Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Five Realms #1: Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

Podkin One-Ear (Longburrow)I am a bard of Thornwood, and I've a story to share about Podkin One-Ear. My story differs from others you've heard, because mine is true. As son of the chieftan, Podkin was destined to someday rule over the rabbit warren. However, he was a lazy sort and chose to skip his lessons and nap whenever he could. He came to regret these decisions once the Gorm appeared. The Gorm were evil rabbits with an eerie connection to metal. They attacked other warrens and killed the inhabitants or transformed them to join the Gorm army. Podkin's own warren was invaded, and he was forced to escape with his older sister Paz and baby brother Pook. Before leaving, he was given one of the Twelve Gifts, a dagger called Starclaw. While the weapon could cut through almost anything, it was a magical treasure hunted by Scramashank, the relentless Gorm leader.

I randomly chose this book from the library shelves and was pleasantly surprised. Its curious twist was how the bard narrated a story that he told to the bunny listeners, and his identity was a surprising reveal at the end. The rabbits weren't the timid creatures we're used to, as Podkin just lacked motivation and purpose. The plot became another tale of a reluctant hero overcoming overwhelming odds. The Gorm weren't just a ruthless army, as they were able to transform others into their ranks. The origin of the Gorm and the Balance are important factors that you'll learn along the way. Paz and Pook added interesting dynamics to the plot. Paz was frustrated that she couldn't become chieftain, and she seemed much more qualified for the position. This created a bit of jealousy within Podkin. Pook was a baby, but his babbling sometimes revealed important details the others had missed. Starclaw was an underwhelming magical weapon, as its uses were limited. While Podkin found ways to utilize it, it wasn't very effective in fighting an enemy clad in metal. Overall, I found the book entertaining and plan to check out the sequel, The Gift of Dark Hollow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Bears of the Ice #1: The Quest of the Cubs by Kathryn Lasky

The Quest of the Cubs (Bears of the Ice #1)I'm called First, and my mother has left my sister and I alone in the polar region of Ga'Hoole. We've decided we'll try to find our father in the hunting grounds, but we only know we need to travel north. We wish our mother had taught us to hunt before she left, since it's hard to survive blizzards and dangerous creatures when you're weak from starvation. We've also heard stories about Tick Tocks and some kind of machine, but this mystery makes me uneasy. I think rogue bears are behind it, but I don't know anything more. It can't be anything good. The Roguers don't follow the proud traditions of bears and are vicious and deadly. I hope I never see one again, but my senses tell me it's likely.

I wasn't sure what to expect, as most of the characters were "normal", polar animals; except for the fact they could communicate with each other. First and Second (they got actual names later) spent the first half of the book learning to hunt while trying to avoid becoming meals for larger predators. The twins also had spiritual powers, as First could sense the thoughts of others and Second had a special connection to the ice. A later character was able to see the dreams of others. The emerging conflict involved the rogue bears and a giant clock. The clock began as a positive concept but became the source of cult worship and slavery. Unbeknownst to the cubs, their mother sacrificed herself to save them from becoming slaves to the Roguers. This happened in the opening chapters, so it's not a spoiler! The very end of the book became more intriguing once a leopard brought some clarity to the cubs' quest. The cubs aren't royalty, but their efforts will ultimately free all bears, theoretically Overall, the book got better the farther I got into the plot, so I think I'll probably check out the sequel, The Den of Forever Frost.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The House With Chicken Legs by Stephanie Anderson

The House with Chicken LegsMy name is Marinka, and my grandmother says someday I'll also become a guardian of The Gate, leading the dead into the afterlife. However, I just want to have a real friend and do things beyond the boundaries of our house with chicken legs. Baba says something bad will happen if I stray too far away, and the house frequently moves us around to different locations. Which leads me to now. I was desperate and knew I was doing something wrong, and I knew Baba would be upset when she found out. I never imagined the truth she'd reveal about my past, and I never would have believed she'd leave me alone. I'm truly sorry for the foolish decisions I've made.

I must admit I almost stopped reading this book. I was ready to return it to the library when I got to the part about Marinka's secret. That made the book much more interesting. Marinka's desire for a living friend and a normal life blinded her perception of reality. She didn't fully appreciate her importance and didn't accept her destiny. She finally met another Yaga who shared more information about the significance of guardians. The house with chicken legs was the most compelling character. It's sole purpose was to protect the guardian in helping the dead return to the stars. However, the author gave it more of a personality in the second half of the book, and it developed a more important role in the plot. It couldn't speak, but it was still able to communicate emotions. The focus of the book was all about Marinka's struggles to deal with her conflicting emotions about becoming a Yaba and the disappearance of her grandmother. Loneliness and desperation were two strong emotions. Overall, the book will take some patience due to the slow start, but it might be worth your time. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Unwanteds Quests #3: Dragon Ghosts by Lisa McMann

Dragon Ghosts (The Unwanteds Quests Book 3)My name is Thisbe, and I don't think anyone knows I've escaped from the Revinir's dungeons along with Sky and Dev. The Revinir forced me to drink dragon-bone broth, and I know it's having a scary effect on me. I'm trying to conceal the scales on my arms, but the visions I'm having are hard to ignore. I can't tell if they're from the past or from the future. What do they mean? I'm not sure any of my friends are looking for me at this point; they may have assumed I'm dead and returned to Artime. Something's happening here to the dragons and the children with black eyes. I'm feeling a strange pull too, and it's hard to resist. I feel I need to return to the dungeons and free a woman I don't even know. I now find myself alone and wondering what I should do.

You need to read the first two books in The Unwanteds Quests series, and it wouldn't hurt to read The Unwanteds first. Alex died in the previous book, and the early part of Dragon Ghosts covered his history and the history of the magical world of Artime. To be honest, the first half of the book felt like it was getting ready for something to happen without anything actually happening. Characters didn't fully understand Thisbe and Alex's situations and were thinking of plans for what they should do. There were mistaken assumptions that led characters astray. The second half of the book was much more interesting and included a lot more action. The conflicts became clearer, and the opposing positions more defined. As expected, the Revinir continued to be the main antagonist, but underwent some changes. These changes complicated her abilities, so the protagonists weren't sure how to stop her. It will continue into the next book. While the books read like normal middle-grade novels, the author doesn't shy away from death. Important characters may be lost (Alex for example), so potential twists are unpredictable. I wish I didn't need to wait for each edition of the series to be published. 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Green Sky Trilogy #1: Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Below the RootMy name is Raamo, and I don't understand why I was Chosen. I'm just an average Kindar teen, so how did I get selected to be an Ol-zhann, one of the wise rulers of Green-Sky?  Maybe it's because I haven't lost my Spirit-skills like most of the other citizens. I'm worried about my sister's health, as she seems to be withering and slowly fading away. I'll receive some training as a Healer, so maybe I'll be able to help her. However, someone has been speaking to me through our minds, but I don't know who it might be or why they're contacting me. This just adds to my confusion. I'm learning that my former classmates might have been encouraged to be deceitful during their training, and the Ol-zhann or harboring secrets. I never could have imagined the shocking truth.

It was clear early on that a conspiracy would be revealed regarding the governing of the Kindars. The setting of the story takes place among the trees in a dense forest. The characters are humanish and spread their clothing to glide between the branches. You should recognize references to technology from our culture. The forest floor is feared, as stories are told about certain death dooming anyone falling down there. The Pash-shan are almost mythical, evil creatures, because none of the Kindars have survived to report about seeing them. Things like that immediately get my mind wondering about the truth. Life in Green-Sky is all about peace and kindness to the point that a word like "killing" is treated like the greatest offense and profanity. Raamo's curiosity gets him into trouble, although the mysterious mind-speaker gets him started. The book shares deep messages about government and social differences. Should citizens be told the truth if it might upset the foundation of the society's beliefs? Leaders are supposed to look out for the welfare of the citizens, but what if the citizens are unaware of the issues in the first place? The book has a dystopian feel to it, and I think I'll probably read the sequel. If you're looking for a short book about government conspiracy, give it a shot.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #2: Game of Stars by Sayantani Dasgupta

Game of Stars (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, #2)My name is Kiran, and I know the Demon Slayer contest is probably a trap set by my evil Serpent King father. He says the contest will reunite the Chintamoni and Poroshmoni Stones for the Kingdom Beyond or the Serpent Kingdom, but I still think there's more to it. I can't believe the thousands of people determined to become contestants and young girls idolize me. Giant posters say there's romance between Prince Lal and myself, but Prince Neel is imprisoned and says I shouldn't trust his brother. What is going on? None of this makes any sense. Despite Neel's warning against it, I must enter the contest and reach the third round in order to free him. However, the Serpent King doesn't play fair, so I know the rules are rigged in his favor. I'll do anything I can to save Neel.

You should start with the first book in the series, The Serpent's Secret. It's been a while since I read it, but I forgot about some of the silly humor. That's hard to believe since it's all over the place. Imagine Kiran needing to answer banana jokes to get past a security guard and conceited, silly announcers emceeing the contest. Monsters aren't typically slain, as they're often tricked by Kiran's quick-thinking. That's why she's confused when others think of her as a demon slayer. It's clear something's off about Kiran's return to the Kingdom Beyond, but it takes her awhile to fully realize it. I kept wondering when she'd actually think about all of the strange things she was seeing. The author makes many references to the Indian culture and mythology, as that's her style. You can usually figure everything out, so it's not a problem at all. Kiran's character is fun to follow. She wants to be a heroine, but sometimes gets overwhelmed by the experience. She's brave and intelligent, but that can get her into trouble too. Overall, the book is fun to read, and I recommend you give it a shot. You'll need to have a tolerance for silly humor, but the adventure will be worth it.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Wings of Olympus #1 by Kallie George

Wings of Olympus (Wings of Olympus #1)My name is Pippa, and I've been chosen for the greatest honor I could ever imagine! I never would have believed an orphan like me could be part of a horse race for the gods. Unfortunately, the other racers, and a few gods, don't think I belong here either. I love my winged horse Zephyr, and I'm going to train her to win the race and become Zeus's new steed. It would be a lot easier if I could get her to stop chasing butterflies and other distractions! The other kids are getting gifts and visits from their god and goddess sponsors, but Aphrodite hasn't seen me even once. Why did she pick me? What will happen to Zephyr and me if we don't win the race? Maybe fate says we don't have a chance at victory, but I don't have any other option but to succeed. 

This book told a classic underdog story, as the ancient Greeks weren't kind to women or parentless kids. Apparently, it was rare for women to have an opportunity to ride horses. The other contestants came from more privileged homes, while Pippa had been living with the horses she cared for. She had been left on a doorstep as a baby and didn't know why her parents had abandoned her. She was paired with the smallest winged horse and they became the team least likely to win. Zephyr's attention issues and free spirit added an amusing twist to their relationship. Other than that, the plot was fairly predictable, as it didn't offer any surprises to complicate the conflict. Pippa's decision to solve the problem was unexpected and out of character, although I understand why she did it. I wasn't totally satisfied with the book's resolution, but I'll probably read the sequel when it comes out.