Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Shadow School #1: Archimancy by J.A. White

Archimancy (Shadow School, #1)My name is Cordelia, and I was angry when my parents made us move away from all my friends in California to a small town in New Hampshire. My new school looked like a huge old house, and it was easy to get lost walking through the hallways. I was thankful for Agnes, as she helped me navigate the school. However, she wasn't able to help me with everything. I was alarmed to find a small boy crying under the gym bleachers, but I soon discovered no one else could see him. That is, until I noticed Benji. He was able to see the boy and made me aware of many other ghosts in the school. He wanted to stay far away from the ghosts, but I think I've figured out a way to get rid of them. However, we've also made something else at Shadow House very angry.

This is a story involving ghosts, but it's scary-level is low. It has more of a compassionate feeling with the kids trying to help ghosts move on to a more restful place. The characters mentioned above form the group of three protagonists, although Agnes can't see the ghosts. She's the smartest of them, but Cordelia must be careful not to inadvertently make her friend feel left out. Cordelia is a dynamic character, as she transforms into a more mature person. She lived a superficial life in California, but the ghosts now give her life some focus and direction. The setting of an old house becoming a school sets up possibilities, but that's only the beginning. The house's history provides hidden secrets. The antagonist/antagonists aren't clear which adds to the tension in the conflict. Who/what wants the kids to stop helping the ghosts, and why? Overall, this was an entertaining book, and I recommend you give it a shot.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Worldquake #3: Galloglass by Scarlett Thomas

GalloglassMy name is Effie, and I used to love visiting my cousins in the Otherworld. I was even excited to go with Clothilde to get my kharakter analysis, but I never dreamed I'd be labeled a selfish, self-centered galloglass. I've now been banished from the Otherworld! I don't know what to do, but it now looks like the Diberi are behind everything. I can't understand why I always feel so tired. My M-currency seems to run out too quickly, so I've stopped wearing my Heroes ring. I'm sure the Diberi have plans to kill me or something, but I'm not sure why I'm always the focus of their attention. The current situation concerns the separation of the Real World and the Otherworld, and I can be certain the Diberi's plans will be bad for everyone.

I enjoyed this book more than book two, and it may have been because the antagonists were more clear-cut. The main plot followed Effie, and she finally figured out what made her so special. Her character was forced to become more dynamic when she seemed to lose support in the Otherworld. She needed to follow her instincts and trust herself in order to open up new possibilities. The author touched on some other societal issues with child abuse being the most disturbing and realistic. One of Effie's friends was being coerced into doing things that made her uncomfortable, and she was afraid to seek help. The abuser was an honored guest in the house, and the young girl was afraid others wouldn't believe any accusations. The book's resolution included a direct plea to victims instructing them to seek help from a trusted adult. It feels like the series could end after this book, but I'm not sure if the author has a sequel in the works. I've enjoyed the series very much, and I recommend you give it a shot. The first book is entitled Dragon's Green.

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Revenge of Magic #3 :The Future King by James Riley

The Future King (The Revenge of Magic, #3)My name is Rachel, and I've been pulled into a battle to save the world along with Jia and Fort. Some students at a London school have Time magic, and they've told us about a future of famine and war unless we get the book of Spirit magic. However, we don't know where to find it, and we're sure the students aren't telling us everything. Then, Fort said he was given conflicting warnings about the future from Cyrus and some old man, but we're not sure if any of it will help or hurt our predicament. The immediate problem is keeping the city of London from going up in dragon flames, but the solution may be worse than that. Using Spirit magic to stop the dragon could cause another world war!

You should probably read the first two books in the series before reading this one. Time magic was more important this time, as the characters considered different decision options and the potential consequences. I wasn't crazy about the frequency of time-traveling, as characters briefly jumped to the past or future. The students even used it as a "weapon", as they seemed to disappear or dispatched other characters to other times. There appeared to be a main antagonist, but it fluctuated as the plot moved along, especially in the second half of the book. Experienced readers know to be alert when a character seems to be keeping secrets, and the main characters in this book were clearly aware the other students weren't being totally open. Fort's character was fun to watch, as he was the least powerful of the protagonists. He was the main character and has gotten really good at using the portals he creates. It was amusing to see how quickly he could open and close them to manipulate other characters or objects. Overall, The Revenge of Magic is an entertaining series, and I recommend you give it a shot. It seems like each book will feature a different kind of magic, so I'm curious to see which one is next.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Wizards: Magical Tales From The Masters of Modern Fantasy

Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern FantasyThis book is a collection of short stories written by some of the most popular authors of our time. Neil Gaiman shares the tale of a young boy and the ghost of a graveyard witch, while Jane Yolen describes a young girl's rescue mission back to a concentration camp in 1943. As the  book title foretells, the common element among the stories is the presence of magic, usually with wizards. The collection has a nice variety of short and long stories with a full range of intensities. Eoin Colfer shares a short one about a hungry albino parrot, while Garth Nix spins a tale about a young girl's struggle for revenge to control "Ingland". Nix's 36-page chapter would actually make a nice, full novel. Many of the authors' contributions include valuable lessons for characters and readers alike, almost like fables, although the messages aren't always spelled out. Overall, it's a very entertaining book if you're looking for short stories written by accomplished authors of middle grade fantasy. 

Hunger Games #0: The Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)My name is Coriolanus, and I cannot fully describe the importance of becoming a mentor in the Hunger Games. It was embarrassing to be assigned the female tribute from District 12, the worst district of all, but it was soon evident that Lucy Gray Baird had "star quality". I succumbed to her charms and began to envision how my life might change if she could survive to be among the final tributes. We made a good team, and the reporters and public loved us. However, I noticed that Lucy Gray's physical condition was deteriorating, but I was stunned when she said it would help if I started thinking she might actually win the Games, not just survive. I'm now starting to have thoughts we might have a future together. 

This book is a prequel to The Hunger Games. It's interesting to contrast the Games in this book with the Games described in the rest of the series. A focus of the organizers is to figure out ways to increase interest and viewership from the citizens of Panem. The most compelling aspect of the story is knowing Coriolanus will become the tyrannical president of the future Panem. In this book, he's initially driven by ambition to get a scholarship while trying to maintain some dignity after his family's fall into poverty. He also has compassion for others, but he's afraid it may imply weakness and result in punishment from the people he's trying to impress. As a result, much of the story takes place inside Coriolanus's mind, as he contemplates conflicting thoughts and emotions. Rest assured, in the end he exhibits the type of behavior you've come to expect in his character. The Capitol exhibits governmental oppression and entitlement, and there are clashes between values and ethics. The Headmaster of the Games presents controversial advances in science that explain some future events in the series. Overall, the Hunger Games are a part of this book, but it's not the whole story. I found it very entertaining, and I can envision a Hunger Games .5 being written. Give this book a shot.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Worldquake Sequence #2: The Chosen Ones by Scarlett Thomas

The Chosen Ones (Worldquake Sequence, #2)My name is Effie, and I truly want to know what I am. I know I'm a True Hero because I have the ring, but what else am I? Adventurer? Healer? Mage? I'm confused by some of my abilities, since they don't seem to fit together. Now, my father has taken my box of boons, and he won't give it back unless I give him a copy of The Chosen Ones. Most of them have been destroyed, since Albion Freake wants to have the only copy. It doesn't make sense to me, but Raven and I have figured out what he's up to. I can sense something is going to happen during this Friday's meteor shower, but what? And what's with the famous author following me around, trying to find out about my life? I need to get my boons back, so I can travel to the Otherworld. Hopefully, I'll find the answers I seek.

I suggest you read Dragon's Green first, since it sets the tone for the whole series. Effie spends much of her time in this book trying to "find herself". She has the True Hero ring, but there are two other unidentified descriptors. She thinks she'll be able to unlock all of her other abilities if she can fully understand herself. The plot mostly follows her adventures, not aware of a prophecy foretelling her death, with subplots involving other characters. Maximillian is pursuing new skills as a mage, Raven is protecting Effie and has close contact with the antagonist, and the antagonist has a master plan to become all-powerful and ruin everything. I like the teamwork of the characters, as they support each other and try to master their abilities. Prophecies are usually inflexible, but this book alters one after the events unfold. Other books leave wiggle-room for the interpretation of unclear prophecies, so alternative results are possible. Overall, I'm enjoying the series recommend you give it a shot. Again, start with the first book.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans #1 by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans (A Dragon's Guide, #1)My name is Ms. Drake, and the death of my pet human has brought me great sadness. She told her granddaughter, Winnie, about me, and she's going to take some getting used to. She sometimes talks like I'm her pet, so she's going to need some training. She has a bit of artistic talent, so I didn't see a big problem when Clipper gave her a sketchbook to keep her busy. I should have sensed the sketchbook's magic when I felt a tingle, but it wasn't until later that I discovered my oversight. Winnie was shocked when she saw blank pages where she had recently drawn twenty pictures of creatures she had seen. The creatures had become alive and fled the book! I knew a spell to return them to their pages, so I wasn't overly worried... until I discovered the truth about the last monster Winnie had drawn.

I read this book's sequel first, but it wasn't a problem. The best parts of the story evolved from the humorous interactions between Winnie and Ms. Drake. Ms. Drake was queen of the dragons and was used to being treated with respect and awe. Winnie missed the memo where she was supposed to be obedient and amazed, so fun ensued. Two things stuck in the back of my mind as I read. Winnie's father was trying to get custody of her, but that issue was put on the back burner. Also, Ms. Drake needed to create a pet name for Winnie, and it seemed to be top secret. She didn't tell Winnie about it, and there weren't any clear clues about why it was significant. Guess you'll need to read the sequel. Recapturing the creatures was the main conflict, and the hunt created more amusing situations and some action. The twentieth monster had the ability to wipe out magic, so its apprehension wasn't fun and games. Overall, the book was entertaining, funny, and adventurous, and I recommend you give it a shot.