Friday, September 22, 2017

A Truly Epic Read

Hey, guys, the word "epic" gets tossed around a lot. As in--"Wasn't that an epic party, man?" or "That was a truly epic hot dog, dude." Well, this book has the word in its title and it really does tackle an epic subject--a journey from earth to the giant outer planets of the Solar System and beyond. It's Voyager's Greatest Hits: The Epic Trek to Interstellar Space by Alexandra Siy and it is one amazing story!


Way back in 1965, some graduate students started thinking about "using gravity to propel a spacecraft from one planet to the next, indefinitely." That way an exploratory spacecraft could explore huge amounts of space with a minimum of fuel. Scientists then realized that a "rare planetary alignment would occur during the 1980's"--a perfect time to use the gravity effect to explore the outer planets. So NASA built two space probes, named each one "Voyager" and launched them on August 20 and September 5 of 1977. (Hey, that makes this the 40th anniversary!) The rest of the book tells this incredible story. It's amazing--two lone space craft, operating on 1977 technology  travel vast distances to discover things no one ever suspected existed in the Solar System, like volcanoes on a moon of Jupiter! And those Voyagers are still transmitting data to us today from interstellar space. If this doesn't qualify as an epic story, I don't what does!

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Photo of Saturn taken by Voyager
This book is truly an enthralling read and any guy will enjoy it. It can be read in about an hour and is full of great stories of interplanetary travel, thrilling discoveries, fascinating scientists (you'll be happy to know that a lot of them were women) and strange facts that people have still not figured out. Plus the story moves right along. It could have gotten bogged down in a lot of technical terms or lengthy scientific explanations but doesn't. You get enough background, maps and charts and to make you understand what's going on and appreciate the challenges the mission had to overcome but these don't interrupt the flow of the story.  Plus there are breathtaking photos taken by the Voyagers all throughout the book. Plus there is a really interesting final chapter on the "golden record," a very good note from the author on why she wrote the book, a very helpful glossary, good book recommendations and a fan-tastic list of websites, some of which I've checked out already and had to make myself stop before I spent all afternoon on them! Boys, this book is not just for astronomy nerds, not just for science geeks but for everyone! Go check it out. It's epic!


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A Voyager spacecraft--can you find the golden record?

All right, guys, you can stop here if you'd like but if you wouldn't mind, the Iron Guy would like to add a PS to my review and it's about what may be the most incredible fact of all. Try to wrap your brains around this--the two space probes that are still zipping through space at 35000 mph and still sending us data from outside from interstellar space were built with, equipped and still operating with 1970's technology!! Think about that for a moment. Would you use a computer from the 1980's? Or trust a phone or tablet that was more than five years old? Yet we are still hearing from equipment that was built before 1980. For crying out loud, the info on the Voyagers is recorded on eight track players!! Go ask your grandparents about those if you want to get a perspective on how ancient that technology is.

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Yes, boys, go ask your grandparents about eight track players (don't ask the  Iron Guy how he knows about them!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Four Random Good Quick Reads

Hey, guys, one of the great things about working in a library is the chance to pull books at random that look really cool and then read them. You can find some good stuff that way and sometimes get introduced to a whole new series. Or even find a new book in an old series.

Which is exactly what happened when I saw Akimbo and the Snakes by Alexander McCall Smith. These books are truly terrific and I thought I'd read all of them, so imagine how great it felt to find one I had missed! Akimbo is a young boy who lives on a game preserve in Kenya, where his father is the head ranger. We find out, in this book, that his uncle runs a snake park. How cool is that! What's even better is that his uncle invites Akimbo to work at the snake park over the summer. Akimbo enjoys it, of course, and learns a lot about snakes when his uncle tells him some villagers have spotted the deadliest of all poisonous snakes--the green mamba! They go out to capture it but--well, I won't spoil it for you but I will tell you that what happens is one of the scariest things I've ever read in any book! This book is short, only 66 pages, but, man, does it ever pack a wallop! Plus, there are some good facts about snakes after the end of the story. (find out about more Akimbo books here)

I Survived The Great Chicago Fire, 1871Then I found out this great new series, the I Survived books by Lauren Tarshis. Well, I should say that they're new to me. I've seen these get checked out of the library all the time and decided it was time to read one for myself, so I randomly grabbed this one, I Survived the Great Chicago Fire 1871. And then it grabbed me! What an exciting story! I'm going to show you the summary from the library's catalog because it tells you better than I could:

Oscar Starling never wanted to come to Chicago. But then Oscar finds himself not just in the heart of the big city but in the middle of a terrible fire! No one knows exactly how it began, but one thing is clear: Chicago is like a giant powder keg about to explode. An army of firemen is trying to help, but this fire is a ferocious beast that wants to devour everything in its path, including Oscar! Will Oscar survive one of the most famous and devastating fires in history?

That really gives you the sense of danger throughout this edge-of-your-seat book. It's short, only 96 pages, but you won't stop after you turn that first page. And there's a section at the back with information about the actual fire with a recommended website and book to find out more.

Of course, that meant I needed to know more, so I read What Was the Great Chicago Fire? by Janet B. Pascal. Everyone knows how good the What Was... and the Who Was...books are and this one is every bit as good as all the others. There are lots of interesting facts, a myth or two exploded and exciting stories that you just wouldn't believe--except that they really happened! This particular book has something that most of the books in this series don't--photographs! Really good ones too. (why don't more books in this series have them?) And, as always, there are a couple of timelines and a list of recommended books and websites. At 108 pages, this book can be read quickly and is another that you just won't put down once you pick it up.


Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find ThemThe last one is another book that's not new at all but was completely new to me. It's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by the great J.K. Rowling. I'm sure all of you Harry Potter fans have already read it but if you're a new fan or just anyone who wants to have some fun, this is just the book you need. It purports to be a textbook for wizarding students and even has "comments" written all over it by a student--and just wait until you see who it was! There's no story but an alphabetical list of all the magical beasts that live in Harry Potter's world. This is one of those rare books that will make kids and grownups smile and smile all the way through. It's not long--only 88 pages--but one that you'll completely enjoy from beginning to end.


All right, boys, I know you all are busy now that school is back in full swing but if you need to take a break or even if you've got all your work done and have some free time, these are the books for you! They are what I call Good Quick Reads. (check that same label under this post to find more) And all you teachers and other grownups who are looking for books your boys would like, these are the ones you're looking for. Who knows--I bet you'd enjoy them yourselves!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Third Really Good Book of the Summer--and What a Terrific Book It Is!

Realm BreakerSometimes, after a great movie or a hard-fought sports game or a truly delicious meal, all you can do is sit back and just say, "Wow. Wow." over and over again. That's exactly how I felt after finishing Realm Breaker, the third and final book in Laurie McKay's terrific trilogy, The Last Dragon Charmer. Wow. Oh. Wow. What a terrific read!

If you've read my review of Quest Maker, the first book, and the review of Villain Keeper, the second book, then you already know what's happening. If you haven't, here's a brief synopsis:

Prince Caden, eight-born son of King Axel of Razzon in the Greater Realms, gets pulled into our world, along with a sorceress named Brynne, and they end up in Asheville, North Carolina. They get taken into a foster home and sent to a school that turns out to be a place of banishment for villains from the Greater Realms. Rath Dunn, the worst of all the villains, has been secretly preparing a spell that would break the barriers between the two realms. But to do so would also destroy Asheville and Razzon. In this book, Rath Dunn puts the four-part spell into motion and Caden and his friends must stop him. Right--a few kids with rudimentary powers must confront the most powerful and cunning villain in the history of the Greater Realms. Could they even hope to win? You won't know unless you read this book! But what a great, fun and amazing ride you'll have. The villains are slick, evil, creepy and unstoppable. The action scenes are thrilling, the characters are people you really care about and the magic scenes are--well, pretty awesome. Not to mention that little-old-lady Miss Primrose turns out to be one of the most awesome and memorable characters I've ever encountered in any fantasy story. And there are flashes of humor too--just wait until you see what happens to Caden in the end! As I've said, this was a great read and I couldn't tear myself away from. I bet you won't either!

This book was so good that I'm going to do something I haven't done for a while and give it the--

Iron Guy Seal of Approval as One Terrific Book!




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Second Really Good Book of the Summer (Which Is Also a Second Book!)

Hey, guys, summer is still going on and we have been really busy this year! The Iron Guy has been as busy as a bumblebee after an explosion in a honey factory, so I'm going to give you a quick post today. It's about Quest Maker, the second book in Laurie McKay's terrific The Last Dragon Charmer trilogy. I really enjoyed this!

Prince Caden, eighth-born son of King Axel of Razzon in the Greater Realms, is still stuck in Asheville, North Carolina after being pulled into our world by a mysterious spell. So is Rath Dunn, the most dangerous villain in the Greater Realms, who's been banished here along with a group of other villains who are ruled over (at least for now!) by a powerful Elderdragon. It would take too long to summarize the story, so let me say briefly that the book opes with a bang--literally! A bolt of red lightning appears and from it appears the last person Caden would ever suspect. After this, Caden is given a quest by the Elderdragon. If he fails he'll be eaten! On top of this, the science room at his school blows up in a cloud of green (and stinky!) gas. There's an attack by an enormous swarm of bees. Who's behind all this? Could Caden complete his quest on time? And what is Rath Dunn up to in all this? The answer turns out to be worse for the Greater Realms and Asheville than anyone imagined!

Man, this book really was terrific! There's a lot of mysterious things going on, a lot of creepy villains, a lot of tension among the main characters and a lot of exciting action in the end when everything breaks loose! As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to like this book, so go and check it out! Actually, go and check the first one out (see my review here) and this one and the third one. Maybe, if you're not as busy as I am, you could spend an afternoon or a day or a couple of days reading them back to back to back. I couldn't think of a better way to spend some time this summer!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Really Good Quick Reads About Sports!

Hooo--eeee! This has been the busiest summer that the Iron Guy can remember. Things have been moving faster around here than the Millennium Falcon in hyperdrive. That's why I haven't posted anything lately. Fortunately, there are some really good, short and interesting books out there--what I call Good Quick Reads--and I have a few for you. Plus, in keeping with my Manly resolution for this year, they're about sports! How could it be any better?

The first is The Carolina Panthers Story, one in a new set of books about NFL teams. (sorry, but there's no picture of the cover) It's short, has lot of photos, a glossary of football terms, a website to learn more about each team, recommended books about each team and information the team's about great players, its history and even what the fans are like! There's a lot of good stuff here but not a lot of text (a fancy grownup term for the amount of words on a page), so these books would be good for younger reader guys, especially third or even second graders. It's good, it's quick and it's very interesting, even for this Charlotte guy who's followed the team from the beginning. I also read The Seattle Seahawks Story, The San Diego Chargers Story, The Jacksonville Jaguars Story, and the Atlanta Falcons Story. (booo! to the Dirty Birds, the big rival to the Panthers)

All these books follow the same format and, what's even better, the information is current! (another fancy grownup word which means "actually up-to-date and not 20 years old") Sports books are great but the problem is that things change so fast in the sports world that, by the time a book comes out, a team star could have left, a major player got traded or the whole team could have moved to another city! These books came out this year, so the information really is current. So that means you should run right out the door and get these books now. (PS--all the NFL teams are covered in this series, so if you have a favorite team or want to learn about one you didn't know about, there will be a book for you)

The second is The Best NFL Quarterbacks of All Time by Natt Scheff. Hmmm, this sounds like a title that could stir up a bunch of arguments! Well, this book provides a reasons why these guys really could be considered the best. It talks about 14 great quarterbacks, all the way from Otto Graham in the 1950's to Terry Bradshaw to Steve Young to Brett Farve down to Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Each section is only 4 pages but gives lots of good information about why each guy was great. For instance, who was the quarterback that was a 17-round draft pick but went on to win the first two Super Bowls? Who was called "Captain Comeback" and why did he earn that name? And why was Warren Moon, who never won a Super Bowl, so important to the game and many of today's quarterbacks? It's a very good read and there is also a recommended site, a glossary, recommended books and a list of quarterbacks who didn't make the list but are Honorable Mentions. (Will Cam Newton make the list one day? We'll see!) Go get this book too. You'll really enjoy it and will have plenty of info when someone asks, "Who really were the greatest?"


Thursday, July 6, 2017

First Really Good Book of the Summer!


Wow, guys, it's hard to believe that we're into July already! It seems that school let out just a couple of days ago. At least it does to me. This has been a very busy summer here at the library, which is good. That means more guys are checking out more books!
Normally, I'd write about the glories of summer at this time of year but, as I said, I'm very busy, so I'll jump right into the latest review. This book is a real winner and it takes place, when not in the magical realms, right here in North Carolina!

The book is Villain Keeper, the first book in The Last Dragon Charmer trilogy by Laurie McKay. It's one of those fantasies in which someone from another realm gets pulled into our world--but with a few mysteries and surprises thrown in.
Caden, eighth son of King Axel of Razzon in the Greater Realms, gets woken up by his father in the middle of the night and told it's time to go on his dragon quest. That's unusual because princes usually have days to prepare before their quests but Caden is eager to prove himself and takes off. And he does spot a dragon and is about to charge on his mighty Galvanian stallion when the ground around him suddenly turns the dark red of dark magic and he is sucked into another world. Fortunately, he and Sir Horace, his horse are safe but he finds himself in a strange city called Asheville. And they find that Brynne, a girl he grew up with who is also a sorceress, is there too. Also fortunately, a sympathetic policeman finds Caden (after Brynne and Sir Horace hide) and puts him in the care of a tough but compassionate foster mother--which keeps Caden out of the mental hospital when he insists that he's a prince on a dragon quest!
To keep from going on much longer, I'll say that Caden goes to school with Tito, one of the other foster kids but finds out things are much stranger at this school than he suspects. Is the school really a place of banishment for villains from his world? What happened to the Asheville girl who disappeared from the foster home the week before? How can Brynne make a school door explode through a cell phone? And just who is the vice-principal and why are all the villains afraid of her?

This is a really good read, boys! Not only is there magic, not only are there mysteries, there are fights with dragons (yes, they show up in our world!) and close encounters with silky-smooth and deadly villains. And there are flashes of humor, too. Just wait until you find out why Caden is terrified of being grounded or his reaction when he sees "geometric meats" for the first time. It's a great book for fantasy lovers or anyone who just plain loves a good story. I've got books 2 and 3 checked out and can't wait to start them!

PS--Asheville is a beautiful town. If there's any place in North Carolina that magic would live, this would be it! (and it's only 120 miles from Charlotte)


PPS--I first heard about this book on Ms. Yingling Reads, a truly cool blog. Thanks, Ms. Yingling!



Saturday, June 24, 2017

One More List


The great Ms. Yingling
Hey, reader guys all over this land, the Iron Guy is pleased to present to you, in honor of this blog's 10th anniversary, one more list of books that guys would like. This list, however, comes from our good friend Ms. Yingling, a middle school librarian up in Ohio. She has been a good friend to this blog almost from the beginning and has recommended so many good reads that I couldn't begin to remember them all. She also runs a very cool blog that features a Guy Friday. She is so great, in fact, that the Iron Guy gave her the highest award he could possibly give and made her an Honorary Guy. (which gives her the right to make obnoxious noises at sporting events, crack all the dumb jokes she wants and eat insane amounts of food with no nutritional value)
Anyway, I asked if she would send me a list of books boys would like and this is it:


John David Anderson. Keep an eye on this author, who seems to be trying his hand at every genre there is. From the sad but funny Ms. Bixby's Last Day to the video game inspired Insert Coin to Continue, he never disappoints. 







Tom Greenwald. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading series, plus his other titles. I also really liked his newest book, The Real Us. 









Thatcher Heldring. For sports books, I like all of Thatcher's books, especially the recently released The Football Girl. What would YOU do if your girlfriend was trying out for YOUR football team? 







Anthony Horowitz- Stormbreaker, especially since book 11, Never Say Die, is coming out in October. 







David Lubar. From Lawn Weenies to Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, Lubar has something for boys of all ages. The added bonus is that adults don't seem to like his stuff, so it must be good!








Chirs Lynch. Chris has been writing for a long time, and his WWII and Vietnam series are filled with riveting details of military combat. 







Dan Poblocki. My new go to for scary ghost stories. The House on Stone Throw's Island even has evil Nazi ghosts!








Darren Shan. Cirque du Freak. While this series has been out for a while, it's still popular because it has great fights between the vampires and the evil vampaneze. Shan also has the great Zom-B series. 





Jordan Sonnenblick. For really fantastic writing style that is also guaranteed to make you snort through your nose with laughter, you don't have to go any further than Zen and the Art of Faking It or Notes from the Midnight Driver. 


All right! Thanks, Ms Yingling! This is a great list and I know boys will like them. (please keep in mind, guys, that Ms. Yingling is a middle school librarian and some of these authors write both kids' and Young Adult fiction) Have any of you boys read any of these? Have you enjoyed them? Then write in and let us know. Both the Iron Guy and the Honorary Guy will thank you!