The Dark Prophecy Review

trials_of_apollo_2The Dark Prophecy (The Trials of Apollo, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2017. 978-1484746424

Synopsis: After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Somewhere in the American Midwest, he and his companions must find the most dangerous Oracle from ancient times: a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again–if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate, a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame. To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of son of Hephaestus Leo Valdez, the now-mortal sorceress Calypso, the bronze dragon Festus, and other unexpected allies–some familiar, some new–from the world of demigods. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wasn’t a huge fan of the first book in this series, so I was hoping the second would help me come around.

Why I finished it: Mkay, so, Apollo is still annoying. A little bit less annoying, but still annoying. He seems to have developed a little bit of a conscience, but he’s still just as self-centered and selfish as he was when we wasn’t an acne-plagued teenager. Riordan delves a little more into the mythology of the Hunters of Artemis, introducing the reader to Britomartis the goddess of nets and traps. We also get a glimpse at some of Apollo’s past mistakes – leaving his son Trophonius to die, killing Commodus after giving him his blessing – and it helps to fuel the plot. The cast of characters continues to grow, adding two former and a handful of current Hunters, Lityerses the son of Midas, and former emperor Commodus, who is bent on killing both Apollo and Meg. As the stakes continue to stack themselves against Apollo and Meg, it looks like it will take a miracle from the gods in order to save them. The plot is much more fast-paced than the previous book, and Riordan manages to up the ante for our heroes in a big way. I am happy to say that I have warmed up to this series a little bit more and I’m eager to see if Apollo succeeds in his mission.

Other related materials: The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian Review

artemis_fowl_8Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl, Book 8) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2012. 978-1423161615

Synopsis: Having been cured of his Atlantis Complex, Artemis is released to find that the fate of the world is yet again at stake – thanks to an elaborate plan masterminded by none other than Opal Koboi. Using dark magic, she has awakened the dead warriors that once found on the grounds that are now the Fowl Family Estate and plans to use the dormant magic of the estate to destroy humanity. As things go from bad to worse, Artemis, Holly, Butler, Mulch, and Foaly race to find a solution that will be able to save the world once more.

Why I picked it up: Final Showdown. Cue the music.

Why I finished it: This is, of course, the ultimate showdown we were hoping for and didn’t really get much of a lead up to in the previous installment: a battle of wits so intense that the fate of the world rests on which genius can outwit the other. Thankfully, Artemis is back in his right mind and so his genius is on full display. Opal is still the evil genius she ever was, but her character has grown sort of tired now that she has had to execute large portions of her revenge herself. Even the Berserker spirits she bonds have a strong desire to maim her. The plot is a good blend of action and strategization, and Colfer uses this last book as an opportunity to showcase some of the other secondary characters that were previously mentioned in name only: Caballine and Mayne, Foaly’s wife and nephew. It was refreshing to me to have that character development, even though this is the last novel in the series and so it appears this is the only little bit the reader will get. I liked Caballine and the reader can easily understand how well matched she is with Foaly. What he lacks in brawn, she more than makes up for with her own study of martial arts; and she has a quick-witted mind to boot. Mayne is just as annoying as previously described in previous books, but he still has a function within the context of the larger story. Artemis’s final solution to saving the world is both bold and selfless, characteristics that the reader might not have used to describe Artemis on our first meeting but we see that he has certainly grown into a more compassionate individual. It’s a magnificent end to such an epic series, and while I am sad to see Artemis go, I’m looking forward to one day reliving the adventures of the boy genius again.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4) by Eoin Colfer; The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) by Eoin Colfer; The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer; The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7) by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano, colors by Paolo Lamanna; Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf by Eoin Colfer; W.A.R.P.  books by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Max Powers and Project Gemini by Keith Philips; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

 

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Feature Presentation: How To Train Your Dragon 2

dragon_2How To Train Your Dragon 2 starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kirsten Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harrington, Kieron Elliot, Phillip McGrade, Andrew Ableson, and Gideon Emery

Dreamworks Animation/Mad Hatter Entertainment, 2014. Rated PG.

Synopsis: It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. – from Twentieth Century Fox

Dragon 2 has everything we loved about the first film and then some. I’m willing to admit that it isn’t better than the original, but I appreciated that it expanded the world and the characters that were established in How To Train Your Dragon. The world has gotten a lot bigger now that the Vikings have the dragons to travel around and beyond the boundaries of the island, and with a larger knowledge of the world comes new discoveries and complications. Hiccup is still struggling with the notion of doing the right thing, this time in regard to whether he will become the chief his father Stoic wants him to be and if he can solve a conflict without it resulting in an all out war between tribes. Hiccup is more of a man of words while his father is heavier on the action, resulting in a clash between the father and son that helps fuel the plot. He has enough daring and tenacity to go again what Stoic wants, and yet Hiccup knows that he can rely on his father to have his back when things start to get rough. We are introduced to a host of new dragons in this film of varying shapes, sizes, and colors that seem to lighten up a lot of the dramatic elements. I loved the bits with the baby dragons – sure, they don’t listen as Hiccup points out, but they are cute and their introduction becomes important toward the end of the movie. The bond of friendship is showcased once again between Toothless and Hiccup as well as between the other dragons and their riders. It makes us feel good to see such a strong connection between the Vikings and these potentially dangerous creatures and reminds us with the bond we have with our own friends and pets. It’s a fun family film with a heartwarming message and a well-balanced story.

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Zombie Mommy Review

zombie_mommyZombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2011. 978-1416986416

Synopsis: Not wanting any harm to come to her daughter, Mrs. Gefelty decides to take a vacation in Todburg, town of the Undead. She’s very concerned that Lily is going to end up sad and alone without a mother like one of the characters in all those assigned reading books she’s given at school. But upon her return, Lily finds that her mother isn’t actually her mother at all – she’s been possessed by a ghost who yearns to stage a stage and screen comeback that’s  (hundreds) of years overdue! Will Jasper’s new Astounding High-Pressure Holy Water Extruder Gun be enough to extract the ghost? How could Drgnan not realize that he and Katie were going out?! Is Katie’s cousin Madigan Westlake-Duvet part of the problem or part of the solution?

Why I picked it up: I’m enjoying the very serious degree to which this series takes its humor.

Why I finished it: If Agent Q was a spoof on spy novels, Zombie Mommy is a take on horror novels (evidenced at the start of Chapter 23, in which our author/narrator tells the reader this is, in fact, a horror novel. In case we hadn’t picked up on that in the previous 22 chapters.). The hilarity seems to ensue much faster than in the previous books, starting with the awkward conversation Lily and Mrs. Gefelty have about BOOKS and progressing to the rather haphazard journey Mrs. Gefelty takes to Todburg (which involves a lot of narrow escapes, mostly from a rather put-out tarantula). After a possessed Mrs. Gefelty’s return to Pelt, our heroes must go to Todburg themselves in order to investigate what exactly happened, in which more hilarity ensues – this time involving an unfunny comedian, the cast of Warm Bodies, and our same perturbed tarantula. I continue to be amused by the random footnotes and the wall breaks within the text that are likely intended to give the reader clarification, but the good intention is lost and the reader is left with a humorous anecdote instead. One particular gag involves Madigan’s clothing, which must be described in exact detail by a man who may or may not have his shirt on backwards. The action and the anecdotes are well timed, providing a sense of foreboding as well as hope that our heroes can find a way to exorcize the ghost inhabiting Mrs. Gefelty.  Cyrus’s illustrations continue to haunt and amuse the reader, using thick lines to give the art a somewhat gothic feel. Fans of the series will continue to enjoy the further adventures of Lily, Jasper, and Katie as they continue to fight for truth and knowledge…or something like that….

Other related materials: Whales on Stilts! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; He Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; Ungifted by Gordon Korman

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The Hate U Give Review

the_hate_u_giveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Balzer + Bray, 2017. 978-0062498533

Synopsis: Starr Carter and her childhood friend Khalil are on their way home from a party when the pair are pulled over by a police officer. The traffic stop takes a turn when Khalil is shot and Starr becomes the only witness in what rapidly escalates into a hate crime. In the aftermath of Khalil’s death, Starr must decide whether she will use her voice to speak out or to stay quiet and deny that she was even there.

Why I picked it up: It was a selection for my online book club.

Why I finished it: Given current events, this book and its subject matter hit me as a rather poignant commentary on how society treats each other. As a white girl that grew up in middle class neighborhoods, I didn’t relate to Starr, a 16-year-old black girl who lives in a neighborhood known for its crime and drug dealers. Yet, the differences in our races and backgrounds didn’t prevent me from understanding the struggle Starr is going through. Even before the shooting turns things upside down, she had to find a way to separate her home life and her school life – she lives in a questionable part of town but her parents have enrolled her and her siblings in an affluent high school whose primary population is rich white kids. Plus, her boyfriend is white, something she knows is not going to go over well with her father. The numerous cultural references to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Starr’s favorite show), Harry Potter, Friday, and a slew of (mostly) nineties rappers help ground the reader – Thomas is giving us something familiar to latch on to in order to better relate the circumstances in which Starr finds herself. I thought it was especially apropos that Thomas used Tupac lyrics to push the main theme of the story: “…The Hate U-the letter U-Give Little Infants F***s Everybody. T-H-U-G L-I-F-E. Meaning what society gives us as youth, it bites them in the [butt] when we wild out”  (Thomas, 17). Pretty mind-blowing. So, really, if we think about all the forms of hate in the world, I think that it’s definitely a combination of nature and nurture, because we learn from both our immediate family and from our neighbors and friends. It makes one think about what we ourselves are putting out into the world that could end up biting back at us later. Granted, we cannot always show the compassion and kindness that we would like, but I still feel it’s an important message in a world that seems to be turning on its head as of late. It’s a powerful story about bravery and our ability to cope with tragedies in our lives.

Other related materials: Want by Cindy Pon; Flame in the Mist by Renèe Ahdieh; The Inexplicable Logic of My LIfe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz; History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera; 27 Hours by Tristina Wright; Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson; When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon; Queens of Geek by Jen Wildle; Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert; American Street by Ibi Zoboi; Dear Martin by Nic Stone; March books by John Lewis; Monster by Walter Dean Myers; Slam! by Walter Dean Myers

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Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex Review

artemis_fowl_7Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2010. 978-1423128199

Synopsis: When Artemis commits his entire fortune to a project he believes will save the planet and its inhabitants, both human and fairy, it seems that goodness has taken hold of the world’s greatest teenage criminal mastermind. But the truth is much worse: Artemis is suffering from Atlantis Complex, a psychosis common among guilt-ridden fairies and most likely triggered in Artemis by his dabbling with fairy magic. Symptoms include obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia, multiple personality disorder and, in extreme cases, embarrassing professions of love to a certain feisty LEPrecon fairy. Unfortunately, Atlantis Complex has struck at the worst possible time. A deadly foe is intent on destroying the actual city of Atlantis. Can Artemis escape the confines of his mind-and the grips of a giant squid-in time to save the underwater metropolis and its fairy inhabitants? – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: After the cliffhanger in the previous book, I was eager to embark on another cat-and-mouse chase.

Why I finished it: Surprisingly, the plot doesn’t continue where it left off in the previous installment. Instead, we find our young genius suffering from a fairy form of PTSD, which unfortunately wasn’t that interesting of a plot. Coupled with the second storyline of a former criminal seeking to stage an elaborate prison break to get back to his family, this novel was sort of a disappointment. It’s important to have an awareness of mental disorders, like those Artemis is experiencing with the Atlantis Complex, but the way Colfer executed that bit of the story felt flat to me. Yes, we do get some Holly/Artemis shipping, but this book didn’t feel like it tied in very well with the rest of the series so far. Adding another criminal to the mix could have made it more exciting, but with the multitude of other characters in the Artemis Fowl universe it merely seemed lazy – almost like Colfer was running short on ideas. Colfer is at the point in the series where he isn’t pulling any punches with his readers: he’s assuming we’re already well acquainted with the general workings of this universe and we have a good understanding of the characters. So when the author introduces a new idea and a new character to the mix, we’re expecting more than the anti-climactic ending that we receive. If not for the Atlantis Complex bit, this book could have been a one-shot or a companion story that helped to further flesh out our heroes. As it is, the reader does get a sort of one-off feel from the story, but not one that satisfies the heightened sense of adventure or drama that in one of the hallmarks of the series. I’m hoping that the final stand-off we’re anticipating is better executed in the final book.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4) by Eoin Colfer; The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) by Eoin Colfer; The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer; The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl, Book 8) by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano, colors by Paolo Lamanna; Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf by Eoin Colfer; W.A.R.P.  books by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Max Powers and Project Gemini by Keith Philips; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

 

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Bad Machinery, Vol. 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor Review

Bad-Machinery-6Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016. 978-62010-351-7

Synopsis: With school out for summer holiday, Charlotte, Jack, and Linton are enjoying a long deserved rest from the rigors of academia and indulging in the delights of staying up late and getting up even later. But when a local celebrity ends up in the hospital after being found wandering around town (apparently out of his mind), the three young sleuths find that perhaps their holidays won’t be so lazy after all.

Why I picked it up: Because amazing-ness.

Why I finished it: This volume starts with a case already in progress, but due to “failed back-up procedures” the reader is only privy to the conclusion of the mystery. And I read through this entire volume not really giving much thought to the fact that Allison gave us only part of a mystery before delving into the main portion of the story…except that the end of the one story ends up being important for the other. But what really mystified me was that it wasn’t explained where Mildred and Sonny were spending their holiday until halfway through the volume when Mildred just sort of shows up at Lottie’s door. It was clear that there were members of the group that were out of town, but the only explanation given at the onset was where Shauna was spending her holiday. Or I missed something. Who knows. The reader gets to meet more of Linton’s family in this novel, and we learn where Linton may have gotten some of this appetite for solving mysteries and why he’s so desperate to find a mystery for he and Jack to work on during their summer break. It’s been interesting to see the group sectioned off a bit in the last couple of books so that we get some more in depth character development, which is one of the things I love about this series. Allison is growing his characters so that they are able to stand on their own and not just identify with being in a sextet. The ending gets a little bit MST3K, but even in its absurdity, it’s still 100% believable.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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