Tuesday, May 29, 2018

William Wenton #2: William Wenton and the Secret Portal by Bobbie Peers

William Wenton and the Secret PortalMy name is William Wenton, and Abraham's body has been stolen from the Institute's cryogenic lab. My grandfather sent me back there after I nearly passed out while on a television show. A high-pitched sound causes the seizures, and I've been getting a vision of a gold ring floating inside a Himalayan cave. I can tell it's upset Goffman and Professor Bengamin, and I now know why. Abraham has been taken to the portal by a robotic assassin named Cornelia, and I think it has something to do with bringing more luridium to earth. The supermetal creates a robotic connection to living organisms, and that can't be a good thing for mankind; it nearly wiped out all humans over three-hundred million years ago. Since I'm the one who was tricked into activating the portal, Goffman says I'm the only one who can stop Abraham.

This series will not appeal to everyone, but I find it interesting. William's body is 49% luridium which gives him a super-ability to break codes. However, several times the book says it's unclear what will happen if he becomes 50% luridium; it's possible the material will take control of his mind. The most enjoyable part of the book is the myriad of new inventions. The characters wear suits that can change and adapt to whatever is needed, and the assassin has a detachable hand that can wreak havoc. There are robots for guarding secure places, escorting people through hallways, and William even has a talking door. The robots are able to speak and possess their own thoughts and feelings, so William learns to manipulate their gullibility. The plot moves along fairly quickly, and it's clear another sequel will follow. There's some tragedy during the book's climax, but it's semi-reversed during the resolution. The book didn't knock my socks off, but I've enjoyed the series so far. You'll like it too if you have a love for robotics.

Monday, May 28, 2018

William Wenton #1: William Wenton and the Impossible Puzzle by Bobbie Peers

William Wenton and the Impossible PuzzleMy name is really William Wenton, and I’m the only person in the world to solve the Impossible Puzzle. Of course, I had no idea it would put my life in serious danger. My house was attacked by a robotic creature, and I ended up in an institute for code breakers, co-founded by my grandfather. I had no idea how I reached level four with the Orb on my first day there, passing the other six candidates who had been there much longer. I’ve now learned there’s a supermetal called luridium that bonds with living organisms. It happened to some crazy guy named Abraham, and now he’s after me. I was supposed to be safe at the Institute, and I was safe until Abraham’s robots attacked. Now, I’ve got to find my missing grandfather and the rest of the luridium.

William doesn’t exactly have superpowers, but his code-breaking ability seems like it. His Orb acts as a protective sidekick and seems to know when it’s most needed. I’m not sure why the author chose to describe the Institute and Center for Misinformation as the safest places for William to hide. Abraham had no problem wrecking both locations once he knew William was there. I figured the complexes should have some kind of defense against him. The most enjoyable aspect of the book is the use of robotics. The Institute has all kinds of useless robots, as described by the characters, including one designed to argue and one to go up stairs. There was a whole cybernetic garden full of strange robotic creatures. William bonds with one candidate at the Institute, and I assume she’ll be back in book two. I’m hoping the other candidates will have bigger roles in the sequel.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Whatshisface by Gordon Korman

WhatshisfaceMy name is Cooper, and my cellphone is being haunted by a young boy named Roddy from the year 1596! My new school is presenting Romeo and Juliet, but Roddy says Shakespeare stole the script from a play he wrote! I have an idea to right this wrong, but it involves the town’s billionaire. Plus, Jolie is the only one at school who knows my name, and she’s co-starring in the play with the biggest jerk in seventh grade. Roddy’s giving me advice on how to talk to her, but he doesn’t fully understand kids today. I can’t speak old English to her, and Roddy’s embarrassed me more than once. I'm now known as the kid who made the school smell like rotten eggs. Roddy’s discovered how to escape the phone by himself, and I’m worried about the new trouble he’ll create for me.

You can usually rely on Korman to write entertaining stories. The majority of the plot is about Cooper’s efforts to gain Jolie’s favor, as she is free-spirited with a love for thrills and adventure. That description doesn't fit Cooper, but Jolie and Roddy help him leave his leave his comfort zone. Many middle school students can identify with his character, as they try to be accepted by their peers. Sadly, Roddy is Cooper's only close friend until the book’s resolution. Roddy is the most interesting character. He loves television and other electronic inventions and is enamored by Vanna White on “Wheel of Fortune”. His advice to Cooper is amusing, since kids don’t profess their love so quickly and openly. If he had his way, Cooper and Jolie would have married during the first week of school. Roddy challenges Cooper to take risks, and things usually work out okay. I don’t know if there’s any truth to Shakespeare stealing ideas from other authors, but it’s an interesting twist. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Books of the Beginning #3: The Black Reckoning by John Stephens

The Black Reckoning (The Books of Beginning, #3)My name is Emma, and I am the keeper of the Reckoning. It's the book of death, but I must travel to the land of the dead to retrieve it. The Dire Magnus always seems to be one step ahead of Kate, Michael, and I, and I have no doubts he has plans for me. We must bring the three books together to stop the Dire Magnus, but a prophecy says this will also result in our deaths. Kate's feelings have become confused, since her friend Rafe's life has been absorbed into the Dire Magnus. The Atlas is changing her, and she's afraid to continue using the magic. I've learned that when we use the magic within the books, the fabric of all existence is being torn apart. I don't fully understand what that means, but it seems like the Reckoning and I are the keys to saving the world. 

This book is the conclusion to The Books of Beginning trilogy. I recommend you try it out, since it's full of magic, adventure, and action. The author adds some complications to the magic to keep things interesting. Michael experiences the memories of others when he uses his book, and Emma must judge people's lives when using her book. Michael's character is the most dynamic, as he undergoes dramatic changes. He gains more confidence and isn't afraid to take charge. He now accepts his relationship with a fairy princess, and it's an important factor in the plot. The author includes another twist, since the princess is able to change into a dragon when needed. It adds another dimension to Michael's feelings for her. The children's parents reappear after ten years away, and they may provide information that will allow their kids to survive the books. Once again, three young characters must face  a seemingly impossible conflict and somehow find a way out of it.

Last Descendants 3: Fate of the Gods by Matthew Kirby

Fate of the Gods (Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants, #3)My name is Owen, and we must stop Isaiah from completing the Trident and destroying the world. He already has two prongs, and he'll be unstoppable if he gets his hands on the third. Natalya, Grace, and I have entered the Animus to experience the Ascendance Event, a collective memory within all of mankind's DNA. We faced challenges of fear, devotion, and faith, and a creator (goddess?) said we now have a shield within us to defeat the power of the Trident. I don't feel any different, so I don't know what she's talking about. However, I do know Isaiah is using Sean to locate the third Piece of Eden, and he's very close to finding it. We found his letter left inside a book of mythology, and I don't think anyone realized the crazy thoughts going on inside his head. 

I think this book concluded a trilogy, although the last page seemed to leave a door open for a sequel. There were a lot of things going on in this book, and you must read the other two books in order to understand the centuries-long conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templars. Those books will also explain the Animus, a key technology to the plot. The six teenagers were the main characters, and they each had their own issues. Sean was confined to a wheelchair, Owen was dealing with his father's death while in prison, Grace felt like she always needed to protect her brother David, and he wanted her to back off. Isaiah was able to use the issues for Sean and Owen against them until they learned to accept their fears. The author left a lot of action and drama for the last fifty pages of the book, and I didn't think there was any way he could wrap up all the conflicts. It made the end exciting, but I felt like things were rushed. Overall, I enjoyed this trilogy for young adults and can recommend it to you.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Books of Beginning #2: The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens

The Fire Chronicle (The Books of Beginning, #2)My name is Michael, and my older sister Kate vanished into the past and hasn’t returned. A prophecy says my sisters and I will reunite three books, but that may not be a good idea. Kate disappeared with the Atlas, and I’m going to become the keeper of the Chronicle. My little sister Emma and I have journeyed to Antarctica where we’re being hunted by the Dire Magnus’s army of Screechers and Imps...... This is Kate. Tell Michael I've traveled two hundred years in the past and don't know how to get back. I've been helped by a boy named Rafe, but I can't tell if he's my friend or an enemy. The Dire Magnus seems to have plans for Rafe and I, and that can’t be a good thing.

I recommend you read the first book in the series first. The more important plot this time focuses on Michael's quest to find the Chronicle, while the subplot follows Kate's difficulties in returning to the future. Rafe’s character adds an interesting twist to the book. He helps Kate with while in the past, but it's evident he's going to become the main antagonist in the series. Kate's not sure how to deal with him; is he a friend or an enemy? Michael is the middle child and seriously accepts the responsibility of protecting his younger sister Emma. His character matures a lot, as he becomes more decisive. Absorbed memories provide him with impressions and feelings that lead him toward the second book. Michael, Emma, and Gabriel travel to the South Pole but discover a few magical surprises once they arrive. We're talking elves, dwarves, and an enchanted dragon. Michael picks up a close elf "friend" along the way. Emma doesn't have a large role in the plot, but I assume she'll be the main character when the kids eventually search for the Reckoning in the third book. I'm enjoying the series and have already started reading the sequel to The Fire Chronicle

Monday, May 14, 2018

Last Descendants #2: Tomb of the Khan by Matthew J. Kirby

Tomb of the Khan (Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants #2)My name is David, and my sister and I were captured by the Templars. I've been enjoying the simulations in the Animus using my grandfather's DNA, but my sister says it's not a game. I know we're searching for the three Pieces of Eden, but it's been a blast experiencing combat missions with the Tuskegee Airmen. However, one night I went exploring in more secure areas of the compound and overheard a disturbing conversation. Isaiah told his men to infiltrate the Assassins and kill our friends Owen and Javier; what kind of people would murder kids! My sister, Sean, and Natalya don't believe my story, but I'm now sure these Templars can't be trusted. I think Natalya is on the fence about them, so I hope she'll come with me when I escape. I'm almost positive she's discovered the location of the second prong of the trident, and we've got to retrieve it first. 

You need to read book one first. I wasn't crazy about the Animus simulations this time, since several characters were experiencing unrelated events. It got a little muddled between those descriptions, and the multiple names for characters and their ancestors added to the confusion. It wasn't unmanageable, but it created some difficulty after a day or two of not reading. Whereas the simulations were most important in the first book, I found the "real world" problems more interesting this time. The ages-long conflict between the Assassins and the Templars continued, with Monroe's status unclear in the beginning. He reappeared to change the dynamics, but there was a new player involved who had gotten the first Piece of Eden. This person was finally revealed during the book's climax. There was some killing involved in the plot, but it wasn't as bad as the cover words "Assassin's Creed" might imply. Actually, the creed guides the Assassins' actions, and they seemed more honorable than the Templars. The book continued the question as to whether either group was totally good or totally bad. With the identity of the new player now known, I'm looking forward to reading the third book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Map to Everywhere #1 by Carrie Ryan and John Park Davis

The Map to Everywhere (Map to Everywhere, #1)My name is Fin, and no one can remember me. The wizard Ardent says it's not magic, but even he forgets me once his attention changes. Marrill is the only exception, and we have a common goal of finding our mothers. She says the Pirate Stream, a river of creation that touches every place and time from the beginning to the end of history, suddenly appeared in someplace called Arizona. Ardent says there's a map that can locate places you need to go, but it's been separated into several pieces. We've found one piece, but finding the second piece was a lot more difficult. I didn't tell the others that I stole a key belonging to a crazy, powerful wizard called the Oracle, and he's the reason the Gibbering Grove was left in flames. Now, he's hunting us down and won't stop until he has the key and the map in his possession.

This book told an entertaining adventure through the lands along the Pirate Stream. This flowing mass of magic would kill anyone trying to drink it, and it transformed objects that fell in. The kids thought it would be fun to experiment until a pepper shaker turned into a sea monster. Fin's character was definitely the most interesting. As I said above, everyone forgot him and some didn't even notice his presence. This helped him become an excellent thief, but it was upsetting that no one cared about him. For that reason, his motivation to find his mother was very powerful. Marrill's character created new difficulties for him, since she considered him a friend. He'd never had a friend before and wasn't used to worrying about anyone else. Escaping captivity from animated vines was more troublesome once he remembered Marrill was left behind. The Oracle's insanity amped up the suspense, since his vision of the future would result in the Pirate Stream's destruction. This would cause the obliteration of all lands surrounding it. Overall, the story was creative and kept my interest, so I recommend you give it a shot. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Goolz Next Door #1: A Bad Night for Bullies by Gary Ghislain

A Bad Night for Bullies (The Goolz Next Door, #1)My name is Harold, and I have some good news and some bad news. A beautiful girl named Ilona has moved in next door, but her father activated a stone that brought a dead woman back to life. I used the stone once, and the creature let me stand up from my wheelchair. Ilona says the stone will slowly kill you when it’s used, so she’s hidden it away from her father and sister, and me. Now, two bullies have disappeared up by the deserted church and cemetery, and we’re sure the dead woman is responsible. Her creepy eyes, rotten teeth, and decaying skin gave me the heebie jeebies, but Mr. Goolz says it’s important for us to find out her identity. Then, maybe we can figure out what she wants and come up with a plan to stop her. You might think I was brave, if I wasn’t so terrified inside!

I randomly chose this book from the new releases shelf at my local library, and I really enjoyed it. It was immediately clear that Ilona's character was going to do unexpected things. Harold’s first encounter found her rescuing him by shoving a bully off the pier, right in front of his gang. She made Harold forget about his special needs and helped him become a full participant in this adventure. I thought her little sister would have a larger role in the plot, but she moved into the background about halfway in. The story was told through Harold’s eyes and shared his inner conflict with being confined to a wheelchair. The Goolz family seemed to accept his situation better than his own mother. She insisted they were living a good life even after Harold voiced his true feelings. Harold felt she was overly protective. The book read as a mystery novel with a supernatural focus. A ghosts existed and was at the center of the conflict. However, past histories had a huge impact on the current events, and the conflict couldn't be resolved until they were settled. I really liked this first book about the Goolz, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. 

Assassin's Creed #1: Last Descendants by Matthew Kirby

Last Descendants (Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants #1)My name is Owen, and my life has gotten very weird. A man named Monroe says I'm a descendant of two groups who've been battling to control mankind for thousands of years, the Templars and the Brotherhood. He has a machine that allows me, along with others, to travel back in time to the minds of our ancestors. He says our small group is unique, because our ancestors' pasts have intersected around three prongs of the Trident, the Pieces of Eden. Monroe has sent us back to Civil War times in hopes of finding the location of one of the blades that will be critical in the North winning the conflict. My ancestor is an Assassin named Varius, and his mission is to retrieve the artifact from the Aztec Club. However, my friend Javier's relative is a Templar whose mission is to stop me. The future of mankind hinges on which ancestor is successful.

This book presented an interesting take on the time travel paradox of changing past events that might affect the future. The boys and girls were mostly observers in the minds of characters from the past and weren't supposed to change their behaviors. The kids would be kicked out of the simulation if they caused their ancestors to act out of character, since those actions might change the future. The competing Brotherhood and Templars were both working for the betterment of mankind, although their philosophies were very different. One believed in free will with guidance, while the other believed in more control. The book never prescribed which group was good or bad, and the characters became confused about this question. It made me wonder which group the kids should be helping and added to the suspense of the plot. In a way, each group was good and bad. The characters could experience the thoughts and feelings of their ancestors, and this ability created additional conflict for them. How could the black character remain silent, while a white character was insulting and abusing them? How could another character sit quietly, while his ancestor enjoyed the hunting and killing of others? The book didn't contain as much killing as I imagined, although it is a major factor in the plot. Overall, I enjoyed it and plan on reading the sequel.