Fantasy · Middle Grade · SeriousSeriesLove · Uncategorized

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Trilogy: A Series Review

I have been enjoying Rick Riordan’s books since I first read The Lightning Thief almost 15 years ago. Through the years I have followed the adventures of Percy, Annabeth, and Grover and then became equally swept up by the Heroes of Olympus Series. I grew to adore Jason, Piper, and Leo! For months, I highly anticipated the first Kane Chronicles book….but that series just didn’t grab my attention. Truthfully, I wondered if perhaps I had just outgrown my love for mythology based adventures. But then I read Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. Of all of Riordan’s books, this series is easily my favorite. Read these blurbs from each book and it will be easy to see why the action-packed Norse mythology appealed to me.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Sword of Summer

Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents. . . .

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Hammer of Thor

“Magnus Chase, you nearly started Ragnarok. What are you going to do next?”

It’s been six weeks since Magnus and his friends returned from defeating Fenris Wolf and the fire giants. Magnus has adjusted to life at the Hotel Valhalla—as much as a once-homeless and previously alive kid can. As a son of Frey, the god of summer, fertility, and health, Magnus doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of Odin’s chosen warriors, but he has a few good peeps among his hallmates on floor nineteen, and he’s been dutifully training for Ragnarok along with everyone else. His days have settled into a new kind of normal.

But Magnus should have known there’s no such thing as normal in the Nine Worlds. His friends Hearthstone and Blitzen have disappeared. A new hallmate is creating chaos. According to a very nervous goat, a certain object belonging to Thor is still missing, and the thunder god’s enemies will stop at nothing to gain control of it.

Time to summon Jack, the Sword of Summer, and take action. Too bad the only action Jack seems to be interested in is dates with other magical weapons. . . .

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Ship of the Dead

Magnus Chase, son of Frey, the god of summer and health, isn’t naturally inclined toward being a brave warrior. Still, with the help of his motley group of friends, he has achieved deeds he never would have thought possible. Now he faces his most dangerous trial yet.

Loki is free from his chains. He’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, complete with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Asgardian gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus and his friends to stop him, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim, and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfarbefore it’s ready to sail. Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon. But Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. Does he have what it takes to outwit the wily trickster god?

Beyond the fantastic storytelling and action Riordan has put together an all-star cast of diverse characters that everyone dreams of having as friends.

Magnus Chase himself is not the son of a powerful god. Rather he is the son of Frey, god of summer and health. He is the epitome of that healing character we all want on our journeys but no one actually wants to play. By making him the main character and the protagonist in this series, Riordan has put forward a powerful statement about the different kinds of strength we all need to succeed.

Then there is Samirah al Abbas. Not only is Sam a Valkyrie while still in high school, she is also the daughter of Loki and a devout Muslim. Her unwaivering allegiance to her family and her faith reminds me of growing up in an equally devout Irish Catholic family.

Blitzen the Dwarf is a talented tailor who cares almost as much about his appearance as he does his best friend, Hearthstone the Elf. Hearthstone is Deaf and together these two adopt Magnus when he is first homeless in Boston. It is here that I believe the diversity in this series really shined because Hearthstone’s Deafness is not talked about as a disability but just one aspect of him. Everyone uses American Sign Language around Hearthstone and the culture and history of Deaf people has clearly been researched and explored by the author.

In book two we meet Alex Fierro who is also a child of Loki and is gender fluid. Like Hearthstone this aspect of Alex’s person is talked about, accepted for what it is, and just becomes woven into the story.

Halfborn Gunderson, Thomas Jefferson, Jr, and Mallory Keen all live on Magnus’s floor in in Hotel Valhalla. Along with Frey, Loki, Thor and the Sword of Summer (a.k.a. Jack) the books have an enviable cast of characters. I only wished I had peeked at these wonderful drawings of the characters before I had read the books – they are better than I imagined them!

This is a middle grade book just like Riordan’s other series. But this is the first of his that feels like it was cast from an actual sampling of people living in the world. I would love for parents and teachers to read this book with their students or children and have an open discussion about the wonderful differences that exist between people and how, in the end, we are much more the same because of our shared experiences. I highly recommend this series!


Tell me, please!

Have you read this series? If not, which book do you love for its diverse characters?


all ages · Audible · Fantasy · SeriousSeriesLove

Magical Non-Fiction Friday: Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling

I am sitting for my O.W.Ls this month through the OWL Readathon hosted by G at Book Roast and I am more excited than I can possibly explain. The universe must sense my excitement because the library delivered an audiobook version of Fantastic Beasts early last evening. This is just one more reason I never make it through a predetermined list of books – my wonderful library! I sat down with my illustrated copy of the book and listened to the audiobook simultaneously and had an amazing two hours of total immersion in the world of Fantastic Beasts.

fantasticbeastsThe audiobook is narrated by Eddie Redmayne in the very same clipped manner he gives to the sweet Newt Scamander he plays on film. However, unlike the shy film version of Newt, the audiobook personality is the knowledgable and excited Newt that we see, briefly, when he is talking about his fantastic beasts. Matched with the gorgeously illustrated Fantastic Beasts I sat like a child and listened to the whole book in one sitting.

If you have previously read this book, you know that it is filled with footnotes. Footnotes can be extremely annoying in audiobooks but this one has the most savvy and smooth use of auditory footnotes I have ever experienced. In addition there are animal sound effects that add that special little bit of interest to what is, basically, a fake non-fiction book. If you have a hard time with audiobooks or you are trying to get a child interested in the platform, this would be an amazing place to start. And, at only two hours long, it is easy to successfully complete the whole book.

If you have the opportunity to listen to the audiobook, I highly recommend it. And, if you already own a copy of this beautiful illustrated book or can use kindle unlimited to read along, it is a wonderful experience that I cannot recommend enough!


Tell me, please!

Have you ever listened to an audiobook while you simultaneous read one?


 

Fantasy · SeriousSeriesLove · YA

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

I didn’t want to read Scythe by Neal Shusterman last year but I not only read it, I deeply enjoyed it. You can check out all of my thoughts here. I immediately bought the second book. Then, as was my tendency, I stuck on my TBR shelf. But, now that I have made my 2019 New Year’s Reading Resolutions I have been making real progress reading the books I actually own. This is how I found myself reading Scythe‘s sequel, Thunderhead. I must say, it absolutely consumed me. I’m not sure if it caused this week’s insomnia but it certainly made for exciting after-midnight reading! If you haven’t read Scythe, there are spoilers below. Just know that I fully recommend this series!


thunderheadThunderhead begins with Rowan illegally donning black voluminous robes and claiming the identity of Scythe Lucifer. He is meting out his own form of justice by targeting Scythes he deems unworthy. Meanwhile, Citra has formed her own style of gleaning, one that has drawn the attention and ire of her peers.

At the conclusion of Scythe we see the Thunderhead, the all knowing brain of the world, speaking directly to Citra. Until that moment, the reader has no idea how involved the Thunderhead is with a typical citizen’s day to day existence. Ponder this issue no longer! In this second book we meet Greyson Tolliver. A lonely young man, Greyson has been raised by the benevolent voice of the Thunderhead all his life. When Citra’s life is in danger, the Thunderhead sends Greyson to save her and forever changing Greyson’s life. Meanwhile, old foes continue to threaten the delicate balance of the world. The real question is what role Rowan, Citra and Greyson will play the ensuing chaos.

As with ScytheThunderhead is crafted to keep you entertained. The shifting narratives begin completely disconnected and as they dodge and weave their way towards intersection – the action climbs. The final pages of this book will leave your heart pounding and, if you are anything like me, you will immediately try to figure out when the third installment is being published (no date yet!!).

Unlike ScytheThunderhead has almost no quiet and reflective moments. This second installment is action packed. Furthermore, the second book spends much less time reflecting on life and death and more on the balance we seek and the role we take to achieve that life. The author is not afraid to take you on an adventure. Honestly, that ending….whew!

I highly recommended Scythe and now I must all but insist on two things. First, please read them both so that we can talk. Second, can we get that third book already Neal?!?


Tell me, please!

Why do we ever read series books when they aren’t all available?


fiction · funny · SeriousSeriesLove

Serious Series Love: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

 

How much fun can you have seeing how the unimaginably rich live? The answer: A LOT.

I read Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians more than a year ago and adored it. The story of Nick Young bringing his American-born Chinese girlfriend, Rachel, back to Singapore to meet his, ahem, “comfortably,” rich family introduced me to the multifaceted glory of insanely rich people. The end of the first book wrapped the story up so nicely the next two books didn’t really register with me. What is wrong with me?! If anything, the second and third book are even more fun to read than the first!

I picked up China Rich Girlfriend happy to find that nearly all of the characters were already old friends from Crazy Rich Asians. The second story opens with Rachel and Nick getting married. Even though Nick and his family are estranged, his mother is working to reconnect by finding Rachel’s long-lost (and long thought dead) father. When she discovers his identity she flies to interrupt the wedding and disclose his identity! And, for fans of Crazy Rich Asians, it will come as no surprise that all of this action happens in the first few chapters. The real quandary is how Rachel, her father, and his family will blend together. And, of course, there are all the other characters’ stories (Kitty and Astrid are back!) that keep the book at a wonderfully quick pace.

The third book opens with the news that Nick’s grandmother Ah Ma is on her deathbed. Nick is not alone in rushing home for a final goodbye. The whole family descends on Su Yi’s home. Some are them are there to see their beloved matriarch. Others are there to lay claim to the massive fortune. But there are more surprises in Su Yi’s story than yachts in the Singapore marina.

The three books work so well together because Kevin Kwan has invested us in these characters. If you read the first book and enjoyed the adventures of the rich and not-at-all famous, you will enjoy the next two books. The magic of these books is how the author makes you care about almost all of these people even as they spend ten million dollars shopping in Paris. By providing us backstories, shifting perspective, and a healthy dose of cultural understanding, the author helps us understand these characters as people. It doesn’t make you feel sorry for them and their insane bank balances, but it does save you from feeling dirty or seedy watching their stories unfold. I know, I know! These aren’t real people. But, I don’t enjoy stories that focus on mocking or diminishing people to stereotypes. These books do neither. Also, I relished all of the footnotes that will simultaneously explain things to the reader and remind you that the author himself spent most of his childhood living among all of this craziness.

I have Serious Series Love for Crazy Rich Asians.


Tell me, please!

Have you read the books / seen the movie? What are your thoughts?


SeriousSeriesLove · Uncategorized

Serious Series Love

Who doesn’t love a good series?

Here you can see my ever changing list of book series I want to read. I will add when I find new ones to enjoy and let you know when I have finished others.


The Raven Cycle Series


A Court of Throne and Roses


Myth Adventures Series


The Magnus Chase Series


Queen of Tearling Series


The Arc of Scythe


Flavia de Luce Mysteries


Darker Shade of Magic


Peculiar Crimes Unit


Looking Glass Wars


 

Fantasy · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · historical fiction · SeriousSeriesLove

Frighteningly Good Reads #10

For today, my Frighteningly Good Read recommendation is The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Beginning with A Discovery of Witches, adventuring through Shadow of Night and culminating in Book of Life, the adventures of Diana the Witch and her Vampire soul mate Matthew were thrilling and fascinating. And, since it is soon to be a BBC television series (*squeal!*) it is right at the front of my mind this Halloween season.

Much like Diana Galbadon’s sweeping historical fiction series Outlander, Deborah Harkness utilizes fascinating historical details to bring the story depth. This is not a surprise, really, since Ms. Harkness is a historian herself. I quite enjoy that she describes herself as, “A history profession who tumbled down the rabbit-hole and wrote the Internationally best selling All Souls Trilogy.

If you follow my blog then you know that, for me, it is often the supporting characters that take a book from enjoyable to obsess-able. And All Souls Trilogy has a cast of supporting characters that I adored. A tremendous time is spend on Diana and Matthew and their budding (forbidden!) romance. But, I loved the Demons in the books, the third category of non-humans who were incredibly and diversely talented. They reminded me of all the wonderfully productive adults I knew who were told to “slow down” as children.

I appreciated that there were several LGBTQA+ characters in the book including Diana’s adoring aunts. I also revealed in the rich addition of history and scenic details. To be in a library like the ones Diana visits is a dream of mine. Visiting them through this book is as close as I am going to get this year.

Several reviewers have called this Twilight for grownups. There may be some truth to this but I would add that it is a smarter, stronger and more grownup story. And I liked Twilight! I will say that there is a scene that involves all three magical species together practicing Yoga. I enjoyed the scene but it appears to be the Jar-Jar Binks of this book. If you can accept that Witches, Demons and Vampires might get together in a human-free environment and downward facing dog then the rest of the series will be magical.

matthew goode

So, the FGR for today is really this delightful trilogy. I don’t know when the BBC plans to give us the television version but it is going to be difficult to top these books! Well, Matthew Goode as Vampire Matthew might help.

 

 

 

 


Tell me, please!

How much would you love doing yoga with a bunch of supernatural beings?


 

SeriousSeriesLove

Serious Series Love: 43 Old Cemetery Road by Kate and Sarah Klise

Kate Klise and Sarah Klise are sisters who have written and illustrated more than 30 books. Most of their books are written for children ages 7-10. But like most good fiction of this level, their stories are an absolute delight to read as an adult. My favorite of all their books is the 43 Old Cemetery Road series.

This series is filled with humor for all ages. I found myself laughing out loud as I explained to a second grader some of the puns and funny names! The drawings are intricate and whimsical.  I really enjoy the cast of characters we meet and get to know through letters and articles written back and forth.  And the story line and mystery is always adorable!

The first book is Dying to Meet You. It introduces the reader to a whole cast of main characters.  Seymour Hope, 11 year old son of the absent Les and Diane Hope, can see ghosts and has been left behind at 43 Old Cemetery Road while his parents travel through Europe. Ignatius B. Grumply (I.B. Grumply) is a writer of some fame who is struggling through writer’s block and has rented 43 Old Cemetery Road to try and publish a new book.  The rental agreement tricks Ignatius into caring for Seymour. Little does he know that the house also has a resident ghost, Olive C. Spence, included in the price!

As the series moves along the main characters meet new people and conquer new problems by working together. This would be an easy book to read all at once or a chapter at a time, depending on the age of the reader. Also, I like how much visual information there is to enjoy – not just drawings but different handwriting and newspaper clippings – that make the book special. Personally, I sat down and swiftly consumed all seven one right after the other. I have Serious Series Love for 43 Old Cemetery Road!


Tell me, please!

Have you ever read a series intended for children that you just couldn’t put down?

Fantasy · SeriousSeriesLove

Serious Series Love: Fablehaven

This is my go-to recommendation to any and all ages, especially in the summertime. Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series is based on the ingenious premise that mythical creatures are gathered into a hidden refuge. The sanctuary is guarded by magic and age old covenants. It is overseen by caretakers. The preserve is called Fablehaven and the caretakers are Kendra and Seth Sorensen’s grandparents.

When Kendra and Seth (ages 11 and 13) have to visit their Grandparents at their (ahem) farm over summer, they are prepared for utter boredom. Instead they are witness to the awe that is trolls, fairies, witches and so much more. But, Fablehaven only remains relatively safe when rules are followed. When a rule is broken, evil is unleashed.

As the series develops, the problems and perils become more interesting and dire. From the introduction of the world of book one, Fablehaven, through the conclusion of the series in book 5, Keys to the Demon Prison, the action becomes more intense. Written in an engaging and intelligent style this is a book that I feel confident in recommending.

These are the covers of the books that I own. When I was looking through Brandon Mull’s website I noticed that there are updated covers and the wonderful Caretakers Guide to Fablehaven.  The guide is an nice addition if you adore the series. I love paging through it and looking at the illustrations of the items and creatures found in the world of Fablehaven. Kendra and Seth have even gone through and added their own notes. However, it is definitely a book I would leave for after you have read the series since it inherently includes spoilers.

At the end book five Brandon Mull wrote that Fablehaven was officially concluded and there would be no additional books for the series. However, he did say he would be happy to revisit the world and the characters. He has done so in the recently published (and fantasticDragonwatch. I will be reviewing it very soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t already enjoyed the series, I invite you to visit Fablehaven this summer.

SeriousSeriesLove

Serious Series Love: Septimus Heap by Angie Sage

I read the first of this series by accident.  I picked it up years and years ago intending to read the wonderful Half Magic by Edward Eager but I got flustered at the library and couldn’t remember the name of the book.  This was 2005 or 2006 and long before I had a smartphone so I couldn’t just Google it.  So, I grabbed Magyk by Angie Sage because I didn’t want to walk away empty handed.  When I got home and read it I became totally absorbed in the story and immediately purchased my own copy and then I had to wait while she wrote more books!

And write she did.  This seven book series features the family Heap.  The father of this brood is Silas and he is the seventh son.  As Magyk begins his wife Sarah is busy delivering their seventh child after six boys.  If anyone has read any magical books then you know that the seventh son of a seventh son is foretold to be deeply magical.

I don’t really feel that I can tell you much more about the plot without spoiling some delightful moments.  I can say that the series features both strong male and female characters.  Some characters are brave, some are intelligent and many are just pure of heart.

I recommended these books to a friend and she was completely thrown off by one detail.  Throughout the books there are words in bold (like magyk or flyte).  I assume the author intended this to have a dual purpose.  First, these are magical words.  Second, (and I am assuming here) it is to be clear to a younger reader that these magical words are purposely spelled incorrectly.  My friend did not care for this at all but it did not bother me one bit.

There are two other books by Angie Sage that are related to the series but not quite included in the timeline of the “Septimus Heap” stories.  The first is The Darke Toad which tells a seperate story of the eldest Heap child.  The The Magykal Papers is an additional fun book that includes maps, journals, and a variety of tidbits about the Castle.

If, after you have read all nine of these books you still want more, you can find a glorious treasure trove of information on Septimus Heap’s website.  There you can use the magykal name generator, play magykal anagrams or look up some spells and tips.  You can also see the book trailer for new books by Angie Sage which are all set in Septimus’s world, The Todhunter Moon trilogy.

Angie Sage has created such a complete world for Septimus that when I re-read the books, which I often do, I feel like I am visiting old friends.  I hope you take a chance and check out this series (on purpose).  If you forget the name of the series, just remember, I think they are Magykal.