Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Escape from Furnace # 1 & 2 by Alexander Gordon Smith

This series is by a British author.  I have only read the first two books, as those are the only ones available in the USA at this time, so I can't speak regarding the appropriateness of the remaining books in the series.

With that said, I LOVED the first two books!  The first book is Lockdown.  Alex is admittedly a bad person.  He has his peers at school scared he will take their lunch money.  He breaks into houses for fun.  However, he is framed for a murder that he did not commit and sent to Furnace, a solid rock prison a mile beneath the earth's surface.  The inmates have no hope, they will all serve life sentences.  Prisoners are occasionally taken from their cells and used for science experiments that seem to go horribly wrong.  However, Alex and his new found friends see a glimmer of hope and attempt to make a break from the prison. 

The second book is Solitary.  This one gives the reader a deeper understanding of what goes on in the laboratory at Furnace.  Someone is up to some very evil science experiments and the outside world has no clue of what is going on down there.  Furnace is not a state or federally ran prison, it is independently owned and operated.  This book kept me on the edge of my seat and I can't wait until the third one comes out in August!

I would classify these as science fiction thrillers.  I know other places have also classified these as horror, but I'm not familiar enough with that genre to make that assertion.  They do have some violence and gore in them.  At this point, I would say they are appropriate for middle school readers through adult readers.  However, due to the fact that I work at a Christian school and I've read the Amazon UK reviews for the next three titles in the series, I feel that I must hold off putting them in my classroom library until I've had a chance to read the remaining books in the series.  I'd hate to get the students excited about a new series only to find out later that it ultimately was not appropriate for middle school students.

Willy Wonka, the musical

I know that I'm trying to keep this blog about books, but I just need to say a few words about the musical Willy Wonka.  My daughter's school just put on this production and I sat through all eight performances.  If you ever have the opportunity to see this musical, please take it!  It is absolutely fabulous and it has a great moral to the story.  There is a lot of humor in the play, too.  I have never really been a fan of the book or movie (especially the original movie...it seemed scary to me as a kid).  However, I would see the musical again in a heartbeat!  The play is appropriate for all ages.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

I grew up reading Walt Morey books, so I love a good survival story!  Dr. Ben Payne is headed home from a medical conference when his flight is canceled due to poor weather conditions.  He is desperate to get back home to his wife, so he finds a private pilot who is willing to chance the weather.  He invites along Ashley, whom he has just met, because she is desperate to get home for her wedding.  The pilot dies, the plane crash lands in a very remote part of Utah, and Ben and Ashley are left to tend to their injuries and to survive on their own. 
This is an absolutely marvelous story of survival, determination, love, and the triumph of the human spirit.  It also speaks highly of the marriage relationship and how it should be cherished.  I highly recommend this book!  This book would be appropriate for high school ages on up.

Beyonders # 1: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

Jason falls into the hippo's pen at the local zoo and ends up in an alternate universe.  He begins a quest to find his way back to Earth, but is sidetracked by another quest to free the world of Lyrian from its evil leader.  This book is funny, very enjoyable, and has an excellent message about what it takes to be a hero.  An excellent beginning to a series!
If you are familiar with Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series, this series very different.  Yes, this one contains a little magic, but it doesn't contain demons, unicorns, or any of the other well-known magical creatures from the Fablehaven series.  Mr. Mull has created his own creatures for this series. 
I highly recommend this series!  It will probably be most enjoyed by middle school readers, but it has such a good message that I think it should be read by all!