Monday, May 30, 2016

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

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Title: Percy Jackson's Greek Gods
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Myths/Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: High Violence, Bad Behavior, and lots of High Gross Out Moments
Premise: "Percy Jackson, a modern-day demigod, tells the origin stories of the gods of Olympus and provides an insider's point of view - with plenty of attitude - in this illustrated collection"-- Provided by publisher. "A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week. So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that." Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume--a must for home, library, and classroom shelves--as stunning as it is entertaining"-- Provided by publisher. 
Opinions: If you want to learn about the Greek myths, but some of the more traditional tellings are way too daunting, then this is book is your solution. I love studying mythologies and was fascinated with Riordan's ability to bring them to life in new and intriguing manner (and besides, I am a huge Percy Jackson fan--the books, not the movie). In this particular book you learn all about the history of the titans, Greek gods, and other mythological beings with the modern day humor only teenagers can master. The stories are fascinating and frequently gory (as many mythos are), and yet Riordan faces them head on in a manner that makes them still pg-13 (which is an impressive feat) and all told from Percy Jackson's viewpoint.

Note: Keep in mind, the Greek Gods are not known for being moral compasses. They often had affairs, committed murder and other heinous acts, that might not be appropriate for your particular teen. So I recommend that parents either read this book first, or read it with their kids so that you can have any necessary discussions. I mean, I'm an adult (half the time) and even I cringed at some of the stories, even after they were cleaned up. So be prepared.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Cinder.

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Title: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian/Steam Punk/Fairytale Retelling/Sci-Fi
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence
Premise: "Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Half way around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner" (King County Library System).
Opinions: In Scarlet the point of views switch between Scarlet (a new vision of Red Riding Hood) and Cinder (Cinderella) from book one. The concepts and twists in this book are amazing and a breath of fresh air. I love the interplay between characters. I admire the creativity in Meyer's world building. I actually LOVE the men more in this book than the women--wolf and Captain Thorne leaped of the page (or well audio system) for me. While Scarlet's character was fascinating, her mood swings were a bit much for me at times, and yet they were completely and utterly understandable. I actually listened to this book on cd while in the car, and the voice actor did a beautiful job making each character stand out well in the story.  The struggles both Cinder and Scarlet faced were three-dimensional and the way Meyer's interwove their stories beautiful. The violence was a bit gory at times for my taste, but did fit with the overall stories. I'm very intrigued to see where the next book in the series, Cress, goes.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

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Title: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Mythic battles in modern settings maybe slightly much for younger readers
Premise: "Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he is tracked down by a man he's never met -- a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This book is EPIC!!!!  I have always loved Norse mythology. Now Rick Riordan brings it to life in modern times with absolute brilliance and humor. Even better is that he does awesome tie-ins to the Percy Jackson series by mocking the stories he wrote. Then, to top it off, he makes references to Doctor Who. Seriously, Rick Riordan's writing just keeps getting better and better. The first line of every chapter was spot on brilliant, and the last line of each chapter jaw-dropping. The characters are well developed, diverse, and intriguing. Trying to keep all the Gods and their history straight was a bit overwhelming at times. Plus, like most mythologies, some aspects are violent and gross, but Riordan does a fabulous job keeping it all teenager approved.  I cannot wait to read the next book in this series.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

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Title: Dealing With Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  None
Premise: "Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart - and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon - and finds the family and excitement she's been looking for" (GoodReads.com).
Opinions: This book was awesome. If you ever feel like the black sheep of the family and like everyone expects something of your life that you don't want, then you will find a soul sister in Cimorene. At first I thought she was just being strong-willed, like her parents assumed. I was wrong. She has an inner strength that I would love to have. I loved that she was willing to learn, willing to listen. She is full of spunk and personality, but is willing to seek advice when she doesn't understand something. I loved that she had a healthy respect for dragons and treated them with honor, as it was the smart thing to do, especially when ticking one off might cause death by flaming. The variety in personality/characteristics of the dragons was impressive and helped make the story come alive. Kazul was a very logical and realistic dragon and was a great match for Princess Cimorene. They're friendship strengthened each other. The humor or the story was fantastic. I admired the creativity of the world, the variety of mystical creatures, and environments. I highly recommend this book for all readers, young/old, male/female. I don't care who you are, this is a fun read and I'm excited to move into book two, Searching for Dragons.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Divergent

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Title: Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: High Violence, Swearing, Intense Moments
Premise: "As war surges in the dystopian society around her, sixteen-year-old Divergent Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I had mixed feelings about this story. Once I read the first book, I of course wanted to know what happened next. I was pleased to see that the plot was fascinating. At first I wasn't fond of where Tris' character arch was going, but I was glad to see her grow and how she chose to honor her parents.  I would recommend that parents read this book first to ensure that their particular children can handle the content. I was pleased to see a new level of connection between Tris & Four and that their relationship didn't automatically come easy. I liked Christine's return and the things she overcomes throughout Insurgent.

I did have serious difficulties with some of the more violent scenes, especially when Tris is given a Terror serum. It was more than I can handle, though I am sensitive and have an active imagination. Also, keep in mind I was listening to the story on CD in my car with young children in the back seat. I immediately turned it off, until I could finish it without them around. I was fascinated enough by the ending that I'm debating weather or not go ahead and find out the ending in Allegiant, or to call it at watching the movie. The jury is still out.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

 To read my reviews of the other books in the The Reckoners series, click here: Steelheart and Firefight.


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Title: Calamity (The Reckoners #3)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Post Apocalyptic Fantasy?
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  Moderate Violence, Moderate Fake Swearing
Premise: "David prepares for a confrontation against the High Epic to help his friend, Prof, achieve redemption and embrace his destiny. When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David's fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy. Once the Reckoners’ leader, Prof has struggled to control his Epic powers, but has now embraced his Epic destiny. Everyone knows there’s no turning back... but everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back... or die trying" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This book, the whole series: FREAKIN' FANTSTIC. Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, but he takes the cake with the completion of his The Reckoners series. To the end I loved David's ability to use and abuse bad metaphors. They, and his poor ability to drive anything, made him stand out as a very real person to me, and one of my all time favorite characters. I loved the growth of each character. The decisions they faced where incredibly difficult and yet The Reckoners put their faith in David and his in-depth research into the Epics, their abilities, their faults, and their downfalls. I was impressed by Megan to no end and her strength and courage as she worked to overcome her past. Plus, Sanderson's ability to weave a imaginative, colorful, and wholly believable post-Apocalyptic Earth was astounding; I could see it with every word on the page.  And better yet, the ending was highly satisfying in every way. If you want to read a series that covers faith, forgiveness, trust, growth, humor and evil Superheroes than you MUST read Calamity.

Friday, April 15, 2016

One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology

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Title: One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology
Author: Various (edited by Lisa Mangum)
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings:  Mild Violence
Premise: "Unicorns, with their single ivory horn, are elusive and magical creatures of myth. Yet even more elusive are the purple unicorns. First sighted at the Superstars Writing Seminar, their legend has grown year after year until it could only be contained in this anthology. Nineteen storytellers, including Peter S. Beagle, Todd McCaffrey, and Jody Lynn Nye, as well as new and rising authors, invite us into worlds both near and far, across a desert oasis, a pet shop, a Comic-Con exhibition floor, and more, and show us the many variations of purple unicorns, from the imaginary to the actual—and one very memorable half-unicorn, half-potato. One Horn to Rule Them All is an unforgettable collection of imagination and creativity. So, saddle up, and take a ride beyond the rainbow" (GoodReads).
Opinions: Wow. If you want to see dragons in a whole new light from a variety of talented writers, then this book is perfect. This book has everything from a discussion at a bus station between two people wondering what the graffiti purple unicorn means, to a human detective solving mystical crimes with the feel of The Godfather, and even a rampaging purple unicorn turned into a potato. The imagination and creativity in this book is remarkable and showcases brilliant new authors on a shining stage. Then the book throws in stories by Todd McCaffrey (Dragons of Pern series), Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and Jody Lynn Nye (Mythology 101, Imperium, etc), editing by Lisa Mangum (the Hourglass Door series), and artwork by James A. Owen (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica). It's perfect to read while waiting for your bus or at the doctors' office, or whenever you can sneak a peak.  Fair warning, The Last Dregs of Winter left me sobbing. . . and I was in the waiting room of a doctor's office. ;-)  So YES, I most definitely recommend this anthology. And, to top it off, the proceeds from its sales go to fund scholarships for other writers to learn the business side of writing.