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 it’s 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.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Septimus Heap #5: Syren by Angie Sage

Syren (Septimus Heap, #5)My name is Beetle, and our trip to bring Jenna back to the Castle has gotten complicated. Septimus and I found her on her father's ship, and he has a secret cargo below deck. Jenna chose not to return hone on her father's ship and got aboard Sep's dragon Spit Fyre with us. However, we're now stranded on an island, and Spit Fyre is struggling for his life. Something strange is going on here, and Sep thinks he's heard someone calling his name. I'm loving spending time alone with Jenna, but Sep's always worried. We didn't know it at the time, but several of our friends will reunite on this island in a fight to save the Castle's future.

You will need to read the previous books before this one. The plot leads to a thrilling climax, although the actual conflict wasn't clear until you're halfway into it. The events in the first half seemed a bit disjointed. It wasn't clear how Merrin and Lucy fit in, as their characters were introduced and then forgotten for awhile. However, it all made sense in the end. The author has done a nice job of reusing characters from earlier in the series, so it's easy to quickly understand their personalities. Septimus is the one holding all of the books together. His wizarding skills are superior, Marcia made him a senior apprentice years early, but he still has wonderful humility and compassion. His concern for his friends and family is a driving force. Somehow, he always manages to find himself in the middle of terrifying situations, but the safety of others is still at the forefront of his thinking. On a side note, I still haven't figured out why the author chooses to capitalize certain words. It's not a big deal. Overall, I recommend you give this series a chance.