Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sidekicked by John David Anderson

SidekickedDrew is a totally normal teenager, other than the fact that he has super-sensitive smell, taste, hearing, sight. He also happens to be part of a group called H.E.R.O. This secret group is training to be sidekicks, assistant helpers to real superheroes, although Drew's superhero, Titan, disappeared and doesn't want to be bothered. Drew's powers are pretty lame when compared to the other sidekicks and heroes, but he still manages to find himself hanging over a pool full of acid and almost killed by The Jack of Clubs. Superheroes start disappearing, and the sidekicks are being attacked too. Something is going on, and Mr. Masters, a teacher and adviser for the sidekicks, is keeping secrets and behaving strangely. Can he be part of the return of The Dealer and the Suits and their attacks on the Legion of Justice? When he decides to end the H.E.R.O. program, Drew decides to do something about it himself.

This book was a fun fantasy. The author was able to create some suspense, mystery, and humor that made it enjoyable. Drew was insecure about his relationship with Jenna, but he was almost embarrassed by his special powers. While the other sidekicks were battling practice robots, Drew practiced his skills by sniffing test tubes of smells. The climax had great excitement, but it also provided a surprising twist.

Rose by Holly Webb

Rose (Rose, #1)Rose is a ten-year-old orphan, and she's able to create moving pictures on shiny objects. She doesn't think much about it until she's adopted into the home of a great alchemyst, a magician. It turns out she has magical powers, but she doesn't want anything to do with it. She thinks it would be too hard to learn, and she's happy just being a servant, free from the orphanage. Rose decides to keep her powers secret from Mr. Franklin, the alchemyst, but that may be impossible as she unexpectedly creates magic spells from time to time. Things get more serious for her when she pays a visit back to the orphanage and finds her best friend has disappeared. The director says the friend was adopted, but things don't seem right. The woman is behaving strangely, Mr. Franklin is behaving strangely, and there are reports of children disappearing across the city. Rose suspects her friend was kidnapped, and she's determined to find the missing children.

The first half of the book describes Rose's life as a new servant, and as she slowly realizes she has magic in her that is not going away. It was unusual to read about a character who wanted to get rid of her power, because it was annoying. I wasn't totally sure about the direction of the plot until I was halfway through the book. It became more focused once Rose tried to visit her friend. Mr. Frankin's distracted behavior added a twist to things and created more uncertainty.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist, #1)Joel is a student at the Armedius Academy, but his greatest wish is to become a Rithmatist. Rithmatists are able to make chalk drawings on the ground that can be used for defense or to attack others, and they comprise the army that protects the country. Joel knows more about Rithmatists than most of the students at the academy, however he was not chosen to become one at his interning. Then, Rithmatists start to disappear around the country, and Joel's favorite teacher loses his position to a war hero. Parents of Rithmatist students start to panic, and Joel is suspicious of the new teacher. Danger closes in on the academy, and Joel may hold the key to solving the mystery.

Honestly, the whole idea of the Rithmatists' powers was hard for me to grasp in the beginning. I became more comfortable with it as the plot moved along, and the suspense slowly built up to the climax. It really read like a mystery with some unexpected twists. Readers of this book will need to use their imaginations, and I find myself looking forward to the sequel.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lockwood & Co. #1: The Screaming Stairs by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)This book is a 2013 Cybils finalist in speculative fiction. Lucy has the ability to see, sense, and especially hear ghosts. She joins up with Lockwood and George, and they work together to rid homes of ghostly spirits. It's a dangerous job; a ghost's touch is deadly. During their first case together, the trio almost burns down a house, and Lucy accidentally traps the powerful ghost of Annabel Ward in a locket. The company starts to lose business, and they must find sixty thousand pounds in the next four weeks to save it. Then, an offer almost too good to be true arises. A client will take care of all the money if they'll investigate the most haunted house in the country. The house has centuries of ghosts haunting it, and other people have died while searching it. Solving the ghost problem may save the life of the company, or it may end the lives of Lucy, Lockwood, and George.

The plot was surprisingly interesting, I didn't expect much from a ghost story, and it also became a mystery. The kids needed to find Annabel's killer, and the killer knew it. In the setting, ghosts were common, and many companies existed to handle them, kind of like calling a plumber. The encounters with ghosts created suspense and provided action. I highly recommend this book if it tweaks your interest at all.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

Constable & ToopSam is a young boy who is able to talk to ghosts. Clara is a young girl with an old ghost living in her house. And Lapsewood is a ghost whose new job is to check up on other ghosts living in buildings throughout London. Their stories carry them on separate paths, but Black Rot becomes a problem they all share. Ghosts that have been exorcised from haunted homes will summon something evil from beyond, and the "survival" of all ghosts is in danger. To complicate things, Sam's uncle shows up, and he's wanted by the police for killing an officer. Sam discovers in the worst way that this is not the first time he's committed murder.

The setting of the book changes each chapter as it follows the events surrounding the characters I mentioned before. Although Sam appears to be the main character, the main plot centers around Lapsewood. The first half of the book sounds like a "normal" story involving ghost problems, but the uncle becomes a larger character in the second half. The plot becomes much more ominous and evil at that point. I appreciated the author's imagination as he created a story about ghost characters that wasn't s cutesy.