Review: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mythology (Norse), LGBT+
Pages: 432
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard  #3
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Star

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Took me a while to get my thoughts in order. I honestly thought I was over my reading slump. And in a way, I am. Just have to take things slow. And avoid big books.

This book isn’t that big, but it also isn’t that small. And we again have a whole lot of names I can’t pronounce (though there’s a guide provided). Seriously, where do all these giants and their names even come from? Half the problem while reading came from there. The other half came from Alex, but we’ll discuss that later.

This is the final novel of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy. Loki’s free and his ship of nails is almost ready to sail. And as soon as it sets off, with Loki on board, Ragnarök will begin. It’s up to Magnus and the crew to stop him from sailing or the world will end. But since that requires a sea voyage, Annabeth suggests that he gets some helpful tips from, none other than, Percy Jackson. By the way, ending the last book with a tease like that was so not cool.

But yeah, Percy’s in the book. Not for long, because uncle Rick lives to torture his fans, but he’s there and it’s awesome. Percy’s my favourite person in the whole world.

Afterwards, they’re off. There are a lot of giants and gods and god-giants. They get vague clues about what they should do and have to figure the rest of the stuff out on their own. The book is funny, as usual, with lots of exciting adventures. Magnus is a great protagonist. And another great thing in the novel was how each character (like Mallory, TJ and Halfborn) got their moment to shine. There was lots of getting-to-know and development for each character.

My favourite of the series is still Hearthstone. I can’t explain it, but I don’t think there’s any character who makes me as fiercely protective as he does. I want to tuck him into the world’s most comfortable bed, wrapped in the softest blankets, in the world’s coziest room and, outside the room, post the Avengers on guard duty. It’s that bad. He’s just so… good and innocent. He’s also has the worst. He was shunned by his entire species. And then his brother died and his father put him through so much. Basically, I love him and I will, honest to God, murder anyone who hurts him.

Hearthstone aside, I like all the other characters too. It was really great finally getting to know where they came from. One character that bothered me was Alex (for the sake of the review, I will be referring to Alex as a he), who I loved in Hammer of Thor.

It’s wasn’t a huge thing. Alex still kicks major butt. The problem was with his relationship with Magnus. I felt that he was a bit too harsh. He’s harsh with everyone but with Magnus, he was almost cruel. To the point where Magnus doubted he (Alex) cared about him (Magnus) at all. Magnus has low (or zero) self-esteem in the first place and the way Alex treated him was like kicking a man when he’s down. It was unnecessary and I didn’t like it.

Other than that, things were fantastic. This was a great novel. Loved the ending. It concluded the current storyline perfectly, while also dropping hints of a future Norse series, one that I would be very interested in. Fingers crossed that uncle Rick writes it.

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Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Urban Fantasy, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 361
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4 (series of 5)
Release Date: March 6, 2008
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

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This book is a favourite from the series for the majority of the fandom and it’s makes complete sense why, because this is a masterpiece. I can’t even tell you how much I love this book.

I mean, we have the things that have been consistently great throughout the series, like the fast pace, the story, the prophecy, the characters, and Percy’s perfect and hilarious narrative. But there’s even more here to love. For one, the setting.

The book starts off with Percy visiting his new school for orientation. There he gets attacked by monsters (because messing with Percy is the Fates’ favourite pastime). He escapes, only to have to rush to camp because things have gone from bad to worse. Luke’s allies are increasing and Kronos is gaining power, and their next move seems to be to invade camp. But the only way to get monsters into camp is via the Labyrinth, a vast underground maze that’s impossible to navigate. To stop the invasion, there needs to be a quest through the Labyrinth.

And let me tell you, that Labyrinth is very creepy. It full of traps and monsters, there’s no real concept of time and you never know where you’re going to end up. Very dangerous, but very exciting to read about.

One of my favourite scenes in the maze, and in the novel, is one that features a Sphinx which, if you didn’t know, is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and a human head. The scene is a satire on the education system and it’s genius. I won’t go into detail because I want you to enjoy it for yourself, but that scene alone is worth five stars.

Then there’s a great message about preserving nature. The book also addressed grief, friendship, guilt, responsibility, choices, right and wrong, and consequences. The Percy and Annabeth relationship is amping as well up because their feeling have grown to more than friendship but they’re not ready to accept that and don’t know how to handle it.

Nico’s arc was very important. He’s just a kid but he’s also a powerful demigod who’s just lost his sister. He’s very angry, not to mention impressionable.

There is, honestly, so much to learn. It is truly amazing how much Rick Riordan has accomplished in a single novel and if I didn’t already know that Uncle Rick is brilliant, I would now. Best book in the series so far. Highly recommend.

Review: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

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Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Novella
Pages: 175 (seems much shorter)
Series: None
Release date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications

4 Stars

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Gwendy’s Button Box is set in Castle Rock, Maine, which from what I’ve heard is a very significant place for readers of Stephen King. Many of his works have been set there. I’m personally not familiar with those works (I’ll get there, I promise) but I wanted to put it out there.

The story’s fairly straight forward. Gwendy is a young girl who, one morning, meets a mysterious man who introduces himself as Richard Farris. She’s wary of the man but he doesn’t seem to have any ill intentions toward her. He gives her a box. The box has buttons on it, and two levers. When you pull one lever, it gives you a little chocolate treat in the shape of an animal. When you pull the second, it gives you a silver coin. The button though, have more dangerous functions.

Gwendy is told to take care of the box and use it wisely. The novella is set over a period of many years, as long as Gwendy has the box, and is a tale of  how she deals with having so much power handed to her, and how the box affects her life, because it’s not just an ordinary box; it seems to have a life of its own and it impacts her life greatly.

It’s an eerie and mysterious story, but the main theme is responsibility and choice. What if someone came up to you and presented you with a ‘end the world’ switch, or something that could change the planet? Do you think you would be able to handle that responsibility? Do you think you can be trusted with that? What choices would you make if you had infinite destructed power? I, for one, would not want Gwendy’s box. I think of myself as a fairly well-organised person and I wouldn’t trust myself with something like that. I doubt I’d go the apocalyptic route, but would I bet the world on that? Not really.

But it’s something to think about, for sure.

Both Stephen King and Richard Chizmar have done a marvellous job in writing a short, fast and engaging read. I highly recommend that you pick this one up; even though I feel weird recommending a book co-written by Stephen King. Doesn’t the name Stephen King already make it a must-read? I think it does. So… you know, read it.

Review: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy, Mythology (Greek), Humor
Pages: 320
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3
Release Date: May 5, 2007
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

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I was very excited to read this installment (yes, even the reread) because Thalia came back to life at the end of Sea of Monsters and I couldn’t wait to read the implications or that little incident (again).

Thalia’s addition was… interesting. Since the prophecy calls for whichever child of the three elder gods turns sixteen first, and Thalia is older than Percy, does that mean she’s the child of the prophecy?

Also you might remember Annabeth saying in the last book that Percy reminded her of Thalia because they were quite similar. Well it was true, they are similar. They’re both kind of used to leading because they’ve always been the “important” ones compared to the other demigods, so putting them together in a situation complicated things. They didn’t get along. And I honestly loved how Uncle Rick decided to portray two powerful demigods clashing, despite being on the same side.

But… Thalia was a bit of a jerk as well. She ordered people around a lot and expected them to do whatever she asked and if you didn’t listen to her, she would likely kill you. She was too sure of herself, as Chiron said.

Other than the tiff between Thalia and Percy, Annabeth got kidnapped! And Artemis! Obviously, a quest was in order. Too bad Percy wasn’t allowed to be on it. Percy was not happy about this development. He was also worried about Annabeth and pissed off about everyone ganging up on him. What to do now?

Overall, this made for an extremely fun and fast-paced read with many heartfelt moments and even more oh-my-gods-they-are-all-gonna-die moments. We met Artemis and her hunters, met Apollo (he was awesome-ly hilarious) and got another step closer to the big series finale.

Before I close up, I just wanted to leave a little paragraph from my original review. Apparently, I felt bad for Hades.

I also really wanna meet Hades again. Just to see how he’s doing since no one really includes him in the meeting. Poor guy’s been left out. Someone should pay him a visit.

Review: Hotel Valhalla Guide and Camp Half-Blood Confidential, by Rick Riordan

I read Camp-Half Blood Confidential a couple of days ago but I felt weird reviewing just a short companion novel which you can’t even read unless you’ve read eleven other books, so I read the Hotel Valhalla Guide as well and now I’ll review them together.

The genre for both books: Fantasy, Middle-Grade/Young-Adult, Mythology (One Norse, other Greek)
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

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Title: Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds
Pages: 156

Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

Review:

This is a novella you can read without having previously read anything by Rick Riordan. It contains no spoilers for any of the series. It mentions a little detail about Thor’s hammer which you find out in The Sword of Summer, book 1 of the series, but it’s nothing major in my opinion.

It has a fun and simple narrative, illustrations, and introduces you to Norse Mythology. If you don’t know much about Norse deities (like I didn’t) than this book will help you become familiar with the gods and goddesses, the various creatures, some important stories, and the nine realms. It’ll definitely help when you’re read The Sword of Summer, which also has very little in the name of Percy Jackson spoilers. There’s a Hammer of Thor (book 2) sneak peek at the end, but that you can easily avoid.

So if you’re unsure about reading the series, start with this. You’ll become familiar with the myth and Rick Riordan’s writing. Then you can make your decision.

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Title: Camp Half-Blood Confidential
Pages: 181
Series: …it’s complicated
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Review:

Yeah… you can’t read this one if you haven’t read a lot of other book, not unless you want to get spoiled for a whole lot of things. To read this book, I recommend reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Heroes of Olympus series, and book 1 of The Trials of Apollo series. It just won’t be as fun, or make as much sense, otherwise because there are a lot of easter eggs and details related to those books.

But if you’ve read them, then you can read this just fine. You get a little intro from Percy and he checks in every now and then, but this novella contains chapters and stories from many of the other campers, mainly the Cabin heads.

You also get a chapter from Chiron, interviews with recurring characters and descriptions of all the places in the camp. You get some history on Camp Half-Blood and, in true Rick Riordan fashion, it’s told hilariously. There are illustrations and little tidbits from the orientation film Apollo made for the camp about (I think) a 100 years ago. The orientation film is the reason from the book. It was so bad that the campers decided they needed something better to inform new campers of how things worked.

It’s worth the read in my opinion. But if you’re one of those people who are going to whine about Rick Riordan trying to “squeeze more money out of the Percy Jackson franchise”, just steer clear. Let us others have our fun.

Review: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade/Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mythology (Norse), LGBT+
Pages: 471
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

5 Stars

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You know those rare moments when you’re in the mood to read a very specific kind of novel and then you find it and read it and everything is completely awesome? Yeah, that happened to me, and I can’t tell you how great it feels.

You see, I saw a map somewhere and there was a place labeled ‘Bali’ on it. That made me think of the Bali from Norse myth (Norse mythology doesn’t have a Bali; his name is actually Balder; Loki killed him) which made me want to read a very specific type of Norse mythology-related book. Then I realized that I hadn’t read Hammer of Thor yet so, on a whim, I paused my current read and picked this one up. Cue the best one and half day of the month. I never wanted the book to end.

It did end, obviously, and now I have to wait for the next, and last, book of the series, but that doesn’t take away from how much I enjoyed reading it.

The book picks up six weeks The Sword of Summer ended. Magnus has had time to adjust to being an undead warrior and has had some training. But while he was acclimating, bad stuff was still going down in the nine realms. Loki is up to his evil schemes again (when is he not?) and the giants are preparing to invade Midgard. The only way to stop them is with Thor’s hammer, which is still missing. So Magnus has to find the hammer before the giants destroy the world, while dealing with whatever Loki is up to. Easy peasy, right?

Yeah… not so much. But he’s gonna try his best. And he, of course, has lots of help. The old gang is back together!

We have Blitzen and his fashion expertise, Hearthstone with his rune magic and his uncanny ability to make everyone want to “wrap him in a blanket and shield him from all the bad in the world” (that’s a quote from a comment left on my Sword of Summer review on GR), and Samirah with her Valkyrie brilliance. There’s also a new character, Alex, but I want you to get to know this character yourself, so I won’t comment.

But yeah, everyone’s on a mission, the narrative is fun and hilarious as always, the characters are wonderful, the pace is relentless and the story is endlessly engaging. On top of that, Loki is so freaking awesome. I mean, he’s evil but he’s so clever that you can’t help but love him even though you kinda hate him too.

So, if not for all else, read the book just for Loki …And Magnus’s haircut. I don’t why, but I can’t get over the fact that Magnus got a haircut and Thor got one as well in the upcoming movie, Thor: Ragnarök); so now, in my head, Magnus looks like a younger Chris Hemsworth. I know that’s not relevent to the novel but it just keeps popping up in my head. My head’s weird.

Overall, I realize that half of the review was just me rambling but I’m hoping it was enough to convince you (if you even need convincing) to read the book. If not, read it anyway.

P.S. I forgot to mention Jack, the talking, flying, and singing sword, who is totally get back into the dating scene in this novel. You can’t miss that.

Review: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Young-Adult, Middle-Grade, Fantasy, Mythology (Norse)
Pages: 499
Audiobook Duration: 15 Hours, 21 Minutes
Narrator: Christopher Guetig
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1 (Trilogy)
Release Date: October 6, 2016

Star

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For some reason, when the sequel The Hammer of Thor came out, I didn’t read it. Now it’s been a year and a half since I read this book (well, before I just reread it) so I was rusty of my details. Obviously, a reread was in order before I read the next book, and the last one that’s coming out later this year.

The Sword of Summer is set in the Urban Fantasy world of Percy Jackson but instead of Greek mythology, the focus is Norse mythology. Magnus Chase has been homeless for the last two years, ever since his mother was killed. He’s learnt to live life on the streets. But then he gets into some godly trouble and dies. He’s taken to Valhalla, a place for fallen warriors who prepare for the big battle on Doomsday, aka Ragnarök. There he finds out that someone seems to be trying to kickstart Ragnarök early and will do anything to stop them, even die again.

Now before I get into other stuff, I’m just going to point out that Magnus is very similar to Percy. They have a very similar voice and I noticed that. I also noticed the ways in which they were different. I listed some of the differences in my original review here.

I’m not going to say much about that particular topic because it’s not something that bothered me before and it doesn’t bother me now. That hasn’t changed. Though honestly, not many of my feelings about the book have changed. I still found it to be an exciting and entertaining book, I still loved meeting the new deities and learning about a different mythology and I still want to give Hearthstone a hug.

I’m serious about that last point. In my last review, I wrote the words “I wanna give him (Hearthstone) a hug” and while reading it this time, I planned to write the exact words “I want to give Hearthstone a hug”. It’s uncanny.

But anyway, something that did change was that since I was already somewhat familiar with the mythology, I didn’t have as hard a time getting into it and it was an easier ride. I was able to have more fun with it. But I guess that can be attributed to the fact that this is a reread. And that I’m not in a reading slump.

As for the audiobook, I liked it, but didn’t love it. The narrator did a good job but the voices didn’t always fit the characters.

Overall, I love the story, the characters, the little Percy Jackson easter eggs, the narrative, and the action. This is a great novel and I’m now even more excited to pick up the sequel.