Thursday, March 28, 2019

Forgotten City by Michael Ford

Forgotten CityMy name is Kobi, and Seattle's been overrun by the Waste. Scientists thought they were solving the world's problems, but they only managed to create genetically freaky plants and animals. My father's been gone for too long now, so I ventured into the streets in search of him. I wasn't successful, but I never expected to come upon other survivors! The three kids said they live with a bunch of doctors, but the most surprising thing was learning about their abilities. They said the spores have endowed each of them with unique abilities, and they asked about mine. Do I have one? Now, I'm torn by new information about CLAWS. Are they saviors and guardians like the kids have told me, or are they the terrifying enemy I've learned to fear?

As you've probably guessed, this is a dystopian novel where scientists were messing with genetics to solve the problem of future food production. The streets were full of mutant plants and animals, and Snatchers patrolled the area in search of infected lifeforms. The premise of Waste and dangerous plants and animals weren't overly imaginative, but the author offered a few elements to spice things up. The kids introduced a positive view of CLAWS that created an immediate conflict for Harry. Was the apparent antagonist actually bad? Also, Harry's dad kept secrets from him, but that's not totally unexpected in these kinds of books. Adults often hide the truth and their motivations. The lack of character depth was my biggest issue to fully enjoying the book. While I learned something about Harry, there were still questions about his past and family. Surface-level descriptions of the other characters made it difficult to make any connections with them, and once again, there were questions about their pasts. The end of the book became a more exciting adventure and revealed much about the characters' importance. I would have enjoyed the whole book more if it had been written like the last fourth. The final pages opened the door to a sequel, but I'm not sure I'll go on to read it. We'll see.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Black and Blue Magic by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Black and Blue MagicMy name is Harry Houdini Marco, and when my dad was alive, he always hoped I'd become a great magician. I've been told that someday I'll have a special kind of magic. That's pretty funny considering how clumsy and nonathletic I am, but I wish there was something magical I could do to help my mom find a new husband. I was ready for another boring summer when Mr. Mazeeck took a room at our boarding house. He said he was a traveling salesman, and he never let his suitcase out of his sight. On the day he left, he shared the truth about his past and surprised me with a gift. Many strange things happened that summer, and I wondered if they could somehow help with the Plan. 

This book shares a feel-good story about love, hope, and opportunities. Harry lacks confidence and doesn’t have any close friends. His main quest for the summer is to help his mom find love and a new husband. The boarding house setting in a small neighborhood allows the author to introduce some unique, eccentric characters. Mr. Mazeeck is the strangest and most important, but his appearance in the plot is short-lived. Harry needs to keep his gift a secret and spends much of his time exploring the San Francisco area. However, situations arise that challenge him to make tough decisions, and those choices have unexpectedly positive consequences. In the end, Harry’s mom shares a surprising truth that bodes well for the future. Overall, this book is entertaining despite its lack of suspense. Its message will make you feel better and leave you with a smile.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Where Dragonwoofs Sleep and the Fading Creeps by A.J. Massey

Where Dragonwoofs Sleep and the Fading CreepsMy name is Ben, and the first two things I remember after waking up in the Red Forest are being called a weed and learning the horror of the Fading; the lands are slowly disappearing from existence. I was later joined by Marcus and Avery, along with a translucent elf, and we've set off to stop the Fading. We must travel across the lands to retrieve the sphinx's head. Our efforts are complicated since the Sovereign is sending his armies after us to ensure the Fading continues, and the elves must remain hidden to avoid their genocide. I've just discovered something about Avery, Marcus, and I. In addition to being the only weeds here, we all have no memory of our lives before coming to Meridia. What does that mean?

What a strange adventure. The events described above occurred during Ben and Avery's dreams, although they had no recollections of them when they awoke. There didn't seem to be any clear connections between their conscious experiences and their dreams. Both characters experienced bullying, but I couldn't figure out what the Fading might symbolize in their lives. Labeling Ben, Avery, and Marcus as weeds differentiated them from elves, goblins, and other creatures in the dreamworld, but all three of them had no memories of their lives before arriving in Meridia. I would have been okay with the two "worlds" if there had been some clarity connecting them. It was finally explained 3/4 of the way through the book, but there was no reason why these three specific kids were chosen to come together. While the book told a suspenseful adventure, I was distracted by the unusual details added to the plot. Some characters spoke in ambiguous, literal manners, and there seemed to be confusing, unspoken rules for personal interactions and deals. Overall, I liked the plot and characters, but some "creative" elements muddled things.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Nightbooks by J.A. White

NightbooksMy name is Alex, and I've been imprisoned by a witch on the fourth floor of my apartment building. I've learned my notebook of nightmare stories is the only thing keeping me alive. The witch loves to hear evil tales, and she thinks I have dark thoughts like her. She says my stories also keep the apartment happy. What's that about? She's captured other kids before me, although I've only seen Yasmin. Yasmin is afraid to help, but I've found a hidden message from someone else who may have escaped. I need to figure out a way to freedom soon, because most of the stories in my notebooks have now been destroyed by little chompers. The witch is losing patience, and the apartment sometimes shakes like an earthquake. The secret behind the apartment may be the key to finding my way home.

This book was comparable to tales of Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The main character's only chance for survival was to keep the antagonist hungry for more stories. However, unlike the Arabian Nights, the witch in this book wasn't going to have a miraculous change of heart. The author blended Alex's scary stories into the book's plot, and they were actually an important factor in resolving the problem. These stories were short and simple, but Alex used them as a tool. The book almost felt like a ghost story, without any ghosts, and that may have been due to the eerie apartment. It seemed to have a life of its own, and the witch was very concerned about keeping it happy. The secret behind the apartment provided some twists for the end and delayed the book's climax. The relationship between the witch and the apartment was a surprise, but I appreciated the irony of the story's climax. Overall, this book offered a creative contrast to other book's I've recently read, and it wasn't the first book in a series! Give it a shot if you like creepy books and writing creepy stories. 

Potion Masters #2: The Transparency Tonic by Frank L. Cole

The Transparency Tonic (Potion Masters, #2)My name is Adilene, and I really hope to become a Dram like my friend Drew. My new friend Cadence may be able to help, although she hasn't made potions herself. I really don't know that much about her and don't know where she came from. Drew's mother has been fired from B.R.E.W., and he's been banned from her basement lab. Drew has Blind Batched some dangerous potions but doesn't remember doing it, and his grandfather Mezzarix is missing from the Forbidden Zone. What's going on?! Actually, I don't know much at all, since Drew really upset me. I don't think he realizes how much becoming a Dram means to me. I haven't spoken to him in a week, and Cadence has been helping me instead. My gut tells me this is wrong, but she's convinced me to try Silt. It'll be fun to become invisible for awhile, but I'm really uncomfortable sneaking into Drew's lab. Something's not right.

I'm don't think you need to read The Eternity Elixir first to enjoy this one, but it won't hurt. This book had a lot more going on than the first one, as Cadence was the mystery character throughout. She appeared out of nowhere, was overly eager to help Adilene, and had a special interest in Gordy and his family. Her true identity and intentions were unknown until the plot neared its end. B.R.E.W. had a new leader with questionable methods, the Vessel was under attack, and a team of evil characters was forming around Mezzarix. Then Gordy had his own issues with B.R.E.W., as its new leader feared he had unusual and dangerous abilities. As a result of all these things, this book was very engaging and entertaining. It had mystery, adventure, and action, as the plot branched out into new conflicts. The potions were still the center of everything. Actually, the potions have reminded me of the magic found in The Unwanteds series. The potions and magic transform everyday objects into tools or weapons. Gordy's ability to sense ingredients was already uncommon, but his ability to create potions without recipes was extremely rare and unpredictable. Overall, I recommend you give this series a shot, although the next book hasn't been released yet. Bummer. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Wereworld #6: War of the Werelords by Curtis Jobling

War of the Werelords (Wereworld, #6)My name is Opal, and I caused quite an uproar when I reappeared in Bast. I revealed my father's secret to the Council, and the lions, panthers, and tigers have now broken their alliance. Allies have become enemies, and I've now pledged my support to the Wolflord Drew. We've returned to Lyssia where Drew is determined to save his friends. I've no doubt my brother Onyx will have his Bastians try to kill me, and King Lucas's soldiers have surrounded major cities. However, there are rumors that Lucas has conjured a force of Wyld Wolves, and they've committed appalling atrocities against men, women, and children. Victims suffering bites but remaining alive are cursed to become Wyer Wolves themselves. Drew has many loyal followers across Lyssia, but I don't know if they'll be able to survive this war. 

This book concluded the series, and you'll need to start it from the beginning. As mentioned above, the battles included heinous violence, as the Wyld Wolves were especially feral and vicious. Be forewarned. War of the Werelords still annoyed me with multiple viewpoints and settings, but the first half was more confusing than previous books due to characters switching sides. There were so many different characters and creatures that it was hard to remember which ones were good and bad. Also, Trent and Hector had additional issues that made their characters unpredictable. When coming back to the book after a day or two, it was sometimes challenging to recall what had already happened. The end of the book was better, as characters came back together to fight the final battles. With all that being said, I'd still invested hours of reading the series, so I wanted to see how Drew finally reunited Lyssia. I was also curious to discover the fate of several characters, and it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns. There was some sadness, and the resolution included surprises. Overall, I enjoyed the plot and its twists, and characters morphing into animals didn't bother me as much as expected. The series won't appeal to everyone, but I liked it. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Blackwell Pages #3: Thor's Serpents by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

Thor's Serpents (The Blackwell Pages #3)My name is Laurie, and I can't believe what Matt told me about Fen; there's no way he's a traitor! Even if he's really the wolves' new alpha, there's got to be more to the story. Matt's duel to save the world is fast-approaching, and ferocious monsters are still popping up to stop him. Matt says he needs some warm-up fighting before facing the serpent, but this is getting ridiculous. We still don't know the location of the final battle, but one of the Thorsons has the information. It will be hard for Matt to return to Blackwell, since his father doesn't have confidence in him and his grandfather expects him to fail at Ragnorak. I've sworn to help Matt in this quest, and it's my destiny to be by his side. I only hope that I'm not forced to fight my cousin; there's no way I'll ever do that. 

This book concluded the trilogy, and you should read all three of them to get the full story. The culmination of events led to the inevitable climax of Matt squaring off against the Midgard Serpent. The author saved a couple of twists for this moment, so you can still be surprised. Matt's character faced criticism from his friends for being too nice and honorable when facing opponents. They kept telling him that his merciful nature would eventually come back to hurt him. However, his positive traits were key assets in saving the world. The series was full of adventure and action, but the dynamics of the heroic group were the most entertaining part. Fen and Laurie's close relationship added another factor to the conflict, especially when Fen was thrust into role of leading the monsters into Ragnorak. In the end, I was happy with the resolution of all the issues, as all the "good" characters lived happily ever after. Overall, lovers of adventure and Norse mythology should enjoy the series, and I recommend you give it a shot. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Wereworld #5: Storm of Sharks by Curtis Jobling

Storm of Sharks (Wereworld, #5)My name is Hector, and I've heard rumors that my friend Drew is still alive. It seems he's ventured out to sea where the pirates and Baron Bosa are wreaking havoc upon the Bastian navy. Too bad I was forced to kill the Wereshark Vega, but I couldn't trust Drew's buddy. I left the Council when Drew first disappeared, and I've done many things I'm not proud of. He may be destined to become the new king, but he'll need to accept me as I am, or become my enemy. It's taking more effort to stifle my brother's spirit, and I sometimes fear I'll lose control to my necromancy. I don't trust Onyx, the Werepanther, or King Lucas, the Werelion, and I sense there's trouble brewing between them. I'm sure they'll try to invade my Icegarden, and I'm expecting treachery from my "allies" the Crows. However, they should all fear my ability to summon an army of dead.

This book has a couple of elements I don't enjoy, but the story is compelling enough to keep me coming back to finish the series. This book finally evokes hope in the efforts to place Drew on the Lyssian throne. It still has more violence and killing than I usually tolerate, it's told from many points of view, and there are a variety of settings and many characters. Characters are starting to break alliances, and Hector's character is becoming especially complex. I understand why the author has done these things, but it's still a bit much. However, I've followed Drew's story since the beginning, and I'm curious to see how everything turns out in the series' conclusion, War of the Werelords. Drew's endearing quality is a compassion for his friends and his followers. He finds it very difficult to ignore injustice, even when it jeopardizes his missions. He's a formidable warrior when he takes on his wolf form, but he's not indestructible. This keeps him from becoming a literary superhero and allows his character to be more "human". He has flaws and weaknesses just like anyone else. While many characters, not all, can transform into animals, they usually remain in human form when not fighting. These creatures range from bears, to cranes, to a squid, to a crab. Overall, you should enjoy the plot if you can tolerate war and the abominations that come with it. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Potion Masters #1: The Eternity Elixir by Frank L. Cole

The Eternity Elixir (Potion Masters, #1)My name is Gordy, and with my mother's help, I hope to become an Elixirist. She works for B.R.E.W., although I'm not exactly sure what she does. She lets me mix some potions in our basement, but I hope she doesn't find the secret ones I've created. She mysteriously left home again, and then my aunt sent a package to our house. I probably shouldn't have opened it, but I did. There were a couple of glass vials in it, and I now know one of them is an Eternity Elixir. I don't know what it does, but a woman named Esmeralda tried to force her way into our house. Luckily, my mom's wards guard against intruders, but something tells me Esmeralda is a resourceful person. What's so special about this potion, and why do I think it's terribly dangerous?

This book offered a new twist on a budding "superhero". Gordy didn't have unbelievable powers; his strength focused on special abilities to sense and blend ingredients. It wasn't a far stretch to predict his quirky concoctions would become important weapons. His grandfather became an interesting subplot. The man was powerful and cruel, and Gordy had no idea his mom and aunt had a huge conflict with their father. I assume this will create a problem in the sequel. The highlight of the book was the author's imagination with the potions. Some of them required common items, while more exotic ingredients were also used. Some of the potions were comparable to unusual inventions found in other books. Potions were used to capture enemies, cause explosions, control minds, and put characters to sleep. Max was Gordy's best friend and provided comic relief. He had no special talents other than an insatiable curiosity. He was determined to get a glimpse of the rotting mummy kept in Gordy's basement, even though Gordy warned him of its noxiousness. He offered brash and humorous comments despite the dangers he might have been facing. Overall, this was a fun book, and I suspect its sequel, The Transparency Tonic, will be added to my to-read list. 

The Blackwell Pages #2: Odin's Ravens by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

Odin's Ravens (The Blackwell Pages, #2)My name is Fen, and I continue to defy my fate as a descendant of Loki. Matt, Laurie, and I traveled to Hel in order to rescue Baldwin from his premature death. I never would've thought I could work alongside a descendant of Thor, but Matt Thorson is the one who must lead us in stopping Ragnorak, the end of the world. We must locate Mjolnir, so Matt can use the hammer to battle and slay the Midgard Serpent. We've battled wolves, undead, and giants, and Astrid has reappeared. We'll never forgive her for killing Baldwin. I know Laurie thinks I'm overprotective, but I swore to defend her, even before I fully understood her true importance in the quest. It seems like someone is controlling the creatures we've faced, but I'm not sure Matt is ready to discover their identity. 

You should read Loki's Wolves first to fully understand how things started, as this book picks up where the first one left off. The series has been told through the eyes of the three main characters, but the changes in viewpoint have been seamless. The main characters are usually together, so the setting doesn’t change as the viewpoints vary. The group dynamics are worth watching, as Matt, Laurie, and Fen learn to work together. Fen is especially quick-tempered, so his character is a wild card. He's usually supportive of the group's efforts, but his personality makes him hard to get along with. His motivations are clouded by his vow to protect his cousin. The plot includes a good amount of action, as the characters travel through Hel and close in on Thor's hammer. Matt steps up to fully embrace his heritage. He's an impressive warrior, but he may be too nice to succeed. He's averse to "unnecessarily" killing even though foes left alive can return to create more havoc. This book dabbles more in godly powers than the first one, and it's clearly building to a climax with the Midgard Serpent to conclude the trilogy. I'm enjoying the story so far and have already started reading Thor's Serpents. Give the series a shot if you're into mythology, especially Norse Vikings.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Lock and Key #1: The Initiation by Ridley Pearson

The initiation
My name is Moria, and I've written this book about my troubled brother, James Moriarty. Our father has sent us to Baskerville Academy where we're fourth-generation legacies, descendants of the school's founder. Our family Bible is critically important to the school, and it's been stolen from its display. James has received clues regarding it, but he's become frustrated by the cryptic messages. However, his roommate Sherlock Holmes seems to have all the answers and has enlisted my help. Lock's superior air annoys my brother, but he thinks it's imperative that James pass this test. Before coming here, my father seemed worried and gave me directions in case he disappeared. Now, I'm wondering if James is in the same danger. I know it has something to do with the Moriarty family Bible, but who's behind it all?

I must admit I started this book awhile back and didn't finish it, but the synopsis still interested me. It will probably most appeal to mature middle grade readers. The book doesn't really fit the supernatural theme of my blog, but it has that kind of feeling. The Bible has a mystical power that is the center of generational rituals. Sherlock's logical and analytical manner of speaking may turn off many readers, just as it irked the characters in the book. The story is told as a young version of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel with Moria's voice being the narrator. The setting is in modern-day America, whereas the original stories took place in old England. Young readers will probably miss the many references to the classic series. Make no mistake, this book will make you think; it's a mystery. Sherlock is unable to ignore clues, so he's constantly analyzing situations and evidence. You'll do the same and find yourself challenged to figure out what's going on before he reveals the truth. As you can tell, this book will not be enjoyed by all, but most lovers of mysteries will like it. I'm not sure if I'll read the sequel, but the secrets revealed during the resolution have intrigued me. We'll see.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Who Let the Gods Out? #1 by Maz Evans

Who Let the Gods Out? (Who Let the Gods Out?, #1)My name is Elliot, and I accidentally freed Thanatos from his prison under Stonehenge. I was only trying to save Virgo, a girl from the Zodiac Council, but Thanatos said he'd help my mom's illness. Well, the Daemon lied. Now, he's searching for the Chaos Stones that he'll use to get revenge on Zeus and torment the mortals on Earth. Virgo needs to recapture him, and she'll lose her immortality if she fails. My problems don't seem as important, but I've got to find some way to protect my mom and save our farm. The neighbor lady is determined to tear down our home to develop the land. Virgo and I have contacted Hermes, who led us to his dad Zeus, and now we're enlisting the help of other gods and goddesses. I'm afraid to share all my problems with them, but I'm wondering if the Chaos Stones may be my answer.

This book shared a funny adventure full of unique gods, goddesses, and other immortals, although unique is probably an understatement. Virgo had a superior way of speaking to Elliot and thought human life was silly and illogical. However, the gods and goddesses were very supportive of Elliot. Hermes jumped at the chance to help and was happy to use the apps on his new iGod and to give fashion advice. Zeus was pretty cool and easygoing. He rocked flowery clothes and embraced the human way of life. His tendency to flirt and get married weren't admirable qualities, but his resolve to help Elliot was the backbone of the group's efforts. You don't often read about supernatural beings so determined to help a human. It's usually humans trying to impress the gods. When I checked out the book, I didn't realize it started a series. This book dealt with acquiring the Earth Stone, and it looks like each additional sequel will involve finding the other Chaos Stones. Thanatos wants them too, so he'll be the recurring antagonist. A prophecy says he can't touch Elliot, so that complicates his efforts. Overall, the book was a fun change of pace from some serious books I've recently read. Give it a shot if you're ready for a silly adventure. I plan to read Simply the Quest soon.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Blackwell Pages #1: Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

Loki's Wolves (The Blackwell Pages, #1)My name is Matt Thorson, and my family is descended from the Norse god Thor. While my brothers chose to play team sports, I've chosen to excel at boxing and wrestling. We all wear magic amulets, but my temper tends to activate mine. I always manage to find some way to disappoint my dad. The rune reader has announced I'll represent the Thorson family and fight the serpent during Ragnorak. However, I overheard my grandfather talking about the decision, and I was shocked by what he said. I've now run away to find other descendants of the gods who will help me in my quest. Surprisingly, Fen and Laurie are my first two recruits. They are related to Loki, and the wolves have always been enemies to Thor's family. We must find a way to work together or everything on Earth will be destroyed. 

I enjoy adventures based on mythology, and this book fits that description. This first book deals with Matt assembling a team of descendants from gods to fight the battle of Ragnorak. Fen clearly despises Matt and is overly protective of his cousin Laurie. These dynamics continue throughout most of the plot and add another layer of conflict. Laurie is sick and tired of the boys trying to keep her out of the action and wants to be a full contributor to the group's efforts. Matt comes off as a goody-goody character, as he's from a sheriff's family. The positive is he's an honorable and understanding leader, but the negative is that he's not ready to make hard and questionable decisions. These attributes are a direct contrast to Fen, who's judgmental and hates to avoid a fight. Their team grows to seven members, but that number changes toward the end of the book. They're searching for artifacts to help Matt defeat the serpent, and Loki's wolves are a constant threat. Fen has a history with them, so the interactions are personal for him. Overall, I'm enjoying this adventure of Norse mythology and have already started reading the sequel, Odin's Ravens.