Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Jerry's Madness by W.W. Rowe

Jerry's MadnessMy name is Jerry, and I have The Look. I can make people do things by staring into their eyes, although my mom might disagree. I wish I could stop myself from feeling so angry, but Wilcox is helping. Some people think he's just a crazy old man living by the dump, but he has magical powers. It's going to take something strong to keep me from exploding on the school bullies. They're making fun of Suzie, my girlfriend, and Monty can't help it when he lisps. Also, I'm still a little worried about the bald man who tried to kidnap me. He knocked me out and tied me up, but I used The Look on him and sent him walking south for the next three weeks. Or did I? A man came by the next day saying he was the guy's twin brother, and he said this brother needs mental help. Wilcox says they're the same person, but that can't be. Right?!

This book is pretty spiritual, especially considering the plot is fairly straight-forward. This homeless man, Wilcox, is like Jerry's guru or life coach, as he provides advice and guidance. He talks about karma, staying true, and listening to his inner self. They meditate together. It might provide a tool for kids to deal with their own anger and other emotions. However, I question whether kids at this age will appreciate it. I'm impressed with Jerry's character, as he stands up for poor Monty and finds ways to handle the bullies. He's human, because he feels anger, embarrassment, and has the urge to lie. Wilcox helps Jerry reflect on his decisions to determine if they're pure; he must always try to stay true to his inner self and keep a positive karma. Too heavy? I'm amazed at Jerry's ability to stay positive amid negative surroundings and his sense of right and wrong. Anyhow, the books are easy to read, and they're all under 100 pages in length. Give it a shot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Youngest Templar #1: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin

Keeper of the Grail (The Youngest Templar, #1)
My name is Tristan, and I am holding the greatest religious artifact in history, the Holy Grail. Sir Thomas found me in St. Alban's monastery and asked me to become his squire. Being an orphan with dreams of adventure, I decided to join the troop of Templars. Sir Hugh, leader of the men, has chosen to hate me for some reason and has pummeled me on more than one occasion. The king, Richard the Lionhearted, has vowed to drive the Saracens from Jerusalem, so we have joined other soldiers in retaking the town of Acre first. However, the enemy regrouped with thousands of reinforcements surrounding the city, and they are now laying siege on us. Sir Thomas has drawn the Holy Grail from hiding and is entrusting me to escape the city and get the grail safely to Scotland. Friends and foes alike will do anything to get their hands on it, but I will give up my life before letting Sir Thomas down.

This book read mostly like realistic fiction, except that the grail seemed to have some kind of power. Tristan heard a hum emanating from it whenever he was in mortal danger, although what the grail might have been doing was unclear. Tristan was kind, brave, and loyal, so he was an admirable character. Most of the other characters liked him and respected him, so Sir Hugh's hatred was hard to understand. However, it's clear it stems from Tristan's birth parents, even though his past was never fully explained in this book. There were numerous battles and fights that will satisfy lovers of action, and the mysteries of Tristan and the grail will appeal to lovers of adventure. This book ended with Tristan unconscious in the Mediterranean Sea, so I'm anxious to start the next book before he drowns!

The Youngest Templar #2: Trail of Fate by Michael P. Spradlin

Trail of Fate (The Youngest Templar, #2)My name is Maryam, and Robard and I have joined Tristan on his quest to deliver an important message to a priest in Scotland. Sir Hugh remains on our trail, hoping to capture or kill Tristan, although I don't understand his obsession with my new friend. We parted ways with a girl named Celia several days ago, and Tristan insists we travel to a mountain fortress to protect her from treacherous soldiers. Why is he willing to delay his quest to help her? I also believe there's more to this quest than he's letting on. There's something special about this boy, and I will use all of my assassin skills to protect him.

You need to read the first book, because this series probably could have (should have) been written as one longer book. The conflicts in the first two books aren't really resolved, and the second and third books pick up immediately where the previous ones left off. That being said, I am enjoying the underdog story. Although Tristan is only a squire, characters are willing to follow him, and it's clear his parentage is an issue. He is able to come up with ingenious plans to overcome impossible problems even though there are unexpected snags to them. The power of the grail being carried by Tristan is still unclear; several characters have heard it humming in critical situations. The series won't end until the issue with Sir Hugh is resolved. I'm wondering if Tristan will be reunited with Celia and if Sir Thomas actually died in the siege on Acre (in book one).

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Youngest Templar #3: Orphan of Density by Michael P. Spradlin

Orphan of Destiny (The Youngest Templar, #3)My name is Robard, and I didn't think it was possible for Tristan, Maryam, and I to anger so many people. I've lost count of the number of different soldiers trying to kill us. I know there's more to Tristan's quest than simply delivering a message, but I've promised to accompany him to the end. Sir Hugh and the Templars are after him, the King's Guards are after him, and now I've insulted and embarrassed Shire Reeve, the wicked cur stealing property from the citizens of Nottingham. I'm honored that he's made me a wanted man! Even though I've just returned to my home in Sherwood Forest, I must leave to help Tristan his quest. He's revealed the truth of it to me, but the real reason for the pursuit of the King's Knights was shocking. I must keep him alive at all costs!

I enjoyed this series very much. The conclusion seemed to be a bit rushed after the trials and tribulations of the extended plot, but the events were interesting and satisfying. It contained plenty of adventure and action, as the trio always seemed to be getting into trouble. Tristan constantly said he had plans, but that didn't keep the others from teasing him, especially Robard. Their back-and-forth banter was entertaining. However, the three main characters were tight and fiercely loyal to each other. There was a dog named Angel that traveled with the group. This dog saved them numerous times during the plot, but the resolution revealed an interesting truth about her. If you know anything about Robin Hood, you should enjoy the many references to his tale. The characters are aided by a friar named Tuck, a blacksmith named John Little, and the Merry Men who are loyal to Robard Hode. As I mentioned in my book 2 post, I think this series could have been written as one long book, but I still recommend it very much.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Uglies (Uglies, #1)My name is Tally, and I couldn't wait to become Pretty like all the other sixteen-year-olds. After the operation, I'd be able to move into New Pretty Town and be with back with my friend Peris. Then I met Shay, and Special Circumstances found me. Shay left for The Smoke, a community in the woods for runaway uglies, and Special Circumstances wants me to help with finding them; I can't get my operation unless I do it. I followed Shay's directions to The Smoke, and now I just need to give up its location to Special Circumstances. However, I met David and learned there's more to becoming Pretty than just the looks. Now, I find can't betray these people, but I fear it may be too late.

I first read Uglies before creating this blog back in 2009, and I enjoyed the first three books in the series. This is a dystopian novel that addresses some obvious issues with our current culture. The whole infatuation with physical appearance is the main force behind making everyone pretty. Citizens are allowed to think they have freedom of choice, but the people in charge are doing all they can to prevent it. Ruins of large cities are scattered around outside New Pretty Town, and the characters are amazed at how wasteful we once were. Why, we cut down trees to create magazines and newspapers that would only be thrown away! Tally's character is at the center of the plot's conflict, as she is exposed to both sides of the Pretty problem. Her role as a spy for Special Circumstances actually gives her some power over them, and that becomes very important in the sequel Pretties. I generally like novels written by Scott Westerfield, and this one did not disappoint.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Legends of Orkney #1: The Red Sun by Alane Adams

The Red Sun (Legends of Orkney #1)My name is Sam, and apparently I'm a son of the Norse god Odin. I was brought through a portal to Orkney in the Ninth Realm after a witch named Endera tried to kill me. Some people in this realm see me as a savior, while others fear I'll follow my mother's witch bloodline and ruin everything. My own powers are poisoning the sun here, killing plants and animals. The High Council wants me to find Odin to save the sun, but Endera will free my friends only if I steal the Horn of Gjall from him. She wants the horn to free witches imprisoned in stone along with their ancient magic. I must use dark magic to save this world, but the power of the anger and evil within me are strong. I don't understand my strength, and I only hope it doesn't destroy everyone and everything in this realm, and beyond.

I actually read the second book in the series before this one, but I suggest you read The Red Sun first. This book introduces another character with unknown powers who controls the fate of the world. Think Percy Jackson in Norse mythology. Sam's internal conflict against his own anger is a major battle that affects pretty much everything he does. His friends are supportive, but they have little understanding of what he's going through. The plot is spiced with scenes of action, as Sam faces the mythological creatures, the witches, and the illusions in his mind. You'll find yourself reading sections of the book, only to realize later the events never actually happened. The uncertainty surrounding Sam's magic and his decisions will keep you guessing, which is a good thing. Lovers of witch novels and magic will enjoy this book.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bridget Wilder #2: Spy to the Rescue by Jonathan Bernstein

Bridget Wilder: Spy to the RescueMy name is Bridget, and only a couple of people know I'm a part-time spy. My real father is a retired CIA agent, but I've just discovered he's been kidnapped. I manage to track him to New York, and I've "convinced" my adopted parents to let me fly across the country. They think I'm going to visit my friend Joanna, and they insist that my brother and his girlfriend go along as chaperones. Once I arrive, things don't go quite as I had planned. I find my father, but he's been taken by a powerful man in charge of thieves, assassins, and all kinds of evil criminals. His daughter turns out to be an even worse pain in the butt, and she plans to murder the son of a foreign diplomat, which will probably start a new war between countries. On the positive note, I finally meet my real mom, although she's actually another assassin. I don't know if I'm ready for all the drama!

I didn't read the first book in the series, but it didn't seem necessary to enjoy this one. The most unbelievable parts of this book are the marbles in Bridget's pocket and other technology. The marbles are tiny nanobots that come to her rescue throughout the plot; the red one becomes a loyal companion. The red marble knows anything Bridget needs done, and the story seems to lose characters when other marbles are destroyed. The plot describes a fun adventure with a brave, determined female protagonist. Bridget's spy work is complicated by normal teen issues. Boys like her, her friend has changed, and her real parents might get back together again. Bridget even has cheerleaders bullying her, and she develops a rivalry with the daughter assassin. The daughter has family issues too! Overall, it's an entertaining book for readers wanting a female spy story with a bit of humor mixed in.