The Silvered Serpents

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi is the second book in The Gilded Wolves series. 

Severin and his fellows are back after their disastrous first run in with the Fallen House but things are definitely not the same. Severin is distant and cold and his desperation to make amends by harnessing the power of the Gods has become all consuming. 

Severin and his crew follow the clues from Paris to Russia in the hopes of finding the Fallen House’s treasure before the Winter Conclave. But things aren’t as they seem and soon everything will change. 

Overall, I enjoyed this second book in the trilogy but I will admit, I was much more invested in the first book. 

Second book syndrome at its best. The first, introduces the characters and plot, the second builds more on the plot/world building and the third is the action and wrap up. And often, I find the second book lacking the draw of the first and third. 

One thing I did like about this one is the development of the relationships in this book. We see a different side of each of the characters and it is darker and less hopeful than the first book. 

We still get that steampunk, magic, Victorian mix that I liked in the first book and it looks like we are going to get a chase to the finish in the final. This one gets 3.5 stars from me. 

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Masterminds

Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Eli Frieden has never even stepped outside of his hometown Serenity, New Mexico… but when you live in a town that is perfect in every way, why would you want to. At least that is what he’s been raised to believe, until one day he bikes to the edge of town and everything changes.

Now Eli is questioning everything that make Serenity what it is, even his own father might be in on it… but in on what? Together he and his friends work together to uncover what secrets a town without secrets is really hiding. And what they found out, will shift the way they think about their world forever.

Once the truth is out, will anything ever be the same?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Eli and his friends live in the “perfect” town. What makes Serenity perfect?
  3. In the beginning of the novel, Hector says that he knows his parents care for him, even if they don’t show it, because he heard them say that he was “valuable.” Think about the difference between value and love. Is to be valued enough?
  4. As Eli and his friends start to realize something is wrong in Serenity, the first thing they discover is that their internet, books and basic information is being censored. What is censorship and how would you feel if your internet was censored?
  5. Once the kids realize that they are test subjects and that the town was build for them, the realize that they are being put under “tests of character.” What is this and how would this make you feel?
  6. The big reveal is that the kids find out they are actually clones of criminal masterminds. How would you feel about being a clone and a clone of a criminal at that?
  7. Each of the kids show strengths in an area that might be connected to their criminal genes? What are some examples of this?
  8. One theme in this book is nature vs nurture—is it our genes that tell us who we will be or is it the way we are raised. Let’s discuss this. What do you think?
  9. Each of the kids feel differently when they find out that their parents are in on Serenity’s secret. Can you understand each of their reactions? How would you feel?
  10. Where do you think the story is heading? Will the kids run or will they seek revenge or to out the whole experiment?

STEM Activity: Erupting Lemon

Supplies:  Lemons (grab a few!); Baking Soda; Food Coloring; Dawn Dish Soap; Plate, Tray, or Bowl;

Craft Sticks

How To:

  1. Cut one of your lemons in half and place it in a bowl or on a plate with a lip to catch any juices.
  2. Juice the other half of the lemon and put the juice to the side.
  3. Take your craft stick and poke holes in the various sections of the lemon half. This will help spur the reaction along.
  4. If you want to have fun visualizing the reaction, put a few drops of different color food coloring on the sections.
  5. Pour a small amount of dawn dish soap over the lemon to add a fun bubble effect. Have a spare lemon? Try the experiment without the soap and see what the difference is.
  6. Now sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the top of the lemon. To help get the reaction going, you can use your craft stick to push the baking soda down into the sections of the lemon. You can also add some of your lemon juice if you want.
  7. Watch what happens. Be patient, the reaction is a slow one.
  8. What other citrus fruit can you use? Do you think the reactions would be the same? Bigger or smaller?

The Science:

Why did the lemon erupt? Because of a chemical reaction between the critic acid from the lemon juice is reacting to the base of the baking soda creating a gas called carbon dioxide. The dawn dish soap is reacting to the fizz of the carbon dioxide to create bubbles and make the reaction a bit more visible.

Sources:

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/erupting-lemon-volcano-chemistry/

How’d it go:
I’m actually on maternity leave now, so one of my colleagues is running the book club for me for the next few months. So I am just going to leave this here. I am sure it went great!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Bloom

Bloom by Kevin Oppel is a science fiction thriller/action novel for mature 5th to 7th graders.

It all started with the rain. It rained everywhere on Earth at the same time and the rain carried seeds–seeds that sprouted overnight. From these seeds grew razor sharp grass, toxic Venus flytrap like pit plants with vines that seem to move and strange water lilies with bullet shaped seeds. These new plants have taken over, choking out animals and plants alike, but they aren’t stopping there…

On a small island in Canada, three kids, Seth, Petra and Anaya, seem to be immune to the plants and their insidious toxins. But more than that, the severe allergies they’ve lived with all their lives are suddenly gone and they feel stronger than ever. Could something inside them be the key to beating back these plants before the damage becomes irreversible? Or will these strange invaders take over everything?

I picked up this book hoping it might make a good book club read and it totally would but probably not for the younger of my 4-6th grade crew. Bloom doesn’t hold back when it comes to acid spitting pit plants devouring gym teachers or when sentient vines strangle people in their sleep. So I’d probably recommend this one for a mature 5th grade plus.

That being said, I found this book super interesting and I was sucked right in. You’re not sure from the beginning if we are dealing with aliens or terrorists or just evolution and you get a lot of plant facts, which is always nice to get a little STEM thrown in to juvenile fiction.

This book is suspenseful and has a touch of horror and a ton of action. I think it’ll appeal to that tween/pre-teen audience, especially for those kids looking for a little bit of a darker read. I, for one, can’t wait to pick up the second one in the series. This one gets a high 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Forest of Souls

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee is the first book in a new fantasy series, swirling with shamans, mystery and battle.

Sirscha Ashwyn, orphan born, came from nothing but is determined to make something of herself in the Queen’s army–in fact, her most precious goal is to become the Queen’s next Shadow, the royal spy. But things don’t go according to plan and Sirscha’s best friend, Saengo, gets killed… that is, until Sirscha brings her back to life.

Now Sirscha and Saengo are bonded together in a way neither of them understand and both are being hunted and summoned by authority figures neither ever expected to meet.

As war looms, Sirscha must use all of her training to uncover the truth about her countries history and in doing so, must decide what path to forge forward.

There was a lot to like about Forest of Souls. The world building was great. I am really drawn to this idea of shamans and familiars and basically the controversy of their place in society. But I did have a bit of a problem with the plot.

I felt like we were given pieces of a story that didn’t really come together until the very, very end of the novel. I guess when I read a first book in a series, I am looking to be introduced to the characters to build investment in their plights and then get an idea of the main “problem” that they will be facing. I didn’t entirely feel like we got that here. There was a lot of build up to who Sirscha is but not so much about the conflict happening around her. Again, until the very end. So we see where things are going but I just needed a little more.

If you are listening to the audio book for this one, be warned the narrator is very soft spoken. I don’t know if it was meant to be this way, but you’ve been warned.

Overall, I want to see where this book is heading but I am not yet invested in it as a series. Which is why, I am giving it 3 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Aurora Burning

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is the second book in The Aurora Cycle.

The rejects from Aurora Academy are back and even though they are battered and worst for wear, they are more determined than every to save the galaxy. But saving the galaxy may prove difficult; with no direction, no help and honestly no clue what they are doing, squad 312 must persevere or all is lost.

This family of misfits will be tested at every turn. Will a gear head, a heart breaker, the golden boy, some muscle, the brains and a girl out of time be able to come together to stop an alien invasion from taking over the universe, all while preventing intergalactic war? We’re about to find out.

Regardless, of how horrible that recap was, I loved this book. Honestly, I love this series. It’s been so long since I’ve read a good science fiction novel and I just love what characters Squad 312 are. They each have their own over the top personality and problems and yet, they all mesh together really well.

One of the things I liked most about this one is that Aurora, Kal, Tyler, Scarlet, Zila and Finnian all have this bond now, they have become a family after the trials they went through in the first book. And because of this, the conflicts they encounter almost take on a deeper meaning. They mean more to each other and the risk of losing this family they have forged, colors their actions and decisions.

A lot happens in this book and there is a lot of build up for what is to come. I will say, do not start this one if you are not good with cliffhangers! You are better off waiting until the last book comes out honestly. You’ve been warned.

This one gets 4.5-5 stars from me. I sped through it and really enjoyed the ride.

That’s all for now!

-M-