Mini-reviews: Countdown by Deborah Wiles; Icons by Margaret Stohl; and The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

countdownTitle: Countdown
Author: Deborah Wiles
Genre: Middle grade historical fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: I am eleven years old, and I am invisible.

Goodreads blurb: The story of a formative year in 12-year-old Franny Chapman’s life, and the life of a nation facing the threat of nuclear war.

It’s 1962, and it seems everyone is living in fear. Twelve-year-old Franny Chapman lives with her family in Washington, DC, during the days surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. Amidst the pervasive threat of nuclear war, Franny must face the tension between herself and her younger brother, figure out where she fits in with her family, and look beyond outward appearances. For Franny, as for all Americans, it’s going to be a formative year.

I adored this book; what a great way to write historical fiction! Wiles has written an engaging historical fiction storyline, but she has mixed it with sidebars, graphics, photos, and quotes from the year 1962. The story itself is fantastic, with a wonderful female main character that I came to love. Her family is quirky and a bit odd, but endearing. I read this very quickly, and I am hoping that the author carries through with her plans to write two more novels in the series.

iconsTitle: Icons
Author: Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA science fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: “Dol? Are you okay?”

Goodreads blurb: Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol’s family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting.

Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside — safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can’t avoid.

She’s different. She survived. Why?

When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador’s privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn’t a coincidence. It’s a conspiracy.

Within the Icon’s reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions — which they’ve always thought to be their greatest weaknesses — may actually be their greatest strengths.

I adored the Beautiful Creatures series by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, and was curious to see what I would think of their solitary work. Stohl has proven that she is talented enough to stand on her own, and this science fiction novel is an addictive page-turner. I was a bit reluctant to read it, because it is the first in a series, but I’m glad I did. I only hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next book.

The AlchemystTitle: The Alchemyst
Author: Michael Scott
Genre: Middle grade fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: “Answer me this: why would anyone want to wear an overcoat in San Francisco in the middle of summer?”

Goodreads blurb: He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records show that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects—the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

I read this one aloud to all three of my boys, and I think they all liked it more than I did. The main characters are teenagers, and yet it reads more like middle grade fiction. The action takes place over the course of only three days, which, to me, made the story drag. I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series, but I think a couple of the boys may read the next one.

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10 Responses to Mini-reviews: Countdown by Deborah Wiles; Icons by Margaret Stohl; and The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

  1. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads

    I liked the Alchemyst, but it is definitely geared to middle grade readers. I listened to the audio. Countdown sounds really good.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Candace – I think I was just expecting more from The Alchemyst.

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    The one that really appeals to me here is Countdown. Kathy absolutely loved that book as well.

  3. bermudaonion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I adored Countdown. I thought it was the first of a trilogy and have been anxiously waiting for more of the series.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – her blog says she’s still working on book two – I hope she completes the series!

  4. aw my niece recently read Coundown and loved it.

    I haven’t read Icons yet, but I’m looking forward to it1

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