An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

Marthe leveled a cool stare at James Blakely. “The Wicked God’s dead. You were all at least willing to tell us that. If the Twisted Things are still loose on the countryside, don’t you tell me it’s not certain and we should just be afraid when you tell us to. I paid too much for that.” Her hand drifted to her belly; made a fist. “It was too much to have bought nothing.”

Six months ago, the men of the Lakelands marched south to fight a dark god.

Weeks ago, a lowly soldier named John Balsam stabbed it in the heart.

Hallie is just trying to save her farm. Marthe, her sister, is waiting for her husband to come back. They cover their fears with arguments that snap like a taut bow. The family is slowly crumbling, even as Hallie’s friends Nat and Tyler pitch in to help the farm survive.

What nearly breaks their relationship for good is Hallie’s decision to take on a worker – Heron, a scarred young veteran a long way from home. But what results from that decision is much more catastrophic than an ended relationship.

A Twisted Thing – one of the unnatural, acid-and-ashes monsters that burn everything they touch – crashes through Hallie’s window. Cryptic messages are written in the stones on the riverbank. The mayor of their village tries to take the farm.

Heron is hiding something important, the Twisted Things are arriving in greater numbers every day, and Hallie and Marthe must fix their family in time to fight the last battle of their war.

An Inheritance of Ashes is a story of the aftermath of war. There is nothing cheerful about the men who come home missing limbs, with their eyes blasted pale by the Wicked God’s fall. But the mending of the relationship between Hallie and Marthe gives readers hope that something can be salvaged – and many things are. (There’s even a little bit of sweet, slow-building romance.)

The intricate relationships between the cast, and a thoughtful portrayal of their flaws make this book realistic and touching. They come together to fight the Twisted Things despite their peacetime differences, standing up to soldiers who don’t understand how to stop the invasion. Even the main Big Bad is made… if not necessarily good, then understandable.

As the story moves on, it’s clear that the book is set in a post-apocalyptic America where technology is gone, but the people still have the same problems we have. In the prologue, it’s made clear that Hallie and Marthe have an abusive father. He’s dead by the time of the main story, but his influence rings in the sisters’ relationship.

What I loved is that the story is not focused on the invasion, but its results in the families of the village, the injuries of the characters, and the lives of the soldiers who came home.

In all the books I’ve read before An Inheritance of Ashes, the aftermath of the war was a side issue. The hero was in the limelight. Nothing was given to the side characters besides a few passing mentions.

Here, the real heroes are on the home front.

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Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer

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“I’m meeting Thor?”

“I’m afraid so. The gods don’t even  pretend to deal in good and evil, Magnus. It’s not the Aesir way. Might makes right. So tell me… do you really want to charge into battle on their behalf?”

The ship trembled under my feet. Fog rolled across the deck.

“Time for you to go,” Loki said. “Remember what I said. Oh, and have fun getting mouth-to-mouth from a goat.”

“Wait… what?”

Loki wiggled his fingers, his eyes full of malicious glee. Then the ship dissolved into gray nothingness.

The latest series from Rick Riordan, author of both Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles, promises to be every bit as good as (and maybe better than) the other two.

Magnus Chase is living on the streets of Boston when his strange uncle Randolph drags him off to find some rusty sword that can apparently save the world. And apparently his father was a Norse god.

After an encounter with a fire giant that leaves him dead (don’t worry, that isn’t the end), Magnus is brought to Valhalla by his personal Valkyrie, Samirah al-Abbas. When he gets there, he learns his father’s identity, meets up with his old friends Hearth and Blitz and figures out what, exactly, he’s supposed to do with the Sword of Summer.

This story has severed heads, Thor, Valkyrie Vision, Fenris Wolf, sign language, giantesses, death squirrels, multiple afterlives, an invisibility hijab, and World Serpent fishing. Not necessarily in that order.

It also has the craziest family ever – Blitz, a fashion-loving dwarf, Hearth, a deaf elf with rune powers, Sam, who’s a Muslim, shape-shifting Valkyrie (what), and Magnus.

They are a family, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

I loved the plot. I won’t say much – but it’s great. There is a very interesting plot twist at the end that SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER. I would gladly invite the characters over to my house, and I think they have the best backstories of any Riordan character so far.

I give this book a 9. Read it now.

The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni

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“But I thought we – Transitioners – were the good guys. You know, we made the Eighth Day spell to capture the bad guys…” Wasn’t that what Mr. Crandall had said?

“‘No,’ Riley said forcefully. ‘I told you. These days, most Transitioners use the extra day for their own selfish purposes. It used to be that honor and chivalry mattered. But the world changed, Jax. It’s all about power and greed.’ Riley crossed his arms over his chest. ‘Not to me, though. I’ve got a job to do, and I plan on doing it the way my father would have. It’s my business to make sure the Emrys girl stays hidden and safe – the business you were supposed to stay out of.”

  • The Eighth Day

When Jax Aubrey woke up to a world without people, he was fairly sure it was the zombie apocalypse. But Riley Pendare, his clueless eighteen-year-old guardian, knew for a fact it wasn’t. It was something very different.

The Eighth Day, colloquially known as Grunsday, created by Merlin. Jax can exist on all eight days, one of which normal people don’t know is possible, because he’s a Transitioner, one of an ancient bloodline with strange genetic powers. Riley can force you to obey him. AJ Crandall, Riley’s best pal, can create tattoos that strengthen your powers. There are sensitives, people who are immune to the powers of others, weather workers, prophets. And Jax can suddenly ask anyone any question and get a truthful answer.

All this power comes with danger. When Jax disobeys Riley and meets the girl he’s only seen on the eighth day,he becomes, through his own meddling, seven days, leaving only the eighth day.

This series has it all. Secret societies? Legends of – descendants of –  Merlin and King Arthur? Magical powers! New races of human beings, gun battles, Transitioner crime syndicates and danger around every corner. This book never really slows down once it takes off, slowly but surely getting up to nonstop action, and lands with a not-so-neat ending that leads into the next book.

And the next book is even better, as Jax finds his family, but they may not be what he expected. He’s made many enemies, and the world is still in trouble, but he doesn’t know where his loyalties lie anymore and if he really wants to fight… Narrated, this time, from alternating points of view as Jax and his cousin Dorian tell you everything, in a slightly different style but with all the same action.

I truly liked this book, and it’s on my very short ‘reread often’ list.. The eighth day is a simple and elegant change in the world that leads to a whole host of problems for Jax and his friends. The series reminds me of 39 Clues and Harry Potter thrown into a blender with something I don’t have a name for yet, coming out fantasy adventure.  Jax is 13, and the books are about the right level for 11-14 year olds. Don’t pay too much attention to the labels, though, as you don’t have to be in this age range to enjoy everything about this series.

Bleach #1 – “Strawberry and the Soul Reapers” by Tite Kubo

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Series Plot:

“Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but his ability didn’t change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display physic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family: but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia – who is slowly regaining her powers – it’s Ichigo’s job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirit themselves find peace.”

Review:

When my mom had to read this book as one requirement for her library job, she didn’t get into it and asked me if I’d like to read it. I said yes, and before I knew it, I was hooked – I wanted to read every book in the Bleach series. I believe this first book is the best in the series because it shows how Ichigo turns into a Soul Reaper and his commitment to his family. Orihime is one of Ichigo’s friends, and the story revolves around a Hollow named Kakei, who is Orihime’s older brother. Ichigo knows he has to destroy Kakei so his soul can get into the Soul Society, yet  Kakei is passionate for Orihime and doesn’t want to leave her. Ichigo has to make a tough choice: whether to perform his duty and cleanse Kakei’s soul, or care for how Orihime is feeling and leave him be.

After I finished this book, I knew I had to read the second one, then the third one, and more! The series have to be read in order, and the books have to be read from right to left, but without the first book I never would’ve liked it. While reading the book, I felt like a Soul Reaper myself; I felt like I was part of the story. It exposed me to some Japanese literature and some traditions. There were a lot of characters introduced, and the plot was confusing at first, but overall I liked this book enough to read it over and over again. “Strawberry and the Soul Reapers” is definitely one of Tite Kubo’s best works, and I recommend it to any teenager wanting to read manga for the first time.

Ashley, 10th Grade

Lockwood and Co.

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Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood and Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up. There, I’ve admitted it! Not a single one of those early cases ended as neatly as we’d have wished. Yes, the Mortlake Horror was driven out, but only as far as Richmond Park, where even now it stalks by night among the silent trees. Yes, both the Gray Specter of Aldgate and the entity known as the Clattering Bones were destroyed, but not before several further (and I now think unnecessary) deaths. And as for the creeping shadow that haunted young Mrs. Andrews… wherever she may continue to wander in this world, poor thing, there it follows too. So it was not exactly an unblemished record that we took with us, Lockwood and I, when we walked up the path to 62 Sheen Road on that misty autumn afternoon and briskly rang the bell.          – The Screaming Staircase, chapter one

Is it possible to be terrified, laughing and baffled at the same time? Well, this series by the acclaimed author Jonathan Stroud proves that it is. Lockwood and Co. is set in a reality where the Problem is rampant. Ghosts walk the streets of England at night, and they’re definitely not harmless Casper types, requiring teams of young ghost hunters (the only ones who can sense them) to put their lives on the line and destroy them. Lockwood and Co. is an agency of these ghost hunters, composed of new member Lucy Carlyle, forced by a strange series of events to come to London, annoying George Cubbins and the mysterious, charismatic Anthony Lockwood.

The first book in the series, The Screaming Staircase, is a thrill ride that describes the first unusual case of the Company.  Their adventures follow the ghost of a murdered girl whose case (if it’s ever solved) can save their floundering business, a string of strange and increasingly dangerous attacks, the horrifyingly haunted Combe Carey Hall, and a killer with an interest in keeping the girl’s case unsolved. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s become my favorite book in its class.*

*By its class, I mean snarky, refreshingly terrifying alternate-universe mysteries with a steampunk edge.

The second book, The Whispering Skull, hinges on an interesting discovery of Lucy’s and a bizarre and deadly new case, with an unlikely villain and even more unlikely ghosts. I can’t spoil it, but it involves some unsavory characters, another murder and the black-market trade of the relic-men. It’s a worthy sequel that even surpasses the first, with whiplash-inducing plot twists, heart-stopping scares and a neatly packaged ending that still leaves you wanting more.

You do get more, with the recently published third book, The Hollow Boy, which I haven’t read quite yet. But I have great expectations.

The story’s writing feel is guaranteed to have you mentally snickering at the clever humor and sarcastic outlook of Lucy Carlyle, who unfolds their adventures with precise and brilliant descriptive language. Every character, especially Lucy, Lockwood and George, is three-dimensional and relatable. The world they live in is a vividly described place not very different from ours, with interesting inter-agency rivalries top spice up the hunting even more. 

These books are good for brave eleven-year-olds or older and fans of mysteries, adventure, horror, dystopian (possibly) or steampunk.

They’re not too scary to read before bed, but they give you delicious nightmare fuel. They have that delightfully shivery feeling that you get sometimes, when you’re terrified, excited and about to cry from book-induced nervous tension and/or major character death at the same time.^ They make you want to grab a bag of chocolate and get under the covers, because you want to read them for the nineteenth time. These are classic mystery AU in the making, readable, relatable and full of so many plot twists they look like a corkscrew. I give the Lockwood and Co. series a 9/10. 

Queen Glory

P.S. Goodreads review

^Order of the Phoenix, anyone?

Dragon Talk

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Gy swore under her breath as she emptied the scorpion out of her boot. Being at the head of the squad had its dangers.  In the extremely competitive world of Alisi, it paid to win and “accidents” were common among the other squad members.  The other two times it had been painfully obvious that Calissa had done it. The most popular girl in Squad 71’s life goal was to beat Gy in the standings. But so far, it wasn’t anywhere near working, as skill counted a lot more than an empty head.

Because today was the day they would receive custody of their very own dragon. Everyone knew that dragons were bloodthirsty and dumb as rocks. The few cadets who didn’t get killed and successfully trained them would be going to the Wars. If those rebels on the other side didn’t surrender soon, they would definitely be crushed. Everyone just knew it.

And soon everyone would know that Calissa’s latest attempt to take Gy out had failed. Now, Gy had a clear shot at the top dragon, Dragon B. Dragon A was Squad Leader Dals’s dragon. The dragons were ranked in order of size and strength, so getting Dragon B guaranteed her one of the top jobs as an adult. Maybe even an adult squad leader or a garrison command. Getting the top spot required her to be perfect at everything, including being on time for assembly.

Now that she had her boots on (sans scorpions) she raced down the stairs and to the courtyard. Getting ready had taken longer than expected, and she barely made it into line before the warning bell. She noticed that Calissa wasn’t there and wondered if someone else had gotten her. She didn’t cheat, preferring instead to humble her enemies by making them eat her training dragon’s tailwind.

But everything else was wiped out of her mind as Squad Leader Dals stepped forward and started to make his perpetually long and boring-to-tears opening speech. Gy wasn’t actually listening, instead just thinking “dragon B… please… dragon B….” until the Leader finally got to the point. “Dragon B goes to Gyarra Diancie.”

Gy didn’t stay to hear the rest of the speech but walked into the cool, high-roofed dragon stables to claim her dragon, right in front of the entrance in the highest place in the pecking order. It was a large but streamlined male with wings black as night and strange speckles of white around its gray and surprisingly expressive eyes. Not that made her like it any more than she should like any dragon… all right. She did think it was kind of the dragon version of handsome. She took its reins and tied them to a ring in the wall. Taking out a bottle of scale polish, a claw file and a sponge, she scrubbed the old layers off its scales, all the while talking to the dragon to calm it down, purposefully ignoring Dals’s long-ago instructions to never, ever as you value your life, Diancie, talk to a dragon like a person.

“I suppose I can’t just call you Dragon B forever, so you have to have a name.” she said. “You are rather black, how about Onyx? Or maybe Obsidian… wait. What do you think?”

“I think I already have a name, and no insignificant Human is going to give me a different one,” the dragon said, sounding irritated.

“So, what is it, then?” Gy said, trying to maintain her composure without letting the dragon know that she was now very scared. She could deal with a dumb dragon, but this one was obviously very well trained or it really was smart.

“Well, why should I tell you?” it said. “You’re a Human! Responsible for the enslavement of most of our kind! You think we’re dumb, for skyfire’s sake!”

The conversation was getting interesting.

The dragon had calmed down a bit. “I’m here for a reason. Your squad members are shortly to receive to the surprise of their lives… we’re taking you to the rebels. You’ll understand what the right side to be on is soon.”

“So, what is your name?” Gy fired back.

Story by Queen Glory (through Shiny) 🙂

Maze Runner

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Maze Runner

Movie directed by Wes Ball

Novel written by James Dashner

Maze Runner is a movie about teenagers and tweens who are put in a maze. They have living areas, hammocks, and there are gardens to get food and then there is an actual maze. The maze is filled with grievers, which are mechanical animals, they come out at night and sometimes during the day to sting people in the maze. When you are stung you go crazy don’t understand yourself anymore and try to kill others that why your forced into the maze to die. Other than the vicious grievers the maze has other obstacles. There are blades, they can slice a body in half. The other problem is that there are walls inside the maze there and they change the maze each night. Also so that the grievers don’t eat the kids at night they have walls to close up the camp if you don’t make it back in time you’re stuck in the maze at night it is very rare to make it through a night in the maze. The whole escape from their prison in the maze starts when a boy, Thomas, comes up from the box just like everyone else. He comes up freaked out and just like everyone else he doesn’t know who he is. The only memory that ever comes back is their name, until then they’re called greenies. Although Thomas seems like everyone else he wasn’t and Thomas knew that after a few nights, he was curious and had dreams of a woman saying “Wicked is good” repeatedly. Soon he was put in his group gardening. He wasn’t happy about it though he wanted to be a runner, runners scope out the maze, he was stuck at camp. Eventually he found a place among the runners when the wall was closing he ran in to save Alphy the camp leader and the wall closed behind him. He and Ben, a runner who was bringing Alphy back after he was stung, put Alphy high and the vines on a wall then went to survive the night in the maze. Not only did they survive the night they killed a griever both things had never been done. Many were astonished, but Gilly believed he needed punishment for going in the maze when he wasn’t a runner. The last box came up a few days later the greeny was a girl with a note on her “The last of them” no more boxes. The girl lay there unconscious. When the girl woke she was lying in a bed, she had said Thomas in her sleep. She freaked out threw rocks at the boys then climbed up the treehouse and asked for Thomas to come. Unlike everyone else she knew her name and came up with a blue substance in her pocket, griever sting healers. Then came the griever attack the wall never closed the grievers then came rushing in to kill many. The next day many left the camp they ran in the maze and the escape route was there. They used the key from a dead griever to escape the maze to find the end of human life.

By: Erin 6th grade