Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Simon Thorn #1: Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit by Aimee Carter

Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit (Simon Thorn #2)My name is Simon, and no one, not even my twin brother Nolan, the King Beast heir, knows that I'm able to transform into any animal. Other Animalgams believe my brother is the only person to have that ability, so he has great power over the different animal kingdoms. Which is why they'll have no problem killing him, and it's a reason why I keep my abilities secret. My mother is being held captive by Orion, the bird king, in Arizona, and I will not stop until I've rescued her. My uncle, Alpha of the mammals, is trying to bring me back to the L.A.I.R., and Orion is determined to have the birds capture me too. And my friends have reminded me that Orion is trying to assemble the five parts of the Predator, which he will use to kill my brother and take his powers. My friends have agreed to help me, but the chances for my stupid plan to be successful are slim. 

I didn't read the first book, and it probably would have helped to understand relationships and motivations. I wish I knew more about how Simon became an Animalgam and why he wasn't raised with his mom and twin brother. Simon's partners had different talents: Winter became a poisonous snake, Ariana a Black-widow spider, and Jam could change into a dolphin. It would seem that Jam's talents might be useless on land, but it turned out that a dolphin's keen sense of direction is handy when traveling cross country. The plot contained ample adventure, but I wish there had been more action. There were animal fights, but they felt more like skirmishes until the story's climax. I forgot to mention that Orion also happens to be Simon's grandfather, so it's unusual that he wants to capture and kill his grandsons. Overall, the book was entertaining, and I expect I'll probably go on and read Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den, the first book in the series.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Septimus Heap #2: Flyte by Angie Sage

Flyte (Septimus Heap, #2)My name is Simon, and I will be the apprentice for the great ExtraOrdinary Wizard DomDaniel once I deal with my youngest brother Septimus. Of course, DomDaniel was killed, but I will help him arise from his bones. It angers me that Septimus popped up after everyone thought he died shortly after he was born, and it infuriates me that Marcia made him her apprentice. I snuck into the Palace as part of my plot for revenge, but I didn't intend to kidnap Princess Jenna, my adopted sister, while I was there. I underestimated her and she managed to escape, but I can find her anywhere with my Tracker Ball. I have mastered the ability of Flyte, and none of them know how powerful I've become. It's only a matter of time before DomDaniel and I take over.

You need to read Magyk before reading this book. The plot in Flyte seemed to move more quickly, and it had more tension. There were threats to Jenna, Septimus, the Dragon Boat, and others, so someone was always in trouble. A new "character" was introduced when a dragon was born, although I don't think it was needed. It added some amusing moments, but it didn't add much to the major conflicts except for one chase scene. I'm also not sure why the author had Jenna kidnapped, since she escaped fairly quickly and easily. However, it was ironic that Simon, the eldest brother to Septimus and Jenna, became the main antagonist. His jealousy, envy, and ambition have consumed his emotions, and he's become relentless. In contrast, the goodness and positive mindsets of Jenna and Septimus always provided hope. It's an entertaining series, and I recommend you give it a shot.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Stormbreaker (Alex Rider, #1)My name is Alex Rider, and I had two weeks of training before replacing my uncle as a spy for MI6. A millionaire plans to donate computers to all of the students in England, but my uncle was killed after investigating him. Now, I'm pretending to be the winner of a contest in order to uncover the truth about the millionaire's plans. He has an army guarding his facility, and he has a huge, mute henchman who scares me. I was able to try the new computer, and it really is amazing and makes learning fun. However, there's a hidden compartment in each of them, and I know it's not for anything good. I discovered this after secretly exploring the facility, although I now realize I wasn't secret enough. My cover is blown, and I'm running for my life. I only hope my two weeks of spy training and my MI6 "toys" will help me escape in time to save the lives of all the English school children. 

I know I've read this book before, but I just noticed it's not on my blog. This book is the first one in the wildly popular Alex Rider Adventure series. Alex is a "normal" teenager, although you learn that his uncle, before his death, was actually training Alex to become a spy. Alex learned martial arts, rock climbing, diving, and can speak four languages. While he is given a fancy video game suitable for spying (it can x-ray through concrete walls), everything else he does is possible. The author has Alex explore the facility alone, so I missed the camaraderie that might have arisen from working with other characters. However, the book is full of adventure and action, so readers will probably finish it quickly. I did. There are at least ten books in the series, so you'll have plenty more to read if you enjoy Stormbreaker. The Young James Bond books are very similar, so you can check them out too.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Kronos Chronicles Book 2: The Celestial Globe by Marie Rutkoski

The Celestial Globe (The Kronos Chronicles, #2)My name is John Dee, and I've rescued Petra from four Gray Men, the prince's assassins. I got confirmation from an air spirit that she's a chimera and has multiple powers, which makes her very special. I keep her in my home for her own protection, although she feels like she's in prison. I'm trying to solve the murder of an advisor to Queen Elizabeth, and I've agreed to a deal presented by young Petra. I've agreed to free her if she's able to uncover the murderer before I do; this should be amusing. The bigger mystery surrounds the Terrestial and Celestial Globes. The person who holds both of them will have access to all the portals in the world, able to enter and leave countries without resistance. A ruthless ruler like the prince might even get thoughts of ruling all of Europe.

I've enjoyed the first two books in this series, and you should read the first one before reading this sequel. Petra is a strong, independent character. She's determined to find her father and is frustrated at Dee's mental connection with her. She does all she can to improve her abilities, but she secretly schemes to get free of him. Petra carries a mechanical spider named Astrophil in her hair, and he acts as Petra's conscience. He understands the consequences of decisions and tries help Petra make wise decisions. I said tries. Astrophil is hungry to learn, so Petra tries to collect things for him to read in order to gain knowledge. This relationship is fun to follow and usually works out in the end. The story of Neel and Tomik was interesting, but it seemed a little disconnected from Petra's story until the end. It will be interesting to see where the next book goes, as the plot's resolution takes the characters to a whole new setting.

Septimus Heap #1: Magyk by Angie Sage

Magyk (Septimus Heap, #1)My name is Jenna, and I'm being stalked by one of the assassins known as Hunters. I recently discovered my birth mother was the queen, and she was murdered ten years ago, soon after I was born. Silas and Sarah Heap secretly raised me along with their six sons, but we did not know our neighbor was a spy. Now, Silas and I, along with the ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia, have fled to the White Witch's cottage hidden in the Marram Marshes. We've brought along a ten-year-old boy who was near death when we found him buried in the snow. As a member of the Young Army, he's called Boy 412, but I know there's something special about him. Marcia was teaching me a disappearing spell, but Boy 412 mastered it immediately without even talking! Although I didn't know it at the time, I later discovered this boy is Magyk. I also discovered the amazing secret hidden under the White Witch's cottage!

This book had fun, interesting characters, and the author developed engaging conflicts. The baby Septimus Heap, a seventh son of a seventh son, "dies" in the first few pages of the book, but it's clear there's more to it. I suspected his new identity, but the author was still able to create some doubt. Boy 412 was mysterious due to his "name" and the fact he never spoke to anyone. He knew his life had improved with the wizards, but he was leery to accept it due his harsh upbringing in the army. The White Witch had a pet cat that she changed into a duck, and her cottage was guarded by Boggart, who kept watch and repelled most of the magical creatures in the marsh. The White Witch and Marcia were quirky characters, as they teamed up to fight the Darke but still managed to irk each other with small aggravations. The ghost of a former ExtraOrdinary Wizard appeared to act as a spy for the main characters, and he helped to bring the settings together. He was tied to places he had visited while alive, so this limited his participation in the plot. Boy 412's identity wasn't officially revealed until the book's resolution, so it will exciting to see where the next book goes.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Shadow Magic #2: Dream Magic by Joshua Khan

Dream Magic (Shadow Magic, #2)My name is Lily, and people don't respect me, and fear me, as the new queen of Gehenna. I've been secretly learning magic, even though laws forbid it, and this scares them. Meanwhile, trolls appear to be invading my kingdom, as homes are destroyed, adults are killed, and children are taken. My best friend Thorn thinks the actual danger is from jewel spiders. These creatures feed off dreams, but something doesn't make sense. Someone must be controlling the spiders, but why? What do they want? I would normally send my assassin to investigate, but he's disappeared. I'm sure Thorn will do something reckless to help, just like me. I've uncovered a secret about my father that may explain everything.

This book is the sequel to Shadow Magic, a 2016 winner of the Cybils Award. What do I like about this book? I enjoy Lily and Thorn, as they defend Gehenna from internal and external threats. Thorn's character is interesting. He's respected and appreciated by those who know him best, but other people treat him as a mere peasant. Lily cares about her citizens, but she's leery of using magic. It changes her when she uses it and scares her people. She has a deep love for her deceased family and is frustrated when she can't talk to her father. Lily and Thorn have a cute relationship. It's obvious they're more than just friends, but they have trouble showing it. I mean, she's the queen, and he's a servant. I wish Tyburn had been involved more; I like his role as Thorn's mentor, and I like their interactions. You should read Shadow Magic first in order to fully understand the characters, conflicts, and plot.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Boy X by Dan Smith

Boy X
My name is Ash, and my mother has twenty-four hours to live. Cain and Pierce exposed her to a deadly virus called Kronos, and I must steal the antidote back from them. However, I must survive a trek through the thick Black Island jungle full of experimental plants, animals, and Thorn, Pierce's henchman. He'll gut us if we're found. I must pause here and tell you something else. I awoke this morning in a laboratory and discovered I've changed in the past couple days; all of my senses and physical abilities are stronger. I can hear your heart beat, I'm stronger, and I don't get tired like you. The cuts I got on my feet an hour ago are now healed. Luckily, I'm not alone in the jungle now. Isabel helped me escape from the lab and knows exactly where we're going. However, my mom said Kronos was confined to one room in the lab... but she was wrong. Isabel has the virus and is quickly dying too.

This book should appeal to lovers of science fiction and adventure. Once again, we have a young character discovering his new powers, although Ash's natural abilities are just enhanced; he's Ash Plus. The author does a nice job of keeping readers guessing about the characters' motives. It's hard to tell if Cain, Thorn, or even the howler monkeys are evil or good. Thorn says he's there to help, but Ash still has his doubts. Throughout the plot, a pessimistic voice in his mind keeps telling Ash how he's going to fail and die. I don't think this is necessary, although I like how he reminds himself of his strength when things get tough. The author strikes a balance between Ash's fears and his new-found abilities. The chapter titles tick down the time until Shutdown; the moment when Ash's mother will die. This countdown adds to the suspense of the plot. The resolution of the book reveals there's a sequel in the works. I suspect the sequel will be much different from Boy X.