a young street boy who is a thief. Stealing is how Conn survives, however, he steals something very special from a wizard. This theft starts him on a path is full of adventure and danger.Conn continues his dangerous exploits as Nevery's apprentice in Lost. Once again Wellmet is in danger, this time by horrifying shadows that turn people into stone. Even Nevery is dumbfounded as to where the threat originates. Since the loss of his locus magicalicus, Conn has been trying to find a way to communicate with the magic of Wellmet. Pyrotechnics seem to be the only way magic can let Conn Know what he must do. Unfortunately, Conn's experiments blows up Nevery's and Conn's newfound home and gets himself exiled from Wellmet.As in so many stories of this kind, where a youngster has been orphaned and is trying who he/she is and where he/she belongs, Conn is faced with finding out which people he can trust and what kind of skills and talents he has that will see him through his ordeal. There are unknown obstacles and dangers that must be faced. Prineas' characters are very interesting, neither all good or all bad. There are some gray areas that make the reader wonder about the individuals around Conn. I cannot honestly say that I like any of them really well, but because they are fascinating and you wonder what their intentions are, etc, you keep turning the pages. The action is paced well and I like that there also some strong female characters included in the story. There are no pat solutions and the reader is left wondering whether Wellmet, Nevery and Conn will prevail. I hope Sarah Prineas will share more of Conn's adventures with us.
Heck

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Different kind of plot, it was interesting to think about another place one (especially if you are a kid) one might go when you die. The characters are very interesting, even the pheripheral ones. The descriptions are gross and really yucky! I imagine that readers in grades 4 through 6 will find this quite enjoyable. Thank goodness I survived childhood because if I had not, I cannot even imagine being able to stay sane in a place like this. Spoiled food in the cafetorium (I have a terrible gag reflex!) Showers that run with mud instead of water. Woven hair pajamas (scratch, scratch) and filth everywhere.And just think a sequel, coming out in July 2009. I will probably read it because I need to know what happens to Milton, Marlo and Virgil.
The Farwalker's Quest

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This sounds like the beginning of an interesting possible series. I know that some people are not fond of series and I myself am somewhat ambivalent. I really like them and then sometimes I do not.I do not know if this is set on Earth and it does not really matter. This is a slightly different twist on humans rediscovering a past history and fearing the discovery. The past destroyed civilization and there is fear that finding out about the past and its machines, etc will cause destruction once again.Two youngsters Ariel and Zeke are on the threshold of taking possession of their "special" gifts/powers. As young adulthood approaches, each individual will be tested for their aptitudes. Some will become Healers, other Fishers, others Tree-Singers, etc. A strange device and strangers coming to the village cause problems before Namingfest occurs. Namingfest is when the youngsters get their last names. For instance, Ariel is expected to become a Healer since her mother is a Healer. If she passes her Namingfest test, her name will become Ariel Healer. Namingfest arrives and so does the disappointment and tragedy that marks the beginning of Ariel's and Zeke's momentous journey. Neither youngster ever dreamed that they would be leaving their village and begin walking a path of danger and uncertainty.The main characters are all very interesting. Ariel and Zeke must hurriedly adapt to world that can be wild and life threatening. They must grow up much faster than either likes. The changes as they take place show the adaptability of both youngsters. It is painful sometimes to see how they are forced to mature so soon. Scarl, who abducts Ariel is not at all what he seems. It took me some time to figure out whether he was a white hat or a black hat. It is only later in the book when one better understands his circumstances that one decides which he is.As I said, the ending certainly leaves this open to further adventures for Ariel and Scarl and perhaps Zeke. It is an interesting premise when the possible hope of this world lies in a young girl who is still learning what and who she is. I am looking forward to more from Ms. Sensel. I like the way she writes and I like her characters.
Tango: The Tale of an Island Dog

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A Yorkie thrown overboard in a storm, a girl who has moved from one foster home to another, a fox who is a self-appointed guardian of the girl, a lonely older woman and a three-legged cat. What a mix! Eileen Beha, a first novelist, had done a pretty good job of putting an interesting tale together. Tango, the Yorkie is a pampered pup who lives the absolutely GOOD LIFE. Unfortunately, a storm throws him into a different kind of situation. He winds up with a somewhat reluctant rescuer, Miss Gustie. McKenna, who has been bouncing from one foster home to another, becomes a part of Tango's existence. Beau, a fox, who has been watching over McKenna since she was a baby becomes a mentor to Tango. Nigel Stump, the three legged cat, also plays a part in Tango's survival on the Island.Obviously some things happen conveniently and the story has what looks to be a happy future for all. There is plenty of action and excitement that makes the reader turn the page because you want to find out what happens next. The journey to that ending was not an easy one for any of the characters. There was a great deal of anguish, pain, tears and suffering. Both the human and nonhuman characters were pretty well developed and interesting. Most of the bad guys were nonhuman, cats. As a cat lover, it was hard to accept but there are always bad guys in every group, right? The action moved back and forth from human world to nonhuman world very well. This was a fast moving novel and I think it works on several levels. You find yourself caring about whether Tango will make the transition to his new life. You want McKenna to find a home as well, where she feels like she is welcome and loved. You also want Beau to find the peace he is searching for and you want Nigel Stump to escape from the influence of those horrible cats. I enjoyed this first novel and I think others will as well.
Nightmare at the Book Fair

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Trip gets into more adventures and trouble than I thought possible. Of all the places for these adventures--the library!! Trip is not a reader, mostly he likes anything else. However, he gets stuck helping the PTA President. That is his first mistake and the fact that he lets a box of books fall on top of him. The story moves along pretty quickly and the adventure is varied. There are puns galore, hopefully this is not lost on the youngsters reading the book. Some of them are kind of cheesy, but you still have to laugh.Trip is funny and likable. I think that boys can probably relate to him and feel a part of the adventure. There are also some gross moments that boys are sure to enjoy! It is also a fast read, another sure thing to recommend itself.
Creature of the Night

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The story is set in Ireland and it certainly sounds like a vampire or werewolf tale, but it isn't. How about a story involving the sidhe? The wee people or perhaps, wee person, play a role in this slight creepy tale.Bobby gets himself in one too many scrapes. He and his cousin are part of a gang of thieves in Dublin. Bobby's mother decides the best way to keep Bobby out of trouble and to avoid the moneylenders she owes money to is to move to the coountry. Bobby does not like the idea and once he gets a look at where they wind up, he tells his mother he's going back to Dublin.The previous tenant of the cottage they are renting, simply left. No one knows where he went. Since no identification or money was found, it was assumed he just left. No one seems overly concerned. However, as Bobby's curiosity gets the better of him, he finds evidence to suggest that Lars never left. There are also some strange draawings and writings of Lars' that sound somewhat like the superstitious tales of fairies.None of the main characters are likable. Bobby is a troubled teen who has no respect for his mother and shows it. His mother leaves much to be desired as a mother, but she was very young when she got pregnant and her family more or less deserted her. Dennis, Bobby's younger brother is to be pitied since both his mother and brother treat him somewhat cruelly.Creature of the Night is more a study in how Bobby begins to see the world in a different light and how he has to change in order to relate to this new world. The old tales and gruesome discover of Lars also make him wonder about the reality of the Tuatha de Danaan. It is interesting and the ending is not neatly tied up, but I see a more mature man with perhaps a chance at a future.
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