Sunday, January 31, 2016

House of Robots #2: Robots ago Wild by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Robots Go Wild!: (House of Robots #2)Sammy's little sister, Maddie, is really cool, but she can't attend regular school. Germs could kill Maddy, so her mom invents a robot that takes her place in school. "E" allows her to see, hear, and speak in the third-grade classroom, and Sammy feels special with his robot brother around. When another substitute-student robot shows up, the SS-10K, things get wacky. E starts dancing on the school tables and later damages stores and property all across the town. E is banned from school, and Sammy's mom may lose her job at Notre Dame. Sammy finds out that E was sabotaged, and the solution to all of the family problems will come down to the university's robotics football game.

The plot was a little silly, but the book was fun. Maddie's serious illness kept things real, and Sammy used her for inspiration. A childhood nemesis of the mother was the villain in the plot and had a devious plan to get rich and ruin her. The robot characters stole the show. E always had a positive attitude and just wanted to help humans, while the other robots were more unusual. Blitzen was programmed for football and was a great tackler, but it went berzerk after Sammy took it to school. Other robots acted as the home gardener and cook.

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #4: The Necromancer by Michael Scott

The Necromancer  (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #4)My name is Perenelle a Flamel. I have lived for almost seven hundred years among the humans, but other immortals also walk the earth, like my husband, Nicholas. We have found the twins of legend, Sophie and Josh, and their powers have been Awakened in order to save all the humani. My husband and I will die within the next two weeks if we can't recover The Codex, but more importantly, we must stop the monsters trapped on Alcatraz from being released and causing havoc in San Francisco. Prometheus teaches Josh the most powerful magic of fire, but something strange is going on. Josh has never fully trusted Nicholas or myself, and I'm not sure what's going on in his mind. Dee seems to have affected Josh, and the Elders now want the evil sorcerer captured for his failings. However, Dee is planning revenge against them, and I suspect the sorcerer is willing to sacrifice Josh's life to achieve it. The survival of all humans is at stake...

You will not like this book if you have not read the other books in the series. It does not have as much action as them, but multiple, major conflicts provide the drama. There are still questions as to which characters are good and which are bad. The Flamels keep secrets from the twins, and Josh tells his sister they can't be trusted. Josh trusts Dee more than them, but Dee also seems to be planning to enslave all humans. Another major bad guy, Machiavellli, may be growing a conscience, and I won't be surprised if he ends up doing something good. The end of the series is coming soon with a huge "flashback" to a battle where the age of humans began.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Ranger's Apprentice #1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)This book is the first in The Ranger's Apprentice series. I gave it a rating of 5 out of 5. I enjoy underdogs and Will's small size helps him fit the bill. He has always wished to attend Battleschool to become a knight, but his request for apprenticeship was rejected. However, a man named Halt offers to mentor Will and train him to become a ranger. The rangers are a mysterious and select group of men, so Will isn't sure if he wants to accept the offer.

Will decides to go with Halt and learns that his small size and curiosity are perfect attributes for the rangers. He discovers that the rangers main job is to secretly collect information for the king and to provide strategy in times of war. Halt trains Will to become "invisible" and teaches him the remarkable fighting skills of the rangers. This is important as the kingdom is under the threat of invasion.

Will is a fast-learner and far exceeded my expectations for a novice ranger. I enjoyed the uncertainty of this book, and the challenges Will faced as he trained to become a ranger. The author combined suspense, action, and humor to make this a hard book to put down.

The Ranger's Apprentice 2: The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

This book is the second in The Ranger's Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of 5 out of 5. Will continues his training with Halt, but they are forced into action as the threat of invasion looms nearer.

Will is reunited with Horace, a young man who bullied Will in previous years. Through life-threatening circumstances they become friends. While out in the wild, Will and Horace are sent off on their own as Halt is needed elsewhere. They are joined by a lost, frightened girl who is more than she seems to be. The trio accidentally discover the secret plans of the enemy in which they will attack the king's armies from behind. Will decides there is not time to warn the king or the other rangers, so they must find a way to stop the enemy forces.

Again, the author mixes action, humor, and suspense to make the book hard to put down. The rangers always come across as smarter than everyone else, and I suppose they are smarter. It is funny how they toy with the minds of their friends and foes, and how they are often able to resolve problems with their brains. There are ample opportunities for the rangers to display their legendary fighting skills that all others fear. This book has a surprising ending that leads right into the third book of the series, The Icebound Land.

The Ranger's Apprentice 4: The Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan

The Battle for Skandia (Ranger's Apprentice, #4)This book is the fourth in The Ranger's Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of 5 out of 5. While Will was still recovering from the effects of wormweed, Alyss was captured by a yet another new enemy. Halt is reunited with his friends just in time to help Will rescue her.

Initially, it appeared as though the kingdom was on the verge of war with Skandia, but the new enemy changed the focus of Halt, Will, Horace, and Alyss. They determine the need to meet with the Skandians, the people who enslaved Will and Alyss just a few months earlier. It was clever how the author had Halt convince the Skandians that it was in their best interest to join forces against this common foe. This book had the most extended action of all the books in the series as the climactic battle raged on between the forces. Ranger strategy was a critical element of the battle once again.

I've been very impressed with the way the author is able to introduce new enemies throughout the series without missing a beat. Each book in the series has its own conflict that is resolved by the end. There is just enough doubt left at the end of each book to encourage readers to continue the series without feeling like the books are unfinished. I enjoy the amusing banter between Halt and his young friends, although Will's character continues to mature.

The Ranger's Apprentice 5; The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan

The Sorcerer in the North (Ranger's Apprentice, #5)This book is the fifth in The Ranger's Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of 4 out of 5. This is the first book in the series that did not receive my highest rating. I enjoyed the plot, but the conflict of the book was left unresolved. This is the first time I was left feeling that I need to read the next the book in the series instead of wanting to read the next book.

Will is sent undercover as a jongleur, or minstrel, into a key area of the kingdom that guards against invasion by the Scotti armies. Alyss comes disguised later to help Will with his mission. The ruler of the area is in a coma, and rumors of a sorcerer's curse abound. The ruler's son is suspected to be behind the whole thing, and this frightens everyone. The son is considered a weak leader, and the Scotti armies will invade if he becomes ruler. Will must find out what is actually going on, but he discovers that things are not as they seem.

There was not as much action as in the previous book, but there was much more mystery. Clues are laid out for the reader if you're looking for them. I enjoyed the plot as it built to an exciting climax, but the problem was left unsolved when I came to the last page. Very disappointing when compared to the other four books in the series.

The Ranger's Apprentice 6: The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan

The Siege of Macindaw (Ranger's Apprentice, #6)This book is the sixth in "The Ranger's Apprentice" series, and I gave it a rating of 5 out of 5. It is currently the last book in the series available in the United States. I found it interesting throughout the entire series how the author was able to make enemies become allies, and foes become friends. I didn't care for the way some of the characterization of Will and Halt changed throughout the series. The Rangers were very good at sensing trouble and heading off problems in the first couple of books. In the last few books, I got a little perplexed at the number of times they stumbled into ambushes or misread situations.

The Siege of Macindaw picked up where book five left off. Will is able to locate some Skandians and convince them to help attack the castle Macindaw. The new ruler of the castle has made a deal with the invading Scotties to help them invade the kingdom. Will, Horace, and the small band of Skandians must find a way to overtake the fortress and rescue Alyss, who's trapped in tower, along the way. The "evil" lord, the fearsome "sorcerer", and his strange creatures are allies in the siege. There is the usual banter between the different groups throughout the plot, but there is plenty of action once the plan gets underway. A little romance even blossoms during the resolution of the book.

The Ranger's Apprentice 7: by John Flanagan

Erak's Ransom (Ranger's Apprentice, #7)This book is the seventh in The Ranger's Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Erak, ruler of the Skandians, attempts to raid an outpost but is captured in a trap. The captors are asking for a ransom, so Will and the gang head off to the desert to rescue him. Will is separated from the group as he searches for his horse, which was lost during a sandstorm. The Rangers use their tracking skills, logic, and negotiating skills to find the enemy. The desert setting was an interesting twist, because it created a problem for the Rangers abilities to hide. The intense heat and dryness also were factors.

Although it's the seventh book in the series, it fits in the series after the fourth book chronologically. Halt gets married, and Will becomes an official apprentice at the end of this book. As with other books in the series, enemies become allies to defeat a new foe. The different cultures must learn to trust and understand each other in order to accomplish the rescue.

The Ranger's Apprentice 8: The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan

This book is the 8th in the Ranger's Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. A force of outlaws called the Outsiders is ravaging a kingdom that borders Araluen, which threatens the safety of the Araluen kingdom. A man named Tennyson offers protection from the bandits to the various towns, at a cost, but Tennyson is actually the leader of the Outsiders. Halt, Will, and Horace are sent to stop the group from spreading their destruction and terror. You discover that Halt's twin brother is the king of Clonmel, and he tried to kill Halt several times when they were younger. The two Rangers and knight must somehow figure out a way to stop Tennyson's forces, in a foreign land, despite the fearful hysteria of the inhabitants, without the support of the king.

This book came out in the spring, and I was on a three-month wait-list at my public library before I was able to read it. As with the other books in the series, this book contains adventure, action, and mystery with a bit of humor sprinkled in. I always enjoy the interaction and teamwork between Halt, Will, and Horace as they face seemingly overwhelming odds. Horace takes a more important role in this book, and Will, for the most part, takes on a supporting role. He's an important part, but not the main focus of the action. If you enjoyed the previous books in the series, this edition will not disappoint you. The door is left wide open for a ninth book in the series, which I assume has already been written. There were many references to Halt's advancing age, so I wonder if his role will lessen.

The Ranger's Apprentice 9: Halt's Peril

This book is the ninth in the Ranger's Apprentice series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. It's a continuation of book eight, as Will, Halt, and Horace search for Tennyson. Even though the rangers were able to stop his uprising in book eight, he has escaped and is looking for other areas of the kingdom to scam. The rangers' journey takes them through some rough parts of the country, and they encounter dangerous thieves along the way. They also discover that the two surviving Genovesan assassins have set up an ambush for them. As the title of the book implies, Halt finds himself in some serious trouble! The search for Tennyson is the main conflict, but "Halt's Peril" takes over the plot in the middle of the book.

I've enjoyed all of the books in this series, and you should probably read them in order. The relationship of the characters and elements of the plot often build off what's happened in previous books. This book probably has one of the most focused plots of the whole series. It follows the three main characters without many separate subplots. As always, the interaction of the rangers and Horace lends some humor to the story, and that mixes well with the seriousness of their mission. The author does a wonderful job of describing the events and building suspense. Some of his climaxes are very imaginative, although this one was fairly easy to foresee. I highly recommend the series. Boys in my class have been the main readers, but I have several girls getting into it this year.

The Ranger's Apprentice #10: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan

This book is the tenth and final book in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. If you'd like to see my postings about earlier books in the series, type The Ruins of Gorlan in the search box located in the top-left corner of this screen for book one. Horace finds himself in the middle of a civil war as the emperor of Nihon-Ja is challenged by one of his generals. Horace, the emperor, and a small band of his surviving warriors retreat into the mountains looking for a hidden fortress. Horace must attempt to train loyal woodcutters and farmers to fight the mighty Senshi warriors and protect the emperor. Halt and Will arrive to help Horace, but what can they do against the hundreds of enemy soldiers?

Once again, the author has the protagonists fighting against overwhelming odds to save an underdog. He also has separate groups of people unite to defeat the enemy. However, the author manages to keep things interesting with the interaction of the characters, and the female characters play an important, independent role in this plot. The setting of this story offers some unique challenges for the characters. For example, an army that can help save the emperor will not come, because there is a "demon" in the woods they would travel through. I've enjoyed all of the books in this series, and this book was no exception.

The Ranger's Apprentice #11: The Lost Stories by John Flanagan

The Lost Stories (Ranger's Apprentice, #11)This book is kind of the eleventh book in the series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. The dedication page tells readers that this book answers questions asked by fans of the series. For example, the first part of the book tells the story of Will's father and how Halt came to look after Will. The series talked about how Will's father saved Halt's life, but this book actually retells the events during the battle against Morgarath. There are stories about his dog, Ebony, and the retirement of Will's horse, Tug. There are robbers in the woods, robbers along the shore, and assassins at Horace's wedding.

Fans of the series will love this book. I read it a couple of years ago, so I didn't remember some of the references. I liked reading about Will's father, and the author included plenty of action with all of the bandits around. There were even a couple of stories that featured Gilan, one found Jenny almost killed by jewel thieves. I didn't like how the chapters skipped around, but it's not a big deal. I enjoyed the short story format.

Rangers Apprentice #12: The Royal Ranger

The Royal Ranger (Ranger's Apprentice, #12)Will Treaty is depressed and angry, and the princess of Araluen is behaving like a brat. So, it's decided that Will will train the princess, Maddie, to become a Ranger's apprentice. She will be the first female Ranger ever, but it is hoped that the training will help her be ready to rule the kingdom someday. Will finds himself saying and doing many of the same things Halt did during Will s own training. The tasks are difficult, and Maddie still tries to rebel, but she becomes stronger and more determined to do her best. Eventually, Will and Maddie are assigned a mission to investigate the death of a fellow Ranger, and Maddie's training will be put to the test.

Even though this book is the twelfth in the series, it almost feels like it could be the first. Maddie is the main character, and her training reminds me of the first book. She learns to use weapons, fight, and think like a Ranger. I like the bonding she developed with Will and her Ranger horse, and the fear she experienced in stressful situations is realistic. Bravery is shown when characters are able to deal with their fears and still accomplish great deeds. This book was as well-written as all the other books in the series, and I can foresee Maddie's story continuing in future books.

Brotherband Chronicles #2: The Invaders by John Flanagan

The Invaders (Brotherband Chronicles, #2)This book is the second in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Hal and his small, young Skandian crew head out to sea in search of the pirates who stole the Andomal, the most sacred Skandian artifact. The boys were disgraced in book one when they failed to protect the artifact and are now trying to redeem themselves. They land their ship after a lengthy time in stormy seas and must now fight the boredom and bickering among themselves. They'll be slaughtered by the pirates if they can't turn their lives around. The town drunk, Thorn, steps up to take over their training. However, the pirates have taken over a town and their numbers have grown; the Skandians are outnumbered almost ten to one. Is it possible for a crew of less than ten to defeat an army of cut-throat pirates? There's no doubt that Hal is in charge of his crew, but his creativity and planning skills will be seriously tested.

This series is very similar to "The Ranger's Apprentice". Hal is comparable to Will with his talents, intelligence, and leadership abilities. In book one, Hal invented a newly-designed ship that was faster and easier to maneuver than most other ships. In this book, Hal further improves on this design. He also adds a secret weapon that has the ability to severely damage enemy ships and structures. I enjoy the interaction of the characters in this series. Ingvar is a large, strong, likable, near-sighted boy full of self-doubt. The other boys, except Hal, tease him, and Hal tries to show everyone Ingvar's value. Ulf and Wulf are twins with personalities very much like the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter series. They're constantly messing with each other, but they're loyal brothers and crewmembers when things get serious.

Brotherband Chronicles #3: The Hunters by John Flanagan

The Hunters (Brotherband Chronicles, #3)This book is the third in the series, and I gave it a rating of five out of five. Hal and his crew on the Heron are still chasing Zavac to recover the stolen Andomal, a prized Skandian relic. Zavac heads into pirate-inhabited waters, so the crew of the Heron will not find any help. Hal and his brotherband are arrested in one town for the murder of a member of Zavac's crew, and they later encounter a group of pirate boats, waiting to ambush trade ships. Eventually, they find their way to Raguza, a town filled with pirates willing to kill any outsiders. Zavac has found refuge there, so Hal must figure out some way to defeat him and recover the artifact from his ship.

This series has the same feel of The Ranger's Apprentice books, although much of the action occurs on the water. I enjoy how the author gets Hal's crew into seemingly impossible situations, but then allows them to beat the odds. The plot moved along nicely with plenty of action along the way. The interaction of the characters is entertaining as they each have their own quirks. The other characters recognize this and often find ways to tease each other. I like the blend of seriousness and humor that the author is able to achieve.

Brotherband #4: Slaves of Socorro by John Flanagan

Slaves of Socorro (Brotherband Chronicles, #4)Hal and the Heron crew are sent to Araulan to police the seas offshore. Before seeing the king, they discover some citizens have been kidnapped by a Skandian they know, and he plans to sell them into slavery. The Heron crew is joined by Gilan, a king's Ranger, and they sail to Socorro to rescue the people from the slave market. Unfortunately, one member of the crew is locked up deep in the slave jail, imprisoned by dozens of armed guards. The other nine members of the crew must figure out some way to sneak in, free the prisoners, and escape back to their boat. Then, they must get past the other Skandian ship and the boulders being hurled by the city's catapults. A tough task for a group of peach-faced boys and a girl.

I've missed reading John Flanagan's books! I enjoy the interactions of the characters, and the twins add humor to the story. They're always arguing, and no one can tell them apart. The author added a large dog to the cast, and it created more humor but helped resolve some problems. Hal's character made some mistakes, but this added to the suspense and showed he wasn't perfect. The first half of the book may not have enough adventure for some readers, the characters are being developed, but the second half of the book makes up for it.

Brotherband #5: Scorpion Mountain by John Flanagan

Scorpion Mountain (Brotherband Chronicles, #5)The daughter of King Duncan is the target of assassins, so Hal and the Heron crew join with Ranger Gilan to find the man who wants her dead. They allow their ship to be attacked by a pirate ship but manage to capture it themselves. Using the ship like a Trojan horse, they enter the fortress where the man is killed. However, Hal and the crew discover the man assigned a tofah on the princess with the Scorpion Cult, and the cult won't stop trying to assassinate her until it's done. There is no way to stop a tofah, but Hal and Gilan search for Shurmel, leader of the cult, in the Scorpion Mountains. They hope to talk him out of the tofah, but if not, then his death might end things. It's extremely dangerous to walk into the middle of a scorpion nest and hope to get out alive!

I recommend you read the first four books in the series, but you can probably enjoy this book by itself. You may but understand some references to past people and events, but there's enough adventure to ensure your enjoyment. Ingvar is given a bigger role (no pun intended), and Hal's dog, Kloof, always seems to pop up when she's most needed (although Erak might disagree!). Warning, a member of the small crew is seriously injured during one of the battles, and it changes the mood of the Heron. This plot offers more action than some of the other books in the series; there are a couple of major battles, and several smaller ones. The author still provides much humor through character interactions, and Hal continues to come up with amazing plans and inventions to help the characters get out of tough situations.

Ranger's Apprentice: Death of a Hero by John Flanagan

Death of a Hero - Ranger's Apprentice eSpecialI won't say much about this very short book, but it will give readers a feel for the other books in the series. This book tells the story of Will's parents and how Halt came to know them. In book one, The Ruins of Gorlan, Halt kept this information secret, and he never told Will the truth, until now. Will's father died heroically saving Halt's life in a great battle, and Will's mother died saving him too. Halt felt their deaths were his fault and thought the truth would make Will bitter and angry. It's an enjoyable story that can be read on its own.

Ranger's Apprentice, the Early Years #1: The Tournament at Gorlan by John A. Flanagan

The Tournament at Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years, #1)Halt is not an official Ranger yet, and Crowley has been kicked out of the corp by Morgarath. Morgarath plans to take over the kingdom by controlling King Oswald. Rumor has it the king's son is looting towns and creating terror, so he may be disowned by his father. Halt and Crowley intercept one of Morgarath's messengers and discover twelve Rangers have been fired, and the king's son is actually being held hostage. They recruit these Rangers to rescue the prince and protect the king. However, Morgarath has forced the king to make him the heir to the throne, and the Rangers have no proof of his evil doings. Morgarath plans to make his move during the Tournament at Gorlan, so time is running out.

Halt is a main character from The Ranger's Apprentice series, and many of the other characters were in that series too. I'm not sure how Flanagan does it, but all of his books capture my interest. There's a mystique surrounding the Rangers, and the plots include a good amount of adventure. As in other books, the Rangers are greatly out-manned but still figure out ways to win. This plot is unusual, because the Rangers are trying to save the day, but some citizens see them as criminals. All of the characters are adults in this book, while the main characters are kids in Flanagan's other books. This book has characters acting as bullies, and I like how the Rangers face them with quiet confidence. I know it's just a matter of time before the bullies go too far and get their butts kicked. This plot doesn't completely get rid of Morgarath, so it leads right into a sequel. I highly recommend this book, The Rangers Apprentice series, and The Brotherband Chronicles series. They're some of the most entertaining books I've ever read.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bad Luck by Pseudonymous Bosch

Bad LuckClay is spending the summer on Prince Island at Earth Camp, a secret camp for students with magical talents. He doesn't show any special abilities, so he's not sure why his brother worked so hard to get him admitted. Clay discovers a cave with ancient graffiti drawings, and he starts to have visions through the eyes of a dragon. He finds a boy washed up on shore, and the boy's father shows up soon after. The father actually threw his son off a cruise ship and is on the island searching for a mythical creature. However, the Midnight Sun is behind the whole thing, and they have much bigger plans in store.

This book is the second one in the series, and I have not read the first book yet. I received an advanced, on-line version that did not include the final illustrations. The plot is easy to follow and should appeal to middle-grade readers. It does not include a great deal of magic even though that is the focus of Earth Camp. One student can create fire, one can see the future, and another child has an acting ability that can baffle people. In one scene, she posed as a bawling ten-year-old then a young adult within moments. I'm not sure what other abilities are at the camp. The story is mostly told in third person, but there are times when the narrator speaks directly to the reader and moments where he "slips up" and talks in first person. This style leads to a casual retelling and creates a light-hearted tone to the story. The book is a wonderful blend of adventure, magic, and suspense. It's a fantastic appetizer to the writing style of Pseudonymous Bosch.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Last Bogler by Catherine Jinks

The Last BoglerBogles are snatching young children from basements and sewers all over London, so Alfred's kept very busy getting rid of them. Something's different about these bogles, as they're more difficult to lure from their hiding places and don't burst and disappear after being killed. Ned becomes Alfred's sole helper and apprentice, but Salty Jack Gammon and his cronies are lurking about. Salty Jack is trying to eliminate witnesses to his crimes, so any bogle jobs in his territory are extra dangerous for Ned and Alfred. Alfred later finds out how to make new bogle-killing spears, and there may be a way to trap bogles without using children for bait. This will make the job safer for Ned, but it could also put Alfred out of business. They're going to need to do something big to save kids from disappearing across London.

You'll like the other two books in the series, but this book can be read by itself. The first two books will help you understand the characters and the whole idea of bogle-hunting. The action begins in the first chapter, as Mr. Bunce, Jem, and Ned battle a large bogle in a stinking sewer. Much of the book is non-stop bogle hunting, and the author presents an overwhelming number and variety of bogles. The issue of using kids as bait for bogles is debated throughout the plot. All of the characters know it's dangerous, but it's the only way to lure the monsters. Overall, this book is entertaining and brings the series to an exciting end.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Sorcerer Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Sorcerer Heir (The Heir Chronicles, #5)Several people are killed during a party, including Madison Moss's little sister. Blame is directed at the savant students of the Anchorage, specifically Jonah, a Nightshade assassin. Savant weir stones were experimented on, and their powers were mutated. Wizards want to get rid of the school and all the savant survivors of the Thorn Hill massacre. Jonah has been protecting the wizards from attacks by shades, kind of like zombies, but he's being secretly framed as a wizard-killer. Pressure is building from the wizard guild, and its members want action. Emma was a witness at two murder scenes, and she's determined to uncover the truth about Thorn Hill, the murders, and Jonah. She's not happy with what she discovers, and the truth is devastating to her. The weir world is ready to explode, and it may be too late for anyone to stop it.

You must read the other books in the Heir Chronicles series, as this book picks up exactly where the previous book stopped and brings the series to a conclusion. This book is the first one to have all the main characters from the series involved in the plot from the very beginning, although it mainly focuses on Jonah and Emma. This plot has more mystery, as answers to previous questions are revealed. Who killed the thousands of children at Thorn Hill? Who's been attacking wizards and anaweir? Is it possible for Jonah to overcome his poisonous touch and find love? Jonah's character can be a ruthless killer, but he also feels empathy for others. He questions the killing of shades, the spirits of dead savants, and wonders if he's being used. Previous books had more action/fighting scenes, although this climax makes up for it. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

Circus MirandusMicah's grandfather visited the magical circus when he was a young boy, and he impressed the Man Who Bends Light. The Lightbender agreed to grant him a miracle sometime in the future, and Grandfather is now ready to make the wish. The grandfather is dying, and he's not sure if the Lightbender will come through. Micah and a classmate search for the invisible circus, and it reluctantly agrees to let them enter. Micah's friend doesn't really believe in magic. They see amazing, magical things and finally manage to speak with the Lightbender. However, he may not grant the grandfather's miracle. This is not acceptable to Micah, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to save his grandfather.

This book tells a wonderfully magical story. Micah faces many obstacles with his grouchy aunt, his doubting friend, and the Lightbender's issues with granting the miracle. All of Micah's efforts are based on love for his grandfather which makes this a very emotional story. It gives the plot a feel of desperation which affected me too. The message of faith and love comes through loud and clear. It reminds me a bit of The Polar Express, as non-believers aren't able to see the magic. There's a need to spread the faith, so the magic won't die. The magic of Micah's knot-tying is a unique twist and reminds me of the magic in each person's special talents. Although not a finalist, this book was nominated for a 2015 Cybils book award.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Enchanter Heir (The Heir Chronicles, #4)Jonah is an enchanter but spends much of his time hunting down and killing shades; they're kind of like zombies. He was experimented on as a child at Thorn Hill and managed to survive a poison that spread throughout the facility, killing thousands. A woman named Lilith is now organizing shade attacks, something never done before, and young wizards are being targeted. Wizard parents are directing blame toward survivors of Thorn Hill, now attending school at the Anchorage, and Jonah will do anything he can to protect the children. Jonah's poisonous touch is fatal to others, and his emotions are confused by a new savant with unknown powers. Jonah is at the center of a growing conflict, but he is holding a secret that could cause events to explode.

First off, I didn't like how the book ended. There were too many unanswered questions that I assume will be resolved in the next book. As in previous books, this one introduced new characters and then blended them with characters we already knew. I expected the familiar characters to have bigger roles in the plot, so that was disappointing. The relationship between Jonah and Emma was sensitive, since Jonah's attraction could kill her. Emma's character was fiery from living on the streets, but she was lost among all the magical characters. She didn't know who to trust, so her decisions and thoughts were unpredictable. Despite any of my concerns, I'm still enjoying the series and plan on starting Sorcerer Heir soon.