Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Septimus Heap #4: Queste by Angie Sage

Queste (Septimus Heap, #4)My name is Septimus, and my brother Nicko is lost five hundred years in the past. Jenna and I have been given letters and a map written by Snorri and him, but the ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia has confined me to the castle. She wants me to prepare for the Projection, but neither one of us was ready for the sudden Gathering called by the ghost of Tertius Fume. Most of the past ExtraOrdinary Wizards voted for me to draw a Queste. It's usually assigned to apprentices with seven years experience (I only have one), and none of them have ever returned alive. Snorri's map and my Queste seem to be leading to the same destination, the House of Foryx where All Times Do Meet. I still have hope that I can save Nicko and Snorri, if only I can survive my Queste.

You should read the previous books in the series, since this book involves a number of past relationships between characters. As always, Jenna is determined to save Nicko, no matter what, and she hates to be treated like royalty. Septimus's Queste amps up the tension in the plot's conflict, since all of the past apprentices have died trying to complete it. It's clear from the Queste Stone's colors that Septimus is on the right track, and it becomes clear that Nicko's destiny is part of it. Merrin's character returns to the series to stir up trouble, but Simon's character was a surprise. Simon is Septimus's brother and tried to kill him in an earlier book; he was a major antagonist. Now, Simon seems to have repented and wants to change his Darke ways, but other characters are not so forgiving. It will be interesting to see what becomes of him and if he has actually become a good character. The series continues to be entertaining, and the plots manage to travel to different realms and times. This book moves from the past and present day Castle, the forest, and into the House of Foryx. Many interesting characters, new and old, await. I've already checked out the next book in the series Syren.

A Quinnie Boyd Mystery: Vampires on the Run by C.M. Surrisi

Vampires on the RunMy name is Quinnie, and there are vampires living in my best friend's house! They are Ella's famous aunt and uncle, but I need to tell her what I've noticed. Her aunt is pale and sickly, won't come out in the sunshine, insists that all the mirror's in the house be covered, walks the beach at night, and looks healthier the day after a cat was killed. Ella probably won't believe me, but what if her life is in danger? Dominic and I have also noticed the fishermen from Ohio snooping around Ella's house. What's that about? Are they vampire hunters or paparazzi, because they sure aren't fishermen? My mom is the sheriff in this Maine town (and mayor, and real estate agent, and mail carrier...), but I'm not sure if she can help. Things seem to be getting more serious, so I'm going to need to do something soon.

This book is a nice introduction for young readers interested in vampire stories, but more mature readers won't care for it as much. You should expect to read this book as a mystery, not a vampire story. The whole plot read like a mystery, as Quinnie and friends tried to discover what was going on. All of the evidence could be viewed from different angles, so readers are never quite sure of the truth until the end. I enjoyed the small-town feel of the story, as most of the action occurred around two homes and the local restaurant, all located along a beach. Quinnie was a caring young girl with a vivid imagination, but she wasn't an impulsive character, mostly. She enlisted the help of friends, and it was cool how quickly Dominic was accepted. Overall, this story is a fun mystery involving world-famous authors of vampire books.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Septimus Heap #3: Physik by Angie Sage

Physik (Septimus Heap, #3)My name is Septimus, and I'm afraid I'll never be able to return to the Castle. I've been pulled through the Glass and find myself trapped five hundred years in the past with the alchemist Marcellus Pye. He's created a tincture for eternal life, but his evil mother Queen Ethelredda wants it for herself. Her spirit caused my dilemma, and some people believe she's killed her other children. I know my sister Princess Jenna will try to find a way to travel to this time to free me, but it seems impossible. The only positive is that I've learned is a remedy for the deadly Sicknesse plaguing the realm. However, what good is the cure if I can't return to my time to help the people?

I'm enjoying the series very much and recommend it to you. The book provides adventure and suspense, as Septimus and Jenna try to solve the problem from different points in time. This book doesn't have a bunch of spell-casting. Pye seems to be a nice alchemist and takes Septimus on as his apprentice, but he was the one who pulled Septimus through the portal in the first place. His mother is an evil queen, and he is the one creating a potion that might make her live forever. The queen is a detestable character, as she rules through fear and is obsessed with power and living forever. A couple new characters are introduced to the series, mainly the Spirit-Seer named Snorri and her companion. The companion is a Night-Ullr, an orange cat during the day that changes to a fierce black panther when the sun sets. Ullr comes to the rescue on more than one occasion. Some readers may not like the language used by characters in Pye's time; even Septimus commented it was hard to understand them. However, you should be able to get used to it, just like Septimus did, without much trouble. The author throws in a bunch of extra e's and has the characters speak in a form of Old English. You can probably read this book on its own, since the conflict is totally separate from the events in the previous two books.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Simon Thorn #1: Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den by Aimee Carter

Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den (Simon Thorn, #1)My name is Simon, and I just learned that I am an Animalgam, a human with the ability to change into an animal. Actually, I'm a Hybred, since my parents were from different animal kingdoms. I haven't been able to morph yet, so I don't know what animal I will become. I never would have believed this if I hadn't been able to speak to animals for years, and I witnessed my mom changing into an eagle and my uncle changing into a wolf! My grandfather rules over the bird kingdom, and my mom has been taken captive by the mammals and is being held in the L.A.I.R. at the Central Park Zoo. I've been allowed in, since my grandmother is the Alpha, ruler of the mammals. I've learned that she is trying to get all five pieces of a scepter that will allow her to take the powers of animals from other kingdoms. I'm even more surprised to discover I have a twin brother, and one of us may be killed for being the heir to the Beast King.

This book is the first in the series, although I read the Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit first. I actually preferred the second book more,  but this one helped me understand Simon's situation better. I  now understand why Simon is helped by a black widow spider, a dolphin, and a cottonmouth snake. Unlike most other books where characters are discovering new powers, Simon doesn't display any abilities until the book's climax. Other characters take turns helping him, but he doesn't really have one sidekick, except for Felix. Felix is a tiny mouse who is also Simon's best friend, although one character describes him as a bloodthirsty rat. Action is spaced throughout the plot, and mystery is included too. The secrets of the scepter, Simon's father, and the conflicts between the kingdoms are slowly revealed. Simon's brother has a hard time accepting this relationship, but the big question is which boy might have inherited abilities of the Beast King. The truth is surprising and leads directly into the sequel.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Simon Thorn #2: Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit by Aimee Carter

Simon Thorn and the Viper's Pit (Simon Thorn #2)My name is Simon, and no one, not even my twin brother Nolan, the King Beast heir, knows that I'm able to transform into any animal. Other Animalgams believe my brother is the only person to have that ability, so he has great power over the different animal kingdoms. Which is why they'll have no problem killing him, and it's a reason why I keep my abilities secret. My mother is being held captive by Orion, the bird king, in Arizona, and I will not stop until I've rescued her. My uncle, Alpha of the mammals, is trying to bring me back to the L.A.I.R., and Orion is determined to have the birds capture me too. And my friends have reminded me that Orion is trying to assemble the five parts of the Predator, which he will use to kill my brother and take his powers. My friends have agreed to help me, but the chances for my stupid plan to be successful are slim. 

I didn't read the first book, and it probably would have helped to understand relationships and motivations. I wish I knew more about how Simon became an Animalgam and why he wasn't raised with his mom and twin brother. Simon's partners had different talents: Winter became a poisonous snake, Ariana a Black-widow spider, and Jam could change into a dolphin. It would seem that Jam's talents might be useless on land, but it turned out that a dolphin's keen sense of direction is handy when traveling cross country. The plot contained ample adventure, but I wish there had been more action. There were animal fights, but they felt more like skirmishes until the story's climax. I forgot to mention that Orion also happens to be Simon's grandfather, so it's unusual that he wants to capture and kill his grandsons. Overall, the book was entertaining, and I expect I'll probably go on and read Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den, the first book in the series.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Peter Nimble #1: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes (Peter Nimble, #1)My name is Peter, and I'm supposed to save the Vanished Kingdom, whatever that might be.  The only clues I've found about its existence come from a short, cryptic rhyming poem. This quest is pretty momentous for a young thief who happens to be blind; my eyes were pecked out by ravens when I was a baby. I have a box containing three pairs of eyeballs, and the golden ones have transported me to a strange world. I've met a brave knight, Sir Tode, to be my eyes, but a witch changed him into a horse/cat. He's become the first friend I ever had. Our journey has taken us across a desert full of banished criminals, and we fought for our lives against an army of ravens. We've now met a princess who has been hiding from her evil uncle for the past ten years. It seems like our destinies are linked, but the full truth of our futures remains to be discovered.

I enjoyed this book more than I expected. The eyeballs had different "powers", and the black ones were used the most. They allowed Peter to become whatever creature he last touched, whether it be a raven, beetle, or sea monster. Predictably, Peter's character had an important connection to the Vanished Kingdom. The most intriguing part of the plot was how his character's blindness seemed to have advantages over everyone else. He could sense elements of the setting that others missed using his senses of touch, smell, and hearing. Rather than pity him, other characters tended to see him as a leader. Sir Tode was an entertaining character, as he was more exaggeration than actual hero. However, he was extremely loyal to Peter, and they worked well as a team. The story sends a message that people may be more than they seem, and faith and loyalty will be rewarded. It's a fun book!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Enchanted Forest Chronicles #2: Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Searching for Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #2)My name is King Mendenbar, although I find most of the royal rituals stuffy and boring. It appears a dragon has burned away part of the Enchanted Forest and sucked away the magic in that area, but the Dragon King's cook/librarian (don't tell anyone that Cimorene is really a princess) says the scales I found are from a traitorous dragon who was turned into a toad. She also informed me the Dragon King is missing, so I'm accompanying her during her search through the Enchanted Forest. It wouldn't look good if she died in the forest I rule. It's looking more and more like the Council of Wizards is trying to start a war between the dragons and myself, but I can't figure out why. Cimorene and I have been joined by a magician who knows quite a bit about spells, but even he is confused by the magic going on here. The power emanating from my sword may attract wizards from all over, but it may also be the key to stopping their plans.

Although this book is the second in the series, I have not read the first one yet and didn't find it to be a problem. Cimorene's character reminds me of Dragon Slippers, as both princesses are annoyed by the thought of being rescued from dragons by princes. She adds her own wisdom and abilities in helping Mendenbar. The plot is fast-paced and adds in some mystery and humor to make it very entertaining. The author includes references to familiar fairy tales, but it's not done in a cutesy, distracting way. For example, Rumpelstiltskin is depressed due to his curse of spinning gold and taking first-born children from royalty, but Mendenbar thinks of a way to solve the problem by opening a boarding school. Soapy water with a bit of lemon is a great weapon in fighting wizards. As I read what I've just typed, don't get the impression this book is just a silly, goofy story. Most of the book tells the tale of an exciting adventure, and I recommend you give the series a shot. It's a fun story!

Peter Nimble #2; Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard (Peter Nimble, #2)My name is Sophie, and I am the Last Storyguard. Inquisitor Prigg is the architect of the No Nonsense movement and is burning anything he considers a waste of time (like books!). A blindfolded boy named Peter Nimble brought me The Book of Who, but all four books in the set together may give me the power to stop Prigg and save the world (that's what the Professor said). However, Madame Eldritch, an evil woman with a knowledge of spells, has discovered the truth of the books and is competing to get them first. I was able to stop her once with the help of Peter and Sir Tode, but we must now escape a horrifying menagerie and a deadly swamp bog. She has an unstoppable creature doggedly pursuing us, and she's willing to kill for the books.

This book is the sequel to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, and it might help to read it first, but probably isn't necessary. The first book will help you understand Peter's character better. He lost his eyes as a child but has magical green eyes now that allow him to see. However, he prefers to wear a blindfold and use his other senses, because it makes him feel more like his real self. He's an amazing thief and fighter, and his actions border on magical. Sophie is the reluctant hero but has no idea what makes her special. The Book of Who has chosen her for some reason; perhaps it's because her deceased mother was once a Storyguard herself. Sir Tode is a wonderfully loyal and determined partner who is cursed to live forever as a horse/cat/knight. The embellished tales of his feats are amusing. The book provides plenty of action and adventure as the trio travel across the country. Magic portals and unconsciousness help them cover distances more quickly, so there aren't wasted pages describing their time between stops. I'm looking forward to reading book three in the series.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Keepers Trilogy #1: Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner

Museum of Thieves (The Keepers, #1)My name is Goldie, and the Blessed Guardians have imprisoned my parents and have been hunting me for weeks. I've found refuge in the Museum of Dunt, but I'm sure you won't believe what I'm going to tell you. Its rooms shift around as it gets upset, and that's been happening more and more recently. The caretakers sing to calm the museum, and they're training me to join them. I've learned when to steal, how to pick locks, and three ways to become invisible. However, the Blessed Guardians are becoming more aggressive in the museum, and it's getting more angry. If we don't find a way to stop them, the museum may open the Dirty Gate. The gate holds all the evils in the world (war, famine, and plague), and they may soon be unleashed on mankind.

It takes an imagination to read this book due to the life of the museum. Characters new to it weren't sure where they were going and ended up walking in circles. As a reader, this made it difficult to picture the setting in my mind. I enjoyed Goldie's interactions with Toadspit, an antagonistic boy who was asked to train her. They bickered like brother and sister but eventually became effective allies. The book presented an interesting message about society and young people. Children were chained to their parents until being separated during a formal ceremony, and independence in their young people was taboo. Parents were punished, and children were retrained. This culture was designed to protect the kids, but it actually resulted in adults who lacked courage and couldn't adapt to change. Broo was an engaging character, as he could appear as a cute little dog but could quickly change into a huge, vicious beast. He wasn't able to control the changes, so his reactions to situations were unpredictable. I plan to start the sequel tomorrow.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Wing and Claw #2: Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park

Cavern of Secrets (Wing & Claw #2)My name is Raffa, and animals are being trained to attack Afters living in the slums. My uncle is the one who discovered how to create mixtures using the red vines, and he believes he's doing something good. I don't know if he realizes his creation is being used to attack humans. I've created a mixture to counteract the effects on animals, but I don't know how to get it into them. The Chancellor has guards searching for me everywhere. I've discovered my parents' home burned to the ground, and don't know if they're alive or dead. Trixin doesn't want to get involved, but her brother Jimble and his friends have proven to be a tremendous help. He's willing to do whatever I need of him, but Trixin will kill me if he gets into serious trouble. The animals must be cured and freed tonight, or it may be too late.

You should read the first book in the series to fully understand the red vine, and Raffa's history with the problem. I've enjoyed how Raffa and Kuma have worked together, although Raffa spent the second half of the book alone. Characters helped him, but he was mostly independent. An entertaining aspect of the story is his relationship with a bat named Echo. The red vine enables Echo to speak in very short phrases, and he mostly acts as Raffa's lookout. He's very innocent and communicates literally. This creates some miscommunication, since Raffa isn't always able to foresee things from the bat's viewpoint. The plot doesn't have a great deal of action, although it has its moments. The most engaging part of the book is found in the conflict. Most readers will probably have an issue with experiments being performed on innocent animals, and Raffa even has second thoughts about the effects on his friend Echo. The series continues in the sequel Beast of Stone.

The Keepers Trilogy #2: City of Lies by Lian Tanner

City of Lies (The Keepers, #2)My name is Goldie, and Toadspit and his sister Bonnie have disappeared; I know they've been kidnapped by Harrow, but I don't know why. I've traced them to a city called Spoke where they're holding a befuddling celebration. For the next few days, everyone in the city must lie when they are speaking. A fortune-telling mute boy has been very helpful, but I suspect his friend will probably rat me out as soon as he gets the chance. I must learn to listen to the little voice in the back of my mind, and recent events have led me to believe it is the voice of a warrior princess who died five hundred years ago. However, it scares me. Ever since the Big Lie, the the wolf-sark, a powerful thirst for fighting, has almost overtaken me, and I'm not sure I can control it. 

You need to read the first book. I like how the story is told through Goldie's eyes, and this book offers some new insights into her thinking. A little voice has offered advice in both books, but it takes on more of a personality in City of Lies. It also created a little confusion in the middle of the plot for Goldie and me. During a Big Lie, it wasn't always clear if the spoken words came from her or from the princess. Not a big problem, but it was something to note. The festival also offered a challenge for readers, since I had to remember to think about the opposite of whatever characters were saying (everyone was lying). Mouse was an admirable character with a caring heart, but it was clear that his partner couldn't be trusted. They made an unlikely pair. The ongoing conflict concerns which character will rule Jewel, the Protector or her brother the Fugleman. Even though most of the plot took place outside of Jewel, this conflict was driving the events. I'm enjoying the series and looking forward to the last book in the trilogy.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Keepers Trilogy #3: Path of Beasts by Lian Tanner

Path of Beasts (The Keepers, #3)My name is Goldie, and we must stop the Fugleman and his terrifying control of Jewel. Toadspit and I were able to create problems between the Fugleman's Guardians and his mercenaries by stealing the mercenaries' payments, but the Fugleman has imprisoned more children in retaliation. We created the Hidden Rock to start a rebellion, and some parents are finally willing to do something more than cry and moan about their lost children. However, the spirit of an ancient warrior princess buried within me is trying to take control of my thoughts. She gives me useful ideas to fight the Fugleman, but she wants to erupt into a fury of rage and killing. I was barely able to stop myself from slaying my best friend. All of this turmoil is causing the pressure in the museum to reach a boiling point. If we can't stop the Fugleman, the museum will release the vicious armies and plagued rats hidden within its walls, and they will kill everyone in Jewel before they are done.

This book is the conclusion of a trilogy, and you need to read the other two books first. The ongoing conflict is the Fugleman's drive for power and his use of children as pawns. The trilogy began with all children being chained to their parents until the Separation, but they're now being sold to slavers. While Goldie leads the rebellion, she is keeping her internal battle with the spirit of the warrior princess a secret. She's afraid her friends will think she's lost control even though she is very close to that point. The plot contains plenty of action and suspense, as Goldie and Toadspit face the Fugleman, mercenaries, and slavers. Their plan to cause a rift between the Fugleman and his mercenaries is ongoing and successful, and I enjoyed their trickery. However, the Fugleman becomes more ruthless in response, and the head mercenary accuses him of having no honor. While the trilogy may not be for everyone, I found it very entertaining.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Defender of the Realm #1 by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

                            DEFENDER OF THE REALM by Mark HuckerbyMy name is Alfie, and I am the king of Great Britain. Seriously. I thought my father had a boring, useless job until he was killed and I took over the thrown. You're one of the few people in this world who now know my role as king also makes me the Defender. For the past five hundred years, amazing powers have been passed along to the next heir in line for the throne. Even with these powers, how am I supposed to defeat the black lizard that killed my father? The king couldn't do it, and the lizard is getting stronger and is slowly becoming a huge dragon. I must find the remaining hidden pieces of the original Defender's crown, but the lizard is becoming more powerful by the two pieces he's already collected. Why couldn't my younger, more athletic, charming twin brother have been born ten seconds before me? A screw-up like me shouldn't be ruling Great Britain and surely can't be the Defender of the Realm.

Wow, what a surprisingly fun story! Alfie is another reluctant hero,  but this time he is thrown into the role of king. While the king doesn't hold much power, Alfie's role as Defender must be kept top secret. He has several adults to advise, train, and support him, but a young girl inadvertently discovers the secret and creates a security problem for them. She becomes a cohort in defeating the increasingly powerful black lizard. The plot is full of adventure and action, as Alfie is an impulsive young boy who doesn't always consider the consequences of his actions. He likes the idea of becoming a superhero, but he lacks self-confidence, which becomes an issue. An interesting twist is found with Alfie's twin, as abdicating the throne (giving it up) is an option. I suspect the twin will have an even larger role in the sequel. This book is fast-paced and easy to read, and I can't think of anything I dislike about it. I recommend it to followers of my blog.