Thursday, March 29, 2018

Cool Spring Break Reading

Greetings, guys everywhere! This is the time of year when kids get out of school for Spring Break. In Charlotte, it starts--well, today! This is a teacher work day, so we've started early here. (How about you reader guys across the country? When do you have Spring Break?) I don't need to tell you how great it is to get of school for a week, especially at this beautiful time of year, so I won't waste time but tell that I've got some ideas of fun books for Spring Break. These books have been recommended by the Iron Guy and other boys and would be great to take with you on a trip or if you're hanging out at home.
(ps--I won't spend a lot of time commenting on these books. They have all been tested and approved by GUYS, so I can guarantee you'll like them!

The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy

Any books by Stuart Gibbs, especially the Spy School series

The Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce

The Ricky Ricotta books by Dav Pilkey (really good for our younger reader guys)

The Eragon books by Christopher Paolini

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods and Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan

The Copernicus Legacy books by Tony Abbott

and, if you like to grab a whole lot of books and binge read, the Who Was...
and What Was... books are great.

So are the I Survived books by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived The Great Chicago Fire, 1871

And if you're traveling, don't forget to take audiobooks!

OK, guys, here are some of my suggestions. What about YOU? What would you like to read or listen to over spring break? Leave your ideas in the Comments section below this post. And if you'd like to send in a review of anything you read, leave in the Comments section. I'll collect reviews after spring break is over and post them.
So, if you're on spring break now or will be soon, have a great time!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Harry Potter Update # 3--TRIUMPH!!

A triumph of sheer MANLINESS!!
Yes, guys, the Iron Guy's iron determination and persistence has triumphed once again!! I had set a goal of reading that massively intimidating book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by the end of March. Of course, even the MANLIEST of MANLY MEN might have faltered at such an enormous task and even I questioned whether or not I could have done it. HA!! Let us forever banish such foolish thoughts! I not only finished the book but made it with a week to spare (I finished last Saturday), a testament to the Iron Guy's rugged fortitude!!

Well, that and the fact that this is such a terrific read that I couldn't pull myself away from it! Let me tell you, guys, this is ONE TERRIFIC BOOK!! If you are not familiar with the story, let me fill you in. The incredibly evil Lord Voldemort returned in the fourth book. (The Goblet of Fire) Harry Potter not only saw him but narrowly escaped with his life from that encounter. The Ministry of Magic refused to believe in Voldemort's return, however, and set about to discredit Harry and anyone, like Dumbledore, who believed him. In fact, the Ministry went so far as to appoint the wretched Dolores Umbridge as the new Headmistress of Hogwarts to enforce its schemes. But the One-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is alive and active and seeking a weapon which would make him more powerful than all the other wizards. Harry Potter keeps having dreams in which he goes down a long corridor, then up to a door that leads to--well, could it be weapon that Voldemort seeks? And what will happen if Voldemort gets there first?

As I said, this is ONE TERRIFIC BOOK!! The first four books were good but they never grabbed me as they did the rest of the world. Yes, I enjoyed all the delightful magic in those books and sympathized with poor Harry in the Dursey household and when picked on by the Slytherins at Hogwarts but, overall, I found those books interesting but not absorbing.

All that changed with The Order of the Phoenix.

This one started off with Dementors attacking Harry and his cousin Dudley and it took off from there. You never knew when Voldemort or Dolores Umbridge would strike next, so that made me keep turning pages to find out what would happen--something that was missing for much of the first four books.
And that ending! Enough slam-bang action to satisfy any guy. And a really big surprise. Plus some big reveals that not only give Harry a more dangerous load to carry but also shed some light on the . Danger, suspense, mysteries, action, bad guys who are really bad, powerful wizards and all the delightful, goofy and whimsical magic that J. K. Rowling does so well--what more could a guy want??

Some grownups have told me this is their favorite Harry Potter book and I can see why. Be sure to check it out--but not until you've read the others! This series builds on itself and you won't enjoy it nearly as much unless you've read the first four. Which, if you haven't started them, would be a great idea over Spring Break! But,then, that's tomorrow's post.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Harry Potter Update # 2--Plus Three Other Cool Items

OK, guys, I must admit that I have been more than a little surprised at how much I'm enjoying Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There is a lot going on--Hagrid's disappearance and return, the Sytherin and Gryffindor  Quidditch match, attack by a giant snake, Dolores Umbridge snooping into everything--that makes this book a lot more exciting than the first four. And there's a sense of danger lurking throughout the book that keeps me on the edge of my seat and wondering what will happen next. Plus there a lot of questions like, "What's up with Harry's scar?" and "Why is Dumbledore being so silent to Harry?" and "What is You-Know-Who looking for?" that keeps me reading to find answers. Yep, this book has been so good that I've been ripping through the pages. Last week I had gotten to page 227 and today I'm at p. 547, which means I've read 320 pages since last week! I would normally say that you may all gasp in amazement now at my MANLY feat of determination and persistence but reading this book has been so much fun that it hasn't been a chore. Besides, I still have 233 pages left to go. Maybe i could finish by next weekend!

But you don't want to hear only about me and that one book. I've got three other things I meant to tell you about before I got caught up in Hogwart's world. The first is Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw by Todd Calgi Gallicano. It's a fantasy set in modern day California that ends up going all over the known world and into the mythical world--which, apparently, is next to us all the time but we don't see it! Young Sam London is your typical kid. He goes to school every day, lives at home with his mom and doesn't think there's anything special about him. But he has an extensive collection of books about mythical animals, which will soon serve him well because he's about to encounter that world. He keeps having dreams about a powerful gryphon and, through a plan involving a tour group of seniors and their bus, gets to meet the gryphon. Something big and dangerous is happening in the mythical world but neither one knows what it is. When Sam goes back to the bus and it explodes, his adventures begin! Along the way you'll meet a troll who likes breakfast at IHOP, the US Dept. of Mythical Wildlife and the remarkable Guardians. This is a good solid fantasy adventure and if you like fantasy (or even if you don't) this would be a good choice. It won't make you forget Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Lord of the Rings but it is a good story with humor, action and (what is really great) mythical beasts from mythologies all over the world. Plus, the author lives just north of Charlotte!

The second book is The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry. I first heard about this book about 10 years ago from a fellow blogger, Betsy Bird, who said Percy Jackson fans should know about it. That's a good idea in some ways because this book gives a good glimpse into that ancient world and into the Daedalus story. It turns out that Daedalus had a daughter named Inas and she likes to do adventurous things like diving for sponges or practicing the dangerous sport of bull leaping. She also likes to try out her father's latest inventions, pair of wings that could make people soar like birds. She has to do it in secret, however, because the superstitious people of her island of Crete would not understand and create trouble for her and Daedalus. She will need all her adventurous skills and her wings for a daring rescue at the end of the book! I really enjoyed this book. Historical fiction, like fantasy, is a great way to walk around in another world for a while. There's good adventure here but the book's pace is slower than  Percy Jackson. If you're expecting slam-bang, thrill-a-minute action like you'd get from the PJ books, you'd be disappointed but if you like a good solid story with a thrilling ending and a fascinating chance to see the ancient world through the eyes of someone who lived in it, this is for you!

I saved the best for last. Do you remember when I started listening to The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry? Well, I finished it yesterday and, man, was it ever FUN!!! I don't know how Dave Barry does it but he manages to make you both grip your seat in suspense and laugh out loud--often at the same time!
There is danger and suspense aplenty but there is also loads of the goofball humor that guys love so much and Dave Barry understands so well. I won't try to summarize the story here (too many turns in the plot) but let me tell you it involves potential terrorists, kidnappings and frozen pizza, missiles flying from the White House lawn, box lunches, Homer Simpson burps, purple Crocs---and the President of the United States! Oh, wow, guys---I could talk about this audiobook all day but, to keep from writing 20 more pages, let just tell you that you need to listen to this! Actor Todd Haberkorn does a perfect job getting all the voices right and wringing the maximum suspense and fall-on-the-floor humor out of every situation. Are you going on spring break soon, guys? Take this with you! Or are you staying home? Listen to it in the car as you're driven around. Even if you listen to it going back and forth to school, I can guarantee that you (and the adults driving you) will have the best car trip ever!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Happy Potter Update # 1 (or--Just How Big and Heavy Is That Book?)

All right, guys, it's been a full week since I took up the challenge of facing the one major fear of my life---reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--and I'm making some progress on it. In fact, I've been really surprised to find that I'm enjoying this book a lot. I mean, a whole lot!! Much more that the other four books. The story had a slam bang beginning (Harry and Dursley getting attacked by Dementors) and the pace and excitement haven't let up since then. Now don't get me wrong; I don't mind a book that takes its time to get started but the first four books took forever to get going. Anyway, I'm enjoying this one so much that I look forward impatiently to free moments when I'm not working so that I can read a few more pages. That hasn't happened since the days when I was reading the first Percy Jackson books or the Copernicus Legacy books!

So I'm making good progress. I'm on page 227 now. That means I have only---

Oh, man!

I've still got 643 pages left to go!!

Well, time to redouble my MANLY efforts if I'm going to finish this thing before the end of March. If I could read 30 pages a day, then it would be possible. Fortunately, this will be easy because I'm enjoying it so much!

The only problem is, however, this book is so BIG and HEAVY that I'm getting worn down to the ground by carrying it around. In fact, I tried to hire a personal assistant to help me. I called Chuck Norris but, when he heard what book it was, he yelped in fear and slammed down the phone. Same thing when I called the Hulk. Yep, it's that big and heavy.

Don't believe me? Well, let me tell you--this book is so BIG and HEAVY that:

Strong enough for one but not the other!
I stood it upright and National Geographic called and asked where the new mountain came from.

I stood it upright again and the Charlotte city government called and asked if I had  a permit for the new skyscraper.

What the difference between Thor's hammer and this book? Thor is strong enough to lift his hammer!

I told you. Of course, you see I'm joking. But why should I have all the fun? If you boys know of any jokes (or could make up any) about how BIG and HEAVY this book is, send them along in the Comments section under this post. (gotta keep them clean, of course) I'll post them on my next Update and be sure you get one of the cool new bookmarks.

OK, I can't wait to hear from you! I've got to go now and move that book to a different location. If I let it sit in the same place too long, the building starts to tip over to that side.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In Which the Iron Guy Confronts One of His Worst Fears

Greetings, guys. Because we're all friends here, I need to let you in on a secret. I had a resolution for 2018. Yes, I know you're supposed to make resolutions at the beginning of January but I've been putting this off for a long time. A looonnnggg time. Why? Well, even the MANLIEST of us has something he's afraid of. Something big. Something HUGE and TERRIFYING. Something so big and scary that we don't even want to look at it. In this case, it's---



Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Yeesh!! Hide me from it!!

Iron Guy starts to run.



  "You're not allowed to run from your fears, Iron Guy!"

But--but, it's so big and scary...

"Never mind! Go back and read it like a MANLY MAN!"


Well, I'll put the goofiness aside and talk for real about this book. First, I should let you know that I've never been a big Harry Potter fan. Now, don't get me wrong--I'm not a Harry hater. Those books are OK. I read the first four and liked them well enough but I've never gone Hogwarts wild over them. (yes, I intended that pun!) I know a lot of you guys are total Harry Potter fans. Kids (and grownups) have been telling for years how much they not only like but LOVE these books. I remember that some libraries held parties when new HP books came out. I remember when bookstores opened at midnight so that kids could get the latest titles. I've heard for years about how terrific Harry Potter is but, for some reason, I just never fell under the Harry Potter spell. (I intended that pun too!) So I've just never been in a big hurry to finish the series. And part of it is a kind of fear. Not a "blind, unreasoning panic" (as FDR once said) but a sort of intimidation of the huge size of that book. It's 870 pages long!! I'd need a forklift to carry that thing around!Or at least a pickup truck. Seriously, though, how could anyone, even J. K. Rowling, write something that long and keep it interesting?? So, yeah, I've been a little afraid to plunge into it.

The Iron Guy using all his MANLY strength to lift this thing
Nope. Too blamed big

But, in all seriousness, if so many people like it so much, there must be a good reason. And my good friend Ms. Yingling, whose judgement I trust, said this was her favorite in the series. So, OK, I will take the Potter plunge and get started on it. But I will need your support! No mater how tough a guy may be, whenever he undertakes something this big and scary, he needs the support of his brothers-in-arms. Are you with me, men?? If so, then send a comment in the Comments section below. Let me know that you have my back and will support me as I undertake this monumental task. Or if you just want to say I'm a crybaby and should get on with it, that's OK too.

For I intend to finish this book by the end of March. Think I can do it? Or am I biting off more than even this MANLY guy could chew? Let me know in the Comments section!

And any boy who sends in a comment will get one of these new bookmarks I've created:

Yeah, they look like they may be more appropriate for a Percy Jackson book but that's what I've got so far. Maybe I'll change the pictures later on. (and, yes, I know there are girls who read this blog, so I'll create some for you too) If you live outside of the Charlotte, NC area and you'd like one of these bookmarks, please let me know in your comment how to reach you (I won't publish that info!) and I'll send them along. 
I'll keep you posted on my progress throughout this month. So watch this space and send in comments on further posts because I'll need your support this whole month. (and you could get more bookmarks too!) 

OK--here I go!

Wish me luck, men! (btw, the Genie granted me a wish and gave me the super strength to hold this book up)