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 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.