Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Dragon's Guide #2: A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarter by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder

A Dragon's Guide to Making Your Human Smarter (A Dragon's Guide, #2)My name is Miss Drake, and Winnie, my pet human, has started school at Sprigg's Academy, a school for magics and mortals. I've been secretly watching to make sure her temper doesn't get her into trouble again, especially with Nanette's attempts to bully her. She seems to be adjusting well, although I should have spent more time over the summer teaching her about magical history. Unfortunately, Winnie's mother knows nothing about magic, and my shape-changing has kept her from discovering I'm a dragon. Our biggest problems are that Winnie's grandfather Jarvis is plotting to get custody of her, and the school is requiring Nanette and Winnie to spend every minute together. Winnie is a strong girl, but an Internet video may bring an end to our friendship.

Unfortunately, I did not read the first book before reading this one. The story is told from alternating points of view, but the author added a cute twist. Winnie and Miss Drake each believe the other is her pet, especially Miss Drake, although it's clear they're close friends. I found the mixture of magic and technology amusing. Miss Drake, the teachers, and other creatures performed spells, but Miss Drake still needed to check her texts and emails. An endearing character is Small Doll. This small doll cleaned the house every night, but no one ever saw it move or heard it speak. It especially loved sweets. Winnie carried it with her on her first day at the magical school, and Small Doll was able to foresee problems and turn the tables on would-be pranksters. Jarvis created the conflict in the plot, but he wasn't an active character. The threat of his behind-the-scenes actions was the big problem. For most young readers, the issues at school are probably most relatable. Winnie didn't want to stand out, and she wanted to make friends. Nanette didn't like her, but that was partly due to Winnie's innocent intentions. It wasn't Winnie's fault the teacher's liked her better than Nanette. Overall, this was a cute story that should be enjoyed by most young readers. 

RuneWarriors #1 by James Jennewein and Tom S. Parker

RuneWarriors (RuneWarriors, #1)My name is Lut the Bent, and I should have spoken sooner about my disturbing dreams. I saw Dane, Voldar's son, riding a great wolf amid blood and chaos, as members of our tribe were slaughtered. I knew I had to tell Voldar when Thidrik the Terrifying entered our village. Thidrik is pure evil and not to be trusted. Unfortunately, Dane took the Shield of Odin into the woods along with Astrid, our most beautiful maiden, and left the village defenseless. Now, Voldar has been killed by Thidrik, Astrid has been taken, and the blame has been lain upon Dane. I convinced the villagers to give him a chance at redemption, but the small band of boys and three old men, including me, must face the tyrant and his Berserkers. Little did we know that our quest would lead to the most powerful weapon on earth.

This book was an interesting mix of Norse mythology and magic. Characters prayed to Odin and believed their lives were fated by the gods. Along the way, Dane and his group found water that bestowed intelligence or idiocy, and Lut's runes mystically foretold the future. The concepts of faith and free will were addressed, as Dane started to question his destiny. The others were shocked when he questioned the power of the gods and their influence over mortal decisions. The story offered a curious blend of characters. Jarl was a self-centered boy and Dane's closest rival, but they became co-leaders of the quest. Dane's two best friends were known for their stupidity and body odor. Jarl's best friends were known for their drinking and fighting. Astrid was a beautiful maiden, but she was also a formidable warrior. The plot offered many opportunities for Dane and Jarl to clash, as there were physical conflicts and opposing thoughts about important decisions. Dane was more diplomatic in these situations, while Jarl always believed himself to be right or that his thoughts were the will of the gods. Overall, this is a good book that will appeal to lovers of Viking tales. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Clockwork Chronicles #1: The Brimstone Key by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis

The Brimstone Key (Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles, #1)My name is Max Sumner, and I am the leader of the Grey Griffins. Most of the students and staff at Iron Bridge Academy already know we've successfully battled monsters. However, most of the students also know my father is an evil man, and many of them have lost family members because of him. I haven't seen my faerie in weeks, and changelings have been disappearing from the school. My friend Ernie is a changeling with super speed, and the disappearances have made him even more nervous than usual. My focus has been distracted from the upcoming Round Table tournament where everyone is expecting a big showdown with Xander, the most popular kid in school. I'm not jealous of him... am I? We've discovered the rare Round Table cards we found may hold dangerous creatures, but the greatest terror comes from a man who disappeared a hundred years ago. 

The story jumped right into the action, as the kids were stuck deep underground by page ten. Even though this was the first book in the series, it felt like a sequel. It didn't take any time to describe how the Grey Griffins formed, and it made references to their past deeds without sharing any details. It didn't explain how Max's dad became an evil character or anything else about his life growing up. It mentioned these past events like they'd been covered in an earlier book, but the lack of information became a distraction. It made me ask questions with no answers. With that being said, the premise of the story had potential. There were close friends with unique abilities, trying to solve a mystery, while adjusting to a new middle school. Max was the guardian of the Codex, an enchanted book holding dangerous magical creatures. However in the novel, the Codex was mostly depicted as a magical ring and gauntlet worn by Max as a weapon, but there was no further explanation until near the end. The problem was this book appeared to be a spin-off from a Grey Griffins series. I guess you'll need read that series first to appreciate this one.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Earthfall #1 by Mark Walden

Earthfall (Earthfall, #1)My name is Sam, and I finally discovered I'm not alone on Earth. I've been hiding from Hunters in the sewers of London ever since the alien ships arrived a year and a half ago. Rachel saved me from a Hunter attack and then introduced me to the small group of humans still in control of their minds. I'm learning special ops like a guerrilla soldier, and it feels good to finally be fighting instead of running away. However, I'm not comfortable with the secrets Dr. Stirling is keeping from everyone. He won't say what his laboratory used to do, and he won't say how he was able to locate me in the middle of a devastated city. I know I'm different from the others, but I don't know why. Why did I survive a Hunter sting that usually kills within minutes, and why can't anyone else hear the sounds from the Threat like I do?

This is a dystopian novel with mechanical aliens like in the Jack Blank trilogy. I envisioned the invasion happening similarly to how it occurred during the Independence Day movie. Gigantic Motherships parked above major cities around the world and sent smaller ship and "soldiers" down to the planet. Almost every human on Earth became mindless workers for the aliens, including Sam's sister. His father was significant to the story, but his whereabouts were unknown. Sam's character was the most engaging part of the book, because there was something mysterious and compelling about him. He was obviously the protagonist hero, but he had some kind of connection to the antagonist aliens. Why didn't the sting kill him, and how could he almost hear voices in sounds that no one else could detect? Then, there was the unexplained scar on the back of his head and uncertainty about Stirling's secrets. All of these factors created a suspenseful plot with an exciting ending. Actually, the climax included a huge surprise that will have a dramatic effect on the sequel. I still don't totally understand the Servant or the Illuminate, but I'm sure they will become clearer in the next book. You'll enjoy this book if you like science fiction and aliens, and I recommend you give it a shot. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jack Blank Adventure #1: The Accidental Hero by Matt Myklusch

The Accidental Hero (Jack Blank Adventure, #1)My name is Jack Blank, and I don't
know my true past, only the life I had in the orphanage. A Rustov robot creature tried to kill me, so an android named Jazen has taken me far away to an island called Imagine Nation where aliens, Mechas, and superheroes live together. The citizens are wary of another Rustov invasion, and everyone knows I've been infected by the parasite. Nevertheless, I have a chance to improve my power over machines by being accepted to the School of Thought, but I must be approved by all memebers of the Inner Circle, powerful beings governing Imagine Nation. That's a daunting challenge, since Jonas Smart is constantly spreading news that I’m  Rustov spy. I better learn something quickly, since an indestructible Rustov named Revile is determined to kill me.

I found this book by chance, and I really enjoyed it. Jack was another reluctant hero who was just discovering his new abilities. The author did a wonderful job of creating problems for Jack with Smart’s disdain, Rustov attacks, the citizen’s fear and anger, and Jack’s own self-doubts. A major focus of the plot dealt with Jack’s efforts to survive and prove himself to the Inner Circle. As mentioned, receiving a favorable vote from Smart seemed impossible, and Smart seemed to have ulterior motives. The question of Jack’s mysterious past simmered throughout the plot, and a story-changing secret was revealed during the climax. The book was a blend of science fiction and fantasy. Smart developed all kinds of inventions including SmartCams that followed Jason everywhere. Superheroes flew around quelling typical superhero problems. Overall, the book may not appeal to everyone, but I highly recommend you give it a shot.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dreaming Dangerous by Lauren DeStefano

Dreaming DangerousMy name is Plum, and I have an unusual ability to share dreams with my three closest friends. Dr. Abarrane asks us to keep a diary of them, and doctors frequently check our health. However, our dreams have been getting stranger, and I've started wondering about the doctors questions. Artem has disappeared, and in our dreams he's warned us that someone is coming to get us. Who is he talking about? Gwendle, Vien, and I have decided no one can be trusted, so we've started lying to the doctors and in our diaries. We used to be in control of our dreams, but something's changed. I don't feel safe in them anymore, and sometimes I can't wake up. I've got to find Artem and figure out what's going on. He doesn't seem to be in Brassmere Academy anymore. If we can't trust the doctors, what can we do?

The beginning of the plot seemed innocent enough, but it quickly sucked me in. (I read it in one afternoon) I found myself very curious about the dreams and trying to figure out what was happening at this isolated academy. It seemed like the plot was equally split between reality and the dream world. The four friends would often go to sleep in order to be together and to speak in private. The dreams were very imaginative and created a lot of drama. Even though I enjoyed most of the book, I didn't care much for the climax and resolution. I figured the plot would amp up a bit once the secret was revealed, but it actually signaled the end. Also, there seemed to be a bit of magic with the gargoyles that wasn't found earlier in the book. In the end, I wanted to know more about what the doctor was doing and why he was doing it. I still don't know what happened to him after everything was resolved. I'm wondering if there's going to be a sequel, although it didn't feel like that was in the plans. Overall, I really enjoyed most of the book, and you may not have the same feelings about the ending. Everyone is different!

Magickeepers #3: The Chalice of Immortality by Erica Kirov

The Chalice of Immortality (Magickeepers #3)My name is Nick, and my father is dying from evil magic. Theo says doctors can't help him, and his only hope is the Chalice of Immortality. The Shadowkeepers are everywhere, and Rasputin still wants to get his hands on me. I'll still do anything to save my dad. I'm thankful that Isabella is with me, and her connection to animals has come in very handy. We would have been torn apart by possessed wolves if her powers hadn't been so strong. We've traveled to England a couple of times now, and I'm wondering if the woman I've seen might know something about the chalice. She wears a white scarf around her neck, and I've noticed her watching me from a distance. We need to find the chalice soon, or I'll lose my father forever.

This book concluded the trilogy, and the books have been fun to read. Obviously, magic was very important, as it was used in almost every chapter. Communication, transportation, and self defense all required magic. Nick's visions from the past provided important information to locate the chalice. While the Chalice of Immortality was a very powerful relic, the holders of it often found themselves under its spell. Consequently, possessing the chalice might have been a curse despite any of its positive effects. Nick was told he'd become more powerful than Theo and Damian, and a flashback indicated he would someday rule over the family. This book was different from the previous two, since the ruling cousins displayed more support and trust for Nick than they ever had before. Nick didn't sneak around as much this time, and he was allowed to accompany his cousins on missions. As usual, there were flashbacks of famous names in history. This time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini, Shakespeare, and Amelia Earhart made appearances and displayed their roles in the chalice's history. Overall, the series was very entertaining, and lovers of magic should truly enjoy it.