Monday, May 14, 2018

Last Descendants #2: Tomb of the Khan by Matthew J. Kirby

Tomb of the Khan (Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants #2)My name is David, and my sister and I were captured by the Templars. I've been enjoying the simulations in the Animus using my grandfather's DNA, but my sister says it's not a game. I know we're searching for the three Pieces of Eden, but it's been a blast experiencing combat missions with the Tuskegee Airmen. However, one night I went exploring in more secure areas of the compound and overheard a disturbing conversation. Isaiah told his men to infiltrate the Assassins and kill our friends Owen and Javier; what kind of people would murder kids! My sister, Sean, and Natalya don't believe my story, but I'm now sure these Templars can't be trusted. I think Natalya is on the fence about them, so I hope she'll come with me when I escape. I'm almost positive she's discovered the location of the second prong of the trident, and we've got to retrieve it first. 

You need to read book one first. I wasn't crazy about the Animus simulations this time, since several characters were experiencing unrelated events. It got a little muddled between those descriptions, and the multiple names for characters and their ancestors added to the confusion. It wasn't unmanageable, but it created some difficulty after a day or two of not reading. Whereas the simulations were most important in the first book, I found the "real world" problems more interesting this time. The ages-long conflict between the Assassins and the Templars continued, with Monroe's status unclear in the beginning. He reappeared to change the dynamics, but there was a new player involved who had gotten the first Piece of Eden. This person was finally revealed during the book's climax. There was some killing involved in the plot, but it wasn't as bad as the cover words "Assassin's Creed" might imply. Actually, the creed guides the Assassins' actions, and they seemed more honorable than the Templars. The book continued the question as to whether either group was totally good or totally bad. With the identity of the new player now known, I'm looking forward to reading the third book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Map to Everywhere #1 by Carrie Ryan and John Park Davis

The Map to Everywhere (Map to Everywhere, #1)My name is Fin, and no one can remember me. The wizard Ardent says it's not magic, but even he forgets me once his attention changes. Marrill is the only exception, and we have a common goal of finding our mothers. She says the Pirate Stream, a river of creation that touches every place and time from the beginning to the end of history, suddenly appeared in someplace called Arizona. Ardent says there's a map that can locate places you need to go, but it's been separated into several pieces. We've found one piece, but finding the second piece was a lot more difficult. I didn't tell the others that I stole a key belonging to a crazy, powerful wizard called the Oracle, and he's the reason the Gibbering Grove was left in flames. Now, he's hunting us down and won't stop until he has the key and the map in his possession.

This book told an entertaining adventure through the lands along the Pirate Stream. This flowing mass of magic would kill anyone trying to drink it, and it transformed objects that fell in. The kids thought it would be fun to experiment until a pepper shaker turned into a sea monster. Fin's character was definitely the most interesting. As I said above, everyone forgot him and some didn't even notice his presence. This helped him become an excellent thief, but it was upsetting that no one cared about him. For that reason, his motivation to find his mother was very powerful. Marrill's character created new difficulties for him, since she considered him a friend. He'd never had a friend before and wasn't used to worrying about anyone else. Escaping captivity from animated vines was more troublesome once he remembered Marrill was left behind. The Oracle's insanity amped up the suspense, since his vision of the future would result in the Pirate Stream's destruction. This would cause the obliteration of all lands surrounding it. Overall, the story was creative and kept my interest, so I recommend you give it a shot. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Goolz Next Door #1: A Bad Night for Bullies by Gary Ghislain

A Bad Night for Bullies (The Goolz Next Door, #1)My name is Harold, and I have some good news and some bad news. A beautiful girl named Ilona has moved in next door, but her father activated a stone that brought a dead woman back to life. I used the stone once, and the creature let me stand up from my wheelchair. Ilona says the stone will slowly kill you when it’s used, so she’s hidden it away from her father and sister, and me. Now, two bullies have disappeared up by the deserted church and cemetery, and we’re sure the dead woman is responsible. Her creepy eyes, rotten teeth, and decaying skin gave me the heebie jeebies, but Mr. Goolz says it’s important for us to find out her identity. Then, maybe we can figure out what she wants and come up with a plan to stop her. You might think I was brave, if I wasn’t so terrified inside!

I randomly chose this book from the new releases shelf at my local library, and I really enjoyed it. It was immediately clear that Ilona's character was going to do unexpected things. Harold’s first encounter found her rescuing him by shoving a bully off the pier, right in front of his gang. She made Harold forget about his special needs and helped him become a full participant in this adventure. I thought her little sister would have a larger role in the plot, but she moved into the background about halfway in. The story was told through Harold’s eyes and shared his inner conflict with being confined to a wheelchair. The Goolz family seemed to accept his situation better than his own mother. She insisted they were living a good life even after Harold voiced his true feelings. Harold felt she was overly protective. The book read as a mystery novel with a supernatural focus. A ghosts existed and was at the center of the conflict. However, past histories had a huge impact on the current events, and the conflict couldn't be resolved until they were settled. I really liked this first book about the Goolz, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. 

Assassin's Creed #1: Last Descendants by Matthew Kirby

Last Descendants (Assassin's Creed: Last Descendants #1)My name is Owen, and my life has gotten very weird. A man named Monroe says I'm a descendant of two groups who've been battling to control mankind for thousands of years, the Templars and the Brotherhood. He has a machine that allows me, along with others, to travel back in time to the minds of our ancestors. He says our small group is unique, because our ancestors' pasts have intersected around three prongs of the Trident, the Pieces of Eden. Monroe has sent us back to Civil War times in hopes of finding the location of one of the blades that will be critical in the North winning the conflict. My ancestor is an Assassin named Varius, and his mission is to retrieve the artifact from the Aztec Club. However, my friend Javier's relative is a Templar whose mission is to stop me. The future of mankind hinges on which ancestor is successful.

This book presented an interesting take on the time travel paradox of changing past events that might affect the future. The boys and girls were mostly observers in the minds of characters from the past and weren't supposed to change their behaviors. The kids would be kicked out of the simulation if they caused their ancestors to act out of character, since those actions might change the future. The competing Brotherhood and Templars were both working for the betterment of mankind, although their philosophies were very different. One believed in free will with guidance, while the other believed in more control. The book never prescribed which group was good or bad, and the characters became confused about this question. It made me wonder which group the kids should be helping and added to the suspense of the plot. In a way, each group was good and bad. The characters could experience the thoughts and feelings of their ancestors, and this ability created additional conflict for them. How could the black character remain silent, while a white character was insulting and abusing them? How could another character sit quietly, while his ancestor enjoyed the hunting and killing of others? The book didn't contain as much killing as I imagined, although it is a major factor in the plot. Overall, I enjoyed it and plan on reading the sequel.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye

Wizard for HireMy name is Ozzy, and my parents were kidnapped seven years ago. I've been living alone in the woods ever since, except for my robotic raven named Clark. I decided to try finding my parents and hired a wizard named Rin to help, although I've never actually seen him cast a spell. I found some tapes hidden in the cloaked house and discovered my parents were working on a way to control minds. They moved to these remote woods in Oregon to hide, but my home is no longer hidden. Someone broke in and ransacked the place! I can't go to the police, since the school discovered I strolled into the building without any records. I wish Rin could just cast a spell to find my parents, but he says it doesn't work that way. It still seems like it would be a lot safer than car chases, hiding from the police, and facing men with guns!

I was expecting a book full of spells and magic, but that's not what I found (Although Rin would disagree). Even up until the end, I kept wondering if Rin actually possessed the powers he claimed to own. A few amazing things occurred, but they could have been flukes or luck. Magic would have made things much easier, but I liked how the author kept it uncertain. The most magical part of the book was Clark. He was a talking robotic raven with independent thought. He saved the human characters a couple times, but his most endearing quality was his love for birds and metal objects. He wasn't shy about sharing his affection for the school flagpole and a trash dumpster. The whole plot was presented like a mystery, as Ozzy tried to uncover the truth about his parents. Living in the middle of the woods without electricity created problems, and having the police hunting him created more of them. Rin's eccentric character was helpful, and but his unusual thinking made his actions unpredictable. Imagine being in a high-speed chase, flipping off a mound of dirt, and landing atop a moving train. Luck or magic? The early part of the book didn't move along as fast as I would have liked, but overall I really enjoyed the story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Demon Notebook #1 by Erika McGann

The Demon Notebook (The Demon Notebook #1)My name is Grace, and my friends and I just wanted to see if we could cast a few spells. We wrote them in a notebook, but none of them worked. Until... we tried using Rachel's new Ouija board. Una started acting very strangely, and the spells we had written down started to work in reverse order. James fell in love with me, a boy peed his pants, and a blizzard snowed-in our town. However, then we remembered our first spell... for the school bully Tracy to get hit by a bus. We don’t know what we’re doing, and we’re taking turns watching over Una. At first, we thought she simply couldn’t handle the stress, but now the problem may be worse than we thought. Her glowing red eyes are a big clue that something has gone terribly wrong!

This book told a story of young girls messing with powers they didn’t know existed. The first spell was written out of anger, but the other eight were just silly. The spells occurring in reverse order created a countdown to the most serious one and added some suspense. The girls were mad at Tracy, but they didn’t want her dead. Then, Una’s situation transformed her from a victim into an antagonist and really complicated the problem. Even though Grace was the main character, her friends took turns having more important roles in the plot. Adie was more timid, Jenny was more athletic, and Rachel was quicker to take action. Ironically, Adie stepped out of character during the climax to help save Tracy. The girls received support from a couple adults with an interesting back-story of their own. Mrs. Quinlan offered spells to dispose of the demons, but she made it clear that she would not take direct action in the conflict. I was a bit surprised when it took Mrs. Lemon so long to get involved, since she taught in school. Overall, this is a fun book and includes a sequel, The Broken Spell.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bounders #3: The Forgotten Shrine by Monica Tesler

The Forgotten Shrine (Bounders #3)My name is Lucy, and my pod has been sent to Alkalinia, a world of snake-like creatures. Admiral Eames says they're our allies, but Jasper was the first to suspect something sneaky's going on. Our virtual reality rooms seemed awesome until we realized we hadn't left them for a week! Later, we were hunting for a way to shut down the occludium shield when we discovered a secret room with a giant serpent named Serena. She fears the Alaklinians have forgotten their past mistakes and are on the verge of another war. Against whom? Jasper and I figured out our pod members are being secretly drugged, and something is happening to us while we sleep. Despite the admiral's order to stop, we've got to keep investigating our hosts. It would be a lot easier if Marco would stop inviting Jasper's little sister along!

I recommend you read the previous books in the series to understand what's going on with bounding, the many references to the Youli, and Jasper's special connection with Mira. I liked the mystery of this book's plot, as the kids tried to uncover the Alakalinans' plans. The admiral complicated things by ordering them to not mess up relations with their allies. However, it was clear to the pod members that these creatures were not friends. I was disappointed the author chose not to use bounding as a major factor in the story. Other than traveling to the planet, bounding could have been totally left out without any impact to the other events. Jasper's little sister Addy was a huge addition to the cast, as she kept forcing herself into pod activities. Her presence really bugged Lucy and created friction throughout much of the plot. Jasper's claustrophobia and Marco's fear of snakes also created some issues.The last chapter left Mira and Jasper in a very surprising setting with many questions to be answered. Overall, I loved this book, and I'm looking forward to the next one.