Reading Rabble Review: Children of the After book 2 "Revelation" by Jeremy Laszlo

4 Awesome Rabbles for the next installment of a great YA Post Apocalyptic Thriller!

The awakening was only the beginning.

Having learned of the destruction of their world, Jack, Sam, and Will are forced to flee the security of their Grandparent’s home with blood thirsty beasts hot on their trail. Leaving the dark rider and the answers he likely had behind, they again are forced to fend for themselves as they are pursued relentlessly. 

It isn't until they begin to see signs of life that hope is rekindled, but with the beasts gaining on them, will they reach what surely must be salvation - or will they fall victim to the creatures that destroyed the world they once knew?

In this, the second installment of the Children of the After series by Jeremy Laszlo, I have really come to like the way that this author spins a yarn! In the first book, Children of the After "Awakening" (see the Reading Rabble review) we found our sibling heroes Jack, Sam, and Will on a frightful journey out of a devastated Chicago. Their journey led them to their grandparents house in the countryside where the answers they sought were not to be found. Even though the answers were not found in the first installment, the way that the author developed the plot assured that I would not stop reading with the first book.

Now, in this second book, Children of the After "Revelation", we are finally given the reasons for the disaster our heroes find themselves in. Without giving too much away, suffice to say that it's an ALIEN INVASION book! This book, however, takes that old theme to a new and different place. In the course of escaping their plight Jack, Sam, and Will come across Tammy, who will be important in their continuing search for safety and answers. This girl, about Jack's age, has been hiding in the ruins of a town south of Chicago. Tammy manages to save our the three from some of the rampaging aliens and immediately becomes part of the family. 

SPOILER ALERT!

This book is not just a typical rehashing of a tired old alien invasion theme, but a new and inventive telling of what has become a staple in modern literature. We find out from Tammy that at least 6 different species of aliens have come to Earth with war and conquest as their agenda. Not only are these aliens fighting humans, but they are also fighting each other! Sort of a "War of the Worlds" gone mad. With everything from Insect-like creatures who fly to aliens who resemble humans in almost every respect fighting for dominance and conquest, it's no wonder that our heroes are thrust into a terrifying new world.

Continuing their journey to what they hope is safety, the siblings join forces with Tammy in the hope of making it to where humans are still carrying on the fight. After meeting up with some more young scavengers, their journey becomes much easier as they are taken to an old air force base in St. Louis. This is where we meet some of the remnant of humanity in the person of Grant. A tyrannical former military leader who has taken over an old military base in the central U.S. Jack, Sam, and Will are tended to medically while Tammy is taken to an unknown part of the base. This is where the plot turns. 

With mastery, the author manages to spin an old story thread into a tight and thrilling action story. The storyline never leaves me dissatisfied. Even though the plot twist at the ending of this book had me feeling frustrated, I'm never left with any doubts as to the hero's goal and destination. 

Once again, I am thrilled with this story. It is perhaps aimed at the younger YA audience, but it's never lacking for excitement. What it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in wall-to-wall action. There was never a time anywhere in this story where I got bored with excessive drama or non-essential explanations. That is why I'm wholeheartedly giving this second installment of the "Children of the After Series" 4 Rabbles with an R for reluctant readers. The pace of the action and the ease of the vocabulary make this book a sure winner for reluctant readers!

Time to Rabble back! Ever been grabbed by a series you didn't expect to like?

 

 

 

 

 

 

R.E.A.D.E.R. Tips for Helping Your Reluctant Reader

Reluctant Readers Unite! Read the pamphlet for details. On second thought: Never mind ...

Hmm ... What were we talking about? Oh, yeah - reading. (groan)

Hmm ... What were we talking about? Oh, yeah - reading. (groan)

Because I write books for young readers and I'm open about the reading difficulties I've had throughout my life, many adults with reluctant readers in their lives ask me how they can help their struggling child. Based on some study, conversation with kids, and my own life's experience, here are my tips for helping your reluctant reader:

R.E.A.D.E.R.

R - Rule out learning disorders.

The root cause of a reading problem may be more than lack of interest or effort. Reluctance and frustration with reading can be symptoms of a diagnosable disorder like dyslexia. In short-format reading or other subjects a child might be able to compensate for a mild or hidden condition but feel intimidated by longer-form reading. Testing offered through your school or health program may help you find out. There are many effective techniques and helpful accommodations for kids with diagnosed learning disabilities.

E - Engage, don’t threaten.

If there are no diagnosable learning problems, the first helpful approach is to take the pressure off. More pressure makes reading harder, not easier. A struggling child is easily overwhelmed and shut down by mounting demands to be better at a task that’s already difficult for them. Engaging a reader where they are, supporting them, and offering alternate routes to reading will make the idea of reading more attractive and approachable.

A - Any reading counts.

There’s nothing more frustrating to a struggling reader than to find something they’re excited to read only to be told, “That’s not real reading. You need to read XYZ.” This is a huge mistake that adults make - and it happens a lot. If reading is a chore for a child but they find something that's worth putting their effort into encourage it. Teachers and librarians have also noted that many reluctant readers select books that are way above their reading level because they're interested in the subject matter. Let them give it a try and if they get frustrate (or seem suddenly disinterested) then help them find easier reading on the same subjects. Comic books, graphic novels, "edgy" novels, magazines, even mechanical/technical manuals are good alternatives because the subject matter is important to the reader. If a reader is passionate about a subject, they're much more willing to put in the effort it takes to read and immerse themselves in it.

D - Difficulties are temporary, self-esteem is for a lifetime.

Learning struggles are not a life sentence. Intervention doesn't have to mean pressure and scare tactics.

Learning struggles are not a life sentence. Intervention doesn't have to mean pressure and scare tactics.

It’s hard for kids to be subjective about their reading difficulties. When adults are pushing reading as something a child should love and when other kids seems to be easily "getting it", a reluctant reader can take it personally and assume that they're somehow deficient. Reading difficulties are not necessarily a sign of lifelong failure. Poor readers who have curiosity, self-esteem, and a love of learning (in any form) can succeed in life. Keep it in perspective and ask: Is a the pursuit of a better grade now worth turning a child off to their learning potential? In the long run a child’s confidence and self-image determines their ability to achieve. Work on the big picture, not just the black and white lines.

E - Encourage alternate subjects.

History is full of stories of successful people who were considered poor learners as children but were so driven by their interests that nothing could stand in their way. No doubt, your reluctant reader is good at or passionate about at least one subject that’s not reading-dense. And no doubt your librarian can help you find novels or nonfiction books with those themes that would be compelling companion reads. Encourage their curiosity and passion first then find books that relate to it.

R - (be a) Reading role model.

Get caught reading – to, with, and by your kids. There are some alarming statistics (link below) about how few adults ever read a book after high school or college, how few households buy books. Then we wonder why our school-aged kids don’t value reading! Boys especially lack male role models for reading and don't see it as a "masculine" activity. If kids see parents and other influential people reading, picking up a book becomes less awkward or alien when they're ready to give it another try.

Wax on, wax off. Role Models and mentors matter in the game of reading.

Wax on, wax off. Role Models and mentors matter in the game of reading.

I hope these tips (and the resources listed below) help. DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR RELUCTANT READER. I know from personal experience that a struggling reader wants to learn, has a desire to achieve, doesn't like getting left out, is afraid of getting left behind, but is just having difficulty with reading at the moment. Your reluctant reader may blossom later and find a love of reading - or at least develop the confidence to explore reading when they need information and seek personal development.

We're living in a world of technology and helpers. This is the future where our learning styles can be compensated for as long as we maintain our curiosity and passion. I owe most of my personal development to the fact that I can read, so I want kids to discover a love of books and learning too. Like so much else with kids, though, it often seems to arrive best on their terms.

A few resources for reluctant reader info:

About.com Resources for Reluctant Readers

Literacy Expert David Ward: What is a reluctant reader?

Strategies to Help Engage Reluctant Readers

YALSA 2013 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

Page Turners for Reluctant Teen Readers from Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Reading Statistics

Your turn to Rabble back. Have you always been a book lover or did you struggle? Have any struggling readers in your life today? 

Reading Rabble Review: "The Death Cure" The Maze Runner Book III

Real Hero's never die. They just fade into the sunset?

3 Rabbles for a weak finish to a great action YA series.

It’s the end of the line.
WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.
Will anyone survive?
What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say.
The truth will be terrifying.
Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all. 
The time for lies is over.

The build up to this third and final installment of the "Maze Runner" trilogy final book has been tremendous. I have been thrilled with the whole series, which creates a lot of expectation for the finale. But, the big finish that I was expecting really did not happen here. Much needed answers are missing and the ultimate mystery of Thomas's journey from the Glade to the Maze to the Scorch to the halls of power goes unsolved, making this book a disappointing and incomplete ending.

There is no way to be satisfied with the way author James Dashner brought this series to a close. So many things left unresolved, so many characters left in the dark. Thomas and his cohorts drift from scene to scene with no sense of realism to anchor the plot or account for the characters' interaction with the world that has been created for them. We are given a picture of a city (Denver) on the edge of chaos with little explanation of the catastrophe effecting it. We see camps full of sick and crazed people in various stages of "the Flare", a mysterious virus, but don't have the chance to connect with their plight. We are introduced to WICKED's fledgling opposition, a mysterious group of teens and adults led by Gally, Thomas's enemy from the maze who went missing and was presumed dead in the first book. Now, with no explanation of his journey here, he's leading some sort of resistance? With all of these initially interesting plot twists I kept hoping for more development of a true purpose to all of it but that satisfaction was not forthcoming.

(Spoiler Alert!) 

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of this book is the way that the author chose to casually write a large portion of the main characters into oblivion. While Thomas, Newt, Minho and a few others choose not to get their memories back, Teresa and most of the gladers elect to undergo a procedure to regain their memories. This is essentially the last we see of these characters. They appear at the end of the book, but with no explanation and no answers. I did not like the way that the character of Teresa had been alternating between betrayal and loyalty in Book II: The Scorch Trials and I was firmly disappointed in her role in this last book. Her death seems like a second thought and never given proper venting. We are never given the true role of WICKED in all of this. We are not told why some mysterious 'Chancellor' has planned the roles of Brenda and Jorge. We are just to accept that they have Thomas' best interest's at heart. We are never told what role WICKED had in the release of the 'Flare'. We are just expected to watch Thomas and a few others walk off into the sunset and "live happily ever after".

Also, we are never given answers to why Thomas and Teresa were so linked. A few vague dream sequences from Thomas are all the clues we have to who these two really were and what their connection to WICKED was. This important part of the original mystery presented in Book I: The Maze Runner are ignored. 

Not all aspects of this book are bad. There are some redeeming qualities that I found quite welcome. The action sequences, while somewhat disjointed, are quite intense and fast paced. This is something that I have come to expect from Dashner - he never fails to deliver on the action. The mysterious quality of the action is also welcome but, while we have come to accept a certain amount of mystery in the action sequences, in a finale there needs to not only be mystery but conclusion, and that is what is most lacking here.

This totally unsatisfactory ending is what is driving my downgrading of this particular book to 3 Rabbles, albeit with an R for reluctant readers. My disappointment with the ending of this series does not take away from the fact that reluctant readers will still find it a fascinating read. The ease of the vocabulary and the fast paced action of the story will not take anything away from the pleasure of reading the entire series. In fact my overall rating of the entire three-book "Maze Runner" series will remain 4 Rabbles for overall excellence and enjoyment. Reluctant readers will find any of these books easy to read and enjoy. 

Your Turn to Rabble back. Have you ever been disappointed in the ending of a book series?

What a Week!

Or ... What Week?!

When a man comes down with Man-flu, you'll hear about it. When a man-writer comes down with Man-flu, everyone will hear about it!

Look - there's even a sign!

Look - there's even a sign!

A normal week at the desk and on the road for this writer is usually something worth reporting on. But what about a week under the comforter and in Dreamland, battling demons and monsters real and imagined - and some maybe fever-induced? Meh ... I think I can still make some hay. 

Monday was busy and went more or less normally - me at my computer planning my week and making promises to be at various schools and libraries. Terrific! Back to work after a long holiday week. I was excited to get out and see my peeps and they said they were ready to see me! That's when Man-flu so cruelly struck! Little did I suspect ...

I woke up Tuesday by not waking up. The Snooze button seemed to have a mind of its own and went for more than an hour. By the time I realized I couldn't manifest enough consciousness to roll out of bed and put my socks on, it was too late - Noon, as a matter of fact. I'm not especially lazy, but I do like to eat, so that fact that I barely ate a thing that day before spending the rest of the day and night in bed was significant. 

Wednesday, a little better - depending on how we're measuring. I got out of bed around 11:30 with every intention of getting out and doing something. I even got dressed! I sat down on the couch to eat something - hot cereal, I think - and when I was finished I sat there a little tooooo long. Next thing I knew I was leaning to one side onto a throw pillow - just for a minute, I promised - and before I could stop myself I was (gasp) reclining. So, Wednesday was done-for. Back to Sleepytime Island. Note: no - absolutely ZERO - cold medicine or Thera-flu or 'Quil of any kind was involved. But the heavy, heavy antibiotics I'm on for a sinus infection may have had something to do with it. 

Would it have killed you to start a movement in my honor?

Would it have killed you to start a movement in my honor?

Thursday, after some 70 hours in man-flu quarantine - constitutionally abusive, if you ask me! - I got out of the house for a couple of hours. Bolstered by an entire morning of sleep, I even packed my gym bag - ambitious, I know. Of course, I was flat on my face again by 5PM. 

So, here it is Friday and I feel halfway human. Still a little shaky and tired, but I'm up and working. I hope you like this report of my lost week. I'm sure you got way more done than I did. I hope you're proud of yourself for ignoring my misery.  

Will my fever dreams deliver any uniquely creative products? I'm not sure. I did wake up with a couple of well-developed ideas. But are they really any good - or do only make sense in fever-dream logic. And - the big question - can I actually remember them?! We'll see. 

Ah! One bit of good news - I got a new contract to write another YA mystery this week. Should be a fun project. Now, if I can stay awake through the month of December I will have at least one more YA book on my bibliography by spring!

MAN-FLU SURVIVORS UNITE!

MAN-FLU SURVIVORS UNITE!

In conclusion: It's Man-flu season, a condition to be taken with the gravest seriousness - especially by fellow sufferers, if not by those who care for us. I'll see you next week, Rabble - if I make it that long. 

 

 

Rabble back! What do you do when Man-flu strikes your world? 

Reading Rabble Review "Children of the After : Awakening" by Jeremy Laszlo

4 Rabbles for a great middle-grader/teen adventure story!

"Easy is Gone"

It has been six months since their father locked them in the security vault with a promise to return. But he never came back. With supplies running out and vital life support systems failing, Jack, Samantha, and Will have no choice but to ignore their father’s warnings and leave the vault. With no knowledge of what befell the world outside, or what they might expect once the door is opened, they find themselves in a world they do not recognize. 

Thrust into the remains of the world they remember, how will they survive on their own, not knowing what or who else remains amongst the ruins?

This was a true blue YA action/adventure novel. Geared toward perhaps the younger YA audience, this story nevertheless does not fail to impress even an experienced reader like the Rabble Rouser. The action is fast paced and non-stop. I was thrilled with this post-apocalyptic novel. 

I have to admit that this was another one of those stories that I took a chance on  based on its short, enticing description on amazon.com and I was not disappointed! Each page and chapter are full of uncertainty, danger, and teeth-grinding suspense.

Siblings Jack (16 years old), Samantha (14), and Will (7) were forced into their father's safe room on the 3oth floor of their skyscraper apartment building at the start of an as-yet unexplained worldwide disaster six months ago. Now, hungry, thirsty, abandoned, and desperate they have no choice but to open the safe room door and dive into a new, strange world of chaos and danger. 

The author skillfully weaves the mystery and action of a post-apocalyptic theme park as the siblings overcome deadly obstacles on their 300-foot descent to the streets of a ruined Chicago. Once on the ground their fight is only beginning. The vivid descriptions of burned-out ruins and collapsed buildings with exploded glass everywhere brought pictures to my mind that are still burning in my dreams. Being a lifelong reader and a lover of genre fiction, "Children of the After" is yet another surprising example of how thrilling, sophisticated, and well-written YA fiction can be. I don't believe that I have ever read a novel where the details were so few but so real that I felt as if I was really there. 

With so little information about what happened to the world while they were safely locked away Jack, Samantha, and Will bravely set out on a journey to the only safe haven they can think of, their grandparent's house outside the city. Jack finds himself thrust into the role of parent and guardian as he tries to guide the remains of his family to safety. 

In addition to the action, adventure, and apocalyptic theme, the book is very thought-provoking. The quickness with which Jack and Samantha assume their new roles as protectors of their younger brother, Will, is startling. It's a testament to the strength of human nature that these spoiled teenagers abandon their life of luxury (Sam says, "Easy is over.") step into new and very adult roles. This makes me wonder what would really happen if the end came to us so quickly. Would people really react with such protective emotion? Would we as people come to the aid of our weaker siblings and neighbors? The book taps my well of hope and I say "Yes". 

The action progresses rapidly to exciting run-ins with mysterious strangers on their way out of the city. We are given tantalizing hints to the disaster but never given a firm clue about the cause of the apocalypse. 

The book ends with more questions than answers - but not in an annoying way. The questions are actually very tantalizing and point to the existence of answers for our three heroes. This skillful ending ensures that I will - without a doubt - be reading the next installment of this series. 

The Rabble Rouser is giving this story a very enthusiastic 4 Rabbles with an R for Reluctant Readers. The easy flow and constant action make this story an easy pick for reluctant readers. Chapters are short and without excessive drama or overwhelming vocabulary. In fact, of all the Reading Rabble Reviews so far, "Children of the After" may be the best pick for Reluctant Readers!  Also, for accomplished readers, this story will satisfy and leave a longing for more!

Time for the Rabble to answer back! Where will you find yourself when the end comes?


Reading Rabble Review : "Sovereign" by E.R. Arroyo

A Teen's Freedom is Never Free or Easy. 3 Rabbles for a very good dystopian action novel. 

Chemical warfare has obliterated most of the world, including America, and the survivors have turned into feral beasts, save one colony, Antius, the last remnant of civilization. Seventeen-year-old Cori (aka Citizen 1206) only longs for wide open spaces and freedom. But Antius has no use for such things, just mindless drones to serve in a place with walls, fences, and laws. A lot of laws, which Cori constantly breaks. So she’s spent years plotting her escape, which is the only thing that will save her from the colony’s deranged leader, Nathan. She isn’t looking to be a hero, and she certainly isn’t looking to fall in love, but she just might do both.

This is the debut novel by E.R. Arroyo. The Reading Rabble likes to introduce and support new and upcoming authors. This book seemed like it was an ideal read for the Reading Rabble because it's great teen action story.

Following a worldwide chemical and biological war, the ragged survivors are drawn into several colonies, each with a special talent for survival. One colony, Antius, has motivations other than survival. The draconian leader of the colony, Nathan, ruthlessly suppresses freedom by keeping the people in a virtual prison. But our heroine, Cori, is smart, tough, and rebellious. Her motivations are clear - escape.

Along with her love interest Dylin, Cori manages to escape the clutches of the evil dictator Nathan, and his ruthless colony. The scenes of the escape are descriptive and exciting. Perhaps the only drawback is the author's tendency to wax overly long on the interplay between the characters in their quest to escape. The friendship - and perhaps something more - between Cori and Dylin is obvious to even the most oblivious of readers. Set in between the action scenes, this just tends to distract from the story a little bit.

I very much enjoyed the heroine, Cori, and appreciate the author's care in developing this strong, independent-minded girl - including some very special abilities that I won't spoil here. Likewise the supporting characters were also very likable. Especially the City Boys. Tyce, Eli, and others were essential to the journey Cori must go on in order to find her true freedom.

Alas, Babylon
By Pat Frank

I also enjoyed the setting of this story, the world after a massive chemical and biological war. While dystopian books today tend to present a post-zombie or post-vampire apocalypse or some mysterious disaster, it was almost refreshing to read about the world after a simple, old-fashioned war

The devastation and desperation sometimes reminded me of one of my favorite post-war survival books , "Alas Babylon" by Pat Frank. Written way back in 1959, during the height of the cold war when nuclear disaster was believed to be not only possible but inevitable. Admittedly, these two stories have almost zero in common when it comes to the plot, but I was reminded on several occasions of Frank's classic novel when descriptions of the bombed-out landscape were given. "Alas Babylon" is truly a classic of the dystopian genre and a great read besides. (A future review of this one may be in the works.)

"Sovereign" is a wonderful book that also has some elements of modern disaster novels. Some of the survivors were damaged by the war and became monsters with descriptions somewhat like zombies. These feral humans are found throughout the story and lend a creepy and gruesome feel to the story. Conflict with these creatures is often bloody and graphic. This aspect pulls the book fully into the modern dystopian genre, while the author skillfully manages to keep it from becoming the main focus - which is a relief because so many other current novels cover that ground.

The ending is only somewhat satisfactory. There is a sequel to this first novel so I hope that more of the plot is completed in the next installment. This first one left so many questions unanswered. Almost, but not quite, I wanted to not like this story overall. But it had so many of the elements of the classic post disaster novel that it was hard not to like it. Especially with the strong female lead. A great first novel by E.R. Arroyo, I can only hope for more in the future.

The Rabble Rouser is going to give this exciting book 3 Rabbles with an R for reluctant readers. Despite a few flaws in the storytelling and writing, I think that almost all readers will enjoy this story and relate the strong teen heroine. Reluctant readers will enjoy the easy way in which the story flows. The Rouser may upgrade the rating on this one "Sovereign" based on the follow up books - so, stay tuned!

Time to Rabble back. Have you taken a chance on any new authors and been amazed and surprised?

What I meant to say was ...

Or: How to turn a Ferrari into a Hyundai!

Not everyone can say they survived a 76-degree drop in temperature (not counting 30 MPH winds) while doing something they love, so count me among the few. I'm sure I wore out the weather angle last week when I got to Minneapolis and posted from the Northland, but it was fun to talk about. 

Minnesota winter is hard on cars. Look what the snow and slush and salt did to my Ferrari!

Minnesota winter is hard on cars. Look what the snow and slush and salt did to my Ferrari!

This week has been very exciting, too. A number of friends visited me at Once Upon a Crime Books in Minneapolis Tuesday and bought books - mostly The Delphi Trilogy - and had me sign them.

So, in case I didn't say so it Tuesday ...

I can't express how great it is to have such good friends for so long. I hope I get to return the favor sometime. 

If you want to be a writer, go for it. Plan on spending a lot of time writing and editing and rewriting. Find some instructions and follow them. The only way to do writing wrong is not to do it at all. 

The Wilcox sisters show up at all my signings. I'm starting to fear them.

The Wilcox sisters show up at all my signings. I'm starting to fear them.

Reading is important to me because I attribute most of what I am today to my ability to read. If I want to do or become something, my first step is to dream about it, my second step is to go read about it. Books are magic in that way.

And, last but not least, THANKS FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE HENNEPIN COUNTY LIBRARY'S BOOKS FOR TEENS PROGRAM. Between my $1 pledge from each book sold and your cash contributions, we raised $175 - that's a lot of books for a lot of teens!

Thanks for a great week! Next week is the start of the Holiday season and we're planning some great promotions for the books. 

Rabble back! How was your week (especially those of you in Minnesota and Buffalo, NY)?

Is there anything else you want your authors to say? 

Reading Rabble Review: The Scorch Trials, The Maze Runner Book II

Will the scorch overcome all? 4 Rabbles for an exciting and thrilling sequel.

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. 
 
Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch. 
 
There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.
 
The Gladers have two weeks to cross through the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them. 
 
Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off. 
 
There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction—and they’re determined to survive.

 

This second installment of the "Maze Runner" series by James Dashner is as thrilling as the first one. The teen Gladers are again up against the machinations of the shadow entity WICKED and their backers. This second book took up exactly where the first one left off. Even though it had been a couple of weeks since I had read the first installment, it felt like I had never left. Like Book I: "The Maze Runner", I could not put it down. I was constantly turning those pages in the hopes that I would get some satisfaction. In this, James Dashner is a complete master - I never felt good about 'stopping for the night'. I just knew that if I didn't sleep, I would be a complete bear the next day at work. All the while biting my nails to get back to the story. So, I didn't want to put it down and go to sleep!

In "The Scorch Trials" we again find Thomas and his friends, a group of teen boys called the "Gladers", up against the mysterious entity WICKED. They've escaped the huge maze they were inexplicably dropped into only to step into an even worse world of confusion and danger. 

At least in this book we are given a little more information as to what is happening to these kids. The why will have to wait for the next one in the series, I guess, as there is still very little explanation of the big picture - but there's comfort knowing that the characters are in the dark as much as the rest of us! Here we find Thomas, Minho, and the rest of the Gladers in for another challenge. They have to cross an absolutely devastated stretch of land in a specific time period. We are never given the reasons for this, and this is part of the thrill. I Just Don't Know Why?!?! Darn it, Dashner, You've got me hooked!!

Given the mystery that these boys find themselves in, I suppose it's understandable why there seems to be a lot of whining in the dialog. Of course, its easy for me to say that as I am not being fried by excruciating temperatures, lack of water, and deadly lightning storms. In "The Scorch Trials" we get hints of another group of Gladers that were also in a maze - a mirror group consisting of girls instead of boys. These Gladers are in competition with our beloved boys, entering the story late in the book and with extraordinary results.

Having not only to face a devastating landscape, but a nightmare city full of crazed people, it feels impossible that our heroes will make it to their goal. But given that this is only the second book of the series, it seems inevitable that Thomas and the others will get there eventually. This may be a weak point in the story. When you are dealing with a series, you have to know that the main characters will be triumphant. Yet ... that may be a strength, because even though some suspense may be taken out of the equation, the compelling mystery never is. And that is why this story is so good. Dashner never leaves out the mystery. I believe these teens will overcome any obstacle. I  believe in their determination to finish this mystery no matter what the cost. 

The ending to this great sequel to the first "Maze Runner" is not a complete disappointment. With most sequels, the author tends to leave out the 'hook' that is so essential to finishing the story. In this one I believe that Dashner continues to 'hook' the reader so that they are not left with unbelievable or weak characters. But at the end of "The Scorch Trails" we share Thomas's will to finish this mystery no matter what. When the characters all combine at the end to escape what may be death for all, you are left with a sense of wonder at their drive and determination to finish their journey in the face of terror and uncertainty! 

Once again, Dashner has left me with no choice but to finish out the series with his next book "The Death Cure: The Maze Runner, Book III". One can only hope that all of the mystery is solved with the next installment. I had hoped that more of the mystery could have been revealed in this one but that was not to be. Oh Well, on to the next one...!!!

I'm giving "The Scorch Trials, Maze Runner Book II" 4 Rabbles with an R for the reluctant reader. This exciting sequel is every bit as thrilling as the first book, plus the reading is easy and compelling even for that reluctant reader. This series could make a real reader out of practically anyone. The mystery and suspense has kept me hooked and it should do the same for all, including reluctant ones!

Your turn to Rabble back! Do you have a favorite mystery book, TV show, or movie past or present - one that leaves you guessing at every turn but has you totally hooked?

 

Oh, the Places ...

Author's life imitates the art of Dr. Seuss.

Union, SC 76 degrees; packing for the North; am I nuts?; chilly sunset in Lexington, KY; FROZEN water--WHA?!; hello, Minnesnowta! -- all that in 52 hours!

Union, SC 76 degrees; packing for the North; am I nuts?; chilly sunset in Lexington, KY; FROZEN water--WHA?!; hello, Minnesnowta! -- all that in 52 hours!

In college, my group of friends had something called "the Gloatin' Rule". Basically, it worked like this: If you gloated too much about good fortune or any feeling of superiority based on circumstances, the Gloatin' Rule would get you. 

So, if you find yourself in South Carolina, enjoying 76-degree (above zero) weather, maybe don't post about it on Facebook right before you get in your car and drive 1,200 miles into the biting edge of this season's maniacal early winter weather pattern where it promises to be a hearty +5 degrees. The "Gloatin' Rule" is gonna get ya! 

CNN is calling it ... not a "Polar Vortex", but ... a Bomb Cyclone. That's right - because "Polar Vortex" wasn't terrifying enough! We weren't scared straight last year (even if we were frozen stiff) so they're taking it up a notch. And I walked right into it. 

Full disclosure: It's already been a great week - and I feel like the week is just beginning on Friday! At Sims Middle School in Union, SC, Wednesday I found piles of Stone Arch Books editions set out for the readers (not because librarian Ms. Taz knew I was coming - she has no need to butter me up) and was told that the kids LOVE our books. I'm still smiling about that. 

Sims Middle School readers love Stone Arch books (pictured: Michael Dahl's "Library of Doom", David Orme's & Peter Richardson's "Billy Blaster", and my "Recon Academy", and others).

Sims Middle School readers love Stone Arch books (pictured: Michael Dahl's "Library of Doom", David Orme's & Peter Richardson's "Billy Blaster", and my "Recon Academy", and others).

"Oh, the Places You'll Go -- in 52 hours."

Was the rest of the title? 

I zoomed to Minnesota for a weekend of books and family and friends -- and books. Saw my stepson, Sam, just a couple hours ago for the first time in months and am now holing up in the nicely appointed and homey spare bedroom at my friend Anthony's apartment in St. Paul. Get to see my family and friends for the weekend and cap it all off with a multi-book signing at my "home bookstore", Minneapolis' own indy mystery shop Once Upon a Crime!

You may think I'm crazy, but give me the benefit of the doubt. Let's say I'm being scientific in my choices: I have to leave the warm South and get to the arctic North every once in a while to prove to myself that I really don't miss winter. But the truth: I'm thrilled to be among my frost-bit peeps and excited for the big book signing on Tuesday. 

God bless - and stay warm - wherever you are! 

So, shout back, Rabble! What are you doing while I'm pounding hot chocolate in the Northland?

Reading Rabble Review - "Unwind" by Neal Shusterman

5 Rabbles for an Inventive and Shocking YA Thriller

"Will you be unwound by this one?"

 

Unwind (Unwind Dystology)
By Neal Shusterman

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them 

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away. 

This was an absolutely incredible book to read! Full of twists, hardcore action, and very likable characters. It also had an overwhelmingly shocking and terrifying plot. 'Unwinding', which you very soon find out means harvesting every part of a person (teenager) and giving all of their body parts to other people. Just this idea alone makes it frightening . The thought that human nature could fall so far as to permit this type of activity gives me chills.

The plot evolves from the aftermath of a second Civil War in the heartland of the United States. A war over the emotional subject of Abortion. The sides being 'Pro-life' and 'Pro-choice' , armies were raised on both sides and battles were fought. Out of the bloodshed and chaos of this 'war', a compromise was reached in which a 'Bill of Life' was agreed upon. The result was that between the ages of 13 and 18 teenagers could be 'retroactively aborted', and their body parts 'harvested' so that others could live.

A grotesque idea which at first glance was enough to make me pause! The story starts at this point with three main characters: Connor; Risa; and Lev, three teenagers being 'unwound' for different reasons. Each character has their own story and the author never leaves us in doubt as to which person is narrating the action. Each switch in chapter is headed by the character's name. A big 'Thank You!' to Neal Shusterman for this small (but large) feature of the story. I was never left in doubt as to who was speaking, and this was a huge difference from other novels with first-person narratives (see the Rabble Review of "The 5th Wave" for perspective)! 

The theme of this story was truly unique. As you know, I am fond of making references to books that I have read in the past that carry similar themes. After reading this book I have no knowledge of a story quite like it. That is not to say that there isn't one out there, but I've read A LOT of books and  I don't know of one like it. (Help me out, Rabble, if you know of something similar.) With that in mind I must admit that the whole idea sort of creeped me out at first. I wish other books I've read from before had given me that feeling. It grabbed my attention from the first word and wouldn't let me go. I absolutely HAD to know what was going to happen to these teens - and that's something I've never experienced before.

Due to this unique experience (for me) I made a complete connection to these characters. I felt like I was right there with Connor and Risa as they made their desperate bid for freedom. The dialog the author puts into the story was completely addictive. This book never felt like a YA novel, it had all the elements of any adult novel. There were some total surprises with this one too. At one point, Lev goes off into what would normally be a long side story. Shusterman completes this side story with succinctness and surprise. It could have been a long and boring sidebar to the overall story, but he managed to make it relevant and quick, never leaving the reader to wonder where the main characters had gone. This is important for later on in the series I am sure.

Both the setting and conflict of the characters seems to flow into one here. As all of these kids from different backgrounds and lives converge at one bone chilling setting, the conflict of the plot reveals itself with surprising speed. Not only do these children have the common threat of 'unwinding', but they are also under the mysterious protection of an older man known only as the 'Admiral', whose shocking motives are not revealed until near the end. (No spoilers here.) The longer explanation for the Admiral's story would give away too much. You will just have to read this book to find out why. Trust me, it is completely worth it!

Even though this book is the first in a series, it never left me with unresolved issues and that is a huge problem in this day of 'series' fiction. This is not to say that series are a bad thing. I love having more to read from a fascinating story, but a lot of books leave you with things that are not resolved making sure that you will buy the next book. Although I usually do buy the next book in any series, this one will be a pleasure because it didn't "leave me hangin'" without some resolution.

The ending is action-packed and full of twists I didn't see coming. The description of one kid's 'unwinding' is probably the most frightening and psychologically terrifying thing that I have ever read. But it didn't scare me the way some random horror novel would have. It shocked me but left me breathlessly waiting for the next page. Here the author doesn't disappoint, giving the reader just enough to want to read on, but not enough to see the entire plot. Masterful!!

Have you guessed why I am giving this one 5 Rabbles yet? A thrilling book to read and dwell over have left me itching to read the next one in this series. It was also very readable - there was never a point where I was left in confusion as to who, what , or where. Therefore, I am definitely giving 5 Rabbles with an "R" for Reluctant Readers. The book is easy to read and flows briskly from one chapter to the next without dumbing down the themes or the characters, or cheating the reader out of the strongest plot. Therefore it should be easy for all readers - even reluctant ones - to dive into the world of "Unwind" and be fascinated, terrified, and compelled by this great story.  

Time for you to rabble. I'm not one to give 5 Rabbles easily, but I was totally enthralled with "Unwind"! What book grabbed you and wouldn't let you go? 

 

Not Just Another Week on the Road

Or ... Watch an Author Scream Like it's 1964!

I spent the week in Virginia meeting with, and presenting to, some of the smartest and most patient people on Earth - school librarians. In case you don't know, I was an "F" student until 10th Grade and feel a debt of gratitude to the librarians and teachers who kept the doors open and didn't give up on me before the miracle happened.  

After a stop in Fairlawn, VA to visit with the Pulaski County school librarians (what a great bunch - special thanks to Rita and Lori) I headed to the beautiful, mountain-ringed city of Roanoke for the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) annual conference.

I attended last year as an author - just reaching out and getting to know librarians and introducing them to my books for young readers - and they were really nice to me. This week I returned in my day-job disguise: mild-mannered Perma-Bound Books Sales Representative. (How I got this alter-ego is a back-story for a special issue - but let's just say I love the work and the people I work with.) We had hundreds of visitors to our booth and talked kids books for two full days. Good times. 

Me with Neal's "Unwind" and Neal Shusterman with (gasp) "The League of Delphi."

Me with Neal's "Unwind" and Neal Shusterman with (gasp) "The League of Delphi."

But today was possibly the highlight of my year. I got to meet Neal Shusterman, best-selling, best-reviewed, YA author of dozens of inventive fiction books for youth and teens. He wrote one of my all-time favorite books of any genre, "Unwind" and its sequels. (I believe the Rabble Rouser is reviewing "Unwind" next week.) Neal is, of course, a gentleman and a generous guy. This is fortunate for me, because (you'll have to take my word that I hardly ever get star-struck for good reason, but ...) I GUSHED all over him, talking a hundred miles a minute like a caffeine-fueled robot with a bad processor. 

He was kind enough to take pictures with me (and all the librarians there, of course), sign books, AND accept a copy of "The League of Delphi: Book I of The Delphi Trilogy" AND - here's where the Beatlemania-like screaming starts - say "I look forward to reading your book." ! Let's back that up and replay it in slow-mo: "Iiiii ... looooook ... forrrrwarrrrd ... tooooooo ... reeeeeading ... yourrrrr ... booooook."  

Portrait of an over-caffeinated author geeking to a hero's kind words.

Portrait of an over-caffeinated author geeking to a hero's kind words.

(I swear, Rabble - I NEVER geek out this much - I promise that's not what this blog will be but ...) I can now die happy. 

Neal also said some things during his book talk that has helped break a logjam on a couple of other manuscripts I'm working on - turns out I've been a little stalled on these projects because I'm overthinking them. His observation on his process - outline the book but don't be a slave to the outline. It's an inside-out process during which the characters reveal their story. Good inspiration. 

 

A couple of other great things happened this week: 

I got a note from Bernadette, librarian at Delphi Middle School in Delphi, Indiana. She and Lauren from the Delphi Public Library had me visit their town and school last April for a day-long author visit. Turns out, the kids have been gobbling up the Delphi Trilogy books and demanding Book III: "The Delphi Revelation" (released just last month) and they're loving it. Warms my heart :)

Then tonight I heard that "Seti's Charm" the first book in the Max Carter Adventures series was given a very nice review by a reviewer who really gets the middle-grade reader. More smiles!

What else can I say? It's been a great week for the Reading Rabble! Now I'm going to eat a late supper, take a bubble bath, rest my feet, and sleep like there's no zombie apocalypse going on outside my bedroom window. If I may be so bold, I feel like I earned it this week. 

Rabble back! Have you met a literary hero this year? 

Reading Rabble Review: The 5h Wave

4 Rabbles for a fresh take on the ol' Alien Invasion theme?

"The alien is calling from inside the house!"

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

The 5th Wave
By Rick Yancey

"The 5th Wave" ... Wow, one of the most complex and interesting YA novels I have read to this point. 

First and foremost, this is an excellent book overall. The story itself is inventive and exciting. I was enthralled with the story from beginning to end. It never let up in its hook for the next page. I was always wanting to continue reading this one versus putting it down.

The theme of this story is an old and believable one for Sci-Fi fans - the 'Alien Invasion'. This theme has reverberated throughout Sci-Fi for ages now. In this case, the threat is more sinister than ever before - because it comes from inside us and we don't know who to trust - even ourselves!

The heroine Cassie and her counterpart "Zombie" are two teens who have survived the alien ex-vasion(?) to battle the very human-looking yet heartless and soulless invaders across a technology-depleted Earth. 

I was at one point reminded of Robert Heinlein's Classic "The Puppet Masters" in the chapters where 'The Silencer' and Cassie, two of the main characters, share an experience where Cassie is 'possessed' by an alien for a few moments. This experience was limited in scope, but left me with harkenings of the 'riding' of Heinlein's aliens.

In "The 5th Wave" there seems to be at least four characters telling their story - two main characters and two minor ones - which is interesting but also causes a bit of a problem for the reader. I have to admit that I have never been a fan of the first-person narrative because it can easily confuse the reader if not presented well - and this story left me in a quandary. I finished the book with a supreme sense of liking it and wishing for more, while at the same time not liking the way in which it was told. The four-character, first-person narrative often left the reader in the dark as to which character was speaking. It sometimes would take a page or two to figure out whose narration I was following. This, however, is the only drawback to this story.

"The 5th Wave" took me on an incredible journey into the realm of the fantastic. The one advantage of the first-person narrative is the lasting impression of the scene. I really feel like I was there with Cassie as she went about the goal of rescuing her brother. These scenes made the story all the more likable and believable and left me with a breathless longing for the Heroes to succeed.  

This book will enthrall almost all YA readers. The action is heavy and completely believable. There might be a bit of confusion in dealing with the first-person narrative, but this is mostly overcome with the weight of the story.

The 5th Wave has been voted a YALSA 'Teens Top Ten' for 2014 by teen voters. I have to agree with this rating because the story is such a classic with a new angle to it.

If it wasn't for the confusion with the first-person narrative of the story, I would be tempted to give "The 5th Wave" 5 Rabbles because it was so good! Most reviews are giving it a 5 with a "high-low" rating, meaning that it has high-interest content with a low vocabulary level. While this may be true, I wouldn't really recommend it for reluctant readers. I believe that the difficulty in following the multi-character shifts in the first-person narrative without direction may frustrate and discourage a reluctant or struggling reader, so I'm leaving off the "R". But the Rouser is going to give this book a wholehearted four (4) Rabbles. 

What do you Think? Your turn to Rabble in the comments section below. How would you and the books you've read deal with an alien invasion from within?

Reading Rabble Review: The Maze Runner

4 Rabbles for a solid teen action-adventure!

No Teen Gets Out Alive ... or Do They?

The Maze Runner (Book 1)
By James Dashner

Thomas wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a world of about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies. A new boy arrives every 30 days. The original group has been in "The Glade" for two years, trying to find a way to escape through the Maze that surrounds their living space. They have begun to give up hope. Then a comatose girl arrives with a strange note, and their world begins to change. There are some great, fast-paced action scenes, particularly those involving the nightmarish Grievers who plague the boys.

This book started out like a 100 yard dash race at the olympics. Fast paced, mysterious, and likeable. It grips you right from the beginning and won't let you go. Right from the start the theme was familiar. (Here's a hat tip to Lord of the Flies)  But that's where the similarity ends. Up to date, modern, with creative language, this book has less in common with William Golding's 1954 classic novel than most reviewers have been claiming.

Although the theme may have started the same, the story itself takes on a new and fresh perspective on the dystopian genre. The writing is excellent with non - stop cliff hanging chapters that ensure that you won't stop at 'just one more chapter'. Seriously folks, I lost sleep on this one because I didn't want to stop reading. 

Lord of the Flies
By William Golding

The Characters could definitely have used a little more development, because they are very engaging. But, with the Young Adult (YA) target audience, this is less of a hinderence than would be in a more adult novel. YA's WANT you to get the point! They have not the time or the patience for long winded dialog and descriptions.

I was also pleased to see the creative language found in this book. Now we all know that teenagers (most of them) curse in their conversations with each other, however it was refreshing to see a YA novel that wasn't full of cursing. To be sure, replacement words are used, but at least this is literature without all the gratuitous filth found in a lot of books. They know the words but don't need to see a lot of them in their books.

With that in mind, I highly recommend this book to those who are fans of the genre. It was a very good book with a lot of action and lite on the drama. This will please those who are most likely to read this book, probably young teen boys.

This book was a thrill to read. I am definitely looking forward to the movie made from this one. Hoping they don't slaughter it too bad. With the author involved in the making of the film though it should be good. As we all know though, BOOKS are always better!

The Rouser gives this book four Rabbles with an R for the reluctant readers. Reluctant readers will enjoy this one because the chapters are short and heavy on action. Plus the speed of the story moves fast so they won't bog down on details.

Your turn to Rabble in the comments section below. What's your favorite dystopian novel - past or present? 

That kinda week

Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks. 

This face ... and it ain't even Halloween yet.

This face ... and it ain't even Halloween yet.

I've visited a dozen schools, put 800 miles on Little Blue (aka: the Hyundai), been out of bed early every morning and back to bed late every night, skipped the gym, have too much blood in my caffeine supply, lived on candy bars and carrot sticks, ate a sandwich-shape block of grease for lunch today - now I just want a blankie and a nap. [insert thumb-sucking SFX]

In other words, a GREAT week! 

Several librarians got copies of either “The League of Delphi” or “Seti’s Charm” for their readers. One sent me a message today saying that 4 of her kids have already read “The League of Delphi” (she got the book Tuesday), loved it and are dying to read books II & III ASAP. That's more troops joining the Reading Rabble! If this mob every gets organized, we'll be a force to recon with. [insert demands here]

LIttle Blue - what a trooper!

LIttle Blue - what a trooper!

Also, librarians are generally cool and nice and smart and I love spending time with them. So even when my day job gets in the way of my writing (did I mention no creative writing this week? thumbs down! :b [insert raspberry SFX]) I’m still a pretty happy guy. 

Gotta get back to work now, because I have loads of ideas that need to be turned into books. 

If you want to see this dazed, crazed, and exhausted face smile, get some of my books, share this post, or just talk about how weird writers are (using above photo as Fig. 1A). 

It's Teen Read Week - Oct 12 -18!

Thank God for librarians! They've saved me again.

I'm so dumb that I didn't even realize it's Teen Read Week - until a librarian reminded me. Even now, as a writer for teens, I'm still relying on librarians to help me get things straight. 

Here are 3 books your teen readers might like. Each of them is the first in a series. For the Unwind 'dystology' and Maximum Ride, several books are available in the series. The 5th Wave has a second book available already. 

I'd be crazy not to add my own Delphi Trilogy here. Teens are telling me they're burning through these books All three books are available now. 

I give each of these books 5 Rousers! If your teen - or you - haven't read these, check them out. You'll keep the pages turning and want more when you get to the end. 

Join the Reading Rabble!

or: The blog formerly known as ...

What happens when you feed too many brain burgers to a restless crowd of word-heads? You get a rabble.

This is a rabble.

This is a rabble.

 

This is the official first blog post of "The Reading Rabble" - but not my official first ever blog post. I've waxed ancient and modern, archaeology and writerly for a couple of years now at my former blog "Brain Burgers". If you were a faithful reader - thanks. If not, worry not. We'll get those old posts moved over here soon enough.

But until the archives arrive (under high security and armed escort), let this introduction serve as "content." 

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What you can expect to find here among the "Reading Rabble": 

  • A lot of activity and info for young readers
  • Lots of book talk (reviews and special guests)
  • Focus on young people's reading issues
  • Library talk (not necessarily at a library tone)
  • Updates on my writing projects
  • Writing clinics (for young and older writers)
  • Tidbits of interesting stuff that pops up from my research
This is a Rabble Rouser - our book rater.

This is a Rabble Rouser - our book rater.

 

When we do book reviews, we'll post a rating system out of 5. Probably use a rabble rouser like this guy. 

Your interaction will be important. I'm dying to hear what you think of my books and of the stuff we post. We want your suggestions and input. So, keep coming back and JOIN THE RABBLE!

 

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Chris Everheart is author of 19 books for young readers, including the recently completed Delphi Trilogy, a teen thriller series described as "unputdownable," a page-turner that will keep even the most reluctant of readers engaged until the very end.