Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Demon Notebook #2: The Broken Spell by Ericka McGann

The Broken Spell (The Demon Notebook, #2)Grace and her friends are secretly receiving magic lessons from two teachers, but they're getting tired of just memorizing herbs and other plants. While the teachers think the girls must learn the basics before learning any magic, a new teacher, Ms. Gold, agrees to teach them some simple spells. Grace tries a spell to see back in time, but she finds herself actually traveling back and forth to 1977 where she finds her three teachers, as kids! She is followed by a scary man in a dark trench coat, The Mirrorman, and Ms. Gold tells the girls they shouldn't look at or listen to him, and to run away if he shows up. The Mirrorman poses a great danger to all witches. Things get complicated as Grace becomes frightened of one her friends, and spells start to get out of control.

I didn't happen to read the first book in the series. I was curious about some references to it, but I was still able to enjoy this book. The author included several different conflicts, but they all worked together. The teachers didn't get along with each other, The Mirrorman, Grace's problems with her friends, and Grace had an internal conflict about her friends and demon. Two teachers wanted the girls to be responsible with their spells, but Ms. Gold felt that they should be able to explore their powers. The climax was surprising, as the hero was someone I didn't expect. I recommend the book!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tombquest #1: Book of the Dead by Michael Northrop

Book of the Dead (TombQuest, #1)Alex is in the hospital with a life-threatening illness, but doctors don't know the cause. His mother is an expert on ancient Egyptian culture, and her museum just opened a new exhibit featuring the Book of the Dead, including the mythical Lost Spells. When Alex's heart stops beating, she uses a spell to save his life. However, her use of ancient magic has effects that ripple across the planet. Spirits start to stir, and the museum's mummy, Stung Man, comes to life looking for souls to eat. When Alex's mom is kidnapped by an evil cult, he joins his best friend and a German professor to save her. Alex learns to use the powers of his mom's scarab amulet, but will it be enough to battle the cult, an army of scorpions, and a mummy that has risen from the dead?

This book begins a new series, and it's full of adventure. Egyptian magic flying around, an unstoppable mummy, and a dangerous cultist wearing a hyena's head pose lethal obstacles for the kids. Alex's best friend provides the brains, although Alex is the expert on ancient Egyptian culture. The plot is pretty straightforward and easy to follow, but the action is what will capture you. I don't think more than two chapters passed without somebody getting chased, threatened, or killed by the cultist or mummy. Scorpions kept popping up all over the city. I highly recommend this book, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

A Curious Tale of the In-Between (Pram, #1)Pram is living with her aunts, but they're concerned that she talks to herself out by the pond. Actually, Pram is able to communicate with ghosts and enjoys talking to Felix. She's forced to attend school for the first time and becomes fast friends with Clarence, a boy who lost hugs mother too. He wants to say a final goodbye to his mother, so Pram goes with him to visit a spiritualist. Pram doesn't realize the woman has a special interest in her until her dreams are invaded. Pram is kidnapped, Clarence is dropped to the bottom of a pond, and an adventure between the real and spirit worlds ensues. Pram's soul is being stolen!

The story reminds me of Mary Downing Hahn novels. Ghosts are a big part of it, although they're all good characters in this book. Pram is able to interact with them, but their limits aren't quite clear. No one else can see Felix the ghost even though Pram can see him, hear him, and touch him. No one else can see him splash water unless he wants them to. Felix has kept the emotion of jealousy, so it's not always easy to predict what his character will do. The plot includes some danger, some humor, and a bunch of emotions. In addition to the evil spiritualist, Pram has a strong desire to learn about her father, and curiosity about her mother's death. This book is a wonderful tale of the spirit world that won't leave readers with nightmares.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Savvy #3: Switch by Ingrid Law

Switch (Savvy, #3)This book continues the Savvy series, but you can enjoy this story without reading the first two. Gypsy's savvy now allows her to have visions of other people's past or present, although she's not yet able to control it. A new power arises when she develops the ability to freeze time. The savvies of her other family members have gone goofy too. One brother starts to give off fire, and another brother grows to the size of a giant when he's angry. To make matters worse, the family gets word that Grandma Pat will be moving in, and she's never liked any of them. Gypsy has a vision of her grandmother standing at the top of a snowy steeple, now Grandma has run away during a sudden blizzard. She's not thinking clearly and believes she's headed to her high school dance. Grandma's life depends on the kids finding her before she falls to her death.

This book follows the same format as the first two books, so fans of the series should enjoy it too. The savvies aren't super strange, but the fact that they're strange to the characters adds some fun to the plot. Gypsy is still trying to figure out her savvy visions, when she accidentally stops time and doesn't know how to restart it! This plot has more adventure than previous books, as the characters visit a new setting and are forced to search for Grandma. The characters must balance their use of their savvies with the need to keep them secret. It's an enjoyable book for savvy fans.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Nightmares by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Nightmares! (Nightmares!, #1)Charlie hasn't gotten a good night's sleep in weeks. He's afraid of his dreams, and he believes his new stepmother is a witch. Charlie learns that his nightmares are in the Netherworld, but someone wants to lure him in and trap his body there. When Charlie refuses to let a witch take him there, his little brother is captured instead. Charlie follows them into the Netherworld where he must face his worst fears. He encounters the nightmares of other children, and the son of Medusa helps him. Charlie learns that his own fears are spreading throughout his town, and a creature from the Netherworld has been traveling through a portal between the worlds. The portal will remain open, and evil creatures will invade the real world, unless Charlie can overcome his own nightmares.

There's the lesson; face your fears, or they'll only get worse. The plot includes many common phobias including spiders, clowns, goblins... and gym teachers! The Netherworld is an interesting balance between the complicated thoughts of our brains and how a "real" boy might exist with those thoughts. In addition to Charlie's issues, there's another conflict going on within the Netherworld itself. The president there has changed the way nightmare creatures think, but some of them don't agree with his plans. Two people are stronger than one, and three people are stronger than two. The book is a creepy blend of bad dreams, but it has adventure, emotions, and good beats evil. I was hooked.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Enchanted Files: Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville

The Enchanted Files: Diary of a Mad BrownieAngus is a brownie and travels across the ocean, from Scotland to the United States, to be with his new human, a girl named Alex. Angus is bound to her family by an old curse, but it also has a curious effect on the boys. They become obsessed with writing poetry, really bad poetry, and Alex's father even quits his job to write terrible songs. The only way to stop the curse is to return what the queen has lost... which happens to be her daughter... who happens to have died. Angus doesn't know how to stop the curse, and the curse won't let him leave Alex's family.

The conflict is a bit strange, but Angus's character is a strength of the book. Brownie's must clean for their humans, and his human likes to live a messy life. Angus only stands twelve inches tall, but he has a huge, quick temper. Some people count to ten to calm down; Angus counts to over a thousand! He's able to communicate with animals and even becomes friends with Alex's nasty pet cat. The plot doesn't create much suspense, but overall the book was entertaining. It kept my interest and made me laugh.

Jinx's Fire by Sage Blackwood

Jinx's Fire (Jinx #3)This book is the end of the trilogy, and you need to read the first two books before reading Jinx's Fire. Three huge armies are at war, and Urwald has become their battleground. The trees call Jinx the listener, because he is a wizard's apprentice with the ability to communicate with them. Leaving the paths through the trees is very dangerous, since all kinds of beasts and creatures are ready to eat any humans foolish enough to do so. However, Jinx must unite all of them in order to save their homes and land in Urwald. He gets a little nervous while planning with a werewolf, because he knows it may lose control and attach him at any moment. Jinx won't get much help from his mentor, Simon, because the Bonemaster imprisoned him in the last book. Jinx is usually able to draw power from the fire deep within the ground, but he learns the Bonemaster is using Simon to bridge the paths of fire and ice, lifeforce and deathforce. Jinx must break this connection, but he may need to kill in order to accomplish the feat.

I've enjoyed the creativity of this trilogy over the past few years. Jinx's motivation is to save Urwald and ALL of the creatures living within it. He draws his energy from natural sources and knowledge. He's learned to use Knip to create spells, which stands for knowledge is power. It's interesting that these spells based on people's knowledge can't be undone, since it's not possible to unknow things. Jinx is the most powerful character in the book, but he's reluctant to use his full power on others. I like a leader who's unsure of himself. Also, Jinx hasn't learned the importance of using his words carefully, so he offends many other characters. It makes him more human. One of his best friends is cursed to always tell the truth, so it's fun to see how others talk to her. She hates to answer questions. I highly recommend the trilogy!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Alistair Grim's Oddaquaticum by Gregory Funaro

Alistair Grim's Odd Aquaticum (Odditorium, #2)The public believes Alistair Grim is a criminal following the adventures in book one of the series, and Grubb is now an apprentice to his father. Alistair's plan to defeat Prince Nightshade requires finding King Arthur's sword Excalibur, but they must travel to another dimension in order to reach the magical sword. They pass through the secret, underwater entrance to Avalon, but their hopes for success rely on a shaky alliance with a captured banshee. Grubb finds a wall painting that reveals a vague prophecy, and it seems he is more important to Prince Nightshade than anyone expected. However, no one truly knows what makes Grubb so special.

You really need to read the first book in the series before reading this one. Grubb is a thoughtful, caring young twelve-year-old boy, or there abouts, who always ends up at the center of the action. The author continues to drop clues about his mother, who died when he was an infant, but it's still not clear where the story is headed. She appears to have connections to Avalon. I enjoy the relationships of the characters created by the author. Alistair is learning to be a father to Grubb, and Grubb is learning to be a son after living with a mean foster-father for most of his life. The captured banshee is in love with the Odditorium's banshee, but he has a duty to the banshee council to arrest her. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Magisterium #2: The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium, #2)Call was told the soul of the Enemy of Death lives inside him, so he's trying to decide if he'll soon become an Evil Overlord. Before returning to school for mages, he learns that someone tried to steal the Alkahest from it, and he believes it was his father. The gauntlet made of copper can be used to kill the Makar, the only mage able to control chaos. All of the mages recently discovered that Aaron, Call's best friend, is the new Makar. When the Alkahest is actually stolen, Call's father becomes a wanted man, dead or alive. Now, Call and his friends must find him and the copper gauntlet before it's too late. And if Call's evil soul takes over, will his destiny lead to a battle to the death with his best friend?

The mages create magic using earthly elements like soil, air, and water, but chaos is the evil element most mages cannot control. Many mages and creatures have become Chaos-ridden and fight for the Enemy of Death. There are similarities between Call and Harry Potter, as they both attend a magic school, both have a bit of evil inside them, and both are still learning to master their immense powers. They both were able to communicate with evil characters using languages no one else could understand, and they both are keeping secrets from their closest friends. Call has a huge, Chaos-ridden wolf named Havoc that is a playful, dangerous pet. The second half of this book contains more action than the first part, but I find the book easy to get into. You should read the first book in series,  The Iron Trial, before this one to understand the background stories of the characters, the school, and the conflict. It may not be essential, but it will help to fully understand what's going on.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Keepers of the Labyrinth #1 by Erin E. Moulton

Keepers of the LabyrinthLilith travels to Crete to attend a two-week conference for Future Leaders International. Teens from around the world are grouped into teams of four that will compete for scholarships. However, Lil and her new friends quickly discover there's something more serious going on. Lil sees their mentor holding a "key" that looks very much like a necklace her mother once wore, before she committed suicide. Lil and her team are thrust into a dangerous conflict, as they tumble underground into a labyrinth. The maze is marked by confusing clues, and incorrect decisions are deadly. The path leads to a powerful treasure from Zeus, and his worshippers are willing to kill to get their hands on it first.

The plot is based on Greek myths, but the author adds a unique twist. This book describes the origin of the myths as being based on humans who actually existed. The plot reads more like an adventure than a fantasy story. It often hints at supernatural powers and characters, but everything can be explained by science. So far. The mentors are guardians of archives that hold the secret to immortality. Another unique aspect of this book is that all of the main characters are females. The four mentors and four young girls are the protectors of the labyrinth. It's a nice change to see females play such a big role in an adventure book.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Rebels of the Lamp #1 by Michael M.B. Gavin & Peter Speakman

Rebels of the Lamp (Rebels of the Lamp, #1)Parker is used to getting in trouble, but he's not ready to be sent 3,000 miles away to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousin. Within a few days, he steals an old cylinder from a museum that will drastically change his life. A genie, Fon-Rahm, emerges when Parker's life is threatened, and Parker becomes its master. He commands the genie to to do trivial things: make him a sports car, teach him foreign languages, and make him a hockey star. However, several problems arise. Parker and the genie become seriously weakened whenever they are separated. Thirteen genies were created 3,000 years ago, and the other twelve are all evil. And Xaru, the first evil genie, has been released by his worshippers and is coming after Fon-Rahm to rule the world. Parker finds himself in the middle of a war between the genies that will determine the future of mankind.

The authors created a wonderful spin on the age-old battle between good and evil. While the war is between the genies, the wizard who first created them will regain his powers if any of them are destroyed. This wizard will be bad news if he returns. Fon-Rahm is a formidable genie, but his actions are controlled by a seventh-grade boy. Boys that age don't always make the best decisions, and Parker has never put much trust in friends. The dynamic characters undergo significant changes, sometimes reluctantly, but they become a close team in the end. I anxiously await the chance to read the next book in the series.