George Washington’s Socks

When five kids take a walk along Lake Levart late one night, a mysterious wooden rowboat beckons them aboard. As if in a trance, they all step inside. But what they don’t realize is that this enchanted boat is headed back in time—to the time of George Washington. And their neighborhood lake has been transformed into the icy Delaware River on the eve of the battle at Trenton. Matthew, Quentin, Hooter, Tony, and Katie experience the American Revolution firsthand and learn the sobering realities of war. But how will they ever find their way home?

The first six chapters of George Washington’s Socks are slow, but readers who stick with the book will be glad they did. Matt and his friends time jump and end up in the middle of George Washington’s rebels crossing the Delaware. The rebels are preparing to attack the enemy, in a surprising way. Matt is soon separated from his sister and his friends and marching to battle. Along the way, Matt befriends Isaac, who didn’t join the Army because he believed in the cause, but rather because he needed to help support his younger siblings. While marching with Isaac and the other soldiers, Matt gets firsthand experience with the difficult situations that the rebels faced. Once Matt jumps into the past, he’s in for an action-packed adventure.

George Washington’s Socks gives readers a close look at war; while none of the descriptions are bloody, Matt sees several people whom he considered friends die. During the war, the rebels faced danger, death, and harsh conditions and yet they carried on. Seeing these experiences changes the way Matt views the rebels and the enemy. For example, Matt sees some of George Washington’s rebels being disrespectful to a Hessian soldier that they killed. “Matt suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He hated to see them acting so badly, for these were his rebels. They were the special brave men that he had always dreamed about and suddenly they seemed neither special nor brave.” Because of his experiences, Matt realizes that the line between good guys and bad guys isn’t always clear. Instead, “there’s no such thing as just good guys fighting bad guys. It seems like there’s good and bad on both sides.”

George Washington’s Socks will appeal to history lovers and readers who want a great time travel adventure. Even though the story focuses on colonial America and the Revolutionary War, the story highlights the kindness of others and has pockets of humor. In addition, Matt is a compassionate and relatable protagonist who learns that history books do not tell the whole story. Readers who enjoy historical fiction and want to learn more about the Revolutionary War should read Daniel at the Siege of Boston 1776 by Laurie Calkhoven.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Adam Hibbs was supposed to take the kids to safety, but “Adam Hibbs lay bleeding, with his head resting in Hooter Melrose’s lap. It seemed the young corporal had been standing in a boat looking up the shore when he stumbled and fell onto his bayonet. . . Adam Hibbs was not expected to live the night.”
  • Two Indians find Matt alone in the woods. “One raised a tomahawk while the other held a bow with a long arrow pointed directly at Matt’s heart.”
  • When Katie wanders off, Hessian soldiers find her. When Matt and his friends discover the group, “Matt took a deep breath and reached for a musket. Tony and Hooter did the same. At the sound of their footsteps, the Hessians swung around and drew their swords. . . The soldiers waved their swords and shouted until Matt and the boys put their hands over their heads.”
  • A Hessian soldier, Gustav, was helping the kids when there was “the sound of musket fire.” The kids “looked on in horror as Gustav cried out in pain, for a musket ball had ripped through his back. He took a step, then fell forward, toppling to the ground with his face in the snow.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the soldiers has “sour rum breath.”
  • A young soldier is eating snow when he says, “I wish we had a small beer to wash it down with.”
  • A soldier’s father “has a likeness for rum. . . He spends most of his day in the tavern.”

Language

  • One of Matt’s friends asks if Matt’s grandfather is “a little bit batty.”
  • Several times the soldiers refer to the enemy mercenaries as “Hessian pigs.” They are also said to be “blood-thirsty.”
  • While traveling to attack the enemy, Colonel Knox says, “We’re hours behind because of this damn storm.”
  • When Matt decides to stay close to his dying friend, a soldier calls Matt a “little fool.”
  • After killing Hessian solider, a man refers to the dead man as “scum.”

Supernatural

  • Matt’s grandfather tells a story about a friend, Adam Hibbs, who disappeared. Adam “was out on the lake in a rowboat, a rowboat my grandpa had never seen before. . . Grandpa ran to the tent to get a lantern. But when he got back to the lake it was too late. Adam Hibbs was gone, disappeared, boat and all, and no one to this day knows what happened to him.”
  • When Matt and his friends see a mysterious rowboat, “he was the first to come under the boat’s spell. It was the same desire to board the boat that he’d felt when he first saw it. . . Smiling, as if in a trance, Matt reached for an oar.”
  • After their adventure, Katie tells the rowboat to take them home. A soldier is surprised when it looks like the kids “disappeared into thin air. . . They were in a boat on the beach and suddenly they started to spin around and then they vanished!” The general thinks the soldier imagined it because of his “harsh whisky breath.”
  • While the kids were gone, no one missed them because, “a person traveling through time can experience days, weeks, and even years, and then return home to find that he’s only been gone a few hours.”

Spiritual Content

  • A soldier thinks Matt and the kids are enemy spies. The soldier says, “God forgive the cold Tory heart that would send children out to face the dangers of this night.”
  • General Washington says, “God willing, we’ll all live to remember this night.” Later he says, “God granting, the day will be dark.”
  • When Matt’s friend dies, a man says, “He’s no longer here, but in God’s glorious kingdom.”

 

Christmas in Camelot

Jack and Annie are on their most exciting mission yet! It begins with a simple invitation to spend Christmas Eve in Camelot, a magical place that exists only in myth and fantasy. What Jack and Annie don’t know yet is that the invitation will send them on a quest to save Camelot itself—not just from destruction, but from being forgotten forever. Can they succeed, even though Camelot’s greatest knights have failed?

When Jack and Annie arrive at Arthur’s castle, they find the kingdom has been robbed of all joy. The Christmas Knight appears with a warning—someone must go on a quest to retrieve the Water of Memory and Imagination. Only Jack and Annie are willing to go on the quest. The Christmas Knight tells the kids a riddle, which will help them succeed. However, their journey is filled with danger and magic.

Readers will relate to Jack and Annie, who want to fight to save Camelot. Despite the characters’ young age, they work together to complete the quest. With a little imagination, a little magic, and a lot of bravery, the two kids are able to save Camelot. While the setting is in Camelot, King Arthur and his knights only appear at the very beginning and end of the story. However, readers will enjoy trying to solve the riddle and seeing how Jack and Annie persevere until the end.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Christmas in Camelot’s fast-paced plot. The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters and monsters to life. The author’s note includes the Celtic Myths that Christmas in Camelot was based on. The back of the book also includes fun Christmas craft activities that readers can enjoy.

Anyone who wants to add a little magic and mystery to the holidays will enjoy Christmas in Camelot. Even though the story is part of the Magic Tree House Series, the book can be read as a stand-alone. For more time travel and historical fiction, add the Imagination Station series by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Jack and Annie must fight the Keepers, four monsters that look similar to dragons. “The four Keepers hissed louder than before. Great balls of blue fire exploded from their mouths and nostrils! Jack and Annie slashed the air with their fiery weapons, jabbing at the Keepers. They fought fire with fire, blue flame with purple flame.” The monsters retreat back into their caves.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • King Arthur and his knights “were gnawing meat off bones and slurping wine from heavy goblets.”

Language

  • Darn is said once.

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie have a magic tree house that allows them to travel to the past. The two kids find an invitation in the tree house. When Jack holds the invitation and makes a wish, the magic works.
  • A “Dark Wizard” cast a spell over Camelot that “robbed Camelot of all its joy.”
  • In order to break the Dark Wizard’s spell, Jack and Annie must travel to the Otherworld, “an ancient, enchanted land beyond the edge of earth.” The two kids must bring back a cup of the Water of Memory and Imagination.
  • When King Arthur tries to stop Jack and Annie from going on a quest, the Christmas Knight “raised his gloved hand in the air. In an instant, the room fell deathly quiet.” Everyone was frozen in place.
  • The Christmas Knight gives Jack and Annie a cloak that makes them invisible.
  • Jack and Annie fight the monsters. The kids drink the Water of Memory and Imagination and the water gives Jack bravery.
  • Jack drops the cup of Water of Memory and Imagination. Then, “a golden cloud was rising from the cracks between all the stones of the floor. . . It soared across the dark room like a bright light, then swooped back out into the night.” The water unfreezes King Arthur and his knights. The water also brings laughter and celebration back to Camelot.
  • A white stag helps the kids on their journey. When they return to Camelot, the stag turns into “an old man with a long white beard.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Blizzard of the Blue Moon

In order to save a hidden unicorn, Jack and Annie time travel to New York City during the Great Depression. The siblings must find where the unicorn is hidden. In order to save the unicorn, they have to find it before the blue moon.

As they look for the unicorn, Jack and Annie get lost in a snow storm. They ride in the subway, find help in Belvedere Castle, and go to an art museum. During their adventure, two people follow them. Jack and Annie think the people are their friends, but they aren’t. Instead, the mysterious people are trying to capture the unicorn.

While the kids are lost in New York, most of the suspense is created by the people following them. In the end, Jack and Annie discover a dark wizard has sent these two people to capture the unicorn. Most of Blizzard of the Blue Moon lacks action, and there are several unrealistic events. However, finding the unicorn adds magic and whimsy to the story and produces a happy conclusion.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Blizzard of the Blue Moon’s mystery. While the siblings do not spend much time at each stop, readers will get a glimpse of some historical places. An author’s note includes the information about the Great Depression and the places Jack and Annie visit.

The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters to life. As the eighth book in the Merlin Missions Series, fans of the Magic Tree House Series will enjoy this new adventure. However, this part of the series should be read in order because several characters return from the previous books.

Jack and Annie are likable characters who both want to help others. While the story has mystery, none of the events are scary. However, some parents might not like how Jack and Annie use a “rhyme” book to cast spells. With magic, mystery, and two siblings who fight for good, the Magic Tree House series has wide appeal. With 50+ books, the Magic Tree House Series will keep younger readers entertained for years. Readers who want to spend more time jumping into the past should add the Time Jumpers Series by Wendy Mass to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A boy pushes Jack, who falls into the snow.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Annie says “Oh, darn” one time.
  • A girl tells the unicorn, “You are coming with us, stupid, like it or not.”

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie use a book of rhymes. When one of them say a rhyme, it helps them. For example, when Annie is lost in a storm, Jack uses a rhyme. He says, “Treasure forever must never be lost! Um-motta cal, um-motta bost!” After he says the rhyme, Annie appears.
  • A unicorn was “rescued by magic weavers in the Netherlands. To keep him safe, they used their art to hide him in their tapestries.”
  • On the night of the blue moon, the unicorn will come out of the tapestry when someone says his name. A girl says, “Come, come, my lovely Dianthus, stand up now. Come out of that old rug. . .” After she says the unicorn’s name, he appears next to the girl.
  • A girl tries to catch the unicorn by putting “the black rope around the unicorn’s neck.”
  • To keep the unicorn safe, Jack reads the rhyme book. “Known from high, out of the sky, Ee-no-fain-ee-ro-lie.” Fog covers the ground and keeps the unicorn safely hidden.
  • After Jack and Annie walk through Central Park, statues begin to move. For example, “When they passed the statue of the winged angel, Jack thought he saw her move her great wings.”
  • In order to keep the unicorn safe, Jack turns the girl and her friend into ducks. Merlin tells them that the spell will wear off in a few days.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Dogs in the Dead of Night

Beware of avalanches! To save one of their best friends, Jack and Annie must travel back in time to the Swiss Alps and find a rare flower. But how can they look for the flower under ice and snow? When they stumble upon a monastery where monks and Saint Bernards live, Annie offers to train a troublesome young dog named Barry. Then Barry runs away, and Jack and Annie have a new task—find Barry! Will Barry lead them to the mysterious flower, or into one of the most thrilling adventures of their lives?

Jack and Annie’s newest adventure takes them to a frozen land. Much of the suspense comes from Jack’s belief that they will never find the flower they are looking for. While Jack worries, Annie promises to train the Saint Bernard, Barry. Unbeknownst to them, Barry will help them accomplish their mission.

Barry’s playful behavior adds a little humor to the story, but mostly he gives readers a picture of the important role Saint Bernards had during the nineteenth century. Jack, Annie, and Barry end up saving Napoleon’s life; however, most readers will not understand the significance because the story doesn’t have historical information on Napoleon. Despite this, readers will enjoy the story’s adventure and love getting a peek at how it feels to be a dog. Readers who want more information on how dogs help humans should read The Magic Tree House Fact Tracker: Dog Heroes.

Black and white illustrations break up the text and show Jack and Annie’s adventures. Illustrations appear every 3 to 7 pages. In addition, the book ends with a recipe to make puppy chow. Dogs in the Dead of Night is part of a series; however, the book begins with a summary of the events in previous books. While this allows the reader to understand the plot, for maximum enjoyment the books should be read in order.

The Magic Tree House Series will entertain readers because each book is full of mystery and adventure as Jack and Annie jump through time. Dogs in the Dead of Night has short chapters, black and white illustrations, and an exciting plot that readers of all ages will enjoy. For more information about the dogs in the book, read Magic Tree House Fact Tracker Dog Heroes. Readers who want more time jumping adventures should also read the Time Jumpers Series by Wendy Mass.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Jack and Annie are caught up in an avalanche. A chunk of snow “knocked Jack off his feet and sent him tumbling headfirst down the slope. Jack kept falling downhill until a wall of frozen snow stopped him.” Jack is stuck in the snow. “The soft snow around his body had turned hard and solid. Jack felt as if he were trapped in cold concrete, buried up to his neck.” A Saint Bernard saves him.
  • Barry saves a man who was buried by an avalanche. Barry “had uncovered a face. . . with bloody scratches and blueish lips.” Barry begins licking the man while Jack and Annie, who were changed into Saint Bernards, begin to dig the man out of the snow.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Darn is used once.
  • After Jack and Annie return to their human forms, Jack imagines Barry’s words, “How the heck did you change from dogs back into people?”

Supernatural

  • The magic tree house transports the kids into the past. Jack “pointed at the picture of the Great Saint Bernard Pass in their Alps book. ‘I wish to go there!’ he said.” The tree spins and when it stops, Jack and Annie are in the Swiss Alps.
  • Someone accidentally puts a spell on “Merlin’s beloved penguin, and turned her into a stone statue.”
  • Jack and Annie are given a potion. The directions say, “One sip with a wish will turn you into anything you want for one hour. Use only once.”
  • Jack and Annie use the potion to turn themselves into Saint Bernards. After taking the potion, “Jack was hurled face-first into the snow. The world went black, and Jack felt his body shaking uncontrollably.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

A Good Night for Ghosts

When Merlin the magician sends Jack and Annie to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1951, they are on a mission to inspire a young Louis Armstrong to bring jazz to the world. Unfortunately, Louis is too busy working to support his family to spend any time playing music. What’s more, Jack and Annie discover that New Orleans is not only the birthplace of jazz—it’s also haunted. It will take a host of ghosts and a daring plan from Jack and Annie to make this mission a success.

A Good Night for Ghosts uses the setting of New Orleans to show how “musical talent is really a great gift to share with the world.” Jack and Annie meet Louis Armstrong, who goes by the nickname Dippy. As they spend time with Dippy, they discover he is hardworking, cheerful, and never complains. In an interview, Armstrong said, “I didn’t wish for anything that I couldn’t get and I got pretty near everything I wanted because I worked for it.” Armstrong’s can-do attitude is portrayed throughout the book.

When the ghosts of Pirate Jean Lafitte and his crew appear, they have a jolly good time dancing to music and then disappear into the night. Instead of being scary, the pirates’ appearance allows Dippy to show how music can express one’s emotions. The happy ghosts are shown dancing and singing along with the jazz song that Dippy plays.

At the end of the story, Jack and Annie see how the streetcars were segregated. “African Americans were sitting in the back, while only white people were in the front.” When Jack notices the segregation he wonders, “Why would anyone not want to sit next to someone just because they are a different color?” However, the topic is not discussed in any more detail. The back of the book includes facts about New Orleans and Louis Armstrong, as well as a recipe for making spooky slat-dough ghosts.

A Good Night for Ghosts is best suited for proficient readers who are seven or older. Black and white illustrations that show Jack and Annie’s adventures appear every 3 to 7 pages. Throughout the story, readers will learn historical facts about Louis Armstrong and New Orleans. A Good Night for Ghosts blends historical details, magic, and a visit from ghost pirates into an entertaining story that will keep readers flipping the pages until the very end. Readers interested in more ghostly facts should also read Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #20: Ghost.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Dippy was twelve years old, he “got too rowdy one time. . . It was New Year’s Eve. I was singing with the fellas, and I got carried away and fired off a gun. . . just into the air.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Darn is used once.
  • Dippy calls Jack and Annie potato heads. “It means you don’t have any more brains than a pair of potatoes.”
  • Heck is used twice.
  • When Dippy’s friends leave a blacksmith shop that is rumored to be haunted, Dippy calls them scaredy-cats. Later he calls them fools.
  • Pirate Jean Lafitte calls Jack, Annie, and some of their friends “scurvy dogs.”

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie are given a magic flute. They are told, “The trumpet’s magic will make you a brilliant performer. But the magic can only happen once.” When one person plays the trumpet, “The other has to make up a song. . . and whatever we sing will come true.”
  • Pirate Jean Lafitte and his crew appear. “The pirate looked like a real person, except you could see right through him.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Adventures of John Blake: Mysteries of the Ghost Ship

Trapped in the mists of time by a terrible research experiment gone wrong, John Blake and his mysterious ship are doomed to sail between the centuries, searching for a way home. In the modern day, John rescues a shipwrecked young girl his own age, Serena, and promises to help her.

But returning Serena to her own time means traveling to the one place where the ship is in most danger of destruction. Plus the all-powerful Dahlberg Corporation has an ambitious leader with plans far greater and more terrible than anyone has realized. The Dahlberb Corporation is hot on their trail, because only John, Serena, and the crew know Dahlberg’s true intentions. And only they have the power to stop him from bending the world to his will.

John Blake is an interesting character who is brave enough to try to stop Dahlberg from controlling the world. However, John and his crewmates are not well developed. The end of the book has a snippet of backstory for each of the crew. However, none of their backstories is discussed in the graphic novel, which makes the characters one-dimensional.

The large cast of characters causes a lot of confusion, and at first, it’s hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. For instance, the introduction of Danielle is confusing. She has been researching the ghost ship Mary Alice, but her interest in the ghost ship isn’t explained until the very end. Plus, it’s unclear why Danielle’s knowledge of the ship is a threat to Dahlberg. Unfortunately, none of the secondary characters are developed enough to understand their motivations or care about their outcomes.

While the publisher recommends Mysteries of the Ghost Ship for readers as young as eight, the graphic novel is not a children’s book. The great lengths Dahlberg takes to rid anyone who he perceives as a threat leads to a lot of violence. Plus, the profanity and dialogue are geared more towards adults than children. Even though the two main characters, John and Serena, are in their teens, younger readers will have a difficult time connecting to them.

Mysteries of the Ghost Ship uses language that makes the book accessible to readers, but some pages are text-heavy and the complicated plot is confusing. The illustrations help propel the story forward, while the spooky nature of the Mary Alice’s illustrations adds a little mystery.

Even though the Mary Alice is a time-traveling ship, the book’s action is almost entirely in the present day. If you want an action-packed graphic novel that is a quick read, Mysteries of the Ghost Ship is a good choice. However, readers who want more developed characters who jump into a particular time period should add Tangled in Time by Kathryn Lasky and the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier to their reading list.

 Sexual Content

  • A crewmember warns Serena about the Barbary Pirates who “take slaves, then make them row, then sell them. Sold to a harem, you know.”

Violence

  • Roger knocks out a man. Then Roger puts a chokehold on a man. Another person swings a knife at Roger. Roger steals a briefcase and then leaves. The fight is illustrated over two pages.
  • When Danielle tries to fly out of the country, men approach her and force her into a room. Roger breaks into the room and begins hitting and kicking the other men. Then, Roger points a gun at one of the men’s heads. Then men are tied to a table and their mouths are duck taped shut. The scenes are illustrated over three pages.
  • Roger recognized a man who is “an expert on enhanced interrogation techniques.” Roger considers the man’s techniques to be torture.
  • After falling off a boat, Serena finds her family and runs toward her mother. One of the villain’s lackeys points a gun at her. Serena and her friend Blake run. They go into a restaurant’s kitchen and when the men follow, Blake and Serena throw food in their faces.
  • As Serena and Blake flee, a man with a gun jumps onto the car. Blake rolls down the window and pokes the man in the eye, which causes him to fall off of the car.
  • Blake talks about meeting Kevin. When the two boys part, a man jumps out and stabs Kevin in the heart. Kevin dies.
  • When the ghost ship travels to the present, men in military clothing board the ship and start shooting. Blake is able to “spring” and “slam” the men, knocking them overboard. The fight is illustrated over six pages.
  • During a party, Blake and one of his crewmates sneak onto the villain’s yacht. A man points a gun at them. Roger punches the man in the face, knocking him out.
  • Roger, Blake, and some of Blake’s crewmen try to sneak into a party. Another man points a gun at the group. Blake confronts the villain and the two get into a fight. Once Blake is able to reveal the villain’s crime, he and his crew jump back into the Mary Alice. The fighting is illustrated over nine pages.
  • The villain shoots a missile at the Mary Alice, but the ghost ship disappears and the missile sinks the villain’s yacht. The yacht sinks and other boats come to rescue the passengers.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes bloody, damn, and hell.
  • “Oh Mother of God” is used several times. For example, when seeing a strange ship, a man says, “Oh Mother of God, protect us.”
  • A father calls his son an idiot and a moron.
  • Oh God and Oh my God are rarely used as exclamations. For example, when a girl falls into the ocean, her mother says, “Oh God!” Later she says, “For God’s sake—the engine! Never mind the damn sails. . .”

Supernatural

  • The ghost ship Mary Alice travels to different times, but the crew cannot control where the ship goes. Blake says, “But I don’t know where we’ll end up. I think Mary Alice does though. . .maybe the wood remembers things we don’t. We seem to end up where we need to be more times than not.”

Spiritual Content

  • When the Mary Alice’s crew hears strange, but beautiful music, one of the crew says, “Jesus Christ. Protect me! Protect me!”

The Secret Explorers and the Jurassic Rescue

Traveling back millions of years in the past, The Secret Explorers must rescue a precious dinosaur egg. In their quest, Tamiko and Cheng attempt to fend off angry Allosauruses, but what will they do when the egg starts to hatch?

In The Jurassic Rescue, dinosaur expert Tamiko and geology expert Cheng team up to save a dinosaur egg. The two kids go on a fast-paced adventure where they must avoid becoming a dinosaur’s snack. The two must hide from a group of Allosauruses and at one point they even cover themselves in poop in order to hide their smell! Tamiko and Cheng use a combination of knowledge and teamwork to save an archaeopteryx.

Young readers will enjoy the story that is packed with plenty of dinosaur facts, suspense, and a happy ending that unites a newborn dinosaur with its mother. The story highlights the importance of one Archaeopteryx. Tamiko explains that the Archaeopteryx “can thrive, and have more babies. And those babies will have babies, and THOSE babies will have babies for a thousand generations—and that plays a part in the whole evolution of modern birds!”

The Jurassic Rescue has large black and white illustrations that break up the text and help readers understand the plot. Characters’ thoughts are easy to distinguish because they are in bold text. While younger readers may struggle with some of the difficult vocabulary and the length of the book, the book’s educational value makes it worth parents’ time to read The Jurassic Rescue aloud to their children. The book ends with 11 pages of a dinosaur timeline, glossary, and quiz.

Full of suspense and snapping dinosaurs, The Jurassic Rescue teaches about the Jurassic period in a fun and educational way. The Jurassic Rescue will entertain readers with the storyline and please parents with the educational value. Readers will be eager to read the next book in the series, The Secret Explorers and the Rainforest Rangers. Dinosaur-loving readers can also get more suspense-filled dinosaur action by reading the Dino Rider Series by Will Dare.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Tamiko and Cheng are transported to the Jurassic time period, a “creature bumped into the side of the Beagle, and it rocked again. . . The Plesiosaur lifted its head from the water. Tamiko caught a flash of teeth in a huge, yawning mouth.” The two kids drive away.
  • The two kids watch eight Allosauruses “prowling toward the Stegosaurus herd. . . An Allosaurus darted in and nipped at the mother Stegosaurus. With surprising speed, the Stegosaurus’s spiky tail thrashed down. One of the spikes caught the Allosaurus on the rump. It yelped with pain and quickly backed away.”
  • An Allosaurus “snapped its jaws at the Archaeopteryx. The Archaeopteryx shrieked and took off, gliding away through the trees.” The Archaeopteryx leaves its egg behind.
  • A Pterosaur tries to bite the kids. “The large predator swooped down from the branch and dive-bombed the cave mouth, snapping its long beak. Tamiko felt the brush of a leathery wingtip against her leg as she scrambled back into the cave.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • The Secret Explorers can travel through time. Tamiko goes to a fossil shop and “opened the shop door. But instead of the usual glass cases full of crystals and fossils, Tamiko walked into a dazzling white light. A strong wind whipped her short black hair around her head. She felt as if she were flying—and then the light faded.” Tamiko is magically transported to the Exploration Station.
  • The Exploration Station picks two Secret explorers for each mission. When the kids’ badges “lit up” they knew they were chosen to go on the mission.
  • The Beagle can change into different types of transportation and magically takes its occupants to where they need to go.
  • When Tamiko starts the Beagle, “the steering wheel transformed beneath Tamiko’s hands into a sturdy set of handlebars, and the old seats became deep and comfortable.”
  • When the mission is over, all of the kids return to the exact location that they left. “There was a flash of light, and a jolt. Tamiko thrust out her hand to steady herself in the fierce blast of wind.” Tamiko is returned to the fossil shop.

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Strangers

What makes you you? The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best—acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.

But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children reach the Greystone kids, and they’re shocked by the startling similarities between themselves and these complete strangers. The other kids share their same first and middle names. They’re the same ages. They even have identical birthdays. Who, exactly, are these strangers?

Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a sudden work trip and leaves them in the care of Mrs. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.

The Greystone kids discover a portal to a parallel universe that is frighteningly different from their own world. While The Strangers has an interesting premise, the story leaves readers with too many questions as well as some frustrating, unrealistic details. For example, several times the kids travel to the parallel world while Mrs. Morales waits in the car. And when Mrs. Morales unknowingly goes to the parallel universe, she doesn’t realize that she is in a different world. Instead of fully developing the parallel universe, the characters spend little time there. Most of the action comes from figuring out what happened to their mother and how they can decode their mother’s message.

Each chapter of the story switches between Chess’s, Emma’s, and Fin’s points of view. Each character’s picture appears at the beginning of the chapter, which helps the reader keep track of the changing point of view. Each character brings an interesting perspective to the story and allows readers to see how the events affect each person differently. In addition, key ideas and events are often repeated in order to help readers keep track of all of the important developments.

The Strangers will appeal to both mystery and fantasy fans. However, the complicated plot, difficult vocabulary, and switching points of view make The Strangers appropriate for strong readers. Full of interesting plot twists, The Strangers ends with a cliffhanger that will leave readers wondering what happens next. The Greystone kids’ story continues in the second book in the series, The Deceivers.

Sexual Content

  • Natalie’s mother is a private detective who “spies on men who are—let’s just say they’re not very good husbands. Mom gives the wives proof, so they have the upper hand in the divorce.”

Violence

  • The Greystone kids find out that their father was “killed.” When they find out, Chess says, “Dad’s car wreck wasn’t an accident? And Mom never told me?”
  • The Greystone kids’ mother was put on trial in front of the entire town. “The guards began marching away, shoving a few more people for no reason, as if the guards were just overgrown playground bullies.” The kids run from the guards and are never caught.
  • When Joe introduces himself to the kids, “rage swelled within him [Chess] now. He slammed the palms of his hands as hard as he could against Joe’s chest.”
  • In order to escape the guards, the kids begin throwing smoke bombs. No one is injured.
  • As the kids run from the guards, they enter an abandoned house. “Then a horrid thud sounded behind them. Daylight streamed in through a crack in the wall that hadn’t been there a moment before. Chess looked back and saw the blade of an ax coming through the drywall.” The kids are able to escape.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When the kids go to a parallel universe, the air smells strange. They discover that the air makes people feel a particular feeling.

Language

  • Natalie tells her mom, “Not everyone goes around telling anyone who will listen what a scumbag their husband used to be.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Burning Queen

In the second installment of Tangled in Time, newly orphaned Rose finds herself time-traveling between the present day and the court of the two most memorable English princesses in history. When Princess Mary ascends the throne in sixteenth-century England, Rose is forced to serve her. Mary’s coronation is coming and Rose is put to work making elaborate gowns. But the religiously devout queen’s next plan is to begin her attack on the Protestants—by burning them at the stake!

Rose’s dad, master spy, and goldsmith for the court, urges Rose to escape to her home century, present-day Indiana, where Rose befriends a young immigrant named Marisol. Rose must protect Marisol from both middle school mean girls and the threat of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rose is determined to rescue her father and her best friend Franny from the dangers of Queen Mary’s reign. Is she willing to risk everything to save the people closest to her?

Readers who have not read the first Tangled in Time will not be able to understand the events in The Burning Queen. The story focuses on Rose and her friend Marisol, who is undocumented and an unaccompanied minor. Because of her immigration status, Marisol is frightened that ICE will take her to a detention center. Through Marisol’s situation, the pro-immigrant message is clear. This theme is reinforced when a doctor says, “many of us have been migrants at one time in our lives. It is not a crime.”

The story has many inconsistencies and questionable events. Even though the time travel is explained, the explanation is unbelievable. For example, when Rose returns to the past, she somehow knows everything that happened in her absence, and no one noticed that she was gone. Another questionable event is that Rose returns to the past in order to convince her father to travel to her time period; however, when she returns to the past, she hides from her father. In addition, Rose uses modern words and phrases and when people in the past question her, she “blamed every modern phrase she accidentally uttered on West Ditch, her supposed home village.”

Rose has a fashion blog that includes sixteenth-century fashion and modern fashion. Several of her blog posts are included; however, the pictures are of poor quality and do not reflect a modern teen’s blog. Rose uses words from her school vocabulary list, such as ecumenical and alacrity, but she never explains the words’ definitions.

The Burning Queen has many inconsistencies and holes in the plot that even younger readers will question. The complex, confusing plot, the questionable events, and the large cast of characters will make it difficult for readers to stay engaged. Readers may want to leave The Burning Queen on the shelf. For those interested in stories about time travel, the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier would make a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • Some of the serving class are talking about Queen Mary being healthy enough to carry a child. Rose says, “I think she should bear a husband first. . . All I’m saying is it’s best to have a husband before having a child.”
  • While walking through the castle, Rose sees “two shadows entwined behind a pillar. One shadow was speaking. ‘Oh, I just want to kiss you, my darling. Kiss you and kiss you and don’t make me cry, milady, don’t make me lie, milady.’” Rose thinks it’s curious that the shadows’ words are similar to a modern song, “I just want to make out with you. I want to make time with you. I want to be true to you and only you. . .”
  • Rose has to climb underneath a dinner table to fix Queen Mary’s skirt. While under there, she recognizes a lady’s shoes. “Both her feet and those of the gentleman next to her were involved in an apparently lively conversation. What a hussy!”
  • On Rose’s blog, she wrote that a duchess “got around.”
  • Rose makes a comment that “Elizabeth would be the Virgin Queen.”

Violence

  • When Rose goes back in time, she discovers that Queen Mary “was burning Protestants. . . Burning, hangings, what would be next? Boiling in oil? Oh, the sixteenth-century mind was so creative in devising ways to kill people.”
  • As Rose learns about Queen Mary, she discovers that Lady Jane Grey was the queen for nine days, and in the end was imprisoned and beheaded.
  • Although Rose doesn’t see anyone burned, she comments about the smell and writes in her diary. “The queen seems not to smell it, and as far as I can tell she looks no bigger. If I was that baby, I wouldn’t want to be born. Imagine having your first breath of air filled with the stink of these murders. Yuck! Of course some seem not to mind the stink. . .”
  • Rose writes in her diary, “And I was told that often they tie bags of gunpowder between the victim’s knees to ensure that the person was not only burned but blown to bits.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Rose’s grandmother was “sipping a glass of sherry—just one glass on these cold winter nights.”

Language

  • A mean girl purposely trips Marisol, who drops her lunch tray. When food gets on another girl’s sweater, someone calls Marisol “stupido.”
  • Rose tells Marisol that the mean girls are “jerks.” Later someone else calls someone a jerk.
  • Heck and damn are both used twice. Darn is used four times and dang is used three times.
  • God is used as an exclamation three times. OMG is used as an exclamation eight times.
  • Someone uses “good Lord” as an exclamation.
  • Rose gets upset when a Frosty snowman kept singing a song. Rose thinks, “Go to hell, Frosty, and Melt!”
  • A lady calls a court jester a “loathsome dwarf.”
  • When Rose goes back in time, she uses the acronym TOD. When someone asks what it means, Rose says, “Turd of a dog.”
  • Jeez is used as an exclamation several times.
  • Rose gives her father a gift, and then thinks, “God, what have I done?”
  • Rose tells a girl, “Put a plug in your pug mouth.”
  • Someone calls Rose an idiot.
  • Someone uses “Oh God’s toes” as an exclamation.
    Supernatural
  • Rose’s father is from the 1500s and lived during Bloody Mary’s reign. Rose can go back in time to her father’s time period. In order to go back in time, Rose concentrates on a flower. “Marisol watched, mesmerized, as a vaporous mist began to form around Rose and she slowly dissolved, leaving just a shadow behind. Then a whisper came from the mist, ‘I’ll be back in just a minute or two.’”
  • The women in Rose’s family are able to travel back in time because “we have the gene.”
  • When Rose goes back to the past, she remembers events that she did not witness. “It was a memory she had not forgotten in the least, yet she had not directly experienced it. Her shadow had. Her ghostly counterpart that seemed to carry on without her.”

Spiritual Content

  • When Rose sees Princess Elizabeth wearing her locket, Rose prays, “Oh please, don’t let Princess Elizabeth figure out the secret to opening that locket!” Rose makes this prayer several times.
  • When Marisol falls down in the snow, Rose prays that her grandmother’s driver will answer the phone.
  • Queen Mary was a devout Catholic. Before her coronation, “there was talk of postponing the event. Holy oils that had been consecrated by the previous kings’ priests were used for coronations. But Mary was suspicious of the oil because those priests were Protestants and she was Catholic.”
  • During the sixteenth century, “the pope’s power cannot be questioned. Nor can Queen Mary’s.” When this information is introduced, Rose worries that her friend will be burned alive because she has a Bible. Rose “was absolutely dizzy with fear, with shock. She shut her eyes tight and tried to banish the image of Franny being tied to a stake. The kindling bursting into flames. Then another image came into her mind—the smugglers, the ones they called coyotes, circling Marisol. And the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers. . .”
  • On Christmas Eve, “Marisol was on her knees again, whispering her prayers in Spanish.”
  • Rose wants her Protestant friend to go to mass and pretend to be a devout Catholic. Her friend’s mother tells her, “Only God can see into your heart. He knows what your true faith is.” When Queen Mary is excited about having her baby, Rose thinks, “A baby whose mother had just given the order to set another human on fire for not believing as she did. No God in any religion on earth would want this. Of this Rose was certain.”
  • Queen Mary dictates in a letter, “I’m sure you will rejoice and be pleased with God’s infinite goodness in the happy delivery of our son/daughter.”
  • Rose writes in her diary. “I don’t think God is exactly Mary’s friend. If he is, I am profoundly disappointed in him. There have been ten more burnings!”

Dodging Dinosaurs

Get ready for Chase and Ava’s newest adventure! When they touch a dinosaur egg inside their magical suitcase, Chase and Ava jump back to prehistoric times. They’ll need to work to return the egg to its rightful nesting place before they become dinosaur dinner. How will they find the right nest to put the dinosaur egg in? Will they run into the bad guy, Randall, who keeps following them?

Siblings Chase and Ava jump back into the dinosaur age. As they search for the right nest to place the egg, the two befriend a baby dinosaur as well as run from giant stinging bugs. The story contains some interesting dinosaur facts and begins to answer the mystery of the suitcase. Even though the storyline is not completely believable, readers will enjoy the non-stop action, mystery, and dinosaur facts.

Dodging Dinosaurs is part of Scholastic’s Branches early chapter books, which have easy-to-read text and illustrations on every page. The story uses short descriptions and dialogue to keep the story moving at a fast pace. Black and white illustrations appear on every page and help break up the text into manageable sections. Dodging Dinosaurs introduces several characters that appeared in previous books, which requires the Time Jumpers series to be read in order.

In Dodging Dinosaurs, the villain Randall jumps in to save the kids. Randall tells the kids, “As of right now, I officially quit stealing things from history. The Collector isn’t going to like it.” Even though Dodging Dinosaurs solves one mystery, readers will be eager to discover who the Collector is and why he wants historical artifacts. Dodging Dinosaurs focuses on a positive sibling relationship and will entertain readers who are ready for chapter books.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Chase and Ava are time jumpers. When they go back in time, they meet another man from their time period. Chase tells the man, “You’re definitely a time jumper. You could open the suitcase, which regular people can’t. You traveled when you touched one of the objects inside. And you remember both timelines—the one where the brontosaurus was in the museum, and the one where it wasn’t. We’re pretty sure only time jumpers can do those things.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Fast-Forward to the Future

Chase and Ava have already traveled to the past twice. When they touch a glowing cube in their magic suitcase, they don’t go to the past. They end up in the future! Even though they recognize where they are, almost everything is different. In the future, they find awesome flying cars and tons of robots. But it doesn’t take long for the villain Randall to find them. Chase and Ava are on the run. They know they need to put the cube back quickly, but can they complete their mission in time? Will Randall steal the cube?

Chase and Ava travel to the future and see a wonderful world where robots have taken the place of human laborers. As Chase and Ava explore, they pass a sign that can recognize people and records their good deeds. The robots record people’s likes and dislikes and help fulfill their desire. When Chase and Ava discover that they can spend someone else’s money, Chase says, “There must have been a mistake back there. We can’t just spend other people’s money.” The two decide that it is okay to spend the money because it actually belongs to the future Chase. The black and white pictures that appear on every page will help readers visualize the imaginative world.

Fast-Forward to the Future portrays an interesting world. The addition of a prototype robot that can talk adds interest. Although Randal makes a brief appearance, most of the plot revolves around exploring the future as well as wondering what will happen if Chase meets his future self. When Chase meets his future self, the younger Chase doesn’t get any answers to the mysteries of the suitcase or Randall.

Fast-Forward to the Future shows an imaginative future where robots and humans are friends. Readers will enjoy seeing a world where ice cream appears on demand, clothes grow to the perfect size, and the restaurant robots remember Chase’s favorite meal. Fast-Forward to the Future is part of the Scholastic’s Branches early chapter books, which have easy-to-read text and illustrations on every page. The story uses short descriptions and dialogue to keep the story moving at a fast pace. The black and white illustrations appear on every page and help break up the text into manageable sections. Fast-Forward to the Future has several characters that appear in book one, which requires the Time Jumpers series to be read in order.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Randall appears and tries to take a robot prototype, “Ava stomps on Randall’s foot! Randall howls and clutches his foot.” Chase and Ava are able to run away from him.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When Chase and Ava touch an object out of an old suitcase, they begin to spin. This time, the siblings notice, “There’s something different about it this time. The images swirling around them are of strange places and objects.” This time, the two travel to the future.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Escape from Egypt

Chase and Ava find a scarab beetle that used to belong to King Tut. They know they must take the beetle back to where it belongs. When they jump back in time, they end up in Egypt! They are excited to see the pyramids and hope to meet the famous King Tut. The villain Randall is in Egypt too, and he wants the jeweled beetle for himself. How can Chase and Ava stay ahead of Randal? The two siblings must find a way to put the beetle back where it belongs.

The second installment on the Time Jumpers series is even better than the first, Stealing the Stone. As Chase and Ava try to unwrap the mystery behind the suitcase, go to visit the person who sold it to them. However, she leaves the two with more questions than answers. As Chase and Ava plan their next visit to the past, Chase uses an Egyptian History book to research the scarab beetle. With the book, Chase is able to figure out what he and Ava must do to return the object where it belongs.

When Chase and Ava go back to the 1920’s Egypt, they are able to see the pyramids and learn some historical facts about King Tut, and the famous archaeological dig that discovered King Tut’s tomb. Younger readers will enjoy learning historical facts as Chase and Ava travel to Egypt. The reappearance of villain Randall, who has two colored eyes, keeps the suspense high. Like the previous book in the series, Escape from Egypt highlights the importance of teamwork.

Escape from Egypt is a fast-paced story that gives readers a glimpse of an archaeological dig and shows the importance of the jeweled scarab beetle. Escape from Egypt is part of the Scholastic’s Branches early chapter books, which have easy-to-read text and illustrations on every page. The story uses short descriptions and dialogue to keep the story moving at a fast pace. The black and white illustrations appear on every page and help break up the text into manageable sections. Escape from Egypt has several characters that appear in book one, which requires the Time Jumpers series to be read in order.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When the villain tries to steal a scarab beetle Chase and Ava must stop him. When the villain, “lunges for them but trips over Ava’s shovel and gets a face full of sand! He tries to get up, but Chase lobs his clipboard at him. . . Randall slides right back down onto the sand.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When Chase and Ava touch an object from the suitcase, they begin to spin and go back in time.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Stealing the Sword

Chase and Ava buy an old suitcase at a flea market. Even though the lady who sold it to them said that it was broken and would not open, Chase and Ava want it. Soon, they discover that they can open the suitcase and it is filled with strange objects. One of the objects looks like a dragon-headed doorknob. When the object jumps out of the suitcase, Chase grabs it. Suddenly Chase and Ava jump back in time and end up in King Arthur’s castle.

Chase and Ava overhear two knights plotting King Arthur’s death. They have to find a way to help King Arthur. As they sneak around the castle, they meet the king’s wizard Merlin. Merlin tells them the dragon-headed object is really a piece of Excalibur. Chase and Ava have to figure out how to fix the king’s sword and get it back to him. But a man with two different colored eyes wants the dragon-head object for himself. How can they help King Arthur? Will they ever make it back home?

Siblings Chase and Ava not only enjoy spending time together, but they also work together to help King Arthur. Although the two easily find the clues they need to solve the mystery, younger readers will appreciate the non-scary suspense and the glimpse of King Arthur’s time period. Even though Chase and Ava go back in time, the story focuses on the two sibling’s dilemma and has few historical facts. Even though the story contains few historical facts, Stealing the Sword combines non-stop action, mystery, and a little bit of history to create a story that independent readers will enjoy.

Stealing the Sword is part of Scholastic’s Branches early chapter books, which have easy-to-read text and illustrations on every page. The story uses short descriptions and dialogue to keep the story moving at a fast pace. The black and white illustrations appear on every page and help break up the text into manageable sections. The villain Randall, who has two colored eyes, pops in and out of the story which keeps the suspense high. Stealing the Sword introduces several characters that reappear in later books, which requires the Time Jumpers series to be read in order. Stealing the Sword focuses on a positive sibling relationship and will entertain readers who are ready for chapter books.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Someone plots King Arthur’s death and hires Big Bob to kill him during a tournament. King Arthur and Big Bob fight, and when Big Bob swings his sword, “Arthur raises his shield to protect himself.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When Chase opens a suitcase and touches one of the objects, “the ground begins to rumble and shake. . . Ava clings to her brother as they begin to spin. . . Faster and faster they spin! Images blur in front of their eyes—mountains, oceans, cities, faces!” When they stop spinning, they discover they went back in time. When they return home, they discover that “even though they were at the castle all day, it’s still late afternoon here.”
  • Because the suitcase will only open for Chase and Ava, Chase compares to it King Author’s sword. Chase “loves the story of how King Arthur got his sword. Excalibur’s blade was stuck in a rock and no one could pull it out until King Arthur came.”
  • A man chases Chase and Ava, trying to steal an object. Merlin throws his hands into the sky, “a loud thunderclap fills the air, followed by a plume of smoke.” When the crowd begins to run, Chase and Ava are able to escape.
  • Merlin tries to fix Excalibur, but cannot. When Chase and Ava work together, they are able to fix the sword. “Chase brings the end of the blade down onto the hilt. . . They hold their breath as the hilt and the blade knit together, strands of steel twisting and bending into one. For an instant the whole sword glows red, then hardens. Excalibur is whole again.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Heartwood Box

Araceli’s parents wanted her to have a normal, American senior year, so they sent her to stay with her Great-Aunt Ottillie. Araceli is supposed to be focusing on school and getting ready for college, but she thinks that her aunt’s old Victorian home may be haunted. Araceli can feel someone watching her, and it doesn’t help that her great-aunt still leaves food out for her husband that has been missing for twenty years.

Araceli’s great-aunt isn’t the only creepy thing in town. Local businesses are plastered with missing posters. The townspeople are watchful and suspicious of each other. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city walls that no one talks about. When Araceli begins getting letters from the past, she thinks someone is playing a nasty joke on her.

When Araceli’s friend disappears, she is determined to find out what is going on. In order to solve the mystery, she must investigate the other disappearances as well as the secretive lab. But someone is willing to go to great lengths to keep their secrets hidden. Can Araceli uncover the conspiracy or will someone make her disappear?

The Heartwood Box is an immensely enjoyable, complicated story that will have readers guessing until the very end. Told from Araceli’s point of view, the creepy town comes alive. Although Araceli isn’t the most relatable character, her story is compelling. The supporting characters are not well-developed but they help move the plot along at a fast pace. For those who love character-driven stories, The Heartwood Box might disappoint.

This story is a mix of science-fiction, mystery, and historical romance. The multiple plots may leave readers confused unless they pay close attention. Not only is Araceli falling in love with a World War I soldier, but she is also trying to fit in at a new school and solve the mystery of the town’s disappearing people. The end of the story ties all of the threads together in a satisfying, if somewhat implausible, conclusion.

Aguirre also throws in the theme of colorism. Several times in the story, Araceli talks about colorism and gives examples of how dark skin people are treated differently than whites. At one point she thinks, “I wish America cared the same about Black and Brown girls, but there’s a lot to do yet.” Even though Araceli is bi-racial, this theme is not well fleshed out.

Readers looking for a unique time travel mystery will enjoy The Heartwood Box, which has several surprising twists at the end. Some of the vocabulary is difficult, but the majority of the story is written in easy to understand language. Although the ending is rushed, the book will captivate readers who enjoyed the Ruby Red series by Kerstin Gier or Passenger by Alexandra Bracken.

Sexual Content

  • When Araceli has a friend over to the house, her aunt says, “You can watch TV in the parlor if you want. I do trust both of you, but it would be disrespectful for you to go upstairs.” Araceli thinks to herself, “Oh my God, if I wanted to hook up with Logan, I’d go across the street. He already said his parents aren’t home.”
  • In a dream, Araceli is able to see soldiers who are on a ship. She hears, “a slick skin-on-skin sound that I identify as a soldier jerking off, trying to be stealthy about it.”
  • While talking to a boy, Araceli thinks, “He’s thirsty for me. I’ve seen the look enough to recognize it, but I pretend not to know. . .”
  • When Araceli is sitting in a car with a boy, her aunt “saves me by flipping the porch light on and peeking out the front door, likely to make sure we’re not getting hot and heavy in her Plymouth.”
  • While in a dream, Araceli meets a soldier and, “I can touch him in this dream, so I do. There’s no reason to hold back. When he drops his weapon and opens his arms, I slide into them like I belong there. . . I stretch up on tiptoe and cup his face in my hands; I feel the heat of his skin, the scruff on his chin and jaw. Then I press my mouth to his, light and soft. He drags me closer and kisses me like our lives depend on it, all heat and desperation. . . We kiss and cling until I can barely breathe.”
  • When Araceli’s aunt and uncle see her sitting in a car with an older man, her uncle asks, “Is there something you need to tell us? We won’t judge you. Grown men who entice young girls should be ashamed.” Araceli tells them that the man was a family friend.

Violence

  • The town sheriff physically abuses his son. The abuse is not described, but Araceli sees the bruises. When the boy gets to school, she “can see his lip is busted, and his face is swollen on one side. At a minimum, someone slapped the shit out of him, and it looks more like he took a few hits to the face.”
  • In a letter, a soldier writes about his experiences. “France has become hell on earth, no way around it. Great tunnels in the dirt, piled high with bodies and you can’t tell a Jerry from a Brit from a Sammy. . . Death makes every soldier the same. Nobody is coming for those men, not to give them services or say a few words or even to bury them. The birds pluck out their eyes. . .” The soldier also writes, “I killed my first Jerry and threw up afterwards. . . My friend John took one in the gut, bad way to go. Took him hours to go west, and we were all freezing next to his body in a trench during that first long hour of hate.”
  • Araceli thinks back to the past. “The kids are protesting, shouting, waving signs. A shot rings out. The student leader goes down, bleeding from his head, and it’s all mayhem, all running and screaming.”
  • Someone tells the county sheriff to kill someone. The sheriff says, “You’re trying to give me a kill order? I can’t believe you think you bought me for fifty thousand.”
  • Araceli and her friends are trying to destroy mechanisms that create the ghost light. A man sees them and Araceli “rush[es] toward him, and everything else is instinct. With the hammer, I knock whatever he has out of his hand, and then I swing again, as hard as I can, right upside his head. His body goes flying, tumbling down the hill and into the water with an ominous splash.” The man dies.
  • Araceli and her friends are chased by guards who shoot at them. Araceli’s “heart thunders in my ears as more bullets spray the area. I get stung on a ricochet and a sharp pain slices across my calf. Shit, it hurts. . .” One of her friends is shot. “His voice comes out liquid with blood and breathy from his struggle for air. . . Jackson gives me a sad smile, his teeth stained with blood. . . He goes limp in my arms. . . Jackson’s blood is all over the soil and the stones, staining my hands and the suit he made to protect us.” The scene takes place over seven pages.
  • After Araceli’s friend dies, she jumps on an ATV and tries to escape. The guards, “snap shots at me as they can, but it’s not as easy from the back of an ATV, firing at a moving vehicle.” She crashes, and a man “twists my arms behind me and binds my wrists with what feels like a zip tie, then drags me out of sight. . .I taste blood from where my lips split against my teeth.” The man gags her and then puts her in a cell. The scene takes place over 4 pages.
  • Over a radio, Araceli hears “the sound of a Taser discharging and the impact of a fist hitting flesh.”
  • As Araceli and Dr. Perry try to get to the lab’s control room, Dr. Perry “slams into three guards coming around the corner. His weapon flies out of his hand. . .” Araceli shoots a guard in the belly and “the guard screams and topples over. . .” Dr. Perry shoots a guard. Later Dr. Perry shoots two more guards “neatly, two chest shots, two clean kills.” Eventually, someone shoots Dr. Perry. “Slugs slam into the blocks, shaking the cement. . . He’s down, bleeding from several wounds. . . He manages to shoot three of the four, and I fire on the last one while he’s reloading. . .” Dr. Perry dies. The scene takes place over four pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • As Araceli goes through town, she thinks about her past homes. “I can’t remember ever living in a freestanding house. There will be no rooftop garden parties here, no barbeques that draw out the neighbors so that we grill whatever’s on hand, and I take beer from the cooler without anyone asking how old I am.”
  • While in the past, Araceli goes to a Halloween party and gets drunk.
  • Araceli goes into a pizza place where some adults are drinking beer.
  • A girl’s mother is put on depression medication after her son disappears.
  • In a letter, a soldier says that while passing through England, they stopped at a town and some men got “puking drunk.”
  • When a boy is teaching Araceli to drive, he tells her, “You’re going really slow. If you’re not careful, you’ll get pulled over. Only people who are slightly high drive this much below the limit.”
  • Araceli is given a document that has information about the Heartwood box. A researcher had an “unfortunate addiction to hallucinogenic drugs.”
  • Araceli sends a note to the past, but wonders if the person receiving it, “was stoned when he got my note, laughed and rolled a joint with it.”
  • A boy’s grandfather only talked about a girl he once loved when he “had a little to drink.”

Language

  • Profanity is used often. Profanity includes ass, asshole, bitching, crap, damn, dammit, fricking hell, holy shit, piss, pissed, shit.
  • Araceli meets a boy and thinks that he is “kind of a dick.”
  • When Logan’s father gets home, he yells at his wife and asks, “Where the hell is he? I told him to come straight home from school and look after the fucking yard.”
  • OMG is used twice. Oh my god is used six times. Oh god and Oh Lord are both used once.
  • When her aunt gives her snacks after school, Araceli thinks, “I swear to God, I’m starting to like pretending I’m five. . .”
  • Araceli describes her mood as, “grumpy as hell.”
  • Araceli thinks, “I’ve experienced some shit in my life, but I can’t say I ever lived in a haunted house. Until now.” Later she thinks, “This house is so damn haunted.”
  • A boy is wearing a shirt that says, “Get in line B*tches.”

Supernatural

  • While in her aunt’s house and at school, Araceli feels a chill. She also feels as if someone is watching her.
  • Araceli has vivid dreams where she goes into the past and can interact with a World War I soldier. When she is dreaming, no other people can see or hear her besides the soldier. However, after one dream a picture of World War I changes. When she dreams, she can find the soldier because “there was a tug. . . I feel that same pull now, delicate and tenuous. . .”
  • Araceli goes into the attic, and “before I get to the pull cord, it’s tugged by an invisible hand until the distinctive click, and the light flares on.”
  • Araceli finds a treasure box that allows her to communicate with a World War I soldier. They write letters back and forth. Araceli also puts small objects like mint and antibiotic ointment into the box.
  • The town has “ghost lights” that make people slip into another time.
  • When people disappear, their loved ones leave out food for them, which also disappears.

Spiritual Content

  • When Araceli wakes up after being asleep for days, her aunt says, “Thank God.”
  • Araceli thinks about her parents who “aren’t religious. My mom’s agnostic and my dad is a lapsed Catholic, so I was baptized and that’s about it. . . We go to mass once a year at Christmas, and it’s a somber occasion in most of the countries I’ve lived in.”
  • Araceli goes to church with a friend, but the service is not described. While there, a woman says, “Everyone is welcome in God’s house.”

Neverwas

Neverwas continues the story of Sarah and Jackson in Amber House, who are not quite the same people. History has shifted thanks to Sarah’s successful rescue of her brother and aunt. As a result, this Sarah’s parents are happily married. There are other changes too, some good and some bad. Jackson’s aunt Ruth is dying. Hathaway’s mother never left him. Sarah’s best friend no longer exists.

The small changes Sarah understands, but there are deeper changes as well from farther back in history. The American Revolution failed. Nazi Germany won the war. North America is split into three countries, with Amber House located in the Confederate-like country where slavery has only recently been abolished.

How could saving her brother and aunt have caused such large changes to history? It makes no sense, and Sarah doesn’t want to fix it. She doesn’t believe that she can fix it. Together, she and Jackson start to unravel what happened—Jackson eagerly, Sarah unwillingly. Together they realize where history went wrong, and that it’s up to them to fix it, again.

Neverwas is a strong second book in the Amber House series. Though it lacks the beautiful imagery that made the first book a delight, Neverwas is based on an interesting “what-if” concept that will hook readers. The story explores what might have happened if the American Revolution failed, and the ripple effects it would have on world history; these changes keep the story interesting enough to keep the pages turning. The authors also did a wonderful job developing the alternate-Sarah. Sarah is still clearly herself, yet there are changes to her personality and how she views the world, changes that are there due to the fact that her parents are happily married, her aunt is alive, and other small alterations to her past.

This Sarah is not as likable as the Sarah in book one. The Neverwas Sarah is not as strong, she can be frivolous and clueless, and she would rather bury her head in the sand than try to change history again. But with Jackson and her brother urging her on, she does a commendable job of pulling herself up by her bootstraps, and in the end, she does all she can to rectify history and bring a better future. Overall, Neverwas has a theme of helping others, even when the cost to yourself may be great.

 Sexual Content

  • When a boy sees that he and Sarah are under the mistletoe, “his lips softly brushed my cheek.”
  • In an echo of the past, Sarah sees two people whose “lips met in a kiss that made me look away.”
  • In another echo, “A man had Maeve pinned against the wall. She was struggling to get away from him, but he had her arm twisted up behind her back. He kissed her. Hard. A possessive, violent gesture.” She is rescued, and tells him, “I should kill you, Ramsay. Just know if I ever see you on my property again, I will shoot first and swear you tried to rape me later.”
  • Jackson kisses Sarah once. “His lips met mine. Gently—so gently—but also fiercely. As if this belonged to him. As if he had waited for it. As if there was nothing in the world but that kiss. It could have lasted forever and it would have ended too soon. My first kiss.”

Violence

  • Deirdre finds a female slave who was “a tumble of limbs, her face battered and bloody.”
  • Sarah lives in an alternate world where Nazi Germany won the war and still exists. She is furious when a Nazi comes to her family’s Christmas party. “In seventy-five years, the Nazis had wiped out all the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and disabled people in Europe.”
  • Jackson hits his head and has a seizure as a result. “He got to his feet abruptly, bumping his head hard against the mantel. He lifted his hand to his temple and brought away fingers wet with blood. Then his head jerked backward as he crumpled to the floor…his left arm and leg began to shake, and a trickle of blood oozed from his nose.”
  • A racist man asks Jackson, “What happened to you, boy? Half a lynching?”
  • Jackson and Sarah are attacked. “Jaeger raised a hand, and a blade into view. He stabbed it into Jackson. I saw the crimson of blood spreading all around the wound.” Sarah later shoots Jaeger. “Jaeger staggered back, sinking to one knee, his hand clapped to his shoulder. He brought his hand away to see; it was covered with blood.”
  • When a Nazi tries to stab a Jew, another man’s “hand came up and slammed into the Reichsleiter’s face…then [the Reichsleiter’s] face sank into the circle of backs surrounding him. The crowd seemed to swallow him. His protests ceased. The thud of blows continued.”
  • A man tries to kill Nyangu. “She reached out with claws and slashed his face…She grabbed the door frame and leapt up, jamming her bent legs forward to hit the Captain’s midsection with her heels. He doubled over, gasping, and she jerked loose, scrabbling up and away.”
  • When the Captain tries to kill her, Nyangu throws a sack of poisonous spider eggs at him. The spiders hatch, and “I saw tiny spiders swarming his face. Hundreds of them. More. They filled the claw marks down the cheek. They crawled along the lashes of his staring eyes.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Sarah describes a bow of hers as, “hanging drunkenly to one side.”
  • A boy teasingly asks Sarah if she has “been sampling too much eggnog” when she spaces off.
  • In an echo, Sarah sees a man who “wavered slightly on his feet, and I understood he was drunk.”

Language

  • “God,” “Good Lord,” and other variations are used as exclamations frequently. For example, Sarah’s mother says, “Oh, my God.” Another time Rose exclaims, “Lordy, child.”
  • “Holy Jesus” is used once. A man says, “Holy Jesus, I just about lost my lunch looking at you.”
  • A boy calls himself a “git.”
  • “Damn it” is used twice. A sheriff yells, “Stop, dammit! You come back here.”
  • Sarah’s brother tells her, “You always get the crappy fortunes.”
  • “Bitch” is used in a poem once, referring to a dog. “A restless hound intent to make her bed…one chance there is to bring this bitch to heel.”
  • When a Jew calls a Nazi a murderer and grabs his arm, the Nazi says, “Unhand me, you filthy Jew.”
  • A news report in a Confederate-like state says, “The only known casualty is a negro youth who is presumed to have set the blaze.”

Supernatural

  • Sarah can see visions of things that happened in Amber House’s past when she touches items from its past, such as a doorknob or Christmas ornament. They are called echoes.
  • Jackson can see pieces of the future and different possible futures.
  • Sarah can feel where Jackson is, even when she cannot see him. She can use this strange sense of “Hotter, Colder” to find him.
  • Sarah finds an evil coin that a man used to change the future. “It seemed almost to squirm. My mind’s eye exploded with telescoping images…I felt possessed, attacked…violence surrounded them, every form of corruption, every kind of death, and I was drowning in it.”

Spiritual Content

  • Sarah’s family goes to a Catholic church service. The service itself is described very briefly; the morning is treated more like a social outing.
  • A girl says, “Merciful Lord” and “crossed myself to ward off evil,” when she finds a nearly dead woman.
  • A little girl says she doesn’t like the story of Pandora or of Eve from the Bible. Her grandmother says, “I used to think that too, Annie. But then I thought, what if we should be grateful to Pandora and Eve instead of blaming them? What if they did exactly what God wanted them to do—to choose choice itself? To bring change and chance into an orderly world.”
  • Sarah has her fortune told by a woman who says she is Catholic. The woman owns The New Dawn Metaphysical Bookshop and says, “Person can’t help it if she can see things other people can’t.”
  • Sarah’s aunt says, “Maybe God is an artist. He saw something deeper. And you must be here to help Him lay it bare.”

by Morgan Lynn

The Portal

Rose lives an ordinary life with her mother. She loves her friends and has a fashion blog, which has a lot of hits. Everything changes when Rose’s mom is killed in an auto accident. Rose is sent to live with a grandmother she barely knows. To make life worse, a group of mean girls makes fun of Rose’s fashion-forward looks. Now Rose must deal with being the target of bullying as well as trying to understand her grandmother’s dementia.

Rose finds peace in her grandmother’s greenhouse. One night, a strange glowing light appears in the greenhouse. When Rose goes to investigate, she is thrown five hundred years into the past. Rose is now the servant of Elizabeth, the daughter of King Henry VIII. When Rose finds a locket with two mysterious pictures in it, she begins to wonder about her own past. Can the locket reveal mysteries about her parents?

Rose goes back and forth between the present and the past. Although many connections are made between the two time periods, some readers may not like the jumpy nature of the story. As Rose goes into the past, the reader learns fun facts about the time period as well as gets a peek into the dynamics of the royal family. Rose’s love of fashion is integrated into the story, and Rose includes pictures of the time period’s clothing and shoes as part of her blog. In both time periods, the author’s theme is clear: all people should be treated with respect and kindness.

Readers will be able to relate to Rose, who is not portrayed as a perfect character. Rose struggles with fitting in, and even though she recognizes that people should be treated with kindness, she doesn’t always show kindness herself. However, Rose is lovable because of her curious nature and her willingness to stick up for others.

Even though The Portal doesn’t explain the magic of time travel well, readers will still find the fast-paced story enjoyable. The conclusion feels a little rushed, and not all of the pieces fit well together. Despite this, The Portal is an entertaining read that has a dash of historical facts. Younger readers who enjoy time travel stories with strong female characters may also want to read The League of Archers and Ruby Red Trilogy.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Mean girls push Rose into her locker and then shut it. Rose felt a shove and then “her head banged against metal; then there was a slam. Complete darkness.”
  • When Rose goes back in time, she meets Princess Elizabeth, whose father was King Henry the Eighth. The King, “chopped off her mother’s head.” Later in the story, one of the characters thinks about the King’s dead wives. “People didn’t talk about witches, not since the king had chopped off his wife’s head, Queen Anne. But that was four wives ago. Of course, after Anne, the second head to roll was Catherine Howard’s a few years ago, but she wasn’t considered a witch, just a wanton seductress.”
  • While ice skating, a mean girl intentionally runs into another girl, making her fall.
  • A group of mean girls chase Rose and throw things at her. Rose “heard the girls closing the distance and shoved an empty trash can that clanked down the alley towards them. . . She heard someone take a hard fall and gasp as if the air had been knocked out of her.” Rose’s cat, “sailed over her head, her claws spread in attack mode.”
  • While back in time, a group chases a “fool” and throws eggs at her. When Rose talks to the girl, she says, “But I’m a fool. Fools are born to be teased.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • A mean girl spreads a rumor about a teacher. The girl “claimed Ms. Elfenbach was drunk or something when she graded a test last year. She started a rumor that she was an alcoholic.”
  • Rose’s father wants to talk to her, but wants to wait “until evening, when most of the people were well into their cups and might not notice if he carefully approached her.”

Language

  • Good Lord, oh my God, Oh God, and OMG are infrequently used as an exclamation. For example, Rose thinks, “OMG, I’d die for those shoes!”
  • Darn is said a few times.
  • When Rose goes back in time, she calls someone a “jerk.” Others pick up the term and occasionally use it.
  • One of Rose’s friends says that a mean girl was “going to have (her dad) sue me for libel when I called her a jerk. . . The funny thing is, her dad is kind of a jerk.”
  • Someone calls a boy a “sack of pig droppings.”

Supernatural

  • Rose has a gene that allows her to time travel. The magic of time travel is not explained, and Rose does not understand what causes her to go back in time. When Rose goes back to the future, those in the past are not aware of her absence.

Spiritual Content

  • When someone uses the phrase “God’s kneecaps,” Rose thinks it is “the most fun swear ever. . . She pictured God sitting on a throne of cumulus clouds. His flowing celestial garments hiked up a bit, exposing knobby old knees crowning skinny, slightly hairy legs. Maybe God would be groaning a bit— ‘Oh, lamentations! My arthritis is kicking up again!’”
  • Princess Mary is, “very religious. She spends a lot of time in the chapel.” The fact that her father was a protestant and she was Catholic is discussed. Rose remembers reading that Mary was “England’s most horrific monarch. . . Her passion for God and burning Protestants had earned her the name.”
  • Princess Mary flogs “a servant whom she suspected of heresy. Dressed in fine gowns but with bare knees, she (Princess Mary) would crawl on stone to offer her prayers to the Virgin Mary. She was so proud of those knees if they were bloodied by the end of the ritual. It was rumored that she beat herself on Good Friday in penitence for Christ’s crucifixion.”
  • Princess Elizabeth says that “A king or a queen can’t be wrong. Nor can a princess who might someday become queen. It’s their divine right.” They are not God, but they are “given that right by God.”
  • A character prays to God.
  • When the king dies, the “servant mourners” had to “fall to their knees and pray for the soul of their king.”
  • A servant tells Rose, “The court regards people like myself as a curious little aberration that was created by God for the sole entertainment of royalty and court.”

 

 

 

Attack at the Arena

Mr. Whittaker finds a mysterious letter inside the Imagination Station. The letter leads Patrick and Beth to fifth-century Rome on a quest to find a special cup that belongs to a monk. The cousins jump back in time and end up at the Roman Colosseum.

Before long, Beth and Patrick are separated. Patrick meets Telemachus, a monk, who believes fighting is wrong. Telemachus wants the emperor to end the gladiator battles. Telemachus guides Patrick as he looks for his cousin.

Meanwhile, Beth is mistaken as a slave and is sent to serve in the emperor’s palace. As the Emperor’s servant, Beth must attend Emperor Honorius’s gladiator battle. Patrick also attends as a monk’s apprentice but is captured and sent to fight in the arena. Will Patrick be able to survive?

History is incorporated into the story through Telemachus, Emperor Honorius, and the arena fighting. The story describes the horrors of the arena fighting in child-friendly terms and leaves out graphic violence. After reading the story, many may want to know more about ancient Rome.

Attack at the Arena has a fast-paced, action-packed plot with a strong message of faith. Since lessons in faith are delivered through the monk Telemachus, the lessons do not come across as preachy. Instead, readers will see how Telemachus lives his faith. Through Telemachus’s actions, the reader will learn that, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.”

Readers who enjoy The Magic Tree House will want to add Attack at the Arena to their reading list. Both series have likable characters, mystery, and time travel. However, Attack at the Arena teaches how God can change people. This book is the second installment of The Imagination Station Series; as each book builds on the previous story, readers should read Voyage with the Vikings first. The interesting plot will keep readers turning the page until the very last page.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Patrick and Beth go back in time, they land in an arena with a tiger. The tiger “crouched down like a cat searching for a mouse. Its eyes burned bright. It ran straight toward Patrick.” Someone uses a whip to scare the tiger away.
  • A soldier sees Beth and “picked her up and threw her over his shoulder.” He takes her to the palace to work as a slave.
  • A soldier thinks Patrick is trying to help Beth escape. The soldiers “grabbed his arms. They roughly pulled him back.” One of the soldiers “pulled out a shiny sword. . . He pointed the sword at Patrick.”
  • A man hears soldiers coming to capture him. When the monk tells the man to hide, the man instead “pulled the knife out of his belt. He pointed it at Telemachus (the monk).” The man steals a chalice and then flees.
  • A soldier thinks Patrick is trying to help Beth escape again. He “picked him up and threw him into a wood cart. . . Patrick fell onto the bottom of the cart. His face was in the mud and straw.” Patrick is taken to the arena.
  • At the arena, “Slaves fought the wild creatures. The men screamed and ran when the animals attacked.”
  • Patrick and other prisoners are forced to fight in the arena. At the emperor’s signal, “prisoners began to fight each other. Each man battled for his life. An old prisoner quickly knocked Patrick’s knife out of his hand.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Mr. Whittaker has an Imagination Station that allows Beth and Patrick to travel back in time. When they get into the Imagination Station, “the machine jerked forward. Patrick felt as if he were on the subway. . . The machine whirled. Suddenly, everything went black.”
  • Mr. Whittaker also has a ring that “you can only see it when my hand is in the machine.”

Spiritual Content

  • The monk tells a soldier, “All children belong to God.”
  • The monk tells Patrick, “God may let you find your friend later.”
  • The monk tells Patrick that he is in Rome because “God told me to come here.” The monk didn’t know why God wanted him in Rome, but “it is for me to obey and go.” Later, the monk goes to the arena for the same reason. The monk says that God told him to go, “in my prayers this morning.”
  • The monk tells Patrick, “there are no what ifs? with God. When He speaks, we’re to listen and obey.”
  • The emperor, Honorius, says he is Christian and that “by law the emperor must be a Christian.”
  • The monk tells the people watching the fighting, “In the name of Jesus who shed His blood for us. . . don’t take pleasure in the bloodshed! Stop—in the name of Christ—stop!”

 

A Touch of Scarlet

Emma’s life is a mess. Her boyfriend Gray broke up with her. Her roommate, Michelle, isn’t talking to her. She is lonely and isolated at her exclusive prep school. Then things get even stranger when she goes into a trancelike state and enters the world of the novel The Scarlet Letter.

In a moment of weakness, Emma kisses her roommate’s boyfriend, which causes her classmates to exclude Emma even more. Emma wants to feel brave, but instead, she’s heartsick over her breakup with Gray, worried about her estranged relationship with Michelle, and wishing her life didn’t parallel The Scarlet Letter.

When Emma finds out that Michelle is gay, Emma tries to help Michelle come out into the open and stop hiding her secret. The second half of the story follows Michelle’s struggle with discrimination and fear.  However, as the story is told from Emma’s point of view, the reader doesn’t get to see Michelle’s emotions. Although it is clear that Emma cares for her roommate, the battle isn’t Emma’s so it lacks emotion and suspense.

A Touch of Scarlet’s best moments are when Emma goes into the world of Hester and The Scarlet Letter.  When Emma watches the plot of the book unfold, she learns that each situation can be viewed from different perspectives and that forgiveness and honesty are important in life.

The book delves into the voodoo religion, showing how to make a hex. Another troubling portion of the story is when Emma learns how to leave her body and travel to The Scarlet Letter’s world.

Emma is shown to be a troubled teen who is trying to deal with life’s complications. She makes mistakes but cares for her friends. Plus, whe does not have sex or do drugs. However, several of the characters are seen drunk, smoking marijuana, and having sex.

Sexual Content

  • Throughout the book Emma kisses three different boys.
  • Emma and Gray kiss many times throughout the book. In one scene Emma tells Gray that, “My dad worries you’re going to steal my virginal innocence.” Even though Emma considers having sex with Gray, she does not.
  • Emma and Gray make out. She describes the sensation of Gray touching her.  “My body lit up like a pinball machine. Before I knew it, I was lying on the ground, my dress hitched up around my waist, with Grey’s body shifting on top of mine . . . I tore at his shirt, trying to undo the buttons with cold, nervous fingers . . . A part of me wanted to go for it—to lose myself in the moment.”
  • Emma and her roommate, Michelle, talk about how Michelle cheated on her boyfriend.  Michelle says, “It was a little more than kissing . . . I had to tell someone. It’s been eating me up inside.”
  • After a breakup, Emma kisses her roommate’s boyfriend. “Then we were really kissing, his lips on my lips, his hand gripping the back of my neck.”
  • Michelle’s roommate struggles with the fact that she is gay, but she doesn’t want anyone to know about it.
  • One of the characters tells about when she accidently told her friends that her cousin was gay. “Chelsea got all weirded out and Amber flipped because apparently—news to me—she had hooked up with him a few times the summer before. So Amber starts telling me he’s going to hell . . . I feel like vomiting, partly from drinking too many margaritas and partly because I’ve just realized my friend are complete assholes.”

Violence

  • Emma thinks about her mother who killed herself by walking into the ocean. Emma has dreams where she sees her mother walking into the water and Emma tries to save her. “I plunged to the bottom, trying to dive under the tumult, but the waves kept careening over me.”
  • Emma travels to the world of the scarlet letter. Abigail sticks a large needed into her belly and then accuses Elizabeth of being a witch. Elizabeth is arrested when, “the constable finds a poppet with a needle in its belly and accuses Elizabeth of using it as a voodoo doll.”
  • While playing hockey, Emma purposely hits another girl with a hockey puck. “I watched in fascination as it sailed through the air, seeming to hover in slow motion right before it connected with Elise’s exquisite cheekbone.”
  • When Gray finds another boy at Emma’s house. Gray wants to, “smash his face in.” Emma tells him, “You should be thanking him, not trying to smash him to a bloody pulp like some macho dickhead.”
  • In her dream world, Emma is chased by a mob of women who fling mud at her. “Fear and adrenaline surged through me as I ran through the forest, hearing their haunting voices behind me and feeling the pelts of mud at my back.”
  • Emma and Flynn kiss. “His mouth tasted earthy and sweet, like smoke and sage. And then I surrendered to the kiss, allowing him to draw me in, one hand on the back of my neck, the other making its way down my waist.”
  • In her dream world, someone tries to burry Emma alive and turn her into a zombie. “After he poured the last of the dirt on me, he reached in his basket and pulled out one last red rose, which turned black in his hands. He threw it onto my makeshift grave and laughed, ‘this is your fate.”
  • In biology, the class must dissect a cat. Michelle deskins the cat. One of the lab partners tells Michelle not to cut too close to the cat’s tail. The girls laugh when Michelle says, “I wouldn’t touch this cat’s anus with a ten-foot pole.”
  • At the end of the book, the girls find out that their male headmaster had an “inappropriate relationship” with a student when the headmaster worked at an all-male school.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Emma gets back to school she thinks, “Lockwood girls didn’t like their parents sticking around any longer than necessary, anxious to break out the booze for the first-night celebrations.”
  • Emma pulls out her cell phone, “looking down at it like a drug addict staring at a fix.”
  • Flynn drinks often, as well as smokes a joint, which is passed around between several others.
  • Flynn’s “father is an asshole and his mother is knocked out on prescription drugs half the time.”
  • Throughout the book, several characters drink as well as talk about things that happened when they were drunk.
  • Emma’s grandmother drinks often. Once the grandmother is admonished, “You’ve had enough whiskey for three people.”

Language

  • A boy asks someone, “When are you two lovebirds going to get off your asses and join us on stage?”
  • After the school finds out the Emma kissed her roommate’s boyfriend she is called a “bitch” and a “slut.” Emma says she is “sick of the slut-shaming.”
  • Emma’s friend is called a “dyke” several times in the story.
  • “Oh my god” and variations of “asshole” are used often.
  • When someone sees Emma and Flynn kissing, he says, “what the hell, man?” Flynn replies, “I’m such a fuck-up.”

Supernatural

  • A major part of the plot is that while running, Emma goes into a trance like state and enters the world of the book The Scarlet letter. After the first time Emma enters the world of The Scarlet Letter, she wonders who she saw. “Ghost lingering in a parallel universe, caught between my world and their own?”
  • Emma is told that she must be careful in her dream world because, “a voodoo priest can put people into trancelike states, and then bury them alive . . . they steak their ti-bone-ange (soul) thus depriving them of free will and conscience. That’s how zombies are created.”
  • Emma learns a “black magic” spell to remove a person “from your path.” Later in the story, Emma and her friends cast the spell. Emma is told, “a hex is just a formal way of putting a wish into the universe.”
  • At a slumber party, the girls play Bloody Mary.  Emma is freaked out when she sees, “Gray’s face, flickering in the candlelight . . . Behind him was a find aura of red, almost like Hester’s ghost was standing behind him.”
  • Emma learns how to send her spirit into the dream world while her body stays in one place. “I imagined myself a dolphin, half of my mind shut down to let me rest; the other half active and alert. It was this second half I sent out wandering.”

Spiritual Content

  • Michelle says that God hates her because she doesn’t believe in God.
  • Michelle’s aunt is “part dream interpreter, part voodoo practitioner, and all around wise woman. She believed in the spirit world and claimed to communicate with the dead.”
  • Emma goes and stands in the same spot where she was hit by lightning. She wonders, “If God would be audacious enough to strike the same place, and person, twice.”
  • When Emma is having her dreams, she is told that, “The Haitian people believe you have two parts of your soul-le ti-bon-ange, or your little angel, and le gros-bon-ange, your big angel. Now the little angel is like your shadow soul.  It’s only visible in dreams or visions, and helps you communicate with the spirits or the loa, kind of like your conscience. But the big angel is your fate soul, the one that determines your destiny or prophesizes your future.”
  • Emma goes to Easter service. “I hadn’t been to church since Christmas, and I felt a little guilty about it. It wasn’t’ that I didn’t believe in God, more than I questioned what kind of God he was.  Anyone who’s lost a parent must go through this crisis of faith, asking, How could a merciful God take my mother away?”
  • Emma thinks, “Michelle claimed to be an atheist, with science her only religion. She often scoffed at Darlene’s voodoo beliefs, but deep down, I think Michelle had some faith of her own, even if it didn’t conform to any church or institutions view of the cosmos.”

A Breath of Eyre

Going to an exclusive prep school isn’t a dream for Emma. Instead it’s a lonely existence. With no friends, a father who is distant, and a step-mom who thinks she needs therapy, Emma doesn’t think life can get worse. Emma escapes her dreary life by reading Jane Eyre and dreaming about her crush on her English teacher.

As her sophomore year begins, Emma gets a new roommate, Michelle, who offers friendship and relief from her loneliness. However, when Michelle is accused of setting a barn on fire, Emma must decide if the friendship is worth fighting for.

Then a bolt of lightning hits Emma and sends her into the nineteenth century and the body of Jane Eyre.  As a governess, Emma finds peace and soon finds herself attracted to Mr. Rochester. Soon, Emma isn’t sure if she wants to live in Jane’s world or her own.

A Breath of Eyre has Emma jumping for her prep school to the world of Jayne Erye. The premise behind the book is interesting and will keep the reader wondering what happens next. Although A Breath of Eyre referes the book Jane Eyre, it is not necessary to read it to understand A Breath of Eyre. However, the book may be more enjoyable to those who have read Jane Eyre.

Many of the events in the book are typical of a teen novel. Michelle goes to a prep-school and is an outcast because she is on scholarship. The prep-school girls are vicious, but the teachers are afraid to discipline them because their parents have money. There is also a love triangle.

Mont throws in an interesting twist when Michelle travels between worlds; however, the book still lacks loveable characters that draw a reader into the story. The reader will smile because of the sweet conclusion of the book, but getting there will take some effort.

Sexual Content

  • One of the girls at school talks about her father who was a rich man who “took a liking” to her mother. When the man’s wife found out, the girl’s mother was fired.
  • Emma is at a party when Gray tries to kiss her. “I’d always imagined my first kiss being in the middle of a meadow under starlight . . . Not standing drunk with Gray Newman at the side of a building.”
  • Emma thinks back to when Gray almost kissed her. “The heat from his body had felt like fire. His lips had been inches from mine.” She then thinks, “I would have given anything for him to try to kiss me now.”
  • Emma and Gray talk about the problem with dating someone and then being friends afterwards. Emma wonders if Gray has slept with another girl, and then she imagines him with another girl, “her head on his shoulder, his hands running through her hair, and thoughts of being ‘just friends’ a distant memory for both of them.”
  • When Emma and Gray dance she, “wanted to bury my head in the warm hollow of his neck.  His hands gripped my hips, while his lips grazed my hair . . . I was in intoxicated by the moment, by the promise of something I’d only imagined before.”
  • Gray tells Emma that he slept with a girl who he had been going out with for six months.
  • Emma and Gray are parked in a car when he pulls her towards him. “. . . I was straddled across his legs . . . His shirt was open a little . . . I slipped my hand inside and pressed my palm against his heart, where his pulse beat hard and steady against my fingertips . . . The kiss grew deeper, warmer and wetter and more intense until I wasn’t thinking about anything other than the kiss. Letting myself fall head first into the white-hot madness of it…Other parts of my body began to engage, and I was all heat and light, tugging at his shirt, digging into his back, burrowing myself into the hollow of his neck.”
  • Emma has a daydream where Gray is kissing her and “There is a moment of unbearable tension as we hover mere centimeters from each other—waiting, wanting—and then pure release as our lips collide, sending sparks of heat and light through every limb down to our fingers and toes.”
  • Emma and Gray kiss often throughout the book. The feelings of the kiss are described in detail.  One scene describes it as “blistering hot.”

Violence

  • A man is attacked by a woman. His arm was, “soaked in blood.” The man said, “She tried to suck my blood. She said she’d drain my heart.”
  • In a dream world, Emma’s mother throws herself off of a roof. “I watched as this dark-plumed thing descended, wings outstretched, then shielded my face to avoid seeing her smash against the stones.” The building is then engulfed in flames.
  • Emma’s father talks about when his wife, “came here to this beach and she walked right into the ocean with her nightgown on.” He then tells Emma about how her mother left a suicide note.
  • Gray talks about when he got into a fight and hit his friend in the face.
  • A girl’s mother, “slapped her hard and quick against the cheek.”
  • Gray tries to commit suicide. Emma saves him, but in the process almost drowns.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Emma asks her friend if he stopped lifeguarding because he’s been, “too busy doing keg stands and scoring with the fraternity chicks?”
  • Emma’s grandmother drinks old-fashions and doesn’t like it when her drinks get low.
  • Several of the girls smoke pot in the school’s barn.
  • Emma and Michelle go to a party and, “slurp wine coolers like they were Gatorade.” Other students were, “sniffing out alcohol and drugs.”
  • Emma tells Gray that she is not interested in him because he spends his free time with his “head in a beer bong.”
  • On the way to a dance, Michelle and her friends drink champagne out of the bottle. Michelle encourages the driver to drink because he has to drive, “less than half a mile.”
  • Gray tells Emma about when he went to a party with his best friend’s sister. They both had been drinking, and the girl decided to go skinny dipping. The girl went into the water and never came out. Her body was never found.
  • When Emma is upset, her grandmother gives her a sip of tea with liquor in it.

Language

  • Elise says, “The new girl must be lesbo, because she can’t stop staring at us.”
  • Hell, ass-hole, damn, hell, pissed off, and shit are used in conversation.
  • Two roommates tease each other about getting, “enough Johnson.”
  • Michelle says, ‘I need to get away from these Lockwood bitches.”
  • Emma thinks about going into the hallway but is afraid it is, “occupied by a pissed-off ghost.”
  • A teacher is discussing a book and tells the class, “every once in a while, nature has to kick our ass to show us who’s boss.”
  • Gray is upset that a teacher wiped a tear off of Emma’s face. “He’s a teacher for God’s sake.  What’s he doing touching you? If I was your father, I’d kick his ass.”
  • Michelle ask Emma, “Why are you being so nice to me? I’ve been such a bitch.”

Supernatural

  • After Emma is struck by lightning she becomes Jane Eyre and lives her life for a short period. Later in the book, when Emma is stuck in a burning barn, she again begins to live Jane Eyre’s life.
  • Emma’s grandmother said, “your mother called out to me the night she died. I don’t know how, but somehow, her voice reached me . . . that night I woke up with this panicked feeling, like someone had just taken out a giant chunk of my heart.”

Spiritual Content

  • Emma thinks about her body and lack of curves. She thinks, “Despite nightly pleas to a God I only half believed in, I remained a disappointing five foot three.”
  • One of the characters believes in Voodoo and tells Emma about papa Legba’s vẻvẻ, which is a symbol to attract spirits to earth. Emma has a necklace that looks like a vẻvẻ.
  • Emma uses an incantation and ask Papa Legba to. “open the door for me. Father Legba, open the door to let me pass through.” Emma then goes to a “dream” world where she meets her dead mother.
  • Emma’s friend tells Emma not to mess with voodoo. The friend says she doesn’t believe in it, “but it’s kind of like God. I don’t believe in him either, but he still scares me.”
  • Emma thinks, “I had not been raised in a religious household, although my father did believe in giving thanks and asking forgiveness. Now I said a simple prayer for help. I don’t know who it was intended for—was I praying to a great Christin God to send me a guardian angel?  Was I praying to Papa Legba to guide me back though the door between worlds? Or was I praying to the Universe to help me find the path of my own destiny. I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I just knew I couldn’t make it on my own.”

A Phantom Enchantment

Emma has been looking forward to spending her senior year of high school in Paris. When she arrives, she and her friend Elise are excited to learn the culture and participate in an Opera writing competition.  Then Flynn and Owen show up in Paris and the conflict heats up.

Elise doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to date a cute French boy, but she also doesn’t want to give up Owen.

Then Emma’s boyfriend, Gray, goes missing and is presumed dead. Emma travels through a mirror and is able to talk to Gray, but the Gray in her dreams is dangerous and depressing. In an attempt to get over Gray, Emma begins spending more time with Owen. Soon Emma must face Elise’s jealousy and her own growing attraction to Owen.

As Emma’s dreams continue to frighten her, she decides to stay away from the mirror, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling Gray’s presence. And then a series of accidents makes Emma wonder if Gray’s Ghost wants revenge.

Although A Phantom Enchantment takes place in Paris, the setting does not add to the story. So much of the story revolves around Emma and her American friends, that the French culture takes a backseat to the teen drama. Even though Emma and Elise are in a Paris boarding school, none of the French students make more than a ripple in the story.

Even though the story parallels the Phantom of the Opera, this also does not add to the enjoyment of the story. By the time Emma’s story reaches book three, both her story and conflict feel old. Thus, reading A Phantom Enchantment became a chore, and Emma’s story came to a welcome end.

Sexual Content

  • Emma and her boyfriend talk about a night they spent on the beach and she asks, “You mean the night we almost had sex?”
  • A drunk Flynn sleeps in Emma’s bed. The next morning he wakes up concerned that they had sex, and he didn’t remember it.
  • Emma thinks about Owen who had his heart broken when Michelle, “revealed that she was gay. Then I led him on by kissed him, and worse by kissing Flynn a couple months later.”
  • Emma wishes she could be, “more like Elise, sampling cute men as one might sample macarons.”
  • Owen leans close to Emma. “He wanted me to be the one to initiate. He wanted me to want more. And I did…as difficult as it was not to press my body into Owen’s and kiss him hard on the mouth, I drew away.”
  • Elise tells Emma, “I know you were probably saving yourself for Gray . . . I just want to remind you that you’re human. And you’ll never be this young and hot again.” Elise tells Emma to, “wear something sexy, and try to get lucky.”
  • Else worries that she will become unfaithful like her mother, who cheated on her husband.
  • Emma and Owen kiss and she was, “dazed by the feel of his tongue in my mouth, dizzy from the sheer cinematic splendor of it.”
  • Emma and Owen make out. “I was a puddle of sensation, letting his mouth crash over me like a tide…We didn’t’ actually have sex-neither of us had prepared for this-but it didn’t matter. The end result felt the same as we lay in bed next to each other, nearly naked and spend, feeling desire twine though our limbs.”

Violence

  • The book refers to the storyline of Phantom of the Opera and how, “a scene changer had been found dead in a cellar, hanging from a beam.”
  • A Christmas tree falls and hurts Elise and Owen. Emma wonders if Gray’s ghost had something to do with the accident.
  • Gray pins Emma against the wall and yells, “You know what fucking happened to me!” He makes it clear that he would like to have sex with her, but she is unwilling. Gray ends up leaving.
  • A character talks about how he set fire to a girl’s room because he was jealous that she was with another man.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • There are several scenes where the characters are seen drinking and are drunk.
  • Flynn dreams of smoking pot in front of Jim Morrison’s grave, so Emma and Owen go with him so he can fulfill his dream. Although Emma does not smoke pot, Owen does.

Language

  • One of the male characters had, “to take a piss.”
  • Elise says that she has been “a bitch lately” and then apologizes. She also call another student a “douche.”
  • Gray yells, “Well, love is (a joke). The fairytales tell you otherwise, but it’s all bullshit. Happily ever after is a fucking lie.”
  • Profanity is scattered throughout the book. The profanity used includes: holy shit, Oh my god, smartass, and bastard.

Supernatural

  • Emma uses a voodoo spell to bind her and Gray together.
  • Emma is able to send her spirit self though a mirror and interact with Gray who had been lost at sea. Several times in the story Emma thinks she can feel Gray’s presence following her.
  • Several items go missing which is blamed on the Bastille Ghost.

Spiritual Content

  • One of the characters is a practitioner of voodoo and a believer of spells.
  • Emma prays to God, and she repeats a verse, “Dear Saint Anthony, please come around. Something’s lost that must be found.”
  • Emma says, “Sometimes I wished I believed in God in that unequivocal way others did. While I did believe in a cosmic force that had played some role in our creation, I had no idea what form it took or how much it actually intervened in human endeavors.”

Backward Glass

For as long as anyone can remember, a skipping song has warned children about the dangers of Prince Harming. “Lover sweet, bloody feet, running down the silver street. Leave tomorrow if you’re called—truth and wisdom in the walls. Crack your head, knock you dead, then Prince Harming’s hungers fed.”

When Kenny moves to a new town, he is shocked when his father finds a dead baby hidden in the wall of the carriage house. But what shocks him more is the note that is found with the baby. “Help me make it not happen, Kenny. Help me stop him. Clive is dead all over again.”

Kenny embarks on a journey through different time periods with the help of his newfound friend Luka and a time travel mirror. The two teens hope to save the baby and figure out how the skipping song is related to the child’s death. They soon discover that Prince Harming is not just a fairy tale character, but a living man who is out to kill Kenny and anyone else that stands in his way.

Backward Glass is an interesting story. However, there are many different characters in different time periods, which makes keeping track of people and events a little difficult. In the end, all of the pieces of the story fall into place to give the reader a satisfying ending.

Sexual Content 

  • Kenny tells about his father’s first kiss. “Ten years old, and he chased her into a scrap yard and kissed her and she tripped him.”
  • When Kenny is saying goodbye to a girl from another time period she, “stepped forward, grabbed my shoulders, and kissed me square on the mouth. It was awkward, and it wasn’t a long kiss like you see in the movies, and maybe that’s all I’m going to tell you about it because maybe it’s none of your business. It was good, though.”

Violence 

  • Kenny and his father find a dead baby hidden in the wall, “like someone killed it and hid it there. With a note asking me for help.”
  • As Kenny and Luka step out of the time travel mirror, a man holds a gun and threatens to kill Kenny. Luka “reached for the gun, now pointed toward the ceiling, and covered both of the men’s hands in her own, but from one of them—I couldn’t tell which—came a sharp kick to her midsection that sent her flying to crack her head on the cement floor of the basement.” The two men precede to fight over the gun. Then Kenny is shot. The shooter says he had to kill Kenny because Kenny killed his wife. This fight scene continues for several pages.
  • Kenny is jumped by several teenagers. “I fought back like I had nothing to lose . . . When Boyd Fenton broke my nose, I stepped back, pulled it as straight as I could and asked if he was done yet.” In the end, another boy arrives and helps Kenny fight off his tormentors.
  • Wald carries a “wild man” who is tied up and gagged. The man breaks free and tries to hurt Kenny. “He thrashed frantically, trying to hit me in any way he could. His head slammed against mine, and some part of him dug into my stomach.”
  • When Kenny’s father was younger a man attacked him. “He twisted Brain’s arm, checking his lunge, and brought a quick fist down onto the side of his head, slamming him back against the corner of a brick. Brain slumped.”
  • Kenny pushes a woman into the mirror. However, he knows that this means she will die because the mirror in the other time period is under water. “I reached for her, but all I could feel was water and pain.”
  • A man goes back in time with the intent to kill his infant self. “All I need to do is never live. I kill the baby and its’ no crime. It’s suicide.” Later in the story, the man is holding his baby self when someone tries to grab the baby from him. The man, “gave her a push with his foot, sending her flying into a large chest.” Later the man, “began to topple back . . . cradling the baby, instinctively bringing it close as he fell . . . Little Curtis and his older self lay spread out on the floor, their hands close enough to exchange bright flashes. Both were convulsing slightly.”
  • A young boy tries to take a girl into the time travel mirror. “When she couldn’t pass in, he grew angry and smashed her head repeatedly into its unbreakable surface. She never recovered completely.”

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • One of the characters smokes a cigarette.
  • One of the characters gets stuck in a time period that is not his own when, “fed too much beer at a year-end celebration by a stranger . . . he came back to the mirror too late and found himself trapped ten years in his own past.”
  • Kenny talks about a vacant house that kids, “had been going there to drink or make out for a couple of years.”

Language 

  • When Kenny’s father finds a dead baby hide behind a wall he says, “Oh Christ, Oh Christ. Oh, Jesus, Kenny, look at the little thing.”
  • When Luka’s mother thinks she is on the phone, her mother yells, “Hell’s the matter with you?”
  • A character talks about how he found, “that goddamn diary when I was nine years old.”
  • When discussing time travel, a character says, “Christ. Time travel—and I wanted to sell comic books. Go on H.G. Wells. Take it. Save the baby. Maybe there’s a reason the damn mirror didn’t open up for me.”
  • Kenny tells a teen named Chuck that his sister will marry a Goldstein. Chuck replies, “You saying my sister’s going to marry a Jew?” When Kenny asks if he cares, Chuck replies, “Nah, but it don’t matter how welcome I am in the family, none of them better try cutting part of my pee-pee off.”
  • Holy crap and hell are occasionally.

Supernatural 

  • None

Spiritual Content 

  • Two characters discuss the rules of time travel and how people cannot get in contact with their other self. “It’s like you can’t mess up time,” Luka said. “Keisha says it’s God, but I asked her where exactly the time-travel mirrors come into the Bible. Melissa says it’s fate, but I don’t even think it’s’ that.”

No True Echo

In a strange twist of events that he doesn’t understand, Eddie relives the same day over and over. The first time Eddie lived through the day, his mother died when he was an infant and his only plan was to spend his school break climbing trees with his best friend and trying to find a way to talk to the new girl. As Eddie continues to relive the same day, he is also attempting to figure out what is causing the strange occurrence, why the new girl keeps asking about his dead mother, and if there is a way he can change the day’s events.

As Eddie navigates his unexpected time-travel, Eddie tries to figure out who he can trust. And in the end, he must decide if telling the truth is the right thing to do, even if it means losing someone he loves.

No True Echo weaves a gripping story that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. The story revolves around Eddie (and others) being shot which adds suspense and intrigue. The shooting scenes are described with little detail which allows the reader to imagine as much or as little as they like.

However, what really drives the story is the characters. The story is told from Eddie’s point of view as well as a police officer’s point of view which adds depth to the storyline. The adults are not portrayed as perfect, but with problems of their own. Eddie’s best friend Angus adds humor. The new girl Scarlett adds suspense and a bit of romance. The interactions between the characters are realistic and emotional. In the end, the story shows that the connections people make are what really matter in life.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Eddie is shot several times, but it is not described in detail. The first time Eddie is shot, he jumps in front of a girl to protect her. “All I knew was the agony of the bullet ripping into my chest. And the shock. And the fear.”
  • Another time Eddie is shot, he “shut my eyes in agony as the bullet tore through my body, but the pain vanished as though it had never been there.” Later when discussing the shooting, he is told that “he (the shooter) knew that the timeline would be destroyed anyways, so I’m not sure that counts (as murder). He also knew I would save you.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Eddie’s mom has a “large glass of wine” with dinner.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • In this time period, people can time travel by going back into their younger bodies. At one point in the story, Eddie travels into his infant body so he can watch his mother’s death in order to determine if her car accident was an accident or a murder.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Emerald Green

The pieces are starting to come together, and the truth is terrifying. The Count is a powerful man who has killed many people in order to keep his plan in place. Gwen has her hands full stopping him, but her friends and family aren’t helping. Gideon’s behavior baffles and frustrates Gwen, who isn’t sure if she can trust or depend on him. And Charlotte’s jealousy of Gwen might unravel their entire family.

The ghost gargoyle Xamerius is one of the best parts of Emerald Green. Xamerius is realistic, humorous, and much better than a pet.

The trilogy remains strong with this final installment. Gwen is finally getting an idea of what she must do, but that doesn’t hamper the suspense in any way. The stakes are high, and conflicting motives create conflicts that will either bring about the end of mankind or save it.

Sexual Content

  • While Gwen and Gideon are talking, she thinks, “Now kiss me: I want to know if stubble feels prickly.”
  • Gwen and Gideon kiss several times. In one scene, “his left hand was buried in my hair and his right hand began stroking my throat, slowly wandering down.” The mood is interrupted when Gwen’s phone rings.

Violence

  • Gideon and Gwen are trying to escape from a man who intends to kill them. Gideon takes a heavy candleholder off the wall and throws it at the man. “It hit Sir Alfred on the head with a nasty sound, and he dropped to the floor like a stone.” Another man stabs Gwen.
  • When Gideon and Gwen travel back in time, they are in danger of meeting a former version of Gideon. In order to prevent that from happening, Gwen hits him over the head, knocking him out.
  • Someone shoots Gideon. “Gideon’s blood was all over the place. The hem of my dress was sucking it up like a sponge.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Gwen comes up with a plan to go back into the past and vaccinate the boy who is a ghost in her school thereby preventing his death.
  • One of the characters mentions a guard who had a hangover.
  • Several of the adults have a whisky when they are upset. Gwen’s grandfather has two whiskies and later in the book Gwen’s grandmother gives her son-in-law a whisky.
  • One of the characters takes “Alcott’s miraculous potion,” which makes him act strange. He tries to force Gwen to take the potion as well. As he talks, he says, “I’ll wager these lips have never done anything forbidden, am I right? A little of Alcott’s miraculous portion here will change that.” Gideon thinks the potion was opium.
  • After Gideon comes back from his time traveling, he is in shock and the doctor tells someone to get him a whisky.
  • At a teen’s party, someone spikes the punch, and many of the teens attending get drunk.
  • When one of the characters tries to get Gwen to take cyanide, someone hits him over the head with the butt of a pistol.

Language

  • When Gwen finds Gideon lied to her, she wonders, “why the hell she ever fell for the guy in the first place.”
  • The ghost gargoyle Xamerius calls Gideon a “bonehead.” Later, when someone tries to hurt Gwen, Xamerius calls the person a “bastard.”
  • Gwen, who is upset with Gideon, calls him a “bastard.”
  • Gwen tells her friend that she is “shit-scared of falling in love. . .”
  • Xamerius, the ghost gargoyle likes to narrate Gwen’s actions. In one scene he said, “and there was deathly silence in the room. . . All eyes rested on the girl in the piss-yellow blouse. . .”
  • One of Gwen’s friends calls someone an “ass-hole.”
  • Damn, shit, hell, and oh my god are used.

Supernatural

  • A ghost named James stays at Gwen’s school. She is the only one who can see him.
  • Gwen sees a ghost of a gargoyle who used to guard a church.
  • Gwen and Gideon have a gene that makes them time travel. A secret society has a chronograph that allows the two to have control over when and where they travel to.
  • When Gwen is stabbed with a sword, she dies. “I was hovering in the air, weightless, bodiless, rising higher and higher in space.” Later she finds out that her special power is that she cannot be killed by another person. She can only die if she chooses to sacrifice her life for another.
  • A ghost that thinks Gwen is a demon says, “I will never leave the side of this diabolical creature until I have fulfilled my task. I will curse every breath she takes.” Xamerius eats the ghost.

Spiritual Content

  • One of the characters, who is trying to kill Gideon and Gwen said, that the person helping him is doing it because he will gain, “the certainty that the angels in heaven will praise his deeds is worth far more than gold. We must rid the earth of demonic monstrosities like you two, and god will thank us for shedding your blood.”
  • A journal entry recounts a story of a girl who was said to be “with child by a demon.” The person writing the journal thinks the father would, “rather accuse his daughter of witchcraft than accept the fact that she does not comply with his concept of morality.” Later, the journal describes an “exorcism” that caused the girl to, “foam at the mouth, roll her eyes, and speak confusedly in tongues, while Father Dominic sprinkled her with holy water. As a result of this treatment, Elisabetta lost the fruit of her womb that same night.”

Ruby Red

Gwen was supposed to be the ordinary one, and her cousin Charlotte was destined to be extraordinary. When Gwen accidentally time travels, the reversal of fates leads to more trouble than anyone could have imagined. Everyone has their own motives and as Gwen begins to unravel secrets that are hundreds of years old, she begins to wonder if anyone is on her side.

To add to her trouble, Gwen is forced to travel with Gideon—a handsome, but insufferable boy, who doesn’t trust Gwen. As the two travel back in time, Gideon and Gwen must learn to help each other because danger hides behind every corner.

Ruby Red is an enjoyable read with a unique plot. Full of twists and turns, Gwen and Gideon’s journey through time has plenty of mystery, suspense, and adds a dash of romance. This rich story will keep you well up into the night and leave you wanting more. Sporadic violence may not be appropriate for children, but this young adult novel will be perfect for most high school readers.

Sexual Content

  • When Gwen travels into the past, she sees herself kiss a boy. “The girl who looked like me had planted her lips right on the boy’s mouth. He took it passively at first, then he put his arms around her waist and pulled her closer.”
  • Gwen thinks about a boy she dated who “wasn’t into kissing. What he liked was leaving love bites on my throat to distract my attention from his creeping hand . . . I was constantly trying to keep Miles’s hands out of my shirt.”
  • Gideon comes to Gwen’s school to talk to Charlotte. Gwen’s friend wonders if Gideon is gay.  And then they see him kiss Charlotte on the cheek.
  • While in a church confessional, Gideon kisses Gwen. “. . . when his lips touched my mouth, I shut my eyes. Okay. So now I was going to faint.”

Violence

  • Someone uses his mind to hurt Gwen. “Bewildered, I looked from his mouth to his hand. It was more than four yards away from me. How could it be around my neck at the same time? And why did I hear his voice in my head when he wasn’t speaking.” The character scares Gwen but doesn’t hurt her.
  • Gwen and Gideon are attacked and the fighting is described over six pages. The coach driver was shot and, “part of his face was missing and his clothes were drenched in blood. The eye of the undamaged part of his face was wide open, looking into nowhere.” Someone shoots at Gideon and then he has a sword fight with two men. Gwen describes the fighting from her point of view. “The man who’d been hit was now lying on the ground twitching and making horrible sounds.” In the end, the fight is ended when Gwen kills one of the attackers.
  • After the fight, Gideon and Gwen discuss what happened. Gwen was upset and said, “I didn’t expect it to be like . . . like cutting up a cake. Why didn’t that man have any bones?”
  • Gideon holds a gun to a woman’s head because he thinks the woman and her husband are going to try to hurt Gwen. When the butler gets ready to hit Gideon, Gideon and Gwen run away.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Gwen thinks, “I realized how pathetic I sounded—but what the hell, I was feeling pretty pathetic right now.”
  • Gwen is hiding in the bathroom stall at school. The door had scribbles that said, “Malcolm is an ass, life is crap, and other, similar remarks.”
  • “Damn” is used infrequently and “hell” is used several times. The profanity is only used in stressful situations.
  • Gwen thinks “Oh my God” often.
  • When Gideon is holding a gun to his wife’s head, a character calls him a “bastard.”

Supernatural

  • A ghost named James stays at Gwen’s school. She is the only one who can see him.
  • At the end of the book, Gwen sees a ghost of a gargoyle, who used to guard a church.
  • Gwen and Gideon have a gene that makes them time travel. A secret society has a chronograph that allows the two to have control over when and where they travel to.
  • Gwen’s aunt has visions. When trying to explain them, Gwen’s mother says, “I think Aunt Maddy really sees what she says she does. But that doesn’t mean her visions predict the future, not by a long shot. Or that it has to mean anything in particular.”
  • One of the characters can talk into people’s minds and as well as physically hurt them with his mind.
  • Several of the characters talk about Gwen having the “magic of the raven” but no one, including Gwen, knows what the power is.

Spiritual Content

  • None

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