Review: The Ship of the Dead

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

28006120Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
Genres: Middle-Grade, Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Magnus Chase, a once-homeless teen, is a resident of the Hotel Valhalla and one of Odin’s chosen warriors. As the son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus isn’t naturally inclined to fighting. But he has strong and steadfast friends, including Hearthstone the elf, Blitzen the dwarf, and Samirah the Valkyrie, and together they have achieved brave deeds, such as defeating Fenris Wolf and battling giants for Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Now Magnus and his crew must sail to the farthest borders of Jotunheim and Niflheim in pursuit of Asgard’s greatest threat. Will they succeed in their perilous journey, or is Ragnarok lurking on the horizon?

Well, it’s finally happened. I’m bored of Rick Riordan books.

I’m sure this was a fun and exciting middle-grade/YA read, but I just personally didn’t enjoy it at all. I talked in my review of The Sword of Summer about how this Magnus Chase series is too similar to the original Percy Jackson series. Plus, I have just read sooooo many Rick Riordan books. Even though it’s about Norse gods, it’s just lost that freshness. It’s predictable, the humor isn’t funny anymore, and I’m just not connecting with it. Continue reading “Review: The Ship of the Dead”

Review: Caraval

51meBqxPwcL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Series: Caraval
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

I’m actually having a really hard time deciding on a rating for Caraval. I don’t really do half-star ratings, but this was definitely somewhere between a 3 and a 4 for me. Maybe writing this review will help me figure it out…

Continue reading “Review: Caraval”

Review: The Blood of Olympus

18705209The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Series: The Heroes of Olympus
Genres: Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Kids (Middle Grade), Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it “might” be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

I have mixed feelings about The Blood of Olympus.

Continue reading “Review: The Blood of Olympus”

Review: The House of Hades

12127810The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Series: The Heroes of Olympus
Genres: Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Kids (Middle Grade), Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die. They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood. The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.

House of Hades continues stylistically and thematically where Mark of Athena left off. This book continues on a slightly darker path than the previous three. While Riordan’s trademark sense of humor is still present, it feel subdued compared to previous books. The whole thing feels a lot more serious than any of Riordan’s other books, probably appropriate considering the context of impending world destruction and a journey through Tartarus. Yet the story continues to be compelling, fun, interesting, and well researched, everything I have come to expect from Riordan. Continue reading “Review: The House of Hades”

Review: The Princess Bride

21787The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Genres: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction
Maturity Level: 2
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything. 

This is one of the very few cases where I actually enjoy the movie more than the book, which, if anything, is a testament to how fantastic the movie is, because this is easily one of the funniest books I have ever read.

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Review: The Lost Hero

7736182The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Series: The Heroes of Olympus
Genres: Action/Adventure, Young Adults, Kids (Middle-Grade), Fiction
Maturity Level: 3
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Jason has a problem.
He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret.
Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools.
When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts? 

The world of Percy Jackson returns in The Lost Hero, but updated for an older group of readers. With mostly new characters, this new series can stand alone from the original Percy Jackson series, but also has plenty for long-time readers to grasp at and enjoy. Rick Riordan blends the modern world with the stories of the ancient Greeks and Romans with his trademark sense of humor and skill. As an adult I love this book and series, and I know my students love it too. There’s a little bit for everyone: plenty of action, a little romance, a lot of humor, just the right amount of history and mythology, and extremely likable characters. The Heroes of Olympus series deserves a place next to Harry Potter on any young person’s (or young at heart person’s!) bookshelf.

Review: The Hunger Games

2767052The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Series: The Hunger Games
Genres: Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Dystopian
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

I think The Hunger Games is probably one of the best YA Books available right now, but I always have a hard time articulating what is so brilliant about it.

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Review: Beauty Queens

9464733Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Genres: Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

I expected Beauty Queens to be hilarious (oh my gosh, it was), but I didn’t expect it to be so empowering. I expected it to challenge the reader on the way they look at beauty pageant contestants, but not the way we look at lesbians, trans-gender girls, bisexuals, or minorities. I was shocked at how this book was about finding yourself, whoever it is that yourself might be. Continue reading “Review: Beauty Queens”

Throwback Thursday: Eragon

IMG_20170615_073317_366Ahhh, high school.

I know so many people look back on high school with anger or unhappiness, but not me. I was the world’s biggest band nerd, and my high school band was the most accepting and caring group of human beings I have ever been a part of. I had friends, so many friends, good friends, and encountered very little of the cattiness, cliques, and bullying that dominate so many high schools. I was a part of something, and I felt like I mattered. That’s special, and I treasure it.

So unlike most people, I look back on my high school experience fondly.

But honestly, I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I can’t remember what books I used to read.

I mean, I remember a few of them, but I know I was an avid reader, and I just genuinely can’t think of enough books to account for all of that time. One of the few books I definitely remember, however, is Eragon. 

Continue reading “Throwback Thursday: Eragon”