Tag Archives: genre: adventure

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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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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The Knights of Boo’Gar Review

knights_of_boogarThe Knights of Boo’Gar story and art by Art Roche

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1-4494-7987-9

Synopsis: Storm clouds hang over the kingdom of Boo’Gar. The cantaloupe crop has failed. There is no money in the treasury. Even kind old King Mewkus has started to doubt himself. Can things get any worse? Of COURSE they can! When Princess Phlema’s beloved goat is kidnapped, King Mewkus and his trusted wizard must assemble those fearsome warriors for justice—The Knights of Boo’Gar! There are just a few small problems. Sir Justin ditched the knights to start a boy band. Sir Daphne traded in her sword for a real estate license. Sir John shed his armor to become a tax attorney. That just leaves young (and short) Sir Rowland and his trusty pet turtle, Angelina. Okay … so maybe there’s a LOT of problems. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I like pun-ny books.

Why I finished it: I always love an original fantasy novel and Roche delivers in a big way. not only has he created a madcap kingdom with equally colorful characters, he gives readers an inspirational and imaginative story about courage. Things do indeed look dismal for Boo’Gar between the failed crops and the goat-napping, but despite Rowland’s hesitation he keeps persevering. He might not believe in his ability to retrieve Princess Phlema’s goat babycakes, but his adventures far from his farm give him the boost he needs to be able to save the day.  I loved that Rowland’s trusty steed is actually an ostrich named Tulip and his companion is a mild-mannered and loving turtle named Angelina – definitely not features of your traditional fantasy story! I also thought that Roche’s use of respiratory system parts and ailments for place and character names was clever, and he uses this humor to his advantage.  The mayhem and the silliness keep the reader wanting more, cheering for Rowland and Sir Crustos in their quest across the kingdom and back again in order to save their home. I’d give this to readers who enjoy play-on words, puns, and stories about unlikely heroes.

Other related materials: Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior books by Cube Kid; The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John A. Flanagan; Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull, illustrated by Brandon Dorman; The Inheritance Cycle books by Christopher Paolini; Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke; The Underland Chronicles books by Suzanne Collins; Plants Vs. Zombies books by Paul Tobin, illustrated by Ron Chan; Geronimo Stilton and the Kingdom of Fantasy series by Geronimo Stilton; The Last Kids on Earth series by Max Brallier, illustrations by Douglas Holgate; Dragonbreath books by Ursula Vernon

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Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly & Kung Fu Sandwich Review

kung_fu_robot_1The Adventures of Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly & Kung Fu Sandwich by Jason Bays

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449479633

Synopsis: Kung Fu Robot is an international machine of mystery and the savior of all things awesome and cool. He’s the world record holder for ice cream sandwiches eaten in one sitting, the reigning champion of continuous nunchucking, and once won a bronze medal for the simultaneous stomach rubbing and head patting. Together with his 9-year old sidekick, Marvin, he faces his arch-nemesis, Kung Pow Chicken: a robotically-enhanced, foul fowl bent on destroying the city’s peanut butter and jelly supply. Kung Fu Robot and Marvin must save the day . . .  and their lunches! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was not only intrigued by the title, but the app that went with the story.

Why I finished it: So, to be able to write about the full experience of the story, I downloaded the app so that I could experience all of the Kung Fu awesomeness while I was reading. Some downsides are that to use the Kung Fu Vision, the book has to be held flat for the camera to pick up the different QR codes hidden on the pages and the camera has to be held about a foot away in order for it to focus on the page. But really other than that, the app had a lot of really fun things that enhanced the reading experience: there’s a couple mini-profiles about Kung Fu Robot and Marvin, and there are three different games you can play that correspond with different fight scenes throughout the book. Plus, if you’re the type that loves to push buttons and sound effects, there’s quite a few pages in which strategically placed theme music and karate chops can be added by the reader. The games can also be played independently of the book and an e-book is also included within the app so you can have the Kung Fu action even when you’re on the go. And even without the app, the story is still jam packed with laughs, action, ninjas, and the foiling of evil plans to force people to eat sandwiches that are way less awesome than peanut butter and jelly. Kung Fu Robot is a likable hero that is often overly eager to share his love of lunch time essentials, but he definitely has his heart in the right place – especially when it comes to Marvin. Marvin is something of a worry-wart, but with his logic and quick thinking, you can be sure Kung Fu Robot will be able to save the day. Bays’ art is just as fun and action packed as his story, and it reminded me a little bit of Dexter’s Laboratory. It’s softer and has fewer edges than Tartakovsky’s art, but it still gives it that fantastic, adventurous feel. I’m excited to recommend it to reluctant readers because it has the interactive app that goes with it and even if you don’t or aren’t able to get the app, you can still experience the awesomeness of the story.

Other related materials: Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior books by Cube Kid; Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja series by Marcus Emerson; Secret Agent 6th Grader series by Marcus Emerson; Crime Travelers series by Paul Aertker; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; The Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey; Dog Man books by Dav Pilkey; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Hilo books by Judd Winick; Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

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Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland Review

kid_beowulf_2Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449475901

Synopsis: Banished from their homeland, Beowulf, his brother Grendel, and the magic pig Hama journey south to the Frankish Empire to find their uncle Holger, a knight in the service of Charlemagne. But all is not well in Francia: the king lies ill and his steward has decided that capital gain in more important for the country than keeping its citizens happy, and the hero Roland could use a little help setting things right….

Why I picked it up: It’s epic poetry in a more digestible form for a younger audience.

Why I finished it: Fajardo has managed to faithfully adapt The Song of Roland while still maintaining the integrity of the original manuscript (of which, he notes in the afterward, there are several variations) and present the reader with a story that is easy to follow. We are engaged from the get-go with a broad synopsis of the original Song of Roland to help set the stage for the reader. The story then branches off in two directions, intertwining the past with the present as Beowulf and Grendel read the letters Holger wrote to their father about his journey to Francia. And once the pair (and Hama) reach Francia, they find that Daneland is not the only state in which things are rotten. There is an uneasy peace between the Christian Franks and the Muslim Spanish that is on the verge of being overturned thanks to the traitorous acts of Roland’s stepfather Ganelon. Ganelon is willing to help Spain take over the Frankish Empire as an act of revenge against Charlemagne and Roland, and we are distressed to learn that perhaps the plan is working. A good amount of hilarity ensues as Charlemagne’s banished knights attempt to reunite and work out a plan to get the country ready to fight against the army of Spanish invaders using the makings of Ro-Land, a theme park built to celebrate Francia’s greatest hero. Fajardo juxtaposes the darkness of the story with the use of bright colors and some off-beat humor that makes sure the reader is still following along. There’s also a few character cameos that fans of other middle grades comics will find fun as well. It’s another fantastically epic ride through history that will engage readers of all ages.

Other related materials: Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf Eddas: Shild and the Dragon by Alexis E. Fajardo; Bone series by Jeff Smith; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru, and Bryan Koneitzko

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