The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

I wouldn’t call this the worse book that I have ever read, but It wasn’t my favorite either. I must say it was interesting though.

The book starts off with Henry’s mother being “sick.” We are not told the details of the illness at the beginning, we just know that something is not right. The family has just moved into a new house (more details on why later in the book). Her older brother also recently passed. Her father has to leave for business in Italy so he leaves Henry, the housekeeper, Henry’s mother, and Henry’s baby sister Piglet at home.

Henry’s mother gets worse and eventually, the local doctor is called out, she is then told to stay in bed all day, have her door locked, and to take a certain pill. She does as the doctor says and only get’s worse.

While all of this is going in, Henry feels alone, so she starts to imagine things. One night she sees a light in the woods and goes to investigate, there she finds a “witch”.
My main problem with the book was how at the beginning it was very hard to follow and hard to get into. If a child was a reluctant reader, they would not be interested in reading this book.

While I won’t go and tell you everything that goes on in the book, I will say that it was very suspenseful and once I got through the beginning I couldn’t put it down. I would say that this is a book an older child would enjoy. A child that loves a good mystery, as to me, that is what this book really is.

I thank the publisher for sending me an ARC of this novel, it did not influence my rating of the book whatsoever.

-Skylar N.

The Secret of Nightingale World by Lucy Strange is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

Pretty much all his life, Call’s dad has warned him away from magic. During the trial to enter the Magisterium (administered to all those who may have the ability to do magic when they’re twelve), Call is supposed to mess up—and he does, but doesn’t expect the result. Instead of failing, Call is chosen to train under the most prestigious mage at the Magisterium. Taken away from his dad, Call learns about things his father never wanted him to know, making friends along the way and learning dangerous secrets about himself.

I really liked this book. The characters are each their own person with their own personalities, and the plot is intriguing. The book has really good world building, and the history narrated by some of the characters also reflects some of the characters’ personalities in how they deal with the knowledge of their pasts. There are parallels to Harry Potter, but I didn’t think it took away from the book—it was enjoyable as its own read.

-Aliya A.

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a fantasy novel about Katsa, who has been graced with the ability to kill. In her world, there are some who are graced with supernatural gifts and have different colored eyes. Those with useful gifts, such as Katsa, are brought to their King so he can use it. Unfortunately, Katsa is the niece of the King, and is used to intimidate would-be criminals. Engaging in secret espionage to help hinder his actions, Katsa is constantly working with the other members of the court.

On one of her missions, Katsa encounters Prince Po. Graced himself with an amazing ability to fight, Po goes to Katsa’s court. There, they fight together and maximize each other’s capabilities. Katsa has been trying to solve the case of a man she and other members of the court had rescued from another Kingdom. They did not know who had kidnapped him, but soon discover that this man is Po’s grandfather, who Po had been looking for. Working together, Po and Katsa discover the secrets behind both the kidnapping and their graces.  

The plot was intricate, but developed into a great story by the end. Katsa is a strong lead, and the development of her character is seen through the course of the story. Initially, she was reticent, but developed into a strong, self-assured character by the end of the story. Po also developed throughout the story, and was a great second character. The plot was simple, and easy to follow. However, there were some instances where it felt stretched out and a little boring, but there were not too many scenes like that. I would recommend this too whomever is looking for a fantasy read with a strong female character.

-Anmol K.

The Copper Gauntlet by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

The second book in the Magisterium series picks up where the first left off. Summer vacation is almost finished, and Call is looking forward to going back to school, although his dad is dead set against it. About a couple of weeks before school starts, Call learns that Alistair knows something about him that he is prepared to take desperate measures to correct (the same secret that was revealed at the end of The Iron Trial).

Once he gets to school, Call realizes that his dad is up to something when it’s rumored that someone is trying to steal the Alkahest, a powerful copper gauntlet.  Everyone thinks that the perpetrator is intending to harm the Makar and destroy the Magisterium. Call, though, knows better. He sets out to save his dad with Aaron, Tamara, Jasper, and Havoc, which turns out to have pretty unexpected results as they uncover secrets kept from even the mages.

There is quite a bit of character development, especially regarding Call. He has changed since the first book, although he still retains his characteristic personality. Call struggles with himself now more than he had in The Iron Trial, especially now that he can detect all the signs about who he really is, while at the same time kind of being in denial about it. However, he does carry himself differently and becomes more confident than the first book, and is more open than he used to be, although he doesn’t always go to his friends for help when he needs it.

-Aliya A.

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede

Across the Great Barrier, by Patricia C. Wrede, is the second book in the Frontier Magic series. The novel is set in an alternate universe—the American frontier is being settled and explored, but there’s magic. Eff, a thirteenth child, has always considered herself unlucky, and therefore has never really tried learning her spells, but helps out at the menagerie where she takes care of magical and non-magical animals. Eventually, she crosses the Great Barrier, where the Professor finds something extremely interesting. This is a pretty dry run of it, but the book was more interesting, I promise.

When I picked this book up I didn’t realize that it was the second book in a series. Oops. Still, it was really good, and the author gave enough information about the main events from the first book that I could make sense of things. The book is told from Eff’s point of view, so it doesn’t go into too much detail about things that she doesn’t consider important, and spends more time on things that she’s interested in or that are important to her. I like this book because it has a good plot line and gives a new way of looking at the American frontier when it was still being settled. There were no Native Americans in the book, so I’m not sure if I missed something in the first book or if they just aren’t there. The end of the novel doesn’t give complete closure and pretty obviously sets it up for the next book because not everything gets resolved.

 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow: the Chosen One, the greatest Mage the world has seen, and possessor of an exceeding amount of magic. Who would expect a boy of such prestige to be an orphan? Simon is told time and time again that those with magic flowing through their veins don’t give up their children–magic simply isn’t dispensable. So why is Simon Snow, legatee of such a copious amount of magical power, a foundling?

At the age of eleven, Simon is taken from the care home he’d been dwelling at by the Mage, a powerful and esteemed man who holds the position of headmaster at Watford, a school for people who possess magical blood. As Simon is the only orphaned student, the Mage cares for him, and makes sure that every September, after a summer spent at a care home, Simon gets safely to Watford.

In Carry On, Simon is entering his eighth and final year at Watford, which proves to be quite tumultuous. The year starts off ordinarily enough. Simon strategizes with his best friend, Penelope Bunce, about how to best defeat the Insidious Humdrum, an absurd yet aggravatingly quick-witted and bothersome creature who has seemingly atrocious intentions. He had, in previous years, made multiple attempts at castigating the magical world and Simon Snow in particular.

Simon, Penny (Penelope), and Agatha (Simon’s girlfriend) continue to speculate upon the different threats and issues that the Humdrum’s actions have caused, but their efforts thus far have led them nowhere. After an unsettling encounter with a departed soul, Simon ends up forging a shaky, yet advantageous truce with his roommate, Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch, a bitter and austere boy who has done nothing but provoke and nag Simon at every chance he gets. However, despite the facade of icy forbiddingness he puts forward, Basil may have trouble keeping his true feelings for Simon in check.

Simon Snow and his story was originally introduced in Fangirl, another phenomenal novel by Rainbow Rowell, as a fictional series that Cath (the protagonist in Fangirl) is obsessed with. Small excerpts of Simon Snow are featured in Fangirl, but Rowell thought that it deserved its own book, so that is the reason for which she wrote Carry On.

I entirely adored this book. I fell in love with the characters (Baz is my favorite!), and I fell in love with the world Rowell created. I extol how significantly she strayed from her normal style of realistic fiction and how she was able to create such a vivid and enticing world. Another thing that I enjoyed about this book was how Rowell switched perspectives so that the reader could get a clear and full picture of what was going through each of the characters’ minds.

This book was such a compelling and fascinating read, and I will definitely read it again in the future. The characters are all very endearing, and I loved the relationship between Simon and Baz: sworn enemies who have united against an evil cause. Will their truce only heighten their hatred toward each other, or will it bring them closer together?

-Elina T.

 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott, is a fantasy novel with both medieval European history and mythology from all around the world woven into it. The story follows Sophie and Josh Newman, two normal teenaged twins spending the summer in San Fransisco while their parents work at an archeological dig in Arizona. Little do they know that their lives are about to be changed forever. 

Sophie and Josh experience one shock after another as they come to realize that the world is full of magic. But not the type of magic we think of straight away. In their world, it is believed that, over time, the human race has neglected the full use of all of their senses. When people are Awakened, when the full extent of the capacities of their senses are activated, what they have the ability to do seems like magic. 

But magic isn’t the only thing that they discover to be true. Famous historical figures, like Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle, are still alive and have been living on this earth under different aliases for hundreds of years. And even more intriguing, the twins find that figures straight from fairy tales and myths roam the earth. 

Sophie and Josh are dragged into a thrilling and dangerous chase when they unwittingly witness the Book of Abraham the Mage being stolen from Nicholas Flamel. This book, the Codex, contains the recipe for the Elixir of Life, and without it, Nicholas and his wife will age rapidly and perish within the month. But the book also contains another spell. A spell that could compromise the liberty of the human race. Sophie and Josh must assist Nicholas in retrieving the book, else risk the existence of the world as they know it. 

What I admired most about this book was that it introduced mythological characters, creatures, and places from from a variety of different countries. In the world that Scott has created, all of these mythological figures live in the same world and interact with one another. I also enjoyed the historical content that Scott weaves into the story. European history has always piqued my interest, what with all the drama and their heavy belief in the gods. This book provided a sound union of history and mythology and was a very compelling read. 

This book is definitely not monotonous, and in fact is very fast-paced and filled with adventure. It was also easy to relate to the main characters (the twins) and what was going through their minds as their eyes were opened up to the world of magic before them. I enjoyed this book very much, and look forward to reading the remainder of the series. (There are five more books: The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer, The Warlock, and The Enchantress).

-Elina T.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, and the rest of the books in the series, are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library