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Monday, May 30, 2011

The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen

Summary: The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen is a tense and suspenseful page turner, much like her previous book, The Compound. The tagline caught my attention immediately: “This greenhouse…grows humans.”

Mason’s life is quiet but imperfect. He & his mom manage to get by on her meager salary from Haven of Peace nursing home. He’s used to strangers staring at him thanks to his gargantuan size and the huge scar on his face from a dog attack when he was young.

Mason’s life becomes much more exciting when he digs into his mom’s papers and finds that she’s been keeping secrets from him – more secrets than he had imagined. Determined to know the truth about his mom and to discover who his mysterious father is, Mason sneaks into Haven of Peace to demand answers. Instead, he gets a mystery more intriguing than he had counted on.

Mason ends up on the run with a resident of Haven of Peace; a girl his own age who doesn’t know who she is. Their pursuers not only include the typical "men in black" types, but also more residents of Haven of Peace; teens just like her.  Solving her mystery may lead Mason to all the answers he has sought. But is he ready? And what will he do once he knows the truth?

The science-fiction elements in this book inspired me to do my own research and see how much of the background in the book was true. I love it when a book can get me so interested in a topic that I have to know more.

What is right? (morality)

Age Appropriateness:
Grades 7& up

Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: 2 instances
Nudity/Adult Content: none
Violence: mild

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger

Summary: Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset by Tom Angleberger is a silly mystery that is great for those times you truly want to read just for fun.

Horton Halfpott is a kitchen boy at Smugwick Manor, home of the Luggertuck family. Life at Smugwick Manor is very comfortable….if you’re a Luggertuck. If you’re a servant, you get the worst gruel, too much work, and almost no pay. Despite the hardships, Horton works hard and always does his best. He has to. His family depends on the meager salary he earns.

Life at Smugwick Manor changes one morning when M’Lady Luggertuck decides to loosen her corset. With the loosening of M’Lady’s corset, there comes a loosening of many of the strict rules that have controlled life at the Manor for years. And, even more shocking, M’Lady Luggertuck agrees to host a ball to help her love-struck nephew catch the eye of a wealthy young woman.

True chaos ensues when a family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump, is stolen. M’Lady Luggertuck brings in a detective to find the culprit and Horton finds himself set up to take the blame for this, and many other, missing items at the manor.

The book is full of funny asides to the reader, many of which reference previous adventures of the Luggertuck family. (None of which are actually available, but all of which sound hilarious!) Much like Lemony Snickett, Angleberger addresses the Reader often, giving a feeling of engagement and involvement, making it feel almost like a conversation between the narrator and the reader.

The other characters in this story are fun and there are hints of future stories for a few of them scattered throughout the book. Bump, one of the stable boys, is said to have royal blood flowing through his veins, but does not know it. (The reader knows, thanks to one of the narrator’s asides.) The shipless pirates add an additional element of hilarity to the proceedings. (First of all, they’re shipless pirates. That is funny enough. But their captain is also painfully honorable, for a pirate, leading to further chuckles.)

I highly recommend this book for a light afternoon read! I hope to see more from this author. There are so many promising sub-plots in this book that could be developed into full stories.


Age Appropriateness:
Grades 2 & up

Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: none
Nudity/Adult Content: none
Violence: mild