The Hammer of Thor Review

hammer_of_thorThe Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1423160922

Synopsis: How do you follow up almost starting Ragnarok? Well, in my case, you do it by hastening it. I know what you’re thinking: Magnus, how do you hasten the end of the world? Answer: Because Loki. The God of Mischief has something mischievous up his sleeve (metaphor, since he’s y’know, tied to a rock with poison being dripped in his face presumably not wearing much clothing) and he’s gotten not only my Uncle Randolph roped in, but he’s using his kids as pawns too. Which is bad news for Sam since she’s the one that seems to have the most to lose – even in a best case scenario.

Why I picked it up: I like wise-cracking teens and Norse Gods. Especially together.

Why I finished it: I mentioned in another review that Riordan’s books seem formulaic; while this one isn’t any different in terms of the formula department, Riordan has at least mixed it up a little for his readers by going a little bit more outside the box with his characters. They feel more rounded somehow, like even though they are involved in this supernatural world there is still the real world to contend with as well. The fluidity with which the real world relates to the supernatural seems much more urgent and apparent, perhaps because of the juxtaposition between Magnus and Sam. Magnus is dead, but can still cross over to the real world while Sam is still alive and can cross into the world of the dead. Sam still has family and school and everyday teen problems to deal with on top of whatever supernatural duties go along with being a Valkyrie, helping ground the reader even as we are rocketing among the Nine Worlds. Magnus’s wit and sarcasm add a certain spin to the dire situations in which our characters seem to find themselves, keeping the reader eager for the sort of tongue-in-cheek style that has defined the protagonist. I think it’s somewhat poignant that Riordan has introduced a gender fluid character to the cast – it shows he’s keeping with the times and getting in touch with his audience. Really I think what I got most out of this volume is the idea that we might not be able to change where we came from, but we can define who we are in a way that is true to ourselves and how we want the world to see us. We don’t all fit the labels that society wants to place on us – we need to be able to defend our identities and be comfortable in our own skins. We all need to have confidence in who we are and what we believe in, even if it might seem strange or hard to understand. And on the flip side, we need to be understanding and supportive of those around us, even if we don’t always agree with their point of view – that’s how I see it, in any case. It’s a surprisingly fast read considering the book is a hefty 480 pages and I’m eager to see what new adventure and danger Magnus and his friends will face when the third book comes out in the fall.

Other related materials: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 3) by Rick Riordan;  Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher; Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myths and Legends by Cheryl Evans and Anne Millard, illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell; Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit; D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri D’Aularie and Edgar Parin D’Aularie; The Blackwell Pages books by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer; The Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; The Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles books by Rick Riordan

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Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code Review

artemis_fowl_3Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2003. 978-0786819140

Synopsis: Now that his father is back from exile, he has told Artemis that he wants to focus more on legitimate business ventures rather than the underhanded schemes that have made the Fowl name famous. But Artemis has different ideas: he’s planned one last score before he goes straight, a scheme that lands him in hot water and puts Butler in danger. Will Artemis take the chance to be the hero that his father had challenged him to be or will he fall back on deviousness to come out on top?

Why I picked it up: I saw it at the library and remembered that I never got around to finishing the series.

Why I finished it: Artemis may have grown some over the course of these three books, but at his heart he’s still the young, conniving genius that we came to know and love in the first book. Though he is now thirteen and has been made to return to boarding school, it still hasn’t stopped him from planning and (somewhat) successfully executing his (supposedly) last job. And it would seem that Artemis has come to the end of the line, what with his bodyguard being fatally injured and the fairy people (politely) forcing a mind wipe of himself and his personal protection team after he loses and recovers a supercomputer built from stolen fairy technology. But we all know that Artemis isn’t done – I mean, there are other books, after all; we know that our favorite anti-hero has a few tricks up his sleeve that will enable him to continue doing what it is that he does best. What I liked about this volume is that it hits the ground running and doesn’t stop, giving it the feel of a spy thriller rather than a middle grade novel. Newcomers to the series will appreciate the accelerated pace after the more moderated pace of the first two books. The end is ultimately satisfying, but leaves an air of mystery about it. We know Artemis isn’t done, but what remains to be seen is what he will do with the (fairy-free) time that is given to him.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) 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; 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; 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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The Palace of Glass Review

palace-of_glassThe Palace of Glass (The Forbidden Library: Volume III) by Django Wexler, illustrations by Alexander Jansson

Kathy Dawson Books, 2016. 978-0803739789

Synopsis: Now that Alice knows the role Geryon played in her father’s disappearance, she’s determined to exact her revenge. Ending, the labyrinthine that controls Geryon’s library, has proposed a permanent, albeit dangerous, solution: retrieve The Infinite Prison from the Palace of Glass in the worlds beyond, which would allow her to trap the old Reader. Determined to forge forward, Alice takes the journey to the worlds beyond; but will the risk be worth the potential reward?

Why I picked it up: I borrowed it at the same time as The Mad Apprentice so that I wouldn’t have to wait to find out if Alice succeeds.

Why I finished it: Alice may have gotten in over her head in her desire for revenge, a fact that becomes more apparent the further she journeys into the portal. Not only is she warned against going to the Palace of Glass, but she is confronted with how she will maintain the delicate stasis that Geryon has created. True, Alice doesn’t want the creatures of the books to feel like they are servants or that they are expendable, but at what cost can she keep them safe from the other Readers? The multitude of things Alice must mull over before she makes a finite decision continues to grow, and there doesn’t seem to be a good solution in sight. All the qualities that make Alice a heroine are also those that endear her to the reader: she is confident and smart, yet she still has to come to grips with the awesome amount of power that is coming to her. We are starting to see what Ending means when she says that Alice is different, that she is the kind of Reader Ending would be willing to work with, even if her headstrong nature often puts her in a tight spot. I keep forgetting to give a shout out to Jansson for the fantastic and whimsical watercolor-esque illustrations. The beautifully haunting black-and-white pictures give the book another little edge of mystery and horror with the overarching fantasy that are reminiscent of classic Gothic novels like Dracula and Frankenstein. There’s a lot more of Alice’s adventure to go, and I am eager to read more!

Other related materials: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler, illustrations by Alexander Jansson; The Mad Apprentice (The Forbidden Library Volume II) by Django Wexler, illustrations by Alexander Jansson; Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke; The Books of Elsewhere series by Jacqueline West; Coraline by Neil Gaiman; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein; Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein; The Mapmakers Trilogy books by S.E. Grove; The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White, illustrations by Andrea Offermann; Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman; The Books of Beginning series by John Stephens; The Wildwood Chronicles books by Colin Meloy, illustrations by Carson Ellis; 13 Treasures trilogy by Michelle Harrison; The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey

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The Mad Apprentice Review

mad-apprenticeThe Mad Apprentice (The Forbidden Library: Volume II) by Django Wexler, illustrations by Alexander Jansson

Kathy Dawson Books, 2015. 978-0803739765

Synopsis: As a Reader, Alice is becoming exposed to a world she didn’t even know existed until she was sent to live with her Uncle Geryon – and it is not always a safe world at that. So when another Reader dies and Alice (along with five other apprentices) is sent to ‘deal with’ the dead man’s apprentice, she begins to realize that the world and the power of a Reader is so much more terrifying that she could have ever imagined.

Why I picked it up: I read and loved The Forbidden Library, but had forgotten there were two more books until I was searching for my next great read at my local library.

Why I finished it: Wexler has taken children’s fantasy to a different level with this series, marrying the traditional aspects of magic and the supernatural with those of a mystery/crime drama. Since she has come to stay with Geryon, Alice has been searching for answers about her father, but nothing definitive – a frustration that is driving her more and more through these last books of the trilogy. She is hoping she will be able to find more pieces to the puzzle when she is tasked with investigating the murder of another Reader. It quickly becomes clear that the apprentices are dealing with more than they can handle, and as Alice and the others race to find a solution, we see our heroine once again stepping forward to become a leader. As I stated before, Alice’s motivations are much stronger in this volume and it is helping to round out and grow her as a character. She’s quickly learning to think on her feet in order to keep one step ahead of the creatures that case them. She’s learning to be smarter about playing dumb, which sounds sort of funny but it’s what is helping her keep her fact-finding mission a secret from her master. This novel moves at a much faster clip, keeping the adrenaline of the characters and the reader at a high even in the last few chapters. It’s another series to read if you are missing Harry Potter or The Kane Chronicles and sure to delight those readers who really liked the first book. It’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Other related materials: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler, illustrations by Alexander Jansson; The Palace of Glass (The Forbidden Library Volume III) by Django Wexler, illustrations by Alexander Jansson; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke; The Books of Elsewhere series by Jacqueline West; Coraline by Neil Gaiman; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein; Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein; The Mapmakers Trilogy books by S.E. Grove; The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White, illustrations by Andrea Offermann; Jinx by Sage Blackwood; The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone by Tony Abbott, illustrations by Bill Perkins; The Wildwood Chronicles books by Colin Meloy, illustrations by Carson Ellis; 13 Treasures trilogy by Michelle Harrison; The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey

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The Poe Estate Review

the_poe_estateThe Poe Estate by Polly Schulman

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 978-0399166143

Synopsis: Sukie O’Dare is haunted. Literally. Since her sister Kitty died, her ghost has been hanging around keeping an eye on Sukie the same way she did when Kitty was alive. And if it weren’t for the fact that Kitty is still extremely overprotective, it might even be cool. But it’s not, and now everyone thinks Sukie is a spook. A spook that is being haunted by ghosts other than her sister; ghosts that won’t rest until Sukie has fulfilled their strange request.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the first two books in the series and I was eager to read more of Schulman’s work.

Why I finished it: While Schulman’s books have the luxury of being able to stand alone, some of the relationships with the characters and the events to which they refer will make more sense to you if you have read the other two books. That is one of the things that I like about this series: you get to find out what happens with the characters without a whole other book dedicated solely to them. I like Schulman’s take on the fantasy/horror/gothic novel genre and that this book is creepy without being too creepy. Sukie has had to deal with a lot since her sister Kitty as died, and readers who have lost someone close to them can understand a lot of her frustrations at the changes that are happening within her family. She’s having to make adjustments that aren’t exactly comfortable, especially when the spirit of her sister is stuck while Sukie continues to move forward. This theme about changes and moving forward is a central theme to the story that gets explored not only with Sukie, but her family ghosts as well. Spirits often need closure in one life before they can move on to the next, a problem Sukie seeks to tackle along with her friend Cole and the staff at the New-York Circulating Materials Repository. The mystery and the magic of the library once again plays a key role in aiding our protagonist in finding answers to a more urgent dilemma and also finding answers about who they are themselves. For me, it was a reminder that libraries are welcoming places where one can find the answers to almost any question we could have. It’s a fun and exciting story that will be enjoyed by both fantasy and gothic novel fans.

Other related materials: The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; The Wells Bequest: A Companion to the Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson; The Books of Elsewhere books by Jacqueline West; Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein; Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein; Wonderstruck by Brain Selznick; The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler; The Mad Apprentice by Django Wexler; The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison

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Razzle Dazzle Unicorn Review

razzle_dazzle_unicornRazzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1-4494-77912

Synopsis: When your best friend is a unicorn, there’s never a dull moment. Whether it’s competing with the Christmas tree as to who is sparklier, bonding with a goblin who likes to steal socks, or making friends with a lake monster, Phoebe and Marigold make the most of every day.

Why I picked it up: I love how funny and fun this series is!

Why I finished it: Unicorns are creatures that require lots of attention and care, as the reader has learned thus far. But once you prioritize the fact that your best friend is a unicorn, everything sort of falls into place. We start off with some holiday stories (that remind us that the holiday season is (perpetually) just around the corner) and move through the latter half of the year until we once again find ourselves at Camp Wolfgang. Simpson’s humor and art are what really make this series shine (literally and figuratively) and the multi-generational jokes are well-timed throughout this collection. This volume sees Marigold interacting a little more with Phoebe’s parents – the unicorn develops sparkle fever and has to stay home from taking Phoebe to school, during which time Phoebe’s mom must entertain the beautiful creature while she recovers. We also learn the difference between a common orn and a unique orn (Marigold obviously falls into the latter category), and that it is important not to confuse the two. It’s a smart, funny series that will have you laughing out loud and enjoyed by unicorn lovers of all ages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock

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Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code Review

hooks_revenge_2Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code by Heidi Schulz, illustrations by John Hendrix

Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 978-1484717172

Synopsis: Having defeated the terrible Neverland crocodile, Jocelyn now sets her sights on recovering her father’s long lost treasure. But in order to find it, she needs to be able to read the map. In order to read the map, she needs the key. And in order to get the key, she’s going to have to collaborate with that annoying Peter Pan. Plus, she has to try to stay ahead of the evil Captain Krueger – which won’t be easy considering he has a faster ship and more men in his crew – and try to convince her captive, Evie – the girl Pan has brought to be his new mother – that the pirate’s life is not for her.

Why I picked it up: Jocelyn had to have had so many more adventures after she vanquished the crocodile….

Why I finished it: Jocelyn might have gotten her feet wet, but she still seems a little green at this whole pirating business – especially as it relates to the Pirate Code. For one thing, pirates are supposed to kidnap (she takes Pan’s new mother, but Evie is probably the world’s worst hostage), ransack (she doesn’t want to go after a merchant ship for fear of disrupting trade agreements), fight (her crew is provoked into defending her, but it now means Captain Krueger knows about Hook’s treasure), and above all, not to be trusted. But Jocelyn seems somewhat torn between doing whatever and doing the right thing. She definitely doesn’t want to adhere to the standards that her grandfather has set down for her and she’s more apt to want a loophole in the Pirate code than she is to follow that either. She’s clear about the fact that she wants to live her life on her terms, and that is something she does manage to do. She finds ways to get done what needs to be done in order for the end result to be the most beneficial for her and her crew, even if things often go sideways. But Jocelyn’s spunk and spirit keep her crew and the reader cheering her on as she fights to take what is hers. The reader sees more of a struggle for Jocelyn to find an in-between where she can belong, much the same way we struggle to find a niche for ourselves. Hendrix’s illustrations add another layer to the story, as good art does. He’s taken the time to really study the descriptions and then creates for the reader a series of images that bring the reader deeper into the plot’s key moments and contribute to the fantastic overlay of the book. I’d recommend this book for fans of fractured fairy tales and those of you who like a good spin on a classic story. I’ve very much enjoyed the tales of Jocelyn Hook thus far, and I am excited to see what more is in store for her and her crew.

Other related materials: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz, illustrations by John Hendrix; Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie; Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrations by Scott M. Fischer; Peter and the Starcatchers books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrations by Greg Call; Peter and the Starcatchers Never Land books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrations by Gregg Call; Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff; Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Surtliff; Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff; Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley; The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris D’Lacey; The 8th Continent series by Matt London

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