Masterminds

Hello, dear readers. I bring greetings from the comfort of my home during my gloriously uneventful spring break. So far, I’ve managed to finish a couple of books, watch way too much TV, and see two rather boring movies. (The movies were Batman vs. Superman and Allegiant. Not impressed with either of those films.)

Anyhoo…let’s move on to one of the books I recently finished, Masterminds by Gordon Korman. This book is another of next year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, and it’s the first book in a trilogy. (The second book, Criminal Destiny, is already out.)

I feel fairly certain that the Masterminds series will be a hit with most upper elementary and middle grade readers. It’s full of action, suspense, mystery, a bit of science fiction, and a bunch of kids who discover that their entire lives are basically lies. Good stuff.

The town of Serenity is a lot like Mary Poppins–“practically perfect in every way.” There’s no crime, no poverty, no conflict of any kind. Every backyard has a pool, and no one really wants for anything. Sure, it’s kind of boring sometimes, but that’s to be expected in a town of only thirty kids. Serenity is almost completely closed off from the rest of the world, and most of the residents like it that way.

Most of them.

One day, Eli Frieden and his best friend Randy decide to do a little exploring outside of city limits. They don’t make it far before Eli is doubled over with some weird illness and rushed back to town. When Eli wakes up, he learns that Randy is leaving Serenity to live with his grandparents. Eli doesn’t really know what’s going on, but he’s sure that Randy isn’t telling him everything…and he’s right.

Eli begins to do a little digging, and he discovers that Randy wasn’t sent to live with his grandparents. But if that’s true, where did his best friend go? Why the big secret? What exactly is happening in this small, seemingly perfect town?

Eli enlists the help of a few friends in his quest for answers, and they begin to uncover the horrible truth about their town. Nothing is what it seems in Serenity, not even their own families. What does all this mean for Eli and friends? And what is the town’s strange connection to some of the most vicious criminals in the country?

Can a bunch of kids find out what’s going on, escape the lies surrounding them, and find help in the world outside of Serenity? Discover the truth for yourself when you read Masterminds by Gordon Korman!


Masterminds will probably not be a hard sell with my students. I won’t have to say much more than “a group of kids figure out that they’re parents are totally lying to them about their whole lives, the kids have to discover the truth, and deal with the fact that *spoilers* they have a weird connection to a bunch of criminal masterminds.” The books will fly off the shelves.

Most of my students–and many others, I guess–enjoy a good book that depicts kids getting the jump on adults, especially when those adults are doing something kind of horrible. I think readers who like Masterminds may also enjoy the Runaways graphic novels by Brian K. Vaughan and others. These books follow the children of supervillains. Awesome.

If Masterminds sounds like your cup of tea, you can learn more on author Gordon Korman’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Instagram.

The Fate of Ten

If you haven’t read the following books in the I Am Number Four series, stop reading this post. It will likely make zero sense if you’re not completely caught up.

Now, let’s turn our attention to The Fate of Ten

A few of my librarian colleagues are dismayed that I like this series and, even more, that I’ve stuck with it this long. What can I say? Once I got hooked on the first book (but not the horrible movie adaptation), it was all over. I simply had to know what happened next. I’ll admit that I’m kind of surprised that the series is still going nearly six years later, but, with this latest book, the end is at least in sight.

I read the bulk of The Fate of Ten last night. Even though I started the book about four weeks ago, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to keep reading until yesterday. For some reason, I was in the mood for the literary equivalent of a Michael Bay film. I wanted action, conflict, destruction, and a bunch of kick-butt aliens. That’s exactly what I got.

The Fate of Ten picks up right where The Revenge of Seven left off. (It also includes a bunch of stuff from Rebel Allies, so it’s important to read those stories as well.) It is essentially a couple of huge battles, with the Garde working to make their way back to each other.

Some of the Garde we’ve come to know in previous books are fighting the Mogadorians outside the Loric Sanctuary in Mexico. Six, Marina, and Adam, a reformed Mog now helping the Garde, are wondering what power they’ve just freed and what impact it will have on the war with the Mogs. They’re also preparing for a showdown with the big bad villain himself, Setrákus Ra. What Setrákus Ra wants with the Sanctuary, they’re not sure, but they know they must do whatever they can to protect themselves and whatever’s inside. Reinforcements may be on the way, but will they get there in time…and will they be enough for the fight to come?

In New York, John and Sam are dealing with a full-scale Mogadorian invasion. They’re on the hunt for Five and Nine, but they don’t know where to begin. Surviving from minute to minute is a struggle, and they’re looking for Mogs with guns around every corner. On top of that, Sam is learning to use his brand-new Legacies, and it seems that he’s not the only one. John and Sam run into a girl who’s developing powers of her own. How is this possible? How many other humans now have Legacies, and what is their role in the war between the Mogs and the Loric Garde?

With all of this going on, there’s still the question of Ella (Ten) and what exactly the evil Setrákus Ra has planned for her. What is to be her fate in this war, and can this one girl do anything to turn the tide?

Is there any way for the Loric Garde to defeat Setrákus Ra and his Mogadorian army? What surprises are still in store for this battered–but still fighting–group of young people? And who will they lose in their quest to save the only home they have left?


If I say much more, I’m going to give too much away, so I’m going to try to wrap things up quickly.

Even with all of the surprises this book threw my way–or maybe because of them–I enjoyed The Fate of Ten. It kept my interest the whole way through, and it satisfied my need for a good “shoot-em-up” experience. I look forward to seeing how things are resolved in what should be the final novel, United As One.

United As One is set to be released on June 28th this year, so the wait is not too long. In the meantime, I know we’ve got at least a couple more Lost File novellas to get through. The Lost Files #13, Legacies Reborn, came out in November, and #14, Last Defense, was released on February 23rd. Both of these were published as ebooks. I’m not sure at this point if there will be another novella, but I’ll be on the lookout. If the series stays true to pattern, it’s probably necessary to read the novellas before picking up United As One.

If you’d like to learn even more about this series, go to the I Am Number Four Fans website. Also, take a peek at the official The Fate of Ten book trailer below. It touches on something that I just glanced over in this post. Enjoy!

 

Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall!

Marvel and Tom Angleberger, the author who brought us gems like Fake Mustache and the Origami Yoda series, have joined forces to create a new series that follows the adventures of my favorite Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket and Groot. (For those unfamiliar with these characters, Rocket is basically a moody space raccoon, and Groot is a walking, talking tree who says just one phrase, “I am Groot.”) These new adventures are written for a young audience and are a great addition to the world of the Guardians. (Many younger readers may not be quite ready for some of the adult humor in the movies.)

The first book in a 3-book series, Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall!, comes out on March 8th, and will likely be a necessary purchase in many elementary and middle school libraries. In addition to focusing on two wildly popular comic book characters, the book is easy-to-read, entertaining, and a perfect fit for reluctant readers.

Let’s take a closer look…

After a bunch of space piranhas destroy their ship, Rocket and Groot, famed Guardians of the Galaxy, find themselves stranded on a strange planet. In an effort to find water, food, and some rich soil for Groot, the pair–accompanied by their totally awesome tape dispenser, Veronica–explore this planet that seems to be one huge strip mall.

It doesn’t take long for Rocket, Groot, and Veronica to realize that something is not quite right about this place. Is it the overly friendly robots working in each store? Is it the robots’ insistence that they use the toilet as soon as possible? Or is it the toilets that want to swallow them whole? Yeah…it’s mostly that last one.

The situation is growing desperate for our Guardians and their truly fabulous tape dispenser. Can they figure out what’s going on before they’re torn apart by robots or flushed for good? How can they possibly escape the horrible Planet Strip Mall? Find out when you read this exciting new book by Tom Angleberger!


Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall! is a super-fast read with illustrations throughout–most of them drawn by Rocket. (In the final version of the book, there are supposed to be some illustrations by Groot, but those were not included in the NetGalley copy I was fortunate enough to read.) The text in this book reads almost like a script, which will provide a very different, interesting experience for many readers.

I do think that some familiarity with Guardians of the Galaxy would be helpful before starting this book. Those who know at least a little about Rocket and Groot would at least know to expect a lot of snark from Rocket, and they would realize that the words “I am Groot” can have many, many meanings.

As for me, Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall! is going on my next book order, and I look forward to talking to many of my students about this entertaining read.

If you’d like to learn more about this book and others by Tom Angleberger, I urge you to check out his website.

Until next time, this is your friendly neighborhood Knight Reader signing out!

Rebel Allies

Turn back now if you haven’t read the following books in the I Am Number Four series:

I read I Am Number Four almost six years ago. If I had known that the series would still be going strong all these years later, would I still have picked up this book? Probably. Sometimes, I’m simply in the mood for some alien adventure, and this series definitely delivers.

This weekend, I devoted some time to reading the latest collection of novellas in the I Am Number Four (or Lorien Legacies) series. This collection, Rebel Allies, contains stories 10-12, and it really adds to the series as a whole.

The first story in this collection, The Fugitive, takes a closer look at a familiar character from this series, Mark James. You might remember Mark as the cocky football star–and Sarah’s ex-boyfriend–from the first book, but his life changed drastically when a bunch of shark-faced aliens (the Mogadorians) blew up his high school. Since then, Mark has been trying to figure out exactly what is going on with both the Mogs and the Loric Garde trying to defeat them.

Now, Sarah is missing, and Mark is determined to track her down. He’s sure that she’s either with Four and the Garde, or the Mogs have captured her. He’s not sure which, but he’ll do whatever it takes to find her…even if it means fighting evil aliens and the government agencies aiding them.

Mark, however, isn’t completely alone. A mysterious figure known only as GUARD provides assistance when Mark needs it the most. Who is this guy, and how does he know so much about Mark, the Loric, and the Mogs? Can GUARD be trusted? Well, Mark will soon find out…


The second two stories, The Navigator and The Guard, introduce a fairly new character in this series, the one known to Mark as GUARD. This person has played a part in both The Fugitive and some of the other stories in the series, but these two novellas delve a bit deeper.

Without giving too much away, I will say that GUARD is not a man as Mark assumed. She is a woman, and she is from Lorien. She was there when the Mogs attacked, and she managed to escape to Earth. Now, this brilliant hacker is doing whatever possible to protect her new home from suffering her planet’s fate.


If the series stays true to pattern, the stories of Rebel Allies lead directly into the next full-length novel, The Fate of Ten. This book was released in September, so I plan to dive right in as soon as I wrap up this post. I feel certain there will be one more novella collection* sometime this year, probably before the final book, United As One, comes out on June 28th.

*If you can’t wait for the print version of the next novellas, one of the stories is already out in ebook form, and another is coming next month. Story #13, Legacies Reborn, was released in November, and story #14, Last Defense, will be out on February 23rd. I don’t know yet if there will be a 15th story.

For much more information on this exciting series, go to the I Am Number Four Fans website. Enjoy!

The Game of Lives

Danger! Danger! If you’re new to James Dashner’s Mortality Doctrine trilogy, turn back now. Spoilers ahead. If, however, you’ve read The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts and want a quick look at the final installment, The Game of Lives, keep on truckin’.

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I’ve finally wrapped up The Game of Lives, the third and final book in the thrilling Mortality Doctrine trilogy by James Dashner. This last book really ramped up the action and suspense, and there were so many twists and turns that I started to get whiplash at one point. That’s pretty high praise for a sci-fi adventure book like this one.

Michael and his friends Sarah and Bryson are once again on the run. They’ve been manipulated by the very entity, the VNS, that claimed to be on their side. The VNS is still determined to put an end to the Mortality Doctrine* (the brainchild of the vile Tangent, Kaine), but at what cost? What is this organization and their leader, Agent Weber, willing to do–what lies are they willing to tell–to bring Kaine’s master plan tumbling down?

*For those who need a reminder, the Mortality Doctrine involves inserting Tangent (sentient program) consciousness into human bodies. It’s pretty complicated, but this final book does explain the ins and outs. At least, I think so. I don’t pretend to understand all of it. Probably because I’m not a maniacal computer genius.

Michael’s not certain exactly what Agent Weber is up to, but he and his friends may have to do the unthinkable–join forces with Kaine–to prevent the agent’s machinations. Both Michael and Kaine want to stop the VNS and Agent Weber, but can they work together long enough to bring the organization’s horrifying plans to an end?

But what exactly is Kaine’s endgame? Is he still hell-bent on enacting the Mortality Doctrine? Why? What could he possibly have to gain from it…and why is Michael so important to his plans? What will happen if Michael and Kaine manage to stop the VNS? Will Kaine then try to do whatever possible to enact his own terrible undertaking?

Can Michael stop two separate–and equally terrifying–enemies from inflicting their wills on the world? What will he lose in the process? Friends? Allies? His own tenuous grip on humanity? Who will ultimately win in this game of lives?

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I’ve already said too much, so I’m going to begin wrapping things up. I will say that the ending of this book came as something of a relief. When you’ve been on the edge of your seat for so long, it’s nice to finally be able to lean back and breathe–a feeling the book’s characters could relate to if they really were sentient. (In a parallel world, they might be. Who really knows?)

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t completely get all of the gaming lingo in the book (and the rest of the series, really), but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment. I continue to maintain, though, that this series only cements my decision to never take up gaming. I’m already fairly paranoid; I don’t need to worry that a sentient gaming program is going to take over my brain.

The Mortality Doctrine trilogy is, in my most humble opinion, a good fit for libraries that serve middle grade, teen, and adult readers. If readers are looking for an action-packed sci-fi adventure, these books are highly recommended. Gamers, especially, may gravitate to this series.

Those who read this series may also want to take a look at Gunner Skale, a novella centered around one of the greatest gamers in the VirtNet. We met him briefly in The Eye of Minds, but this short story goes a little deeper (though not as deep as I would have liked). It also gives a look at the beginning of the Mortality Doctrine, the humane ways it was meant to be used, and how that came crashing down.

For more on The Mortality Doctrine and The Game of Lives, visit the Dashner Army website. You can also connect with author James Dashner on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I did. Happy reading!

The Rule of Thoughts

Warning: Read The Eye of Minds before proceeding with this post. Spoilers ahead!

I spent most of yesterday in a reading fog thanks to James Dashner. When I began my day, I was only a few pages into The Rule of Thoughts, book two of Dashner’s Mortality Doctrine trilogy. By 9:30 last night, I was finished with the book and moving on to the third installment, The Game of Lives (which will be released to the masses tomorrow, November 17th). So, yeah…I guess you could say that The Rule of Thoughts was just as gripping as the first book, The Eye of Minds.

The Rule of Thoughts picks up right where the first book ended. Michael now knows he’s a Tangent, a sentient computer program, and he has essentially taken over the body of someone else. He had no say in this process. Kaine, an evil Tangent bent on merging the virtual and real worlds, downloaded Michael into another’s body in an effort to further his own agenda, known as the Mortality Doctrine. But just how does Michael fit into Kaine’s plan? And is there anything he can do to stop the Mortality Doctrine before it’s too late?

As Michael deals with all of the problems that come with inhabiting a strange body in an unfamiliar world, he’s also attempting to reunite with Sarah and Bryson, his friends from the VirtNet. He knows that it will take all of them to defeat Kaine…and it still may not be enough.

It quickly becomes clear that Michael and his friends are being hunted by multiple parties, and they don’t know who they can trust. They’re basically fugitives in the real world, and Kaine is always on the look-out in the virtual world. Is there anywhere they can hide? How can they figure out what’s going on–and stop it–without endangering their freedom…or their lives?

Once again, Michael, Sarah, and Bryson are realizing that nothing is what it seems. Kaine is manipulating events and people to further his agenda…but there are some that are fighting against him. Will help come for Michael and company before Kaine’s insane plot becomes reality…or is the Mortality Doctrine already taking over?

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I’m going to wrap things up here…before I give too much away. Also, I really want to dive back into The Game of Lives, the third and final (?) book in the series.

I will say, though, that The Rule of Thoughts is an exciting, action-packed read that continues to convince me that I will never be a gamer. It is an excellent book that keeps readers interested from start to finish. Like The Eye of Minds, I highly recommend this to readers in middle grades and up.

For more on The  The Mortality Doctrine, visit the Dashner Army website. You can also connect with author James Dashner on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The Eye of Minds

When I read The Maze Runner series, I immediately became a fan of James Dashner. I fully intended to read the first book in his next YA series, The Eye of Minds (book one of The Mortality Doctrine), the minute it came out. Sadly, though, that didn’t quite happen.

Now, it’s two years later, and I just finished this first book. The second book, The Rule of Thoughts, is already out, and the third book, The Game of Lives, will be released next month. (There’s also a prequel novella, Gunner Skale, that’s out.) Well, I may be a bit late to the party, but there is an upside here. No long, agonzing wait for the next book! As soon as I finish a few other reads-in-progress, I can dive right back into the world Dashner created for this Mortality Doctrine series. And let me tell you, it is quite the interesting–and often horrifying–world…

The “real world” holds little appeal for Michael. He is a gamer, and, like many other people around him, he spends the majority of his time in the VirtNet, or the virtual world that offers a totally realistic, immersive experience, especially if one has the hacking skills to get everything he desires. (Michael does.) But for Michael, things in the VirtNet are about to get all too real…

When Michael witnesses a girl committing suicide in the VirtNet–and realizes that she’s also killing herself in the real world–he comes to understand that all is not what it seems here. And when the VNS, a government agency, solicits his help in tracking down someone who can only be described as a cyber-killer, Michael must decide if he wants to remain blissfully ignorant or if he’s willing to risk his life to find Kaine, the greatest–and most dangerous–gamer the world has ever seen.

Michael soon realizes that he has no choice in the matter. If he doesn’t do what the VNS asks of him, everything he knows and loves will be in peril. So Michael enlists the help of his two best (virtual) friends, and the trio goes on a quest to locate–and hopefully stop–the mysterious Kaine.

Even for a group of gifted hackers, though, this experience is like nothing they’ve ever encountered before. Danger lurks around every corner, and it appears that Kaine is leading them exactly where he wants them to go. At times, they are not hunting Kaine. They are the hunted.

The lines between the real and virtual worlds disappear for Michael and friends the closer they get to Kaine. Will they be able to finish their quest? What will they discover about Kaine in the process? What is his endgame, and why is Michael such an important part of it? Is there any way for Michael and his friends to make it out of this “game” with their minds–and their lives–intact?

Uncover the truth when you read The Eye of Minds by James Dashner.

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I am not a gamer. (It’s probably the only non-geeky thing about me.) After reading The Eye of Minds, I will not be gaming anytime soon. It freaked me the crap out. My mind is already a fairly dark place, so I don’t need to add to that by immersing myself in a video game….especially one that is controlled by a maniac with his own nefarious agenda.

I think the scariest part of this particular book–and perhaps the entire series–is that I can see it happening in the not-too-distant future. Technology takes over more aspects of our lives daily, so it’s not too much of a stretch that it could one day take over our minds…or our bodies. Now, I’m not advocating doing away with all technology. That’s absurd. (Also, I’m a school librarian, a webmaster, and a blogger. Technology is kind of my bread and butter most of the time.) I’m just saying that it could be dangerous in some instances, especially when it takes over everything else or is placed in the wrong hands. This book definitely shines a light on that and could lead to some interesting ethical discussions.

For those wondering if this book is okay for middle grade readers, I would say that it is. Like The Maze Runner series, it is scary, action-packed, and will definitely keep readers guessing. The book has its fair share of violence, and some younger readers may not be prepared for just how terrifying things get, so watch out for that. I would say, though, that this book is a great pick for libraries that serve middle grade, YA, and adult readers. There something here for everyone, especially patrons who’d rather play video games than do nearly anything else.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, the second book in the series is already out, and the third will be out on November 17th. I’m hoping to get to both of them very soon. (Thanks to NetGalley, I don’t even have to wait until next month to read The Game of Lives. It’s on my Kindle right now!) I’ll be back with my thoughts on both of those books as soon as I get around to reading them.

Until then…check out more on The Mortality Doctrine on the Dashner Army website. You can also connect with the author via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You may also want to take a look at the video below for a teaser trailer for The Eye of Minds. Enjoy.