Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Voyagers #4: Infinity Riders by Kekla Magoon

Infinity Riders (Voyagers #4)My name is Gabriel. We've arrived at the planet Infinity to retrieve the fourth element needed to create the Source. This time, our Alpha team must take the venom from a thousand Stingers, deadly bugs living in caves created by huge Saws. These Saws can eat through solid rock, and devouring us would not be a problem for them. It would be a massive problem for my friends and I. Our leader Dash is staying aboard the ship this time, and Chris is taking his place fir this mission. Chris has the most knowledge about our quest to save Earth, but I don't think he's telling us all he knows about the alien research team already on the planet. And what about the Omega team? They're racing against us to collect the elements first, and I don't trust them. They've already shown their dishonesty, but I'm not sure we're ready to see how treacherous they can truly be.

You need to read the other books in the series first. The differences between Alpha and Omega teams remain a big part of the books. The Alpha team is composed of positive characters and displays great teamwork, while the Omega team is the opposite. The Omega leader reverted back to her devious ways after showing a tiny bit of compassion in the last book. The crew has mixed feelings about her, and this will need to be resolved before the series ends. Dash's medical condition is becoming a major factor, as the mission is taking longer than planned. This twist creates an underlying conflict that will eventually affect all other events. All of the books in the series are fast-paced with plenty of adventure and action to hold your interest!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Voyagers #3: Omega Rising by Patrick Carman

Omega Rising (Voyagers #3)My name is Carly. Our Alpha team must now travel to a planet that is totally covered in water, as we search for the next element in an energy source that will save Earth. The planet has huge monsters roaming the ocean, and there are pirates searching for victims on its surface. We've been instructed to avoid all life forms, but that's easier said than done. We're immediately terrorized by a sixty-foot raptor and then ravaged by creatures that can eat through metal! We just want to stay alive! Now, Aqua Gens have hidden us aboard their ship, and we've lost our watercrafts and supplies. I have no idea how we'll find the element... or how we'll get off the planet and find our way home.

You need to read the previous books in the series, especially the first one. All of the books are fast-paced, full of action, and will quickly grab your interest. An interesting aspect of this series is the creation of the Omega crew. These teens were not chosen for the mission but were secretly joined to compete with the Alpha crew. However as the series goes on, each crew is trying to get the elements first, but it's obvious the two crews need each other to survive. The Omega ship is especially interesting. The crew has problems with the leadership, the ship is not well-constructed, and a "time bomb" is locked away deep inside the ship. It seems to be a matter of time before disaster strikes this crew. Readers can visit a website with activities and games to go along with the book. I really recommend you give this series a shot.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Secret of Deadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey

The Secret of Dreadwillow CarseMy name is Aon. Everyone in the kingdom is always happy, except me. Even with the queen dying, the people are just happy she will be succeeded by Princess Jeniah. I don't know why I feel sadness, but I can't let anyone else know that I'm different. I don't understand why entering Deadwillow Carse makes me feel better, while it terrifies others. The princess says the carse will bring an end to the monarchy if she enters it, but she doesn't know why. I volunteered to explore it for her if she will only let my father return from the Crimson Hoods. We all thought it was an honor when he was chosen to join them, but the queen says they're a myth. How can the Crimson Hoods serve the monarchy if the queen and princess don't believe they exist? I feel myself changing each time I enter the carse, but I must discover its secrets. The survival of the monarchy depends on it.

What an interesting book! The plot follows Aon and Jeniah in alternating chapters, and the author brings them together to become loyal friends. It is discovered late in the book that the conflict begins a thousand years ago with a king who wants to keep his followers happy. However, his solution is questionable. The story kept my interest, as I tried to unveil the mystery along with the characters. The author drops hints throughout the pages, but the secret isn't revealed until Aon reaches the heart of the forest. The book explores the range of human emotions. What cost are we willing to pay to be happy? Is the easy solution always the best solution? Curiosity is a good thing. The story will make readers think, and I recommend you check it out. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Secret of Goldenrod by Jane O'Reilly

The Secret of GoldenrodMy name is Citrine, or Trina. My father is a master carpenter, so we've moved halfway across the country to fix up an old, rundown house called Goldenrod. It's actually a huge mansion, but all of the people around here believe it's haunted and has cursed the whole town with bad luck. The house scares me, I hate school, I don't have any friends, and I haven't seen my mother in eight years. I find a talking doll in my room that needs my help, but she seems to be helping me too. She's the only one I'm able to talk to, and she's helping me understand Goldenrod. I learn about its tragic history, and I am the only person able to bring it peace, and bring peace to the whole town.

I was extremely impressed with the author of this book. I typically enjoy speculative fiction books with more action and adventure, but this book really grabbed my interest. The unbelievable elements weren't overdone and became underlying parts of the story. Goldenrod slowly became a character, as it gave hints about its feelings and Trina was forced to figure out what it wanted her to do. I was able to connect with Trina's character and understood the confusion, challenges, and frustrations with her life. The doll's positive attitude kept Trina motivated and encouraged her to face her fears. The climax and resolution evoked feelings of sadness, joy, and satisfaction. It was amazing to see a young girl change the attitude and hope of a town trapped in years of depression. It's definitely a book you should read!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nick and Tesla #6: Solar-Powered Showdown by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla's Solar-Powered Showdown: A Mystery with Sun-Powered Gadgets You Can Build YourselfMy name is Tesla. My twin brother, Nick, and I are spending the summer with our uncle, and it's been "interesting", to say the least. Our parents have been kidnapped, and we think it has something to do with their work using solar power, not their lie about growing soybeans! Could their ideas for solar power be used to create Star Wars weapons? We aren't sure who to trust, since the secret agents who show up to save us never share any information. I'm the risk- taker in the family, and it looks we'll need to become spies ourselves. We can check out the neighbor's house, and my uncle's hacked laptop may provide clues. However, we may not be ready for the secrets we find, and we sure aren't ready for another kidnapping.

This book is the last one in the Nick and Tesla series, and you should read the other books first. The plot is fun and entertaining, as the authors blend mystery, adventure, humor, and science. Science is big! The book includes simple inventions that can be built by young readers. This book includes directions for a Solar Spy Birdhouse, Guaranteed-Not-To-Explode Frankfurter Heater-Upper, and a Ping-Pong Ball Signal Cannon. I often judge books based on their characters, and the Nick and Tesla books are full of winners. Uncle Newt is the eccentric scientist with all kinds of weird ideas and inventions, Silas and DeMarco add humor to the story, and two little old ladies provide muscle for the evil Control. Nick and Tesla are the stars of the show, as they use their science knowledge and creativity to thwart the crazy man in Hawaiian shirts.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Moon Base Alpha #1: Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

Space Case (Moon Base Alpha #1)
My name is Dash. My parents are big-time scientists, so I "get" to be in the first group of humans living on the moon. It's not that great. The food is crappy, we can't go outside, and it's boring. However, during a late-night bathroom run, I overheard a scientist talking about a huge discovery he's going to reveal in the morning. The announcement was never made, because the guy died before breakfast during a solo moonwalk! The head of the base said it was an accident, but that doesn't make any sense. The scientist was super careful, and I think he was murdered! I've been ordered to keep silent about my ideas, but that doesn't mean I can't secretly investigate. I've discovered this well-liked scientist sure had a lot of people who wouldn't have minded seeing him dead.

This book is a murder mystery in a science fiction setting. The author describes the moon settlement as a rather bland place, so the murder is the entire focus of the plot. To me, he offered too many suspects; three-fourths of the way through the book, Dash still had about ten names be was investigating. Dash is a likeable main character, although I never developed a real connection with him until the end of the book. I would have liked Kira's character, and her relationship with Dash, to be more developed. Dash does his thing, and Kira does her thing, and then they get together and compare notes. The climax and resolution were pretty exciting, and it will be interesting to see where the sequel goes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Artemis Fowl #3: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer

The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, #3)My name is Artemis Fowl. I've been running my father's criminal enterprise while he's been in a coma, and I've been as despicable as ever. I just created a cube (using some fairy technology that I "borrowed") that makes all other technology useless. I lost my edge while trying to extort money from Spiro, and he stole it from me. I must get the cube back or Spiro will use it to control the world, and I have no doubt he will soon discover the underground fairy world too. I cannot let that happen! My faithful bodyguard is unable to assist me, so I must get help from somewhere to penetrate Spiro's high-tech security in a Chicago skyscraper. Once again, I must team up with a fairy, dwarf, and centaur from the underground magical world. 

You probably need to read the first book in the series before reading this one, or you'll be missing out on some of the references to past events. Artemis is a young genius, so it's fun to see him outsmart adults, although the events in the restaurant were out of character for him. His team is an unusual collection of characters with very different personalities. Holly is a strict fairy police officer who feels indebted to Artemis, kind of. The centaur is a techno-wiz who follows orders, kind of. The dwarf is pretty crude, but that's understandable for a criminal wanted by the fairies. The interaction between the characters, minor spats and teasing included, make the plot entertaining. Artemis also goes through an internal conflict, as his father awakens from a coma and a change in priorities. Does Artemis have the courage to be a true hero?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Masterminds #1 by Gordon Korman

Masterminds (Masterminds #1)My name is Eli. It's all a lie! Serenity, New Mexico, the perfect place to live. No crime, no pollution, no poverty. A place where nothing bad ever happens. Until the day I try to cross the city limits. The next thing I know, I collapse on the ground, get picked up by the "Purple People Eaters", and my best friend gets shipped out of town. He said something screwy was going on around here, and he never even knew the truth. A couple other kids and I discover devastating news about ourselves inside the plastic factory, but what can we do about it? Tell our parents? Hah, they're the enemy! No, it looks like we'll be doing the opposite of everything we've ever learned about honesty.

A pet peeve I have is with books that use more than two narrators to tell the story; this book uses five. I was still able to follow the plot, but I forgot who was telling the story a couple times. I would have liked it better if the story just followed Eli. With that being said, the plot got very interesting halfway through the book. It was clear the town and kids were different, but the author didn't reveal too many clues about them until the kids got inside the factory. This kept me wondering, but also got a little frustrating. I read half the book and still wasn't sure where it was going. However, the suspenseful climax and resolution were made up for it. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and I've already reserved the second book in the series, Criminal Destiny, at my local library.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Masterminds #2: Criminal Destiny by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Criminal Destiny (Masterminds #2)My name is Malik. I am special, if you consider being cloned from a master criminal something special. My friends and I escaped from the town of Serenity where we were part of some big experiment, and we were the lab rats. Now, we've fled across the country trying to find a billionaire woman; she helped start the experiment but dropped out for some reason. We've never known anything other than the peace and perfection of Serenity, so the crime, poverty, and rudeness of the real world takes some getting used to. I love it! We're all trying to guess the identity of the criminals we were cloned from, and I just hope mine isn't the mass murderer. We will we grow up to be as evil as these masterminds?

I'm enjoying the series, although I still don't think having each chapter narrated by a different character is necessary. This book answers a couple of questions I've had. Where is all the money to fund Project Osiris coming from and whatever happened to Hector when the truck crashed in book one? Malik's character is interesting to follow, because he seems to be the angriest one but is also the most emotional about the memory of Hector. I got a little tired of every chapter reminding me the characters were clones. The cloning is obvious, so all of the references to it become redundant and annoying. The climax is surprising, but in hindsight is probably predictable. Just like the first book in the series, this one ends with an exciting resolution, so I feel like I need to read the next one.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Voyagers #2: Game of Flames by Robin Wasserman

Game of Flames (Voyagers, #2)My name is Chris. Stop reading right now if you don't know what happened in the previous book! The Alpha team is moving to the second planet in hopes of finding another element needed to create the Source. I think it's best that I don't tell them yet how I created the spaceship, and how I'm an alien. I also can't tell them about the dangerous war they'll find on the planet's surface without revealing my secrets. The other spaceship we discovered with an Omega crew is a surprise, but I'm really puzzled by the face I saw among them. The crew of that ship is trying to discover the Source before us, but I know they won't use it to save Earth. I recognize that face, and I know that person is evil.

This series is like the old "Star Trek" television show presented in book form. This book answers some questions from the first book. What happened to the Omega team? How do the professor and Chris know so much about planets the Alpha team is visiting? The author introduces Gamma Speed, so the characters can travel millions of light years in only days. It doesn't confuse the plot even though this technology is impossible. The professor tells the Alpha crew that he's not going to tell them everything yet. The information is on a need to know basis. The result is the author is able to keep throwing surprises into the plot, like the mystery person with the Omega team.