Dang Rover: Cover to Cover

Dang Rover: Cover to Cover

My Family. My Religion. My Photography. My Sports.

My Books. Lots and lots of books.

4 Stars
#ThroneofJade: Dragons make everything cooler
Throne of Jade - Naomi Novik

I expected to be bored.


Nope. Wasn't bored.


I expected to lose interest.


Nope. Didn't lose interest.


I expected to not like it as much as the first book.


Nope. I liked it more.


Napoleonic-Era English Gentleman travel by sea to China, where they face storms, sea serpents, culture clashes, betrayal, conspiracy, assassination attempts, mystery, and uphill diplomacy...


...with dragons.


Seriously, take any book, any topic, and add dragons. Bam. Now it's cool.


Two books in, and the nine-book series doesn't seem so unpalatable anymore. The story continues to be more about the relationships and less about the action. In this way it's more character driven than anything, but still the action is present and very satisfying. Dragon fights.


See? Cool.


The prose is unique. It isn't just a book about people living in Napoleons world. It's as if it were actually written during that time...picture what Jane Austen might sound like if Mr. Darcy rode a dragon to call on the Bennet sisters.


There was one brief instance of language that stood out because of the lack of it otherwise. Beyond that, this series continues to have a PG rating for content.


Now, off to book 3.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

4 Stars
#HisMajestysDragon: History, revised. And improved.
His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire) - Naomi Novik

Here's some cool revisionist history for you:


Napoleon is attacking England and terrorizing Europe...


...while riding dragons.


There's lots to love. The dragons, obviously are the stars of this show. Sizes, breeds, colors, skills--there's a ton for a dragon-nerd to freak out over. We non-dragon-nerds can enjoy the aerial fighting and the relationship based story line. No sex, no language.


A couple things not to love. The writing is formal, and the main (human) character is kind of boring. It made the story a bit on the slow side, so if you are one who needs a little less talk and a lot more action, you might find yourself a bit bored with this one.


Between the fighting and the relationship development, I was entertained. I think I'll go on to the next book, but I'm not sure yet if I'm up to reading all 9 books in this series.


Judgement day for book three will be suspended until I've finished book 2.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

5 Stars
#TheSwap: I'm overcome by the sweetness...
The Swap - Megan Shull

I try to be a well rounded reader.


I'm open to everything but zombies (gross) and romance novels (a different gross). So while this book is targeted for tween girls, I thought it sounded fun and I'm always on the look out for something to recommend to my favorite young readers. Plus, as a guy who really appreciated Are You There God? It's Me Margaret when I was 12, I firmly believe that books have no gender--boys can enjoy (and benefit from) books targeted to girls, and vice versa.


It's true.


But still, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit...


I really loved this story.


In fact, I couldn't put it down. I think I was overcome by the sweetness.


A 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy switch bodies on the first day of school. Hilarity follows, along with lessons and understanding as they spend the weekend learning about the other sex, who their real friends are, and how important family is.


It's very well written. The characters are real. I laughed. My eyes even got misty at the extremely happy ending. Normal kids overcoming bullies, self doubt, and loss. Friends sticking together. Good friends v bad friends. The importance of family. Seeing yourself as others see you. The importance of having a positive self image.


The use of pre-teen slang is a bit over the top, more like a characterization instead of reality, but I found it added to the charm and helped to illustrate the points. Unfortunately, I suspect it may make older teens roll their eyes at silliness and miss the message.


I was curious how discovering new body parts and body functions would be handled. It's in there, and it's perfectly fun and age appropriate.


The Swap is sweet and fun and has an unrealistically happy ending--just the way I wish all my books would be.


I loved it. I'll be actively recommending it to all.


Happy reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

3 Stars
#TheAscendanceTrilogy: Fun story, boring everything else...
The False Prince - Jennifer A. Nielsen The Runaway King - Jennifer A. Nielsen The Shadow Throne - Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Ascendance Trilogy wasn't everything I hoped it would be.


I was hoping for an exciting Middle Grade story with well-written characters and a strong plot.  What I got was a moderately fun Middle Grade story with boring, flat characters and a predictable, forced plot.


The first book was by far the best.  Had it stayed a stand-alone, I think I would have enjoyed it much more.  Unfortunately, book one was followed by books two and three where the characters didn't change and plot got worse.


It's like a coming of age story, but no one came of age.


I'm sure the target audience of 10 to 12 years olds will be much more forgiving that I am, and the basic story was a lot of fun.  I'll be sharing it with my kids, but for anyone else looking for a kings-and-swords Middle Grade story, I'll send them to Brandon Mull's Beyonders before give them The False Prince.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

#Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry By J.K. Rowling

New writing from Jo!  


It's magical...


I want more.


Read it on Pottermore.com

5 Stars
#TheKillerAngels: I've never been more impressed...
The Killer Angels - Michael Shaara

This is the book General H. Norman Schwarzkopf described as "the best and most realistic historical novel about war that I have ever read."


Me too Stormin' Normon. I don't know if I've ever been more impressed.


Sole recipient of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Killer Angels is a historical dramatization of the Battle of Gettysburg--where a Union victory was the turning point in the American Civil War, but at the staggering cost of 50,000 Americans lives.


50,000. In three days.


Nearly the same amount of American deaths as occurred during the entirety of the Vietnam War.


How about this: 750,000 Americans were killed during the Civil War.


More than the number of Americans killed during WWII, WWI, Vietnam, Korean War, American Revolution, War of 1812, Mexican/American War, Iraq/Afghanistan Wars, and the Philippine-American War.


COMBINED. At least that's what Wikipedia is telling me.


While the facts are staggering, it's not the facts themselves that have left me so impressed with The Killer Angels. It's the seamless integration of history and story that caught me. The story pulled me through with it's power--forced me through is more accurate. This is a white-knuckled history lesson unlike anything I've experienced before.


Told from the point of view of several key historical figures on both sides of the conflict, the history part of the story is rich. With details and insights pulled from memoirs and writings of the actual players, we get a first hand look into the always emotional and frequently gut-wrenching emotions behind each decision and order. The history and facts are woven through this amazing story, and suddenly Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Joshua Chamberlain, John Buford, and others long gone are real and alive.


Amazing. Simply amazing.


Brother vs brother. Friend vs friend. Rights. The English looking to take back some of their lost colonies. Slavery. Army life. Why fight? The Cause. War heroes. War villains. How can there be good guys and bad guys when everyone is American? How did our country survive? The impact of the American Civil War is still felt today. Brutality and death. Generals sending soldiers to die. Behind the scenes. Fault. Blame. Strategy. Tactics. Morality. The battles.


Forget Scalzi. This was real.


My eyes are opened. No language. PG fighting and violence. Appropriate for all. Recommend for all.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

4 Stars
#Loot: When the bad guys are really the good guys...
Loot - Jude Watson

Welcome to the wonderful world of books, where kids can steal jewelry, be good at it, get away with it, avoid any consequences for breaking the law, and still be considered the good guys.


That's what happens in Loot--and I loved it! There's much fun to be had in this one, and the action and plot strike a perfect balance between plausible and ridiculous that I won't hesitate for a second to recommend it to my kids.


Twists, sneaky heists, reunited twins, clever ideas, mysteries to solve, surprises, learning to trust, taking initiative, making plans. I especially appreciated that the writing was smart. It doesn't assume the kids reading it need to have it all spelled out for them--some thinking will be required! There's some good stuff here.


Could have been longer. I would have liked to see the characters develop more and more time spent on the heists. But, I think it will play perfectly well for its target audience. Should be enjoyable for all ages as a read-aloud or a read-alone as soon as they want to tackle it.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

Thanks for breaking the law, #Apple!

I knew Apple was good for something.


It's Christmas in June!




I think I'll go ahead and spend it all in one place...


Maybe this one...
Loot - Jude Watson

Continuing my search for quality kids stuff...

3 Stars
#AngelsofAttack: Now that's some good ScyFy!
Angles of Attack - Marko Kloos Lines of Departure - Marko Kloos Terms of Enlistment - Marko Kloos

This was a cool find.  Think Scalzi-spacebattle-scyfy, only more character driven.  Future, aliens, believable science, Earth moving to anarchy, government spending all their money on space ships and colonization, military life, fighting to save humanity, learning who the real enemy is.


Also like Scalzi, the books are full of F-bombs. I got a lot of shade for pointing this out after the first book, but I'm sticking to it.  I'm not niave, I know how stereotypical soldiers talk.  I also know some soldiers who don't.  It'd be easier to swallow if it presented itself as a character trait of one or two characters.  But to have EVERYONE dropping F-this and F-that all the time just wares me out--almost lazy.  Don't tell me you HAVE to swear when you write military novels, I don't believe it.  There's no gory violence. Can't we leave out the lazy language too?




The story is fun, and I recommend it to all who can handle the language.  There's another book in the series written, and one more due sometime in the future.  I'll probably take a break and wait until the 5th book is out before moving to book 4.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

3 Stars
#TermsofEnlistment: Loved this one* (Do you see the asterisk?)
Terms of Enlistment - Marko Kloos

Great story. Great characters. Great syfy. Reads fast. Excellent use of 1st person. Loved it. Fans of Scalzi should feel right at home.


*Too many f-bombs. Who can find me some really cool military syfy with out all the language? It must be out there!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

3 Stars
#TheWishingSpell: Well, it didn't kill me...
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell - Chris Colfer

This book has a lot of fans.


I am not one of them.


I wanted to read it for my kids, and I actually think they'll like it a lot. But for Dad, forcing myself through the dry, high-school-English-class writing was terrible. How this book has such a high rating is beyond me.


The things we do for our kids...


The story is clever and shows a lot of creativity, but the execution is rough--like tongue on sandpaper rough.


I won't be reading book 2, but I will be offering the series to my kids. If they turns their nose at it too, I'll come back here and let you know.


Happy reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

#TheWishingSpell: I've read 44%. Can you die from reading bad writing?
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell - Chris Colfer

Taking one for the team.


But dang, this stinks.

4 Stars
#ThePaladinCaper: There's fun, and then there's funny...
The Paladin Caper (Rogues of the Republic Book 3) - Patrick Weekes



...but rarely is there both.


Unless you read the Rogues of the Republic by Patrick Weekes.


It's Oceans 11 in a fantasy setting. Non-stop, witty dialogue. A whole host of colorful characters. A horny unicorn. (See what I did there?) A talking war hammer that only knows three phrases. A magician that was kicked out of magic school. A strong, black, female lead who is hot AND kicks butt. Awesome fight scenes. Surprises. Long cons. Twists. Turns. Red herrings. 


In you end oh.


Oh. Ya.


Fun. And funny.


All three books are outstanding,  but the third one is really something special. Highly recommend.


Watch out for some mild sex jokes and innuendo. Book three has a homosexual relationship. Probably best for older teens and adults who will read along with them to have some good discussion.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

2 Stars
#TheEyeofMinds: Nope
The Eye of Minds - James Dashner


Apparently James Dashner and I just don't get along.


I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy.


I just don't love his books.


The Eye of Minds (which is a completely meaningless title, as far as I can tell) was hard to read, full of boring characters, and shoved a weird plot down your throat.


It was oddly violent, too.


Can't say much else beyond that. I don't think I'll be reading the next one.


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

5 Stars
#WatershipDown: Apparently, I love rabbits. A lot.
Watership Down - Richard Adams


There's not a story I love more than Watership Down.


It's been a while since my last re read, and this time around I was afraid I would find I've been fooling myself all these years...that I would discover my teenage self had turned Watership Down into something that it wasn't and didn't deserve.


I shouldn't have worried. It's everything I had it built up to be.


Actually, this time around, it was more.


Now, I know many find this book tedious. I admit a book about rabbits traveling the English countryside doesn't sound like it would get your heart pumping. I even hesitate to encourage my own kids to read it for fear they won't understand.


Get over it.


Embrace Watership Down, and you'll find some of the greatest literary characters ever written. You'll find heroes being brave even though they are scared. You'll find leaders who lead by love and leaders who lead by fear. You'll find excitement. Bloody fighting. Tyranny over thrown. Friendships. Loyalty. Peace.


Goosebumps. Chills. Tears.


All that. More.


In a book about rabbits.


Hopping across the English countryside.


Give it a try. I think you'll love it too.


Suitable for all ages. Recommended for all ages. It'll take a bit of maturity just because of the pacing, but content is PG.


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

Dan's Latest Reads

The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While
3 of 5 stars
A thirty-page prequel that tells the story of how Mallow became Queen of Fairyland. I found it to be a bit wordy. All the good stuff about characters you will recognize from Book 1 happens in the last 5 pages or so.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
5 of 5 stars
A Fairytale for Lovers of Fairytales If I.Q. were a measure of strength of imagination, Catherynne Valente would most certainly be the Albert Einstein of writers. There was more imagination on display in that book than in any other book...
5 of 5 stars
Outstanding. A treasure. A pleasure. And quite spooky! I loved Coraline! It's the perfect mix of spooky and fun. It's going to be the next read aloud to my kids book!
tagged: age-reco-all-ages, my-favs-for-young-people, and my-top-25
The Sorcerer of the North
2 of 5 stars
Well, that was dumb... That ending wasn't a cliffhanger--it just stopped in the middle of the story! Too bad the story wasn't anywhere near engaging enough to make me want to find out what happens next. I should have just stopped at boo...
tagged: don-t-recommend and age-reco-13up
The Blood of Olympus
3 of 5 stars
Dang! Such a disappointing ending to an exceptionally fun series! Is it really so hard to write a satisfying ending? The Blood of Olympus, the fifth and final book of the Heroes of Olympus series, lost its way--and not even everyone's f...
tagged: age-reco-13up
5 of 5 stars
I'm so glad I picked up this series... ...because it's REALLY fun! Zero complaints. Each book introduces new characters and does an outstanding job of incorporating them into the story with out watering down the experience. The Luner Ch...
tagged: age-reco-13up and my-favs-for-young-people
5 of 5 stars
Another great surprise! I was surprised how much I enjoyed Cinder, so I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised I thought Scarlet was just as fun! I must admit though--it sounded gimmicky to write books loosely based on fairy tales. Tu...
tagged: my-favs-for-young-people and age-reco-13up
5 of 5 stars
A Great Start! I've really got to do a better job of making sure I don't get sucked into a series until all books are published...I hate waiting! Actually, this time I took one for the team and read Cinder before all the books were out ...
tagged: age-reco-13up, my-favs-for-young-people, and my-top-25
The House of Hades
4 of 5 stars
Great, with a footnote... House of Hades was great. the story was fun and the characters are endearing...which is a feat considering there are anywhere from 8 to 12 key characters you are rooting for. Here's the footnote, particularly ...
tagged: age-reco-13up and my-favs-for-young-people
The Mark of Athena
5 of 5 stars
Awesome! Yep, that's the best way to describe book three. Loved it. Quite a cliffhanger though--I'm VERY glad I don't have a to wait for the next book! Ill review the series when I'm finished. Two books to go! SERIES REVIEW Dang. Wha...
tagged: my-favs-for-young-people and age-reco-all-ages