Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Iron Guy's Top 5 for 2011

Greetings, all you rocking and reading guys! I hope you all had great holidays and are enjoying the break. This is the time of year the grownups make Best Of or Top Ten lists for the year, so I'm going to present my Top Five books of 2011. (click on the titles to see the original reviews)

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. Not only is it the top book of this year, it's one of the most remarkable books I've ever read. It starts off sort of slowly but, once the adventure starts, it's one wild ride!! I've rarely felt such suspense or danger in any book.

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by the terrific Alan Silberberg. Another remarkable and extraordinary book. You've got humor, a very touching story and some good lessons about life. I can't say enough good things about this book---and it's way better than the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books! (at least, I think so--go back and check out The Great Greg Heffley Debate from this year)

The Lost Hero. Another winner from the great Rick Riordan. Although The Son of Neptune has more humor, this one has more action and heroics. Jason is a hero worthy to be included in the Percy Jackson series.

Vespers Rising by various authors. The 39 Clues continues with new and even deadlier villains! This one gives the background on the Chaill/Vespers conflict. Lots of action and some real people from history.

How Football Works by Keltie Thomas. An informative and entertaining book. It's got enough information to satisfy new or long-time football fans.

OK, guys, what were your favorite books this year? Click on that Comment tab under this post and let us know!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Great for the Holiday Break

Ah, yes, the holiday break should be in full swing for just about all of you. NO SCHOOL!! NO SCHOOL!! Ahhh--excuse me, I was just getting back in touch with my 10-year-old days. Anyway, there's two glorious weeks of NO SCHOOL!! and I thought it would be a good time to recommend some cool books and audiobooks. Audiobooks are great for those long rides in the car when you travel over the holidays.

So are regular books. The first is Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects and Other Man-Made Disasters by Lenore Look. It's the third in the hysterically-funny Alvin Ho series. Never heard of them?? Well, then, you're missing a lot of belly laughs. Alvin Ho is one of the funniest kids I've ever met and his adventures (and misadventures) never fail to make me chuckle, laugh, and guffaw. I bet you'll do the same once you read these. (What??? You say you don't guffaw? You will when you read these books!)

Alvin Ho is a second-grader who's afraid of everything. I mean, really afraid. So afraid, in fact, that he carries around a Personal Disaster Kit. In this book, he gets invited to a birthday party, but not just any party--it's a girl party!! What do you do at a girl party? But there's another party for the guys at the same time. Which one should he go to? Will he do the right thing?
That might seem like an extremely brief plot summary, but, believe me, there's a LOT more that happens in this book. And all of it's funny!! Just wait until you read about his trip to the homes of dead authors Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson (the authors dead for 300 hundred years), the cowboys and Indians game with second graders hyped up on sugar, what happens when Alvin sees Emily Dickinson at the mall, and the advice on what to do at a girl party. AND THEN---just wait until you see what happens when Alvin finally gets to the party!!!! I won't tell you which one and I won't tell you what happens, but if you don't laugh, well, you just can't laugh!

This book receives the Iron Guy Seal as One Terrific Book!

There's a new one out: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances. I've got a copy now and cant wait to get to it.

Speaking of Alvin Ho, there is a really great audiobook version of the first two books. It's The Alvin Ho Collection: Books 1 and 2 and it's read by an actual 10-year-old boy! It's really funny, especially when the reader tries to sound like Alvin's dad.

Another good set of audiobooks is the Hank the Cowdog series, written and read by John R. Erickson. These audiobooks are really funny. Hank is sort of a canine Barney Fife, all full of himself and not as smart as he thinks he is. The first audiobook is The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog. In this one, Hank, the "chief or ranch security" gets wrongly accused of killing a chicken and goes to live with the coyotes. But then the coyotes decide to rob the hen house and attack the ranchers. Will Hank join them? The second is The Case of the Falling Sky. The ranch's rooster tells Hank that the sky will fall but Hank is too smart to believe him--until Hank has a strange dream and Pete the Cat tells Hank that it's all true. What if they're right?? Hank will do whatever it takes to save the ranch, even if it means climbing on the roof of ranch owner Sally May's beloved and beautifully-waxed car. As I said, these books are funny and John R. Erickson does a good job reading them. And I've seen how much kids and grownups enjoy them--the kids in my wife's carpool beg for them, my father-in-law enjoys them, and I actually saw a kid snort macaroni through her nose while laughing at one!

Well, I hope you check these out but I especially hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

I may be Charlotte's # 1 Rick Riordan fan. The Son of Neptune is a good reason why. It's the latest in The Lost Hero series. AND--blow the trumpets--Percy Jackson is back in this one!!

Percy has two major problems as this book starts, though. First, he can remember who he is, where he comes from or why he has a pen that becomes a sword. Second, he's being pursued by the Gorgons, the two immortal sisters of Medusa. Why do they want to kill him? Why do they reform as soon as he kills them? The Gorgons eventually pursue him to Camp Jupiter, a place for demigods but with a big difference--everything in this camp is based on ancient Rome. In this camp, Percy meets two new friends, Hazel and Frank, who have strange powers of their own and some deep secrets. But soon they find that Gaea, the spirit of Earth, is waking and has sent an enormous army of monsters to destroy Camp Jupiter. If that's not bad enough, Death has been chained in Alaska or the monsters can never stay dead. Percy, Hazel and Frank are given the quest to unchain Death and return in five days. Can they get from California to Alaska and back in that short amount of time? Can they survive in an area that's outside the protection of the gods? Even if they do this, can they get back in time to save the camp? You'll have to read it to find out!!

If you do, you'll be in for a good time, as you always are with Rick Riordan's books. They are enough thrills, action, fights, danger, monsters, heroes, and impossible quests to satisfy any guy reader. PLUS--Percy Jackson returns in all his wisecracking and heroic glory! And when Percy is around, there's not only adventure, there are laughs! Just wait until you read about the Gorgon who wants to tell everyone about the low, low prices at Bargain Mart, the Roman ghost whose name means Mr. Underwear, or why why there is a feast for tuna. Thrills and laughs--how could you miss with a book that has all of these? Check this one, guys! Go Percy! SPQR!!!!

Needless to say, if it's by Rick Riordan, it's One Terrific Book!

Friday, December 16, 2011

OOPPSS!! Forgot to give the Seal!

I forgot something very important last Friday--I forgot to give this book the Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Terrific Book!

Friday, December 9, 2011

It Happened on a Train by Mac Barnett

This has been a great fall and winter for new books. Especially new books in my favorite series. There was Goliath, last in the Leviathan trilogy, (see my review here), the latest Percy Jackson book, (I'm working on that one now!) and two 39 Clues books. But, if that weren't enough, we were also lucky enough to get the latest installment in one of my favorite new series, the Brixton Brothers mysteries. This one is called It Happened on a Train and it's by the highly-talented Mac Barnett. This book is so...

"Wait a minute," you say, "who are the Brixton Brothers?" Well, let me give you a little background. Steve Brixton is a 12-year-old boy living in California. He's obsessed with the Bailey Brothers books, a series of mysteries written in the 1950's. In the first book, Steve gets caught up in a mystery involving a book on early American quilts and national security agents (otherwise known as librarians). He solves that mystery and decides to set up his own detective agency called the Brixton Brothers. (Steve doesn't have a brother--he just thinks it sounds cooler) The second book involves another mystery involving the author of those Bailey Brothers books. (if you want to know more, see my review of the first book here and the second here)

Got that? OK, in this book, Steve takes all his beloved Bailey Brothers books out to the curb in a garbage can and decides he doesn't want to be a detective anymore (if you've read the second book, you'll know why!) His best friend Dana tries to talk him out of it but then a strange surfer dude pulls up, presents Steve with a really odd problem and asks Steve to solve it. Steve refuses, however, because he's a "retired detective." After that, Steve and Dana get on a train to go to a student United Nations but find some very mysterious things going on. Why is there an extra car on the train and why does no one want to acknowledge it's there? Who is the scar-faced man looking so intensely at Steve? Once Steve and Dana settle in to their ride, more mysterious things start to happen--Steve meets a girl who disappears (does it have something to do with that extra car?), finds out about a plot to steal fabulously expensive antique automobiles, and gets locked inside a sauna! Someone is desperate to keep the truth hidden. Will this be enough to bring Steve out of retirement? And, if so, can he survive it?

As you can see, there's enough mystery and suspense to get any guy hooked. But that's not all; you get a healthy helping of comedy thrown in too. And sometimes you get both at the same time! Just take the scene on the cover--there's Steve on top of the train, trying to track down the bad guy in just his bath robe and shower cap! This book will make you laugh, scratch your head at the mystery, and wonder how Steve will get out of his next tight squeeze. And the retro style of Adam Rex's illustrations fit the book perfectly. This is a great book for guys who like reading and even guys who don't. Some of the chapters are only two or three pages long and that helps the story move along as quickly as a train. So go check it out, guys! You will say, along with Steve and the Bailey Brothers, "This book is ACE!!"

PS--if you want to read an interview with Mac Barnett, click here.

PPS--Note to Sammer: I know you've checked out the Brixton Brothers books. Let me know what you think!