Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nick and Tesla #1: High-voltage Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab: A Mystery with Electromagnets, Burglar Alarms, and Other Gadgets You Can Build YourselfMy name is Nick. My twin sister and I are spending the summer with our uncle, an inventor with some eccentric ideas. (Bizarre? Crazy?) We built a small rocket in his lab, but the test launch didn't go well. The rocket snagged my sister's pendant and then crashed over the fence of a creepy, empty, old house. that's guarded by two, blood-thirsty dogs. The thing is, I later found the necklace and rocket were gone, and I saw a young girl in an upstairs window. She was holding up a note that said, "Go away!" Little did we know how important this girl would become to our future.

This is a fun book with a plot that's easy to read and follow. It includes directions for building some "inventions", like Nick and Tesla's rocket and a robot cat. Anyone can try making them at home, although you probably shouldn't! The plot reads like a mystery, and the clues kept me guessing until the end. I was surprised that such an easy-to-read story could keep me guessing. Young readers who love science and mysteries will enjoy this book!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spy School #1 by Stuart Gibbs

Spy School (Spy School #1)My name is Erica. The heritage of my family is spying, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I'm pretty good at it, unlike my "legendary" father. A new kid named Ben recently arrived at school, but the CIA made up a story saying he created a super code in order to trap our enemies. Now Ben is amazing with numbers, but that's where his talents end. However, he has helped me by uncovering information about a mole in our school and about a secret, super-big plot. I'm going to do my best to keep Ben alive, he's surprising me every day, despite "help" from my father. The man is an incompetent idiot who steals credit from others! Other students aren't sure if Ben is incompetent too, or if he's faking it to cover his super spy skills. I think we'll keep them guessing, plus I'm not totally sure myself.

This book is a fun spy novel, although the setting is in a remote school. Ben is recruited right away in the plot by Erica's father (think James Bond). Erica's excellent spy skills are in complete contrast to her father, so there's ongoing tension between them throughout the book and series. Ben's character is dynamic. He discovers the reason he was chosen by the CIA and sets out to prove himself to them, and to Erica. The book seems believable even though it's obviously not. I've been reading the series in reverse order, because I couldn't find this book first. I actually read book 3 first, but I still enjoyed it. I recommend you start with Spy School though! The format of the series is very similar to this book, so if you like Spy School then you'll love the whole series.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Will Wilder #1: The Relic of Perilous Falls by Raymond Arroyo

Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous FallsMy name is Will. It's not fair that I'm being punished for my brother's broken arm. Sure, it was my catapult that hurt him but... While planting trees in the hot sun for punishment, I met a strange man named Captain Balor down by the river. Several people have recently died in the river, but I agreed to retrieve a family relic for him at low tide. He says the relic has great healing powers, but there's something strange about him. I start sneezing when he's near, and I can't seem to see him clearly. My aunt thinks retrieving the relic is a bad idea, but I can sneak it out of the caves without her knowing. I had no idea my decision could release so much evil and destruction.

This book is the first in a new series with a young boy discovering his new powers. Will is a seer, the only person able to see all of the evil creatures. Since most people can't see the creatures, a subplot revolves around a zealous mayor who wants to blame the Wilder family and friends for all of the town's problems. Will's willingness to disobey his aunt seems a little forced to me, but it's not totally out of character. I found the second half of the book more exciting and entertaining, since things really started to happen once Will got the relic. Monsters galore starting popping up! I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Spy School #2: Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs

Spy Camp (Spy School #2)My name is Ben. For some reason, the evil organization called SPYDER wants me. They invited me to join them, but they also threatened to kill me if I didn't. The CIA tried to sneak me away to a secret location, but the plan just helped SPYDER kidnap my friends. Luckily, Erica is protecting me. She's the most awesome student spy in school, and she's kind of cute too. The CIA has sent her father, their best and most famous agent, to help protect me, but he's actually an incompetent fool! The big question is still, "Why does SPYDER want me?" I'm starting to figure out there's something bigger going on. Maybe it's not me they want; they have a much more important target in mind.

I seem to be reading this series in reverse order. I've already read Evil Spy School, but you should probably start with book one, Spy School. I'm reading it next. The plot of Spy Camp reads like an adventure. There's action galore, and Ben is constantly getting into bad situations. The tension between Erica and her father creates another problem, and the author throws in the grandfather too. Ben's not the greatest student spy, but he's a good thinker and has a natural talent with numbers. There's a question about what makes him special going on throughout the plot. I enjoy how the characters talents aren't impossibly good, but they're unlikely good. It makes the plot believable even though I know the plot isn't possible. Make sense? The series is fun to read.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hollow Earth #2: Bone Quill by John and Carole Barrowman

Bone Quill (Hollow Earth, #2)My name is Em. My brother Matt and I are hybrid Animare and Guardians, something never seen before in history. We are able to animate our drawings, and we're also able to use paintings to travel through time. Our mother trapped our father in a painting when we were little, because he wanted to use us to release the beasts from the Hollow Earth. It actually exists! It can only be opened using the bone quill from a black peryton and the Book of Beasts. And my brother and I. There are people still trying to release the monsters, and my mom is missing. I'm not totally sure what's going on, but I think the answers may be found hundreds of years in the past.

You should read book one in the series before this one. Making the father the antagonist is a nice twist, since it creates an emotional conflict for the kids. Matt is impulsive with an attitude, while Em is more logical and makes safe decisions. These character traits create additional conflicts, since the twins travel almost everywhere together. There is a subplot running through the first two books, and this book starts to bring the present and past together. Time travel is always an attention-getter for fans of speculative fiction. I'm still a little bothered about making drawings to escape danger. I mean, there's a beast chasing you or a cave is falling in, but you have time to draw a picture and escape. I still like the overall book!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

The Paladin Prophecy (The Paladin Prophecy, #1)My name is Will. My day started by escaping an attack on my way to school, being accepted to an exclusive, private school in Wisconsin, almost getting killed by beasts while being chased in a field, and then surviving creatures trying to destroy the plane I was on. I've discovered that my running speed and stamina are uncommon, I can control things with my mind, and I have an amazing ability to sense my surroundings. My more disturbing discovery is of a secret organization that's trying to kill me! It seems there are creatures passing through a portal from the Never World to destroy humans, and this group is helping them. My new roommates are amazing, and I don't know what I'd do without them. I also still don't know why the Knights of Charlemagne think it's so important to kill me!

This book is probably for upper middle school readers, since the main characters are in their mid-teens. There's nothing inappropriate in the book. I seem to enjoy these stories with characters discovering their new powers. One of Will's friends has a photographic memory, another has uncanny agility, strength, and fighting skills, and one of the girls can communicate with Will mentally. It's a little mysterious that Will's girlfriend doesn't seem to have any special abilities yet. An additional mystery is whether the new school is good or bad. There's a connection between the people who first tried to kill Will and members of the knights. The plot includes plenty of action, mystery, and humor that should appeal to most readers. I've already started reading the sequel!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Paladin Prophecy #2: Alliance by Mark Frost

Alliance (The Paladin Prophecy, #2)My name is Ajay. My roommates and I managed to survive attacks from the Knights of Charlamagne, but we need to know if they're still active. We suspect the equipment man, Nepsted, transformed into a tentacled creature and saved Nick's life, but he won't give us more information until we unlock the cage that's trapped him. The key is hidden in tunnels below the heavily-guarded island, which is also where we barely survived dangers from the Never-Was. These creatures can only enter our world through a portal, but the Knights are planning on releasing them. As we trekked deeper and deeper through the underground tunnels, we came upon a lost city that seemed to be made for beings larger than humans. Further on, we discovered something stranger, evidence of surgical experiments revealing the truth behind the Paladin Prophecy.

You need to read the first book in the series, and you should know that all the main characters are in their mid-teens. The plot includes a lot of action, adventure, and mystery, but I most like the cast of characters. You can read a description of them in my post for the first Paladin Prophecy. Nick provides humor, since he's frequently mixing up words, although he is the muscle for the team. The author creates a new problem for Will, as Elise and Brooke both have affection for him. The author includes rules for living from Will's father, now missing, that help him deal with problems. Brooke's powers finally Awaken, and another secret is revealed about her late in the book. I'm still trying to fully understand the actual relationships between the Hierarchy, Others, Knights, and Paladins. I've already started the next book, so I can say more information is coming.

The Paladin Prophecy #3: Rogue by Mark Frost

Rogue (The Paladin Prophecy, #3)My name is Elise. Will convinced us to enter the Never-Was in order to rescue a Guardian named Dave. We need his help to stop creatures from invading our world. I'm able to use my voice as a weapon or a tool, and Will and I have improved our mental communication. I taught Ajay how to do it too, but all of his abilities are growing at an amazing rate. We need all of our powers, because the monsters, land, and plants all seem out to kill us, and Dave is being held captive in the middle of an army numbering hundreds of thousands troops. What chance does our group of five have against them? But all humans will be destroyed if we can't figure out some way to close a portal between our worlds.

This book is different from the prior books in the series. The plot starts slowly, as characters reveal more information about the Others and the history of the Paladin Prophecy. However, Will and his friends actually enter the Never-Was in chapters 4 & 5, so things become much more interesting. There are action and adventure, as the characters travel through the bizarre world and try to outsmart the intimidating, huge army. As mentioned, Ajay's character goes through some dramatic changes which makes him intriguing. The end of this book feels like there should be another sequel, but I haven't been able to find one. Questions remain about the transformation of the main characters and the intentions of any Knights who still exist in our world.