Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fairy Tale Reform School #3: Tricked by Jen Calonita

Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3)My name is Gilly, and I've gotten myself thrown back into the FTRS to correct my "bad behavior". This time, I did it on purpose to save my little sister Anna. Rumpelstiltskin has become headmaster, and he's made some major changes that are very suspicious. His rules encourage delinquent behavior, and students are rewarded for fawning over him. My friends and I have found evidence that he's collecting gold and forbidden magic beans, but we don't know why. The Royal Family is clearly concerned, but Rumpelstiltskin was given complete control over the school. Since the adults can't do anything about it, it looks like it's up to me to stop him. However, no one, including myself, was prepared for what happened next. Nobody with half a brain would make a deal with the trickster Rumpelstiltskin, but I've accepted his challenge to find a magical, mythical creature. I didn't read the fine print in the contract, so who knows what will happen if we survive the quest?

I didn't read the previous two books in the series before reading this one, but I still enjoyed it. It tells an entertaining story of fairy tale characters living together in Enchantasia. Gilly is a mischievous, impulsive girl with a need to protect others and to fight injustice. Jax, a prince, is her best friend and shares the same values. The idea of students teaming up to fight an evil character isn't terribly unique (see Harry Potter), but Gilly is an enchanting protagonist. She doesn't have any superpowers, and others admire her leadership and tricky thinking. Who better to defeat the ultimate trickster, Rumpelstiltskin? Gilly is burdened with a couple of extra conflicts. Her younger sister resents following in Gilly's footsteps and doesn't want to be rescued from Rumpelstiltskin. Also, Gilly's father expects her to take over his cobbler business, but she doesn't want to. During her adventures, she learns that she has the power to create her own future despite the expectations of others. In the end, she's not sure what she'll do with her life, but she's excited for the possibilities. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Flower Moon by Gina Linko

Flower MoonMy name is Tally, and it's really hard to be near my twin sister. No, no, no... It’s the Greenly Curse, so twins in our family are repelled from each other because of the Flower Moon. It's why my mom and aunt haven't seen each other in years, and it's getting worse between Tempest and me. It could become explosive, and I nearly killed my sister while trying to save us! Tempest thinks it gives us other abilities, but I don't know how her wires and technology can help. Even though we're able to communicate mentally and I saved one of the wolf cubs using my power, being near Tempest is dangerous. I can't imagine being forced to never see her again. The next Flower Moon is tomorrow, and I can feel the energy between us getting stronger. I'm now realizing I must trust my sister before disaster strikes and destroys everything we love.

This book presents a creative take on the close relationship between twins. Tally and Tempest have been tight, like two halves of a whole, but they're each unique and different. It seems to be taking Tally longer to accept the situation, since she's always been the protector of the pair. It's clear Tally loves her sister, so I didn't completely understand why she had so much trouble communicating with her during this ordeal. Tally was very stubborn and felt like she was the only one who could solve the problem. Her inability to trust her sister almost led to Tempest's death. A creative twist to the potentially deadly curse was the power it gave the girls. The girls had brief mental communications early in the plot, and Tempest opened a carnival booth using her ability to "see" important numbers. Tally first realized her own power when she saved the wolf cub. The whole plot was about trying to save the twins' relationship, and the approaching Flower Moon created a suspenseful deadline. Events and past stories revealed how disastrous the curse might become. However, the curse didn't stand a chance against twins who refused to be separated. Once again, love conquered all.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Nightshade Chronicles #2: The White Assassin by Hilary Wagner

The White Assassin (Nightshade Chronicles, #2)My name is Juniper, and I am keeping a life-changing secret from the other rats in Nightshade City. We've  imprisoned Billycan, but many of my friends don't understand why I haven't had the murderous rat executed. I'm hoping the serum we've given him will reveal a kinder rat than the most vicious killer we've known. I fear what might happen if Julius ever discovers Billycan is his real father. However, there is a more serious problem threatening our city. There's a traitor among the council. That's the only explanation for how Billycan obtained maps of our secret tunnels as he prepared for an invasion. The serum seems to be having a positive effect on him, but will it force him to reveal the identity of his accomplice? Are the changes just another sign of his trickery? How can I doubt the trust of my friends, when I'm keeping terrible secrets of my own?

I recommend you read the first book in the series to fully understand Billycan's evilness. This book had more mystery in it due to the unknown traitor. All of the characters are suspect, but several of them will be central in readers' minds. Clues are presented to change the attention, but my first instincts were correct. The author includes flashbacks to Billycan's time in the lab, and they help to explain his disturbing behavior. A couple of other lab rats return to become key characters in the current events. Juniper is the main character in this plot, as he tries to coax the truth from Billycan and battles with his own internal struggles. Again, I suspected his big secret, but I'm not sure it was as devastating as he made it seem. This book is more similar to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH than book one, as the lab experiments were key factors in the conflict. As in that book, it's revealed that mice were also test subjects and have unusual intelligence and life expectancy, just like the test rats. Overall, I'm enjoying the series and recommend you give it a shot.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Nightshade Chronicles #1: Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner

Nightshade City (Nightshade Chronicles, #1)My name is Clover, and time is running out. Killdeer, leader of the Catacombs, has made me a Chosen One and plans to put me on display during the Grand Speech. My Uncle Juniper has been secretly watching out for me since my parents' deaths, but Killdeer and Billycan will kill him if they discover he's still alive. They murdered the previous ruler, and Billycan thought he'd killed Juniper during their coup. Juniper is now creating a new city for escapees and will overthrow Killdeer when the time is right. However, he doesn't know the Grand Speech has been moved up two weeks earlier. I have no way of contacting Juniper, and I'm getting desperate. The disgusting and dangerous Killdeer came to my home and tried to force himself on me, when ironically, Billycan stopped him. Tomorrow, I am to become Killdeer's Chosen One and my life will be lost. 

You'll enjoy this book if you liked the Redwall books. Some parts also reminded me of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, since a couple of characters had escaped experimentation in a lab. Billycan was the most notable due to his large size and viciousness. Even though Killdeer was the ruler, Billycan was the most feared character. The setting mostly takes place underground, and the land of humans is known as Topside. It was creative and amusing to see earthworms aiding the rebels by helping with the digging of tunnels. Although I enjoyed the book very much, there wasn't one main character to connect with. The focus shifted from Clover, to Juniper, to other characters. I would have liked to mostly follow one rat throughout the plot. Also, there were several moments where I was sure the plot would take a suspenseful turn, only to have the characters escape danger. I was okay with the way things turned out, but these moments seemed like missed opportunities for more excitement and suspense. It looks like this book is part of a trilogy, so that may explain the decisions to move things along. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and suggest you give it a shot.