Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thrones and Bones #3: Skyborn by Lou Anders

Skyborn (Thrones & Bones, #3)My name is Desstra, and I think Thianna is starting to appreciate having a dark elf around. The frost giantess has returned to the land of her mother, and it's not what she expected. The two queens have the second Horn of Osius which they'll use to continue bullying the other city-states. Thianna's nasty cousin Sirena must master the horn before the great hatching, but luckily Thianna is the only one so far who can communicate with the wyverns. I'm not sure what's happened to Karn since we escaped from the queens, but I hope he's getting help. The city-states can stop being bullied by the queens if they'll only work together, but that's easier said than done. If Karn can get the minotaurs to revolt then there's a chance the other groups will join them. However, how do you change the minds of stubborn bulls?

This series has been fun to read, and the three main characters are the reason. Desstra created a trio after the last book, and her relationship with Thianna added lessons in friendship and humor. Desstra tried to kill the giantess in book two, so Thianna was reluctant to accept her help. This past animosity created some tension, but the two characters exchanged humorous banter as they became closer. Karn was the intellectual character and loved the challenge of any kind of game. He was the one connecting the protagonists, and he came up with the strategies to resolve the conflicts. His fighting skills improved across the books, but his mind was his greatest asset. Each book in the series has described a unique game along with directions on how to play them. These contests were woven into the events and became integral parts of the plots. A game was often the key to overcoming dangerous obstacles and antagonists. Overall, the series has been very entertaining, and I suggest you read it, starting with Frostborn.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Arken Freeth & the Adventure of the Neanderthals #1: SeaJourney by Alex Paul

SeaJourney (Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals #1)My name is Arken, and I've earned my place on the SeaJourney by defeating Gate in a sparring match. I hope to become a respected officer during this training voyage, since commoners like me are rarely admitted to the academy. However, Gate is determined to kill me, and his angry glares are a constant reminder. He's much larger than me, and there are many ways to "accidentally" fall off a ship. I've made a new friend who happens to be an ambassador's son. He's even smaller than me and won't be much help in a fight. I'm stronger than others might suspect, and I'm probably the best archer on the ship. I hope my skills will be appreciated. Oops, I need to run! An alarm has sounded, and we need to report on deck. I never would have imagined our ship would play a critical role in a brewing war.

If you've read many of my posts, you know I'm leery of stories told from more than two points of view. Several subplots added confusion early in this book, as my mind couldn't make connections between them. Arken's story was the most compelling, and the book became much more interesting once Arken was the focus. He was the runt of the cadets but was determined to become a successful ship's officer. His small stature was due to his secret heritage, but it also endowed him with unusual strength. His father and grandfather privately trained him, so he was skilled in fighting and archery. The subplots followed a young neanderthal, a captain's efforts to capture a magical necklace, and each chapter began with journal entries written by a princess. The subplots weren't necessary. The neanderthals were a non-factor even though they were cited in the title. I have no idea why they were even in the book! Any information about the captain and princess could have been introduced into Arken's story to avoid confusion and disruption to his plot. In addition, the ending was very abrupt and left the book feeling unfinished. Despite these issues, Arken's adventure was very entertaining! The underdog allowed his virtues and abilities to shine, as he overcame deadly perils. I truly hope the book's sequel sticks to Arken's experiences without other distractions, and I hope the conflicts are resolved.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Rules for Thieves #2: The Shadow Thieves by Alexander Ott

The Shadow Thieves (Rules for Thieves #2)My name is Alli, and I never expected to work with the Thieves Guild again. I've come to enjoy living with my brother Ronan after I was released from prison. However, Beck showed up at the door and shared some disturbing news. Some members of the guild are plotting to overthrow its king, and they've killed his most trusted man. Beck says they have a list of names of people they plan to murder, and the second name belongs to my brother! Why would anyone want to hurt an apprentice at a law firm? I hate sneaking around and lying to Ronan, but I've got to keep him safe. Beck and I need to retrieve a magical coin for the king, and I need to stop whoever is threatening my family.

This book included more magic than the previous one. Beck used his healing powers, magic was bought and sold in a secret market, and Alli used a mirror to help resolve her problems. Alli always wanted to make the correct decisions, but circumstances got in the way. Family life was new to her, since she was separated from her brother at the age of three. She misinterpreted her brother's intentions, as he displayed concern for her safety and future. Her assumption that he wanted to get rid of her clouded some of her choices. The family dynamics were complicated by Ronan's girlfriend living in the apartment next door. She was a protector, a law enforcement officer in this culture. Alli was reluctant to be honest, since a protector would probably throw Beck and her in jail for their association with thieves. However, Alli's assumption again led to questionable judgments. The mystery of the Shadow added some intrigue, as it was unclear if characters were friends or enemies. Some previous characters had switched sides. Overall, I think I felt more of a connection reading book one, but I still enjoyed this one. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rules for Thieves #1 by Alexander Ott

Rules for Thieves (Rules for Thieves, #1)My name is Beck, and I hope I haven't made a mistake by bringing Alli into the Thieves Guild. I knew she wouldn't survive on the streets, and then I saw the black lines spreading up her arm. She was poisoned by magic and will die within a week. Outsiders are rarely allowed into the guild, so some thieves aren't happy about her arrival. I'm nervous and excited to pass my Trial, but it will allow me to become a permanent member of the Thieves Guild. Alli has received permission to take her Trial too, and she'll be able to get medical help if she passes. The good news is we'll be working together on our Trials. The bad news is we've been given the most difficult mission ever, and we're on our own once we leave the guild. Death is also a huge possibility.

Alli is the main character and has a very abrasive personality. She escaped from an orphanage and doesn't know much about her biological parents. While her family isn't a big issue, the last page in the book reveals a secret that will probably impact the sequel. Alli is sarcastic and has a very hard time holding her tongue, and that's a fatal flaw for a thief. Beck is the character with morals and seems a bit out of place in the guild. He cares for others. The author's use of magic is interesting, since it doesn't play a major factor in most of the plot. As I reflect, it most remember it being used by healers to help the sick and injured, and as a weapon by guards and protectors. Alli's injury adds a time factor to the story, and the black lines in her arm act as the clock. The poison moves from her hand toward her heart and acts as a countdown to death. The main part of the book that bugs me is Alli's Trial. I know it's the author's choice, but it seems strange for an unprepared character to undertake a dangerous mission. On the other hand, the thieves didn't like outsiders and didn't expect her to succeed. Overall, the book is entertaining, and I've already gotten the sequel from my local library. Give it a shot. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Thrones and Bones #2: Nightborn by Lou Anders

Nightborn (Thrones & Bones, #2)My name is Karn, and I must find my friend Thianna and rescue her from dark elves. It feels strange for me to be saving a giantess, but she's my best friend and I'd give my life to save her. I met a wood elf named Desstra, and she's offered to help. I appreciate having her along, but something doesn't feel right. She's handy with darts and poisons, and she's different from other wood elves. Thianna was searching for another Horn of Osius, so that's become part of my mission too. The horn will allow its holder to control dragons, and that would spell disaster. A dark elf named Tanthal has been dogging my trail, and he's ruthless. He'd have no trouble stabbing his own men in the back if it helped get what he wants. Even so, I had no idea my mission to save Thianna would lead me into the middle of war!

A book review compared this book to Lloyd Alexander, and that's an accurate description. I recommend you read the first book to fully appreciate the history and friendship between Thianna and Karn. Thianna is large, strong, and impulsive, while Karn is normally the more thoughtful one. Karn has been training and is a more competent fighter than he was before. He loves games and solving puzzles which are handy traits to own during his adventure. Desstra is an interesting new character, and you'll feel a little sorry for her as she sabotages Karn's plans. She starts off wanting to graduate from her dark elf warrior school until she sees the friendship between Thianna and Karn. You keep thinking she'll turn to the good side, but then she goes and helps Tanthal. You won't like Tanthal at all, and you're not supposed to. A humorous twist to the plot involves the manticores. These beasts say their name means "man eater", and they pull chariots during a race. They even threaten to eat their own drivers if the mood strikes them! It may sound weird or gross, but it's actually pretty funny. I'm really enjoying the series and plan to read the third book sometime soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Grimm Legacy #3: The Poe Estate by Polly Shulman

The Poe Estate (The Grimm Legacy, #3)My name is Sukie, and I have an overly protective ghost sister named Kitty. Her presence creeps out the other kids, and she seems to be getting stronger and angrier. I’ve met some strange people recently at flea markets. One guy offered me a lot of money for an old broom and a brass doorknob, but I didn’t trust him. I met a couple of other people from a repository, and they’ve opened my eyes to fictional reality. They collect real things that now exist because they were described in books! The repository even has an exhibit of old haunted houses, and they want my aunt's home! I saw another ghost in my bedroom that wants me to find her treasure, but I don't know what she's talking about. It may have something to do with a pirate in my family's history. 

This book is part of a series, but it’s totally different from the second book. That one involved time travel, whereas this one is about ghosts and hauntings. The repository is the connection between them, but the main characters are not the same. Leo was the focus in book two but only makes a cameo appearance near the climax. The repository contains artifacts arising from literature and creates a myriad of possibilities. Basically, any objects ever described in writing can become reality. This book goes a step further and presents the prospect of fictional characters becoming real. Sukie feels like an outsider, as her classmates treat her like a freak. There's lots of teasing until a boy named Cole takes an interest, and it turns out they have a special connection. A part of the plot I didn't like included the mention and description of numerous arcane books. These titles were unfamiliar and unimportant and distracted my mind from important events and information in the story. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and I'm trying to get my hands on the first book in the series, The Grimm Legacy.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The School for Good and Evil #1 by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)My name is Sophie, and I was mistakenly placed in the School for Evil. My friend Agatha should be here, but she’s stuck in the School for Good. How am I going to marry King Arthur’s son if everybody thinks I’m evil? Agatha and I have tried to escape and return home, but all I want is to find my prince. We finally met the School Master, but he said our story is being written right now. Why can't Evil have a happy ending? Why does everyone say Good and Evil can't be friends? My teachers say Evil's nemesis will grow stronger as Evil weakens. I don't understand why Prince Tedros doesn't like me and why he keeps messing up my happiness. Is he my nemesis? I won't stop until I get my happiness, and I pity anyone who stands in my way.

The premise of the book is that good and evil fairy tale characters must be trained in school. However, Sophie and Agatha are Readers, so they’re looked down upon by their classmates. They have unusual abilities, and someone is secretly manipulating their lives. The girls offer a contrast in characters. While Sophie professes to be a good character, the school continues to place her back in the evil school. She seems to have good intentions, but she's conceited, vain, and callous. She easily touts her virtues of beauty and performance of good deeds, but her motives are selfish. She reminds Agatha of her ugliness on several occasions. Agatha is willing to sacrifice and help others, and she only wants to return home with her friend. She lacks self-confidence and believes what others say about her. She feels she's unattractive and wonders if she shouldn't be in the school for Evil. The whole idea about what it means to be Good becomes a theme for the book. Actually, there are very few Good characters other than Agatha. Many of the kids in the school for Good behave poorly and have shallow minds. The evil kids predictably do evil things. Overall, the book is entertaining and thought-provoking. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Grimm Legacy #2: The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman

The Wells Bequest (The Grimm Legacy, #2)My name is Leo, and I got a message from myself in the future. I guess I'm going to use a time machine along with some girl named Jaya, and there's something I'm supposed to stop. I told myself to read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. It was all really weird, but I’ve now met the girl Jaya at a wonderful New York repository. Jaya is beautiful and awesome! The repository has artifacts from all across history and literature, and I think I may have figured out how to get the time machine. Jaya and I will need to travel to London, but we'll need to be sneaky. Their repository wants the artifact too, so we can't let them know why we're there. Unfortunately, Simon is in London and is obsessed with Jaya. I didn't know the limits to his craziness until he said he'd destroy New York using Tesla's death ray!

The concept of the book was creative and unique. The premise was that everything was possible even if those things weren't real in our world. Ideas in fictional books became possible in some dimension or reality. Paradoxes were addressed by presenting multiple time machines that could deal with potential changes to history. Anything could happen with Leo's machine, as multiple versions of the same characters could appear. This made it a powerful device and created some head-shaking scenes. I really wasn't sure what to think about this plot as I started to get into it. It was interesting, but I wasn't sure where it was going. The whole time machine issue was important, but Leo didn't spend much time investigating it. It was like he took a side street instead of heading directly toward the issue. I haven't used the word "problem", because it was unclear until I reached the middle of the book. I wasn't sure of the conflict, since Leo didn't even know what he was supposed to do or why he was doing it. Everything became much more focused and entertaining once Leo seriously started searching for the time machine. His goal became clear, and a conflict was created. I didn't read the first book in the series, but I've already started the second. 

The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff

                            THE PHANTOM TOWER by Keir GraffMy name is Colm, and my twin brother Mal and I recently moved onto the fourteenth floor of Brunhild Tower. My mom didn't understand why the rent was so cheap, but her new boss recommended the place. One day, I noticed an elevator button for the thirteenth floor that wasn't there before (the number is unlucky to some people). The button only appears during midday and leads to the Phantom Tower. Tamika joined us in exploring the place, but we've uncovered a disturbing mystery about this spectral world. We don't understand how the elevator and tower work, and we don't know why my mom's boss visits there. He tried to keep me from leaving, and he said he needs twins for his plans. I don't trust the guy, and we may need help from the princess on the seventeenth floor. 

The first third of the book found the twins exploring the building and the surrounding area, and some clues were dropped. It wasn't real interesting. Things got a little more intriguing once Tamika and the princess joined the plot. The book turned into a ghost story, and magic was a possibility. The elevator became the portal between the towers. The introduction of the Phantom Tower was compelling, as it resulted from a brotherly prank that backfired. Colm was very distraught when his brother disappeared! The story behind the tower was unusual, and it needed its own resolution to solve the twins' problems. It included a bit of history, a bit of greed, and a bit of love. As often occurs in novels, the conflict was compounded because the kids needed to keep everything secret from their mother. Colm figured she wouldn't believe him anyhow, since he had a history of lying and making up stories. Overall, the book was quite entertaining and presented unique situations. Lovers of ghost stories and mysteries should really enjoy it.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Snared: Escape to the Above by Adam Jay Epstein

Snared: Escape to the AboveMy name is Wily, and I was the trapsmith for Stalag's Carrion Tomb. However, Stalag the mage lied to me about everything, so I've run away with a small band of tomb raiders. I always believed the sun in the Above would kill me, but I've survived several days under the open sky. Even more surprising, I now know I'm not a hobgoblet. I'm a human! I've agreed to help the thieves raid another tomb, since they need a lot of money to escape the ruthless Infernal King's rule. I may need their help in return, because I've uncovered the truth about my parents. I assumed I came to Stalag because my parents were gone, but that was another one of his lies. My parents are alive, but that's both very good and very bad news.

This book was a finalist for a 2018 Cybils Book Award. The cast of characters for the story was intriguing. Wily had a talent for devising traps, as he was able to think creatively and understood how machines worked. Other characters were Wily's sister (a hobgoblet), a golem, and a warrior with a detached arm. Actually, the arm was a free-thinking, sword-toting character with valiant intentions. The story included two separate antagonists. The Scarf was another mysterious character that regularly popped up to save the day, and the true identity was a surprise. Wily's character went through a dramatic transformation. He was raised as the trapsmith for Carrion Tomb, so capturing and imprisoning treasure seekers seemed like a normal and logical thing to do. However, he later learned the value of freedom and became a valiant character like the detached arm. He was willing to face unbeatable odds to help the helpless and stand up for what was right. The plot was a wonderful blend of adventure, action, and character interactions and moved along nicely. I also liked the imagination of the obstacles and joined Wily with enjoying the workmanship behind them. This book was fun to read, and I recommend you give it a shot.