Monday, August 26, 2019

The Wormling #5: The Author's Blood by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry

The Author's Blood (The Wormling, #5)My name is Owen Reeder, but the people of the Lowlands know me as the Wormling. However, few of them know I'm also the King's Son. The Dragon's armies have wiped out the forces opposing him, and he's enslaved most of the remaining villagers. They find it difficult to hold out hope after their families have been slain, but we must trust the King's words. I had to leave my sister and my future bride in the Highlands, and I pray they are safe from the Dragon's time minions. I'm willing to sacrifice myself to save my family and the entire kingdom, but I have faith in my father. The Book of the King says the Dragon will be defeated, and those loyal to the King will celebrate and rejoice. 

This book concluded the series, and I've enjoyed the journey. The entire series was told from a second person point of view, which was a bit uncommon. This strategy allowed the narrator to speak directly to readers and draw them into the book. A devastating tragedy at the end of the fourth book carried over to this one, and I was left wondering how the authors would resolve it. Owen kept telling other characters to have faith, so I was forced to have faith along with them. The Book of the King essentially promoted the Yin and Yang of life. Tragedies are necessary for positive experiences to evolve. Everything has purpose, and there is good and evil in the world. The words in the Book had a Biblical feel to them, as they preached faith and hope. This preachiness was probably my main reservation toward the series. Younger readers may not have a tolerance for philosophical dialogue. Overall, I recommend you give this series a shot; I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Charlie and Frog and The Boney Hand by Karen Kane

Charlie and Frog The Boney HandMy name is Charlie, and my best friend Frog is not "cute". Don't ever call her that unless you want to feel her wrath! I'm the only hearing student at the deaf school, and I've become the chief suspect in the Boney Hand's theft. The story of the Boney Hand is legendary around here, and it's disappearance has upset long traditions. I'd like to blame the school bully, but it looks like someone else is responsible. Luckily, Frog wants to be a serious detective, so we're going to team up and solve this case. Unfortunately, my grandparents want to help. Ugh! There must a logical explanation for the Boney Hand, but what if there isn't? What if the Boney Hand has actually come back to life?!

Charlie wasn't sure if the legend of The Boney Hand was true, but I decided to include this book with the speculative fiction anyway. Having a deaf main character was a unique twist, and many of the other characters were deaf too. This factor made communication between characters trickier than normal, but it really wasn't a big deal. Readers can actually learn a bit about sign language. The author included humorous elements to the plot in the form of Charlie's parents and grandparents. His mom and dad didn't want to be bad parents, so they read all the books they could find on the subject. They tried everything except for experiencing life with their son. The grandparents spent most of their time in their recliners until they received detective outfits in the mail, including fake mustaches. They had several mysteries of the their own to solve, like the missing remote. My biggest drawback to the story was how everyone was so wrapped up in the ghost story surrounding the Boney Hand. It was strange that so many adult characters accepted it as fact, while the children main characters were skeptical. The story just felt unbelievable. I think this book will most appeal to students in grades 4-6.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Wormling #4: The Minions of Time by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry

The Minions of Time (The Wormling, #4)My name is Owen, and my top priority was to find the King's Son. Most of the Lowland people now realize I'm the Wormling, and that knowledge has given them hope. I don't think they're ready to hear something else I've discovered, but it will be revealed when the time is right. The Dragon is doing all it can to locate and destroy me, and I know he's planning something devastating under the White Mountain. I wish my good friend Watcher was with me, but it was best for us to separate and let her protect The Book of the King. It's now time for the people to amass a great army to defeat the Dragon. The book has prophesied the Son will lead them, but my quest requires me to return to the Highlands first. 

You should read the entire series starting from the beginning. Owen follows the teachings in The Book of the King, because he's put all of his faith into it. He's grown as a warrior and leader, but his true strength comes from a compassion for others. He even empathizes with some of his enemies and skeptics, and his faith often wins them over. He quotes lines from the book that offer inspiration and guidance. The book seems to know the future, although it was written by the King. How is that possible? The King has physically been missing from the previous books, but he finally makes an appearance near the end of this one. I've been mentioning the probability of Owen's return to the Highlands in the past two books, and it finally comes true. The authors have still cast doubt regarding some characters' identities, so that will keep you wondering about who Owen will eventually marry. The philosophical scriptures from The Book of the King are balanced with action and adventure. Owen and his followers are ambushed throughout the plot, and the Changeling returns to cause confusion. Overall, I'm enjoying the series, and I'm looking forward to its conclusion in The Author's Blood.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Water Dragon Races #1: Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races by K.D. Holbrook

Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races (Water Dragon Races, #1)My name is Silver Batal, and I've always dreamed of becoming a great water dragon rider. Many people think it's a crazy dream for the daughter of a jeweler, living in a hot, dusty desert. Now, I must recover my friend's water dragon, stolen by my hero, Sagittaria Wonder. I'm thankful my cousin Brajon has offered to help, but I'm not sure what we'll do once we reach Calidia. We can't exactly walk up to the queen and tell her the most famous dragon rider in the world is a thief. No, the only thing I can do is enter the water dragon races, and win. My plan is complicated, since I've bonded with a young water dragon that's still learning to swim. The fact he's an Aquinder presents an even bigger problem. If anyone discovers this mythical water dragon exists, things will get very dangerous.

The concepts of water dragons and racing them interested me enough to read the book, but the early pages were slow. It was clear Silver would do anything to become a rider, but nothing would happen in the plot until Sagittaria came to visit her village. The book became much more interesting after about eighty pages, once Silver left for Calidia. She was accused of stealing jewelry and Sagittaria knew who she was, so Silver had to move stealthily across the lands and streets. She could also lose her water dragon, Hiyyan, even though they were bonded. They could be registered together if they raced, but Silver would need to teach Hiyyan how to swim and how the fly. Complicating things was a law saying all Aquinders needed to be killed, so how could they practice flying without anyone seeing? The author tossed in some "natural" dangers with wild creatures popping up along the way. Silver made a couple of allies during her adventure, and she discovered some conspiracies. The races were much more than races to political foes, and secrets were hidden in watery caves. Overall, the book made up for the slow start, and I recommend you give it a shot. Lovers of "nice" dragons should enjoy the story. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Wormling #3: The Changeling by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry

The Changeling (The Wormling, #3)My name is Owen, and I am the Wormling. The Book of the King has been my guiding light and tells me the King will provide what I need if I put my faith in him. I must find the King's Son, so he can unite the worlds and end the Dragon's reign of terror. No one knows where the Dragon is holding him captive, so I'm on my way to find the Scribe. I failed in my duty to protect the book from the Dragon, and I'm hoping the Scribe can provide some guidance. I regret my presence endangers everyone I meet, and I will use my Wormling skills to protect them, if I can. My first priority is to find the King's Son. I've learned a secret about The Book of the King, and I must travel alone in pursuit of my quest. I will not fail, because my undying faith is in the King.

Owen's quest is the conflict driving all of the books. The Book of the King has taught him a way of thinking that is almost spiritual, and he often speaks as though he's much older. He quotes the book as if it's a bible, although it also foretells future events. Most of the villagers have heard exaggerated stories about the coming of the Wormling, so their first impressions of Owen are usually amusing. He's not ten feet tall, he can't shoot flames from his armpits, and he can't fly. However, he earns their respect through his wisdom, bravery, and belief in the King. Villagers are amazed that Owen can read, since the Dragon banned reading and destroyed all books. An ongoing subplot has been the possibility that Owen's mother is still alive and living in this world. This book shines some light on that topic, but it creates new questions too. All three books continue to bring up Owen's life in the other world, and I expected he would have returned by now. Owen even asks another character when it will happen. The author reveals a huge "surprise" at the end of the book. It's something I've suspected since the series started, but it might surprise some middle grade readers. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tin by Kenny Padraig

TinMy name is Jack, and my friend Christopher has been taken away by the Agency. He always looked out for mechanicals like me and the others, even though our "engineer" offered broken promises of repairs. We liked to hear Christopher's stories about his mom and dad, but he couldn't remember anything that happened before the fire. Then the Agency showed up. There was a rip in Christopher's arm, and we discovered the machine inside him. Until that moment, Christopher didn't know he was a mechanical too! However, his model was banned and shouldn't exist. Where did he come from and who made him? Why does the Agency want him? Gripper, Round Rob, Estelle, and I must find some way to rescue Christopher, but we're going to need help.

This book is unique, as most of the main characters are robots called mechanicals. They behave almost like humans, although it's illegal for an engineer to endow them with souls. Those kinds of mechanicals have been banned, and that creates the crux of the plot's conflict. Mechanicals like Jack have no malice, which in some ways makes them better than Proper ones. This quality creates moral questions, as they abhor injuring others. One of the characters is distressed late in the book when he accidentally steps on a snail. However, a human inventor takes advantage of the mechanicals' inability to cause harm, which makes them sympathetic and endearing characters. Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend you give it a shot. It will appeal to lovers of robots and machines, or those who enjoy dystopian worlds. 

Jerry the Squirrel: Volume One by Shawn P. B. Robinson

Jerry the Squirrel: Volume OneMy name is Jerry, and I like to invent things. I'm actually pretty good at it, although my inventions don't always work exactly as I planned. I had a great idea once and created warm slippers that would listen to my commands and take me wherever I wanted. Unfortunately, the slippers got minds of their own and caused quite a disturbance with all the other squirrels. Another time, I invented a machine to pick nuts out of the trees. All of the other squirrels were very excited and thankful that I'd be saving them from their annual Fall work. However, the machine went a little haywire and had all of the squirrels running for their lives. All I want is for the other squirrels to like me, and I'm sure one of my creations will help. Someday.

I read this as an eBook from Net Galley. It's a collection of stories based on bedtime tales the author told to his children, and that's what you should expect. You won't find a novel with a compelling conflict that's full of action. Jerry usually wants to make life easier for himself and the other squirrels, but his inventions always go awry. In a couple of the stories, the inventions seem to develop minds of their own and revolt. The result of all the events is a humorous book that develops wacky images of a community of squirrels. Simple problems and inventive solutions result in squirrelly chaos. Uncontrollable slippers and an out-of-control nut collector are only two of Jerry's inventions. Overall, this book should appeal to mid-elementary readers, and they should not be disappointed. Readers enjoying this book will be able move on to Jerry the Squirrel: Volume Two or Jerry the Squirrel: The Novel. Give them a shot.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Wormling #2: The Sword of the Wormling by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry

The Sword of the Wormling (The Wormling, #2)I'm called the Watcher, and I'm supposed to help the Wormling find the king's son. I don't understand why the Wormling is a weak kid instead of the huge, brave warrior I hoped for. His presence cost Bardig his life, but I've sworn to accompany the boy and warn him of danger. He must go through an initiation first, but there's no one to perform the ceremony. Unless... I wonder if Mordecai is still alive. The traitor hasn't been seen since fleeing the kingdom ten years ago, but he would know the words to the initiation. I will take the Wormling through the mountains and Badlands hoping we'll find Mordecai on a remote island. However, the Dragon wants the Book of the King back, and he wants the Wormling dead. I'll vigilantly watch for attacking Invisibles and pray the boy will learn to defend himself.

This book is the second in the series, and I'm enjoying them very much. Owen is the Wormling, and he passed through a portal in The Book of the King. Finding the king's son is supposed to unite the worlds, and this book hinted at Owen's need to return to his own world. I assume that will occur in a sequel. I like that Owen remains a simple, thoughtful boy even as he grows as the Wormling. Reading the Book of the King has given him wisdom, and it seems to have become a part of him, if that makes sense. Owen's transformation has been slow, and I'm surprised the pace hasn't bugged me. The author has managed to infuse other issues to keep me interested. Owen's mom may still be alive, the king's son is dead or hidden somewhere, Owen might be captured or killed himself, and the Dragon seems to have made some kind of agreement with the king. A big question I have is the identity of the voice that Owen hears during desperate moments and why this Invisible is helping him. I recommend you give this series a shot, as I've already checked out The Wormling #3, The Changeling.