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.

Review: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Fantasy, Humour, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 432
Series: The Trials of Apollo #2
Release Date: May 2, 2017

5 Stars

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This book is 432 pages long? I read an e-book so I didn’t know the page count, but I do know that it sure didn’t feel that long. It actually ended really quickly.

But I guess that’s what happens when a book is so much fun that you’re surprised the book also had a plot. Because plots are supposed to be the boring, or interesting, parts of a novel with some fun squeezed between them. The whole thing can’t be fun! That’s just not possible. But uncle Rick proves one again that he is awesomeness personified. Because this book… is wonderful.

For one, we have Apollo’s narrative, which is filled with his all his numerous whinings that usually start with “when I was a god” or “if I was a god” or “when I become a god again”. Seriously, that dude is so not adjusting and it’s hilarious to read. Apollo is narcissistic, self-absorbed and would use you as a shield against monsters, but he’s still so likable. And he’s also learning, much to his disgust, to be selfless. I love the guy and I love his narrative.

Then there’s the fact that this series is almost like an epilogue for the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series, giving us moments of closure with all the old characters one by one, while also introducing new characters, and mythical figures and creatures.

There is honestly so much going on and I don’t know how Rick Riordan is balancing all of it. The writing is very clever too, so there’s something in there for people of all ages. I feel like Rick Riordan is highly underappreciated because everyone just considers him the “fun” writer, as if it’s not masterful the way he balances multiple characters, storylines, humour, emotion, characters development, adventure, action and backstory so brilliantly. People seem to equate good writing to serious writing with as little entertainment as possible. And that makes me very sad.

Thankfully, whenever I’m sad, I can just reread a book by uncle Rick and comfort myself with the knowledge that I appreciate him very much.

Anyway, I got off topic there. Lets get back to the book. I love it. Maybe even a little more than The Hidden Oracle because we got even more into the character of Apollo and there was an emotional arc with Meg (thanks to Nero, the turd) that made me finally like the character, where I was a bit iffy about her before.

Overall, this book was everything I wanted from the sequel and I can’t wait for the next part to come out. I’m going to leave you with the first haiku from the novel, because I love it:

Lester (Apollo)
Still human; thanks for asking
Gods, I hate my life

P. S. Just now noticed that I didn’t mention the plot. Though you probably know, still, it’s follows Apollo, Leo and Calypso as they head off on Festus to search for Meg, the second Roman emperor, and another old oracle that the Triumvirate has control of.

Review: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

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Genre: Childrens/Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 192
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #2 (series of 12)
Release Date: August 30, 1999

3 Stars

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The Reptile Room, like the first book, The Bad Beginning, starts off with a letter in which the narrator warns the reader that this is a book which is not-at-all cheerful, and in which bad things happens to the three main characters, the Baudelaire children.

The format of the novel is very similar to that of the first book. The kids find themselves in some unfortunate situation, the stupid adults don’t pay any heed to their concerns, so the kids try to use their cleverness to work things out, with mixed results. The narrative is, same as before, a blend of humour and the way one would talk to a kid while telling him a bedtime story.

Where the book differs from The Bad Beginning is it’s darker theme. I know the narrator warned us, but that was in a I’m-using-reverse-psychology-to-make-you-want-to-read-te-book-even-more way.

Where the first book usually deals with insinuations of evil deeds, this one’s got straight-up murder. But, you know, children can be quite resilient; so I went and asked my mom if she would give a seven or eight-year-old a book in which someone is murdered. Her answer was along the lines of “No way in hell”. And so we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum.

One one hand, the darker theme would be great for middle-graders. But on the other hand, they would probably find the narrative to be condescending. And this is a childrens book. So while I personally liked the book fine, I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. Probably teenagers and adults who also enjoy reading younger narratives.

If you’ve read this book, I would really like to know what you think.

Review: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

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Genre: Children/Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 176
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #1 (Series of 12)
Release Date: September 30, 1999

4 Stars

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The Bad Beginning starts with a letter that acts as both the synopsis and introduction. The letter warns the reader that this book is not a happy one. Here’s the letter:

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

The moment I read the letter, I knew that I was going to love the book, if not for the story, than for the style in which it’s told.

The narrative used by the author, which reminds me of Narnia, is very good. It’s like someone telling a story to a kid. Older than Narnia but younger than Percy Jackson. It’s full of explanations for various saying and words, things to learn, and has simple but interesting characters that kids would want to be like.

It’s a short and simple tale in which the clever protagonists try to use their wit to foil the evil the evil villain’s evil plan. It’s a classic formula, and I don’t know what else to say. I really liked the book and I’m going to be reading the rest of the series as well as giving the Netflix show a try. I think you should check it out as well.

Review: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Fantasy, Middle-Grade, Mythology (Greek)
Pages: 279
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2
Release Date: April 1, 2006

Disclaimer: This review will container spoilers for the first book of the series, The Lightning Thief.

4 Stars

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Before I start, I wanted to say, like I did before the review of book 1, that I’m sticking to my original rating because this is a reread and I might, therefore, be a tad biased.

That out of the way… I loved this book.

This is another one from Percy’s perspective but here, he’s not a newbie anymore. He knows where he stands and he’s familiar with Camp Half Blood and it’s workings. He can’t wait to get back. Until… everything that he knows is challenged.

Luke (the traitor) is back to his evil shenanigans, guided by the one and only, Kronos. Thanks to the two of them, the the camp is in jeopardy. And if that’s not bad enough, Chiron is being accused of working with Kronos and has been fired, the camp is being run by some crazy dude from the Underworld, Grover may be in trouble, and Percy suddenly has a half-brother, from the godly side.

So much is going on and Percy and Annabeth are looking for a solution. When they find one, it launches them on a quest to the Sea of Monsters. So yeah, two demigods in a sea full of monsters, what could possibly go wrong?

Answer: Everything. But in a way that is so much fun to read. Percy’s narrative is, as usual, hilarious, the book is full of action and never stops for a second, we get to meet even more mythological figures and go on a hell of a ride.

This book is also kind of the real beginning for Percabeth (that’s Percy and Annabeth’s ship name, if you didn’t know) and they’re both so completely awkward about it; it’s adorable. Then there’s the fact that this is Uncle Rick’s first go at an evil cliffhanger. For those of us who are familiar with the Heroes of Olympus series, we know Uncle Rick is an evil (and also a genius). But the ones reading this series for the first time, they’ll know it by the end of the book too.

Overall, this book is interesting, fast-paced, and a lot of fun with great characters and a great storyline.

One thing I want to add, quite a few people, while read this installment, get stuck about halfway through. If that happens to you as well, just push through. I did (the first time ’round, that is), and it was so worth it.