LIBRARY IDEA FOR NOVEMBER:

THANKSGIVING TRIVIA GAME: Looking for zero-prep Thanksgiving activities for middle school? This trivia game helps keep your students learning and engaged, even in the days before a holiday break. It’s zero-prep for you, and text and images are 99% editable.

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CHILDREN OF RAGNAROK:

Since Ragnarokthe great war between the gods and the forces of chaos—the human realm of the Midlands has become a desperate and dangerous place, bereft of magic.

Sixteen-year-old Eiric Halvorsen is among the luckier ones—his family has remained prosperous. But he stands to lose everything when he’s wrongly convicted by a rigged jury of murdering his modir and stepfadir. Also at risk is Eiric’s half-systir, Liv, who’s under suspicion for her interest in seidr, or magic. Then a powerful jarl steps in: He will pay the blood price if Eiric will lead a mission to the fabled Temple at the Grove—the rich stronghold of the wyrdspinners, the last practitioners of sorcery.

Spellsinger, musician, and runecaster Reginn Eiklund has spent her life performing at alehouses for the benefit of her master, Asger, a fire demon she is desperate to escape. After one performance that amazes even herself, two wyrdspinners in the audience make Reginn an irresistible offer: return with them to the Temple to be trained in seidr, forever free of Asger.

Eiric’s, Liv’s, and Reginn’s journeys converge in New Jotunheim, a paradise fueled by magic and the site of the Temple. They soon realize that a great evil lurks beneath the dazzling surface and that old betrayals and long-held grudges may fuel another cataclysmic war. It will require every gift and weapon at their command to prevent it.

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Review: BZRK (Grant)

AUTHOR: Michael Grant
SERIES: BZRK, book 1
PUBLISHER: Egmont USA
PUBLICATION DATE: April 23, 2013
ISBN: 9781606844182
PAGES: 416
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: science fiction
GIVE IT TO: HS

SUMMARY: A group of teens and young adults battle against a corporation’s attempts to take over the minds of the six top world leaders using nanotechnology and biots.

IF THIS BOOK WERE A ROCK GROUP, IT WOULD BE: Pink Floyd–it’s trippy, surreal, psychedelic

WHAT I LIKED: Remember the movie Innerspace? If you haven’t seen it (or maybe weren’t born when it was released in 1987), Innerspace is about a man who volunteers to be reduced to a microscopic size and injected into a rabbit in order to study the rabbit’s bodily systems. When nefarious evil-doers try to steal this technology, the miniature man is instead injected into the body of a socially-awkward everyman played by Martin Short.

For those who have seen Innerspace, the comparisons to the movie will be evident right away. We have eyeball skating across a milky-white cornea, nanobots that basket-weave a brain aneurysm, giant and monstrous dust mites, and life-sized globs of ear wax. These parts of the book were ultra-cool and really show off Michael Grant’s incredible writing talent and creativity.

Though BZRK wasn’t my cup of tea, there is absolutely a place for it on high school library shelves. I’ve compared Michael Grant to Stephen King many times, and BZRK reinforces that comparison. Readers who enjoy Tom Clancey, Stephen King, and Michael Crichton will find plenty to love here. I can think of several strong readers at my school who would love it.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: The characters. Some, like Bug and his mind-controlled girlfriend Jessica, are very well-drawn. Bug reminded me of Harold in Stephen King’s epic The Stand (one of my favorite books of all time). The Armstrong Twins were so lifelike I could picture their grotesqueness in every scene they were in. But other characters, like Noah and Sadie, left me feeling disconnected. I liked Noah and Sadie okay, but I didn’t really know all that much about them or care what happened to them. Because of this disconnect, I just wasn’t invested in the characters’ lives or the danger they were in.

The technology. Okay, the Innerspace-esque technology is really cool. Teen sci-fi lovers will eat it right up. But some readers (like me) will find themselves skimming the nano-talk. It wasn’t really explained well, and I felt like I needed more background (or any background) in nanotechnology and biotechnology in order to really follow the story properly. There were times I had to force myself to get through those parts just so I could get back to Noah and Sadie’s story.

The pacing. Despite lots of action sequences, I just wasn’t pumped up about it. This was no Unwind.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Not my thing, but it’s an excellent choice for high school boys who love action and sci-fi.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. I am in a MS/HS now, and I know this will be popular.

READALIKES: anything by Stephen King, Tom Clancey, or Michael Crichton

RATING BREAKDOWN:

  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 5/5–among the most creative I’ve read
  • Characters: 3/5–Grant is a master at drawing evil characters, but “good” characters in this one pale in comparison
  • Engrossing: 2/5–I had to force myself to read and skim at times
  • Writing: 4/5–Grant is talented, but I took a point off because I skimmed
  • Appeal to teens: 3/5–no mass appeal, but target audiences will love it
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5–it’s fine at 415 pages, but it lost me at times

CONTENT:

  • Language: high–contains multiple F-bombs and sh–
  • Sexuality: medium–kissing; sex is discussed and/or implied on several occasions; allusion to oral sex, but it’s not described
  • Violence: high–plenty of blood and guts (it’s Innerspace); murder and attempted murder; a graphic description of a plane wreck
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild–adults drink at a bar
  • Other: BZRK just has an adult “feel” to it. The characters are in their late-teens and early-20s.
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