Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jack Blank Adventure #1: The Accidental Hero by Matt Myklusch

The Accidental Hero (Jack Blank Adventure, #1)My name is Jack Blank, and I don't
know my true past, only the life I had in the orphanage. A Rustov robot creature tried to kill me, so an android named Jazen has taken me far away to an island called Imagine Nation where aliens, Mechas, and superheroes live together. The citizens are wary of another Rustov invasion, and everyone knows I've been infected by the parasite. Nevertheless, I have a chance to improve my power over machines by being accepted to the School of Thought, but I must be approved by all memebers of the Inner Circle, powerful beings governing Imagine Nation. That's a daunting challenge, since Jonas Smart is constantly spreading news that I’m  Rustov spy. I better learn something quickly, since an indestructible Rustov named Revile is determined to kill me.

I found this book by chance, and I really enjoyed it. Jack was another reluctant hero who was just discovering his new abilities. The author did a wonderful job of creating problems for Jack with Smart’s disdain, Rustov attacks, the citizen’s fear and anger, and Jack’s own self-doubts. A major focus of the plot dealt with Jack’s efforts to survive and prove himself to the Inner Circle. As mentioned, receiving a favorable vote from Smart seemed impossible, and Smart seemed to have ulterior motives. The question of Jack’s mysterious past simmered throughout the plot, and a story-changing secret was revealed during the climax. The book was a blend of science fiction and fantasy. Smart developed all kinds of inventions including SmartCams that followed Jason everywhere. Superheroes flew around quelling typical superhero problems. Overall, the book may not appeal to everyone, but I highly recommend you give it a shot.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dragon's Egg by Sarah L. Thompson

Dragon's EggMy name is Mella, and I have the rare ability to care for our Inn's herd of domestic dragons. There are rumors of wild dragons roaming the forest, but no one had actually seen one... until I came across a black egg left in a cave. Unfortunately, my discovery led to a dragon's death, and I've promised to guard the egg and return it to the land of the dragons. Thankfully, Roger, the dragonslayer's apprentice, has offered to accompany me, since I've never been this far into the forest. We must trek into the mountains,find an opening near a huge waterfall, and the Hatching Ground will be found between the Fangs. Everything had been going fairly well until we were captured and tied up by a nasty man named Damien. It seems Roger has failed to tell me about an important secret from his past.

The plot moved along quickly with moments of suspense caused by Damien and the dragons. Mella was an admirable character, as she was determined to honor her promise to a dying dragon. Honor was very important to Mella and Roger, and it was a big factor in the resolution of the conflict. Mella constantly cared for the egg and was concerned when she thought it might cool. She was willing to protect it with her life. On the other hand, she felt guilty for leaving her herd of dragons behind at the Inn; her absence would upset them greatly. Roger's character was a paradox. He was apprenticed to a Defender, guardians against wild dragons, yet he offered all of his support to aid Mella in her quest to save the dragon egg. The problems created by Roger's secret lingered throughout the whole story, and it was clear the secret would need to be addressed by the end. I could have seen this book being written as a more detailed adventure for older readers, but it worked well for an upper elementary audience. Overall, it was an entertaining book that most young readers will enjoy.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Worldquake Sequence #1: Dragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas

Dragon's Green (Worldquake Sequence, #1)My name is Effie, and the Otherworld is real! My grandfather left me all of his books when he died, and I'm angry that my father sold 499 of them to a Diberi named Leonard Levar. The evil Diberi want to absorb the magic within them to grow more powerful. My grandfather hid the 500th book, Dragon's Green, so I can use it to find the Otherworld. I faced a princess-eating dragon within the book's story that allowed me to find my cousins and my grandfather's lawyer. They said I'm a true hero, and a ring I inherited has endowed me with strength to fight the Diberi. I'm still learning to manage my magical force, and I'm happy for the support from my new friends. The spectacles I've given Maximillian provide him with great knowledge, but I pray they can help us develop a plan to rescue my grandfather's library. 

The plot moved a little slowly for me in the beginning, as a clear conflict with tension didn't appear until I was over a hundred pages into the book. However, everything came together in the second half and grew into an exciting climax. I liked the use of boons that helped Effie unknowingly form a team, as the magical objects could only be activated by various characters. A letter opener became a sword, a glass ball helped with healing, and a wand enhanced a young witch's powers. Worldquake Sequence referred to the separation of worlds occurring sixty years prior to the story. The way books were used as portals to the Otherworld was creative, as the stories themselves became the gateway, not the book. The grandfather's training popped up throughout the plot, including Effie's unusual method for stopping the dragon. Also, the grandfather's death may not be permanent, since Effie was told he might return to the Otherworld sometime in the future. Again, I had a little trouble making sense of the events in the first half of the book, but I enjoyed the plot much more once things cleared up. Overall, I think I'll be giving the sequel, The Chosen Ones, a chance sometime soon.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dragonwatch #2: Wrath of the Dragon King by Brandon Mull

Wrath of the Dragon King (Dragonwatch, #2)My name is Seth, and Celebrant continues to test the defenses at Wyrmroost. Surprisingly, the Dragon King invited Kendra and I to a feast, and there would be terrible consequences if we didn't go. The event began with Celebrant killing one of his guards who had challenged him for the crown. Then, as food was served, the king declared war on anyone opposing him! Our griffins were killed in the royal stables, and we now have two days to trek home. 

Unfortunately, I only read about a fourth of the book in a preview copy. The format and characters are the same as previous books about the magical creatures of Wyrmroost and Fablehaven. Seth always seems to be the wildcard, as his impulsiveness often leads to problems. In this book, he wants to steal dragon bones after Celebrant's duel which would negate any protective spells during the feast. Another wildcard may be Seth's cousin. He just knowingly saw magical creatures for the first time, and it's unknown what he'll do with the knowledge. I assume it will have an important effect, since the author chose to include it. I'll withhold any further comments until I finish the book this fall when it comes out. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting #2: Beasts and Geeks by Joe Ballarini

My name is Liz, and I am a babysitter, sworn to protect innocent kids from deadly monsters. Kelly defeated the Grand Guignol last month, so the other six Boogeymen will be seeking revenge against her. She babysat baby Theo for me while I searched for the Spider Queen Serena, but I wasn't prepared for the anger I felt when I found my little brother changed into a big, blue, furry monster. Serena is biting humans to create an army of minions, so it looks like war has already been declared. She always seems to be one step ahead of us, and Mama Vee is missing too. Luckily, Kelly does a pretty good job for a newb, and the Spider Queen hasn't gotten her fangs into Theo yet. He's destined to grow up and become a great monster killer. Unfortunately, right now, monsters have a super sense of smell that can detect his stinky diapers!

I continue to be amazed at the entertainment value of this series. I never would have imagined being enamored by a worldwide group of young babysitters. I'm impressed by the adventure, action, and humor in the fast-paced plot. Kelly is the main character, and everyone can relate to her life as a middle school student. There are moments of forgetting her homework, problems with an old friendship, and complications of first love. However, most of the story focuses on the monsters' efforts to capture little Theo. You must keep reminding yourself that this diapered baby is supposed to grow up and defeat all of the monsters. In addition, his unexplained wails are actually warnings that monsters are nearby. An unusual twist to the plot is that Serena is transforming most of the minor characters into her puppets. Consequently, readers must constantly question everyone Kelly meets along the way. Are they under Serena's control. Another emotional complication pops up early in the story when Kelly fails to pass her babysitter training. How can she be a special monster hunter when she can't even pass her classes? I can highly recommend this series to you; you don't really need to read the first book in order to enjoy this one.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Lost Books #1: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas

The Scroll of Kings  (The Lost Books, #1)My name is Alex, and I am the royal librarian. At least until the queen figures out I've been lying about my identity. I never received any proper training, but everybody assumes I know what I’m doing. The queen’s given me two weeks to organize a cavernous library that's been neglected for years, but she doesn't even know the dangers found here. The books are frightened of something hidden on the shelves, volumes with strange covers that have already killed three other librarians. I've barely survived books that conjured up strangling vines, devastating earthquakes, and raging storms. Why are all the books targeting me and trying to end my life? There are so many secrets to uncover! The Lost Books, the queen’s uncle, and the Red Codex.

I randomly found this book on my library's shelf of new releases, and I'm glad I did. The story oozed with imagination, as paper was used to create different characters. The characters weren't made from paper, the sheets of paper were Alex's flying assistants. Evil books mesmerized readers into deadly situations, and the cause of this dangerous change was unclear. The young queen found the library hard to understand, and she found Alex annoying. However, she admired Alex's honesty, loyalty, and determination. The author included many subplots that were easy to follow; authors sometimes make their books confusing by describing too many problems. Alex had issues with his father, the queen was unaware of her uncle's plans, the prince felt useless, and Alex wanted to save all of the books, even the ones trying to kill him! The conflicts overlapped, and the author neatly blended them together. The thing I liked best about the book was the fact Alex was always the underdog. The queen gave him two weeks to perform an impossible task for which he was totally unprepared. He was forced to act alone, and the Red Codex was a constant mystery in his mind. Some readers may not like this book, but I highly recommend you give it a try.

Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Casper and Jasper and the Terrible TyrantMy name is Casper, and my twin brother Jasper and I were literally thrown into a crowd of people when we were only six months old. Of course, it wasn't until now that we learned our real parents have been slaving away as prisoners all these years. We don't even know what they look like. Jasper and I have never been known as rule-followers (just ask our teachers), so any sensible person could have predicted we'd run away to rescue our parents. I must admit I was a little uncomfortable about being eaten by werewolves and drowning in the swamp, but the giant troll named Guthrum the Sinister came in pretty handy. I'm sorry we tricked him into burying "magic" yarn, but desperate times called for creative thinking. I'm not sure how we'll rescue our parents and mess up the count's plans for the deadly black ice, but we'll think of something.

Some readers might not enjoy the word play in the book, but I found it amusing. Younger readers will probably miss the references to old pop culture. The twins had a special bond, and their teamwork was formidable. They used language as a weapon or tool, as they confused and manipulated people they met. They managed to get past Guthrum by bribing him with yarn, and they later escaped from the same troll by using their words. Guthrum was an endearing character, since he was sincere and only wanted to do his best. I'm not sure I've ever read a book where all of the antagonists are so simple and gullible. The only one with an actual sense of evil logic was the "princess". She was a poor, needy girl who managed to become Count Wilhelm Scream's most powerful confidante using confusion and trickery. She was as ruthless as the count, as they both enjoyed inflicting pain on others. The plot jumped around to several settings, which I don't enjoy, but the imprisoned parents displayed the same magical tongues as their sons. They were able to persuade the guards into making the prison arrangements more bearable for their fellow inmates. The author left some unfinished business after the climax, but everything was resolved in the end.