Friday, April 03, 2015

Tides of War: Honor Bound

London, C. Alexander. Honor Bound (Tides of War #2, but stands alone)
January 6th 2015 by Scholastic Paperbacks

Felix is in charge of Sly, a sea lion. His job is to teach Sly to retrieve equipment, tag enemy ships with trackers, and to keep Sly safe. This is difficult when the SEAL unit with which Felix works gets called to help a Navy ship that is attacked by Somalian pirates, lead by the evil Surfer Boy. Felix and his unit have to try to get back some captives, and take out Surfer Boy so that his reign of terror ends. Things get complicated, and lots of people are injured. Sly does his job, but also suffers some injuries, leading Felix to believe that the Marine Animal program might not be in the best interest of the animals. Notes at the end discuss the reality of a similar program.
Strengths: Lots of good details about fighting, and the information on Somalian pirates is great. The only other book I can think of that addresses this recent concern is a Carl Bowen Black Ops title.
Weaknesses: This wasn't nearly as good as Blood in the Water. In that book, Cory has some back story and some things that make him a more realized character-- aside from his concerns about Sly, Felix was pretty flat and uninteresting. I do like London's Dog Tag books-- this one just wasn't my favorite.
What I really thought: This is still a great book for boys who like to read about military action. I have several waiting for this.

22501981Ford, John C. The Cipher.
February 24th 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Smiles is the son of the founder of Alyce Systems, a computer security company that has earned his father wealth and renown. It's been a bad year, though: his step mother was killed in a car accident, Smiles' father has brain cancer and is slowly fading away, Smiles has flunked out of high school and is trying to get his GED, and his father doesn't intend to leave him very much money. His girlfriend Melanie thinks they need "a break". Smiles neighbor, the quirky and perhaps autism spectrum affected Ben, is a brilliant 16-year-old student at MIT. Smiles occasionally drives him places, and when he takes him to a computer conference, several things happen. Smiles sees his estranged mother, Alice; he meets a girl to whom he is attracted but who has a boyfriend in tow; Ben makes an astonishing discovery that will revolutionize the computer security field. Smiles, always willing to get something for nothing, offers to help Ben sell this information to the government, but Melanie (whose father works for Alyce Systems) uncovers some unsettling information about the past dealings of Alyce Systems as well as interesting information about Ben. Will Smiles end up losing more than he gains, in just about every aspect of his life?
Strengths: This was a well crafted mystery with some good math and computer information, an intriguing back story, and lots of twists. It moved along fairly nicely, and the characters were well developed.
Weaknesses: We start with a suicide, go on to Smiles' father in the hospital, and nothing much really happens until 100 pages in. This is the biggest complaint students have when the check books out and bring them back later in the day saying "I just couldn't get into it." Too sad and too slow for most middle school students.
What I really think: A fantastic book for high school students, but too sad, moody, and slow paced for my middle school students, who like a bit more goofiness, as well as explosions, with their mysteries.

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