Saturday, November 26, 2016

Spooksville #1: The Secret Path by Christopher Pike

The Secret Path (Spooksville, #1)My name is Adam, and Sally may be the craziest girl I've ever met. She says monsters and witches exist, and people frequently disappear around here. She says Ann Templeton is an evil witch, but I don't think she's that evil. Another new friend, Watch, is showing me the Secret Path which supposedly leads to other dimensions of Spooksville. The path follows the life of the original witch of the town, and maybe we'll find some of the lost kids at the end. However, there's also a possibility we'll become victims ourselves. There's more than one witch in our futures.

This book is a quick read, as are the following books in the series. The simplicity of the mysteries and the interactions of the characters make this book enjoyable. Sally's character is my favorite. She seems to be in love with Adam as soon as they meet, but she frequently preaches about evil and doom. Adam isn't sure how to react. The path provides elements of danger and suspense, but Sally's reactions to them are most entertaining. She talks big, but she's reluctant to face danger. Until she needs to. She constantly rags on Adam about his lack of knowledge and risky choices, but then she shows how much she likes him. Overall, this book should entertain lovers of ghosts and mysteries.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Spooksville #2: The Howling Ghost by Christopher Pike

The Howling Ghost (Spooksville, #2)My name is Sally, and I live in the scariest town in the world. Of course, Adam doesn't believe me, but he's learning. I read about a girl losing her little brother out by the old lighthouse, and I told Adam and Watch that we should help find him. The police don't believe her story about a beam of light coming from the lighthouse and a howling ghost grabbing her brother. I know she's telling the truth. I convinced the boys to help me investigate, but I didn't expect Adam to risk his life in shark-infested waters or climbing the abandoned lighthouse. Of course, I was right in the end, and it was my idea that rescued the little boy.

You don't need to read the first book in the series to enjoy this one. I enjoyed this book a bit more, because it focused on one clearly-defined problem. A little boy is missing, and the kids work to solve his mystery. Book one had the kids traveling to an alternate dimension, whereas they use their knowledge and resources to solve the problem in this one. The first book showed Sally's loving feelings for Adam, and she becomes a bit jealous in this book when he shows kindness for Cindy, the sister of the little boy. Once again, Adam doesn't know what to think. The books in this series are easy to read, and they present mystery and adventure for readers. I recommend them for light-hearted mystery lovers.

The King of Average by Gary Schwartz

The King of AverageMy name is James, and my mom's always telling that I'm a big disappointment and have ruined her life. I want to prove I'm the most average kid in the world, but I came upon a talking goat on my way home one day! I followed him through a hedge and found myself in a whole new world, The Land of Possibility. Now, somehow, I find myself possibly being the next king of the Land of Average. I must complete a quest, of course, by finding the former king and discover why he left. Am I average enough to rule a whole kingdom?

If you enjoyed reading The Phantom Tollbooth, you'll love this one too. There is A LOT of word play for you to think about, and you may miss much of it. Characters' names, names of kingdoms and cities, and words in conversations have literal and figurative meanings. Ever heard someone say "A little bird told me"? The bird is in the book, and James's goat is a scapegoat, taking all the blame for him. James journeys into a land of possibilities and pessimism, but he finds it difficult to live with average expectations. The adventure of quests and helping others kind of makes you take risks and become un-average. How many people in the real world are afraid to stand out and be different? It's not always easy going against what is "normal", but go ahead, take a chance and care about other people. Make it a better place.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

100 Cupboards by H. D. Wilson

100 Cupboards  (100 Cupboards, #1)My name is Henry, and my parents have been kidnapped. Actually, I really don't understand why that doesn't bother me more. I've moved to Kansas to stay with my aunt and uncle, and I sleep in the attic. I've discovered a bunch of cupboard doors lining the ceiling next to my bed, and they seem to be portals to other worlds. There is darkness behind one of the doors, and I can feel someone, or something, lurking behind it. I'm afraid to open any more doors, but my cousin is more reckless. She's disappeared, and I know she's trapped behind one of them. A letter from one of the worlds has warned me that opening the doors will be disastrous, but what else can I do?

The setting of the story is a little creepy, since most of it occurs inside an old house, in the attic. There's mystery behind the cupboard doors, and they're sealed with combination locks. Grandfather's room adds to the spookiness, as no one has been able to open it since his death two years ago. Henry's uncle even took a chainsaw to it! I wish the book had answered more questions than it created. The main antagonist appeared late in the book, and Henry made only a few trips behind the doors. He discovered some information about his past, but then the book ended. Plan to read the sequel after finishing this one.

Hatched by Bruce Coville

Hatched (The Enchanted Files, #2)My name is Gerald, and I'm a griffin. You know, eagle head and wings with the body of a lion. I'll bring shame to my family if I don't find my tenth treasure within the next two weeks, so I've decided to run away. My teacher, a gnome, actually tricked me into entering the human world, so he could find his twin brother in New Batavia, a lost colony of gnomes. I've entered a forbidden world, let a human see me, and I still have no idea how I'm going to get my tenth treasure. I can never return to the Enchanted Realm without it. What else can go wrong? How about all of the gnomes in New Batavia are going to be killed?

The idea of having an insecure griffin as the main character, and his teacher being a gnome, was very creative. The theme was a familiar one, as Gerald needed to learn to have confidence in himself. I don't normally like plots that are told from more than two points of view, and this book bugged me in that way. However, I finally got used to it and most of the views came from Gerald and Brad, his new human friend. Brad was an underachieving student, and his grandmother was a leader in protecting the gnomes. There was a balance between humans and gnomes. The gnomes helped the humans magically (they had saved Brad's life the summer before), and humans helped keep the gnomes secret. The author, Bruce Coville, also wrote the My Teacher is an Alien series, and this book seems to be the first in a new winning series.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov by John Matthews

Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov (Henry Hunter #1)My name is Dolf, and life around Henry Hunter is an adventure. This time, we're traveling to Europe in search of the truth about Dracula and vampires. People around here don't want to talk much about it, but Henry won't give up. We found some papers saying Dracula and vampires actually existed, but the papers also said The Beast of Snagov was far worse. We've found Dracula's first castle and met his daughter. Bella is pretty terrifying, but she says even vampires fear the beast. Henry thinks we should locate the Beast of Snagov, but now he's disappeared. I'm afraid he's been kidnapped, and the only person who can help me is the daughter of Dracula!

This book tells a fun, short story of monster chasing. Hunter's character is amazingly calm in the most stressful situations. He is insatiably curious, and he's very knowledgeable about... everything. Hunter is free to explore strange things around the world, because his father is a billionaire and also travels the world for humanitarian causes. Dolf is Hunter's loyal sidekick and classmate, although he's pretty ordinary when compared with Hunter. The pair come across as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with more supernatural adventure tossed in. Bella is a surprising character, because you wouldn't expect Dracula's daughter to become an ally. She has a life-altering effect on Hunter that actually helps them solve the mystery of the beast. However, it looks like the effect may be permanent! I think most readers will enjoy this book, as it provides adventure and mystery mixed in with a bit of humor.

Spy School #4: Spy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs

Spy Ski School (Spy School #4)My name is Ben, and I'm in Vail, Colorado, for my first official spy mission. The CIA is worried about the evil plans of a mysterious Chinese billionaire, and they want me to get information from his daughter Jessica during a ski vacation. My friend Erica thinks I'll fail, because I have feelings for Jessica. Okay, she's super cute, but I can do this despite all the huge, dangerous bodyguards around her. I was getting close to Jessica until my best friend Mike showed up. He doesn't know I'm a spy, and now she's interested in him. The bodyguards are already suspicious of me, Jessica's father hates me, and other agents have been killed trying to spy on the guy. As if things couldn't get any worse, now all of the other agents helping me are bickering with each other. What else can go wrong?

This book is the fourth one in the series. I don't think you need to read the other books to appreciate this one, but I recommend them. Ben's character is likable, as he doesn't have any super spy skills but is successful because of his intelligence and personality. The author throws a fun twist into this story through Erica's character. She's a legacy spy; her spying heritage goes all the way back to Nathan Hale in the Revolutionary War. She amazes everyone with her superior talents in... everything. Until skiing. The cool, confident, skilled student spy can't get the hang of skiing at all. She also needs to act like a normal teenage girl, which she hasn't done before. The story is an adventurous tale of a mysterious plot that could devastate the planet. There are fights and shootouts with plenty of action in the Rocky Mountains.The actual catastrophic event wasn't known until Ben figured it out at the end. He does that in all the books. The series is fun to read, and I recommend all the books.