Saturday, June 12, 2021

Going Wild #1 by Lisa McMann

My name is Charlie, and I hated when my family moved from Chicago to a small town in Arizona. However, the biggest change had nothing to do with the move. I found a box addressed to me in the garage, and I thought I'd found a cool athletic band. You know, the ones that track your heartbeat and calories burned. I didn't notice anything strange until I attended soccer tryouts. The other girls said I was running super-fast, and it helped me score a goal. I was feeling great until I was kicked in my knee, and I was certain my leg was broken. It swelled up to a huge size and was all kinds of shades of purple and blue. Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next day, and my knee was back to normal. I didn't know what was going on with my body, and it terrified me. I couldn't control what my body was doing.

This book set the groundwork for the rest of the series. Most of the story described Charlie's efforts to survive middle school after manifesting some enhanced abilities from a mysterious bracelet. I expected her to become the super hero her friend expected, but she spent most of her time trying to figure out how to control the powers. They popped up unexpectedly and didn't always end positively. Consequently, most of the book felt less like a speculative fiction and more like a regular middle grade fiction where the main character just wanted to fit in. The bracelet saved a couple abilities for later, so this provided a little more suspense to the story. The mystery of the bracelet was introduced early on, but it wasn't explained until the last fourth of the book. I can't say I fully understood the premise of the problem, and some events were less "believable". The sequel will clearly address the conflict surrounding the bracelet head-on, as the antagonists made a late appearance in the plot. I'm curious to see where the story goes, so I've already reserved a copy of the sequel Predator Vs. Prey. Give the series a shot. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Seven Wonders #5: Legend of the Rift by Peter Lerangis

My name is Jack, and I only have a few more months to live. All of us Selects will die on our fourteenth birthdays if we can't find a way to reunite all seven Loculi. Each one enhances an ability, the Loculus of healing has been very handy, but they must be destroyed in order to correct history. Unfortunately, the followers of Massarym and Karai are fighting over the fate of the Loculi, and my friends and I are always caught in the middle. We must travel to the last two Wonders of the World, collect the last two Loculi, and travel through the rift to an ancient world. Hopefully, we'll save Aly and end this curse that's been killing Selects for centuries. Recent events give me hope that we'll be successful, but there's still a nagging feeling that something unexpected will complicate things. 

I enjoyed this conclusion to the series, but I wish I'd read the previous book more recently. It'd been six years, so I'd forgotten most of the past events. However, this book contained plenty of action, mystery, and suspense to carry the plot without knowing past details. Jack was leader of the Selects and displayed the uncertainty of being thrust into that position. His decisions were complicated by new revelations about characters and past events. This all created tension and suspense to keep the plot interesting. It was a bit unusual that the touch of a Select was necessary to activate the Loculi. Imagine several kids holding hands and touching the Loculus of Language to understand what someone else was saying. It made sense, but it was strange. It was also unusual that there wasn't a clear antagonist for most of the book. The main conflict was like fulfilling a quest to return the Loculi through the rift, but there wasn't an actual bad guy until the book neared the end. Overall, I really enjoyed the series and recommend you give it a shot. You'll probably appreciate it more than I did, because you'll read all the books straight through. You won't wait six years to finish the series!

Monday, June 7, 2021

Nightmare Academy #3: Monster War by Dean Lorey

My name is Charlie, and I must do something about the monsters invading earth even though I've been exiled from the Nightmare Academy. No one else has a chance of defeating the Fifth, but it may be beyond my abilities too. I'm the only Double-Threat fighting against her right now, since Pinch turned his back on humans. The Headmaster says my only hope of defeating the Fifth is to retrieve the Sword of Sacrifice from the Smith in the Netherforge. This weapon can kill any nether creature, but we don't know the sacrifices required to get it. The Director is determined to Reduce my friends and me, but no one will believe the truth about what he did to the Guardian. My only hope of saving all humanity is to retrieve the Sword of Sacrifice.

You should read the previous two books first, since this one concludes the trilogy. Theodore was Charlie's best friend, and he added an element of levity and humor to the plot. His boasting masked his fear and insecurity, but he always stepped up when he was most needed. Despite his presence, this book had a more serious tone to it, as people were dying to a formidable army of monsters. Main characters experienced dramatic sacrifices in order for Charlie to receive the magic sword. Theodore had an ongoing conflict with his father, the General, as his father didn't provide him with any love or support. Living up to parent expectations can be a huge problem. The plot jumped around quite a bit, since Theordore and Charlie could open portals to almost anywhere in the world or the Nether. It could have been confusing, but it all made sense. My biggest issue was with the trilogy's conclusion. Yes, the conflict was pretty much lessened, but it wasn't resolved. The author admitted this at the end and said there was more story to tell. However, this was written in 2010, and I haven't found a continuation of the plot.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

A Dragonborn Novel #2: Fireborn by Toby Forward

My name is Cabbage, but don't ask me why my mentor, Flaxfield, gave me that wizard name. Something strange is now happening to Flaxfield's spells, and we've realized it's from wild magic. Even our simplest spells turn to flames that burn out of control. He was once almost killed when a harvest spell engulfed him in a blazing inferno, but strangely, I walked right through the fire to save him. I'm able to summon a magical cat that eats the runaway flames, but Flaxfield isn't sure how I can do that. We know the wild magic originated with a girl named Bee, but her mentor stole her ability to wield fire. He was never a very good wizard, and now he's changed. He's turned into something that's dangerous. Somehow, we must figure out a way to combat this new kind of magic.

This book is part of the Flaxfield Quartet, although my local library listed it as A Dragonborn Novel. I reread my review of the first book from eight years ago, and I was confused. I wrote, and the synopsis on Goodreads confirmed, that Flaxfield died, so how was he a main character again in the second book? Another reviewer said the story in Firstborn preceded the first book, but that wasn't made clear anywhere. The rules of magic weren't shared, so I didn't understand how the spells worked. That was important, because the whole conflict was based on magic that was out of control. Finally, I've always had a problem with books and multiple settings, and at one point, this book had five settings. A couple of them weren't necessary and didn't add much to the plot. It became distracting and made remembering events trickier when reading over many sittings. Overall, I enjoyed the story about an apprentice wizard and his mentor battling an out-of-control magic. The author included a few surprises to characters that made the book even more interesting. I liked the concept of this book, but the ending wasn't satisfying. The conflict was stopped, for the time being, but it was clearly not resolved. It will need to be taken care of in a future book.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Nightmare Academy #2: Monster Madness by Dean Lorey

Monster Madness (Nightmare Academy #2)My name is Violet, and I think Charlie, Theodore and I passed our test to become Addys. We're not sure since we allowed a level four monster to pass through a portal after rescuing a little girl from her nightmares. We've discovered the Guardian is under attack and all levels of monsters will invade earth if the defenses fall. The last of the Named will join the other two and summon the fifth. No one knows exactly what that means except it will be disastrous. It's strange that we're the ones tasked with finding a way to save the Guardian even though we may still be Noobs. All we need to do is find the last female Hydra, survive collecting some of her milk, and return through a monster-infested world to feed the Guardian. No problem.

You should probably read the first book in order to understand what's going on. It's not necessary, but it'll be very helpful. The most interesting part of the book involves the dynamics of the main characters. Theodore can open portals as a Nethermancer, but he wants to be a Banisher to make his father proud. Violet is the team's Banisher and seems to be hiding something from the others. Charlie is a Double Threat, able to open portals and banish monsters, but he's uncomfortable being the leader. The Director of the Nightmare Academy views Double Threats as a problem and has been working against Charlie and two others, and it comes to a head in this book. The plot contains many action scenes and describes an adventure through different worlds of dangerous monsters, arising from humans' nightmares. The series has had a "funnish" twist to fighting monsters, but the end of this book takes a serious turn. There are a couple of unexpected surprises that will hugely affect the book's sequel, Monster War. Overall, the series doesn't present anything dramatically different, but it's still very entertaining. Give it a shot.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

League of Beastly Dreadfuls #2: The Dastardly Deed by Holly Grant

My name is Anastasia, and my Aunt Penny just told me I'm a morfo. Maybe I'll be able to change into a guinea pig like my dad, but my aunt says most morflings can become bats. I'll need to wait until I change for the first time to find out. I discovered my grandmother is queen of the morflings and lives in a secret village hidden from CRUD. Unfortunately, being related to a queen means I'm required to live and behave like a princess, whether I want to or not. I must find a way to find my missing father, and my grandfather is probably the only one who can do it. However, he hasn't been seen since the infamous Dastardly Deed, and everyone around here, except me, learned about it in school textbooks. So, my first job is to find my grandfather, the king, even though no one else has been able to do it in the past 250 years. Luckily, the Beastly Dreadfuls are back together to help me.

The narrator's voice speaks directly to readers and presents an amusing angle to the descriptions. Anastasia's aunt teaches her proper princess behavior by having her walk on banana peels while balancing books on her head and then teaches her the proper etiquette for eating pastries. Her cousin is a proper princess and uses her position to be a thorn in Anastasia's life. She's a brat. The Dastardly Deed and the resulting disappearance of the king becomes Anastasia's focus and offers a mystery to be solved. The fact that no one else has been able to find him only increases the drama. My main concern with the book is how the story meanders around and doesn't move along as much as I'd like. Not much really happens in the first three-fourths of the plot with most of the attention being on Anastasia's adjustment to the palace and school. The last part describes the actual efforts to find the king and leads the story toward the sequel. However, I don't feel like the plot line moved much from page one to the end. I'm hoping the sequel will allow more progress to be made. 

Elementals #3: Battle Born by Amie Kaufman

There must be a way for dragons, wolves, and humans to live together in peace. However, that's become more difficult following the battle in Holbard. The wolves don't trust us, because they think we're working with the dragons. The dragons don't trust us, because my twin brother Anders is a wolf. Our mixed group of survivors must find a safe place to hide, but we can't figure out how to get Cloudhaven to allow anyone besides Anders and I to enter. The war escalated when our mother was accused of murdering our father, but we know that can't be true. Someone has been pitting the dragons against the wolves, and there is evidence the destruction in the harbor wasn't caused by dragon fire, as it appeared. We haven't seen our mother since we were two, but it feels like she's the key to ending the conflict.

You should read the first two books before reading this conclusion to the series. I hadn't read the second one in over a year, and I wish I could've better remembered the previous events. I was still able to enjoy the story, and the series came to a satisfying conclusion. The war between the dragons and wolves was like a feud, as it had become a way of life. They had forgotten that things used to be different, as they did everything they could to stay separated. Humans were seen as lesser creatures and ended up caught in the middle. The positive message displayed by the main characters was that communication was more effective than fighting. The leaders of the dragons and wolves were dead set against it, and the reaction of the human leader was unexpected. The overall message was about appreciating diversity and differences and learning to live together. Being different didn't make one group better than another. While it's hard to believe a book with dragons, wolves, and titled Battle Born didn't contain much action, this book was still entertaining, and the plot moved along nicely. I recommend you give the whole series a shot.