Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Gravedigger's Son by Patrick Moody

The Gravedigger's SonMy name is Ian, and I want to be a Healer, not a Digger. My ancestors have answered the Call for centuries and have helped restless souls move to the Great Beyond. I didn't think I had the ability until Fiona urged me to give new life to Thatcher's skeleton. We then followed the Pumpkin Trail into the forbidden forest, and an old woman said she needed my blood to complete a terrible spell. Now, I've learned this Weaver is my grandmother and wants revenge against my family for losing her daughter, my mother. She wants to open the rift between the Void and the Netherworld, returning the dead into the living world. My father is away, and I'm not even a real Digger, so what can I do to stop her? The portals have already started to open, and thousands of corpses are rising from their graves. The power of Diggers doesn't seem to stop my grandmother, but I can't let her destroy the world!

I always love when I come across a book that turns out to be a gem. I really liked how the grandmother's spell kept getting stronger, and Ian's attempts to stop her failed. These events caused the tension to grow, and the situation became desperate. As a reader, I expected a surprise to arise that would resolve the conflict, and the author presented it. However, that idea didn't work either, so I was back to wondering if the problem could be solved! A constant conflict within Ian was between his dream to be a Healer and the expectations of his family's legacy. As it turns out, this conflict became very important in saving the world. The supporting characters provided interesting aspects to the plot. Although Fiona was there to support Ian, it started to feel like she was the one getting him into deeper trouble. Thatcher added a humorous twist as a living skeleton who was once a mischievous young boy. He also offered a period of compassion, as Ian needed to support him during his journey to the Great Beyond. With Halloween fast approaching, this book will make an outstanding addition to bookshelves. A wonderful blend of dynamic characters, adventure, and suspense!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Heroes of Olympus #2: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, #2)My name is Percy Jackson, and you probably know more about my life than I do. I know I'm a demigod, but I don't remember much about my life before Camp Jupiter. I know Annabeth is searching for me, but memories of her are getting fuzzy. The Roman demigods in the camp have accepted me even though a couple of their gods have taken an interest in me. The camp is going to be attacked in four days by an army of monsters, and a son of Gaea will be leading them. Mars has given Frank, Hazel, and I a quest to free Thanatos, the god of death, since recently slain creatures are not staying dead. All we have to do is travel to Alaska, beyond the protection and help of our gods, and locate an island that no one can find. Then, we must free Thanatos and Camp Jupiter's eagle to save our friends from the attacking army. Easy peasy, right?! 

The format of this book is very similar to other books written by Rick Riordan. This one deals with Roman mythology and has the adventure, action, and humor found in his other series. Percy's amnesia allows readers to remember his past deeds with Annabeth and Grover and to understand the dreams he's having. It's not a big deal if you haven't read about Percy before; you'll just miss those references to his past. Added twists to the plot and characters can be found in the secrets held by Frank and Hazel. Frank carries a piece of burned wood, and a prophecy has foretold that he will die when it burns away completely. Hazel was once dead, and has a connection to the earth's valuable ores. However, gems pop up near her at times, and they'll kill others if they're touched. An unexpected description of the Roman and Greek gods is that the two cultures simply have different names for the same "person". I always thought the gods were different in the two cultures, and I don't know if the author's interpretation is correct. It makes Percy's transition between cultures very easy though. 

Monstrous Maud #1: Big Fright by A.B. Saddlewick

Big Fright (Monstrous Maud #1)My name is Maud, and I was expelled from boring and stuffy Primrose Towers and sent to my new school in the middle of the woods. The bus ride was a little strange, but I didn't realize how different Rotwood was from my old school until I got to my classroom. Wilf is covered with hair, Isabel is invisible, and the teacher's son is a vampire! Mr. Von Bat says he's going to send me back to Primrose, because I don't have any monster powers. The other kids don't know my secret, and Mr. Von Bat will let me stay if I can scare him by the end of the week. He says you can use people's weaknesses to scare them, but I don't think he has one. It may sound strange, but I feel like I fit in here and don't want to leave. I've tried everything I can think of; how do you scare a fearless vampire?

This book tells a cute story where the expectations are flip-flopped and will appeal to younger readers. Maud sits among creepy monsters, but she is able to frighten them with innocent things like a toy doll and a tutu. Her secret life as a human creates a conflict that continues throughout the plot, but another character's secret is the key to solving her big problem. The school includes a bully, although I'm sure you've read about much worse. Maud's sister is a pain and creates more problems for here. Milly is favored by the parents and school, but it's admirable that Maud is comfortable with herself. She doesn't show much jealousy and doesn't get too upset with her sibling. Despite all the monster characters, young readers should be able to appreciate Maud's good heart and personality.

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically MindedMy name is Chantel, and Miss Ellicott and all the other sorceresses who control the wall protecting Lightning Pass have been taken away. Anna, Bowser, and I met a young Marauder named Franklin who has told us strange things about our home city. It seems our rulers charge heavy tolls to people outside the walls wanting to use the nearby roads and port. We thought the Marauders kidnapped the sorceresses for ransom, but we have now discovered they're not to blame. We've met our king and question his motives. I didn't understand why Miss Ellicott seemed to take a special interest in me until I spoke to His Highness. It all comes down to my familiar, a snake. It was strange when it entered my head, but it was more shocking when it came back out. My familiar's real name is Lightning, and he is the most powerful dragon ever!

Be forewarned that the first part of the plot is slow-moving. The interest level picks up after Miss Ellicott disappears and the kids find themselves outside the wall. The snake character was a little confusing early on, as it was very independent of Chantel, coming and going as it pleased. Once it entered Chantel's head, I expected it to communicate with her, but she was only able to sense its emotions and restlessness. I expected more from the character and got it after it became the dragon. I found out it was learning about Chantel while inside her head. Chantel was able to control the dragon, but there was an interesting twist to their relationship. The dragon wouldn't do anything that Chantel wouldn't do herself. For example, the dragon would not kill other villagers. Another element to the book involved the role of women in this culture. They were expected to be submissive and obedient to the men. Chantel was chastised for questioning the men in power, and the female adult characters even gave her a hard time for not being proper. Despite these expectations, Chantel challenged unfair decisions and tried to determine which people were looking out for the city's best interests. Overall, the plot started off slow, but it was well worth the wait in the end. I enjoyed the book very much.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Kane Chronicles #2: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

The Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles, #2)My name is Carter, and my sister Sadie and I must find and free the Egyptian god Ra or the world will be destroyed! Hmmm... you don't seem surprised by this news. Unfortunately, other magicians from the House of Life are trying to stop us from finding the three parts of the Book of Ra that we need to free the god. Desjardin is supposed to be leading the House of Life, but Vlad Menshikov seems to be influencing him. During a trip with my ba, I discovered Vlad wants to free Apophis and bring Chaos back into the world. I must help Sadie in our quest, but I'm torn and want to rescue Zia. I kind of developed a crush on her shabti, and Sadie would say I've now become obsessed with saving her mortal body. I know we only have two days left to free Ra and rescuing Zia is probably a trap, but I have a sense that saving her is important to completing our quest. And if the mortal Zia ends up loving me too, all the better.

This series of Riordan books is based on Egyptian mythology with a tiny bit of Roman mixed in. The format is very similar to his other books with kids inheriting powers from their ancestors, dealing with godly affairs, with a good dose of adventure and humor thrown in. The story is told through the eyes of Carter and Sadie, and their brother/sister banter is entertaining. Carter is usually the level-headed one, but he lets his heart and emotions guide some decisions in this book. Sadie becomes the sibling more focused on the mission, although her emotions become complicated too. Walt reveals a secret that is a matter of life and death, literally. Carter and Sadie's characters are further complicated by their past connections with the gods Horus and Isis. The gods still occasionally speak to the siblings in their minds, and other characters question their motives and try to stop them. Bes is a dwarf god, and he provides a major comedic element. Without going into great detail, let me just say his major power is being ugly. I'm serious; he uses ugly and a Speedo swimsuit as his weapon. It might help to read The Red Pyramid first, but I don't think it's necessary to enjoy The Throne of Fire on its own. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Century #1: Ring of Fire by P.D. Baccalario

Ring of Fire (Century, #1)My name is Elettra, and three new friends and I have been thrown into a dangerous mystery. We knew something was strange due to our February 29th birthdays, and then a professor gave me his briefcase, minutes before he was murdered. He said, "It's begun", but I had no idea what that meant. The briefcase contained a scratched up box, a checkered umbrella, and four little tops. We're following the clues we find, but the murderer is hunting for us. The man's violin can put people to sleep, and he used the bow to slit the professor's throat. I wonder if my effect on lights and computers may have something to do with all this, but I hope even more that we'll survive to find the answers.

As you might have gathered, this book reads like a mystery, as the kids follow the clues found in the suitcase. The clues weren't clearly understood, and the threat of the assassin amped up the conflict. Elettra had a confusing ability that exploded a lamp and ruined mirrors, but it affected a couple of other characters when she touched them. I expected the other kids in the group to have special abilities too, but they weren't able to do anything on her own. My biggest problem with the book was the lack of clarity concerning the Ring of Fire. Everything in the book led to the kids finding it, but they never fully knew what was going on. The kids weren't quite sure what the Ring of Fire did even after Elettra activated it. Also, I'm not sure why the adults were kept in the background and weren't allowed to help the kids. It's frustrating to finish a book and still not understand what happened, unless you consider the last two pages of the book enough explanation, which I don't. The book left too many questions for me. Nevertheless, the mystery, adventure, and action were entertaining, and the series has potential. It continues with Star of Stone, but I'm not sure if I will read it.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander

A Properly Unhaunted PlaceMy name is Rosa, and I'm so ticked at my mom for bringing us to this small town of Ingot. She's the best appeasement specialist in the world, but this town is probably the only one without a single ghost! It's BORING here! That is until the huge mountain lion with the antlered deer skull charged down from the forest. Something possessed it and later controlled the giant tree that stole my mom's voice; it took all of the words she's ever known. Something is hidden up in the woods above town, but everyone here is afraid to go up there. Heck, they've all forgotten anything ever happened or don't think it's a big deal. I've followed the road up here until it reached a dead end. Banishment is never a good idea, and what I've found here may kill everyone in the valley once it breaks!

The strangeness of the conflict is what attracted me to this book. The young appeaser is really pissed that there aren't any ghosts in this town. Rosa quickly discovers the big problem may be the townspeople have forgotten anything happened. Her character is very easy to relate to, since her appeasement methods use everyday materials. She uses salt, circles, and fire to keep the spirits away, but the big conflict is caused by someone else's banishment of the town's ghosts. A simple circle of copper wire has great power. Rosa is forced to take the lead in solving the problem, but it seems that she gained a lot of experience while working with her inept, deceased father. Much of Rosa's anger is connected to her father's death, although we don't know what happened to him until later in the plot. Rosa is obsessed with fighting ghosts the right way, and treating them with respect is a priority. However, the tension is jacked up when the banishment creates a figurative bomb that's about ready to blow up. The characters aren't overly developed, the plot isn't overly descriptive and intriguing, but I really enjoyed the book over all. It's a pretty quick read and should appeal to lovers of simple ghost stories with a twist. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Monsterland by James Crowley

MonsterlandMy name is Charlie. I should have done more when Billy disappeared underwater, and he's been gone for over a year. However, I could have sworn I saw him on Halloween, and I followed the vampire costume into the graveyard. I was surprised to discover it was actually the Prime Minister of Vampyreishtat, or Monsterland, and this place is where monsters were sent after World War II. The Prime Minister thinks Billy might be found in uncharted regions of this world, where horrific monsters roam wild. Franklin Prometheus reluctantly agreed to go with me, and he's already saved my life more than once. He's on a peace-keeping mission to avert a brewing war between the kingdoms of rival siblings. Franklin keeps saying he should take me back before it gets too dangerous, and I'm not ready to admit that he might be right. I must find Billy, and ogres, witches, mummies, werewolves, and war won't stop me.

At first glance, this book appeared to be a cutesy story about monsters, but it became more than that. I mean, a boy and his dog were lost in a strange world with many of the traditional eerie creatures like vampires, werewolves, and ogres. However, the dangers and attacks were a step up from cute, and there were serious conflicts going on in this world. The wild region was teeming with thieves and kidnappers looking to score large ransoms. Charlie's character was the main focus of the plot, but Franklin was the star. He was based on the Frankenstein monster, but he was much more graceful and intelligent than you would expect. He had the familiar size, strength, and stitches, but he had the honor, courage, and compassion of his former Ranger status. In many ways, I found myself comparing him to Halt in the Ranger's Apprentice series. Despite coming to Charlie's rescue on numerous occasions, Franklin had his own personal demons. He would go off alone to pray or roar out his rage as a way to soothe his soul. This book could probably stand alone, but it seems like a sequel might be on the way.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Dark Gravity Sequence #3: The Rogue World by Matthew J. Kirby

The Rogue World (Dark Gravity Sequence, #3)My name is Uncle Jack, and I've been thrown into a world of Concentrators, ley lines, aliens, and being hunted by the G.E.T. My niece Eleanor and I have a connection to the Concentrators that are sucking energy from Earth, and she has already shut down three of them. We headed to the Himalayas to shut down the main Concentrator that will hopefully end this new ice age, but Watkins, leader of the G.E.T., took us prisoner and said an alien ship has landed at Stonehenge. I don't trust Watkins after all he's done, but he teamed up with Eleanor to shut down the Himalayan Concentrator. Eleanor doesn't trust him either, but she believes we need Watkins to stop the intelligence in that alien ship. However, on our way to Stonehenge, Watkins learned he'd been fired by the G.E.T. right before we were shot down by fighter jets! My cracked ribs are hurting something fierce, but there's no way I'll let my niece finish this mission without me.

This book concludes the trilogy, and you need to read the first two books. The characters travels to mysterious locations on Earth make this an entertaining adventure. The series lands in Incan ruins, the Himalayas, the pyramids of Egypt, and Stonehenge. The least exotic setting was found in frozen Alaska in book one. Each book has its own antagonist, but we always learn there is someone above them. Different leaders run the G.E.T., and then we learn someone else is controlling it. In the end, the rogue planet is the key to everything. An unusual thing about Eleanor's character is her ability to display empathy and understanding for others, even her enemies. All of the main characters rightfully hate Watkins for his decisions and Preservation Protocol, but Eleanor can see that he truly wants to save the earth. She doesn't trust him, but she believes he has good intentions. In the same way, she is able to understand the motivations of others' decisions and us that information to make her own choices. Fittingly, Eleanor's character traits make the climax and resolution of the plot very understandable, although surprising.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Dark Gravity Sequence #2: Island of the Sun by Matthew J. Kirby

Island of the Sun (Dark Gravity Sequence, #2)My name is Eleanor, and the G.E.T. is searching for us all across the planet. I was able to destroy the Concentrator in Alaska and stopped it from sucking away the earth's energy and sending it to a rogue planet. However, we believe there are more Concentrators located around the world that must be shut down. These alien machines have caused another Ice Age that is slowly consuming the earth. The G.E.T. and UN have kept all this information secret from the public, and we're treated like terrorists. We've arrived in South America, but my mother is concerned about my connection to the Concentrators and the rogue planet. I don't understand how, but I'm able to sense, feel, and hear them. The G.E.T. has people everywhere, and they've captured Finn's father and brother. The rest of us are trapped under an island mountain, but we must trust the technology of an ancient culture to escape. How can our small group possibly succeed in saving the planet?

You need to read The Arctic Code before reading this one. It's nice to see the setting move to a warmer climate, as the characters don't need to wear all the heavy clothing from book one. G.E.T. is an energy company that plans to control the Concentrators and selectively decide which humans will survive, the Preservation Protocol. G.E.T. presents a formidable antagonist, and some "innocent" characters are manipulated into helping it. This situation makes readers question the motivations of new characters entering the plot. With fears of climate change in our world, this book creates a reflection of an alternative prediction for our future. It makes you think about treating nature with more respect and wondering if all the cultures in the world can unite to save it. It was clear in book one that Eleanor was different from other characters, and the mystery isn't cleared up in this book. She has a connection to alien technology, but it's not clear why or how. We also learn in this book that there are others in the world with similar connections. This book's resolution separates the protagonists once again, but I assume everyone will be happily reunited in The Rogue World, the last book in the trilogy.

The Sunken Kingdom #1: Ghost Ship by Kim Wilkins

Ghost Ship (The Sunken Kingdom, #1)
My name is Asa, and my brother Rollo and I must constantly be on the lookout for Emperor Flood's spies and patrols. He's already killed our parents, the king and queen, but we just found out our baby sister Una is still alive! Flood's sister hates him more than she hates us, and she secretly took Una away. A former jailer has given us supplies and a ghost ship called Northseeker to help us find our sister. In addition, we've been enchanted with some magic that allows me to fly and my brother to breathe underwater. The quest will be dangerous, but we must rescue Una!

This book is very short, about forty pages including pictures. I read an ebook version and didn't realize it was so short when I started. However, the plot moved quickly and had some interesting aspects to it. I think it would have been much better if it had been more fully developed. The kids didn't really use their powers for anything meaningful, so I assume their magic will be a bigger factor in the sequel. Despite the dangers, the kids found their sister fairly easily. It would have been more entertaining if they had done more than hide from Flood's patrols and spies. Let the kids use their powers, their intelligence, or their determination to escape danger. In addition, it was difficult to develop the personalities of the characters while developing a plot in only forty pages. It would have been nice to be able to get to know the kids. My review is short as was the book. This story was good, but it could have been so so much better.

The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby

The Lost KingdomMy name is Billy, and Benjamin Franklin has welcomed me to join my father and others as a member of the Philosophical Society. I didn't even know they existed, but these scientists secretly act as protectors of the colonies. The Society fears a war between France and England is looming, and the colonies will be the battleground. We're following legends and heading west on a flying ship to find the lost Welsh kingdom of Prince Madoc, and we hope to convince the kingdom to become our allies. I've seen people hiding in the shadows spying on us, we need to avoid French forces searching for us, there is a traitor among our group, and our leader is missing. My father has taken over, but I'm doubting his judgment. I once thought I wanted to be just like him, but I now find myself openly questioning his prejudice and leadership.

It seems I like the author's writing style, since this is the third book I've read that was written by Matthew Kirby. The other books were more science fictiony, while this one is based more on historical fiction. A major issue in the plot dealt with prejudice. Billy's father didn't trust any Indians and felt they were all untrustworthy savages. John's feelings were stressed to their limits when a half-Indian joined the group as a guide. Billy liked Andrew and didn't understand why his father distrusted the man. Many of his father's decisions were based on preconceived thoughts, and John ignored the opinions and ideas from others. John and Andrew presented a great contrast in characters, as the half-Indian did his best to ignore the accusations and bravely help the group survive. The author was able to evoke some contempt toward Billy's father which created an emotional connection to the story. A lesson learned in the end was "To err is human, to forgive divine." The plot built to an unexpected battle during the climax, a secret about Madoc's party was revealed, and the success of the mission was debated. It's been awhile since I've read a book that wasn't part of series, and this book was a surprising pleasure.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Dark Gravity Sequence #1: The Arctic Code by Matthew J. Kirby

The Arctic Code (Dark Gravity Sequence, #1)My name is Luke, and I had no idea why a twelve-year-old girl would want to stowaway in my plane headed for Barrow, Alaska. The temperatures drop to 200 degrees below zero, and your lungs can freeze while trying to breathe. Once we arrived, I found out Eleanor's mother works for G.E.T. and went missing while searching for sources of energy. I don't trust the company, and I'm surprised to find the owner up here in this land of ice. He was the one who predicted the arrival of this Ice Age, but his company's all about making money. I'm not sure how seriously they're searching for Eleanor's mother, and Dr. Skinner has been pressuring the girl to turn over her Sync. It's the only connection she has to her mother, and I know she's lying to Skinner about it. I suspect she's keeping more secrets, and she's reckless enough to try something crazy. I've already saved her life once, but I may not be there next time.

You immediately know this science fiction book will be different due to subzero temperatures in Arizona and the Ice Cap now covering most of the country. Eleanor gets secret information from her mother, and that becomes the basis for the whole plot. You're never totally sure what it's all about, but you know it could affect the whole world. The author's inclusion of missing cultures makes the plot interesting. There are characters from the distant past and technology that far exceeds what we should have on Earth. In addition, Eleanor's father is unknown; her mother always blames her questionable behavior on the Donor. Books with adopted kids or mysterious parents always leave open the possibility of unexpected surprises. Although Eleanor's parentage is never revealed, it's clear that her father's heredity is having a huge impact on the events. Eleanor mostly acted alone in this book, with some help along the way, but I'm going to assume there will be more of a team effort in the sequel. I'm curious to find out what happens next, so I've already checked out the next two books in the series. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Five Elements #2: The Shadow City by Dan Jolley

The Shadow City (Five Elements #2)My name is Gabe, and I have the power to control fire. The Eternal Dawn once again is trying to open a gate to Arcadia and bring back Jonathan Thorn. He wants to unite Arcadia, a magical shadow city of San Francisco, with our world and unleash the poison and deadly creatures into our world. My friends and I barely defeated a leviathan sent to destroy us, and we were forced to face it again on our way to Alcatraz. However, we unwittingly leaped into a trap! Now, I find myself lying atop a table, with a knife looming over my chest during a sacrificial ceremony. I don't know if Brett, Lily, Kaz, and Jackson will be able to help me. Brett's been behaving strangely, and he's ready to come to blows with Jackson. Those guys really seem to hate each other. But if they can't save me and stop the Eternal Dawn, who will?

I suggest you read the first book to understand how the five main characters came together. The tensions with Jackson continued in this book, but the author revealed more about Jackson's past to help Lily understand his behavior. The other characters had their own complications too. Brett's the leader of the group, and his behavior has been off. His decisions were questionable, and the conflicts with Jackson became extreme. Kaz had the most "normal" family situation, and his parents' concerns added an unexpected twist to the plot. It was understandable, but it wasn't necessary. Jackson's character became more prominent in this plot, while Kaz seemed to take a lesser role. What will you like about this book? You'll enjoy the battles with strange monsters, and the conflict between the kids and the Eternal Dawn. Thorn is nuts, and that's not a good thing for a powerful leader of a cult. Part of the setting moved to Arcadia, just like in the first book, and that world is pretty strange. I'm still not totally sure how things work there. Characters were affected by the magick, but it wasn't equal. Steve was affected physically but not mentally, while Aria didn't change as much physically but was mentally gone. Overall, it's an entertaining series, and I think you'll enjoy it if my description appeals to you at all.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wandmaker #1 by Ed Masessa

Wandmaker (Wandmaker #1)My name is Henry, and Coralis says it should take years of apprenticeship to screw up as badly as I've done. You've heard of the power of seventh sons, right? Well, my mother and father are sevenths, so Coralis say that gives me extra special powers. I've accidentally changed my annoying sister Brianna into a blue hedgehog, left a gold nugget absorbing negative energy in my house, and captured evil moonbeams in my aura. My parents seemed to be having a fight before abandoning us, and I'm starting to wonder if my father is evil. Now, Coralis is the greatest Wand Maker in the world, and he says he needs my help. We've traveled to land of my ancestors where we've discovered a plot to spread evil across the earth, with catastrophic results.

As you can tell, this is another book with a young hero discovering new powers. Similar to the Harry Potter books and the Magisterium series, we have a protagonist with evil inside that may arise in the future. It leaves a lingering problem that could explode at any time. Henry was ready to believe in his magical ability, although I'm not sure why his little sister wasn't more upset about becoming a hedgehog. She easily transformed into his sidekick. I found it interesting how the characters used different wands for different purposes, since I'm used to a wizard owning one, special wand. Some wands were disposable and could only be used once. The author also slipped in moments of humor to enhance the action. Henry's sister became a blue hedgehog, Coralis was annoyed with modern society, and the two main antagonists had issues with each other and the call of Mother Nature (if you know what I mean). I don't feel like this book is a must-read, but it's entertaining. 

Wandmaker #2: Wandmaker's Apprentice by Ed Masessa

Wandmaker's Apprentice (Wandmaker #2)My name is Brianna, and my brother Henry is leader of the apprentices. Coralis has collected four other boys and girls who are mastering the four elements. Henry is mastering all of them, and I'm being trained as an Enhancer with the ability to strengthen the apprentices' powers. Unfortunately, Coralis neglected his duties to guard the earth, so Malachai's powers have grown. He's gotten his hands on the Pangaea Particle and plans to unleash unspeakable creatures into the world. The particle seems to have a mind of its own and is driving Malachai even crazier. I don't know how this might affect his mental connection to my father, and I don't know if our apprentice training will be enough to stop him. However, I do know we are the only ones with a chance.

You need to read Wandmaker first. I enjoyed this sequel more due to the addition of the other apprentices. One of them had anger issues and had difficulty getting along, and the addition of a boy brought out Henry's jealousy and competitiveness. It would have been easy for Brianna to become an extra character, but her enhancement ability gave her a connection to everyone. It was a huge contrast to her role as a blue hedgehog in book one. She had an additional ability to communicate with rodents, and a couple other characters could talk to birds. Henry's character was the most dynamic even though he had the most experience. He was unsure of his role among the apprentices, and he became less certain when he became leader. As the plot unfolded, the variety of his abilities became evident, and his determination and compassion for others were key. The author did a great job of describing Malachai's ever-increasing insanity, and it created a more complicated conflict. You should enjoy the adventure, action, and magic of the story, and the whole book is based on nature. The apprentices are able to summon water, earth, air, and fire, and heck, even Earth Mother Gaia is a character. It's a shame that I'll need to wait another year until book three comes out.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Darkmouth #3: Chaos Descends by Shane Hegarty

Darkmouth #3: Chaos DescendsMy name is Gerald the Disappointed, and I've been brought back, after being dessicated years ago, to save Darkmouth. The current group of Legend Hunters is pathetic and inept, although I'm slowly beginning to think my grandson and great-grandson might have potential. Hugo and Finn had already Trapped Mr. Glad, but it seems the man now has the power to open a portal to the Infested Side. His abilities give the Fomorian army a huge advantage, as the open portal will allow them to pour into our world. That's why I've been brought back from dessication. However, I can only return once, and I will die in a few hours. I've been told Finn survived a battle on the Infested Side, and he's showing more courage and brains than I expected. I'm a skilled Legend Hunter; I just hope Finn and his father are up for the challenge.

I wasn't sure about this series when I started the first book, but it's growing in me. Finn is once again the main protagonist, but he still doubts himself. He now sees himself as a Legend Hunter, which is a huge development. I enjoy his banter with Emmie, and she keeps him balanced. Gerald is a new, fun character, as he has high standards for Finn and his father. Finn is kind of used to it, but Gerald's comments get under Finn's father's skin. The anticipation of Mr. Glad's arrival takes up most of the plot, and it builds to a major battle between the Legends and Legend Hunters. Finn is the hero once again, but the author leaves a huge surprise for the resolution. I was expecting something from Lucien, a disgruntled employee from the Legend Hunters headquarters, but I was not expecting what he was able to pull off. It will have a huge impact on the next book. You'll enjoy this book if you like monsters and monster hunting. However, read the other books first!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Magisterium #3: The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Bronze Key (Magisterium,  #3)My name is Call, and there is a spy at the Magisterium who is trying to kill me. Only my close friends know the soul of the Enemy of Death is inside me, and I keep hoping it won't make me evil. My friend Aaron and I are the only Makaris (we have the ability to control chaos magic) and maybe that's why someone wants me dead. Aaron thinks the spy might be a friend of mine, and there is a rumor going around the school that Aaron himself is that person. A fire elemental says the most powerful Makar is behind recent deaths, so that must mean it's Aaron, right? Is there a secret Makar we don't know about? We also discovered suspicious evidence of Anastasia Tarquin's interest in the Enemy of Death. What does it all mean?

It's been a couple years since I read book 2, The Copper Gauntlet, and you will need to read the other books. This series has many similarities to the Harry Potter books, but it's not nearly as long. You have the three close friends, the main character has a connection to a seriously evil character, and the setting is in a school for magic. In contrast, Call is constantly worried about becoming evil, the mages perform elemental magic, Call has a lovable, chaos-filled wolf named Havoc, and the Magisterium is located in caves. An interesting twist to this book is the identify of the spy. Aaron is a best friend of Call, but Call goes back and forth with considering the possibility that Aaron is the one trying trying to kill him. In addition, the authors introduce adolescent love to Call, but he is insecure and doesn't know what to do. The girl expresses interest but ends up with someone else when Call hesitates. The plot isn't action-packed, but it has plenty of mystery and suspense with the unknown assassin and the attempts on Call's life. The book includes a couple of huge surprises during the climax and resolution. I'm enjoying the series as it unfolds.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby

Spell Robbers (The Quantum League, #1)My name is Ben. You're an NA, so I won't try to fully explain what it means to be an actuator. I can make things happen with my mind; it's quantum physics, not magic. I've been recruited by the Quantum League, but I'm furious that they've detached me from my mom. She doesn't remember anything about me! Mr. Weathersky says they'll reattach her if I'll complete one mission. The Dread Cloaks have stolen a portable augmenter and have kidnapped Dr. Hughes to perfect it. This machine will become a powerful weapon in the wrong hands, and the leader of the Dread Cloaks is that man. The League says they'll return Ronin's daughter if he'll help me with my mission. I don't know if I can trust this criminal, and I don't know if I can trust the League either. They want me to convince the Dread Cloaks that I'm willing to become a double agent, but I don't know how to do it. Ronin tells me to improvise, so I guess that's what I'll do.

The plot flows pretty well, so it should be easy for most readers to quickly complete the book. There's a lot of double-crossing and lying going on, so expect the unexpected. I really like Ben's skepticism and anger toward the Quantum League. He's not 100% willing to accept that they're the good guys, since they detached him and won't give Ronin his daughter. Would protagonists do that to people? I'm still not sure who's good and bad even after finishing the book. Peter is Ben's best friend at the League, and I expected him to be more involved in the plot. I thought he'd become Ben's sidekick, but he was absent during Ben's mission. The sequel will be interesting, since Ben is a prodigy and has shown unusual abilities. There are five levels of actuation, and no character has been able perform the top two levels. Two characters (three if you count the mystery man) have been able to perform even level three. Actuating a tornado takes uncommon power. Will level four and five be coming in future? Ben makes a huge decision at the end of this book that will have dramatic effects in the next one. I'm still not sure why this book is called Spell Robbers, but I've already reserved the sequel at my local library.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Zodiac Legacy #3: The Balance of Power by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, Andie Tong

The Zodiac Legacy: Balance of Power (Zodiac Legacy, #3)My name is Roxanne, and membership on the Zodiac team has changed drastically. Steven was able to restore our powers, but we've been joined by our former enemies to fight Maxwell, although the Dragon has totally taken him over. These people were trying to kill us only a few, short months ago, and now we're supposed to trust them? Steven's parents showed us a video of the Dragon's devastation in Alaska, but we aren't sure where to find the creature now. Steven doesn't know what we should do; he's had some disturbing visions from ancient Zodiacs, and he had a disturbing visit inside Carlos's comatose mind. The Dragon isn't human and wants to eliminate all of us from the earth. The Dragon is the most powerful Zodiac of all, and we've discovered it plans to coordinate explosions all around the planet. Steven's visions have told him he'll need to make a huge decision and he'll fail, but failure is not an option.

You need to read the first two books in the series. This book didn't have the direct focus found in the first two books. I knew the team would eventually need to face Maxwell/Dragon, but it was put on the back burner for awhile. The plot began with an exciting escape and reclamation of the Zodiac powers, but then it slowed down as Steven tried to figure things out and tried to form the new team. The action amped up again once the Zodiacs went out to stop the Dragon. Personally, there were so many characters that I  felt like their relationships got watered down. There were Steven and Kim, Steven and his parents, the old Zodiacs and the new Zodiacs, Jasmine and Carlos and Maxwell, and additional relationships. There were too many to develop them all fully. Overall, I've enjoyed the series and recommend you give it a shot. It seemed like this book wrapped everything up, but the last chapter hinted that there might be more to come. I can't find a Zodiac Legacy #4 in Goodreads, although I did see a few books related to the series including a graphic novel called The Age of Bronze.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Zodiac Legacy #2: The Dragon's Return by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, Andie Tong

The Zodiac Legacy: The Dragon's Return (Zodiac Legacy, #2)My name is Steven, and my Zodiac team is falling apart. Kim is gone, Roxanne wants to leave, and Carlos has been missing for three months. Jasmine has been taking Carlos's disappearance hard, and I'm not sure if she's able to control the dragon power she absorbed from Maxwell. Sometimes, she scares me. The detection of Zodiac energy led me to Germany, and I woke up, strapped to a table, in Maxwell's Australian fortress. Maxwell transferred my energy to one of his soldiers, and I now find myself imprisoned along with two of his former Zodiacs. I'll need their help to escape, but can I trust them? The answer is no, but I don't have any other choice.

You should read the first book in the series in order to understand the character's relationships. The big twist in The Dragon's Return is Steven's loss of his Zodiac powers. It's less common in adventure novels to find the protagonist losing his abilities, while his enemy grows stronger. In addition, the fragility of the team is a huge deal, as I mentioned above. Several members are questioning their commitments to the cause, and a possible new member might be a spy. It all adds up to some fun conflicts and suspense. The story of Carlos takes an unexpected turn that will affect future events, and Maxwell adds a new crazy scientist. The fact that she's very young and has no concern for right and wrong results in a wild-card character. Who knows what she might do, no matter how terrible? I still don't fully understand the science of the Zodiac powers, and I'm still not sure how to visualize the avatars. None the less, the series is action-packed and full of adventure.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Zodiac Legacy #1: Convergence by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore, and Andie Tong

The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence (Zodiac Legacy, #1)My name is Jasmine, and young Steven has accidentally been given the power of the Zodiac Tiger. Maxwell and I share the power of the dragon, but he is cruel, crazy, and a danger to the world. He believes he should hold all of the Zodiac power within himself and has already absorbed the energy of seven Zodiac animals. I need Steven's help to protect and recruit the four individuals around the world who now hold the power of the Rooster, Pig, Rabbit, and Ram. They don't understand what has happened, and I hope I can train them and Steven can become their leader. Maxwell's Zodiacs are more powerful and are trained as soldiers, and I'm having trouble fighting off his attempts to steal my power. Steven doesn't know how important he is to our success.

The story is enhanced by comic book drawings, and it reads like a comic too. I mean that in a good way. The plot is fast-paced and full of action. The characters have unique abilities, as Roxanne's voice is a weapon, Liam is indestructible, Kim can transport, and Duane has a connection with computers. Steven is the insecure leader, and the authors leave some surprises about his abilities until later in the book. The momentum of the plot sways back and forth, as the two sides take turns gaining advantages. The success of Steven's team seems to rely on temporary fixes, and the overall success of Maxwell's Vanguard seems inevitable. What did I like best about the book? I enjoyed the non-stop adventure, as the Zodiac crew battled around the world. The conflict seemed insurmountable, so the tension remained high. What did I like least? I had a hard time visualizing the appearance of the Zodiac animals. I imagined them as ghostly apparitions rising from the characters, but that strategy didn't seem to work during some of the scenes. Overall, I can recommend the book and have already started reading the sequel.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Curiosity House #1: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House, #1)My name is Thomas, and the new shrunken head exhibit has brought all kinds of trouble to us. It's been stolen, and there have been three unexpected deaths surrounding it; the last two victims were murdered. Now, Mr. Dumfrey says we're running out of money and may lose our home here at the Odditorium, plus the police have arrested him for Mr. Potts' murder! The police aren't even looking for the shrunken head or other suspects, so it's up to Pippa, Sam, Max, and I to solve the mysteries. Trouble seems to pop up wherever we go, and a reporter is implying we're responsible. The guy seems nice enough, and Mr. Dumfrey doesn't seem too worried about him. However, people in the public now recognize us as we search for clues, and it's making our investigation more difficult. The attention usually isn't good. And what about this Dr. Rattigan who's escaped from prison? Is it a coincidence he escaped at the same time our problems began?

This book is the first in a series. The charm of the story can be found in the children and their exceptional abilities. Thomas can bend his body into unbelievable positions, Pippa can kind of read minds, Max has a talent for knife throwing, and Sam is super strong. Thomas is the thinker, Max is more impulsive, and Pippa is the voice of reason. The book is a mystery with the kids being the amateur detectives. The plot meanders along with several deaths, numerous suspects, and a sense there's more going on than meets the eye. In fact, there are several things going on, and not all of them are bad. It's not until very late in the book that the author reveals the second, and perhaps more important, problem. The clues of the two main conflicts overlap throughout the book, so it's not always easy to separate them. It helps make the plot interesting, but it's a little distracting. The mystery wasn't overly compelling or attention-grabbing, and the stolen head was fairly minor. Overall, it's a good story, but I'm not sure if I'll read the sequel.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Noble Warriors #3: Noman by William Nicholson

Noman (Noble Warriors Trilogy, #3)My name is Seeker, and I have one last task to complete. I must kill the last two savanters and protect the All and Only. I almost killed one, but it released its inner lir before the mortal body died. I have heard the last savanter is recruiting thousands of followers by promising them Joy, but he actually plans to achieve immortality by absorbing their lir. I no longer have friends. Wildman is now leading the spiker army, and Morning Star has fallen under Joy Boy's spell; she once was my best friend. Many people along the way have pleaded with me for help, but I have no time for that now. I once used my immense powers to defeat armies attacking the Nom, but it will be of no use in restoring faith in the All and Only. People are searching for a god to lead them out of despair, but their desperation may lead them to death.

This book is the conclusion of a trilogy, and you must read the previous two books first. The audience is more for teenagers, as the series involves more spiritual and religious concepts. This third installment especially focused on the abstract ideas surrounding god, so less mature readers might lose interest. Seeker's efforts since the beginning have been to serve the All and Only. His obsession with his mission and his lack of empathy for others was a little disconcerting when compared to his character in book one. I was especially bothered by the ease with which Joy Boy was able to manipulate the minds of others. My concerned reactions are a testament to the author, since effective writing should touch the emotions of readers. This series is more thought-provoking than books I normally read, and it's probably more than middle-grade readers want. I can't recommend the series for these readers, but teens may enjoy it. Readers with strong religious faiths might find the subject matter bothersome.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Unwanteds Quest: Dragon Captives by Lisa McMann

Dragon Captives (The Unwanteds Quests, #1)My name is Thisbe, and my twin sister and I are the most powerful mages in Artime. However, Alex doesn't trust Fifer and I enough to teach us how to properly cast spells. I understand he's upset because we're a little reckless at times, and people are afraid I might lose my temper and kill them. We need to convince Alex that we can do something good with our powers, but our plan will be risky. The dragons need help, so we'll sneak off and save them ourselves. However, we now realize we may be in over our heads. No one in Artime knows where we've gone, and the people of Grimere want to capture us as thieves. We don't know who we can trust, since we've never left Artime. We must reach the castle at the top of the mountain and hope it doesn't put us in more danger. I'm kind of sure we can succeed, but there's also a good chance things will go terribly wrong. As we near the castle, I'm terrified to discover my worst fears are coming true.

This book is the first in a spin-off series, and it might help to read The Unwanteds first. It's not 100% necessary, since this book reviews most of the major events from ten years before. Two-year-old Thisbe and Fifer ended the war in that series by unintentionally displaying their immense powers, and bad things still tend to happen when they get angry. This explains why they still frighten everyone else. They have huge internal conflicts going on in their minds, as they want to do good but don't have the experience to foresee the consequences of their actions. So how can they prove themselves if they're never given the chance or training? Simber was a major character in the original series as a protector of Artime and Alex's confidant, and he continues that role in this book. The giant, flying beast made of stone is key in saving the twins from their imprisonment. Other familiar characters are included to help readers who are adjusting to this spin-off series.

The Land of Stories #6: Worlds Collide by Chris Colfer

Worlds Collide (The Land of Stories #6)My name is Connor, and a portal between the fairy tale world and the Otherworld is about to be opened forever. Unfortunately, my twin sister Alex, a powerful fairy, is being controlled by Morina and other witches, and they're making her do terrible things. Their armies of magical creatures are about to invade New York City, and I don't know if they can be stopped by the Otherworld forces. The Fairy Council has been turned to stone, and all of my allies are scattered throughout the worlds. I hope the armies from my own stories will be able to defeat the witches, but they may be unstoppable with the help of Alex's powers. Alex left a message in my dreams, and she's asked me to kill her before she hurts anyone. I don't want to kill my sister, but there may be no other way to stop her.

You really need to read the rest of the series before reading the finale. The fact that Alex is helping the antagonists in this book is a dramatic twist to the plot and makes the conflict more dramatic. This is the first edition in the series where the setting takes place mostly in the real world. It's a bit strange to see the fantasy characters moving through New York's landmarks and see the United States Marines fighting the witches and their soldiers. As in many books, the bad guys, or gals, seem invincible and have removed their most powerful obstacles. Connor takes the lead in opposing the witches, although other characters take leadership roles too. King Arthur, Froggy, and Mother Goose are in charge of the efforts at different times in the book. The cast of characters can get overwhelming at times with Goldilocks, Captain Hook, Flying Monkeys, Gingerbread soldiers, and dozens of others. The series includes all of the most well-known fairy tale characters. Even Goldilocks and Jack's baby Hero becomes an important part of the story. The overall series is written by Chris Colfer, the Golden Globe-winning actor and best-selling author, and has been very entertaining. Lovers of fantasy and fairy tales won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Edge of Extinction #2: Code Name Flood by Laura Martin

Code Name Flood (Edge of Extinction, #2)My name is Sky, and my friends and I are trekking through lands full of vicious dinosaurs to deliver a critical message somewhere to the middle of Lake Michigan. We've discovered a lab at the bottom of the lake that is actually breeding more dinosaurs! They say it's necessary to balance nature, and we're beginning to understand their thinking. However, the message I was carrying revealed the Noah's plan to eliminate all dinosaurs using nuclear bombs which will also kill all humans living on the surface! Somehow, he discovered the lab's location and bombed it, killing my best friend Spencer. There may be a way to stop the Noah from destroying the world, but I will need to get past his soldiers to enter his compound. But how can I travel a hundred miles in a day without becoming a meal for thousands of dinosaurs.

This book is the second in the series, but I didn't read the first book yet. I suggest you do, since it would help explain the situation and the layout of the world. It sounded like humans used DNA to bring dinosaurs back from extinction, but the dinosaurs carried a disease killing most of the people on the planet. The surviving humans created compounds in different areas but had little contact with each other. The plot was full of adventure, action, and suspense with the Noah's army searching for Sky and her friends. Dinosaur lovers will enjoy the book, as it blended information into the plot. Chaz was a girl working in the lab before the attack, and she informed Sky's group about the dinosaurs they faced. For science lovers, the whole concept of the conflict stressed the importance of letting the environment keep itself balanced without human interference. Predators and plant-eaters would keep each other's populations in check, and humans could co-exist among them. The author found a way to include "monsters" in his story without inventing new monsters. The book was a fun blend of dinosaurs and modern technology, and I recommend you give it a shot.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting #1 by Joe Ballarini

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting (Babysitter's Guide to Monsters #1)My name is Kelly, and I've lost a little boy on my first babysitting job. He was taken by one of his nightmare monsters (yeah, I didn't believe in them either), so I called his regular sitter Liz. She's a babysitting, ninja monster hunter! It's all my fault Jacob was taken, but I don't know how to help. Liz keeps telling me to read the handbook, but I know she really thinks I'm a whiny loser. Our search for Jacob leads us to the huge, eighth-grade Halloween party. OMG, Victor's there, and he's looking sooooo cute! Liz and I find a Shadow Monster in the basement, and we rescue another little girl. Monsters don't usually kidnap this many kids at once. What do the monsters want with Jacob and the others? Jacob's last drawing looked like a monster I once saw in my dreams, but that's impossible. And, now? You'll need to read my babysitting handbook to find out the other unbelievable secrets I discovered.

I was expecting a cutesy story of teenage girls watching little kids, however this book describes a fast-paced, adventure. Kelly's character only wants to make money for summer camp, but she feels morally responsible for Jacob. She wants to be a cool eight-grader, but the cool kids at school mock her. The book doesn't provide any super-imaginative ideas, but it's written with a blend of humor, action, and suspense. The conflict even has a 1:00 am deadline, since that's when Jacob's parents will be home. As a parent and former teacher, I wasn't excited with toddlers being terrified, but it was necessary to develop the conflict. I can't think of any part of the plot where it seemed to slow down. The monsters were introduced early, and Kelly spent the rest of the time awkwardly trying to find Jacob. I'm still not totally clear about her abilities and the little voice she hears in her head. The author indicates there's something special about Kelly, but it's never spelled out for readers. Did she just become really brave and resourceful, or is there more to it? Either way, I was pleasantly surprised with this book, and I can easily recommend it to young lovers of monsters.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Noble Warriors Trilogy #2: Jango by William Nicholson

Jango (Noble Warriors Trilogy, #2)My name is Echo, and I must find a Noble Warrior to save our Glimmen. An invading tyrant captured me and has threatened to burn it down if I refuse to marry one of his disgusting sons. I'm forced to travel with the Jahan's army as villages are destroyed and the male peasants are murdered. The Jahan will slaughter everyone in the city of  Radiance if the Radiant Leader refuses to kneel before him. I've heard the Nomana have great power and may be able to stop the Jahan's juggernaut. Unfortunately, the two people I've found say they left the Nomana and are not able to stop an army. However, they say their friend is more powerful than all, so I will find him. He cannot refuse to save my people; the Nomana have sworn to help the less fortunate. I was not prepared for his answer.

You need to read Seeker before reading this book, and the trilogy is probably more appropriate for teens. The main characters aren't kids. The plots jumped around to several settings, which I don't care for, but they all started to come together in the end. I most enjoyed the plot that followed Seeker, since he is the hero of the trilogy. He slowly discovered his hidden abilities but needed to learn what to do with them. Echo was a great character added to the plot, since she had a defiant attitude throughout. Her bravery and intelligence helped her stand up to the terrifying Jahan. An interesting twist was how the Jahan didn't restrain Echo, since she knew he'd burn down her forest if she tried to escape. The Jahan's army rode atop Caspians, and all of the other characters were amazed by these creatures. Readers will know something the characters don't, since Caspians are actually horses. The trilogy has a spiritual aspect to it, as the Nomana are devoted to their god. These characters did quite a bit of self-reflection, as they searched for their inner purposes. This led to unexpected decisions by several main characters and added to the conflicts. Overall, I recommend this series.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Enchanted Forest Chronicles #4: Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Talking to Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #4)My name is Daystar. My mother gave me a sword and sent me into the Enchanted Forest, but she didn't say why. I've since discovered I hold the Sword of the Sleeping King and must find the Dragon King Kabul. I'm now accompanied by a fire-witch named Shiara, but she must learn to control her temper in this forest. Evil wizards are searching for us everywhere, but the sword is able to sense and absorb magic. A dragon says he knows a shortcut to the castle and the Dragon King, but the path has changed. There are invisible barriers and new trees popping up. The trees seem innocent enough, but the dragon says there haven't been any new magical trees in a long time. I still don't know what it all means, but I do know that we must arrive safely to the castle soon, before a war between the dragons and wizards breaks out.

This book was written before the other book in the series, but the introduction says they're all prequels to Talking to Dragons. A helpful hint I had forgotten: remember that Cimorene was pregnant throughout the previous book. We already knew characters like Cimorene, Telemain, and Morwen, so it was strange to read about Daystar and Shiara meeting them for the first time. The magic sword must have been the same one as in earlier books, but it wasn't clear why a peasant boy was wielding it. Why wasn't his mother, a queen in earlier books, living in the castle, and where was her husband King Mendenbar? All of the questions were answered in the last quarter of the book, and all issues appeared to be resolved. Overall, the series was a quick-read and was very enjoyable.

Outlaws of Time #2: The Song of Glory and Ghost by N.D. Wilson

The Song of Glory and Ghost (Outlaws of Time #2)My name is Glory, and we must save Peter's life or everything is lost. Sam may be destined to kill The Vulture, but The Vulture's assassins have gone back in time to kill Peter as a baby. The Ghost said I'm a time-walker and has given me the power to locate Peter, but Sam and his arms will need to protect me. A girl named Samra joined us on our last jump, after her father overpowered and tied our friends, and I'm not sure what we should do about her. I don't really know what I'm doing as a time-walker, and we have less than a day to save Peter. If Peter dies at birth, all of the Father Tiempos in time will disappear, and Sam will also die. Then, there will be nothing left in the world able to stop The Vulture from destroying the world as we know it. 

You need to read The Legend of Sam Miracle before reading this one, or it won't make any sense. Time traveling and alternate realities make the series challenging enough as it is. Honestly, be prepared to think and use your imagination or you'll be lost. The setting jumps to vastly different times and places in history, and sometimes in between. Glory is more of the focal point than she was in book one. She's been advising Sam before this time, but now she is dictating their new missions. This book reveals more about her past. Peter is the main priority, since his death will allow The Vulture to destroy the world. To complicate things, The Vulture is amassing an army of creatures without loyalty; they will become uncontrollable once they're unleashed. Once again, Sam's arms have their own subplots. Cindy, the snake controlling his left arm, only wants to kill, while Speck is the more cooperative snake controlling his right arm. Sam is learning to better deal with their personalities. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Horizon by Scott Westerfield

Horizon (Horizon, #1)My name is Javi, and our plane to Japan has crashed in... I'm not sure where. We were flying over the Arctic, the plane started falling apart, and now we're stranded in the middle of a tropical jungle. You don't find any jungles around the frigid Arctic Circle. Most of the passengers, including all the adults, disappeared before the crash, and this jungle is unnatural. Anna found a strange device that can turn off gravity, but it also seems to attract the shredder birds that attacked me. (I wish I'd come up with that cool name!) Yushi found a source of water, but there are deadly, bizarre creatures lurking in the trees. Where are we? Two of the girls were able to see above the mist blocking the sky and discovered a red moon and green moon among the stars. Are we still on Earth? Is there any way back to our homes, and will we live long enough to find it?

This book was okay. The beginning had a creative hook to pull me in, the middle presented interesting problems, but that's where it ended. It didn't build to a climax, and I felt like the end just stopped. I assume the next book in the series will pick up where this one left off, but this book didn't feel finished. Four of the main characters were members of a winning robot team, so the plot reflects a focus on science. I didn't mind it, but you should be aware. The book was easy to read, but I just felt like the plot wasn't going anywhere. The kids explored and faced some dangers, but they weren't able to figure out what was going on and didn't meet any other intelligent life. By the time they made any significant discoveries, the book was over. I'm sure this book will have an audience, but it didn't work for me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Trials of Apollo #2: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, #2)My name is Apollo, and Zeus is punishing me by making me a mortal, teenage boy. The next prophecy in my quest to return to my godly status is to free the oracle in Indianapolis. Commodus has control over it, and he has been imprisoning residents and creatures from the Waystation. The caretakers of the Waystation want me to free their daughter first, and there seems to be a possibility that I'm her father. Honestly, how am I supposed to remember? The girl has lost her mind after being taken to the Oracle, and unfortunately so has my master and friend Meg. Commodus has a nasty temper and blames me for his problems. Maybe I had something to with his death. Okay, I kind of held his head underwater until he drowned, but I saved many lives by doing that. Anyhow, I must rescue his prisoners and stop him from destroying the Waystation. Being a mortal without powers will make it difficult. Heck, I could die!

The fun part of this series is Apollo's "adjustment" to becoming mortal. I'm a little tired of his whining about his old powers and the way things used to be, but its part of his character. Honestly, I'm learning to accept it, and it helps to make his character more endearing. However, I'm not totally sure why the author still allows Apollo to have temporary control over his former powers at critical moments. Why would Zeus allow this? The story is told through Apollo's eyes, which makes sense, but I would like to know more about Meg's thoughts. She has a lot going on in her head after abandoning Apollo, returning to her evil/crazy "father", and learning to master her powers. This book is written similarly to other books by this author, and it looks like Percy Jackson's buddy Grover will be in the sequel. I'm looking forward to it.

Noble Warriors Trilogy #1: Seeker by William Nicholson

Seeker (Noble Warriors Trilogy, #1)My name is Mornng Star, and I've always wanted to be a Nomana like my mother. I care about others and would use the Nomana powers to help the less fortunate. However, I was rejected by the Community and discovered my mother is not here either. What's happened to her? I've met another reject named Seeker, and we've joined the crazy killer Wildman on his boat. Seeker has an idea to get an invitation from the Nomana by performing a great deed they cannot do themselves. He says a secret, powerful bomb is being built in Radiant that will be used to destroy the whole island of Anacrea. I know there is more to Wildman than asking if I want my throat slit, and the green color I see around him tells me he's uncertain. Perhaps there's a slim chance the Nomana will accept him too. 

I must admit the first part of the book didn't grab me. It was establishing background information and setting up the conflicts and subplots, but nothing was overly compelling. It became much more interesting once the characters were rejected and teamed up with Wildman. The teens needed to teach him compassion for others and how to control his urge to hurt those people. The characters had their own stories beyond the Nomana, but they all came together in the end. Seeker wanted to find his brother after he had his mind cleansed and was banished from the island. Morning Star wanted to find her mother, and Wildman wanted power and peace. He just didn't understand how the power needed to be used to help the weak and less fortunate. Morning Star had the ability to see colors surrounding others that allowed her  to sense their emotions and thoughts, while Seeker heard a voice in his mind that drove him to a higher calling. The author introduced many twists and turns to the plot that made the overall book very entertaining.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Skulduggery Pleasant #6: Death Bringer by Derek Landy

Death Bringer (Skulduggery Pleasant, #6)My name is Melancholia, and I am the Death Bringer who will save the world. Of course, I must kill billions of people to begin the Passage, but it will unite the living and dead. Some necromancers think Valkyrie Cane is the one, but I will squash her soon and end those thoughts. I've already beaten her within an inch of her life, but she's now recovered and ready for more. Skulduggery Pleasant is her amusing partner, but I'm going to enjoy tearing the skeleton man apart. The only concern I have is the reported sighting of Lord Vale and his connection to Skulduggery. Although he was the last Death Bringer, I'm certain he won't be able to stop me. Some of the necromancers fear me, because they haven't fully embraced the idea of the living and dead existing together. Their deaths only make me stronger, so I'm sure they appreciate  the idea now. 

This book again displays Skulduggery's sense of humor, as Valkyrie and he fight the evil characters trying to ruin the lives of mortals. It also presents a couple of secrets that have been brewing in the past, and it's unclear how China's secret may change things in the future. Skulduggery and Valkyrie's secrets kind of cancel each other out. While I've been enjoying the series immensely, I'm not sure how much farther I want to go. There are still several more books to come, and the plots are getting redundant to me. Some super powerful entity wants to destroy the world, Skulduggery and Valkyrie take their lumps trying to stop it, and they finally figure out some way to save the day. What surprises me is the author keeps introducing unexpected twists, so I'm not sure why I have a problem. Maybe I've read too many in a row and need a break. I recommend you give the series a shot. The author's imagination and Skulduggery's sense of humor make it a winner!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Outlaws of Time #1: The Legend of Sam Miracle by N. D. Wilson

The Legend of Sam Miracle (Outlaws of Time #1)My name is Sam, and I have died more times than I can remember. Actually, I don't remember much at all. I thought I was just some messed up boy, with messed up arms, living in a messed up desert boys' home until I met Glory and Father Tiempo. Father Tiempo takes me back in time, and all I need to do is figure out a way to not get shot, stabbed, or blown up and to keep my sister alive. So far, I've failed miserably over and over again. A book tells the story of me as a character named Poncho shooting The Vulture in a gunfight, but the outlaw is also able to travel through time and keeps killing me before it happens. Father Tiempo says this journey back will be my last, but this time I have Glory to help me remember. My arms are still destroyed, but they've been replaced with two snakes. I still have my hands, but my arms have minds of their own. The snake on the right shoots my pistol to defend me, but the snake on the left only wants to kill. And I can't control her!

I thought I'd read enough to not be surprised anymore. The concept of a character continually traveling back in time in order to save his own life is novel. Having damaged arms and memory problems help complicate the issue, but the snake arms are truly unique. They are parts of Sam's character that he's not able to control, and the left arm creates its own problems and tension. It even tries to kill Sam himself! I'll tell you, for me, the biggest tension was created during Sam's interactions with his own arms. The snakes were unpredictable, so the expectations were unpredictable. The antagonist has set himself up in a future life of riches, power, and violence, but he needs Sam's heart to keep it from falling apart. One version of The Legend of Poncho has him being killed by Sam, so Sam must die forever to keep that version from happening. Confusing? It's really not that bad. There were some jumps through history, but that mostly ended when Father Tiempo sacrificed his life (or did he?). This book is the first in a series, so I'm curious about what the sequels will reveal. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Skulduggery Pleasant #5: Mortal Coil by Derek Landy

Mortal Coil (Skulduggery Pleasant, #5)My name is Skulduggery Pleasant, and all hell has broken loose. All of the Remnants have been released and are possessing hundreds and hundreds of host bodies. The only way to kill the Remnants is to kill the innocent hosts. That option is not desirable, plus many of the most powerful sorcerers and mages are among the victims. We have a soul catcher that would help with one Remnant but will be useless with thousands of them. I'm also concerned about Valkyrie's secrets. I know she's worried about becoming the Darquesse and destroying the world, so I'm afraid of what she might do. I would never judge her, but she'll probably do something moronic, simple-minded, and imbecilic. We're trying to reform the Sanctuary, Remnants are running wild, and my partner may destroy the world. Geez, I love the excitement of being a detective!

The humor is back in full force! The banter between Skulduggery and Valkyrie is very amusing, and Skulduggery enjoys teasing his friends and foes. As described above, the plot in this book goes a little haywire. It seemed like it was going to focus on undermining the reformation of the Sanctuary, and then the Remnants went nuts. The second half of the book describes their takeover of mortals, then sorcerers, then characters with power within the organization of magic. It wasn't clear when this epidemic would stop and how the protagonists might be able to stop them. I'm impressed with how well the author introduces the unexpected and keeps me guessing. At different times, good guys become bad, and bad guys help the good, usually temporarily. Valkyrie is the main character, and her issues are compelling. She might destroy the world, but the Necromancers think she will become a savior. She still wants to be part of the mortal world with her parents, but she must keep magic a secret and her reflection is behaving strangely. The arrival of a new sibling will further complicate her life, and it's unclear how her cousins will affect the future. All of these factors make me look forward to reading Death Bringer.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Skulduggery Pleasant #4: Dark Days by Derek Landy

Dark Days (Skulduggery Pleasant, #4)My name is Valkyrie, and I couldn't let Skulduggery be lost forever. I know it was a terrible idea to open the portal again, but I had to rescue him from the Faceless Ones. Now, Scarab spent two hundred years in prison after being framed for an assassination and has united several of our past enemies. Scarab is set on revenge and has plans to wipe out all the Sanctuaries. He had Dusk and an army of vampires attack the Irish Sanctuary, and they stole the Desolation Engine, a weapon of mass destruction. The Head Mage says its been disarmed, but Kenspeckle's been kidnapped and may be smart enough to fix the bomb. Even if we stop this attack, Scarab will have a Plan B. These headaches are making it hard to think, but it might be that I've seen my future. A Sensitive shared a vision where  I'm killed after letting my parents die.

This book is the first in the series where the antagonists aren't trying to bring back the Faceless Ones. A couple are followers of the gods, but the main motivation is revenge. I was a little confused with Crux's character. He was a lead Sanctuary detective in the last book, but now he's a devout follower of the Faceless Ones. It was a pretty quick, extreme change. I like the interactions within the protagonists and antagonists. Even though each group has its own goals, the members have their own secrets, issues from the past, and private agendas. This book got back to more of the humor found in the first two books, especially when Valkyrie was reunited with Skulduggery. He was literally in pieces and thought she was a hallucination. The plot had many twists and turns. Just when you think Scarab's plans are thwarted, we learn he isn't finished. It was clear that Valkyrie's headaches were an omen, but the truth wasn't really a surprise. The revelation about her ancestry was related to it, but it felt more unexpected. There are very dark days in her future.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Skulduggery Pleasant #3: The Faceless Ones by Derek Landy

The Faceless Ones (Skulduggery Pleasant, #3)My name is Skulduggery Pleasant, and I've been fired by the Sanctuary. That's okay since, the Head Mage is a traitor and his new lead detective is an idiot. There is only one surviving Teleporter, all the rest have been murdered, and it has something to do with bringing back the Faceless Ones. The Diablerie is behind it, and they already have their sights set on the Grotesquery's remains. They plan to use it and the last Teleporter to open a portal for the Faceless Ones to return and kill mankind. Unofficially, I'm protecting the last Teleporter, but he's an obnoxious, arrogant, young twit. We need to reassemble the Scepter as a last resort against the Faceless Ones, but Valkyrie is the only one who can touch the black crystals. She has the blood of Ancients running through her veins, but I worry that I always put her in danger. She should be enjoying her life as a teenager, not helping me save humanity.

Important aspects to Skulduggery's character are his confidence and sense of humor, although he is least humorous in this book. He still gets his jibes in, but there always seems to be something dire and serious going on. A major issue in the series is Valkyrie's role as his sidekick versus life as a normal teenage girl. Skulduggery wonders about it, but other characters tell him he should not be putting her into these situations. However, Valkyrie points out that she'll only disobey if he tries to keep her out of the investigations. The return of the Faceless Ones has been the ongoing problem since book one, and each book introduces new characters to take up the cause. The author has the characters use magic as tools or weapons, but Skulduggery still likes driving his Bentley, although in this book he's forced to drive the Purple Menace. I'm enjoying the adventure in the books, as the detectives are constantly forced to save mankind. Skulduggery comes up with plans that rarely work, but he likes the unexpected surprises. The last few pages of this book present a surprise ending that will have a dramatic effect on the next book. I've already started reading Dark Days.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Trials of Apollo #1: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, #1)My name is Meg, and I have claimed Apollo to be my servant. Of course, Zeus has  taken away his godly powers, so he looks like any goofy teenager. I'm a demigod and only recently discovered my mother is Demeter. I have some control over plants, have curved blades springing from my rings, and have summoned a powerful karpos. Other demigods at Camp Half Blood have been disappearing, and the Oracle of Delphi is no longer offers prophecies. We are slowly realizing the two problems are related. Apollo is in charge of protecting the oracles, but he's now hearing voices in the nearby woods. Is this a sign he's going crazy, or is it a clue we must follow? I wish he could remember the memories tickling his brain, but I'm afraid of the devastating secret I'm keeping from him.

Riordan mixes the style found in his other highly successful mythology books with an uncommon main character, an actual god. Apollo's character has the insecurities of a human teenager while keeping the pompous arrogance of a deity. It's a fun, humorous combination. The humor continues with other characters too. Rhea talks like a flower child from the 60's, and the two geyser palikos are most concerned about travel brochures and customer surveys. The adventure is entertaining, and a surprise or two are left for the end. I thought the plot would end with the climax, but another climax soon follows. This provides an exciting conclusion. It looks like the sequel will continue with Apollo in his mortal state, but his partnership with Meg is less certain. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles #3: Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Calling on Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #3)My name is Morwena, and wizards have returned to the Enchanted Forest. I notified the king, but he won't be much help at this time. Mendenbar's sword has been stolen, so he must stay within the kingdom to keep the defensive barrier going. I'm leading the queen, a magician, and Kazul, the king of the dragons, to retrieve the sword. We must find it before the wizards start absorbing its powers, and ultimately all the magic in the Enchanted Forest. However, we're finding the journey difficult. Dangers lurk among the trees, something is distorting Telemain's spells, and a mysterious stranger seems to be helping the wizards. During our last communication with Mendenbar, we learned more wizards have started sneaking back into the kingdom which means the protective spell is weakening. Time is running out!

You can enjoy this book without having to read the previous ones. The author introduces humor into the plot with references to characters and events from familiar fairy tales, but this book has a bit more. A seven-foot rabbit named Killer begins the plot, and he's always hungry. His habit of eating almost anything creates problems when he tries to digest food tainted by magic. The combination of spells results in unexpected consequences (See the flying donkey on the cover). Morwen's cats are loyal companions, and they provide their own funny comments, especially toward Killer and each other. The plot doesn't develop any real suspense, but the story is still entertaining. The problems caused by wizards continue to drive the protagonists, but character interactions seem to drive the plot. This is a fun series to read!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skulduggery Pleasant #2: Playing With Fire by Derek Lindy

Playing with Fire (Skulduggery Pleasant, #2)My name is Valkyrie, and Baron Vengeous is trying to raise a Grotesquery with the powers of a Faceless One combined with other creatures. This could lead to the arrival of other Faceless Ones and the ruination of mankind! Skulduggery has been training me in elemental magic, since I'm a descendant of the Ancients. My new skills have come in handy, but Vengeous still seems determined to capture me. I don't know why. He's sent a murderous vampire after me, and I've made it even more dangerous after scarring its face and stealing its razor. Skulduggery always appears whenever I most need him, but I've had some real close calls recently. Vengeous has the magical armor he needs to complete his plan, and we have only two days to figure out how to stop him.

It will be helpful to read Skulduggery Pleasant first. Skulduggery is a fun character, as he solves mysteries with bravado and a sense of humor. Most of the evil characters fear or respect him, but his teasing usually irritates and annoys them. Valkyrie was known as Stephanie in book one and joined the world of magic after her uncle died. The plot follows her character, as the evil characters are focused on her, in addition to raising the Faceless Ones. This book touches on her conflicting emotions about leaving her pre-magic life and missing "normal" life with her parents. She's able to absorb the memories of the mirror image that is replacing her at home and school, but it's not the same as experiencing that life. The book is mostly an adventure story even though Skulduggery is a detective trying to solve a mystery. There are plenty of action scenes, and Skulduggery brings a sense of playfulness. Even when he's losing an arm! I'm enjoying the series and recommend you give it a try.