Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Bears of the Ice #3: The Keepers of the Keys by Kathryn Lasky

The Keepers of the Keys (Bears of the Ice #3)My name is Froya, and I'm so thankful to have found Stellan, Jytte, and my brother Third. I never felt like part of a family until I met these polar bears, and I can't believe Third has forgiven me for my cruelty. We're determined to stop the Grand Patek and his followers. Their worship of The Clock is costing the lives of young cubs, and the violence has started to spread. We went to request help from the owls of Ga'Hoole, and they agreed, with a couple of conditions. We must venture across the dangerous lands and seek alliances with the diverse range of animals. Why would any leaders listen to the words of four young cubs, especially the mysterious, fearsome wolves of the Beyond? The quest seems impossible, but allowing innocent bears to die is not an option.

I was hoping this book would conclude the series, but no luck. It's been interesting and entertaining, but it's run its course with me. I liked how the first book was mostly "realistic", but the series has slowly diverged from that as the cubs meet other creatures. It's still a source of learning about the wildlife and nature. The cubs learn to use the sun and stars to navigate the lands, and they discover information about owls and wolves that will be useful. Third and Froya became companions along the way, and it's nice to see the author allowing them to make important contributions along the way. Third is able to see the future in his dreams, and he's provided sound advice to Stellan and Jytte. Froya memorizes the stars and helps with navigation. The team is joined by a tiny owlet named Rags, who didn't know how to fly, and even she performs critical deeds. The Grand Patek is the primary antagonist, but the author adds some other complications to the conflict. Secret motivations and alliances arise that will impede the bears' efforts. Overall, I'm enjoying the series and will probably end up reading the fourth book, when it's published.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bears of the Ice #2: The Den of Forever Frost by Kathryn Lasky

The Den of Forever Frost (Bears of the Ice #2)My name is Jytte, and Stellan and I are determined to save the cubs from the Roguer bears. We must figure out a way to destroy their false idol, and our first step is to find a father we've never met. Our mother, now a Roguer prisoner, has told us many stories about him and how he once led the rebels. However, we've learned he was captured and tortured, and Stellan thinks he may be dead. My brother may be losing faith, but I'm sure our father is alive. He has to be! We've asked others about the Den of Forever Frost, but they all say it's a myth. It's the key to everything, so we can't stop searching for it. We're discovering lands and creatures we never imagined, and we've met unexpected allies. We must continue facing the dangers of the ice world, or the survival of all polar bears may be lost.

You should read The Quest of the Cubs first. The interesting aspect of Den of Forever Frost is how it's mostly based on the qualities of real polar creatures. You can actually learn about this habitat by reading the adventure, although it's not in-your-face information. The cubs face natural perils and must constantly be on the lookout for food, shelter, and other predators. They're often reminded that polar bears may be the largest predators, but other animals are capable of injuring and killing them. I'm not crazy about changes introduced later in the book. Weapons are included, which strays from the natural feel of the story. The cubs don't typically do things that real bears couldn't do, other than Stellan can pense the thoughts of others and Jytte can sense connections with the ice. Overall, the series has been entertaining, and this book has created a transition to a dramatic conclusion. I enjoyed the first book a little better, but I recommend you give the series a shot. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Green Sky Trilogy #2: And All Between by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

And All BetweenMy name is Teera, and I find myself above the Root for the first time. I've heard wonderful stories of the Kindar people living among the treetops, but I'm terrified being by myself. I'm living with Raamo's family now, but I can't let them know I'm an Erdling. The best thing is sharing a space with Pomma. We've learned to Image with each other, so Pomma has discovered most of my secrets. I trust she won't tell anyone else, but I'm still afraid she'll let something slip. I'm sure the Ol-zhann won't be happy if they know of my true identity, and I fear what they'll do to the other Erdlings. I'm happy Raamo is willing to help, but I'm not sure about his friends. I've just met another novice Ol-zhann named Genaa, and her angry emotions toward Erdlings frighten me.

You should read Below the Root first, as book two described how Teera came to find Raamo, the main character in book one. It covered many of the same events but from a different point of view. The intrigue was how Teera's presence could endanger everyone living below the Root, as her appearance could reveal the Ol-zhann's secrets. The conflict arose when the Ol-zhann exiled a segment of its citizens from the treetops many years ago. The crux of the issue concerned how much historical truth should be revealed to maintain a peaceful culture. Should the citizens be aware of their ancestors' past acts of aggression and violence, or should those kinds of thoughts and behaviors be taboo for discussion and knowledge? The early settlers of Green Sky battled with these questions until the believers of historical openness were banished below the Root. The controversy arose again with the appearance of Teera. It was evident the Ol-zhann wanted to keep the Kindar in blissful ignorance, but the leaders became willing to use the banned behaviors to preserve it. The story will make you think, which I like. Overall, I'm enjoying the series and recommend you give it a shot.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Five Realms #2: The Gift of Dark Hollow by Kieran Larwood

The Gift of Dark Hollow (The Five Realms #2)I'm a bard and have a story to share with you. I'll pick it up after our young heroes narrowly escaped the Gorm's camp. There seemed to be no way to stop them, so Podkin and his friends hid for over a month in Corm's abandoned warren. The rabbits had deserted it when they believed their home was cursed. Now Podkin explored the forgotten rooms and depths of the burrow and discovered a relic meant to be lost. It gave him a magical connection to shadows that would help him in the moonlight. Secrets were also discovered that impelled Podkin and his friends to breach another Gorm camp. Little did they know their survival would rest with the efforts of their smallest hero.

I recommend you read Podkin One-Ear first even though you can still enjoy this book without it. As in the first one, Pook the bard continued the story of Podkin, but this time he reluctantly took on an apprentice named Rue. Pook wanted to keep his identity secret, which brought about a sense of mystery beyond the Podkin story. Somebody wanted him dead for some reason. The Podkin story still went unfinished, as it's the thread holding the books together. Podkin continued to feel useless, as the other characters stepped up when needed. Podkin felt he had no special talents, but he's turned out to be the uniting factor among the group. It was an interesting contrast to his character in the first book. The Gorm continued to be an overwhelming juggernaut, terrifying creatures throughout the forest. Their connection to iron made them an almost indestructible army, but Podkin has managed to find a way, so far. Overall, this has been an entertaining series that can be enjoyed by most middle grade readers. I recommend you give it a shot. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Luck Uglies #3: Rise of the Ragged Clover by Paul Durham

Rise of the Ragged Clover (The Luck Uglies, #3)My name is Rye, and the Fork-Tongue Charmers and Bog Noblins are making the woods more and more dangerous. Once rarely seen, the Bog Noblins are becoming especially bold, as they ravage villages during the night. I finally found my father, leader of the Luck Uglies, but someone else is challenging him to become chieftan. This divide may explain the growing boldness of the Bog Noblins and may lead to the destruction of Drowning. To complicate matters, the town orphans are stuck in the middle. My father is not as strong as he once was, and he needs my help. I've gathered some friends and come up with a daring plan. It may require the sacrifice of someone dear to me, and I'm not sure I'm willing to pay that price.

This book concludes the trilogy, and I recommend you read the first two installments. I hadn't read them in awhile and felt like I was missing some details. I couldn't always visualize the descriptions of creatures or characters, although there were brief descriptions at the end of the book. The Bog Noblins were the source of a physical conflict, but the unrest within the Luck Uglies was the more significant problem. It affected Rye's family and the safety of everyone in Drowning. Rye's role in everything was curious, as she bravely fought to help her friends, family, villagers, and orphans. On the other hand, she obediently took a back seat when her father told her too. That may sound strange, but young heroes in other books often take matters into their hands no matter what anyone else says. Rye usually found herself in a position to help anyhow, but it wasn't from disobedience or rebellion. Overall, I enjoyed the series but wish I'd read it straight through. I'm not sure why I didn't. Give it a shot!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Five Realms #1: Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

Podkin One-Ear (Longburrow)I am a bard of Thornwood, and I've a story to share about Podkin One-Ear. My story differs from others you've heard, because mine is true. As son of the chieftan, Podkin was destined to someday rule over the rabbit warren. However, he was a lazy sort and chose to skip his lessons and nap whenever he could. He came to regret these decisions once the Gorm appeared. The Gorm were evil rabbits with an eerie connection to metal. They attacked other warrens and killed the inhabitants or transformed them to join the Gorm army. Podkin's own warren was invaded, and he was forced to escape with his older sister Paz and baby brother Pook. Before leaving, he was given one of the Twelve Gifts, a dagger called Starclaw. While the weapon could cut through almost anything, it was a magical treasure hunted by Scramashank, the relentless Gorm leader.

I randomly chose this book from the library shelves and was pleasantly surprised. Its curious twist was how the bard narrated a story that he told to the bunny listeners, and his identity was a surprising reveal at the end. The rabbits weren't the timid creatures we're used to, as Podkin just lacked motivation and purpose. The plot became another tale of a reluctant hero overcoming overwhelming odds. The Gorm weren't just a ruthless army, as they were able to transform others into their ranks. The origin of the Gorm and the Balance are important factors that you'll learn along the way. Paz and Pook added interesting dynamics to the plot. Paz was frustrated that she couldn't become chieftain, and she seemed much more qualified for the position. This created a bit of jealousy within Podkin. Pook was a baby, but his babbling sometimes revealed important details the others had missed. Starclaw was an underwhelming magical weapon, as its uses were limited. While Podkin found ways to utilize it, it wasn't very effective in fighting an enemy clad in metal. Overall, I found the book entertaining and plan to check out the sequel, The Gift of Dark Hollow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Bears of the Ice #1: The Quest of the Cubs by Kathryn Lasky

The Quest of the Cubs (Bears of the Ice #1)I'm called First, and my mother has left my sister and I alone in the polar region of Ga'Hoole. We've decided we'll try to find our father in the hunting grounds, but we only know we need to travel north. We wish our mother had taught us to hunt before she left, since it's hard to survive blizzards and dangerous creatures when you're weak from starvation. We've also heard stories about Tick Tocks and some kind of machine, but this mystery makes me uneasy. I think rogue bears are behind it, but I don't know anything more. It can't be anything good. The Roguers don't follow the proud traditions of bears and are vicious and deadly. I hope I never see one again, but my senses tell me it's likely.

I wasn't sure what to expect, as most of the characters were "normal", polar animals; except for the fact they could communicate with each other. First and Second (they got actual names later) spent the first half of the book learning to hunt while trying to avoid becoming meals for larger predators. The twins also had spiritual powers, as First could sense the thoughts of others and Second had a special connection to the ice. A later character was able to see the dreams of others. The emerging conflict involved the rogue bears and a giant clock. The clock began as a positive concept but became the source of cult worship and slavery. Unbeknownst to the cubs, their mother sacrificed herself to save them from becoming slaves to the Roguers. This happened in the opening chapters, so it's not a spoiler! The very end of the book became more intriguing once a leopard brought some clarity to the cubs' quest. The cubs aren't royalty, but their efforts will ultimately free all bears, theoretically Overall, the book got better the farther I got into the plot, so I think I'll probably check out the sequel, The Den of Forever Frost.