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!