Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Past is Gone by James Valentine (TimeJumpers #1)

The Past Is GoneThe Past Is Gone by James Valentine

Just when Jules finally gets up his nerve to ask Gen on a date, Theo pops in to their life. He literally pops into Gen's room out of nowhere. He's a time-jumper from the future and is mistakenly sent to Mil 3, which is our present day. Apparently in the future, time-travel is common place, but the jumpers are invisible to the people of the current time. Only, something has malfunctioned in Theo's jump and he's visible. Jules and Gen work with Theo to try and return him to his own time.

Okay, not a bad start to a trilogy. I really found the description of the jumps and life in the future fascinating. The story is fairly predictable, but it's still fun to read. Of course, you have the evil person from the future who wants to keep something about the time jumper machine a secret. No one knows much about this yet, so we're left with a cliff-hanger and a tease of the next novel. Of course, I want to get the next one to find out what happens. C+ rating.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seize the Storm by Michael Cadnum

Seize the StormSeize the Storm by Michael Cadnum

Susannah, her cousin Martin, and her parents are sailing to Hawaii when they come across an abandoned (they think) boat. On it they discover two dead men and a bag full of money -- $800,000 worth of money. What happens when the associates of the dead men show up could possibly doom them all.

This book had so much potential, and then blew it. I love the format -- short chapters filled with tons of suspense, leading to thrilling action. I just didn't like the characters... none of them. I wanted to be able to root for a good guy, but there wasn't a good guy. All of the characters were flawed and seemed to make terrible decisions. If there had been a point where they realized the poor decisions and regretted them, then maybe I would have liked it better. I don't feel like anyone redeemed himself in the end. I'll be interested to read what others thought of this book, because right now, I wouldn't recommend it to others. D rating.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Fire Within by Chris d'Lacey (Last Dragon Chronicles #1)

The Fire Within (The Last Dragon Chronicles, #1)The Fire Within by Chris d'Lacey

When David, a college student, rents a room from Liz and her daughter, Lucy, he soon discovers something odd about the dragon statues that Liz creates. Are they real or is it just his imagination?

This book was nothing like I expected. The dragons really don't come into the story until almost the very end, but I can see many possibilities for the books in the rest of the series. I hope I'm right. It's a very quick read -- only took a couple of hours to finish. I think this is the type of story to appeal to both boys and girls, really anyone that's a fan of fantasy and those who say 'What if?' C rating.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi

Guardian of the Spirit (Moribito, #1)Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi

Translated from Japanese, Moribito tells the adventures of Balsa, a woman warrior sworn to save eight lives, as she guards the Second Prince, Chagum. Several attempts have been made on the prince's life, and his mother fears that it is his father who wants him dead. Balsa takes Chagum away with her to the mountains in an attempt to hide him. On the way, she discovers that Chagum is the Moribito, the one who hosts the egg of the water spirit and must take the egg to the sea. Not only does Balsa need to protect him from assassins, she must also protect him from Rarunga, the giant spider-like creature that wants to eat the egg. If they fail, the land will face a terrible drought and famine.

What a fantastic story! Truly unique in the blend of Japanese folklore with an action/adventure story. At first the thought of Chagum being the host to the Water Spirt's egg seemed too gross, but the description in the story helped lower the ick factor. I can recommend this book for those looking for lots of action/battles. B- rating.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, Vol. 1 by Kazuki Takahashi

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, Vol. 1 (Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, #1)Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, Vol. 1 by Kazuki Takahashi

Yuma Tsukumo is determined to be the champion dueler. Unfortunately, he's just awful at it. During one duel, he somehow summons Astral, a "ghost dueler" only he can see. Yuma and Astral team up to win several duels.

I didn't enjoy this manga at all. I just don't *get* the Yu-Gi-Oh card duels, so this made no sense to me. I'm sure for those who play the card game, this series will be fun to read. Otherwise, just skip it. C rating.

Black Water by D.J. MacHale (Pendragon #5)

Black Water (Pendragon, #5)Black Water by D.J. MacHale

In the fifth installment of the Pendragon series, Bobby is getting used to his role as Lead Traveler when his latest confrontation with Saint Dane leads him to Eelong. The "intelligent" race on Eelong are described as giant cats who can walk upright, as well as on all fours. Humans, known as Gars on Eelong, are relegated to the role of a pet/servant, sort of like dogs are used here. Bobby has to adjust to the different society as well as help foil Saint Dane's attempt to poison all the inhabitants of Eelong. The only way to save everyone on Eelong is to use the antidote developed on Cloral, another territory. Knowing that travelers aren't supposed to bring anything from one territory to another, Bobby must decide whether saving Eelong is worth breaking this rule. Will it cause more chaos and land Bobby right into Saint Dane's hands?

Okay, I admit it. I really like this series. I put off reading it for a while, because I just figured it was one of those forgettable series where every book was the same plot over and over. While there's some of that here -- Bobby chases after Saint Dane and tries to stop his latest evil plan -- there's actually more here. Here, Bobby is starting to have an ethical dilemma. Should he save these people or are they supposed to die? When should he step in? I think this is something that will be explored in the later stories and will really allow his character to mature. I'll read the next one, mainly because I do want to know if this is the direction the series takes. C Rating.

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

The Secret of Platform 13The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

Nine years before, the last time the magical portal under Platform 13 was opened, the prince of the magical Island was taken to England by his three nurses. It was only supposed to be a short trip to get some fish and chips, but while they were there the prince was stolen by Mrs. Trottle. The entire magical Island had to wait nine years for the portal to open again to find the prince. The King and Queen assign the wizard, Cor, a fey named Gurkie, and Hans the giant, to go rescue the prince. A young hag named Odge is allowed to go as well after she begs the Queen. When the group finds the Trottles, they are shocked to see Raymond Trottle. He's nothing like what they expected of the prince -- he's an overweight, selfish, demanding, spoiled brat. Nevertheless, they were given the task to bring him back to the Island, so that's what they set out to do. Along the way, they meet a young boy, Ben, the grandson of Nanny Brown, who works for the Trottles. The group immediately take a liking to Ben and wish he could be the prince. With the help of Ben and some of the magical creatures still in England, the group designs and elaborate plan to kidnap Raymond and bring him back. Only now, Raymond is being protected by two bodyguards. Will they be successful and return with the prince to the Island before the portal closes?

I rather enjoyed The Secret of Platform 13. It's definitely more for the younger set of middle grades, for it's a sweet fantasy. Yes, it's predictable, but I really didn't care that I knew what was going to happen. I fell in love with the characters and couldn't wait to read more about them. From the description of the foul-smelling harpies to Odge's not-quite-a-hag-yet faults, the humor is over-the-top in a Roald Dahl way, without his meanness. I'd say fans of Dahl, Narnia, even Harry Potter will enjoy reading Ibbotson's The Secret of Platform 13. B rating.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Peanut by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe

Sadie has left all of her friends behind and moved to a new town and school. At a new school, she knows that she can reinvent herself if she wants and become a new person. She does just that -- by inventing an allergy to peanuts. She goes so far as the order a medical alert bracelet off the Internet to add realism to her charade. She makes new friends and even finds a boyfriend, who all believe her story. As with all lies, this one grows bigger and bigger until it causes rifts in her relationship with her mother and her friends. When she eats a muffin suspected of containing peanuts, chaos erupts and her deception is uncovered.

The story would be perfect for a middle grade, but several events make me hesitant to recommend it for that age group. I don't think upper middle school or high school students would find the story as appealing as fifth through seventh graders. I wish the mentions of her friend's intimacy with her boyfriend had been left out. It didn't have anything really to do with the story and would be a reason not to highly recommend to fifth graders to read. I think the scariness of moving to a new place and having to make new friends is a very real fear and I'm sure many wonder if they should take the opportunity to remake themselves. This cautionary tale allows the reader to imagine what could happen if one were to undertake such an elaborate hoax.

I did enjoy the graphic format and its illustrations. Loved how Sadie was featured in her red top, while other characters were monotone. It sure allowed the reader to focus on the main character and then take a second look to see what might be in the background.

As I said before I really think this story would appeal to middle school students who fear starting over in a new place and making new friends. There's a lot to like here and would be another book to give to fans of Raina Telgemeier's SMILE. C+ Rating.