Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In Over Their Heads by Margaret Peterson Haddix

In Over Their Heads (Under Their Skin #2)My name is Ava, and I've been raised as a young girl, not a teenage robot. My brother Jackson, my human stepbrother Nick and stepsister Eryn, and I have discovered shocking secrets hidden in Mammoth Cave. Nick and Eryn found papers directing humans to kill all robots, and then we found a cave full of cribs with young robot children in them. However, a young girl living in the cave found us, and we're not sure if she can be trusted. She's been helpful, but she becomes very defensive when we ask about her family or home. She's warned us about an approaching blizzard but then ran out of the cave; we fear she's going to kill our parents. I know it's just a matter of time before robot society discovers my illegal existence, and then my brother and I will be killed. But, is another war between robots and humans looming?

This book is the sequel to Under Their Skin, which you need to read first. There are only two books in the series, so go for it! The first half of this book took a little too long to get to the point, but the second half was very gripping. I don't think my first paragraph effectively communicates the suspense of the plot. The antagonists weren't clear, since the humans and robots each displayed a history of violence toward the other. The book addresses a fear that technology might become so advanced that it will threaten human existence. Will robots become too intelligent and powerful to be stopped? I don't generally like stories that are told from multiple points of view, but it works in this book. The setting doesn't jump around much, so the plot is easy to follow. Actually, using different points of view was a good choice, since the characters had such different feelings about the situation. Eryn became frightened and had some extreme views, while her brother was more understanding. Jackson's situation was totally different from everyone else. Good job!


Monday, April 24, 2017

The Keepers Trilogy #2: City of Lies by Lian Tanner

City of Lies (The Keepers, #2)My name is Goldie, and Toadspit and his sister Bonnie have disappeared; I know they've been kidnapped by Harrow, but I don't know why. I've traced them to a city called Spoke where they're holding a befuddling celebration. For the next few days, everyone in the city must lie when they are speaking. A fortune-telling mute boy has been very helpful, but I suspect his friend will probably rat me out as soon as he gets the chance. I must learn to listen to the little voice in the back of my mind, and recent events have led me to believe it is the voice of a warrior princess who died five hundred years ago. However, it scares me. Ever since the Big Lie, the the wolf-sark, a powerful thirst for fighting, has almost overtaken me, and I'm not sure I can control it. 

You need to read the first book. I like how the story is told through Goldie's eyes, and this book offers some new insights into her thinking. A little voice has offered advice in both books, but it takes on more of a personality in City of Lies. It also created a little confusion in the middle of the plot for Goldie and me. During a Big Lie, it wasn't always clear if the spoken words came from her or from the princess. Not a big problem, but it was something to note. The festival also offered a challenge for readers, since I had to remember to think about the opposite of whatever characters were saying (everyone was lying). Mouse was an admirable character with a caring heart, but it was clear that his partner couldn't be trusted. They made an unlikely pair. The ongoing conflict concerns which character will rule Jewel, the Protector or her brother the Fugleman. Even though most of the plot took place outside of Jewel, this conflict was driving the events. I'm enjoying the series and looking forward to the last book in the trilogy.

Danny's Inferno: Down in Flames by P.W. Catanese

Down in Flames (Donny's Inferno #2)My name is Danny, and I am a mortal human now living in Sulfur (a place you might know as Hell) serving a demon named Angela. She led the reform that stopped the tormenting of souls for eternity in the Pit of Fire, but some creatures still want a return to tradition. The king of the ferryman spoke to the council and said there are souls being taken in the mortal world instead being delivered to Sulfur. He also said he may start his own revolution back to the old ways if the persons responsible are not stopped. Angela eagerly accepted the challenge, but we have no idea how dangerous it might be. She has a habit of overlooking the dangers I face when I help her, but I always thought she had my best interests at heart. However, I overheard her telling someone that she doesn't care if I live or die; she'll just find another mortal to replace me. I'm crushed. I may have a way to leave her, but is it the right thing to do? And will she allow it without killing me?

You should read Donny's Inferno first. It explains all of the background knowledge you need to understand Down in Flames. The premise underlying the series is unusual. Who would ever think demons in the underworld might have a moral problem with forcing damned souls into a burning pit of fire for eternity? Angela believes souls should have a chance for redemption with the possibility of eventually finding eternal rest. Donny's character is obviously in a bizarre situation. A human teenager living among demons in the underworld? The conversation he overheard with Angela added a whole new dimension to the plot and became a major problem for him. He wants to please Angela, but he has mortal fears and thinks he's being taken for granted. I felt like the mystery of the missing souls took a backseat to Donny's issues until he resolved them. I was fine with that. Angela is a great character, because she has great power and can become a terrifying creature but seems naive about the mortal world. She can act like a mother to Donny then immediately strike terror into everyone around her. Overall, I'm enjoying the series very much, and recommend it to readers. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Thickety #4: The Last Spell by J.A. White

The Last Spell (The Thickety, #4)My name is Kara, and my brother Taff and I must find the rest of the original grimoire called Vulkera before Rygoth can collect all four parts. The legendary spell book will give her indescribable power, and she will use it to destroy the world. She's already sent the twins and an army of witches to kill us. We spoke to a man who helped locate the four parts of the book, but Taff may soon pay the price. Rygoth beat us to the first cover of the book, so we've traveled to an abandoned castle in the middle of the desert to capture the small chest containing the pages. However, the chest is guarded by a creature that won't stay killed and only exists to protect it. We killed it with an arrow, but it rose again with new defenses for our attacks. To complicate matters further, I've allowed Grace to travel with us despite the treachery she's shown in the past. I believe there's good in everyone, but what if this time I'm wrong?

This book is the last one in a four-book series, and you need to read the others first. Grace's character wonderfully complicates the conflict, because you never know if she's good or bad. She says she's given up magic and helps Kara along the way, but Kara continues to have doubts. The question is never clearly answered even at the end of the book. Kara and her brother make a good team. She has all the magical power, but Taff has the brains (even though he's only eight years old!). Kara has an ability to make mental bridges with other living things, but it costs her memories. The greater the connection, the greater the memory loss. This creates conflicts, as she tries to defeat Rygoth. Kara's doubts and Rygoth's seemingly unlimited power will hold the interest of adventure lovers. Surprisingly, the book's epilogue even holds an unexpected twist that resolves a final issue.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Dragons vs. Drones #2: Enemy of the Realm by Wesley King

Enemy of the Realm (Dragons vs. Drones)My name is Dree, and Marcus and I are Furies, the rarest of dragon riders. Hopefully, our immunity to fire and our ability to create it will help us stop the evil prime minister Francis Xidorne. He is sending attack drones to obliterate cities, murder citizens, and slay dragons. He's even using Marcus's Baby Hybrid, a combination drone and dragon, against us, so Marcus hopes to work with his Uncle Jack to create a new Teen Hybrid. We were successful in bringing the Egg back through the portal, and we planned to use its power is key to strengthening Teen Hybrid. We must destroy the factory to stop the production of more drones, and we must somehow get Francis out of the palace. However, I'm wondering if humans have the right to harness the power of dragon magic found within the Egg. My choices may doom the Resistance to defeat.

This book is the sequel to Dragons vs. Drones, and you need to read it first. This one does not have as much action as book one, and the events dramatically lead to a climactic battle. An intriguing part of this series is dragons and humans fighting the deadly drones, but there are few actual confrontations between them until the end. Marcus and Dree learn more about the history of Furies and are alarmed to hear the last Fury became evil. This causes them to question themselves and what they might become. On the positive side, there have never been two Furies together, so the possibilities of these two characters are unknown.  In book one, the creation of Baby Hybrid was fun to follow, as it became a new character. However, it takes on a cameo role this time, and Teen Hybrid isn't completed until much later in the plot. I would have liked to have seen Teen Hybrid become more of a character instead of another weapon. Overall, it's a fun book, and I think you'll enjoy it!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dragons vs. Drones by Wesley King

Dragons vs. DronesMy name is Marcus, and the deaths of hundreds of people are all my fault. Drones followed me through a portal into Dracone, and the citizens immediately came under attack. I was only trying to find my father who disappeared eight years ago. I met Dree and discovered her best friend is a dragon that she raised since he was little. She must keep her relationship secret, since the prime minister has made it his mission to kill all the dragons in Dracone. There are three kinds of drones destroying homes, slaughtering citizens, and slaying dragons, but for some reason they haven't touched the palace. We must find a way to stop them, and I have an idea that will mix my talents with computers and Dree's welding skills to create a hybrid dragon/drone. However, we are slowly discovering the crisis may be much greater than the drones, and we must locate the Dragon's Egg.

The description above only begins to tell the plot of the book. It doesn't touch on Dree's massive guilt for her little brother's death, the conflicts between dragon clans, and the real story behind the disappearance of Marcus's father. I had serious doubts about a book that combined technology and dragons, but the author made it make sense. I was very pleasantly surprised! Dragon's fire was able to fill in some of the blanks when needed. Speaking of which, Dree and Marcus shared an immunity to fire and an ability to produce it. They were the only characters able to ride dragons without being burned by the scales. This fact displayed a clear clue that there were secrets about Marcus's character that even he didn't know. The Flame dragons offered an interesting twist, since they didn't get along with anyone else. They had no use for humans or weaker dragons and wanted to eliminate all of them. This created a conflict when Dree and Marcus asked them for help and hoped they wouldn't be killed in the process! This book may sound a bit strange, but I think you'll like it in the end. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Keepers Trilogy #1: Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner

Museum of Thieves (The Keepers, #1)My name is Goldie, and the Blessed Guardians have imprisoned my parents and have been hunting me for weeks. I've found refuge in the Museum of Dunt, but I'm sure you won't believe what I'm going to tell you. Its rooms shift around as it gets upset, and that's been happening more and more recently. The caretakers sing to calm the museum, and they're training me to join them. I've learned when to steal, how to pick locks, and three ways to become invisible. However, the Blessed Guardians are becoming more aggressive in the museum, and it's getting more angry. If we don't find a way to stop them, the museum may open the Dirty Gate. The gate holds all the evils in the world (war, famine, and plague), and they may soon be unleashed on mankind.

It takes an imagination to read this book due to the life of the museum. Characters new to it weren't sure where they were going and ended up walking in circles. As a reader, this made it difficult to picture the setting in my mind. I enjoyed Goldie's interactions with Toadspit, an antagonistic boy who was asked to train her. They bickered like brother and sister but eventually became effective allies. The book presented an interesting message about society and young people. Children were chained to their parents until being separated during a formal ceremony, and independence in their young people was taboo. Parents were punished, and children were retrained. This culture was designed to protect the kids, but it actually resulted in adults who lacked courage and couldn't adapt to change. Broo was an engaging character, as he could appear as a cute little dog but could quickly change into a huge, vicious beast. He wasn't able to control the changes, so his reactions to situations were unpredictable. I plan to start the sequel tomorrow.