Monday, December 11, 2017

The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond

The Tale of Angelino BrownMy name is Betty Brown, and while driving his school bus, my husband found a tiny angel in his pocket! We're calling him Angelino, and he's brought so much joy to our family. I took him to school with me, and the students and teachers all love him, except for Mrs. Mole. The other day, a school inspector came to our building and had Mrs. Mole in a tizzy. However, I recognized this person as Kevin Hawkins and realized he should still be in school. Kevin was always a master of disguises, but he was easily led by others. Tell him to jump off a rooftop, and he'd do it. I'm not sure why he was in our building. Now, Angelino has been kidnapped, and I don't think the police will be much help. The officers we spoke to don't believe our boy is a real angel... I don't know if anyone else can help us.

The whole plot was about Angelino even though the angel spoke very little. Farting is something he did a lot! He also slowly grew throughout the book, so it was easy to anticipate the plot's final resolution. Betty and Bert missed the son they once had, and they quickly "adopted" Angelino when he appeared. Even though several students were the heroes in the book, I think my favorite characters were actually the kidnappers. Kevin is the misguided boy that Betty remembered, and his Boss wasn't much different. Betty felt they missed out on positive guidance growing up and weren't really bad boys. The plot came to a pleasant conclusion once Betty got a hold of them, and everyone lived happily ever after. The story was told in present tense, which is not something I typically enjoy. It's my personal taste and doesn't mean it's something that will bother you. The book was a quick-read for me, and overall I enjoyed it very much. I've also read Skellig written by David Almond.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Brotherband #7: The Caldera by John Flanagan

My name is Stig, and the Heron's crew is on a mission to free the son of an empress who was kidnapped by a ruthless pirate named Myrgos. We've discovered the pirate's fortress is located on the caldera created by a volcano in the middle of the ocean. My father is an added complication to the rescue. I'd never met him until he appeared one night to ask Hal and our crew for help. He was once a great Skandian, until many years ago he turned on his crew and stole their treasures. My mother was left to raise me amid the embarrassment and disgrace. Now, the crew doesn't know if he can be trusted, and I'm not sure either. But he's my father. It doesn't help that the empress has offered a reward for his capture, or that villagers and fishermen in these waters are deathly afraid of Myrgos. They'll betray us in a heartbeat out of fear. Despite our concerns about my father and the dangers we'll face, a young boy's life is counting on us.

It's possible to read this book on its own, but you should read the whole series to get the full effect of the Heron's history. Also, this book is not really a fantasy, although some Flanagan's books have a a mystical quality. You'll find the book has many references and descriptions concerning the art of sailing ships, and it's something I enjoy. It's not something I fully understand, but I appreciate the skill it takes to steer a vessel in the open sea. There's a glossary in the front of the book to help you with the nautical terms. Hal is the star of the show, as his intelligence and strategies are the keys to surviving. He built the Heron by hand in the first book of the series, so he's developed an amazing control over it. His creative designs for the small ship make it faster and more elusive than most other ships the crew encounters. Myrgos is an experienced pirate, so he presents a formidable opponent to Hal. Hal has been a natural leader since the series began, so it's admirable to see his aura as skirl grow. He's developed a respected reputation across the seas among sailors he's never even met. As always, Ulf and Wulf add a comedic element to the plot, although not as much as in other books. They're highly competitive with each other and enjoy confusing others. Hal wonders if it's a good idea for Jesper to be teaching them how to pick locks! I've been loving everything Flanagan has written over the years, and if you're like me, you'll love The Caldera too. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Pendragon Legacy #1: Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts

Sword of Light (Pendragon Legacy, #1)My name is Rhianna, and my father King Arthur has been murdered by his nephew Mordred. I didn't know my father existed until Merlin came to Avalon with his body. I've traveled into the land of men where I must retrieve Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, and then I must travel to Camelot. The magic sword may be able to return my father to the throne, but Mordred's forces are searching for me everywhere. I rescued one of Arthur's knights from torture, but I was touched by the black arm of Mordred, the arm Arthur severed in battle. The evil magic from Mordred's mother makes the limb dangerous, and his forces surround Camelot. How am I to motivate Arthur's soldiers to follow me, since they all think I'm a weak, red-headed girl? The only thing that will convince them is getting my hands on Excalibur.

I was surprised to see a number of reviewers on Goodreads did not finish this book, but it seems like they were reading it from an adult's perspective. The book was written for middle grade kids, and it's a perfect fantasy for them. Rhianna was a great main character, as she was thrust into the role of King Arthur's unknown heir. She was determined to stop Mordred even though she just found out about her father. In addition, Merlin disappeared from the plot pretty quickly, so Rhianna was left to experience the "real" world on her own. She was probably too brave for her own good, but she behaved like a leader. Elphin was a fairy from Avalon and supported Rhianna's character with his magic harp. He was selfless and would do anything to help her. During a stressful stretch of the plot, he continued playing his harp even though his fingers were bleeding. Excalibur was the key to Rhianna's hopes, but it came with complications. Mordred had a connection to the hilt, so his image was able to pop up and present challenges. In addition, the blade's magic would be lost if any blood touched it. Imagine how difficult it would be to enter a battle knowing you can't use your weapon to hurt anyone. I really enjoyed the book, but unfortunately my library system doesn't offer any other books in the series.

Emily Windsnap and the Falls of the Forgotten Island by Liz Kessler

Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island
My name is Emily, and I swore to my best friend Shona that I wouldn't get caught up in an adventure or put us in danger for a month. Well, that didn't work out. How was I to know I'd find people living on a forgotten island that had only been discovered one year before? Or that the people had been trapped on it for hundreds of years and a prophecy foretold my arrival? They are convinced a devastating earthquake has been gaining strength and will soon obliterate the island. The tsunami caused by the disaster will then surge across the ocean and destroy other islands full of unaware humans. The leader's necklace shows a picture of a mermaid who will lead the island people to safety. I am the mermaid in the picture, and a drawing of my boyfriend is shown in another drawing. I barely survived the journey into the island, and no one else knows I'm here. The islanders believe it's impossible to leave the island, so I guess it's my job to do the impossible or thousands of people will die.

This book is actually the seventh one in a series, but I didn't read any of the others first. I was still able to enjoy, although I was curious about Emily’s past adventures. She had a history with the god Neptune, but I didn’t know if she had any powers (like Percy Jackson) other than being a mermaid. It was strange to read about a setting where mermaids lived alongside humans; the vacation resort had rooms for both groups. Emily was a semi-mer and could walk around on dry land, while her father and Shona needed to remain in the water at all times. This created some seemingly minor problems. The big conflict in the plot was complicated by Emily's spats with her boyfriend Aaron and Shona; apparently they'd gotten tired of her thinking about herself and getting everyone involved in dangerous situations. However, the prophecies indicated Aaron would end up helping Emily, while her relationship with Shona took more work. Emily’s thinking toward Shona was hard to understand, although it all worked out in the end. I recommend you read the previous books first, but this one was still very entertaining on its own.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery by Allison Rushby

The TurnkeyMy name is Flossie, and it's my responsibility to see that all of the dead in Highgate Cemetery rest in peace. Turnkeys like me are able to move throughout the world of the living just by thinking about places, but the other dead are confined to their cemeteries. Imagine my surprise when I found a twilight German SS officer atop St. Paul's Cathedral; how could he possibly be here and what was he doing? I've since discovered this Viktor Brun is spying on the English army, and he's discovered a way to communicate with the living? The crystal skull he carries is the key to everything, and I've felt the evil within it. However, there's another soul inside the skull that argues with Viktor. More disturbing, I've learned he knows my name, and he's the man responsible for sinking a navy ship, sending a thousand men to the bottom of the ocean, including my father. 

I assumed this book would be a cute story about a girl living around a cemetery, but I wasn't expecting the seriousness of the plot. The setting was in World War II London, through the eyes of the deceased characters. Most of them were loyal English citizens, so they were doing all they could to help their country win WW II. That was the main conflict in the book, and Brun's connection to Flossie's father added a big complication to things. Violet was a supporting character from a different cemetery, and her brother kept secrets, which left the door open for him to do something unexpected. His secret, and the help of a seemingly insignificant character, were keys to resolving the climax. Flossie had deep compassion for all of the deceased in Highgate Cemetery, although she had self-doubts about being an effective Turnkey. The role of Turnkeys and their unique abilities was the creative charm in the book. Flossie was able to freely move anywhere she wanted among the living, but she still needed to hide from Viktor whenever he was around; it was strange to picture dead spirits trying to hide. She didn't see any way to stop this cruel Nazi, but that made her character even more determined. The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery tells a wonderfully exciting adventure, and I recommend you give it a shot!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Olympians #5: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #5)My name is Percy Jackson, and my sixteenth birthday is only a few days away. Why does that matter? Because I'm dealing with a prophecy saying I'll die on that day, and a decision I make will destroy Olympus. No worries, right? A titan is slowly moving across the continent, but the Mist makes humans believe a storm is leaving behind the devastation. Kronos has his sights set on the entrance to Olympus found at the top of the Empire State Building, and he may be unstoppable once the other titan reaches New York. Kronos has taken over Luke's body, so I bathed in the River Styx to become mostly immortal like Luke. But will it make any difference? The gods are off fighting the titan, while I'm left in New York leading the demigods from Camp Half-blood against Kronos and his army of creatures. His forces are larger and more powerful, and the prophecy seems to be on his side. 

This book concludes the series, although there are several spin-off series if you're interested. Just type Riordan's name in the search box at the top of my blog's homepage. The prophecy about Percy's sixteenth birthday has been hanging over all the plots since the beginning of this series. Percy's character is the focus of this book, and he almost becomes overwhelmed with the responsibilities. Annabeth has always been Percy's closest friend, but her life is complicated by Luke. Percy lacks the confidence to become her official boyfriend, since she obviously has feelings about Luke. It's just that her true feelings about Luke are unclear. What is clear is that Annabeth will need to face these feelings in there is any hope of defeating Luke/Kronos. As in all of Riordan's books, this one includes numerous examples of foreshadowing. Percy gets messages from other characters and visions of future events whenever he falls asleep. Sometimes when he's still awake. These visions became hints about upcoming events rather than revelations of the exact details. I appreciated Percy's wish during the plot's resolution; it reinforced his concern for others. He never forgets the minor characters (or minor gods and demigods). The Olympians is a great introduction to Riordan's style, so read this series before undertaking the spin-offs, which are written in much greater length.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Have Sword, Will TravelMy name is Odo, and the river has dried up for some unknown reason. I discovered a sword at the bottom of Dragonfoot Hole, and the enchanted blade called Biter told me it could only be awakened by a knight! I thought, "What? Me?" My best friend Eleanor has dreamt of living a life of adventure as a knight, while I'm content to become a miller like my father. Anyhow, I'm now Sir Odo, Eleanor has agreed to be my squire, and we're on a quest to bring water back to the river. We've passed many travelers heading south while we trek north to face a legendary dragon rumored to be terrorizing the lands up there. Biter is forcing me to learn sword strokes and fighting techniques as we go, and we've managed to help a few people along the way. I'm doing the best I can, but I've told Eleanor that defeating the dragon will be my first and last quest. If I survive. 

I've read other books by Nix, and I really enjoyed this one. Some heroes are reluctant to accept their responsibilities, and Odo fit that description. Biter was very aggressive as a knightly sword and often helped get Odo involved in conflicts. Biter had his own mind and voice, and his answer to most problems was to attack. Odo needed to fight to control his sword but ended up saving a village or someone in distress. Eleanor graciously supported him even though she wanted to be in his place as the knight. Good things happened to the two of them due to their bravery, compassion for others, and strong sense of right and wrong. Biter was an entertaining character, as he urged Odo and Eleanor to complete the quest. He tried to teach Odo about being a proper knight, although something caused him to forget a large chunk of his past. This question was never answered. The author introduced Biter's sister later in the plot, and she added a little bit of information and humor. Her views on knighthood were often quite different from her brother. However, she had a pessimistic attitude, since she believed she was cursed and would cause the death of Eleanor. Overall, I loved the book and am anxious to read the sequel, whenever it gets written.