Saturday, November 4, 2017

THE TRIALS OF APOLLO Book Two: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

Book Two: The Dark Prophecy
Rick Riordan

            The Dark Prophecy is the second book in Rick Riordan’s series The Trials of Apollo. In book one, we learned that Apollo was cast out of Olympus, landing in New York City as the acne-stricken mortal teenage boy Lester Papadopoulos, as punishment by his father, Zeus.

Book two picks up a few weeks after the end of book one. Apollo ends up in Indianapolis. With the help of an unusual cohort of demigods, former immortals, and a menagerie of others, Apollo faces the second member of the triumvirate of immortal former Roman emperors. He also visits the Cave of Trophonius and receives the dark prophecy from the Oracle Trophonius.

            As I stated in my review of book one, The Hidden Oracle (October 22, 2017), Riordan’s The Trials of Apollo series has a great deal of overlap with his Percy Jackson and other series. Although I enjoy all of Riordan’s series, Percy Jackson has always been my favorite – always, that is, until I began Apollo’s series. Now, The Trials of Apollo is vying for “favorite” status in my affections.

            The Dark Prophecy is a wonderful book that I highly recommend. Apollo is continuing his journey west, and I look forward to book three, which is scheduled for Spring 2018.

Monday, October 30, 2017

MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD Book Two: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Book Two: The Hammer of Thor
Rick Riordan

            I recently reviewed Rick Riordan’s first Magnus Chase book (see review dated September 21, 2017). In preparation for the release of the third and final book of this trilogy, on October 3, 2017, I read the second book in Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, The Hammer of Thor.

Book two picks up roughly six weeks after the end of book one, The Sword of Summer. Although Magnus is settling in at Valhalla, all is not settled. Thor has once again “misplaced” his hammer. Magnus has been charged with reuniting the hammer and Thor, and he must do so before the giants realize it is missing and attack.

            As with Riordan’s other books, this Magnus Chase book is full of adventure, suspense, interesting characters, and mythological information. As with the others, too, it is well written and clever. I enjoyed the book and recommend it, although this is not my favorite of Riordan’s series. I love the crossover between his different series, however. I think my favorite part of the book was the very last line, while Magnus was meeting with his cousin, Annabeth. To avoid any spoilers, I will say no more – but I am definitely looking forward to book three!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

THE TRIALS OF APOLLO Book One: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Book One: The Hidden Oracle
Rick Riordan

            Apollo was a bad, bad god – at least according to his father. Zeus blamed Apollo for the battle between the gods and Gaea (detailed in Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series), so he punished him by casting him out of Olympus. In the first book of Riordan’s The Trials of Apollo series, The Hidden Oracle, Apollo falls to Earth, ending up in New York City in the form of a mortal sixteen year old boy. He finds his way to Camp Half-Blood where he works with the demigods to try to figure out why the oracles have fallen silent. What he discovers – a plot involving immortal former Roman emperors – is far beyond a powerless mortal human teenager with acne.

            By my calculations, The Trials of Apollo series is Riordan’s fifth young adult series. Nonetheless, there is overlap between the works. Apollo’s tale, obviously, involves Greek gods. Not only does Apollo go to Camp Half-Blood and fight with the Greek demigods, but Percy Jackson also makes an appearance (Annabeth, alas, is in Boston dealing with family issues involving her cousin, Magnus Chase). This overlap is very appealing.

            The Trials of Apollo, like Riordan’s other series, is very well written. Riordan is a clever and funny writer. Not only does he interweave his series, but he does a good job teaching us about the different gods and different myths. My own interest in the various mythologies has been piqued by Riordan’s series; I can only imagine the extent of this generation of young adults interested in Classics thanks to him.

Monday, October 16, 2017

DEEP FREEZE by John Sandford

John Sandford

            In a prior John Sandford book, Deadline (2014), Virgil Flowers went to Trippton, Minnesota to investigate the death of a journalist; he ended up arresting the murderous school board, as well as breaking up a dog theft ring. Now, in Deep Freeze, Sandford’s latest Flowers novel, Virgil returns to Trippton to find out who murdered the woman whose body was found in the frozen river.

            I really enjoyed Deadline, as well as the Flowers book that followed, Escape Clause (2016). In my opinion, they are two more examples supporting my contention that the clever Sandford of old has returned. I am not so sure, however, about Deep Freeze.

            As I have stated in prior reviews, I love Virgil Flowers. Deep Freeze is a typical Flowers book, with the usual Sandford humor. But, I was less than thrilled to join Virgil in Trippton once again. It is not as if Trippton is a big place that has enough area or facets to support a second book; Virgil simply returns to the same people and same Trippton that was so successful in Deadline. Been there; done that. It feels lazy. In addition, the plot itself is so-so – nothing particularly exciting or challenging. It also does not appear to live up to the billing in the official blurb.

            Deadline and Escape Clause are both good reads that reflect the Sandford of old. But, Deep Freeze does not appear to advance Virgil’s series, professionally or personally. I still look forward to the next Virgil Flowers book, but Deep Freeze is a bit of a disappointment.

Monday, October 2, 2017

AARU by David Meredith

David Meredith

Although they had tried everything medically possible, sixteen year old Rose Johnson was dying of cancer. But, the man in the white lab coat assured Rose that he could save her. Her mother, father, and younger sister, Koren, begged her to let the man try. So, she did. And, he did. Sort of.

Although Rose’s body still died, Rose continued to live – cancer free – in Aaru, a virtual reality. In David Meredith’s young adult novel, Aaru, we learn about Rose’s adjustment to her cancer free life in cyberspace. We also follow the changes in Koren’s life as she becomes a spokesperson for Aaru and adjusts to life with Rose in Aaru.

            I had reviewed an earlier book by Meredith, The Reflections of Queen Snow White, which I found to be clever and thoroughly enjoyed. Aaru is very different, however, and I have mixed feelings about this latest novel.

            On the one hand, I found Rose and Koren to be somewhat off-putting. Both girls were teenagers; however, the characters acted – and reacted – in ways that, in my opinion, were not age appropriate. I did not find Koren, in particular, to be a very flattering character; in my opinion, she was simple, superficial, and juvenile. In addition, I was troubled by one of the other characters who was written with an accent. It seemed to me that the written portrayal of this accent was inconsistent. Throughout the book, I was never able to create a clear “picture” of this accent from the writing; every time I encountered this character, I felt like I tripped over the accent.

            On the other hand, Meredith’s writing is very good. I tend to think that I have a fairly well developed vocabulary, but the writing in Aaru left me wishing I had a dictionary by my side while reading. Furthermore, the primary issues raised in the book – e.g., life after death and capturing and maintaining the essence of a person – are fascinating. The book is a good vehicle to encourage young adults to think about these interesting Philosophical questions.