Friday, December 30, 2016

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by

The Charmed Children of Rookskill CastleMy name is Kat, and I don't know how much danger I'm in. My little brother, sister, and I were sent to an academy in Scotland to escape the German bombings in London. We were surprised to find there are only a few other students, and I've now begun to notice some other unusual events. A little girl appears to be fishing out back, but she quickly disappears. A little boy was out there playing with cats, but he disappears too. The Lady won't let us wander around the castle, and she locks all of us in our rooms every night. And then there's Jorry. He's another student at the academy, but we haven't seen him for days. The Lady says he's terribly sick and can't be disturbed, but I don't believe her. Other students start to disappear, and I wonder if something more evil is going on. My aunt gave me an old chatelaine and said it can protect me from magic, but someone has stolen it from my room. I now know the Lady is more powerful and dangerous than I imagined.

This book allows readers to know what's really going on before the main characters find out. We know right away that the Lady is stealing the souls of children to give her more power, but she loses part of her humanity each time she does it. She needs twelve souls to complete the process, so the plot ticks down to the climax as each child is taken. Of course, Kat will be last. The Lady brings cold-hearted cruelty to the conflict, and Kat doesn't understand how to fight her. Kat doesn't even believe in magic, so she's at a great disadvantage in the fight. The book offers a subplot involving a German spy, but I don't think it was necessary. I wondered about his identity, but it didn't really add much to the plot. The role of the academy's teachers is more interesting, since it's clear they're holding secrets. It's also clear they're under the Lady's spell, so that confuses the issue even more. Overall, it's a great book.

Bounders #1 By Monica Tesler

BoundersMy name is Jasper, and I've been raised to become one of Earth's first bounders. Bounding allows people to instantly transport themselves anywhere in the universe, but there's something about my genetics that will make me better at it. I'm now in deep space with other kids like me, learning everything we need to know about bounding, where we are grouped into pods. We hope to win the overall contest between the pods, but one girl on our team may doom us. Mira is spacey, keeps to herself, hasn't spoken to anyone, and our mentor says she's the key to our success. Wait, I need to tell you that there's something bigger going on here at the Earthbound Academy. I saw an alien being held captive here, and it's being kept in a specially-designed cell. Even though people don't talk about it, I think this alien might be responsible for the Incident at Bounding Base 51. I thought I was being trained to explore the universe, but I now wonder if I'm being trained to become a soldier.

This book was very entertaining, and I plan to read the sequel soon. Jasper's self-doubt makes him an unlikely leader for his pod, but the other kids always look to him for guidance. He makes their individual talents work together, and he's the only one able to understand Mira. Mira continuously adds mystery to the plot, as she mentally communicates with Jasper from time to time and communicates with the imprisoned alien. She's also able to harness the energy needed to bound better than anyone else, and the mentor seems to be keeping secrets about her. Jasper notices inconsistencies in what they're being told, so it's difficult to identify the good guys from the bad guys. This makes the plot more enjoyable, and I assume the overall conflict will become clearer in the next book.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Warren the 13th #1: The All-Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing EyeMy name is Warren, and I've inherited a hotel with an All-Seeing Eye hidden somewhere inside the hotel. Uncle Rupert is my guardian, but his new wife Annaconda is a witch. The Eye may just be a legend, but I now suspect Annaconda only married my uncle to find it. Her evil sisters have moved into the hotel, but not before they told others about the Eye. Now, all of the hotel rooms are filled with people looking for the jewel, or crystal ball, or magic spectacles, or enchanted rock. No one knows what the All-Seeing Eye might be, or if it really exists. But Annaconda believes, and she thinks I'm the key to finding it. After finding a coded message in the hedge maze, I'm beginning to think she's right.

Warren's honesty and determination make him an admirable character. His uncle is very lazy and lets the hotel fall into disrepair, but Warren still works hard every day to keep the rooms clean and ready for guests. He shows remarkable patience when the mass of rude guests arrive, and he befriends a creature in the basement while being punished by his aunt. The mystery of the All-Seeing Eye will capture the interest of readers, as Warren uncovers clues about its true power. Heck, Warren doesn't even know what he's looking for. The plot takes many twists and turns, as different characters reveal their true motivations. Petula befriends Warren, but he's unaware that she's Annaconda's apprentice. Or is she? This book ends with Warren seeking new adventures across the land, but you'll need to read it for an explanation.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Kronos Chronicles #1: The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski

The Cabinet of Wonders (The Kronos Chronicles, #1)My name is Petra, and the prince has cut my father's eyes right out of his face! My father had an ability to see the magic within metals, and he created an amazing new clock for the prince that can potentially control the weather. I'm not sure why the prince took my father's eyes, but I've decided I'm going to sneak into the prince's castle and steal them back. I've managed to get a job inside the castle, and I've now been assigned to work for an old woman with acid skin. This has allowed me to sneak around the castle, but I just ran into a strange man from England. He said he's a spy, and my quest to retrieve my father's eyes is more important than I ever imagined. Europe may be ravaged by war if I fail!

The plot of this book was surprisingly engaging. The author was able to spin a descriptive tale that made me want to keep the book in my hands. I'm trying to figure out how she did it, although I'm not losing any sleep! The idea of having a father's eyes stolen was creative, but the creativity didn't knock my socks off. I think it was Petra's character that sucked me in. She loved her father immensely and just wanted to get his eyes back. She mostly worked alone, although she received help from a gypsy boy. The complications arising from the spy, the looming war, and the ruthlessness of the prince made her quest even more dangerous and important. Although Petra survives this book, the series is far from over.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Earning My Spots by Mark Eastburn

Earning My SpotsMy name is Sam, and my family has been kidnapped by harpies and other werecreatures. I'm a werehyena, and my new friend Manny, a werejaguar, says I'm the great hunter he's been searching for. Really? Hyena's aren't known for their hunting, and I get bullied by my own sister! We've made our way down to New Orleans where I've met the queen of the hyenas. She says I'm the warrior who must stop the brewing war between the werecreatures and the no-tails. She says there's a powerful condor down in South America who's amassing an army that will soon strike out against the no-tails. He has a mysterious magic that he's using to control the werecreatures, including my family. I'm starting to learn about my heritage and abilities, but I don't see how that will help me defeat an army of thousands.

I was a little skeptical at first; I mean, werewolves is one thing but a book full of werecreatures from all species of animals? However, I really enjoyed what this author was able to create. Sam was a character with doubts about his own abilities, but he was the key to saving the world. How many other books have that? (Lots) The idea of a hyena main character was very unique, and I learned a lot about the animals along the way. There was an underlying theme dealing with man's destruction of nature and the need to protect animal habitats. I didn't see that coming! The plot contains enough action and conflict to satisfy most readers, and I highly recommend you give this book a try. It's kind of like Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates. Open a book and you never know what you're going to get. In this case, I got way more than I expected!

Michael Vey #6: Fall of Hades by Richard Paul Evans

Fall of Hades (Michael Vey, #6)My name is Michael Vey, and I founded the Electroclan. My friends and I have unique electrical powers, but I'm not sure they'll help us escape from Hatch. The man wants to control all the power in the world, and he's close to doing it. We've discovered Hatch intends to kill several "electrics" in his prison, and we've been contacted by Welch, the former leader of Hatch's forces and another person he plans to kill. Hatch put a million dollar bounty on Welch, so now Welch wants our help. My small group plans to rescue the imprisoned electrics, steal Hatch's command ship, and end his plans to control the world. There are problems. My electrical powers are growing, but I'm having trouble controlling them. My group of a dozen must battle Hatch's group of thousands. And, I suspect there's a "friend" who plans to sell us out.

You need to read the previous books in the series to fully understand what's going on. This book focuses on uniting former enemies to fight against Hatch. Hatch has a habit of imprisoning or killing characters who disappoint him. Welch was a ruthless enemy, so some members of the Electroclan are reluctant to trust him. The imprisoned electrics used to fight for Hatch, so again some members of the Electroclan are reluctant to trust them. The entire plot leads to a final battle between Hatch's Elgen forces and the Electroclan. This books introduces a new character working for "The Voice". That was unexpected, but the question of "The Voices" identity will need to be resolved before the series end. I believe the next book will be the last one.