Book Review: The Inventor’s Secret by Chad Morris

Inventor's secretTitle: The Inventor’s Secret

Author: Chad Morris

Series: Cragbridge Hall #1

Genre: Middle Grade

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Imagine a school in the year 2074 where students don’t read history, but watch it happen around them; where running in gym class isn’t around a track, but up a virtual mountain; and where learning about animals means becoming one through an avatar. Welcome to Cragbridge Hall, the most advanced and prestigious school in the world. Twin siblings Abby and Derick Cragbridge are excited as new students to use their famed grandfather’s inventions that make Cragbridge Hall so incredible. But when their grandfather and parents go missing, the twins begin following a trail of clues left by their grandfather. They must find out where their family is, learn who they can trust, and discover what secrets are hidden within Cragbridge Hall. Abby and Derick soon realize they are caught in a race with a fierce adversary to discover their grandfather’s greatest secret–a dangerous discovery that could alter both history and reality.

Inventor's secret 2

The Review:

There came a point in my life where I realized I just wasn’t enjoying middle grade books as much as I used to. It was a horrifying discovery because, after all, these were the titles I grew up on – the very genre that nurtured my love of reading. Nowadays, it takes a remarkable-sounding novel to even get me interested. The Inventor’s Secret was among those exceptions.

It had all of the adventure I was hoping for, but also had some other cool, unexpected elements. For one, there was an overall mystery that held some appeal for my adult tastes: Abby and Derick had to solve a series of clues left by their grandfather to figure out what happened to both him and their parents. Combine the puzzle-solving tasks with some really neat classroom challenges, and I was sold. Those challenges even reminded me of the obstacles Harry Potter faced while going after the Sorcerer’s Stone… Resonance.

The Inventor’s Secret also introduced something that gives my inner child a major geek-out: ANIMAL AVATARS!!! How cool is that? I always love books that incorporate wildlife, and the unique presentation of this concept is what initially drew me to the book. Essentially, these kids are hooked up to a computer that transfers their minds over to mechanical animals (oh, how I wish I was a student at this school). This element reminded me of the Animorphs series by Applegate, which gets extra credit for sparking my love of reading when I was ten… More resonance.

As much as I love mystery, adventure, and animal avatars, I also love when I feel like I’ve learned something from a book (be it potion-making, science, basket weaving, whatever!). I liked this one, especially because it took an ordinary school subject, history, and made it fun! The classrooms were equipped with virtual projectors that surrounded the students with scenes from the past, essentially making them part of the action. Morris made history come alive while simultaneously making me want to learn more about each event (I don’t know exactly how accurate the references were, but I imagine they were well researched). Add all of that awesomeness to some good old time-travel, and the possibilities are endless.

You can see how many great elements this book brought to the table. There was honestly nothing I didn’t like about it. The writing was geared more towards younger readers than Fablehaven or Harry Potter, but not by much. All in all, I highly recommend this title and am excited for the sequel.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Top Ten Gateway Books of My Reading Journey!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I was really excited for this week’s TTT because it allows me to pay homage to the books that sparked my love of speculative fiction (and reading in general)! Each of these titles introduced me to their relative genres, and to this day, many of them remain my #1 in those categories.

The Top Ten Gateway Books of My Reading Journey!

And the book that started it all:


 Many of these have a special place in my heart because I would not be the reader I am today without them.

What book sparked your love of reading?

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Sky Jumpers: The Forbidden Flats by Peggy Eddelman

forbidden flatsTitle: Sky Jumpers:  The Forbidden Flats

Author: Peggy Eddelman

Series: Sky Jumpers #2

Genre: Middle Grade

Release Date: September 2, 2014

The Overview: Twelve-year-old Hope has always felt a little different from everyone else who lives in White Rock. She tries hard, but she doesn’t always think before she acts. She takes big risks. Sometimes her risks pay off, but sometimes they fail. Sometimes she fails. Hope knows that the most dangerous thing about living in White Rock is that it’s so close to the deadly Bomb’s Breath—the invisible, fifteen-foot-thick band of compressed air that’s hovered over the earth since the Green Bombs of World War III. The citizens of White Rock live in fear of the Bomb’s Breath. Only Hope has figured out a way to go through it—and lived to tell the tale. But when a massive tremor rips across the earth, the Bomb’s Breath begins to lower over White Rock. It’s up to Hope and her friends Brock and Aaren to make the dangerous journey far from home across the bandit-ridden Forbidden Flats to the wilds of the Rocky Mountains and obtain the one thing that may be able to stop it—before the Bomb’s Breath sinks too far and destroys them all. This time, Hope can’t fail.

forbidden flats

 Hosted by Breaking the Spine

 I thought the first book in this series (Sky Jumpers) was a fun story with great characters and a cool atmosphere. I’m predicting that Sky Jumpers: The Forbidden Flat will be even better than the first book because now that the world is established there is nothing left but to explore it!  I am super excited to see how the story continues and think Eddelman is a strong addition to the middle grade market.

 What book are you waiting on? Have you read Sky Jumpers yet?

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

sky raidersTitle: Sky Raiders

Author: Brandon Mull

Series: Five Kingdoms #1

Genre: Middle Grade

Release Date: March 11, 2013

The OverviewCole Randolph was just trying to have a fun time with his friends on Halloween (and maybe get to know Jenna Hunt a little better). But when a spooky haunted house turns out to be a portal to something much creepier, Cole finds himself on an adventure on a whole different level. After Cole sees his friends whisked away to some mysterious place underneath the haunted house, he dives in after them and ends up in The Outskirts.

The Outskirts are made up of five kingdoms that lie between wakefulness and dreaming, reality and imagination, life and death. Its an in-between place. Some people are born there. Some find their way there from our world, or from other worlds. And once you come to the Outskirts, its very hard to leave. With the magic of the Outskirts starting to unravel, its up to Cole and an unusual girl named Mira to rescue his friends, set things right in the Outskirts, and hopefully find his way back home before his existence is forgotten.

sky raiders 2

 Hosted by Breaking the Spine

  If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you are probably sick of hearing how much I love Brandon Mull (my favorite kids author since J.K. Rowling). His books never fail to make me feel like a kid again and are written on a level that even adults can appreciate. Sky Raiders is the first book in his latest series, and I remember reading that he thinks it’s the best book he’s written yet – so of course I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes


Top Ten Childhood Books I’m Thankful For!

Top ten Tuesday pink

 Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 This week, I’m paying homage to the books that sparked my love of reading. Without them, I doubt I would have grown up to be The Obsessive Bookseller I am today. I owe them for introducing me to my passion in life.

Top Ten Childhood Books I’m Thankful For!

Most of these books kept me entertained a dozen times over – when I was younger we lived almost two hours from the nearest bookstore, so I reread these books until they were falling apart. Some of them I would challenge myself to read cover to cover every day… It was a lot of fun. :-)

What books sparked your love of reading as a kid?

by Niki Hawkes


Coming Soon: Hunted by Maggie Stiefvater

Spirit animalsTitle: Hunted

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Series: Spirit Animals #2

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Release Date: January 2014

Series Overview: Spirit Animals is set in the world of Erdas, where children go through a coming-of-age ritual to determine if they have a “spirit animal,” which represents a bond between human and beast that bestows each with great power. The story centers on four children from different cultures who undergo the ritual and discover they have been chosen for a greater destiny.

Spirit animals

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

As my favorite middle-grade author since J. K. Rowling, Brandon Mull never fails to deliver amazing stories that take you on adventures and make you feel like a kid again. Wild Born was the first book launched in this multi-platform series and although different authors are taking the reins for the rest of the books, he is the outlining mastermind behind them all. Wild Born was so much fun to read that I am eagerly awaiting this sequel, taken on by Maggie Stiefvater (known for Raven Boys and Shiver). I haven’t read her before, but with all the excitement surrounding her other books, I’m confident she’ll do a good job with this one.

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes