Genre: Children's

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan – Review

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan – ReviewThe Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Series: The Trials of Apollo #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 384 pages
Genres: Children's, Contemporary Fantasy, Humorous
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Trials of Apollo Book One The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan is the start of a new Greek mythology series from middle grade staple Rick Riordan.  This new series centres around the god Apollo, who has been stripped of his godly powers by his father, Zeus.  Naturally, adventures and shenanigans ensue.

For me this read a little younger than the Heroes of Olympus series, more in line with Percy Jackson.  Apollo’s human persona is aged 16, but he spends a lot of time hanging around with 13 year old Meg which naturally makes the feel of the book somewhat younger.  Also, there is no emphasis at all on romantic relationships.

What I liked

Riordan’s writing style.  After many series including Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Riordan’s light, witty style should be familiar to most readers.  If you enjoyed the earlier books, you will certainly enjoy this one.  They are very funny.  I breezed through The Hidden Oracle in an afternoon.  While it is not necessary to have read the earlier series, I would strongly recommend doing so before picking up this latest one.  There are many references to characters and events from previous entries that, while not necessary to enjoy the story, are enhanced by knowledge of both of the other Olympian series.

The protagonist. I was amused by Apollo – his attitude and the circumstances he kept finding himself in.  In theme it’s very similar to Marvel’s Thor movie in which a god becomes mortal but takes some time to adjust to his new situation.  I enjoyed Apollo’s character development and how he changes throughout the course of the adventure.  I do have some concerns if that level of character development can be sustained through the other four planned books in the series, but time will tell.

Catchups on our other favourite demigods.  In this book we touch base with our heroes from the previous series.  It was good to hear how Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo and the others are all getting on with their post Gaea lives.

What I didn’t like

Perhaps because this was aimed at a younger audience, at times it was a little formulaic, especially if you know the previous book.  Still, it’s more than made up for by Riordan’s wit and humour.

In summary, if you’ve enjoyed the previous books, you will certainly enjoy The Trials of Apollo.  I gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – Review

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan – ReviewBlood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
Series: Heroes of Olympus #5
Also in this series: House of Hades
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Nick Chamian
Length: 14 hrs and 26 mins
Genres: Children's, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan is the fifth and final book in the Heroes of Olympus saga.  In this book the seven demigods of the prophesy finally have their confrontation with Gaea.  I listened to it in audiobook format – perfect for a sick day from work where you don’t feel like doing much.

If you enjoyed the previous books, it’s very likely you will like this one, too.  It’s more of the same, with resolution of lots of plotlines.  It seems this is the final book in Percy’s world, at least for some time – Riordan is moving onto a series on Norse mythology (sign me up for that asap) – so it is nice to get some closure on these characters with whom we have spent five and in many cases 10 books.

What I liked

The writing style.  A Rick Riordan novel can be characterised as a mixture of humour and adventure, and Blood of Olympus is no different.  I often found myself chuckling out loud at a particularly amusing turn of phrase.  Riordan’s books are definitely a quick, fun read.

The resolution.  Riordan resolved the main conflicts efficiently and pretty much as predicted, throwing in a few character resolutions in as well.  I particularly enjoyed Nico’s and Leo’s character arcs.  There is some suggestion of what the future might hold for our favourite demigods, although sadly there are no more books to see if they are able to follow through with their plans.  As the main character of the new Norse series has the same surname as one of the Percy Jackson series main characters, maybe there will be some crossover.

The narration. Nick Chamian did the narration for Blood of Olympus.  I enjoyed it, but would characterise it as proficient rather than awesome.

What I didn’t like

Lack of narrative tension.  Despite the fact that this is the last book in the series and the fact that at least one death was prophesied, there was no point at which I actually felt one of my much loved characters might not make it.  Admittedly, the series is aimed at younger readers which might explain this.

Efficiency rather than brilliance.  Throughout the Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan has been laying the foundations for this final conflict with Gaea, and it followed pretty closely the pattern he set.  There are no unexpected twists or turns at this stage in the game.  Most of the heavy lifting in terms of character development has also been done by this point.

So in summary, while I enjoyed Blood of Olympus, I didn’t love it.  I gave it three and a half stars out of five.

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three-half-stars

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Back – Review

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Back – ReviewThe Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black
Series: Magisterium #1
Also in this series: The Copper Gauntlet
Format: eBook
Pages: 304 pages
Genres: Children's, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

In my recent reading roundup I mentioned that I felt The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black is a poor man’s Harry Potter.  I stand by that opinion.  It is almost impossible to read The Iron Trial without comparing it to Rowling’s masterpiece.

Let us review;  a young infant born towards the end of a magical war is the sole survivor of a massacre which leaves him motherless and with a physical mark of the attack.  There may or may not be some shenanigans involving souls.  This massacre is the prelude to a decade of truce.  Eleven or twelve years later, the young boy starts to attend magic school where he becomes best friends with a boy and girl, and makes an enemy of another rich and arrogant student.  He is taught by a kindly if eccentric Master and they have lots of adventures.  The one with the power to defeat the enemy has been revealed to the wizarding world.  There is a confrontation at the end, and it seems the enemy may not be as dormant as he seemed.  Heck, the story even closes with the protagonist in the infirmary having a heart to heart with said eccentric professor and being showered with goodies by his grateful classmates.

Does that sound familiar?  It could apply to both Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Iron Trial.  The parallels are too obvious not be deliberate.  What is interesting though are the differences.  First of all, the protagonist in the Iron Trial, Callum Hunt, is aware of magic before his entry into the school and, unlike Harry, has to be dragged there kicking and screaming.  This means that we lose the sense of wonder and excitement that Harry feels on his discovery of the wizarding world which is a significant part of the charm of Philosopher’s Stone.  

Secondly, the two protagonists are very, very different.  Harry Potter is decency and courage personified (a true Gryffindor).  One of his first acts on entering school is to defend a fellow student from bullying.  He is direct and open hearted.  He typifies the theme of the series which is about doing what is right as opposed to doing what is easy.  Callum, on the other hand, is a little more complex.  He is less open and trusting and far less inclined to act.  He seems to consider the consequences before acting and frequently has to be prodded into doing so. On the other hand, he is less impetuous than Harry and is more likely to look at the bigger picture.  He is also much more capable of focusing on the task at hand without being distracted.

These changes obviously impact on the way the protagonists relate to their friends and mentors.  Callum is less of a leader in his trio than Harry is in his.  There is a significant power shift in his relationship with Master Rufus compared to Harry’s with Dumbledore.  Dumbledore is the archetype of the wise old mentor and Harry is often left frustrated that he has not been given the answers he was seeking.  In comparison, Callum is the one in possession of information which he must choose to share with his mentor, or not as the case may be.

What I liked

Complex protagonist.  I found Callum as a protagonist interesting.  I appreciated that, unlike Harry, he doesn’t just see things as black or white, there are shades of grey involved.  The same is true of other characters, too.  I enjoyed the way this impacted their relationships.  It was interesting to see what Ron Weasley might have become in different circumstances though the Aaron character.

Pacing.  I thought Clare and Black kept the story moving along briskly and kept me reading.

Chapter art.  Each chapter is headed by an image encapsulating what is going on in the chapter.  These were gorgeous.

What I didn’t like

Harry Potter comparison.  This book is no Harry Potter.  It’s missing Rowling’s warmth, humour and imagination.  

Despite suffering in comparison to Harry Potter, I did actually enjoy this book.  I was interested in Callum’s story and will probably continue to follow it in future books.

I gave The Iron Trial four stars out of five. 

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four-stars

Swamped by Andrea Hertach – Review

Swamped by Andrea Hertach – ReviewSwamped by Andrea Hertach
Format: ARC
Genres: Children's
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

I was recently given a review copy by the publisher of Swamped by Andrea Hertach.  It tells the story of young Marley Aaron who, along with local wildlife, campaigns to save a swamp along with its delicate ecosystem from destruction by urban developers.  Like The Monster Mob, which I reviewed recently, Swamped is very much aimed at a younger readership, probably around the 8-11 year range.

What I liked

Concept.  Swamped is clearly intended to increase environmental awareness in young people and it does that very well.  It explains about the delicate ecosystem in the swamp and the damage that humans could do.  I’m not certain though that the developer and mayor would be as sympathetic to Marley’s concerns in real life as they are in the book!

Entertaining style.  I enjoyed that interaction amongst the local creature inhabitants of the swamp and also their working together with Marley and her pet dogs.

What I didn’t like

As with The Monster Mob, it is clearly aimed at a younger audience and more mature readers may find it rather simplistic and too easily tied off.

All in all I think Swamped sets out what it intends to – increase environmental awareness – and I gave it three stars out of five.

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three-stars

Reading Roundup – 11th April 2014

Reading Roundup – 11th April 2014The Monster Mob by Andrea Hertach
Format: eBook
Pages: 264 pages
Genres: Children's
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

I was recently given a free copy by the publisher to review The Monster Mob by Andrea Hertach.  It tells the story of a group of kids, Alex, Charlie, Leanna and Pete who share a love of creative writing and form the “Monster Mob” to share their (creepy) stories with each other.  The novel is structured around the kids’ stories and their attempt to find the storyworthy in real life.

From my reading I would guess this is aimed at middle graders, particularly those who already have a love of reading and writing.  I don’t think older readers would appreciate as much – the themes and concepts are kept pretty simple and there might be little to hold their attention.  However, there are a fair number of classical literary references – to Poe, Shelley, Shakespeare and Dickens and the author makes these pretty explicit in order for younger readers to appreciate them.

What I liked

The Monster Mob is a very light, quick read and passes a pleasant couple of hours. The writing style was clear and engaging.  I did enjoy the ending with Mr Hawthorn – I thought it was rather sweet.

What I didn’t like

This book is clearly aimed at a younger audience so more mature readers will probably find little depth to the book.

All in all I gave The Monster Mob three stars out of five

Added to my library this week

This week I’ve gone on a bit of an Audible spending spree.  There were some interesting daily deals as well as some I bought with the extra three credits I bought.

The first of the daily deals I bought was Cragbridge Hall by Chad Morris.  The synopsis for this seems intriguing: Imagine a school in the year 2074 where students don’t read history, but watch it happen around them; where running in gym class isn’t around a track, but up a virtual mountain; and where learning about animals means becoming one through an avatar. Welcome to Cragbridge Hall, the most advanced and prestigious school in the world.   It sounded a fun listen so I didn’t mind spending a couple of dollars on it.

The second daily deal I bought was C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.  I remember reading Lewis’s work about a devil when I was very young and I seem to remember it was very cleverly written.  Again I didn’t mind spending a couple of dollars on that.

As I mentioned earlier this week I really enjoyed Eva Strachiak’s The Winter Palace, so I picked up the sequel The Empress of the Night also from Audible.

I’ve been hearing some good things about Half Bad by Sally Green – this is a contemporary supernatural novel about a young man who is half good witch and half bad witch.  I listened to the sample and was immediately hooked.

three-stars
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