Sunday, December 29, 2013

An Army of Frogs by Trevor Pryce

Darel is a wood frog living in Amphibiland, and he dreams of becoming a Kulipari warrior, like his father. His father was a hero and died years earlier while defending the frogs against the scorpion army. Amphibiland is now shielded against its enemies by an invisible cloaking spell. However, the scorpion king and spider queen are joining forces to invade the land. The queen thinks she can use nightcasting to undo the spell, so the scorpion army can attack and kill all the frogs. Darel accidentally finds the enemy forces and must secretly join them to free his captured friend. How can one little frog beat an entire army of scorpions, spiders, and mercenary lizards?

Darel is a character with dreams of glory, but he also has the natural fear that goes with war. He is mischievous and frequently gets into trouble, but he is a very loyal, brave friend. The author did a good job of creating suspense and finding ways to add twists to the conflict. The reading level is probably appropriate for middle grade readers.

Celestine Chronicles #1: The Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes

The Rock of Ivanore (Celestine Chronicles, #1)Marcus is an apprentice to a wizard, Zyll. He joins other boys his age to complete a quest that will make them men. They are to return with the Rock of Ivanore, but they have no idea what that means or where to find it. Along the way, a vicious beast tries to kill Marcus and Kelvin, but a half-breed named Jayson saves them. Jayson tells Marcus that the solution to their quest can be found in the city of Dokur where he was banished by the king for marrying his daughter. Jayson must return to the city to save it from an invasion, led by his treacherous brother, but he also wants to be reunited with his wife. Marcus is still learning to master his magic, and he will need it to survive and fulfill the quest.

The format of the plot is familiar: a band of unproven boys sets out to perform a difficult task. Marcus becomes the leader, but he's unsure of himself. Including Zyll's staff as a character added some humor to the events, but it also offered advice along the way. The talking head on a stick was creative. The climax was exciting, and the resolution was predictable but also offered a surprise.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Psi Chronicles #1: Freakling by Lana Krumwiede

Freakling (Psi Chronicles, #1)In Taemon's world, most people use power from the Earth,, called psi, to do everything. Literally. They use the telekinetic power to put food in their mouths, open doors, and power their vehicles. Taemon has an additional ability that is rarely seen; he is able to project his mind into other things. He can enter an engine to figure out how it runs, a lock to figure out its combination, and he can enter water to find the oxygen. However, he loses all of his powers when he won't kill his brother, and he's sent to a colony of powerless people. His brother is announced to be the chosen one, and Taemon discovers some secrets held within the colony. The two paths cross again, but it may not be enough to stop a devastating war.

I haven't read many novels where the character has special abilities and then loses them. Taemon thinks that using his hands to perform tasks is almost barbaric, but he learns to value this ability. His character must adapt to these changes, but he may need his psi powers again to resolve the colony's problems. But the powers can't be turned on and off like a light switch. It's an intriguing conflict. This book is the first in a series.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Psi Chronicles #2: Archon by Lana Krumwiede

Archon (Psi Chronicles, #2)The city of Deliverance is a mess after Taemon got rid of all psi. Many citizens can't accept it and live with the hope of psi's return. After months, Taemon discovers that he is the only citizen who still has the power to use telekinesis and clairvoyance. He also hears that his father was taken to the Republik to help them prepare an army, so he sets out over the mountains to rescue him. Taemon finds the Republik has an army of archons, soldiers with psi, but he is no match for them. His left side is paralyzed, and it gets worse when he uses psi. The son of the Republik's general agrees to help, but getting into the enemy's fortress will be much easier than getting out.

This book is the sequel to The Freakling, and I enjoyed the plot. Taemon possessed great power in book one, but his injury in this book made his power unpredictable. The plot built up to an exciting climax. The time within the fortress created suspense. The end of the book seemed a bit rushed as they prepared for an invasion. The whole battle lasted four to five pages, but I liked the book overall. There will definitely be a book three.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dragonborn by Toby Forward

Dragonborn (The Flaxfield Quartet, #1)Sam is an apprentice wizard, but his mentor, Flaxfield, dies unexpectedly. Most of the former apprentices arrive for Flaxfield's Finishing ceremony, and they're concerned that Sam needs a new mentor. Sam is not aware of the great powers he possesses, and many wizards, good and evil, would like to control him. Sam runs away with his dragon, Starback, with no destination in mind. Starback starts to behave strangely and abandons Sam. Sam is guided to a school for wizards, but he senses something is wrong and heads out again. He comes upon the home of a deceased miner where he performs the Finishing. The mines are dangerous to wizards, and it may give the evil forces the edge they need to pull Sam under their power.

I found the idea of the conflict interesting. A young wizard with tremendous, unknown power, who is secretly being manipulated by others, created a dramatic conflict. Sam tried to learn about himself, while others seemed to already know about his secrets. I found the author's style a little confusing. The point of view jumped from Sam, to Starback, to an evil wizard. Sam often asked questions of other wizards that went unanswered, and it became annoying to me. Overall, I enjoyed the plot.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Last Apprentice #1: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

This book is the first in The Last Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of 5 out of 5. Young Tom Ward is the 7th son of a 7th son, so he is destined to become the apprentice to the Spook. The Spook's job is to protect the world from boggarts, ghosts, witches, and all things evil. Tom makes many mistakes as he gets started, which creates the conflict for this book.

Tom's told to not trust girls wearing pointy shoes, so he promises to help one in the future. He's told to stay away from the grave of Mother Malkin, a powerful witch of the first level who is still alive. He, of course, goes there at midnight to feed her. For readers just learning about foreshadowing, this book offers many easy examples to follow. I was not planning to give this book my highest rating, but there were some nice twists to the plot. The apparent solution to the first conflict actually creates a bigger problem for the rest of the book. As the climax approaches, Tom suspects one of his family members is possessed, but he can't figure out which one. His life, and the life of his one-week old niece, hang in the balance.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Last Apprentice #2: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney

This book is the second in The Last Apprentice series, and I gave it a score of 5 out of 5. Thomas Ward is forced to take on the main duties of The Spook since his mentor is ill. He first dispatches a very dangerous boggart but later must face The Bane. The Bane is a very evil creature that has been trapped below Priestown for the past twenty years. However, it is gaining strength and is using the minds of people on the surface to plot its escape. In addition, The Quisitor, ruler of the land, is conducting witch hunts to kill off anyone suspected of consorting with the devil or using magical powers; this includes The Spook and Thomas. Alice, a witch from book one, returns, and the reader is still uncertain as to whether she is good or evil. The Spook wants to imprison her in a pit, but Thomas continues to defend her.

I enjoyed this book a little more than the first book. It still has the main battle of good versus evil, but the addition of The Quisitor adds a twist to the conflict. I also appreciate how the author keeps Alice's character mysterious. She continues to help Thomas and The Spook, but her methods are questionable. Her use of magic saves them from disaster, but it makes the reader suspect she is becoming a more powerful witch. The Spook wants to imprison her before she becomes too powerful. The reader also learns a little more about Thomas' mother. It appears as though she may be a witch too, but Thomas isn't certain. Readers who are more sensitive to religious beliefs may not like this book, because The Spook has an ongoing conflict with the priests. The afterlife, the souls of people, and the devil are discussed openly in parts of the book.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Last Apprentice #3: Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney

This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The main conflict centers around Morgan. Morgan is a former apprentice to the Spook for three years, but he was too evil to continue his studies. Morgan is able to control the spirits of dead people to do his bidding. Now, Morgan plans to raise a powerful god to become the most feared person on Earth. Tom's father dies, and Morgan torments his father's spirit to force Tom to steal a book of spells from the Spook. The book is the key to raising the god. In addition, the Spook's winter home is overrun by lumia witches, once imprisoned in the cellar, who thirst for human blood. Tom may be forced to betray the Spook's trust in order to save his father's spirit and others he people he cares for.

This book is like previous books in the series where Tom has some training, but the Spook is not present when the antagonists show up for the conflict. He's usually at a disadvantage, and there doesn't seem to be any way for him to win. A twist in this book is that one of the lumia witches is someone the Spook actually cares about. He's torn with showing her mercy, even after it's clear that she's a lethal creature, or locking her away like other dangerous witches.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Last Apprentice #4: Attack of the Fiend by Joseph Delaney

This book is the fourth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. The Spook and Tom must travel to Pendle to stop three covens of witches from joining forces to raise the Fiend, the devil. Each coven has thirteen witches along with their husbands and children, so the two of them will be greatly outnumbered. Add to that another witch who knows Tom's mother and wants both of them dead and a witch assassin who enjoys torturing and killing. The Spook and Tom will need to use all of their skills, help from others, and a little bit of luck to overcome this conflict.

Type the title of earlier books in the series into the search box if you'd like to see my reviews of them. I like the conflict in this story, because there are so many witches who don't normally get along. The reader knows something really bad must be happening for the three clans to join together. It almost comes across as a war book, because the forces are clearly identified. In earlier books, the enemies were more mysterious. This book has mystery, magic, and the very evil enemies which creates some nice suspense. Tom's spook skills are outmatched, but there is something special about him that concerns all of the witches. Getting rid of Tom is more important to them than worrying about the Spook.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Last Apprentice #5: Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney

This book is the fifth in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Tom is sent off to train with a former Spook's apprentice for six months, but this spook is much tougher and meaner. The Spook hopes that this training will toughen up Tom for future battles he will face. The Fiend is out to kill Tom or change him to the Dark, and water witches are the main enemy in this setting. The bloodeye belongs to the daughter of the Fiend, and her look will paralyze a person and leave them helpless. Tom thinks his new spook is killed by her, but he must later try to rescue the spook from the dungeon where he is being held captive. Tom finds help from an unexpected character, but he also discovers some disturbing information about his mother and Alice, his best friend.

This book has more action than some of the previous books as Tom seems to constantly be fighting various water witches. Also, the Fiend is able to appear from nowhere, and he's able to disguise himself as other people. This power makes the reader constantly wonder when the Fiend will pop up next. The reason I gave the book a rating of four is because Tom frequently seems unable to defend himself and is saved by other characters. I wish he would use the talents he's learned during his two years of training instead of being caught by surprise and becoming disabled or unconscious. Characters keep saying he's the key to stopping the Dark, but he hasn't shown much of that power yet. However, the conflict and plot are entertaining, and I enjoy seeing how Tom escapes from all of the confrontations he faces.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Last Apprentice #6: Clash of the Demons by Joseph Delaney

This book is the sixth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Tom and the other main characters travel to Greece to help Tom's mother combat the arrival of the Ordeen, a dark creature that will release hundreds of blood-sucking witches to destroy all living things. Ironically, they must team up with the same witches they were fighting in the previous book to defeat this new danger. Tom is torn between using the powers of the dark to stop the Ordeen and the Fiend and his duty to stop the Dark forces. Tom, his mam, the Spook and the rest of the gang travel across the ocean together on a ship with the blood-thirsty witches. They are attacked by pirates at sea, and then they're attacked by other witches and dark creatures once they land in Greece. Tom wonders about the truth of a witch's vision that Alice will die, and the same witch tells him that his life will be sacrificed to the Ordeen. Tom discovers a terribly horrible truth about his mother, and the Fiend wants his soul. What's a boy to do?

This plot has a great deal of action, and the problems keep stacking up against Tom. He defends himself a little better than in previous books, but the dangers become even greater. He realizes that the lives of everyone in the world depend on his ability to defeat the Ordeen and the Fiend. The format of this book is the same as the others, so you'll like it if you've enjoyed them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Last Apprentice #7: Rise of the Huntress by Joseph Delaney

This book is the seventh in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Tom, the Spook, and Alice are forced to flee their land after the enemy in a war takes control. Actually, the war has been going on for several books, but it was a minor factor before. The citizens of the new land are not happy to see people migrating from the war, so they are placed in jails while suspected witches must survive tests. Tom and Alice are placed in barrels with spikes sticking into them and are then rolled down a hill. If the spikes don't kill them then the people will know they're witches. It turns out that Bony Lizzie escaped from the Spook's pit and is living in this new country too. She discovers a source of immense power under the land and is grower stronger each day. She plans to destroy Tom and the Spook and take over the land. However, unknown to her, this power source can also allow her to take over the world. With the Spook growing weaker, it's up to Tom and Alice to defeat Bony Lizzie.

I've enjoyed the plots so far, although I'd still like to see Tom use his power and training more. Alice often saves the day, but she tells Tom that he will be gaining strength as the Spook weakens. Hopefully, Tom will become a more formidable force in the next book, as the prophecy has said. Similar to the Harry Potter series, each book in The Last Apprentice has its own conflict, but the Fiend remains a constant enemy, much like Voldemort.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Last Apprentice #8: Rage of the Fallen by Joseph Delaney

Rage of the Fallen (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, #8)I read most of the books in the series a while back, and I gave this one a rating of four out of five. Tom, the Spook, and Alice flee the County, and get involved in a conflict between the locals and mages trying to summon a great, powerful being named Pan. The protection Tom and Alice have from the Fiend is weakening, and it's only a matter of time before he seeks his revenge on them. In addition, another witch, supposedly killed by Tom's first master, seems to have returned and wants to kill him too. All appears lost when the mages gain strength, the Fiend takes Alice to the Other World, and Tom is about to be sacrificed to Pan.

As you can probably tell, there were several subplots going on throughout the book.They tended to overlap, but that only helped to create suspense. It looked as though Tom had failed many times, but he somehow managed to survive. However, Alice's fate is questionable.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Last Apprentice #9: Grimalkin the Witch Assassin by Joseph Delaney

This book is the ninth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Grimalkin holds the head of the Fiend in her possession and must do everything she can to keep it from being returned to his body. If that happens, all living beings will feel the wrath of his revenge, and Grimalkin will suffer the greatest pain, even after her death. The Fiend's followers have collected a force of mages to retrieve his head, but they've also created a merciless creature to destroy Grimalkin. The creature has a collection of magical powers, is able to quickly heal itself, learns from its mistakes, and comes back more powerful than before after each battle. Grimalkin enlists the help of Thorne, her apprentice assassin, but they still might not be able to defeat the creature. Grimalkin's energy weakens as the creature's powers strengthen, so all may be lost.

The story is told first person, from Grimalkin's point of view, and Tom, the Spook, and Alice aren't part of the events in the plot. It's a little strange to think of a witch assassin as the hero of a story, but the Fiend and his followers are even worse. Plus, Grimalkin teamed up with Tom in previous books to defeat the Fiend, so she is a good, bad protagonist. Weird, huh? I enjoyed her character as she battled with her feelings for Thorne, her own mortality, and her duty to save all living things. Mix that with her talent for killing, and you have a very complicated character. I also liked the suspense as I tried to figure out how she might be able to defeat a seemingly unbeatable monster.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Last Apprentice #10: Lure of the Dead by Joseph Delaney

Lure of the Dead (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, #10)I gave this tenth book in the series a rating of five out of five. Tom learns a way to defeat the Fiend forever, but he needs an artifact from the Dark and will need to sacrifice Alice's life. That plot will take place in a future book. In this book, Tom and the Spook travel to a nearby town to buy books for the Spook's new library. However, it's a trap. The Fiend has servants from Romania attack the Spook in the night and show Tom his severed head. They have magic that Tom has never seen before. The creatures will make the Spook suffer unless Tom convinces Grimalkin to return the Fiend's head. Once again, the task of defeating the enemy seems impossible.

Tom is the main man in this plot as he takes over the role of a real spook. The battle with the Romanian witches is the main conflict, but subplots deal with Alice, the Spook, and another former apprentice. The author increases the suspense as the protagonists are forced to fight the enemy alone, and in some cases, the victims fight them too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Unwanteds #1 by Lisa McMann

The Unwanteds (Unwanteds, #1)This book is the first in a series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Alex lives in the land of Quill, and all thirteen-year-olds are sorted into three groups. The Wanteds are ranked highest, the Necessaries are next highest, and the Unwanteds are sent away to be killed in a lake of boiling oil. Alex is an Unwanted, but his twin brother is a Wanted. Alex discovers that most of the previous Unwanteds weren't killed, and they're living in a world, Artime, cloaked by magic. They're able to use their creativity to enjoy life, and they later learn to turn their artistic talents into weapons for battle. The citizens of Quill live in a strict dictatorship with no freedoms, and the leader of Artime knows it's just a matter of time before they're discovered and attacked by the Quill army. Alex wants to rescue his brother and bring him to Artime, but he also knows it could be the end of their world if the leaders of Quill realize the Unwanteds are still alive.

This book was recommended by one of my students, and I found it had an unusual plot. Some of the characters are strange combinations of animals, but the use of artistic talents to create magic was interesting. The author did a nice job of creating suspense with subplots. In addition to the threat of Quill, Alex's issues with his brother and secrets kept by some other characters kept me wondering. Even so, there were still a few other surprises that popped up near the climax.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Unwanteds #2: Island of Silence by Lisa McMann

Island of Silence (Unwanteds, #2)This book is the second in The Unwanteds series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. After the final battle in book one, Mr. Today tries his best to bring peace between Quill and Atrime. However, Alex Stowe's brother, Aaron, is very bitter about the turn of events, and he puts his efforts into getting revenge against Alex and Mr. Today. He starts to recruit followers in order to form an army, and he prepares them to attack Artime when the opportunity arises. Meanwhile, Mr. Today offers to train Alex to become his successor when he's away or when he eventually dies. Alex doesn't want the position, but he continues to learn new spells and work with Mr. Today. Some strangers wash ashore, and the leaders of Artime assume they are escapees from one of the nearby islands. A few of the characters take an interest in the islands with disastrous results. Another battle between Artime and Quill seems unavoidable, but will the paradise of Artime survive this time?

There were many different things going on in this plot. Mr. Today was preparing for a time when he would be gone, Aaron was planning to overthrow Artime, the silent strangers with thorns on their necks created more questions, and Alex had mixed feelings and questions about everything. Every chapter held action and interest, so I wanted to keep reading. In addition, I knew there were spies around, but I didn't know which characters to believe or doubt. Even at the end of book, I wasn't sure whom to trust, and I'm anxious to read the next book when it comes out in September of 2013.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Unwanteds #3: Island of Fire by Lisa McMann

Island of Fire  (Unwanteds, #3)This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Mr. Today is killed by Alex's brother, the land of Artime has disappeared, and two of Alex's best friends are prisoners on Warbler Island, the Island of Silence. A brother and sister have washed ashore, but their thorned collars keep them from talking. Alex must discover the spell to restore Artime before all of the other Unwanteds and Wanteds return to Quill. He must also figure out how to rescue his friends and still deal with his evil brother, who is ruling Quill.

There are many conflicts in the plot of this book, and it's understandable when Alex becomes overwhelmed. The author creates a new internal conflict for him when Alex starts to have feelings for, the sister who came ashore. Lani and Samheed become attracted to each other as they try to survive on Warbler Island. Alex's attempt to rescue them creates a new conflict for book four, and the rescue team finds some new characters who will become the focus in future plots. The author has a wonderful imagination and is able to mix serious events with her sense of humor. She makes the difficulties of being a leader a feature of the plot.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Artemis Fowl #1 by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)This book is the first in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Artemis Fowl is a twelve-year-old master criminal, and his family has been in the business for several generations. He does a great deal of research and planning and hatches a plan to steal mythical fairy gold. He kidnaps a lieutenant in the fairy police/military force, and that's when the adventure begins. The fairies send in their top agents, but Artemis always seems to be one step ahead. That's because he is. He's gotten his hands on the fairies' Book and knows all about the rules of their magic. Artemis and the fairies have quite a conflict, and a huge, angry troll is thrown in just to spice things up.

I postponed reading this novel for many years, and it wasn't what I expected. I knew Artemis was a criminal, but I didn't realize the plot was a fantasy. There aren't many novels around with criminals who are this young. I enjoyed the way Artemis was always prepared for the strategies of the fairies, but I also liked how the commander became unpredictable in order to compete with him. I liked that a couple of the characters showed some compassion for their enemies, so no one is all bad.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing, #1)I read an advanced copy of this book, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Cia is chosen to attend The Testing in Tosu City, the first step in choosing future leaders of the country. However, her father, who went through the testing process himself, warns her that she should not trust anyone. His memories of The Testing have been erased, but he has flashes of disturbing dreams. Cia believes his dreams may be memories when some other students disappear, and her roommate commits suicide. She realizes the officials probably witnessed the death and could have stopped it, but didn't. Why not? After passing the first three phases of testing, Cia is left 700 miles from Tosu City, in the devastated, post-war wilderness, and must find a way to survive the trek back. She will face barren land, natural dangers, mutated animals, and attacks from other candidates in The Testing. Surviving The Testing is her only job.

The second half of the book is similar to The Hunger Games; kids are trying to survive a competition that the government is watching,  while representing their home colonies. Cia has a love interest who complicates things, and she's never fully sure who she can trust. The author creates conflicts between characters, with nature, and the government. There are people who don't agree with The Testing, but it just adds to Cia's confusion. Overall, an entertaining, interesting book.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gregor the Overlander #1 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the OverlanderThis book is the first in The Underland Chronicles series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Gregor follows his two-year-old sister, Boots, into an air vent, and they're carried to a land deep within the earth. He's met by giant cockroaches, bats, spiders, and rats, and he discovers that his missing father may be down there. The Underland humans tell Gregor that there is a prophecy about a great warrior from the Overland who will lead a quest to end the war with the rats. The prophecy isn't clear, but Gregor knows that he must try to free his father from the rats.

This book was written by the same author as The Hunger Games, but the similarities end there. You'll hate this book if you don't like talking animals. The plot moved along quickly, but the climax wasn't easily predictable. Boots was a very interesting character as her personality shifted between a child in her Terrible Twos to an ambassador of good will between all living creatures. There are four more books in the series.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane #2 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (Underland Chronicles, #2)This book is the second in The Underland Chronicles series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Gregor and Boots, his two-year-old sister, return to the Underworld only to discover that Gregor is part of a prophecy. It is foretold that a giant, white rat, the Bane, is rising, and it will kill all of the Underlanders. The prophecy says that Gregor is the one who must kill it. Gregor is no killer, but he realizes that he must go on the quest to save all of the innocent creatures living underground. He sets out with his bat, Ares, his sister, and others in search of Bane, deep in a maze of tunnels. They encounter sea monsters, meat-eating insects, and deadly rats, but Gregor is shocked when he finally finds Bane. He must quickly rethink his quest when he meets up with the terrifying creature described in the prophecy.

You must read these books in order. The author is able to create a great deal of suspense and adventure as the characters travel on their quest. There are dangers that they must face, but the characters also have conflicts with each other. Boots adds some humor and gentleness to the plot. Unlike most novels, some of the main characters do not return at the end of the story. This book was written by the same author as The Hunger Games trilogy, although this book has nothing in common with it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods #3 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (Underland Chronicles, #3)This book is the third in The Underland Chronicles, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Gregor receives a message that a deadly plague is spreading throughout the Underland, and his bonded bat, Ares, was the first creature infected. Gregor must travel back underground with his two-year-old sister, Boots, but his mom insists she's coming too. Mom gets infected with the plague too, so Gregor, Boots, Ripred, and others head out into the Underland in search of a plant found only in the middle of a dangerous jungle. There is tension between the rats and humans during the journey, and a character presumed dead joins the group as a guide. A huge surprise awaits once they reach the life-saving plants, and the truth of the situation is impossible to believe.

The plot of this book is much like the first two books in the series. The mysterious guide was an interesting twist to the situation, but the actual source of the plague was the true hit of this book. It deals with the length humans will go to when they are at war. Although it's hard to believe, there are countries in the world doing this exact thing.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gregor and the Marks of Secret #4 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Underland Chronicles, #4)This book is the fourth in The Underland Chronicles series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Gregor is talking to Luxa when she is given a gold crown from the mice. The crown is a signal that the mice need immediate help, so Gregor and Luxa set out to discover what is going on. However, they find a dead mouse at the meeting place and can't find mice living anywhere else. They've disappeared. When a basket of mice babies is found and brought to Regalia, the duo once again sets out in search of the missing mice. This time, they find a mark on a cave wall and are informed that it means death. They return to the treacherous jungle but are forced to travel underground instead of heading home. The secret tunnel leads them to a terrifying discovery about the plight of the mice. The entire population of mice, and all other living things in the Underland, may be doomed if Gregor and Luxa don't do something soon!

It's been interesting in this series how the author keeps Gregor and Boots in every plot, but the other characters come and go. This book sees the return of a few characters found in earlier plots, and the relationship between Gregor and Luxa is changing. The theme of this book also explores the notion that the only way to have peace is through the use of war. A character in the previous book said that nothing good ever comes from war; it only creates more anger. Gregor and Luxa must rethink this idea. The resolution of this plot seems to lead right into a major battle for Regalia in book five.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Gregor and the Code of the Claw #5 by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Code of Claw (Underland Chronicles, #5)This book is the last episode in The Underland Chronicles series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Gregor awakens in the hospital to find that the rats are preparing to attack Regalia. He discovers that Luxa has not returned from attempting to save the mice, so he ventures out with Ares to rescue her. He must also deal with the final prophecy that tells about his showdown with Bane, a twelve-foot tall rat, in which Gregor, the warrior, will die. The Code of the Claw is being used by the rats to send secret messages, and the survival of Regalia depends on the code being broken. The prophecy seems to say that Boots, Gregor's three-year-old sister, is the key to breaking the code. The war rages on, and the final battle between Gregor and Bane will be the climax to the conflict.

This book picks up right where book four ended. There is action and fighting, and many more creatures are killed in this book as compared to the others. Some main characters do not survive the plot. The relationship between Luxa and Gregor comes to the surface, and Gregor has many moments of reflection. It seems as though Luxa or Gregor is always in the hospital recovering from injuries. You'll need to read the book to see how the author is able to fulfill the destiny of Gregor's death without killing off the main character in the series. Or does she?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Alcatraz versus The Evil Librarians #1 by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz, #1)I came upon this book accidentally at the library, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Alcatraz is an orphan, and he receives an unusual inheritance gift on his thirteenth birthday. It's a short note from his dead parents along with a small, plastic bag of sand. The next day, his grandfather shows up, and the adventures begin. The sand was stolen by a Librarian, and they must recover it before kingdoms and cultures are destroyed. The Librarians (think Lie-brarians) are a group that controls information in our world, so we are ignorant about the "real" world. Alcatraz and his grandfather are Oculators, so they use different types of glasses as weapons to help recover the sand before it can be changed into powerful lenses. Alcatraz, his grandfather, two cousins, and a bodyguard must break into the main library, the Librarians' local headquarters, and get through the defenses. It doesn't sound dangerous, but it is.

This book will take a bit of tolerance by readers. Alcatraz and his grandfather have unusual Talents that come in handy. Alcatraz's Talent is to break things, and his grandfather's Talent is in always being late. The Talents don't sound like much, but the author finds a way to make them seem surprisingly useful. The most annoying thing was having the narrator constantly interrupting the flow of the story to explain things or give trivial information about the writing of the book; the book is supposed to be an autobiography. Overall, it was an interesting book.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Alcatraz versus The Schrivener's Bones #2 by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Alcatraz, #2)This book is the second one in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Alcatraz meets his uncle, a cousin, and Bastille's mom, and the five of them travel to the Library of Alexandria in Egypt in search of his grandfather. His uncle's Talent is getting lost, and his cousin's Talent is waking up from sleep looking very ugly. (You need to have read the first book to understand) Grandfather Smedry thinks Alcatraz's father is in the Library, but it is a place that is filled with danger. Most of the Librarians avoid the place. It seems that people get hopelessly lost in there and must give up their souls to find a book that will solve their problems. However, they can't leave once they've given up their souls. Alcatraz and the gang find themselves lost in the Library, and they must face a seemingly unbeatable enemy. It seems impossible that Alcatraz will be able to save everyone and save his soul at the same time.

The format of this book is the same as book one, so my opinions haven't changed. You need to read book one first, and you must be tolerant of extremely unusual ideas. The ideas are creative, but strange. I found myself skimming the author's side comments, they can be distracting, and it made the plot easier to follow and more enjoyable.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Starbounders by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

StarboundersThis book came out in 2013, appears to be the first book in a new series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Zachary Night is heading to Indigo 8 to begin his Starbounder training. Starbounders are kind of like the space army that protects all of the peaceful planets and colonies in space. Zachary and his friends, Kaylee and Ryic, are sent to a ship to serve a punishment, but the ship is taken over by hijackers. The hijacking leads to travels throughout the universe as the kids discover that Earth is going to be attacked by a huge enemy force, and someone has hired assassins to kill them. How can three kids, with one week of training, hope to survive and save Earth?

The characters zip through the universe via bends, like portals in space, and the settings during the story vary greatly. The character interactions work nicely as Zachary is a member of a legendary Starbounder family, Kaylee is the angry, determined fighter, and Ryic is the naive, intelligent alien. The plot also includes some unique, new inventions. For example, the Starbounders wear warp gloves that allow them to open mini-portals over short distances.  The three main characters add another person to their group later in the book, and the resolution is left open for a new enemy in book two.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

All the Lonely Bad Ones: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

All the Lovely Bad OnesI enjoyed another ghost story by this author, Wait Til Helen Comes, and I gave this book a rating of four out of five. Travis and Corey are forced to spend the summer at their grandmother's inn located in Vermont; last year's summer camp asked the mischievous brother and sister to never return. Ghosts are rumored to be roaming the inn, so the kids decide to liven things up a bit by pretending to haunt the inn. Plus, it will attract more customers. Sure enough, curious visitors and ghost hunters arrive, but the kids seem to have awakened some restless spirits too. The hauntings start to get out of hand, and the tragic history of the inn is revealed. Travis and Corey are the only ones who can set things right.

The author was able to keep the plot moving, and she was able to slowly increase the suspense. The hauntings started off as a nuisance, but then they became more threatening. Travis and Corey were the main characters, but the author was able to give the Bad Ones, the ghosts of mischievous boys, distinct personalities. I normally find it hard to have sympathy for ghosts who are terrorizing the living, but the bad boys had a terrible story to tell. The climax wasn't as dramatic as it might have been, but I enjoyed the way things turned out.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

W.A.R.P. #1: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer

The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., #1)This book is the first in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. WASP stands for the Witness Anonymous Relocation Program, and it is supposed to send potential witnesses into the past for their own protection until trial. The plan was scrapped, but an assassin, Garrick, and his apprentice are sent to the present along with the creator of the time machine. However, the assassin's mind combines with the scientist, so he gains some unusual abilities. The apprentice, Riley, is on the run from him, because he couldn't go through with his first kill. In the present, he is being protected by Chevie, a teenage FBI "agent". The agents of today are not prepared for Garrick, the killing machine assassin, as he leaves dead bodies along the way. Eventually, Chevie and Riley return to London in 1898, but Garrick is hot on their heels. They don't find many friends to help them in old London.

I found the plot interesting, but I had some difficulty identifying with the characters, except for Garrick. The author spent more time talking about the assassin's past than the other characters. I thought that Riley and Chevie were going to be the main characters, and I guess they were, but much of the plot followed Garrick. I also thought Chevie would be using her FBI skills more, she set records at the academy, but she always seemed to get captured right away before she could do anything. It sounds like Riley will be a big character in book two, and I assume Chevie's character will be developed more.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jinx #1 by Sage Blackwood

JinxThis book is a 2013 release, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Jinx is left in the Urwald forest to die, but he is taken in by a wizard named Simon. Jinx starts to apprentice with Simon, but he already has a couple of powers of his own. He's able to see the colors of people's emotions, and he's able to listen to the trees talking in the forest. Jinx becomes curious about the world, and he starts to wonder about other regions and Samara, the land of Simon's wife that has banned magic. Simon performs a spell on Jinx that seems to take away his powers, and Jinx ventures into the forest to find a witch and the Bonemaster, two dangerous characters who might be able to help him reverse the spell. He meets up with Elfwyn and Reven, two other people with spells cast upon them, and they accompany him on his adventure. Getting help from the witch and the Bonemaster, who will suck your blood through a straw, may create larger problems than the kids can imagine.

The plot explored different parts of characters' personalities as Jinx contrasted their emotional colors with their words and their actions. I was never certain if Simon was a good wizard or an evil wizard, as most of the characters thought. An additional conflict arose when the trees told Jinx about a Terror approaching, so I was kept wondering what it might be. The plot lent itself to some deep thinking, and some different themes arose. Respect for nature and life were just a couple. Knowledge is power was another.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Falling InI wasn't sure I'd like this book as I started it, but I gave it a rating of five out of five after I finished. Isabelle constantly hears buzzing sounds in school, and her life really changes when she falls into a room in the nurse's office. She ends up in a fairy land, and sets out to meet a witch. Now the witch is supposed to be eating young children in this land, so Isabelle's decision doesn't seem very smart. She meets a young girl named Hen along the way and tricks her into searching for the witch too. They're tired and hungry and finally stop at the home of Grete, a kind, old woman who supplies medicines to her neighbors. When Isabelle finally decides to continue their search for the witch, the situation has seriously changed.

I surprised myself when I decided to give this book a rating of five. It's not action-packed, but the author created some subtle suspense. She did a wonderful job of letting the characters slowly develop, and I found myself making a connection with them. It truly made me think about the behavior and motivation of people, and it reminded how rumors and looks can be deceiving.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

H.I.V.E. #1: The Higher Institution of Villainous Education by Mark Walden

H.I.V.E. Higher Institute of Villainous Education (H.I.V.E., #1)I've seen this book for years and finally decided to read it, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Otto wakes up with Wing on a helicopter headed for H.I.V.E., a school to train the world's best villains. However, the boys were kidnapped and have no intention of staying on the secret island. They meet a couple of other students, Laura and Shelby, and together they create a plan to escape. Over the next few months, the kids attend they're regular classes in Villainy Studies and Tactical Education, among others, as they also learn more about H.I.V.E. When the time comes to escape, things do not go exactly as planned.

Again, the plot is not classic literature, but I found it entertaining. The idea of the school was interesting, and I liked how the characters worked together. There was mystery included as the kids tried to figure out some way to escape, and there was a good deal of action. The climax included several surprises. The rest of the series has lived up to my expectations, and I've enjoyed all of the books. The plots are imaginative and always action packed. A lot of exploding things, chases, and daring escapes.

H.I.V.E. #2: The Overlord Protocol by Mark Walden

The Overlord Protocol (H.I.V.E., #2)This book is the second in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Otto is allowed to leave the island to attend the funeral of Wing's father. However, Wing is shot in the chest by an evil member of G.L.O.V.E. named Cypher, but Otto manages to escape death with Raven. Cypher's soldiers are actually advanced ninja robots, so they cannot be defeated using normal weapons. Meanwhile, Laura and Shelby discover that one of the teachers is sending secret messages from the island and there is trouble brewing at the school. If Cypher is able to initiate The Overlord Protocol, it may mean the end of the world.

I've found the first two books enjoyable. I originally started posting these books under my adventure titles, but this book shows that they better fit with science fiction. The plot of this book had a lot of action, and the setting moved off of the island. I'm glad that happened, because it added more possibilities to the plot. There was the attack in Tokyo, a secret base in a remote jungle, and then some time on Cypher's cruiser. The author was still able to include entertaining interactions between characters. With Wing missing from the plot, the author put a lot more focus on Laura and Shelby, and little bit more attention was given to Nigel and Franz. An interesting characteristic of this book is how the main characters and the teachers were almost enemies in book one, but they work together to fight an enemy in book two.

H.I.V.E. # 3: Escape Velocity by Mark Walden

Escape Velocity (H.I.V.E., #3)This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Many things happen in this book. A new organization called H.O.P.E. is created to fight villains, and Nero is taken prisoner. A new leader is assigned to the school by Number One, and this person will surprise readers. Otto and his friends escape the school to rescue Nero, but they are met by some unexpected enemies, but are also helped by some unexpected allies. Otto finds a way to save H.I.V.E.mind from destruction and also discovers a very useful, new ability. Otto is able to mentally enter a computer system to find information. The Overlord Protocol, a dangerous artificial intelligence, is once again at the heart of the problems, and it is prepared to take down the entire G.L.O.V.E. organization.

I'm not sure that I  can say much more than I've shared in my previous entries. The plot has a great deal of action, and the characters are interesting. After reading this book, one thing I can say is don't believe anyone is dead until the body is actually found and buried! This plot has many surprises. Readers who have enjoyed the first two books will love this one.

H.I.V.E. #4: Dreadnought by Mark Walden

Dreadnought (H.I.V.E, #4)This book is the fourth in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The students are supposed to be heading to the Arctic for a "field trip", but they're captured by a group called the Disciples. The group really wants the massive airship, Dreadnought, which cannot be detected by anyone and is being used as G.L.O.V.E.S.' mobile headquarters. With Dreadnought, the Disciples have plans for the president and the nuclear weapons of the U.S. Otto and the rest of the students are the keys to stopping this evil plot.

Since the second book, it's been strange reading about a school for future criminals that is fighting against criminals. The school is training "responsible" criminals, while they're fighting criminals who don't care about killing millions of people. The students have unique abilities, and it's interesting to see how they're used to handle tough situations. It's kind of unbelievable how many times characters receive nearly, deadly injuries but manage to survive. Cats may have nine lives, but Otto and Raven seem to have used that many lives in the first couple of books! Nigel and Franz are becoming larger characters, and a new character with a disturbing past joins the school.

H.I.V.E. #5: Rogue by Mark Walden

Rogue (H.I.V.E, #5)This book is the fifth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Otto has been taken over by the Animus and the Overlord. They are controlling him as he helps to assassinate two G.L.O.V.E. council members, and as the Disciples try to find the location of H.I.V.E. The hope for the bad guys is to eliminate Nero and Darkdoom, so they can take over the world.  Darkdoom is seriously injured, and a kill order has been issued for Otto. Raven and Wing set out to find and rescue Otto, or kill him if rescue isn't possible. Meanwhile, the computer system controlling H.I.V.E. is acting up, and it's a annoying at the moment. However, the entire population is in danger of dying when the ventilation system stops working. They're all doomed if the caused can't be discovered and stopped.

This book was back to the imaginative adventure found in the first few books in the series. Having the main character in the series become evil was an unexpected twist. The minor characters once again took more important roles, and Lucy started to use her special powers more often. The plot in the series continues to move along, although the G.L.O.V.E. council has several fewer members than in book one.

H.I.V.E. #6: Zero Hour by Mark Walden

Zero Hour (H.I.V.E, #6)This book is the sixth in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Overlander returns as much more dangerous enemy. It's improved the Animus and taken over Raven's mind. Overlander needs to find a more permanent body to live in, and Otto's body is the perfect home. Overlander takes over a top-secret nuclear facility, and it finally discovers the location of H.I.V.E. When H.I.V.E. falls into enemy hands, all seems lost. Overlander has created another weapon that seems impossible to stop and can control the world. Overlander takes the girls hostage, so Otto may have no choice but to risk capture in order to save them.

There was quite a bit going on in this plot, and the H.I.V.E. team faces impossible odds, as usual. I liked that Nero actually gave the kids missions to complete, since they've unofficially been doing them anyhow since book one. I'm impressed with the author's imagination as he comes up with villains and problems that are very difficult to defeat. Spoiler alert: one of the students ended up dying in this book!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Daniel X Series #1: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (Daniel X, #1)This book is the first in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Daniel's parents are killed when he is three years old, and he takes up their quest to be Alien Hunters. He's now fifteen, and he has developed a power to be creative. He can alter the molecular structure of objects of anything to create, well, anything. He even creates friends and his parents when he needs them. Daniel sets out to eliminate all of the aliens on The List, a list of all the worst and most dangerous alien creatures on Earth. He sets his sights on number six, but he may have bitten off more than he can chew. He ignores the warnings of his "friends" and "parents", and he heads to Los Angles to face the beast. He soon discovers that his creative powers may not be enough to stop this killing machine.

The plot was interesting, but Daniel's powers took some getting used to. He literally created whatever he needed, whenever he needed it, which was hard to believe, even in a fantasy book. I finally got over his powers, and the plot became more suspenseful. His journey to defeat the alien creature took him off Earth and led to the story's climax.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Lorien Legacies #3: The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

The Rise of Nine (Lorien Legacies, #3)This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. You need to read the previous books in the series first. Use the SEARCH box in the top left corner of my blog to find the prior two books. Number Four and Number Nine discover that the U.S. government is now working with the Mogadorians. Apparently, they don't realize the Mogs plan to kill all humans on Earth. Numbers Six, Seven, and Ten are traveling to India to find Number Eight. The hope is that the remaining Lorien gardes will be able to defeat Setrakus Ra, leader of the Mogs, if they can work together. John and Nine are captured by the FBI, but they escape and hide out in Chicago. Marian, Emma, and Six are attacked by soldiers  in India but manage to find Eight. They hide out in a mountain cave but are attacked by an army of Mogs. How will the gardes find a way to join forces, and will they all survive, in order to defeat the enemy?

There's a lot of fighting in the plot, but the character's personalities are a big part of it too. All of the gardes are learning to use their legacies, their special powers, and this fact makes them vulnerable. Nine is very confident in his abilities, but he's not ready to fight Setrakus Ra on his own. My main issue with the plot is the constant changing of point of view. The plot is told by Four, Six, and Seven. It requires readers to constantly change their thinking in order to understand who is speaking, what's going on, and how the characters' thoughts differ. It's not necessarily difficult, but it's distracting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck

The Mouse with the Question Mark TailThis book is not like other Peck books, but I gave it a rating of four out of five. The main character, a mouse, does not know anything about his past, not even his name. His "aunt" is the best seamstress around, and she seems to know something about him. Minor Mouse, as he's come to be called at school, ends up running away and hopes to uncover the secret of his life. He has some encounters with a cat, a horse, and some bats, but he ends up getting bounced from place to place. He hopes to speak with the human royal queen, because he thinks she knows everything. He later uncovers secrets he never dreamed of.

The plot is told first-person, and it's an amusing tale. It's funny how all of the different characters have similar messages for him but how easily he fits in. I enjoyed this story by Richard Peck, but I kept thinking how differently it was written as compared to A Long Way From Chicago, although the term "stir your stumps" was used again.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

The Ear, the Eye, and the ArmThis book is on the new Battle of the Books list, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Tendai, Rita, and Kuda live in Zimbabwe, in the year 2194. Their father is a powerful man, and he is overly protective, never letting them leave the estate. The children decide to sneak out for an adventure, but things quickly go wrong. They're captured by kidnappers, sold as slaves to the She Elephant, and later escape, only to be stuck in Resthaven, a primitive world with little technology. The children ping pong across the city and may never make it home.

The title refers to three detectives searching for the kids. The names refer to their senses with special powers. At one point, Arm was holding a baby and behaved strangely, because his sense of touch and emotions were bonded with it. The plot isn't especially gripping, so some readers may want more action. I think the main issue I had with the book was that I couldn't get a grip on the tone. It seemed like it was going to be a serious adventure, but then there were amusing descriptions and dialogue thrown in. The tones didn't work together for me. The climax did not include the humor, so it was better than the rest of the book.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Hero's Guide to Saving a Kingdom #1 by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes, #1)This book is the first in a series, and I gave it a rating of three out of five. The plot follows four Prince Charmings from four different fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel. The stories do end happily ever after. For various reasons, the four couples split up, and the four Prince Charmings come together in the wilderness. To begin with, the plan is to rescue Ella from Rapunzel's tower, but the singing bards have been captured by an evil witch. How are the citizens supposed to get the news? The princes have adventures with creatures and bad guys, while the princesses have a few adventures of their own.

The plot is a combination of the four different stories and characters, and the princes each have quirky personalities. The villains are also a little silly, so the plot includes some strange twists. Although some of the parts are amusing, I got tired of the silliness after a while. I can appreciate silliness, but it was a little too much for me.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Troubletwisters #3: The Mystery by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

The Mystery  (Troubletwisters, #3)This book is the third in the series, with a 2013 copyright, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Grandma X is in the hospital, because someone tried to kill her by running her car off the road. Also, a well-known citizen of Portland dies mysteriously, and there is a great deal of interest in his castle. The father of Jaide and Jack tells them that they must find a golden card hidden there to help the Wardens fight off The Evil. He's behaving strangely, and he insists that the twins must get the card immediately. A pet macaw, the only witness to the citizen's mysterious death, blurts out strange words and phrases, and it freaks out when it sees a picture of the twins' father. Is their father being controlled by The Evil? The twins are once again left on their own to make sense of the confusion and save the world.

Although I've given all three books the same rating, I enjoyed this one the most. The mystery was more obvious in this book, and there were many clues shared to help in solving it. The adventure was complicated, because readers are told that one of the characters, someone seemingly innocent, is actually evil. This fact kept the twins and me wondering who to trust. The plot built up to an exciting climax and left me wondering, and looking forward to, the fourth book.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Troubletwisters #2: The Monster by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

The Monster (Troubletwisters, #2)This book is the second in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. It's been a couple of weeks since the end of the previous book, and Jaide and Jack are trying to master their Gifts. However, they are called troubletwisters, because their magical powers often cause bad things to occur. In addition, people in Portland have reported seeing a huge beast, but no one is sure if it actually exists. A new girl moves to town, and her father is developing the property next to Grandma X. The Jaide and Jack have some suspicions about her father. The kids think that The Evil has managed to return, possibly through the new girl's father, but Grandma X tries to assure them that it's not possible. Jaide and Jack discover that their fears are real, and another Ward may be in danger of falling. If that happens, The Evil will be able to enter our world and control the minds of all living things.

This plot is similar to the previous book, and the kids' powers manage to mess things up. They also have trouble following Grandma's orders, so that complicates matters. Kleo, the cat, is having a huge conflict with another cat, and a showdown to see who will control all of the cats in Portland is imminent. If you liked the first book, you'll probably like this one too.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Troubletwisters #1 by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Troubletwisters (Troubletwisters, #1)This is the first book in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Jaide and Jack are twins, and some strange things have started to happen. Their father shows up, which is unusual, and their house is destroyed. The kids are shipped off to their grandmother's house, where they discover that they have some unknown powers. Grandma X is a Warden, and the kids will someday become Wardens to guard the world against The Evil. However, troubletwisters cause problems as they learn to control their new powers. The Evil tries to lure the twins away from their grandmother, so it can take over their powers. Things look bad when Jack is trapped below ground, alone, and he's overwhelmed by creatures controlled by The Evil. Later, Grandma X is unconscious and near death, so Jaide and Jack must battle the enemy forces on their own.

The plot is similar to many others in which characters must discover their hidden talents. This plot is a little different, because the kids are pretty much left to discover their talents on their own. There is a belief that more trouble can come if information is revealed before its time, so Grandma X and the father don't share much to help the kids. This strategy kind of backfires and creates problems of its own. The authors were able to keep the action moving, and the resolution leaves itself open to the second book in the series.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Scumble by Ingrid Law

Scumble (Savvy, #2)This book is the sequel to Savvy, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Ledge is waiting for his thirteenth birthday when his savvy, or special ability, will be revealed. He discovers that he can't control electricity, talk to animals, or change the weather, but he has an uncanny knack for destroying things! He travels to Wyoming for his cousin's wedding, and he's totally embarrassed when he accidentally tears down the barn after the ceremony. What good is a savvy that breaks things? In addition, there's a snooping girl who's trying to uncover his family's secrets, and her father is foreclosing on many homes and businesses in the town. Ledge must learn to scumble, or get his savvy to be in harmony with the world, and he must discover some way to save his uncle's farm. Can he accomplish these things before destroying the town first?

If you enjoyed Savvy then you will enjoy this book. Although the plot is a little unusual, the theme behind it is not. Ledge must learn to accept himself for who he is and not worry so much about the expectations of others. The strength of the book is in its characters, and the plot comes to a happy resolution.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Last Apprentice #11: Slither by Joseph Delaney

Slither (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, #11)This book is the eleventh in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Slither is another blood-sucking creature, but he makes a deal to protect a farmer's daughters in case of his death. Slither must deliver two of the daughters to relatives, but he gets to keep the third daughter to sell into slavery. Along the way, he ends up killing another high mage and two assassins, so he must travel to the city of Valkarky to plead his innocence in front of their court. He discovers Grimalkin being held prisoner in the dungeons, but he knows nothing about her great powers and ruthlessness. In the end, Slither must fight to save their lives, but will the fight be against Grimalkin, or with her?

I almost didn't read this book, because it has all new characters and a new setting. It seemed strange to abandon the characters and plot from the first ten books in the series, but Grimalkin tied them together in the last fourth of this book. The plot was interesting, but I found the newness of the setting and terms to be a little distracting. Not necessarily bad, but it was something else for me to think about. Grimalkin returned to her land in the resolution, so I assume the "regular" characters in the series will meet up with Slither in a future book.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Last Apprentice #12: I Am Alice by Joseph Delaney

I Am Alice (The Last Apprentice / Wardstone Chronicles, #12)This book is the twelfth in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Alice is in the Dark, a place where all dead, evil creatures and witches go, trying to retrieve the dagger that will help Tom Ward destroy the Fiend once and for all. Alice meets up with Thorne, an apprentice to Grimalkin, the witch assassin, and she guides Alice through the different domains in the Dark. There are many powerful witches and creatures who would like kill Alice and finish off Thorne for good. Thorne leads Alice into a small village that may allow her into the Fiends domain. However, someone from Alice's past, someone she once killed, awaits them. And the more Alice uses her magic in this world, the closer she comes to becoming a fully malevolent, evil witch.

I felt a little disconnected from the plot; I felt like Alice and Thorne were just wandering from place to place in the first half of the book. There were several chapters that flashed back to Alice's time with Boney Lizzie, and they explained a missing part of her life. The plot seemed to have more direction after this flashback. Their quest became clearer and more focused, and the plot was less interrupted. Some information from Grimalkin at the end of the book made the whole plot seem anticlimactic.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)This book is on the 2014 Battle of the Books list, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Katsa's Grace, or special ability, seems to be killing people, and it takes all of her efforts to control it when she's angry. She is sent on missions by her king to threaten people into following his wishes. However, Katsa and some others form a Council to undertake secret tasks and to help people who have been wronged. She rescues the kidnapped grandfather of a peaceful kingdom, but no one can figure out why he was taken in the first place. Katsa has an encounter with a grandson, who has a disturbing Grace, and they set out to uncover the secret. Their exploration leads to an unlikely foe with a Grace no one even knows about. It is a power that even Katsa may not be able to overcome.

Overall, I think I enjoyed the plot enough to give this book a rating of five, but there were some parts that moved too slowly for me. There was a good deal of adventure and suspense, and the climax kind of took me by surprise. It was fun to read about a female protagonist, even though she was a killer with no sympathy for her victims. Katsa's struggle to control her Grace made her behavior unpredictable at times. That's a good thing. I liked the interaction between Katsa and Prince Po, and his cousin, Bitterblue, was another interesting character. The falling action and resolution of the plot took several chapters as some other surprises were revealed.