Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Tapestry #4: The Maelstrom by Henry H. Neff

The Maelstrom (The Tapestry, #4)My name is Max, and Rowan is bracing for war. Prusias is waging a war against the other demons, and he has a secret weapon to guarantee his armies will win. After his victory, he'll turn his forces and that weapon on Rowan. David and I discovered the secret has something to do with spider-like creatures that have been combined with technology. Rowan's experts are studying this problem, and I hope they'll figure it out before it's too late. I'm doing what I can to help by training a group of unwanted refugees called the Trench Rats, but I've got to watch my back too. I've been targeted for death by a group of relentless assassins whose stories of success are legendary. These executioners can take any form, even possessing my friends, so I can't trust anyone. 

You really need to read the other books in the series to fully understand what's going on. Demons in the last book prepared for war, and this book continued the hostilities. Prusias and Astaroth are the main antagonists, although Astaroth is waiting for his moment. The most intriguing parts of the series are the dynamics of Max's character. Max has been dealing with internal issues since the series began, and he continues to struggle with his own identity. There is Old Magic and power coursing through him, but there is also a chance he'll be overwhelmed by it. Most people in Rowan are awed by Max which makes it hard for him to develop close friendships. Luckily, he still has David, but another character becomes very important in Max's life. The series basically tells a story pitting good versus evil, but it also delves into humanity. Rowan is fighting for the survival of all humans on earth and all that goes along with it. The Demons see love, caring, and compassion as weaknesses. Max constantly deals with these emotions, but he always comes out on top in the end. I recommend you give the books a shot. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Hotel Between#1 by Sean Easley

The Hotel BetweenMy name is Cam, and Nico allowed me to enter a hotel that can transport me anywhere in the world. My father worked at the Hotel before he disappeared when I was little. I just want to bring him home, so he can help care for my younger sister's spina bifada. However, Nico says I can't trust anyone else at the Hotel, except for Sev, and I can't let anyone know why I'm here, especially the Old Man. I've agreed to become an employee, so I can do some searching during my ten-day probation. I've learned magic from the Vesima tree has been powering the Hotel, but the Greenhouse's disappearance has caused the bindings to weaken. I'm dreaming memories from my father, and he went missing around the same time as the Vesima tree. Could there be a connection?

I won't try to fully explain the whole scenario of the Hotel. It's like a living entity, but its motivations aren't clearly known. The Maids, the Hotel's security, collect children from around the world, but it's unclear why. A man at the Museum wants to stop the Hotel, and Cam gets caught in the middle of the conflict. Consequently, the book presents a creative plot that will require some imagination from readers. Matters are complicated with misdirection, as Cam isn't sure which characters can be trusted. His impressions swing back and forth, even with his "blood brother" Nico, and this continues all the way until the plot's climax. The uncertainty of character honesty adds to the tension, since their future behavior can't be predicted. This causes Cam to regret some of his own decisions based on false information. The secrets surrounding Cam's parents are at the core of the battle between the Hotel and the Museum, and Cam finds some answers he didn't want to know. The wording of contracts is also an important factor in the story's events. Overall, I enjoyed this first book in the series, and I'm waiting to get my hands on its sequel, The Key of Lost Things. Give it a shot. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Legends of the Sky: Dragon Daughter by Liz Flanagan

Legends of the SkyMy name is Milla, and while hiding in a tree, I witnessed a murder. I didn't tell anyone about the victim's secret pouch, especially when I discovered it contained four dragon eggs! However, Nestan found out where I'd stashed them and gave the eggs to Duke Olvar. The duke may be ruler of the island of Arcosi, but I don't trust him. He's a Norlander and clearly despises people of Sartolian decent, like his wife and me. His laws are unfair, and I can see tempers rising around the town and in the market. He blames all of Arcosi's problems on Sartolians, but he doesn't understand how his own decisions make everything worse. Surprisingly, he allowed me to raise my blue dragon inside his castle walls after Iggie and I bonded during his hatching. Maybe war can be avoided if the dragons can help unite all Norlanders and Sartolians. 

This book was unexpectedly good, as the conflict had depth and the plot included unexpected twists. The main conflict centered on the duke's discrimination and persecution of Sartolians, and it drew comparisons in my mind to the way President Trump has treated immigrants. The similarity wasn't identical, but similar enough to bring it into my thoughts. The duke promoted fear against the Sartolian immigrants, as he described them as violent trouble-makers. He thought their presence created problems, so he wanted to send them back to their own country. The fact that many Sartolians had actually lived in Arcosi before being driven out by the arrival of Norlanders was ignored. Surprisingly, it seemed the duke ignored his prejudices when he displayed love and concern for his Sartolian wife. The dragons were introduced to the plot fairly early, but instead of keeping them a secret from the duke, the author chose to have the story's antagonist house the dragons and the story's protagonists. The dynamics of Milla's friendships changed and provided additional surprises. Overall, I loved this book and can give it a high recommendation. Give it a shot.

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Camelot Code #2: Geeks and the Holy Grail by Mari Mancusi

Geeks and the Holy Grail (The Camelot Code #2)My name is Stu, and Sophie has received her first quest as a a Companion, guardian of King Arthur's spirit throughout history. Of course I'll help, but I can't find the right time to tell her that I must move across the country for my mom's new job. Sophie has bigger things to worry about, since Morgana wants to get her hands on the Holy Grail. Luckily, Morgana doesn't know the magical cup was transformed into a small, red dragon by Merlin's new apprentice. Unfortunately, the apprentice doesn't know how to reverse the change, so we must return to the 21st century and search for Merlin in Las Vegas. Sophie's not crazy about her future stepsister Ashley joining the quest, but we don't have much choice. 

This series has shared an entertaining adventure, as it's blended magic with "reality". It was amusing to see Merlin playing video games back in medieval times, and he saved some of his spells on a handheld computer. Getting it recharged became an important conflict in the plot. By the same token, medieval characters traveled to the future, and Las Vegas offered its own share of obstacles. Leaping to different time periods wasn't that unusual, as minor characters made the trip too. It seemed to be a bigger deal in the first book. Ashley was an interesting addition to the team, since she was Sophie's biggest enemy, an her future stepsister. She was the glittery cheerleader, although Sophie discovered some admirable, vulnerable qualities hidden under that image. Merlin might have been a magical genius, but his knowledge of women became an issue needing resolution. It was hard to get help in the Faerie world when the queen hated his guts. Overall, The Camelot Code has shared amusing action/adventure stories, and I recommend you give it a shot. Sophie's role as a Companion should offer many opportunities for future exploits. 

The Tapestry #3: The Fiend and the Forge by Henry H. Neff

The Fiend and the Forge (The Tapestry, #3)My name is Max, and I'm worried that everyone has given up their defiance of the takeover by Astaroth and the demons. It was especially insulting when Prusia came and built an "embassy" right in the middle of Rowan. Then, Vyndra waltzed into Rowan and arrogantly baited me into a fight. I've been able to control my anger so far, just barely, but I'm now ready to unleash my fury upon the demons. I found my father murdered in the woods. I know Vyndra is responsible, and he will suffer my wrath. The Director cannot condone and support my behavior, so I must leave Rowan and venture alone into the Kingdom of Blys. I'm not certain where I'm going yet, but I won't stop my search until my father's death is avenged. 

I didn't like this book as much as the first two books in the series. The hunt for Vyndra was the main conflict, but it became a bit muddled due to events Max faced along the way. It was also a little disturbing to think Max's sole motivation was revenge and the death of another character. I've enjoyed the interactions between main characters, but Max spent much of this plot by himself or with new characters. He had an internal struggle going on in his head, since he wouldn't accept defeat at the hands of Astaroth and the demons. Everyone else seemed resigned to the situation, but Max continued his private, solo battle. The journey into Blys became a soul-searching experience, although Max never fully gave up the anger burning inside. Overall, I still liked the book and have already started the sequel, The Maelstrom

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon PearlMy name is Min, and I can’t believe what the inspector has said about my brother Jun. He would never desert from the Space Forces. He’s accused of running away to find the Dragon Pearl, although most people don’t believe it exists. Its powers could save the people of Jinju, or it could be a devastating weapon, if it were to fall into the wrong hands. If it existed. I really didn’t have a good plan to find Jun when I left home, but an unusual opportunity has developed. My abilities as a Fox will be most useful, even though we’re distrusted by most people. However, Jang’s ghost has struck a bargain with me that will get me aboard a Space Forces battle cruiser. The only problem is I’ll need to become Jang.

This book was nominated for a 2019 Goodreads award in middle grade fiction. It's hard for me to find truly unique stories anymore, but this book included some interesting twists. Min's abilities as a Fox were the biggest factor in all the events. She was able to shape-shift and nudge ideas into other characters' minds, as she fooled everyone else by impersonating Jang. Her motivation was to save her brother, but she also agreed to help discover who had killed Jang. Jang's ghost would check in from time to time to give feedback to Min. The big conflict revolved around the mythical Dragon Pearl, which could create life from barren lands. Obviously, it existed in the story, or the title wouldn't make any sense. Its importance, and danger, to the Thousand Worlds and beyond naturally created a competition between both honest and dishonest searchers. The covert nature of this competition cast uncertainty on many characters. Their backgrounds and motivations were often secret. It felt like the story's resolution left the door open for a sequel, but I don't know if that's in the works. I recommend you give this book a shot, and I'll be on the lookout for a part two. 

Saint Lupin's Academy for Consistently Dangerous and Absolutely Terrifying Adventures #2: The Adventurer's Guide to Dragons, and Why They Keep Biting Me by Wade Albert White

The Adventurer's Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me) (The Adventurer's Guide Series #2)My name is Penelope, and our team has accidentally been given a quest, again. As usual, a medallion attached itself to Anne’s gauntlet and activated an unauthorized quest. We’re supposed to slay the dragon queen, or are we supposed to save her from being slain. I’m not sure. Anne and Hiro seem to be okay with Valerian joining our team, but I don’t trust the thief. He was working with the Copper Knights that attacked us, but he says the creatures were actually using him. He also has a secret that sounds unlikely. Whatever, we need to find the blade of fifteen fingers before the Copper Knights do, or an all-out war between the humans and dragons may erupt.

It would help to read the first two books in the series, but you can still enjoy this book without them. I read the first three books out of order and can still recommend them. Floating islands form the setting, and characters can travel quickly using dragon fire. Technology is included through the use of robots, but there's an underlying computer factor that's briefly addressed at times in the series. I don't fully understand it yet, but I think that's the way it's supposed to be. The plot is all about an adventure, but you can expect a whole lot of silliness too. Many characters have goofy names, there are zany rules to follow, and the characters have amusing interactions. I enjoy the humor, but it may challenge the tolerance of some readers. The backbone of the story is a clever conflict with numerous twists and turns. The team is following a false quest, but someone caused it to be activated. Who did it, and what was the reason behind it? Several characters have false identities, so the reality of some events isn’t always clear. Many of these identities aren't revealed until the book nears its climax. Overall, the series is funny and entertaining, and I think it's worth a shot.