Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Land of Stories #5: An Author's Odyssey by Chris Colfer

An Author's Odyssey (The Land of Stories, #5)My name is Alex, and the fairy-tale world is in grave danger. My evil uncle has formed an alliance with storybook villains and has created a massive army. He's already destroyed castles, forests, and villages across the realm, and all of the citizens and creatures are in hiding. We're desperate, but my brother has a crazy idea that just might work. Connor and I will use a magical potion and travel into stories he's written, and we hope to use the heroes in them to help us form our own army. He thinks we can add pirates, robots, superheroes, and mummies to our forces. I'm not sure Mom will like supervising them in our house while we visit the different stories, and who knows if they'll even get along.

You should read the first four books, or you'll be lost. This book read much differently than the others, since most of the settings were not in the fairy-tale world. It was like a collection of short stories that took place in the various settings created in Connor's mind. I enjoyed how these worlds mirrored the realities imagined by him, and I liked comparing the new characters in the short stories with personalities from the previous books. The plot from the fairy-tale world was still developed between Connor's stories, but the uncle's situation became more complicated. He was kicked out by his "allies", and an important secret about him was revealed. This book seemed to be a placeholder in the overall series, since the actual war brewing in the last book wasn't fully addressed in this one. I assume book six will have a major confrontation between the armies, but the resolution in this book revealed a dramatic change in Alex's character.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Darkmouth #2: Worlds Explode by Shane Hegarty

Darkmouth #2: Worlds ExplodeMy name is Emmie. Finn's father is trapped on the Infested Side, a world teeming with all kinds of mythical monsters waiting to kill all humans, so we've passed through a portal to rescue him. Finn is an apprentice Legends hunter, but a prophecy says the Legends are rising and Finn will die in this world. We can hear the Legends all around us as we travel, but they aren't attacking. Why not? Something about Finn changed when he used a red crystal to open the portal, and it's frightening the Legends. A Legends dog with a talking-snake tail is now leading us through the Infested Side, but we're not sure where it's taking us. We think it's leading us to Finn's father, but can we trust it? Looking back now, the truth was stunning, but Finn nearly causing a catastrophe in both worlds was worse.

This book jumps in right where the first one left off, so you should read it first. This sequel is more adventurous, because the setting mostly takes place in the Infested Side. I remember wondering in the first book why the author calls the monsters Legends, but they're just mythical creatures like minotaurs and dragons. I liked seeing Finn with more confidence in himself, as he took charge. Emmie and Finn were accompanied by an inspector from the Council, but he just added some humor to the events, always quoting rules and regulations they were violating. The mystery character appearing in the middle of the book wasn't totally unexpected, but his plans are a surprise. The power building within Finn adds a suspense to the conflict, since it's obvious it will be released at some point. There are clues from earlier in the series about what might happen, but the anticipation is a nice twist. The resolution reintroduces a previous character that I'm sure will become the focus of future problems.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful EscapesMy name is Anne, and I'm in the middle of a level 13 quest. Not impressed? Well, level 13 is impossible. Penelope and I just escaped from an orphanage, and we'll spend the rest of our lives in a dungeon if we fail... if we survive the quest. Oh, and the Matron wouldn't hesitate to chop off my arm to get the gauntlet and medallion attracted to it. We must follow the clues in a riddle to find our way across the tiers, but it seems there's more than one way to read them. We must trek across a desert, climb, a tower with no door, and survive attacks from a dragon and armored giants. If we successfully complete the quest, the tiers will be saved, and I will claim the throne. However, only one day left to complete it.

I read an advance copy of this book through Net Galley. You know, I really enjoyed this book, but some readers might not. It's a bit silly. For example, the Matron announced that she would be filling the role of antagonist in the story, and a little sparrow provided assistance to Anne. The Adventurer's Guide kept changing to fit Anne's needs; it started off with all blank pages! I was okay with things like that, although I didn't need the periodic, very-short chapters with additional silly comments. The quest needed to be resolved in an unreasonably short time, with extremely severe consequences, by characters with no experience. Silly, but fun. Penelope filled the role of brave warrior, but she had to use a wooden practice sword. Another member of the team could conjure spells, but he couldn't control the power. He blew up the whole school while trying to create a small explosion. Readers who enjoy adventure, mixed with humor, should love this book. It looks like there may be a sequel coming, so I'll be on the lookout for it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Secret KeepersMy name is Reuben, and I spend my days hiding from everyone. The shopkeepers and police fear the dangerous Directions, who work for the Counselor, who fears the mysterious man known as The Smoke. Let me ask you a question. How much would a round watch with no minute hand be worth to you? Not interested? What if it could make you invisible? Ah, now I have your attention! I've found such a watch, but The Smoke now has his crews and henchmen searching every corner of the city, looking for me. I follow an inscription on the watch to a lighthouse where a family of guardians shares the secret they've been keeping for generations. I then realize The Smoke will kill my mother and me whether we give him the watch or not. 

I received a digital copy of the book from Net Galley, and it turned out to be a page-turner for me. I found myself sucked into the conflict, as the author described Reuben's uncertainty and love for his mother. The Directions were a problem, the watch became a mystery, and The Smoke became a life-threatening danger. Penny and Jack became key allies. Jack's character was in stark contrast to his strictly honest family, as Penny could never tell a lie. There were limits to Jack's dishonesty, and his motivations were honorable. The Smoke's mansion was full of trap doors and other obstacles, so this setting complicated the events. The build-up to the climax epitomized the notion that the best-laid plans can easily go wrong. Remember, don't count your chickens before they hatch. Net Galley is known for nurturing new authors, and Trenton Lee Stewart looks like a winner.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Trelian #1: The Dragon of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen

The Dragon of Trelian (Trelian, #1)My name is Princess Meglynne, and I am dragon-linked. Our lives and minds are joined, but if one of  us dies, the other will too. Calen, the mage's apprentice, has been helping me keep the secret and is teaching me about them too. However, there are serious problems brewing in the kingdom. Huge, mysterious creatures are lurking in the forest, and one of them actually attacked me outside the castle walls! Calen and I accidentally overheard a plot to kill my sister and bring about a war with a neighboring kingdom. Unfortunately, we were discovered in our hiding place, and worse yet, the woman who found us is an unmarked mage wanting to start the war. Being unmarked is unheard of, and she has dangerous power. Calen and I have now awakened in a strange forest, and it seems to be far from home. How did we get here, and more importantly, how do we get home and save my sister?

Meg and Calen were a dynamic pair of characters, as they helped each other develop their abilities. Calen researched the connection with dragons and helped Meg understand how to control it. Meg and the dragon communicated with feelings, not specific ideas, and their emotions confused each other and caused them to overreact. Calen didn't take his mage training seriously until he displayed some unusual abilities. With Meg's support, he started to try different spells as survival skills. Perhaps we all have hidden talents that can be developed by trusting ourselves. Calen's master seemed to be a stern, serious character, but a sense of caring for Calen could be detected. The female mage was an unpredictable character, since her entire existence went against all the rules of the Magistratum, the society of mages that controlled their actions. I've already gotten my hands on the sequel to this book and started reading it today!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Artemis Fowl #5: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer

The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, #5)My name is Holly Short, and once again it's up to Artemis and I to save the world of fairies. Even though I recently quit my position as captain in the LEPrecon, I've reunited with friends now running a super-secret fairy squad. We've discovered portals are quickly opening and closing around the world leading to a land of demons, at different moments in time. A demon recently appeared but was captured by another teen genius. She wants to win a Nobel prize, but she's not aware the demon island of Hybras will soon be destroyed. Artemis figured out the portals are deteriorating which will wipe Hybras from existence, killing almost all of the demons. Now, we've been captured, and I only hope the boy genius has another plan to get us out of this predicament.

I'm enjoying all of the books in the series, although this one left me wanting something more. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but it seemed like some of Artemis's plans were dependent on chance. That's never been the case in the past. Also, Butler and Mulch Diggums had very minor roles in the plot. I've liked their back-and-forth banter with one another, and Mulch especially added humor to the stories. That was missing in this book. However, I've always appreciated Artemis's careful planning and how he's been able to anticipate future events. It may have seemed like things were getting out of control, but then I realized he had everything under control. This book introduced the effects of puberty on Artemis's character, as he found it a curious nuisance. It affected his logic. The series has been very entertaining, and I recommend it for all!

Atherton #1: The House of Power by Patrick Carman

The House of Power (Atherton, #1)My name is Edgar, and the Highlands are sinking into the ground. The people up there control our food and water, but I've been and searching for a message hidden in the cliff. I finally find a leather-bound book, but I've got to find someone who can read it. It's forbidden for people in my lands to read. I scale the rocks up to the Highlands and find a boy to help. The book says Atherton was created by a young man, but he may have gone crazy while doing it. The book goes on to say changes are coming that may lead to destruction and war. What is war? I later discover Mr. Ratikan's experiments are hurting people in my lands, and I must search for answers by scaling down more cliffs to the Flatlands. Many of my questions are eased, but I may also have discovered an end to all of the inhabitants of Atherton.

Visualize the setting as a three-tiered cake. Each level was a different part of the Atherton society with the House of Power located at the top. The residents of each level did not interact, and the people knew little about each other. The author did a great job of describing Edgar's hardships. He was singled out for extra work, had no friends, and was beset by numerous injuries. The kid lost a finger! I was easily able to visualize Atherton, but I had trouble understanding its creation. It was created by this genius kid, but I couldn't figure out where in the world it might be found. Was it even on earth? It was finally explained late in the book, but it bugged me. The pages following the resolution provide more information about the creation of Atherton. Overall, this was a solid book.

Trelian #3: The Mage of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen

The Mage of TrelianMy name is Mage Krelig, and all of these other weak mages infuriate me. Now that I have Calen in my possession, I will destroy everyone who opposes me. I know the boy hates me, but I've finally taught him to tap into his tremendous hidden powers. Of course, this only came about after Calen unleashed his anger toward me. I've convinced the kingdom of Lourin to wage war on Trelian, and the Magistratum of mages has fallen apart. I'm building an army of mages who fear me, as well they should. I am the most powerful mage in history, and I will rid the world of all the rules established by the Magistratum. Mages will once again reign the world, and I will lead them all.

This book concludes the trilogy, and you need to read the others first. It has the most action of all three due to the war and Krelig's growing forces. The author very effectively described Krelig's evilness, as Calen and the other mages were ruthlessly punished or killed during training. The conflict was a classic good versus evil, but the two main characters dealt with internal issues as well. Calen loved his growing power, but he was being taught by a crazy, magical tyrant. Would he be able to withstand Krelig's persuasion to join him in battle? Princess Meg mused about her role as princess heir and how it conflicted with her role in the army. I highly recommend the series if you're into dragons, magic, and adventure.