Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Endangered Files #1: The Case of the Cursed Dodo by Jake Panda

The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files, #1)Jake Panda flies to Morocco after receiving a frantic phone call from The Professor, a rare hispid hare. His search for the hare leads to a mystery involving a suitcase found in the middle of the Sahara Desert and dodo birds, thought to be extinct for many years. A fortune teller says there's a Green Bird in Jake's future, and he must look beneath a tree stump and a vine. Poachers sidetrack him, and there are many criminals trying to get their hands on Jake and the contents of the suitcase. Jake meets an old special friend, and the Endangered Underground works in the shadows. It's hard to tell the good guys from the bad, but Jake must find a way if he hopes to save The Professor and the Green Bird.

The style reminds me a bit of Bruce Hale's Chet Gecko stories. The characters in this book are endangered animals, which is an interesting twist, and the story is told as though the reader is watching an old black and white movie. The characteristics of the animals are used in the plot and create some humorous mental pictures; a manatee floats on an inner tube, and a snake is tied in knots to a rickshaw. The story was easy to read and flowed nicely. The adventure, mystery, and humor made this a very fun book to read!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Winterling by Sarah Prineas

Winterling (Winterling, #1)Jennifer, or Fer, unknowingly opens a portal to a new world, through a pond near her home. Despite her grandmother's objections, Fer insists on going into this magical world. Her grandmother gives her some herbs and spells for protection, which she'll need against the false Lady of the land. This Lady tries to teach Fer to be her ally, but Fer knows something isn't right. The Lady won't talk about the disappearance of Fer's parents. Also, Spring is not coming, and it's spilling over into her grandmother's world. The Lady performs hunts, so the killing will bring about Springs, but Fer senses she has done something very evil in the past. Few characters are able to help Fer, but she won't return to her world and leave them as victims. There's a power within her, but is it greater than the ruler of the land?

The author added some unusual twists that complicated things for the characters. A question asked three times had to be answered. Many characters were forced to obey the Lady even if they didn't want to. Some characters chose to change into animals while others were forced to. The conflict was a typical good versus evil with an emphasis on the value of life and nature. Overall, a very enjoyable story.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dreamdark #2: Silksinger by Laini Taylor

Silksinger (Dreamdark, #2)Magpie's quest is to find and return the five fire elementals to Dreamdark before the kingdom is plunged into nothingness. She is a faerie with great power, and she is the Djinn King's champion. Mags recovers the first djinn, but she doesn't know where to find the second one called Azazel. Its ember is hidden inside a copper tea kettle protected by Whisper, the last member of the Silksinger clan. Hirik is disguised and secretly watching over her since he is a Mothmage, hated by everyone due to a false story of his clan's cowardice. The elemental djinns are being hunted down by the evil Ethiag and his huge and powerful army of Devils. The Devils are attacking caravans, killing everyone they meet as they search for Azazel. The survival of the djinns may rest with the outcast Mothmage and his magical scimitar, but a friend is actually an enemy in disguise.

I was able to enjoy this book without reading the first one in the series, but there were references to events and characters not in this book. The plot was adventurous as Mags, Whisper, and others tried to defeat Ethiag and his army of Devils. Ethiag had a secret master, but the author provided clues about his identity. I liked how Hirik was given a second chance, and he erased the bad feelings about his people. There were twists to the plot as characters were ambushed, captured, and lost their powers. The author left the resolution open for the next book in the series, although I was unable to find it at my local library. I copied these comments from the author's blog. "Though I have every intention of returning to complete the Dreamdark series, it is not now on the slate, for which I am very very sorry! I promise you I do not abandon Magpie and crew lightly, and dearly look forward to reuniting with them in the future."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Summerkin by Sarah Prineas

Summerkin (Winterling, #2)This book is the sequel to Winterling. Fer returns to rule over Summerland, but she's in for a surprise. The High Ones require her to face any challengers in a contest to decide who will be the new Lady or Lord of the land. The High Ones are concerned that Fer won't accept any oaths from her subjects, and they're very concerned that she's half human. She brings her best friend, Rook, with her to the contest, but he's a mischievous puck and plans to steal the Lord's silver crown. The contest consists of a race, archery, and mastery of the glamorie, an enchantment that controls the thinking of others. Fer is learning to master her powers, but her kindness as a human may be her downfall.

I was worried this book might not have the drama found in the first book, but the author was able to develop it through one of the challengers. This character concealed his true identity, cheated, and tried to blame Rook for a major problem. I liked Fer's kindness and trust, and she never gave up on others. The author was able to describe Fer's internal conflicts as she tried to win the contest while saving the lives of her friends and competitors. Score one for the good guys, or girl!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost GiantsOdd lives among Vikings with his mother and stepfather. His leg was crushed so he limps, but he always has a smile on his face that irritates others. One day, he walks into the woods, away from his stepfather, and travels to his father's old cabin. He spots a fox and follows it until he finds a bear trapped under a tree, an eagle soaring overhead. After freeing the bear, Odd discovers the three animals are actually the gods Thor, Odin, and Loki. Loki was tricked by a frost giant, so they were changed into animals and banished from their land. Odd decides he will help them, but what can one small boy do to defeat a giant?

This book reads like a Norse folktale and is a quick-read. Odd's character is overwhelming kind, but his smile has great power. It usually drives others crazy, but it also helps defeat the frost giant. The underdog story is easy to enjoy as Odd faces a powerful foe. It's amusing to see a small boy accomplish things three powerful gods were unable to do. As with many folktales, the plot teaches lessons about kindness, loyalty, and love for one's mother.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

 The Water CastleAll things are impossible until they are discovered. Ephraim and his family travel to a small town to help his father recover from a stroke. His father hasn't spoken or moved on his own since the attack, and Ephraim just wants him to get better. The strange house was built by a family ancestor who was searching for the Fountain of Youth. Ephraim's new classmates are all much smarter than himself, and his brother sets a new pool record the first time he gets in the water. Then, the house seems to hum at night leading up to a huge flash of blue light in the sky. Weird. Ephraim and two new friends explore tunnels located under the house, and the truth about his relative's experiments start to emerge.

The plot was a mixture of science and magic. Actually, the second half of the book reminded me of Tuck Everlasting as the author explored the possibility of eternal life. You won't find any action in the plot, but it unfolded like a mystery. The families of the three main characters had decades of history behind them, and Will hated Ephraim, a lot, for quite awhile. I didn't expect them to join together in search of the truth. Mallory's mother was rarely seen, but she had an unusual story, if you put the clues together.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Land of Stories #1: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1)This book was written by the actor on Glee, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Alex and Connor, twin sister and brother, are transported into a world of fairy tales and stories after a book from their grandmother turns magical. The kids meet a talking frog, and he gives them the journal of a man who used the Wishing Spell to travel to an unknown world. The kids assume it's their only way home. The children need to collect eight items before they can use the spell, so they head off on a scavenger hunt throughout the kingdoms. They need to collect things like one of Cinderella's slippers, a piece from Red Riding Hood's basket, and the crown off a troll king's head. Meanwhile, a pack of wolves is hunting down the kids, the guards in the kingdoms are searching for them too, and a powerful, evil character is searching for the same items to activate the Wishing Spell first. The kids may be stuck in this world forever if they lose this race.

The author was creative in adding twists to the characters and plots found in fairy tales. Goldilocks was a fugitive from the law, and she was very skilled with a sword. Red Riding Hood was a queen with a very self-centered personality. Even Snow White's evil stepmother had a new story that may surprise readers. The quests to collect the eight items almost broke the book up into eight short stories. However, the surprises in the second half of the book made the plot very adventurous and exciting.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Magic Thief #1 by Sarah Prineas

The Magic Thief (Magic Thief, #1)
Something is draining magic from the town, and the town will eventually die. Nevery, a wizard exiled from the city, returns to help, but a pickpocket, Conn, steals his magic stone. When the stone's magic doesn't kill the boy, Nevery decides to accept the boy as his apprentice. Conn shows a sensitivity to magic, and he has some interesting thoughts about what's going on. He believes the loss of magic is being caused by another wizard and the Underlord. The Underlord has already been hunting for Conn, and the wizard wants the boy too after he catches him spying. Conn figures out what they're trying to do, but Nevery won't believe him, especially after he discovers a secret about Conn's past. What can an apprentice wizard do to save the magic and the town?

The plot is another underdog story, as the main character learns to perform magic. I liked the relationship between Nevery and Conn; Conn was able to teach his master a few things along the way. Conn needed to find his own magic stone, and I knew it would be something special. Magic was different for him. He seemed to be getting chased by something throughout the story, so the pace moved along nicely.

The Land of Stories #3: A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer

A Grimm Warning (The Land of Stories, #3)Alex remained in the fairy world, learning magic from her grandmother. Mother Goose informs her brother, Conner, that there may be a huge army from the human world, stuck in a portal, waiting to attack the kingdoms. While checking it out, Conner is sucked back into the fairy world, along with the army and two innocent humans. The invading general frees criminals from the prison, and a masked man says he can find a dragon, insuring their victory. Alex becomes the new leader of the fairies when her grandmother weakens, and she must unite all of the kingdoms, including the elves, trolls, and goblins. Even then, the invading army will outnumber them two to one.

This book had more action than the previous episode. There were some unexpected twists to the plot; Queen Red lost her kingdom to Little Bo Peep, and Alex and Conner found special friends. Despite the cutesy character names, the story is not a simple children's story. The threat of a dragon created a looming problem throughout the book, and the masked man added an element of mystery. Alex's new title as acting Fairy Godmother made the conflicts a little more complicated. In the resolution, the identity of the masked man came as a huge surprise.

Michael Vey #1: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25This book was recommended by one of my students, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Michael is an ordinary ninth grade student except for the fact that he can fire off an electric charge like an eel, only with more power. He finds out that one of his classmates, the prettiest girl in school, also has a power based on electricity, but they discover something that is even stranger. Their birthdays are one day apart,and they were born in the same hospital. Michael's genius friend, Ostin, uncovers that the hospital was doing research at that time with a high-powered electric MRI-type invention, and only seventeen babies lived past the age of two DAYS! The scientists are trying to collect all of the children to create a super-race, and they've kidnapped Michael's mother as bait to catch him. The big problem is that most of the other electric children are using their powers to help the scientists. Nichelle is a particularly nasty one.

I like plots about kids with special powers, and this plot had the kids using similar powers against each other. I like that the author gave Michael an unexpected advantage to offset the fact that he was badly outnumbered. Be prepared for the sequel. I wonder if Nichelle will return.

The Magic Thief #2: Lost by Sarah Prineas

Lost (Magic Thief, #2)Beware the Shadows! Something is killing people in Wellmet during the night, turning them to stone. There is nothing natural about it. Since Conn lost his stone in the last book, it exploded while defeating the Underlord, he is no longer able to cast spells. He learned that Wellmet's magic is a living thing, and he was able to use the stone to talk to it. Conn is forced to leave, so he heads to the neighboring town of Desh, which may be the source of the deadly shadows. He's not totally sure what's going on, but he is certain the wizard in Desh is behind all of the trouble. And the closer he gets to the truth, the more dangerous his quest becomes.

If you liked the first book, The Magic Thief, you'll like this book too. Once again, Conn finds himself mostly working alone, but I like his character's determination to not give up. He seems to do things to make his friends crazy with him (blowing up a whole house), but he never lets them down in the end. The author was clever to have the black birds and lizards act as spies for the magic in their cities. A big battle is brewing between the predator magic and the magic in Wellmet.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Magic Thief #3: Found by Sarah Prineas

Found (Magic Thief, #3)Conn has been exiled from Wellston, but he's still secretly helping Nevery prepare for the attack of a destructive magic. Two problems...the others wizards don't believe an attack is coming, and Conn doesn't have a locus stone to perform any spells. With Nevery's help, a trail is blazed, literally, across the country leading to a new stone for Conn. However, the town leaders sentence Conn to death if he ever returns, so he sets out alone in search of his locus stone. It's a long journey and takes much longer than he expects. Time is ticking away, but he's willing to risk his life to save Wellston from Arhionvar, the predator magic. There are dragons in Conn's future, and a small one really complicates  his plans. The secret behind magic will be revealed.

The addition of dragons freshened the series for me. The little one became an amusing character, and I assume it will have an even bigger role in book four. The explanation of the origin of magic was unexpected, but it helped to resolve the big conflict. I still like the relationship between Nevery and Conn. Nevery cares about him like a son, but Conn has trouble doing what he's told and makes Nevery nuts. Something surprising happens to Conn in the resolution, and I'm anxious to see how the author handles it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Magic Thief #4: Home by Sarah Prineashe does

The Magic Thief: Home (Magic Thief, #4)Despite all of the problems he's created in the first three books, Duchess Rowan names him her ducal magister, the most powerful wizard in Wellmet. He doesn't want the job, and the other wizards don't want the boy either, except for Nevery, his master. Conn senses something bad is brewing with the city's magic, and the wizards' locus stones are being stolen. Of course, Conn is blamed for all the problems and must go into hiding. He returns to the streets as a gutterrat, trying to get information, but he must keep his eye out for thugs trying to kidnap him. However, he is not aware that a terrible evil has returned to Wellmet.

This book is the conclusion of the series, and fans of the other books must read this one too. You must read the previous three books to fully understand the events. The author was able to keep me guessing. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but then she provided clues that made it seem impossible. Conn and his dragon, who had swallowed his locus stone, form a close bond and need each other to survive. Conn knows he's no longer a gutterrat, and he's not  a ducal magister, and he spends most of the book trying to figure out his role on the world. This book brings the series to a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Magisterium #1: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)Call's father wants him to do his worst, so he won't be chosen to attend the school for mages. His father says he doesn't trust the teachers at the Magisterium, but Call starts to wonder if there's something different about himself. Despite getting negative scores on the tests, he is chosen as an apprentice to Master Rufus along with the top two scorers. The apprentices learn to control the elements of the world, and Call starts to show some magical talent. The students are told stories about the Enemy, a mage who turned dark and killed Call's mother. He controls chaos elementals and the Chaos-ridden, mages consumed by the elements. The Magisterium is always looking for a Makar, a mage who is able to control the chaos, to lead them against the Enemy. One Makar is among the new group of apprentices, but another apprentice holds a powerful secret of evil.

I'm excited about this new series. It has similarities to Hogwarts, and the plot focuses on three main characters, two boys and one girl. Call's character has always had trouble getting along with others, and a little bit of that continues even after he develops some actual friendships. His sarcastic comments can be funny, but they sometimes create tension. Call is mischievous and doesn't always listen to his teachers and friends. This behavior creates adventure in the plot and keeps things interesting. The dynamics of two characters' relationships will create conflict in future books, and the Enemy's army will be a constant threat.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Land of Stories #2: The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer

The Enchantress Returns (The Land of Stories, #2)Alex and Conner find a new way back into the Land of Stories, a world full of fairy tale characters and creatures. The evil Enchantress has returned, and she kidnaps their mother from the real world. The Enchantress wants to take over all the kingdoms, and her power is greater than all the other fairies. She captures the soul of the Fairy Godmother, the twins' grandmother, and it seems like there's no way to stop the Enchantress. Connor reads a story about the Wand of Wonderment that will make the holder invincible, but there's a problem. To make the wand, they must collect the most prized possessions of the six most hated people in the world, including the Enchantress.

You should read the first book in the series before reading this one. The personalities of many fairy tale characters.are unexpected. Red Riding Hood is a mean princess, Goldilocks is a fierce warrior, and they both like Jack and the Beanstalk. The spells are clever; the Enchantress makes thorn bushes grow all over the castles, and she's collected the souls of people who have hurt her feelings. I most liked the author's twisting of elements in familiar fairy tales. I knew what to expect, but then the author made them different.

Sammy Feral's Diaries of Weird #2: Yeti Rescue by Eleanor Hawken

Yeti Rescue. Eleanor HawkenSammy's family of ex-werewolves owns the Feral Zoo and has its share of strange animals. A Mongolian Death Worm shows up and says Bert, Chief of the Yetis, has been kidnapped. He says the wish frog has been hiding at the zoo, and it will grant wishes, although the wishes sometimes end in disasters. Sammy and his group discover the kidnapper used the yeti as bait in order to find the wish frog. When the kidnapper shows up, one-hundred angry yetis aren't able to overpower him. There seems to be no way to stop him, and time is running out. The Yeti Snarls are the last chance.

If the plot seems rather silly, it is. However, it's an easy story to follow, and the silliness makes it entertaining. It's not meant to be classic literature, and it doesn't have any hidden, deep messages about life. This book is the second book in a series, I didn't read the first one, but this story stands by itself. There are references to the first book, but they don't affect this book.

Michael Vey #4: Hunt For Jade Dragon By Richard Paul Evans

Hunt for Jade Dragon (Michael Vey, #4)Dr. Hatch kidnapped a young girl, Jade Dragon, at the end of the last book, and she has knowledge that will allow him to create an army of Elgen. The Electroclan, led by Michael, are recovering at a hidden ranch, but they know they'll need to rescue her. However, she's imprisoned in an Elgen power plant, guarded by Elgen forces, Glows, and the Taiwanese army and coast guard. The mission seems impossible, and the Electroclan may need help from a former enemy. To make matters worse, Michael is tricked into giving up information that may endanger the lives of his mom and other members of the resistance.

You can browse the previous books in the series by typing Michael Vey in the search box at the top left of the screen. The members of the Electroclan have special powers, and some of their enemies have powers too. For example, Michael is able to control electricity, Taylor can read minds, and Ian can see things behind walls and miles away. You'll need to read the other books in the series before this one. The first half of the book focused on the relationship between Michael and Taylor and planning the mission. I didn't understand why the author spent so much time describing how Michael could change the direction of bullets; he never used the power during the mission. The second half of the plot has all the action we've come to expect in this series. Fighting, shooting, explosions!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell

Handbook for Dragon SlayersTilda is a princess and future ruler of Alder Brook. While her mother is away, she is kidnapped by her cousin, Prince Ivo, who plans to take over her family's lands. She is rescued from her cell by Prince Parz who wants to become a dragon slayer. Parz was kicked out of training, so Tilda help him search for a small dragon to slay. They don't really know what they're doing, so she plans to write a manual about dragons to help future slayers. Along the way, she frees two magical horses, one made of silver and one made of bronze, and decides she doesn't want to rule a kingdom anymore. However, Tilda may not get a chance to make her decision if she can't survive the dragons, Ivo, and the leader of the Wild Hunt.

The magical horses become a big part of the story, so horse lovers will like this book (even though one normal horse is eaten by a dragon). The first half of the book didn't move as quickly as I like, but the second half was full of adventure. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the book, because it was well-written. The climax had a creative, unexpected twist that helped Tilda learn powerful lessons about life and her role as a princess.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

The BoundlessWill is traveling across the continent on the first railroad tracks through the mountains. The train is miles long and is carrying the dead body of the former owner of the company. This railroad car is electrified to protect the body and some other secret treasures, including a golden spike worth thousands of dollars. There are only two keys into the car; Will's father has one and the guard has the other. Will manages to get his hands on a key after he witnesses the guard's murder, but the killer is now after Will. Will gets help from the owner of a circus traveling on the train, but there aren't many places to hide. He discovers the murderer has other helpers on the train, and they're getting closer to finding Will. To make matters worse, he finds there are other dangers that may worse than this killer!

 Most of the story reads like an adventure, but there are elements of fantasy. A Sasquatch is introduced early in the plot, and it reappears later in the book. The circus owner is a magician, and he's trying to find a painting with the power to save his life. There are also supernatural moments with time and a deadly hag. The story's setting created suspense, because Will was forced to stay on the train knowing that killers were nearby. The circus acts added some entertaining moments and helped save Will's life several times.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Underworlds #1: The Battle Begins by Tony Abbott

The Battle Begins (Underworlds, #1)Owen arrives late to school, but he gets a huge surprise as he runs through the empty hallways. He sees the floor open up in fire, and his best friend, Dana, disappears into the hole. She's kidnapped by a mythological god, and Owen must travel to the underworld to save her. Along with a friend and a new girl, the trio must steal a magical instrument, escape from a seven-foot tall wolf, and face Hades and Loki.

This book is a very quick-read, only 59 pages in the eBook, and it mixes gods from different cultures. I was amazed at how much action the author was able to cram into the plot. There was not a lot of character development, but it really kept my interest. I was surprised to find the book coming to an end as the suspense was still high. The resolution informs readers that more monsters are on the way!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Unwanteds #4: Island of Legends by Lisa McMann

Island of Legends (Unwanteds, #4)Alex and the rest of Artime are still recovering from the death of Mr. Today and the rescue of Sky and Crow from Warbler Island. However, Queen Eagala leads an attack to recover the escaped prisoners. Later, Alex leads a group to rescue Sky's mother from another island. Florence is captured by a giant eel in the process, so the force must save her along with several other creatures. This adventure then leads the group to the Island of Legends where they encounter creatures living atop the shell of a huge crab. Meanwhile, Aaron, Alex's twin brother, is trying to prepare the citizens of Quill for an attack on Artime. He's also discovered a secret jungle where Mr. Today was hiding some dangerous, uncontrollable creatures. Aaron believes he can use them as secret weapons against Artime

You should read the whole series in order, since each book continues where the previous book left off. Type Unwanteds in the search box at the top right corner to see reviews of all four books. You'll need to accept some strange characters, because there's a talking statue, rock, fox, and Alex even creates a talking whale. There are a couple of plots going on, and they will lead you to several different settings. This book doesn't have as much action as the first three books, but it's still entertaining. If you read and enjoy the first book, The Unwanteds, then you'll like this book too.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Grave Images by Jenny Goebel

Grave ImagesBernie, short for Bernadette, lives with her father, mother, and grandmother. Even after a year, her mother is still grieving for a baby brother who died. Her father makes a living engraving monuments for the deceased, but Bernie's life changes when Mr. Stein shows up. He creates etchings, and Bernie's father lets him live in the little room out back in exchange for his work. However, Bernie gets a creepy feeling about him even though his work is beautiful. She gets suspicious when he completes a plaque less than a day after receiving a picture, so she snoops around. She finds a finished etching of a man in Mr. Stein's drawer, and she's frightened when the man turns up dead. What's going on? Is Mr. Stein actually a murderer?

Most of this book is realistic fiction, but there is also an air of supernatural powers to it. I can't say that I've read many books that deal with death in this way. I kept wondering about Mr. Stein, and the author kept making him more mysterious. Bernie teams up with an unlikely partner, and they become detectives trying to solve the mystery. It gets creepy when Bernie finds her own face etched into stone.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Minion by John David Anderson

MinionThis is the story of Michael, adopted son of a genius inventor who creates machines for bad guys. Michael has been aiding and abetting his father's crimes for years, and now he's actually helping his father rob banks. Michael's father is super smart, but Michael has his own power. He's able to make people do as he says just by looking in their eyes, but he's not supposed to use his power without permission. Michael sometimes wants to live a normal life, especially when he meets a cute girl at the mall. However, his father is afraid of what might happen to Michael if anyone discovers his special power. There's a new group of masked robbers striking all over town, a new superhero has appeared, and Michael has told his best friend about his mind-controlling power. His father wants to skip town and start a new life, but it may be too late.

I wasn't really sure where the plot was headed during the first half of the book. The main conflict wasn't clear to me. Michael was an interesting character, because we don't often read about the children of criminals like they're regular kids. The story became more focused as the plot moved on, and I really enjoyed it. The climax was a little surprising, but I was able to predict the resolution.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Boggart and the Monster by Susan Cooper

The Boggart and the Monster (The Boggart, #2)Jessup and Emily are excited to revisit the Scottish castle once owned by their grandfather. They especially miss the boggart living there. In this book, a boggart is a mischievous, shape-shifting creature. The new owner of the castle agrees to take the kids to visit the Loch Ness. The boggart tags along and discovers his cousin has been sleeping at the bottom of the loch for hundreds of years. However, his cousin is very sad and has forgotten how to change from the dinosaur shape that many people have seen. The kids want to help, but things get complicated when a snoopy reporter shows up.

I didn't realize until I finished the book, that this book is the second one in a series. I don't think you need to read The Boggart first; I was able to enjoy this book without it. The conflict is pretty unusual. How many times have you read about a monster trying to help his cousin that wasn't in a picture book? It didn't read like a cutesy story, but it wasn't overly serious either. The book was an easy read.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Green Boy by Susan Cooper

Green BoyTrey and his mute, little brother love to explore the little island near their home in Jamaica. Their grandparents allow them to row over to the cay where they enjoy the birds, fish, and their own private cave. Then one day in the cave, the light starts to shimmer, Trey hears a sound, and the boys find themselves transported sometime in the future. The plants have been cut down, buildings and roads have taken their place, and all of the animals they knew are gone. Developers have destroyed all the beautiful nature of the island, and Trey discovers that his silent brother is the only one who can make things right.

Man versus nature. Man versus society. It's hard to stop businesses when they promise people money. The author captured the confusion, frustration, and determination of the two brothers. Little brother Lou had a lot to say even though he couldn't speak. It was amusing that Trey could panic, but Lou would just smile and make things better. The plot skips back and forth in time, as the kids try to figure out how to stop the future society.

Friday, August 29, 2014

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

How to Catch a Bogle (Bogle #1)Birdie works for a bogler named Alfred Bunce. Bogles are monsters that hide in chimneys, caves, and sewers. Alfred spears the bogles after Birdie sings and acts as bait to lure them from their hiding places. It's very dangerous work, and a woman says there may be a safer, more scientific, way to kill the beasts. Birdie fears she won't be needed anymore, and pleads with Alfred to keep bogling. However, he takes on one more job that may be their last. It seems there is someone else summoning the monsters, hoping to trap them. He's not happy with Alfred, and it may cost Birdie her life.

I've read many books with monsters, but this plot offered some new twists. Using children as bait and and having a monster hunter question the danger of his job made the story more interesting. Birdie was a spunky character, and she struggled with some internal conflicts. She lived a dangerous life, and she was offered a chance to live in more comfortable surroundings. I found each meeting with the bogles provided periods of suspense, and the plot led to a thrilling climax. I highly recommend the book!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Elevator Ghost by Glen Huser

The Elevator GhostCarolina Giddle is a new babysitter in the apartment building, and she has a talent for storytelling. Specifically, her talent is with telling ghost stories. She also has a pet tarantula and likes to talk to the spirit of her dead aunt at the Blatchford seniors' home. She babysits for mischief-makers, scaredy-cats, and other children with special issues, but her stories always improve the situations. How to stop a child from painting on the wall? Tell a story about a painting of a giant monster that comes to life and destroys the building.

For the most part, this book is a collection of short stories. Each chapter introduces kids with different problems followed by Carolina Giddle's stories to change them. Readers won't find the stories scary, but I could picture her lighting candles in dark rooms to spook the toddlers. Overall, it was an enjoyable book.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Feral Child by Che Golden

The Feral ChildThis book is a 2014 release that I found at my local library. Maddy lives with her grandparents in Ireland after the death of her parents. She's hard to handle, and it only gets worse when her three-year-old neighbor disappears. You see, Maddy saw a faerie take the little boy in the middle of the night, and everyone thinks he's safe after he's found outside an old castle. However, Maddy knows the boy has been replaced by a faerie, and she decides she must venture into the faerie world to save him. She must face all of the dangers in her imagination and survive the journey to find the Winter Queen.

I was surprised at how well this book captured my interest. I can't put my finger on the reason, but it was easy to read and created a great feeling of mystery and adventure. I expected a cute story with faeries in it, but there were some pretty ruthless characters. The setting had a Narnia feel to it, with the queen and talking creatures. Some were friendly, some were not, and some seemed to change sides. Maddy had to deal with her internal demons before she could complete the quest. Overall, a very entertaining book.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Silver Rings by Samuel Valentino

The Silver RingsThis book is 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Alice and Celia are twin sisters, and they run away from their evil stepmother in search of their fairy godmother. The godmother tells them they should separate and go out on their own, dressed in lizard costumes. Alice finds a handsome prince, and he tries to do all he can impress her. Meanwhile, Celia is turned into a frog by an evil witch and can only be rescued by a prince's kiss. Sound familiar? Well, there are also goblins, giants, and ninja geckos. The twins wear silver rings to keep track of each other, and Alice must search for her sister when her ring signals red for danger.

This plot is a mixture and twisting of familiar fairy tales. Cinderella, The Frog Prince, and Puss in Boots are included. The silliness adds humor to the story, but it can become annoying if you don't have a tolerance for it. I enjoyed being able to predict the events in familiar stories, but I was able to appreciate the unexpected changes made by the author.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Hypontists #2: Memory Daze by Gordon Korman

Memory Maze (The Hypnotists, #2)This book is the 2014 sequel to The Hypnotists. Jax and his family flee from Dr. Mako, because the doctor is out for revenge. Jax is going to a new school, his parents have new jobs, and Braintree has traveled with them in order to develop Jax's hypnotic powers. Jax is the offspring of the two most famous hypnotist families in history, so he may become the most powerful hypnotist of all time. Mako starts to kidnap other mind benders, hoping to discover Jax's location. A dying billionaire hires Jax to help him survive long enough for a new medicine to be created, but Braintree warns him there may be serious side effects. The sessions get more intense, and Jax discovers he may have a missing brother. Why have his parents kept this secret from him? Does Liam have the power too?

The hypnotic sessions with the billionaire are the most confusing part of the plot, but just remember the images are the man's memories, not Jax's. I liked how the author mixed Jax's confusion to understand the billionaire with Mako's search. Braintree's character was a bigger part of this plot than in the first book. I also appreciated how his character dealt with the moral issue of using the hypnotic power for personal gain. He felt it wasn't right and tried to convince Jax and the other mind benders that it was wrong, not always successfully.

The Hypnotists #1 by Gordon Korman

The Hypnotists (The Hypnotists, #1)Jax discovers he has the power to make people do anything he wants them to do. This is a little scary when he tells a bus driver to get him to the gym as quickly as possible. Other cars, traffic lights, and pedestrians beware! Jax is invited to a school with other hypnotists, and Dr. Mako helps him control his power. However, a mysterious man meets Jax on the street and tells him that he shouldn't trust the  Dr. Mako, and that Jax's parents carried the bloodlines of the two most powerful hypnotist families in history. This fact means Jax may be the most powerful hypnotist in the world. Dr. Mako says hypnotism should only be used for good, but when is making other people do things against their will a good thing? A video is made of Jax, and he senses the doctor is using it to hypnotize other people. Jax doesn't know why Dr. Mako is doing this, but the doctor may be using his power to control the next president of the United States!

Jax is learning to use his new power, but he's confused about who he can trust. The plot reads like an adventure or mystery as Jax tries to discover the truth. I expected him to become friends with Kira, another top student, but that didn't really happen. I'm not sure why she was included in the story.

A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lancey

A Dark Inheritance (Unicorne Files #1)This book is a 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Michael saves a dog from jumping off a cliff, and witnesses say Michael seemed to appear from nowhere. It turns out he's able to change reality. He has the power to imagine different events and cause them to become true. A group called UNICORNE contacts Michael; they investigate unusual and supernatural events. Michael's father disappeared three years ago, and he had secretly been working for this group. To discover the truth about his father, Michael must learn more about the dog and its former owner, Rafferty. He discovers the mysterious story of a girl who died in a bike accident, and he learns more about a strange girl from school. There seems to be an unusual connection between organ donors and the patients who receive them. Michael must use his power to uncover the secrets, but his gift may be the end of him if it can't be controlled.

This book requires some imagination from the readers. Michael's ability to change events was easy to understand, but it got a little confusing when he entered the minds and memories of others. Character's memories tended to change, so I needed to be flexible as I read. The plot made me think, and I like that. It became clear that Rafferty, the dog, and the classmate were connected in some way, and this connection was slowly revealed. I wasn't sure if UNICORNE was good or bad, and I'm still not sure even after finishing the book.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mouseheart by Lisa Fielder

MouseheartThis book is the 2014 start of a new series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Hopper is a small, pet store mouse, and he escapes into the tunnels under New York City. He's found by a rat prince named Zucker, and they return to the palace to meet Zucker's father. Hopper is shown a refugee camp for stray rodents, but Zucker seems uneasy when talking about it. The king makes Hopper nervous, and the mouse doesn't understand why the prince lies to his father about the leader of a rebel mouse force. Hopper notices the circle in the fur around his right eye resembles a picture drawn on the tunnel walls, and some rats and mice treat him strangely when they see it. A horrible secret is about to be revealed, and the little mouse is the key figure in bringing it to an end.

Comments on the book cover compare this series to Redwall. This book is a much quicker read than books in that series, but it has the same adventure and action. Hopper is the seemingly weak underdog, facing overwhelming odds, that readers love in their books. I liked how his character grew to face the challenges, and he surprised his doubters, including himself. The resolution of the plot leaves some interesting questions for book two.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Michael Vey #3: Battle of the Ampere by Richard Paul Evans

Battle of the Ampere (Michael Vey, #3)This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. After destroying the Starxource powerplant in book two, Michael now awakens in the middle of the jungle. He's rescued by an endangered tribe of natives and meets another electric child, Tessa, who is able to make Micheal's charge even more powerful. The other members of the Electroclan are arrested by the Peruvian army and may be put to death. Despite the overwhelming odds against him, Michael is still determined to save them. He's going to need their help to stop Hatch, who has now taken full control of the Elgen. Hatch takes over a fortress of ships and has already built a new powerplant on some small islands in the Pacific Ocean. The location of these islands will allow him to take control of China, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii. With all of the citizens of Peru, the police, the Peruvian Army, and the Elgen forces hunting for Michael and the Electroclan, the kids are going to need more than luck to survive.

You'll want to read the other books in the series first, so type Michael Vey in the search box at the top left of this screen. I like how the Electroclan works as a team; each member of the team uses his or her power when it's needed. Michael can control electricity, Taylor can control minds, and Ian can see things happening that are thousands of feet away. Even Ostin, a kid without special powers, helps the Electroclan with his intelligence. The character relationships add internal conflicts to the story, and one of the team members doesn't survive. The plot of the book reads like an adventure story; it has lots of action and impossible situations. I'm really loving the series.

Troubletwisters #4: The Missing by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

The Missing (Troubletwisters, #4)An unusual artifact is found below Jack and Jaida's neighbor's home, and it's actually a missing portal. When The Evil tries to pass through this gateway between worlds, the twins discover Grandma X's sister, Lottie, is alive, but trapped, along with The Evil. Second Gifts start to appear in the twins; Jaida can control lightning, like her father, and Jack can mentally  travel through the dirt, rocks, and plants. One of the Wardens has a plan called Project Thunderclap that will permanently seal all portals, but it will also imprison Lottie. Then, Jack is sucked up by a vortex that dumps him into the evil world too. Grandma X has told the other wardens she won't try to rescue her sister, but can that be true? A rescue would open a door for The Evil, but there's no other way to save Jack and Lottie. A rescue attempt would probably result in disaster for the entire planet. But what else can they do?

Jack and Jaida, the troubletwisters, seem to have more control over their Gifts in this book, but the unexpected results of their powers created unusual twists in the earlier books. Understanding The Evil takes some reader imagination, and Lottie's suggestion to treat it like an endangered animal was a strange twist. I liked how the troubletwisters and their "normal" friends worked together, but I didn't think adding Stefano's character added much to the story. Maybe he'll be more important in the future.

The Last Apprentice #13: Fury of the Seventh Son by Joseph Delaney

This book is the final chapter in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Tom Ward is close to destroying the Fiend once and for all, but things start to go wrong. His friend, Alice, thinks she has found a way to defeat the Fiend without sacrificing her own life, but she may totally turn to the Dark in the process. The Fiend's followers are reuniting his head with his body, so he can come back to life. A powerful mage has arisen, and his magic may be too much for Tom to handle. The Spook is old and not as strong as in the past, and Grimalkin, the witch assassin, is near death herself. If things weren't bad enough, Alice informs Tom that a more terrible foe will ravage the land if the Fiend is somehow defeated. Tom turns to the vicious Boggart, Kratch, in a desperate moment, but feeding it some of his blood may prove to be his downfall.

You will need to read the other books in the series before reading this finale; you can search for the other books by typing Delaney or Last Apprentice in the box at the top left of this screen. The entire plot leads up to an epic battle between the spooks' forces and the Fiend's followers. Tom's character has a lot of internal conflict. He wants to defeat the Fiend, but he may be forced to battle his best friend to achieve it. He keeps important secrets from the Spook even though he doesn't want to. Tom's relationship with Kratch is a new twist to the plot.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bloodwitch by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Bloodwitch (The Maeve’ra Trilogy, #1)The book is a 2014 release and the first episode in a new trilogy. Vance lives in a greenhouse amid among a bunch of vampires. He is a shapeshifter and has the ability to change into a quetzal, a type of bird. He does different chores for the vampires, and he's told many times that he's not a slave and is free to leave. So why does he feel like a slave? Vance is told that he's a bloodwitch and possesses great power that the vampires want to control. He's always felt comfortable living with the vampires, but another shapeshifter makes him start to question things. He sees a friend commit suicide, he's punished by the vampire ruler for making a mistake, and he sees more dying from an illness. Vance doesn't truly understand his own power, and he's not sure if he should trust the vampire empire or the shapeshifters who hate him for being a traitor.

The plot took a little while to develop. I kept trying to figure out the main conflict in the story and where the events were leading. Vance had conflicts with the vampires and shapeshifters, but he was free to leave at any time. I couldn't see where the plot was headed. The idea of Vance's importance to the vampires was creative. My experience has been that vampire characters care more about themselves and don't need others. Vance has a great internal conflict as he tries to understand his place in the world.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

The Blood GuardThis book is a 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Ronan is rushed away from school by his mother, who races through the streets like a crazy woman. He realizes he doesn't know her very well when she pulls out a glowing sword and deflects bullets from their attackers' guns. She is a member of the Blood Guard, and their mission is to protect the thirty-six Pure people in world. Ronan hops aboard a train and meets the daughter of an FBI agent and another member of the Blood Guard. The kids end up alone, in the middle of nowhere, running from their attackers. When one of the attackers uses his powers to stop river water from flowing, Ronan again realizes things are really messed up. It looks like the attackers really want to get their hands on Ronan, but why? The kids can't trust anyone, and they don't know where to turn for help.

The action starts on the first page of this book and never stops. The bad guys continually pop up and barely give the kids any time to rest. The plot mostly reads like an adventure story, but the weapons and characters' powers push it into fantasy. There are characters doing impossible things, and there's even a character who's lost his head, literally. It was a very entertaining book, and I can't wait for the second book in the series.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Maleficent adapted by Elizabeth Rudnick

MaleficentThis book tells the story of the 2014 Disney film, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. You probably know the story of Sleeping Beauty, but this plot takes some unexpected twists and turns. Maleficent's faerie parents are killed by humans, but she still grows up with a kind heart and a love for nature. Her life takes a terrible turn when a young boy breaks her heart and later becomes king. She casts a sleeping spell on the king's daughter, Aurora, and later regrets this decision. Even she is not able to break the curse. The anger and evil have taken over, and only true love's kiss can bring about a happy ending.

This story shows Maleficent as a kind, trusting character whose happiness is ruined by the greed of others. However, even at her worst moments, the seed of kindness still lives within her. She does some terrible, mean things, but she sees bits of herself within Aurora. This creates an internal conflict that Maleficent battles throughout the book. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I enjoyed this version of the classic fairy tale.

The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni

The Eighth DayThis book is a 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Jax is living with an eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley, and he soon discovers the world is much different than he thought. Most people live with seven days in the week, but some people only live during an eighth day. The eighth day was created by Merlin to control the evil magic that arose hundreds of years ago. Riley is a descendant of King Arthur, and Jax and he are able to exist during all eight days of the week. Riley doesn't tell Jax everything he needs to know, so Jax makes some huge mistakes. He doesn't fully understand the importance of the girl living next door and how the survival of all "normals" depends on her. There are men who want to use her powers to free the evil magic trapped in the eighth day. Jax finally discovers this plot, but it may be too late.

The idea of an eighth day is similar to the ideas shared in The Midnighters trilogy by Scott Westerfield, without the strange creatures. The plot took a little while to get going as Jax was left to learn about the eighth day on his own. However, once the action got going, it really got going. Everyone who lived during the eighth day had a special power; Jax could make people answer his questions. I found it strange that most people in the eighth day were able to resist his power. Riley and the girl next door were more powerful, and their abilities were more useful.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Joshua Dredd: The Dominion Key by Lee Bacon

Joshua Dread: The Dominion Key (Joshua Dread, #3)This book is a 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Josh is a superhero, although his fame is dropping. His Gyft, or special power, is the ability to create fire, and two of his friends have super strength and the power to see things before they happen. His best friend, Milton, does not have a Gyft, but he's still part of the Alliance of the Impossible. The gang is attacked by super villains, so they head to Alabaster Academy, a school for kids with Gyfts, to hide out. Josh discovers Phineas Vex, a teenage villain, plans to steal four items that will allow him to rule the world, and his goons are heading to the academy. After the first three items are stolen, the kids realize they must find the last item and destroy it. It's a race to the finish!

This book is the third in the Joshua Dread series. The author added a couple of interesting twists to the characters. Milton has some insecurities hiding in a school full of kids with superpowers. Although Josh is a superhero, his parents happen to be famous super villains. Sophie, his friend with super strength, happens to be the daughter of the most popular superhero in the world. She's having trouble dealing with her father dating another superhero. The plot includes some common, and some uncommon, superpowers, and Professor Fleming really enjoys teaching the kids about dangerous weapons. His first lesson gives the kids five minutes to defuse a time bomb! Overall, the book is not classic literature, but it's entertaining.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

The Thickety: A Path BeginsThis book is a 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Kara's mother is put to death for being a witch, and the townspeople fear Kara is a witch too. Kara passes their test for witchcraft, but they still tease and humiliate her family. Grace, a popular girl and daughter of the town's leader, is especially vicious. Kara's life changes quickly when she finds a book in The Thickety. It's actually a grimoire and gives her the power to cast spells. The power becomes addictive, and Kara can't stop herself from using magic. If she uses the last page in the book to cast a spell, she will be a prisoner to the evil forever. And things get even worse when Grace finds out about the book.

I enjoyed Kara's internal conflicts about her mother and the use of magic. Her external conflicts with the town, its leaders, and Grace increased the suspense. The beginning of the book moved a little too slowly for me, but things got moving when Kara found the grimoire. The climax and resolution were VERY surprising, and a sequel will be coming soon.

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

The Mark of the DragonflyThis book is a 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Piper lives in a town where the people make money by scavenging around craters after meteor storms. She sees a huge meteor smash into a trade caravan and rescues a small girl, Anna, from the wreckage. Anna has a tattoo on her arm, the mark of the dragonfly, which means she's under the king's protection. However, Anna can't remember anything about the tattoo or her past, but she's terribly afraid when another survivor from the caravan shows up at Piper's door. The girls climb aboard a cargo train and head to the capital city, hoping to find Anna's family. They don't realize that Gee, head of train security, is also the green creature they've seen flying in the sky. Trouble is on the way when Doloman, the king's head mechanic, discovers the girls are on the train. Secrets about Piper and Anna will be revealed, but will the secrets lead them to disaster or to their freedom?

I really enjoyed Anna and Piper. The author dropped hints about Piper's power over machines, and Anna was too wise for a small girl. The setting was mostly on the train, which is rather unusual for middle-grade fiction. The plot mixed in periods of action and adventure, but questions surrounding Anna's past gave it the feel of a mystery.

The Copernicus Legacy #1: The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott

The Forbidden Stone (The Copernicus Legacy, #1)This book was released in 2014, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. It is the first book in a new series. Wade, Darrell, Lily, and Becca travel the world in search of a relic hidden by Copernicus. Actually, there are twelve hidden relics, and together they create a machine that could change the history of the world. Literally. An evil group of murderers, led by a ruthless young woman, wants to get its hands on the invention and chases the kids across the planet. The adventure takes them to Germany, Italy, and eventually Guam, and the kids must do everything they can to guard the relics, and to stay alive.

Although the machine provides the science fiction/ fantasy for the book, the plot reads more like an adventure story. The kids are innocently drawn into the danger when they attend the funeral of an "uncle". Each kid has a talent, and they work together to solve the mysteries. It's always unbelievable to me how a few kids can travel the world battling professional killers, and win, but it's always fun to read.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

The Luck UgliesThus book is a 2014 release, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Rye lives in the village of Downing, and strange things are happening. There are rumors that viscous Bog Goblins have returned to the area and will slaughter the people and destroy the village. The Luck Uglies saved them the last time these creatures attacked, but they haven't been seen in ten years. It seems the king may have broken his treaty with them, so they've left the village to defend itself. Rye's mom has also been sneaking out at night, and Rye discovers her with a strange, hooded man in the village tavern. Rye hears terrible sounds coming from the forest, the cat is acting weird, and Rye finds her life saved by the mysterious, hooded man. The things Rye soon discovers make her realize that she is the only person who can possibly save all of the people in Downing.

The plot isn't uncommon with the rumor of monsters coming, and the small girl ending up being the one who must face them. The story surrounding her situation is more unusual, as she discovers the truth about the Luck Uglies. There is a nice mixture of interesting characters and exciting action that held my interest. I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty certain there will be a sequel coming.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow

Here Be Monsters!This book was recommended to me, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Arthur travels above ground, searching for food, but he stumbles upon some strange activities. There appear to be men hunting for cheese even though it is against the law. His mechanical wings are stolen, and he finds miniature versions of real creatures. All of the entrances back to the underground are blocked off, and a new friend has his store demolished. There seems to be connection between missing creatures, a stolen invention, and the reason Arthur's grandfather is not able to travel above ground. However, no one can figure out what it is, but it's a real BIG problem.

I must admit that I wasn't really grabbed by the beginning of the book. There were men riding fake horses during their hunt for cheese, actual cheese! There were box trolls made from boxes, cabbage heads with actual cabbages for their heads, and other strange creatures. I like creativity, but I was not immediately enjoying the plot. However, once a problem arose and the plot became clearer, the book was more entertaining. The characters and events were still pretty strange, but I liked the plot. Mysterious tiny creatures, a missing invention, and a grandfather who was wrongfully accused of murder. Good stuff!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Roar by Emma Clayton

The Roar (The Roar, #1)I found this book on my local library's recommended books shelf, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The Animal Plague forty years ago forced surviving humans to build a huge wall for protection. The northern parts of Europe, Asia, and North America are the ony places on Earth where humans are able to live safely. Today, Mika is a mutant, twelve-year-old boy, and most people believe his twin sister is dead. However, she was kidnapped by Mal Gorman, and doctors have been performing tests and developing her special abilities. Also, all children are now required to drink Fit Mix, go through intense physical training, and play the Pod Fighter arcade game. Mika doesn't want to take part in the program, but a counselor secretly says it will help him find his sister. She also tells him that his life is in danger, but Mika won't stop until he's reunited with Ellie. Gorman has evil plans for all of the children remaining on Earth, and he won't let anything stop him.

The plot mostly follows Mika's character, but it shifts to Ellie and Gorman too. Ellie's powers frighten Gorman, but he feels there is some way to control her. Mika starts to show some of the same powers, and the twins can sense each other's thoughts. This mostly allows Mika to excel as a pod fighter pilot, and it keeps him motivated to find his sister. The thickness of the book might scare some readers, but the events and font size allow the plot to move along quickly.

The Whisper by Emma Clayton

The Whisper (The Roar, #2)This book is the sequel to The Roar, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Mika and Ellie are reunited, and they realize all of the children have been trained to fight a war against the people north of The Wall. Mal Gorman has the twenty-seven thousand children sleeping until he wants them to attack, but the twins are able to mentally communicate with them. Mika and Ellie decide to capture Gorman, take control of the fortress and its defenses, and then negotiate peace between the governments north and south of The Wall. However, the plans go haywire when the children's parents discover The Secret and build a huge bomb to blow a hole in the wall separating the two worlds. The twins may not be able to stop the war and all its destruction once it begins.

This book has a dystopian setting where the humans almost destroyed all of the plants and animals. While Mika and Ellie are main characters, the author allows other characters to have important roles too. Kobi acts as a spy while helping to build the bomb for the parents, and Leo is in charge of negotiating with the government south of The Wall. I was expecting a third book in the series, because there seemed to be too many conflicts to resolve. However, the plot came to a nice resolution.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

This book is a spin-off from Hansel and Gretel, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Hansel and Gretel are twins born to a king and queen. Due to some curses and prophecies, the kids decide it's best if they run away. They meet up with the witch from the fairy tale, a warlock who eats children, and the Devil. At one point, Hansel is terrorizing a forest as a half boy, half beast and is killed by a duke. The children finally return to the kingdom of Grimm to be reunited with their parents, but the kingdom is being ravaged by a dragon. The children must find some way to unite the citizens against it, but they're only kids. Hansel and Gretel must also find some way to forgive their parents for the terrible thing done to them that caused them to run away.

I enjoyed the point of view used in the telling of the story; it had a Lemony Snicket ring to it. The narrator warned the reader that the plot would be scary, gross, and bloody, and it was. The narrator advised that young children should leave the room. The plot had many twists and turns as the children tried to find adults who weren't mean and cruel. Young adult readers will probably enjoy the book, because it takes a familiar story and makes it shockingly different. Many of the events were hokey (Hansel is killed a couple of different times), but that's also what made it amusing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz

In A Glass Grimmly (A Tale Dark & Grimm #2)This book is a sequel to A Tale Dark & Grimm, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Jack and Jill have problems at their homes and decide to go on a quest with a three-legged frog. They must find the Seeing Glass, a powerful mirror for which kings would give up their kingdoms to possess. The children survive the challenges of the giants at the top of the beanstalk, the evil mermaids in the sea, dangerous goblins under the ground, and a fire-breathing salamander. Jack and Jill are brave adventurers, but their brains are their most valuable weapons. However, the children risk their lives against many foes but still may never discover the power of the Seeing Glass. The key is finding the end of their con-fusion.

I enjoy unexpected and strange humor, so this book was right up my alley. I liked how the kids solved their challenges through cleverness, and the adventures had unusual twists. The book began with a couple of familiar fairy tales, but the narrator tells the reader the "true" endings to the stories. The description is a little gross and crude at times, but it's something most teen readers will enjoy. You can find my review of A Tale Dark & Grimm by typing the title in the search box at the top-left corner of the screen.