Sep 152014
 

Janitors4Strike of the Sweepers (Janitors #4)

Author: Tyler Whitesides

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Published Date: September 9, 2014

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Hardcover/Kindle/Nook/Audio: 388 pages

ISBN# 978-1-60907-907-9

Reviewed by: Shanda

FTC FYI: Received a free hardcover in exchange for an honest review

Summary (DeseretBook.com)

The stakes have never been higher, and you’ve never seen squeegees do this before! It is a wild and slightly unsanitary ride as Spencer, Daisy, and the Rebel Janitors find themselves chased by Mr. Clean’s new and terrifying half-breed Toxites—the Sweepers. Time is short. With the fabled Manualis Custodem in hand, Spencer must figure out how to summon the Founding Witches if they ever hope to mop up and save education.

Review

The Janitors series holds its own in the world of middle-grade novels, and this latest release strengthens that position. I read Strike of the Sweepers thinking this was the last book in the series, mainly because the nonstop action and dramatic events made me think we were heading to the big finale. Only at the very end did I realize how wrong I was. There is one more book in the series, and if it’s anything like Strike of the Sweepers, readers will be in for a wild ride.

I think fans of the Janitors series are really going to love Strike of the Sweepers. Tyler knows how to write in a style that appeals to middle grade readers, especially boys, though I know there are a lot of girls who love this series as well. Tyler’s experience in janitorial work at an elementary school adds a dimension to the story that makes the fantastical become possible in the imaginations of young readers.

This might be my favorite book in the series so far. It was fast-paced and held my attention. The descriptions were just right and I could easily picture the settings. I would give examples, but I’m trying to keep things spoiler free. All I will say is dust. You know what part I’m talking about, right, Tyler?

I love the fun and clever little touches that appear throughout the book, from the title of the first chapter (“Pink is not stealthy.”) to character names (Professor Dustin DeFleur), scary bad guys (made out of TP), and awesome defensive capabilities (trash cannon – yeah!).

I admit to being fascinated by Dez as a character. He’s both bad guy and good guy at the same time, annoying yet integral, a bully and selfish yet still somehow a part of the team. In this book, there is a big part of the story where the kids are on their own, dealing with problems and coming up with solutions by working together. I think kids reading Strike of the Sweepers will really enjoy that part of the story. After all, who wouldn’t want to drive a magical garbage truck?

There’s a twist at the end that I did not see coming. All I will say is that it’s going to make the last book very interesting. Also, I wish I had squeegees that worked like that.

Strike of the Sweepers is a fun read and a great addition to the Janitors series. I can easily recommend this book to middle-grade readers who love adventure and magic, and don’t mind a little gross here and there.

Visit Tyler:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

Find Strike of the Sweepers:

DESERET BOOK | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON

 

 

 

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Sep 162013
 

JanitorsCurseBroomstaffJanitors: Curse of the Broomstaff (#3)

Author: Tyler Whitesides

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Published Date: September 10, 2013

Hardcover/Kindle/CD/Audible/DB Bookshelf: 343 pages

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

ISBN# 978-1609076054

Reviewed by: Shanda & Sheila

FTC FYI: free digital review copy in exchange for an honest review

Summary

A secret society of Janitors with wizard-like powers continue their battle, and now, the stakes are even higher. The Bureau of Educational Maintenance is after Alan Zumbro and this time they mean business – deadly business. Spencer, Daisy, and their little team of rebels must find the source of all magical Glop and destroy it before it can destroy the world as we know it. No small task with the BEM and their monster toxites at their heels. It’s a wild and dangerous ride as they follow the trail of clues all the way to the hiding place of the mysterious aurans: guardians of a secret landfill. What they discover there will change the way Spencer sees himself, not to mention the fate of the rebels.

Shanda’s Review

In the Janitors series, Tyler Whitesides has created a magical, adventure-filled world that middle-grade boys and girls will enjoy visiting again and again. With humor and lots of Glopified action, Spencer and Daisy continue to battle threats to education and learn to use even more magical cleaning supplies as they form new alliances and new enemies.

Germaphobe Spencer must deal with an increased level of gross in order to overcome the new challenges facing him and Daisy as they battle the BEM. From a week at an exclusive school to trekking through an expansive landfill, it seems that Spencer and Daisy will never defeat the BEM and find what they seek. They don’t know who to trust when betrayal follows betrayal.

Though this third book is over 300 pages, it reads quickly. The Janitors series is great for 8-12 year olds who love adventure and magic, but parents might enjoy it just as much. There is a fair amount of disgusting (they deal with a lot of garbage after all), and readers are introduced to a fun character who takes trash-obsession to a whole new level.

Spencer experiences some self-discovery about his abilities, as well as learning what Daisy is capable of beyond her sweet, somewhat gullible personality. Even Dez’s character experiences a little growth. I was concerned that in Book 2 (I have the ARC, so this might be different in the final version), Dez bullies Spencer in front of Spencer’s mother (both emotionally and physically by pinching him) and she says nothing while he and Daisy sit there and take it. I wouldn’t want kids to think that if they are bullied and their parents don’t notice or say anything that they should just accept it. There are times, though, that Spencer does stand up to Dez. In Curse of the Broomstaff, Spencer is learning to stand up to Dez more often, and even shows some maturity when he is concerned for Dez’s welfare without subjecting himself to more bullying.

Fans of the first two Janitors books will enjoy Curse of the Broomstaff. I’m curious about how many books are planned for the series, because the story definitely isn’t finished yet. I suspect many young readers are happy to know that there are more Janitors books to come.

Sheila’s Review

Janitors has become one of my favorite Middle Grade series. As a teacher, I’m often asked by students and parents what books/series I recommend they read. Janitors is one that I highly recommend and often do.

There is so much to love about this third book. (I also strongly advise you read the first two books in the series because it will make your read so much more enjoyable.) The main characters, sixth-graders Spencer and Daisy, have grown into their roles as true heroes and rebel fighters. They prove over and over again how much they have learned, and save the day quite often in this book. They are awesome using their magical weapons/tools: flying brooms, Glopified mops,and plungers. The action escalates in book three and is as messy as ever. (This is in reference to the world’s greatest school cafeteria food fight!)

What is truly funny is the message from the author at the beginning of the book.

“Dear Reader,

Here it is: the third installment in the JANITORS series. And I must admit, this is definitely the trashiest book I’ve ever written. No, literally. This book is full of garbage.

This time, our young heroes must venture deep into an enchanted landfill. They will battle heaps of living garbage and hike through distorted trashscapes as they discover a mysterious group of kids living among the refuse, harboring a centuries-old secret that could save the future of education. As you can see, I take garbage very seriously.”

It is so true! Poor Spencer who hates germs and getting dirty has his hands full. I loved all of the new characters and creatures that were introduced. Tyler really hiked up the intensity of the action and suspense. It was also a plus to see more interaction between Spencer and his father Alan. I think they both learned a lot in this adventure about themselves and each other.

As with the other books, the ending leaves you wanting more with Spencer’s new title and mission. What is that title and new mission? I’m not saying anything, except that you need to read Janitors Book 3: Curse of the Broomstaff to find the answer. With engaging and bright characters, beefed-up energy and action, and written especially for elementary age kids, (even though teens and adults will love the books too!) the Janitors series needs to be put on your children’s to-read list today.

Visit Tyler Whitesides:

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

Find Janitors: Curse of the Broomstaff:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | DESERET BOOK | SEAGULL BOOK | GOODREADS

janitors 3

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Jan 042012
 

The Ember Gods

Author: Andrea Pearson

Publisher: Self

Published: 2011

Paperback: 268 pages

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

ISBN: 9781466381612

FTC FYI: I received a PDF copy in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by Mindy

Goodreads summary:  ”Jacob Clark has just returned from the world of Eklaron, where he frustrated the evil plans of the Lorkon and returned the magical Key of Kilenya to its rightful owners. His quest is far from over, though–Aloren is trapped in Maivoryl City by the Ember Gods, and Jacob can’t return to save her until he receives the potion that will protect his team from the corrosive influence of the Lorkon.

Balancing between this new world and his own proves tricky. Not only has he started his first year of high school, but his magical abilities are bringing him too much attention. He feels pulled by both sides, hoping he’ll figure out his special powers to save Aloren in time.”

This engaging sequel picks up right where The Key of Kilenya stops. Jacob has only been back from his adventure for a short time.  He is coping with his new abilities, all while starting high school. Many frustrating things happen for Jacob on his first day.  Most difficult for him is having his journal taken away, and he won’t get it back for the rest of the week. That was Jacob’s assignment from the Makalos.  Read that journal, it will help answer his questions.  He and Matt get home from school and right away are summoned back to help the Makolos. There is an army coming. He and Matt rush to help.

What was hard for Jacob during this book was his wanting to help and rescue Aloren.  The Fat Lady wants to wait until all of the rescuers can have the protection of a potion. One that takes a very long time to make.  His concern for Aloren has him not using his best judgement.  Jacob and Matt sneak and use the key to try to save her.

I really enjoyed this book!  I loved the action scenes. Especially near the end.  I did think that the basketball playing was a little distracting. I know basketball is a love of Jacob’s, but it took me away from the story a bit.  I thought the Ember Gods were really cool though, and I wanted more from them.  Really great villains. As always, the characters are well written, creative, and enjoyable.  I love this world Andrea has created.  There is an awesome surprise at the end, and I’m very excited for Kilenya Book 3, August Fortress, to see where this new information will take the characters.

4 out of 5 stars. A great action/adventure story. Find out more about Andrea Pearson here. Here is the purchase link for The Ember Gods on smashwords.

Also available from Andrea Pearson:

The Key of Kilenya

Samara: A Kilenya Romance

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Nov 222011
 

Tuesdays at the Castle

Author: Jessica Day George

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published Date: October 2011

Hardcover; 228 pages

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Reviewed by: Shanda, Sheila & Mindy

FTC FYI: purchased own copy

Shanda’s Review

I have been anxiously awaiting Tuesdays at the Castle since Jessica first told us what she was working on back in March 2010. A magical castle that changes every Tuesday (or more often if it feels like it) and an 11-year-old princess that can communicate with it? What a fun idea.

I have yet to read another author with Jessica’s particular talent in fairytale storytelling. Tuesdays at the Castle will appeal to girls and boys- girls because the main character is the youngest princess in a royal family, and boys because Rolf, the second oldest son and the castle’s choice for heir to the throne, must take over and rule the kingdom in the absence of his father.

Prince Rolf, Princess Delilah, and Princess Cecilia fight to keep the castle in the family once their father, mother and oldest brother are attacked on the road and are presumed dead. With the help of the castle (and sometimes the maids) the royal children must fight the evil prince from a neighboring country and the Royal Council who are trying to force Rolf into relinquishing the right to rule.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tuesdays at the Castle. Not only did it bring out the little girl in me, I also enjoyed it from an adult’s perspective. Jessica has taken the seemingly simple story of royal children in a magical castle and added layers of good vs. evil, integrity, hope, humor, obligation, faith, sorrow and loyalty.

Tuesdays at the Castle gets 5 stars out of 5 from me as a well-told story that made me smile and feel young again. I would happily recommend Tuesdays at the Castle to anyone ages eight and older.

Sheila’s Review

Tuesdays at the Castle is a great addition to the writing of Jessica Day George. This book was written for the Middle-Grade group, 8-12, but even I enjoyed it as an adult reader. As a teacher of the targeted age group, I know that they will love this book!

I have always loved castles, especially magical ones. This castle is like no other one, because it is alive. It will do things for the royal family, especially the young Princess Celie. When she wishes to go somewhere or have a door appear, the castle will honor her request.

With the King and Queen of Glower, and their oldest son, Bran, missing and presumed dead, enemies come calling and try to slowly take over the castle and the kingdom. The remaining siblings, Rolf, who will be the new King, and sister Lilah and Celie, will do what ever they can to keep their beloved Glower castle safe.

The things that happen next are exciting and also quite funny. I love the many humorous things that the castle does to protect itself and the royal siblings. It will change and add rooms, hallways and secret passageways. I especially liked when the castle was able to change where many of the rooms were located. The castle would also furnish the rooms, lavishly to almost bare, according to how well it liked the occupants.

I loved many of the characters in this novel, but especially main character, eleven-year-old Princess Celie. She is brave, spunky and downright likable. You bond with her right from the beginning. Celie is a force to reckon with and the bad guys can’t handle her.

All readers will love this new, fun-filled fantasy. It is a fast read that will leave you wanting to read more of Jessica’s work.

Mindy’s Review

Princess Celie is Castle Glower’s favorite. It does things for her that it won’t do for anyone else, opening rooms for her that even her siblings can’t find. All the rooms that open or close in the Castle are for a reason. Whether it is delighting in certain guests by putting them in the lap of luxury, or kicking out (literally) ones it does not like.

Celie takes it upon herself to get to know the in, outs, and arounds of Castle Glower by making an atlas. And after her parents and oldest brother are ambushed, there is never a greater need to know where to go. The Castle is alive, and helps Celie and her siblings escape many dangers and sneak around without being seen. The Castle and Kingdom is in danger of being overrun with the King and Queen presumed dead. In it’s own way, Castle shows Celie, her sister Lilah, and her heir to the throne brother, Rolf how to save themselves.

Jessica Day George is one of my favorite authors, and this book keeps her status very high in my eyes. TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE is very cleverly written, full of fun, and lots of heart. Celie is of course my favorite character with the Castle a close second. Celie is a caring princess who is loved by all in the Castle. I loved reading what clever things Castle would do next. What clever room was added, what book would appear for the siblings to read, or what cloak would appear that helped muffle sound.

5 out of 5 stars. I loved every page. I love that when I finished, I had a huge smile on my face. Jessica, you can write no wrong!

 

 

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Sep 302011
 

Title: The Key of Kilenya

Author: Andrea Pearson

Self-Published: June 28, 2011

Paperback: 297 pages

ISBN-13:978-1463671839

Review: by Sheila

 

 

A magical key has been stolen, and Jacob must retrieve it as soon as possible to protect his family and our world from danger.

Fourteen-year-old Jacob Clark’s life is about to change when two vicious wolves chase him through a gateway from our world to another. They’ve been sent by the Lorkon–immortal and evil beings from the world Edana, who know Jacob and that he possesses powers which they desire to control.
He escapes the wolves and spends the night in the safety of a tree. The next morning, not knowing he is in a different world, he is surprised to be greeted by strange, human-like creatures.
They beg his assistance in recovering a magical key–which was stolen by the Lorkon and is mysteriously linked to him. He has two choices: help these people, or not. If he helps them he will be in great danger. If he doesn’t, his family and our world will be, as the Lorkon will stop at nothing to unlock the key’s and Jacob’s powers.
He makes his choice and begins a quest of self-discovery and danger.

The Key of Kilenya is a story of a fourteen year old boy, Jacob, who finds himself on a journey that he hadn’t planned on going. His whole world before was basketball, and now he is asked to help save a new world and possibly his own. At first he doesn’t want to help, but he is persuaded by some wolves that he should. They would have scared me into helping for sure.

 

You can tell while reading this book that the key audience are boys between the ages of 10-15. Lovers of Fantasy and strange new worlds, will really love the imaginative creatures and all of the exciting situations that Jacob finds himself in. I found that the story had a slow start for me, and picked up when Jacob and his new friend, Akeno, go on a journey to look for the Key of Kilenya. There is a lot of world building going on as Andrea introduces new plants, monsters and races of people. Some were kind of confusing to keep track of, but as the story progressed pieces started falling together more. I also really like the added element of the journal entries of Prince Dimitri, that explained a back story of what had happened before in this land. These were found at the beginning of every chapter.


Jacob has powers that he didn’t know that he had. Some of the scenes are kind of funny as he discovers what those powers are. His reactions are very true to how a teenage boy would respond. Andrea wrote Jacob realistically, and as I said, this will appeal to it’s core audience. I believe that most people will be very happy with the ending of the story. Fans of this book will also be excited to know that there is a book 2: The Ember Gods. Jacob will head back to the world of Ecklaron to help his new friends again. 


If you would like to purchase “The Key of Kilenya” you can buy the e-book for a really good deal of 99 cents at…

Kindle

Nook

Smashwords

The paperback copy can be purchased here at Amazon.com

If you want to learn more about Andrea and her book please go to her website.

 

                                                       

About this Author

:Andrea is an avid reader and outdoor-er, who loves traveling. She and her husband(AKA Mr. Darcy) were married only a few months ago, and have settled near a river that someday will overflow and flood their house.

It took her nearly a lifetime to do so (nine years), but she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Communications Disorders from Brigham Young University. She plans to open a flying bicycle shop eventually, but for the time being, she is happy teaching orchestra to elementary students.

 ***I want to thank Andrea for the review copy of her book. In no way did this influence the review that was given.

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Sep 092011
 

Hazzardous Universe

Authors: Julie Wright & Kevin Wasden

Publisher: Covenant Communications

Published Date: March 2011

Softcover; 240 pages

Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy

ISBN#: 978-1608612062

Reviewed by: Sheila

FTC FYI: I purchased my own copy at Julie and Kevin’s book launch.

A guy who works in his grandfather’s magic shop expects weird things to happen. But Hap Hazzard has never had a day like this. First, a freaky old man in a cape who calls himself “Torval” visits the shop and somehow makes a trash can explode. Then Torval delivers an ominous message to Hap’s grandfather, upsetting the old man so badly that he yells at Hap for the first time ever. Next, this girl Tara shows up to apply for a job, and for reasons Hap can’t understand, his cool magic tricks send her away in tears. But that’s nothing compared to what happens next. Under orders to apologize to Tara, Hap searches for the girl. But he can barely say he’s sorry before three spaceships appear, the biggest of the three looking like a burnt slice of pizza.

The weirdness only ramps up as Hap and Tara soon find themselves aboard the pizza-shaped ship piloted by a pair of aliens. Even though they were accidentally abducted, the two humans are now forced to join an out-of-this-world mission that includes razor-toothed multilingual beetles, a psychic queen bee, manic ape frogs, a coveted crystal, and a hundred other bizarre things that just might make sense-if Hap could only remember and understand Torval’s cryptic message. Join Hap and Tara as they begin a fantastic journey into the far reaches of the universe.

As a 2nd grade teacher I try to read as many books as possible that my students may like reading. Parents always ask me, “What books should I buy for my child?” I never like to answer, “Well I’ve heard that _________ is a good book, but I haven’t read it yet.” Seriously, that is not what they want to hear.

As I read a Middle-Grade book (books written for children ages 8-12), I try to read it from their perspective. In fact, I try to do this with any genre book that I read. I focus in on the target audience and judge/critique from their standards; what they like and would want to read. So, as I read Hazzardous Universe I shifted my thinking to my students. I knew right away that they would love this book! This age group (8-12 year old crowd) is so into space (Star Wars) and aliens. The idea of traveling on a space ship and exploring the Universe is right up their alley. There are great creatures and interesting planets to explore. Wonderful characters, Hap Hazzard and his eventual friend, Tara, learn some good lessons as they take a ride on Nana, the pizza shaped ship. I especially enjoyed the character of Mosh.

I have read books written by Julie Wright before, but this was a new adventure for her writing this Middle-Grade book. It is amazing what she has done with this story. Kevin Wasden, the illustrator, came up with the sketches for Hap and his alien friends back in 1993. When he met Julie, many years later, he knew that she was the one he wanted to write Hap’s story. The illustrations are really wonderful. You can see them by watching the book trailer.

There is a fun contest going on at their website: http://www.hazzardousuniverse.com Here is what it says on the blog.

“Kevin and I are in the process of creature creation for book HU3 (that doesn’t sound as cool as HU2, does it? I’ll work on it). This is your chance to get your work in a book! Draw us a picture of an alien creature. It can be as wacky or cool as you’d like. Give us a paragraph of background description on what your creature eats, where it lives, and what its life is like. The contest will run from September 1st through February 14th of 2012. Why February 14th, you ask? Well, because it’s Valentine’s Day, and I LOVE aliens, of course!

The winner of the contest will get a totally out of this universe T-shirt featuring Hap Hazzard and his cohorts, free copies of HU1, HU2 and HU3 when they are released, and your creature featured in HU3.”

To read more about it, head on over to their website for additional details.

I also want to thank Julie for coming to my school for an author visit. The kids loved her!! She got them excited about her book and about believing in themselves. Julie gave a super presentation!

If you would like to purchase Hazzardous Universe, (and why wouldn’t you?), click here.

Last, but not least, meet Julie and Kevin.

Julie Wright has written over a dozen books, but especially loves writing about the fantastic. She enjoys speaking to writing groups, youth groups, and schools. She loves life and everything life has to offer, except mayonnaise and mosquitoes. She especially loves reading, eating (especially ice cream), writing, hiking, playing on the beach with her kids, and snuggling with her husband to watch videos. Julie’s favorite thing to do is watch her husband make dinner.

Visit her at her website: www.juliewright.com

Kevin Wasden has an overactive imagination, is unable to sit through meetings without drawing, and tends to be silly at the most inopportune moments. He is an advocate of creativity in education and enjoys speaking to youth, writers, artists, and educators. He studied illustration at Utah State University and has studied figure-drawing and painting from the exceptional figure artist, Andy Reiss, in New York City. Kevin teaches visual art at DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts.

Website: www.kevinwasden.com
Blog: kevinwasden.blogspot.com

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