Monday, April 6, 2020

Tom Swift and the Electronic Hydrolung by Victor Appleton II

Tom Swift and the Electronic Hydrolung  (Tom Swift Jr, #18)My name is Bud, and my best friend Tom is the most brilliant eighteen-year-old scientist in the world. He was in charge of a Jupiter rocket responsible for collecting valuable information about the largest planet, but a missile diverted its landing and  crashed it into the ocean. We're certain the Brungarians are behind it, and we now find ourselves in a race to recover the spaceship first. While searching for remains, we were forced to dodge torpedos from an unseen submarine. The enemy is able to hide their ships from detection, so they can attack or evade us at any time. Tom has taken on the challenge, and I have no doubt he'll think of something. But the dangers of the hunt are only getting worse, and time may be running out. 

I absolutely loved this series back when I was young. Despite the "ancient" copyright, the story's concept withstands the test of time. The main characters being a little older is a non-issue, since life was much simpler back then. The boys have girlfriends, but they go on simple dates, including a squard dance! The plot moves along "swiftly", which makes the book a quick-read. Events sometimes progress without detail, and it's very noticeable when compared to today's novels. It probably would become a four-hundred page book if it was published now. The time span of the story isn't clear, but the quality and quantity of Tom's inventions is remarkable. The turnaround time between an idea for the hydrolung to its production is a matter of days. Most of Tom's inventions this time concern safely navigaing underwater and detecting other ships. Overall, it was fun to read a story from my youth, but it will probably appeal to a select audience of today's readers. Finding a hardback copy may be impossible. I downloaded my copy free from the Project Gutenberg's Ebooks, a source I'd never used before. Give it a shot if you're in the mood for a quick, entertaining, science-fiction novel.

Merlin #2: The Seven Songs by T.A. Barron

The Seven Songs (Merlin #2)My name is Rhia, and I must guide Merlin as he wields the Flowering Harp to revive the lands across Fincayra. I lost track of him along the way but discovered he summoned his mother and delayed his vital quest. He doesn't fully appreciate that the survival of all living things in Fincayra is riding on his time-sensitive mission. Rhita Gawr will return looking for vengeance. Now, Merlin’s mother is dying, and he is determined to venture into the Otherworld Well to save her. He read the runes within Arbassa's trunk, and they told the story of The Seven Songs. He must retrace his grandfather's footsteps, but the cryptic song lyrics leave us guessing about the journey’s path. There is a likely chance we won't survive the quest, but I agree that we must do everything we can to find a cure for his mother. 

Once again, Merlin doesn't perform the powerful magic you might expect. He's only recently discovered his abilities and doubts he possesses much of it. Rhia tells him as much when he tries to boast about his power to heal nature. Merlin was fairly modest in the first book, but this sequel presents a much more arrogant character. He gets frustrated when others downplay his importance and ignores the repeated pleas and warnings to resurrect Fincayra as quickly as possible. He discounts Rhia's intuition and gets the group into further danger. The word hubris was used to describe Merlin more than once, although he recovers some humility once the problem escalates. The plot settles into a pattern of trying to solve seven situations where Merlin must find the soul of seven songs. These discoveries result in seven lessons in life, and they must unfold in the order they are presented. No avoiding or skipping! A jester is added to the cast of characters, and he provides "humor" to the story. Actually, the character is the opposite of funny, but that's where the playfulness comes in. Overall, the series is slowly presenting Merlin's evolution as a wizard, and I assume he'll become a little more powerful in the sequel. Prophecies share hints  of the future, but the uncertainty creates the tension and suspense.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Dwarven Nations Trilogy #2: Hammer and Axe by Dan Parkinson

Hammer and Axe (Dragonlance: Dwarven Nations, #2)My name is Damon, and I've volunteered to investigate the rumor of humans, including wizards, trespassing on the dwarven lands of Kal-Thax. Something mysterious emerged from a strange fog and has destroyed three villages, and magic may be behind it. I ventured to the top of Steepcliff where I found three wizards preparing to build some kind of structure. They tried to cast spells at me, but my hammer crushed the head of the first. The third one was curious about how I was able to withstand his magic, and I must admit it stung a little. However, he seemed to think his spells were real. I decided to keep this wizard to study his magic, as it may be helpful against the growing army of humans. I'm sure the wizards in charge will resort to trickery, and I plan to be prepared.

This book could be read alone, since it took place about ninety years after the first one. I might actually recommend you skip the first book due to its meandering story.  Dwarves lived for hundreds of years, and Damon was a newborn in the last book. The plot in the second book was more focused, so it was easier to follow. Once again, the land of the dwarves was being invaded, but the wizards and their magic presented a new threat. However, the dwarves' response to the spells presented a new challenge for the wizards. It also added a bit of humor to the story. The whole conflict centered on the humans' invasion into Kal-Thax, and the dwarves' efforts to defend themselves. There was another serious issue with a dragon, but it was forgotten for large periods of time. It wasn't really needed in this story and could have been the center of another book. Dwarves were the focus of the story with humans being the minor characters and antagonists. Be forewarned that there were many unusual dwarf names to remember. Overall, this series has been entertaining, the second book more than the first, and I recommend lovers of dwarves give it a shot. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Adventurers Guild #3: Night of Dangers by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Night of Dangers (The Adventurers Guild #3)My name is Micah, and I've suspected for awhile that something was wrong with Zed. I know I've treated him like crap, but he was behaving stranger than normal. Then, he appeared in my dream and told me what was going on. A witch named Makiva took over his body, and she was responsible for the massacre in the town square. I don't think Zed fully knows what she's planning, but he wanted me to exorcise her from his body. Unfortunately, I tried but wasn't powerful enough to free him from her control. To Liza and Brock, the exorcism looked like I was bullying Zed again, so no one will trust anything I have to say. They don't know what I really think about him. Everyone in Freestone fears a repeat of the Day of Dangers, and I'm beginning to suspect Makiva is trying to summon it again. 

You should read the previous books in the series to fully understand the background story of this trilogy. I never imagined I'd use Micah's point of view to share the teaser. He was a pompous, arrogant character and hard to like. This book showed there was more depth to his character hidden beneath his cocky exterior. The previous books have described a growing bond between the new Adventurers, but their unity was in peril. Makiva's efforts and characters' secrets eroded the harmony. The fun twist to the plot was how Zed's soul was a character but had no influence over how Makiva controlled his body. His etheral spirit observed everything going on but wasn't able to communicate with any other characters, except for Micah. Dark magic was abhored by the king and all the guilds, so Micah couldn't tell anyone about Zed without risking his life. Unlike the previous two books, the third one took place within the walls of Freestone. The characters seemed to venture into all kinds of previously unvisited nooks and crannies, while trying to resolve the conflict. It took them quite awhile to fully understand the real problem, so the suspense was able to slowly build. Overall, I really liked this series and recommend you give it a shot. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Adventurers Guild #2: Twilight of the Elves by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Twilight of the Elves (The Adventurers Guild #2)My name is Zed, and there is unrest within the walls of Freestone. Our elven neighbors have been forced to flee their homes, and many citizens of Freestone resent the presence of these refugees. The elven queen has asked the Adventurer's Guild for help, and they think my green flame may be the only way to destroy the dark magic haunting Llethanyl. However, Freestone's king has denied the queen's request, so our mission must remain secret. I'm still learning to use my magic, and hopefully I won't need it to hold off the Dangers we'll encounter in the forest. My father was an elf from Llethanyl, but I don't know anything about him. I was hoping the High Ranger of the elves would share some information, but I wasn't prepared for the truth. 

I recommend you first read The Adventurers Guild #1 in order to fully understand the background story of the series. Zed was the main character, although alternate chapters followed his best friend Brock. Their friendship became strained, as they were both hiding secrets. A large focus of this book involved Zed trying to discover more about his past. The fact that he never knew his father may resonate with readers from divorced or adopted families. I enjoyed Zed's vulnerability and uncertainty, as he learned new information about his father. However, Zed agreed to a secret pact that came back to bite him in the butt. Luckily, it turned out a couple of friends were more than they seemed, and their abilities were needed during the plot's climax. The interaction of the characters was the most enjoyable part of the book. It included playful bantering, strained relationships, compassion, and teamwork as the Adventurers worked together. An old/new character joined the cast in the later pages of the book. The plot again included mystery, as the Dangers presented some hard-to-explain problems. Overall, I'm enjoying the series and have already started reading the third book Night of Dangers.

Merlin #1: The Lost Years by T.A. Barron

The Lost Years (Merlin #1)I am called Emrys, and I live with a woman calling herself my mother. I know she is not, as I know the truth about my real name is out there beyond our village. The others call my "mother" a sorceress, but they still come to her for poultices and remedies. I know some of them fear her, and I've heard stories of women accused of witchcraft being burned. I don't understand how, but I suspect I have some abilities myself. The bird pooping on a bully's head was no accident, and I feel as if I can sense life in the trees. However, I've learned the danger of my magic and sworn that I'll never use it again. I must now venture out into the world and discover who I am. I have no idea where to begin my journey, so I'll return to the ocean shore, the site of my earliest memories.

This book followed the life history of young Merlin and wasn't at all what I expected. His early bad experience with magic took that power away from his character for most of the book. The loss was self-imposed, as the magic frightened him. The meat of the plot took place in a mystical land between heaven and earth. This setting featured a respectful balance between all living things that was being threatened by an outside force. Emrys saved the life of a merlin, and they became odd allies. (The merlin is an real animal, a type of small falcon.) This aggressive predator was quick to attack, and it took Emyrs awhile to realize it was only being protective of him. However, he quickly named the bird Trouble. The theme of the book became pretty clear when the trees, plants, and animals were threatened. Society needs to protect and preserve wildlife from destruction and development. The surrounding lands in the story even took on a barren, rust color which seemed to symbolize construction or urbanization of rural areas. Even though the plot lacked the magic from Merlin that I expected, I still found the book quite entertaining. It was nice to see a main character actually show respect and restraint toward newly found power. I recommend you give this book a shot, and I plan to read the sequel The Seven Songs of Merlin when it becomes available at my local library. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Revenge of Magic #2: The Last Dragon by James Riley

The Last Dragon (The Revenge of Magic, #2)My name is Fort, and I'm determined to find a way to rescue my father from the world of the Old Ones. The only downside is betraying my friends and possibly destroying all of humanity. My plan involves stealing the Summoning book and opening a portal to the other world. Unfortunately, opening the portal will also allow monsters to return to Earth and unleash their fury and revenge upon us. That's how my father disappeared in the first place. The tricky part of my plan is trying to master the Summoning spell while avoiding my new roomate Gabriel. I can't believe how he treats the guards and staff, and he seems overly curious about what I'm doing. I can't let my dangerous plans hurt anyone else, so I need to somehow sneak away on my own. 

You really need to read the first book in the series, The Revenge of Magic, to fully understand this one. I really hate the number of times I read about characters deceiving their friends and endangering the world. Why can't they learn? Answer, to create entertaining stories, although it's an all too common factor in book plots. Fort feels responsible for his father's disappearance in the first book even though there was absolutely nothing he could have done about it. For that lame reason, he's willing to risk the survival of all mankind. This second book doesn't have the budding camraderie I enjoyed in the first one, and I miss it. Even Sierra's presence in Fort's mind is removed after her early assistance. The first book implied Fort has minor magical power due to his birthday, but he gets pretty good at teleportation in this book. I like the fact that no single character is all-powerful, and this even applies to the Old Ones. The story shares a lot of information about the other world and explains the overall problem in the series. That detail was fuzzy after the first book. Overall, I'm enjoying the series and hope to read the third one as soon as my local library reopens. It's a victim of the Coronvirus.