The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

This is the second book in the series, following The Lost Hero. It takes place simultaneously with the first one, but features different characters at a demi-god camp all the way across the country from Camp Half-Blood.

While the first book introduced some new characters to the series (Jason, Piper, and Leo), this book brings back our original hero, Percy Jackson, with a few new friends in tow (Hazel and Frank) as well as the return of old friends (Tyson!).

When Percy, like Jason in the previous novel, awakens across the country having lost his memory, is being chased by monsters. With the guidance of Lupa, the Roman wolf-goddess (rather than a Greek goddess), Percy finds his way to the California equivalent of camp Half-Blood, Camp Jupiter. Upon arrival to the new camp, Percy is attacked by even more monsters, Gorgons this time, and a lone woman is in danger. Using his power over water to create a whirlpool gains him the woman’s favor, but catches one of the guards (Frank) within. The brave hero that Percy is, saving the woman turns out to be a good thing, considering the damsel in distress is the Roman goddess Juno (the Greek goddess Hera).

With Juno’s approval, the son of Neptune, is welcome into the Roman camp, even though he is looked upon in a negative light for being a Greek demi-god. Despite the gods being the same gods in Greece and Rome even though they have different names, they are at war. Percy, having no memories, is told by Juno that he does have a chance at regaining his memories, but only if he can learn to be a hero again and survive the new challenges that will present themselves to him at Camp Jupiter.

Frank and Hazel, the guards who witnessed Percy fight the Gorgons, become fast friends of Percy. Routines and leadership are different than his own home camp, but with no memories, Percy would have nothing to complain of anyway.  As the camp misfits, the three become more than just good friends. When Frank’s father, Mars, tells the children of a prophecy, the three must set out as heroes to Alaska, free the god Thanatos within a certain amount of time, or die. Of course, the trio finds that freeing the god is a more viable option.

Along the way, the trio stops in Portlans, Oregon, where they can find the location on the giant in Alaska from the blind seer, Phineas. When he tells them to chase a harpy with red feathers and bring her back, they meet Ella, a pretty intelligent harpy who can memorize anything she reads, and ends up being rather a unique asset to the group later one. 

Rescuing Thanatos involves fighting the giant, Alcyoneus, in Alaska. The goddess, Gaea, is awakening from quite a long slumber, and she has some major plans to destroy the gods, along with the known world. With the defeat of one of Gaea’s seven giants, Hazel and Frank become true heroes, finding their own unique abilities.

When Camp Jupiter is under attack, the trio rushes back to California to save the camp. Hazel expresses her feelings for Frank, while Percy remembers Annabeth, and he knows they are coming, for seven heroes will save the world from Gaea. When a great flying ship called the Argo II arrives with Annabeth, among some of our heroes from the previous book, Percy and his demi-god heroes set out to save the gods, and the world, from destruction.

One of the things that I really enjoy about Riordan’s books is the diversity of the characters. In this particular novel, we are introduced to Hazel, who is of African descent, and Frank, who is of Chinese descent (rather than having a book with a bunch of Caucasians). He also goes into some interesting cultural aspects with their own heritage and how that heritage ties into their relation to the Roman gods.

All-in-all I enjoyed this book more than the first one, but I think that is because Percy, our hero from the previous series, has finally returned. One of the fun things about reading this is that Percy does not remember who he is, but we, the reader, do remember his adventures from when he was first taken to Camp Half-Blood, which makes it all the more exciting to see when and how he will remember, all while making new memories and facing new challenges. I think this book is worth the read (especially for a middle-grade audience) and has a lot of potential for the books that follow.

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Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 10

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (Graphic Novel) by Rick Riordan, Attila Futaki, and Tamas Gaspar

Genre: Graphic Novel/Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

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When Thalia’s tree protecting the camp is poisoned, Percy finds that he must help the tree to save the camp. When Clarisse goes to the prophet to have gain the quest to save the camp, Percy and Clarisse find that they encounter each other often as they both aim to get the Golden Fleece. Of course, Luke is still a threat, and his goal of reviving Chronos is becoming even more of a reality.

Even better than the first one, this graphic novel adaptation picks up the essence of its original novel counterpart very well. The art, especially the landscapes, is amazing. I was not sure the graphic novels would be too good. The first one was okay, but this one has me ready and eager for the next graphic novel!

 

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Ngyen

Genre: Graphic Novel/Historical Fiction

Rating: 3/5

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I was excited to get a graphic novel version of Outlander, and from Jamie’s perspective, nonetheless. While it is meant to be from Jamie’s perspective, we are still given some of Claire’s thoughts. It was interesting to see Jamie’s thoughts and ideas that were unspoken/unheard/unseen in the original novel. This otherwise is the same story of Outlander with some minor twists (such as Geillis Duncan, who has a man after Claire to find if she moved through time too, and perhaps to kill Jamie because of his heritage and threat to Geillis’s son’s legacy to Castle Leoch).

The art is soft but detailed, adding a nice visual reference of the world and characters. The plot did have to be altered somewhat to be a self-contained piece, but this is a wonderful addition to the series and a nice perspective for any Outlander fan.

 

My Neighbor Totoro (the novel) by Hayao Miyazaki and Tsugiko Kubo

Genre: Adolescent Fiction/Ghibli

Rating: 4/5

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This is the novel adaptation of the original Ghibli film by Miyazaki. It follows the story of 4-year-old Mei and 11-year-old Satsuki who move to the countryside to be closer to their hospitalized mother. When they discover a sacred tree in the forest, the girls find that the forest spirits, among them Totoro, strive to help the girls become more knowing of the world by gifting them with acorns to plant their own forest. When Mei goes missing, Satsuki enlists in Totoro’s help!

When transcribing something from screen to page, the effect is similar to that of page to screen. Some things are taken out that flow well visually in the movie, but would sump the flow of the novel, and the organization is slightly different to help the chapters move along. Of course, it is very different reading a description of something over seeing it with carefully chosen background music, but the description adds a whole new element to experiencing My Neighbor Totoro. Well worth the read for any Ghibli or Totoro fan!

 

The Shadowhunter’s Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis

Genre: Companion/Guidebook/Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 4/5

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This is an informational companion to Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter novels. It is presented in a similar way to a Dungeons and Dragons book and has chapters and sections for everything in the Shadow World. There are beautiful illustrations by a number of artists, including Cassandra Jean, who does a lot of the special and exclusive art for many of Clare’s works (including the graphic novel adaption of City of Bones). There are also little notations written by Clary, Jace, and occasionally Simon, throughout the text. Some of it is rather comical, such as the section on “Facemelter” demons, the description being “self explanatory.” The two appendixes give interesting information about the vreation of the Shadowhunters as well as some information about The Circle.

Overall, this book was interesting in the extra detailed information on things like Idris, Downworlders, and the Mortal Instruments, as well as various types of demons. While it is a bit of a slow read if you are reading it as an actual book, it is a nice reference to look to when questioning politics and things from the main series, and the images are nice. I wish there were more images (like one for each demon or Downworlder race).

 

Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Miller and Steve McNiven

Genre: Superhero/Graphic Novel

Rating: 4/5

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This graphic novel was slow at first, but it became interesting very quickly and definitely picked up the pace. When the Hulk’s group seeks money from Logan to protect his family, he heads out to get the money with a limited amount of time. When Hawkeye arrives asking for accompaniment on his journey to deliver a special package, Logan offers to be a driver only, and not to get involved with fighting. Along the way, the duo ends up saving Hawkeye’s daughter and fighting off some mole creatures that have dug out the underparts of many major cities. Hawkeye’s shipment turn out to be something that could revolutionize the power of mutants (in an evil way), and Wolverine’s secret to why he chooses not to fight becomes revealed. When he finally gets the money, he is too late, and goes out to seek revenge against the Hulks.

Of course I picked this up after seeing Logan. I was not sure what to expect, and the beginning was slow, but once Wolverine’s past is revealed, along with the fate of the X-men, as well as the images of his bloody vengeance, it is a vastly visually appealing piece. The art is above average for a Marvel superhero work, and I was actually very impressed by this graphic novel overall.

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 7

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Genre: Adolescent Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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This is the story of three children who are orphaned after their parents die in a fire. When they are sent to their closest (literally, closest in terms of distance) relative, they find that Count Olaf is a terrible man who just wants to steal the children’s fortune by whatever means necessary.

While this book features three children who suffer some, to say the least, terribly unfortunate events, it is well-written for its target audience. It is a vocabulary rich book that defines new words and phrases for young readers to increase their own vocabulary, although reading that as an older reader gets a bit tiring.

 

Entertaining an Elephant by William McBride

Genre: Education Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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At first, this was a novel assigned to one of the classes everyone must take to obtain a single subject teaching credential in California. On the first day of classes, it was no longer on the syllabus (but it was listed as required through the bookstore). I got a copy on Amazon, but my professor said since it is out of print and hard to find, we won’t be reading it for the course.

That said, I read it anyway. This book is about an English teacher who has been teaching the same lesson plans on grammar every day for the past fifteen years. When  a janitor comes in and writes quotes on Mr. Reaf’s board everyday after he leaves, Mr. Reaf finds that the students are excited to discuss these quotes. Mr. Reaf thinks the debate club is leaving the quotes, but the janitor has secretly been leaving them in hopes that the anger in Mr. Reaf’s room would dissipate. While Mr. Reaf has a hard time accepting the janitor’s words on how to change his teaching strategies, he takes his own life and meaning for teaching in to consideration.

All in all, the book was a decent read, but not life changing to me as an educator. It was a bit tiresome that Mr. Reaf is one of those teachers who sticks to the same thing year after year after year, because many teachers these days do not do that. Teaching as a profession is changing, and this book is now 20 years old, dating it to a time when school was a very different place.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (Graphic Novel) by Rick Riordan

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Graphic Novel

Rating: 3.5/5

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I had thought about reading this adaptation for quite some time and finally decided to pick it up and give it a go. The art is what prevented me from reading it previously, but I found that the art is actually rather interesting, different that a lot of the graphic novel art out there these days. That said, this adaptation was all right. It spent nearly half the book with Percy making his way to Camp Half-Blood and getting his quest. The quest itself left out a number of iconic aspects that are in the novel itself, and the fight at the end was lackluster and somewhat disappointing. Where the adaptation takes so much time with the beginning aspects of the novel and the universe, it could have elaborated on the quests and involved more action. Overall it was a decent read and worth the read for any Percy Jackson fan, but perhaps not worth a re-read.

X-men Misfits Volume 1 by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman

Genre: Action/Modern Science Fiction/Graphic Novel

Rating: 3/5

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While deviating from the original X-men stories to make it more Japanese style and appealing to a female audience, this manga was still interesting, to say the least. When Magneto takes Kitty Pryde from her home to join Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, she finds that she is the only girl in attendance, besides some of the teachers. Being the only girl has made her quite the popular spectacle, especially with the Hellfire Club. She and Pyro become an item, but only when it is too late does she realize the wrongs that the Hellfire Club has done.

The art is fairly appealing and gives a more shojo (female-based) perspective. It has a few cliches, such as being the only girl in the school and being favored by all the guys. There also is not much appeal in terms of plot. While it is an interesting perspective, not a whole lot happens in the volume. It has potential, but just not quite enough. Worth a one-time read, but definitely not worth owning or re-reading.

Uglies: Shay’s Story and Uglies: Cutters by Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian/Graphic Novel

Rating: 3.5/5

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Fans of the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld will absolutely love these graphic novels. Not only is it a graphic novel adaptation, but it tells the story from Tally’s friend, Shay’s perspective. We see how Shay sees Tally as a friend and a betrayer in all things. Inviting Tally to join her at the Smoke may not have been Shay’s best idea ever, for the Specials follow and make Shay a Pretty. When Tally arrives as a pretty, she takes Shay’s boy, again, and seems to be the ruin and seed of Shay’s anger.

These are great graphic novels for fans of the series who are already familiar with the dystopian world of the series (a world in which regular people get their surgery at age 16 to become Pretties, a surgery that is meant to keep people simple and happy to prevent crime and chaos in society). The art is great and it was fun to see a visual representation of the dystopian world.

The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus Book 1)-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopian

Rating: 3.5/5

This is the first of The Heroes of Olympus series. It features Jason, Piper, and Leo, three new additions to Camp-Half Blood. Don’t worry, Percy appears in the next book! 

When Jason awakens on the school bus next to his girlfriend Piper and best friend Leo, he has lost his memories. On their school trip to the Grand Canyon, the trio is attacked by a Venti (a storm spirit) and Jason finds his gold coin turns into a sword. Using his newfound weapon to fight off the Venti, their coach, Hedge, reveals that he is a satyr and is taken away by the storm spirits. Annabeth Chase, who we may remember from Percy Jackson and the Olympians or Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, arrives in a chariot seeking Percy, after being informed by Hera to find the one who lost the shoe. While Percy is not around, Jason did happen to lose his shoe in the midst of the fight.

When they arrive at Camp Half-Blood, Leo and Piper are almost immediately claimed by their God parents (Hephaestus and Aphrodite), and Jason soon learns he is the son of Jupiter (Roman name for Zeus, and the use of Greek versus Roman names comes into play later). Although Jason is the son of Jupiter, Hera claims he is her champion. Thalia is revealed to Jason as a sister (through Zeus) who has joined the Hunters of Artemis (it was fun hearing about Thalia again). Like Percy, Jason, Piper, and Leo are given a quest: rescue Hera. Their main means of transportation is a great mechanical dragon that the Hephaestus kids built many years prior.

It is soon discovered that their enemies are working for Gaea, who is planning on overthrowing the gods. With some minor setbacks from Aeolus (wind God) and some giants, the trio meets Thalia at a place called the Wolf House, the last place Thalia had seen Jason before he lost his memories, and also the place where Hera is supposed to be. Unfortunately, Hera’s freedom costs the resurrection of the giant Porphyrion, who escapes Hera and the trio by going deep into the earth. This will probably be important in the books to come!

When the heroes return to Camp Half-Blood, Jason’s memories begin to return. He is actually from Camp Jupiter, a Roman camp on the other side of the country, and Hera has switched him with someone important from Camp Half-Blood: Percy Jackson! Hera’s aim is for the camps to become allies, rather than enemies, so that the heroes can save the Gods from Gaea.

While this book sounds pretty darn exciting, I found that it was actually rather slow-paced compared to Riordan’s other series’. Son of Neptune, the second book in the series, is already far more interesting than this book, but that is because the Percy we have grown attached to as readers from the original series is the prominent character, with some new additions of course. The Lost Hero was a good foundational piece and huge set-up for the rest of the series, so even though it was a bit slow-going, it is worth the read the get to know the new characters and the situation that has landed Percy elsewhere.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Mythology

Rating: 5/5

As some of my readers may know, I do not give a full on 5/5 score very often, and never to a continuing book in a series (always only the first one, with the exception of some Star Wars novels). That means this book must be good.

This novel was just as good as Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer, if not even better for many of the same reasons that made the first novel great. One of the big concepts that makes this novel ideal for a young adult audience is the attention to diversity. In the first novel we meet Samirah, a Muslim girl, Hearthstone, a deaf elf, and in the second novel we are introduced to Samirah’s “brother” Alex, a gender-fluid einherjar who is a man when he wants to be or a woman when she wants to be. Not only do we have religious and disability diversity, but now Riordan has highlighted gender diversity as well, all important ideas and topics in our progressing world, especially now.

Not only does this book offer different values of diversity, but, like its previous volume, it’s full of comedy. Riordan continues to grow as a writer as he successfully places humor, even in times or serious peril in the novel. This series far surpasses any of his previous works.

Like its previous volume, this novel has a great deal of plot points wrapping up one giant adventure. This time, Magnus must find Thor’s hammer. It turns out that a bunch of giants aiming to create a marriage alliance between themselves an Loki have stolen the Hammer and managed to send it a few miles below the Earth’s surface.

Not only does Magnus have to prevent Samirah from marrying Thrym, but he has to get the Hammer back and prevent Loki’s release! Magnus finds himself in an old tomb where he obtains the Skofnung sword, a sword that can break Loki’s chains. He then finds himself in Alfheim, the elf world where Hearthstone grew up. We learn a bit about Hearth’s family and his past, but Magnus is there to get the Skofnung stone, the whet stone that sharpens its named blade, making the magic blade continuously reusable.

After finally obtaining these things as the “bride price,” Magnus and company find themselves in Jotunheim, the world of giants. Here, Magnus seeks information on how they can possibly get the Hammer back without having to deal with the marriage, but only after an epic bowling showdown.

Finally on the way to the wedding, Alex takes Samirah’s place, considering she is both a shifter and immune to Loki’s power. The late arrival of the Gods to the wedding costs the price of Loki’s freedom, but at least they killed at the threatening giants…

With Loki free, we have promise in the next book for the quest to recapture Loki as well as potentially meeting Percy Jackson!

I would strongly recommend this book for ages 11-18, or any fan of good, comic, young adult works.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer-Should You Read It?

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Rating: 5/5

Rick Riordan is well known for his Percy Jackson series as well as his Heroes of Olympus and Kane Chronicles. His writing style is very fun and when his book on the Gods of Asgard came out, I had to read it right away because I absolutely love Norse mythology.

Magnus Chase and the God of Asgard: The Sword of Summer (Book One) was a very fast-paced and enjoyable read. This novel is a perfect length and features Magnus Chase, the son of Frey. He is destined to wield the Sword of Summer and prevent Ragnarock from happening. Also, he is a fourteen-year-old einherjar, a warrior of Valhalla chosen to fight for Odin. This book has lots of great humor such as the chapter titles. Each chapter title gives away something therein through a comical form. Some samples of the chapter titles include:

  • “You Look Great Without a Nose, Really”
  • “Hey, I Know You’re Dead, But Call Me Maybe”
  • “We are Falafel-Jacked by an Eagle”
  • “Oh…So That’s Who Fenris Smelled in Chapter Sixty-Three”

Aside from the humorous chapter titles and the even funnier dialogue and internal monologue within, one of the other things I like about the book is that there is racial and disability diversity, which is important for the targeted age group of this novel. One of the friends is named Samirah al-Abbas, a Valkyrie with an Arabic heritage and a long family connection to the Norse Gods. Turns out her hijab is a fantastic cloaking devise for this daughter of Loki. Magnus’s other friend, Hearthstone, is a deaf elf who uses ASL (American Sign Language) and indulges in rune magic. Can’t get more diverse than that, and it’s fantastic to built awareness and obliterate bias..

Another very important aspect of Riordan’s newest novel, and his others as well, is that they are VERY well researched. I know quite a bit of traditional Norse mythology, and I was surprised by the amount he had accurately portrayed as well as the things I newly learned (I did my own research while reading, just to see what Riordan factually set into place.) Most of the places and Gods are accurate, as well as the various events predicted within the mythology.

This book is a fun adventure for boys and girls alike, aimed at middle-entering-high school age. I would recommend this for anyone who has a love of humor and mythology. This book is definitely a YES, you should read it. I could go on and on about things in this book: the humor, the characters, the mythology. But if I did that, everything would be spoiled. Magnus is always doing this crazy thing or that crazy thing, and it’s interesting to follow him out of his bizarre predicaments.

The second novel, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor, is just as spectacular as the first!