Friday, May 17, 2019

Arlo Finch #2: In the Lake of the Moon by John August

Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon (Arlo Finch #2)My name is Arlo, and I'm not sure I should have tossed the rusty flashlight to the Blue Patrol. I still don't know how it could have happened, but the Long Woods is a mysterious place. I've now come to Ranger Camp for my first time, but things are strange. Wu and Indra are fighting, our patrol leader Connor is gone, I'm having strange dreams, and I've somehow gotten on Big Breezy's bad side. Indra says the trees predicted my arrival here before I was born! My Uncle Wade and others say there never was a Yellow Patrol, but I've found evidence that's not true. I know Uncle Wade was in the patrol, so why is there a mystery surrounding the group? I feel like the forest spirits want me to do something, but what?

I wish I could read this series straight through instead of waiting for new editions to be written. I enjoyed the teamwork in the first book, but this one included some discord between the main characters. Arlo experienced many events alone, and his partners were varied. Arlo and I had trouble making sense of the events and how they fit together. Everything started to clear up once Arlo and Indra took a canoe across the lake. The flashlight incident occurred in the first chapter but was put on the back burner until the second half of the book. Arlo interacted with characters, including an ornery wind spirit, but he wasn't sure if they were friends or foes. The unpredictability of the characters added some intrigue, but I missed the camaraderie in the last book. I still found the book entertaining and imaginative. The Long Woods were a mystery to the characters, and no one knew what was going on until the end. They knew there was a problem, but they didn't really understand the big conflict. Overall, I would have liked to have seen some things presented differently, but I can still recommend you give it a shot. 

Tales From Lovecraft Middle School #2: The Slither Sisters by Charles Gilman

The Slither Sisters (Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #2)My name is Glenn, and a snake-monster is a shoe-in to win the election for student council president. That's because Robert and I are the only students who know the true identities of the popular twin sisters. Their bodies were taken over by serpents from another dimension. It's all part of Crawford Tillinghast's plan to overthrow humankind by sending beasts through portals found in Lovecraft Middle School. We were surprised to discover the librarian is Crawford's sister, but she's not crazy like her brother. She has an idea that might change the outcome of the election. She says Robert will have a good chance of winning if he runs for president. Robert thinks that's insane, and the sisters have made threats toward him, but what choice do we have?

I read this book after reading the third one in the series first, Teacher's Pest, and it answered a couple questions I had. The books are simple and entertaining, but they're pretty shallow. This book was a little over a hundred pages and moved very quickly. Both books were written in the same format with the monsters being the main difference. The snake sisters were introduced early in the plot, the boys briefly traveled to the other dimension, and the rest of the story was spent dodging threats and trying to win the election. Reading one of these books was fun, but reading more than one at a time was less fun. Some readers will love them, since they don't require much thought and can be read in a short amount of time. The stories are easy to follow and predictable. Overall, I liked experiencing the series, and you may want to give it a shot. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Spy School #6: Spy School Goes South by Stuart Gibbs

Spy School Goes South (Spy School, #6)My name is Ben, and it was supposed to be an easy mission. All Erica and I needed to do was escort Murray to locate the new SPYDER headquarters, contact the CIA, and then let them take care of things. It didn't work out that way. Not unexpectedly, Murray couldn't be trusted. We ended up in a steamy jungle, fell into an ancient cave, and climbed atop some Aztec ruins. The good news is we found SPYDER, but the bad news is we're on our own, again. It also looks like SPYDER is planning something diabolical, and Erica insists we need to stop them on our own, again. We have no equipment, don't know who we can trust, and we're supposed to stop SPYDER's elite agents. I hope we survive the mission, if Murray's whining doesn't kill me first. 

You should probably read the first book in the series to get the gist of what's going on, although there are twists along the way (like Murray's character). Once again, this book has Ben and Erica fall into the middle of an evil plot and manage to foil everything. Erica is a serious spy and an expert in everything covert. Ben is brainy but struggles to master most of the spy skills. He's always been smitten by Erica, but this books finds him struggling with feelings for Zoe. Typical adolescent boy stuff. Murray adds a humorous angle to everything, as he goes through a dramatic transformation. There's an uncertainty about him, as you're skeptical whenever he talks. Actually, all the characters on both sides know each other so well that their interactions become amusing. There's a bit of personal taunting and teasing that you don't often find during dangerous situations. The dangerous situations don't end in death, although the loss of arms or legs is possible. Overall, you'll enjoy this book if you like light-hearted spy stories that result in thwarted plans for world domination.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Tales From Lovecraft Middle School #3: Teacher's Pest by Charles Gilman

Teacher's Pest (Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #3)My name is Robert, and I'm worried about my best friend Glenn. He was bitten on the neck by a funky-looking bug, and he started feeling strange. Now, he says he doesn't want to see me anymore, and I can really use a friend. There's a head lice epidemic, and bugs are all over the school building. The janitors are on strike, and it seems like the exterminators are making the problem worse. Pip and Squeak, my two-headed rat, are still with me along with Karina, a ghostly girl confined to the school grounds. No one knows the student council president is actually a giant insect monster in disguise, and I'll bet he's helping Crawford Tillinghast, the demented physicist. He wants to overthrow the human race with his monsters and creatures, but I'll do everything I can to stop him.

I hadn't read the previous two books in the series, but I didn't feel like it affected my understanding. The book reminded me a little bit of My Teacher is an Alien. Robert didn't know which adults could be trusted and which ones were being controlled by Tillinghast. This created an ongoing tension, as did the loss of Glenn. The main conflict was stopping the insect invasion, but then a rescue mission broke out. Robert was determined to save someone, not Glenn, but it was clear the bugs would be exterminated in the process. The whole plot moved along very quickly, as it took only 103 pages to develop and resolve. The quick pace kept things hopping, but it resulted in shallow characters too. The story followed Robert, so his thoughts and feelings were pretty clear. However, all the other characters made appearances as needed without any depth to their descriptions. Overall, the book told a short, amusing story of bugs trying to overthrow humans, but it will probably appeal to a select audience. If the description above interests you, give it a shot. I plan to read the second book in the series to see if it's any different. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Puddlejumpers by Mark Jean and Christopher C. Carlson

PuddlejumpersMy name is Ernie Banks, although I don't remember my life before the orphanage. I have dreams of twelve-inch creatures and running from giant, hairy monsters, but that's just weird. I have a strange thirst for milk, and I feel a connection to water. Again, weird. I must admit I've been an ornery orphan, and no parents will adopt me. The director hates me and has threatened to send me to juvie. My last chance to avoid jail is spending three weeks on a farm. I'm not sure what to expect, but it will be nice to leave the orphanage for awhile. However, I've discovered an unsolved mystery concerning the farmer's son that no one wants to talk about, and the farmer may lose his farm to some bullies. I hate bullies, and I'm going to do something about it!

This book reminded me of a former student's story about creatures living in fingerprints, as the Puddlejumpers used puddles as gateways to reach their home. That's pretty imaginative. For me, the book broke into three parts. The first was about the young son until the age of three, the second was life at the orphanage, and the third was a return to the farm. All three parts were cohesive and told a compelling story. The most interesting aspects of everything were the Puddlejumpers' dilemma concerning water and their conflict with the Troggs. The Troggs hated water, and the Puddlejumpers needed to groom a new Rainmaker to save their world. The contrast in the two battling groups was distinct as one side was only about a foot tall, while the other stood about eight feet. Didn't seem like a fair fight, except the smaller characters could use "squirt guns" for defense. The farmer and his town were kind of caught in the middle but had no idea of what was going on. Ernie was the main character and should evoke empathy in readers. He was preordained to become a hero only to find himself needing to persevere through a troubled childhood. All the while, Ernie had no memory of his past and no inkling about the significance of his future. In all, this book shared a creative adventure, and I think you might enjoy it. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Little Apocalypse by Katherine Sparrow

Little ApocalypseMy name is Celia, and an earthquake has left me stranded in my apartment building. I met a boy named Dimitri up on my roof, sitting in a circle with some other kids. I'm not sure why his touch left a black mark on my cheek. Later, I met two Hunters named Ruby and Amber who told me about Littles and Bigs, and they said I'm at the center of a prophecy to stop these monsters. Littles are controlled by the Bigs that created them, and Bigs are the most evil and dangerous creatures. Littles have an unending obsession to touch children and change them into monsters. Now, I'm hearing about someone named Krawl, and her name makes Dimitri become enraged. She's searching for Dimitri, and Dimitri wants to find her. I don't want to be around when they meet, but I think I'm going to end up in the middle of it. 

The earthquake abruptly changed the story, but uncovering the truth of the conflict took too long. The plot moved a little slowly for me, as some of the events were overly described. Actually, I understood the characters and what was going on well before the author allowed Celia to understand what was happening. With that being said, I really enjoyed the final product. Celia only wanted to find friends, and she felt the characters were using her because of the prophecy. She became hurt and angry until she realized which ones actually cared about her. The search for companionship was a main conflict, along with the looming battle between Dimitri and Krawl. The hunters' mission was to capture Littles and kill or control the Bigs. They were under orders from the Council of Elders, although the elders were never directly seen or heard. I didn't think they were needed at all. The origin of the monsters was revealed and was the key to resolving the problem. I didn't enjoy the story's resolution and felt it could have ended happier ever after. Overall, it was an interesting tale that will appeal to readers with patience. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

TURBO Racers #1: Trailblazer by Austin Aslan

TURBO Racers: TrailblazerMy name is Mace, and I have a chance to become an actual Turbo Racer. Apparently, somebody noticed I have the highest video game score in the world and invited me to compete to become a real racer. I've met the other three kids, and they're pretty cool. Except for Henryk. That guy's a jerk and cannot be trusted. However, I feel forced to do some dishonest things myself. I already have one strike in this competition, so I can't finish last in another trial. Tempest is actually teaching us different ways to cheat, although she says it's just bending the rules to our advantage. I always believed it's possible to compete as friends, but Tempest doesn't think that way. She thinks we must win at any cost. Becoming a Turbo Racer will change my life, but am I willing to pay the price?

While the central problem was the competition to drive the Turbo Racer, the actual conflict was a huge clash in ethics and Tempest's secret motives. Also, the kids were underage, so their identities needed to stay "cryptic". Tempest believed the kids should do anything to win, even if it endangered the lives of other racers. Mace was very disturbed with that mindset, although he felt pressured to surrender his own morals. Two losses in the trials and he would be sent home. Consequently, it was hard for any of the characters to form close bonds, and the first half of the book became a story of individuals. Some important changes occurred in the plot, and the second half became more of a team effort. The trimorpher was at the center of everything. These racers could travel on land, water, and air at incredible speeds. Races were held all over the world, and the drivers became celebrities. This book may not appeal to everyone, since it involves a lot of racing. The author describes mechanical details of the racers and driving strategies. I liked it more than I expected, and I'll probably check out the sequel, although it won't be released until 2020.