Tag Archives: genre: fantasy

Unicorn Crossing Review

unicorn_crossing_coverUnicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449483579

Synopsis: Time flies in this fifth volume of Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn! Follow the lovable duo as they experience somewhat-spooky Halloween parties, ecstatic snow days, and looming summer reading assignments. Although the journey of growing up can sometimes be difficult, along the way Phoebe and Marigold discover something more enduring than goblin fads, unicorn spa vacations, and even a Spell of Forgetting—their one of a kind friendship. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I wanted a lighthearted break after all of the heavy books I have been reading for my book clubs.

Why I finished it: I’ve mentioned before that I love this series in large part for Simpson’s often tongue in cheek humor that can be enjoyed by any age reader. Ever the drama horse (that’s a thing; I might have just made it up, but it’s a thing now), Marigold continues in her somewhat half-hearted quest to understand humans – namely Phoebe – when she decides to dress up like her best friend for Halloween. And while the experience doesn’t give Marigold any more insight into the non-unicorn beings, it’s an amusing anecdote about how well Phoebe and Marigold know each other. This bit is followed closely by another in which Marigold goes to a unicorn spa in Canada and leaves Phoebe on her own for a few days – needless to say, that although she survived for nine years without her friend, it proved hard to be without her.  The stories each touch on the notion that friendship is a bond that continues to strengthen and maybe even get a little weirder (in a good way) over time. Simpson’s art is fresh and fun without taking itself too seriously, contributing to the lighthearted humor of the comics. It’s a must read for fans of this series and even if you’re new to Phoebe and Her Unicorn, you’re sure to find something magical within the pages.

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; Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure; Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm 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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media: Movies, reviews

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

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

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

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Feature Presentation: The BFG

The_BFG_posterThe BFG starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jermaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, and Jonathan Holmes

Amblin Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures/Walden Media, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: When Sophie witnesses the appearance of a Giant roaming the streets from the window of the orphanage, she is snatched from her bed and whisked away to Giant Country – lest she be telling anyone about what she has seen. But the Giant who kidnapped her turns out to be friendly, despite his size, and the two begin a friendship that will lead them to an adventure neither of them could have ever dreamed of.

I tend to be a purist when it comes to the book versus movie debate – I’m more apt to choose the book over the movie because I feel like the story becomes warped in its journey from page to screen. I perhaps wrongly anticipated that this would not be the case with The BFG; but then again, look at what happened with James and the Giant Peach (which had absolutely no resemblance to its source material after about 15 minutes). The BFG thankfully kept a grand majority of the main plot points: Sophie is an orphan who is kidnapped by the BFG, who lives in Giant Country in the company of some rather more unsavory child eating Giants and the two enlist the help of the Queen of England to help stop the child-snatching once and for all. The screenwriters inserted a bit in which the BFG had another child companion before Sophie that I suppose was meant to better flesh out the BFG as a character, but it made him more of a tragic hero than an unwitting hero. The BFG is meant to be a fun-loving but misunderstood character that overcomes bullies and becomes a functioning member of society; it doesn’t feel like the same story or character when he’s given a tragic past. I liked Ruby Barnhill as Sophie, but I spent a lot of the movie irked by the fact that she was trying to be Mara Wilson. True, she’s a girl who exhibits wisdom beyond her young age, but the movie makes her out to be more of a caretaker – she picks up the mail the matron forgets off the front mat, locks the door, and turns out the lights after everyone else is gone to bed. She seems to lack the child-like, earnest nature that was so endearing in the book. Even though I felt like the film fell short, there are still a lot of entertaining moments that will no doubt get younger viewers to giggle, most notably the scenes involving Frobscottle – a beverage that fizzes down and produces flatulence of epic proportions. So, if you were hoping for a great film version of our favorite childhood book, you’re going to be disappointed. If you are searching for a great family film with a positive message, then this is going to be right up your alley.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media: Movies, reviews