Monday, August 31, 2015

My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons

My Brother Is A SuperheroLuke is obsessed with superheroes, but his brother is the one chosen to defend the world. A visitor from another dimension chooses to give Zack six powers to help him protect trillions of people living in both dimensions. Since Luke is the expert on superheroes, he gives Zack advice about how to behave and calls him Star Guy. They agree that Zack's identity must remain secret, but a girl in Luke's class, Lara, decides she's going to find out the true identity of Star Guy. This complicates matters, especially when she makes Luke help her, but then things get even worse. A super villain wants to stop Star Guy, a gigantic meteor is going to destroy Earth, and Zack loses his powers!

This book is a "realistic" story about a boy receiving super powers. He doesn't immediately run out to battle evil beings; he really has no idea what to do and doesn't even know his own powers. He wears a black hoodie and jeans, because tights and a cape look goofy. The plot becomes an adventure, as Luke and Lara team up and realize there are bigger problems than they imagined. The author adds humor to the story, since Zack doesn't understand his powers, he rides the city bus around town, and Lara manages to misuse many figures of speech. Solomons has succeeded in creating a light-hearted, entertaining tale about a reluctant hero.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blood Guard #2: , The Glass Gauntlet by Carter Roy

The Glass Gauntlet (The Blood Guard Series Book 2)Ronan and his friends head to the hills, literally, to learn the skills of the Blood Guard, protectors of the Pure. Thirty-six purely good people exist on Earth, and their existence balances the evil in the world. Greta, one of Ronan's friends, is unaware that she's actually a Pure, and matters are complicated as Ronan's father is the leader of Bend Sinister, the evil group trying to kill the Pures. The kids travel to a home pretending to be part of an intelligence contest, but they're actually searching for a special invention. It can suck the souls out of Pures, but it may also be able to return the soul of a Pure attacked in the first book. The mission seems simple enough until their cover is blown. Bend Sinister is on the way.

I don't think you need to read the first book to enjoy The Glass Gauntlet, but it will help to understand how everything started. This book reads more like an adventure, although Dawkins, one of the Blood Guard, is able to cut off his own hand without dying. I enjoy the caring and teamwork shown by the characters, and their ability to work together gets them through the challenges. The fact that Greta's death could disrupt the balance of life throughout the whole world adds to the suspense. The author mixes action and humor throughout the plot, and a new character will change sides in the conflict.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Alistair Grim's Odditorium by Gregory Funaro

Alistair Grim's Odditorium (Odditorium, #1)Grubb is treated poorly by the chimney sweep caring for him, and he sneaks into a wagon to escape more punishment. He ends up in the Odditorium, and the owner, Alistair Grim, agrees to let him stay if he promises to never share what he might see. Grubb sees some strange things including a talking pocket watch. One day, Grubb leaves the building but forgets the watch is in his pocket, and that leads to disaster. The watch is powered by blue magic which attracts shadow hounds who are on the lookout for evil spirits. The Black Fairy attacks the Odditorium, and Prince Nightshade arrives to finish the job. Grim has something the prince wants, and the prince plans to use it to create a huge army of undead. However, when Grim starts to play the organ, something truly amazing happens!

This book got better as I got farther into it, to the point where I think it's the best speculative fiction I've read in 2015. Odditoria are simply things, living or not, that are powered by magic. Grubb is a curious character whose fear of getting into trouble creates additional problems. He's very likable, and readers will be able to connect with him. Grim's character is not easily rattled, even when things seem to be going wrong. While the first part of the book was interesting as I learned about the Odditorium, the rest of the book was adventurous and action-packed. There were chases, captures, escapes, and battles. Each chapter seemed to reveal new secrets about Grim's past, and Grubb's past too. I highly recommend this book!

School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough

School for SidekicksEvan Quick has always wanted to become a superhero in order to join Mask and fight bad guys along side his hero, Captain Commanding. It seems impossible, since he's a scrawny, unpopular kid in school. However, the day after his thirteenth birthday, Evan's life takes a dramatic turn. While visiting the heroes' amusement park, he is injected with something that gives him superpowers. The next thing he knows, he's saving Captain Commanding from a group of super villains, and wakes up later in Mask school. Evan discovers that life in Mask is challenging, and the truth about their existence is complicated. Evan discovers Captain Commanding is actually a pain in the butt, and OSIRIS, the organization overseeing Mask, is up to something. Why would the organization not want to capture all of the super villains, and how are the criminals escaping so easily from prison? Something huge and unexpected is coming!

I liked the idea of recruiting superheroes and putting the kids into training. Some of the superpowers were unusual, as one blind character could see through other people's eyes and another could change by touching metals. I enjoyed the author's choice for Evan's mentor. His mentor was a washed up, ex-drunk superhero who didn't really want to fight crime anymore. He only offered to mentor Evan in order to tick off his ex-partner, Captain Commanding. Overall, the mystery behind OSIRIS, the character interactions, and the adventure and action scenes resulted in a wonderful plot. The only thing I didn't like was the author's decision to create some cutesy characters. Seriously, Fluffinator? The first part of the book moved a little slowly for me, since the author had a lot of background information to work into the story. However, the rest of the book made up for it! Overall, it's an entertaining book for lovers of superheroes.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

Took: A Ghost StoryDaniel's parents move the family out of the state and into the mountains, but no one is happy. Daniel and Erica, his little sister, are teased at school, and the other children tell them  stories about their new house. It seems a girl about Erica's age disappeared from the house fifty years ago, and fifty years before that and fifty years before that. The rumor is that an old witch has taken the little girls to her rundown cabin at the top of Brewster's Hill where they live with the skeleton of her wild razorback, Bloody Bones. Of course, Daniel doesn't believe the stories until Erica starts acting strange. She walks alone into the woods, and Daniel watches her talking to someone he can't see. Then, one day Erica disappears in the trees and bushes but doesn't return. The witch has struck again.

I love this author's books! Her ghost stories are eerie and spooky, but they can easily be read  and enjoyed by middle grade students. She allows readers to know what the evil character is thinking, as Erica falls into her trap. The suspense is heightened, as all of the people in town believe the tales and are too frightened to help. I highly recommend Hahn's books for readers looking to get a taste of ghost stories. They're not gentle stories, but they're not going to give you nightmares either.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)Kate, Michael, and Emma are taken into an "orphanage" by Dr. Pym, but they are the only children living there. While exploring the new home, they find a magical book. It transports the kids back in time, fifteen years back, where they find an evil countess who has imprisoned the children in a small town. The children discover humans and magic used to live together, and the wizards recorded the magic in three secret books. The first book is called Atlas, and it has made a connection with the kids. Kate is able to use the book to travel to different moments in history, but she's confused and challenged by what she sees. The countess uses Kate to get her hands on Atlas, but she'll use its power to change the history of the world.

The conflict is a classic battle of good versus evil. The author throws in a couple of twists, as the countess has a mysterious master and the children long to find their parents. The jumps in history are pretty easy to follow, although the inability to have two copies of the same object exist at the same time requires some imagination. All three children have unique personalities, but Emma and Michael stand out. Emma is a feisty little girl, always looking for a fight. Michael loves to learn, and he's infatuated with dwarfs. Of course, the book includes dwarfs, and they become important to the plot.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Banished of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

The Banished of MuirwoodMaia has two secrets that could lead to her death. She is able to read, which is forbidden for all girls in the kingdom. She can also summon magical powers from the Medium using the kystrel hanging around her neck. Her father, the king, hates the queen for not giving him a son, so he banishes the queen and Maia from Comoros. The king's decisions are hurting the kingdom, and opposing armies are waiting to invade. However, Myriad Ones, ancient spirits that bring about ill will and violence, are spreading evil across the lands. Maia's powers are growing each day, but a Myriad One takes over her body when she sleeps. She travels to an abbey for help, but the spirit forces her to burn it down. She has two men risking their lives to help her, a king who wants to marry her, but her uncontrollable powers may destroy them all.

Maia's character has the strength of her powers, a compassion for others, but the vulnerability of her emotions. I enjoyed the plot's adventure but found some parts confusing. Some chapters were flashbacks to different moments in Maia's past, but it sometimes took a page or two to figure out this was going on. The end of the book reveals secret forces that were influencing events, and they will probably become a major factor in the next book. Despite my confusing moments, I found the book very entertaining and adventurous. Lots of magic going on!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Aoleon the Martian Girl: Part 1 First Contact by Brent LeVasseur

Aoleon The Martian Girl: Science Fiction Saga - Part 1 First ContactGilbert lives amid Midwestern farms, and he's been having strange dreams about outer space. Maybe it's because of all the crop circles found in the surrounding fields. One night, he awakens and follows a strange light flying around in the sky. He's surprised to find a young Martian girl standing in the middle of his neighbor's field. Their meeting is interrupted by the angry farmer and his shotgun, so Gilbert hops aboard Aoleon's spaceship. His adventure is just beginning, as the alien eventually transports him to her home planet, Mars.

This book is the first one in a five-part series. The plot moves quickly, with plenty of action and humor, but readers must have a tolerance for silliness. Half of this book describes the Air Force chasing the spaceship with fighter jets and a new rocket designed to intercept UFOs. For Aoleon, it's just playtime, since her ship has superior technology. Her ship is controlled by her thoughts, can travel thousands of miles in seconds, and can instantly change directions without losing speed or control. I'm guessing the other books in the series may be strange, since some Martians have a plan to conquer Earth. However, our cows are a big part of it.