Book Review: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Ship of the Dead
Narrator: Michael Crouch
Publication Info: [New York, New York] : [Listening Library], [2017]
Summary/Review:

This is a terrific conclusion to the Magnus Chase and the Guards of Asgard trilogy.  Magnus Chase and his allies must stop Loki from bringing about Ragnarok.  To accomplish this, they sail on a banana-colored ship to various locales including the court of the ocean god Aegir, York, England, the frozen lands of Norway, and the palace of the winter goddess Skadi.

Magnus is once again joined by the Islamic Valkyrie  Samirah (who is fasting for Ramadan), the elf Hearthstone, the dwarf Blitz, and the genderfluid child of Loki, Alex Fiero.  In fact, Magnus takes a romantic interest in Alex which I think is wonderful for the children reading this, both children learning about their own gender expression as well as cisgender children who get to see a positive representation of a transgender character in a book.  Three more characters who had smaller roles in previous books join the team and play a bigger part in the finale: Thomas Jefferson Jr., a young Black soldier who died fighting in the American Civil War, Mallory Keen, who died attempting to defuse a bomb in Belfast during The Troubles, and a Norse mercenary berserker  Halfborn Gunderson.  Each member of the team ends up having a task that leads them to their final confrontation with Loki.  And Magnus draws upon their teamwork in his battle of words, or flyting, with Loki that serves as the novel’s terrific climax.

I highly recommend all three of these books to readers of any age.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Hammer of Thor
Narrator: Kieran Culkin
Publication Info: Listening Library (2016) 
Summary/Review:

I really enjoyed The Sword of Summer, Rick Riordan’s first installment of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Series, and there is no sophomore slump in The Hammer of Thor. Magnus Chase is joined once again by the Valkyrie Samirah, the dwarf Blitzen and the elf Hearthstone.  The book also introduces a new character, a genderfluid teenager and child of Loki recently arrived to Valhalla as an einherji.  Together they are tasked with finding Thor’s missing hammer Mjolnir, while Loki attempts to trick and tempt them to his

Their adventures take them to Provincetown, Hearth’s unhappy home in Alfheim, a bowling alley for giants, and the bar from Cheers.  Like the predecessor the book is full of humorous mythological allusions, impossible predicaments, and a lot of Boston or Boston-ish locations.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Sword of Summer
Narrator: Christopher Guetig
Publication Info: Listening Library (2015)
Summary/Review:

Magnus Chase is a 16-year-old boy who’s lived on the streets of Boston for 2 years since his mother was killed in a supernatural attack.  He’s avoided his estranged Uncle Randolph, who lives in a Back Bay mansion opposite the Leif Erikson statue and is obsessed with Viking artifacts, but as the book begins Magnus is forced into contact with his uncle.  This unleashes a series of events where Boston is attacked by fire giants and Magnus dies in battle.  And that’s just the beginning.

Much like Rick Riordan’s books about Camp Half Blood where Greco-Roman myths are real and demigods are trained on Long Island, The Sword of Summer incorporates Norse myth.  In fact, the two series are in the same universe as Magnus is cousins with Annabeth Chase of the Camp Half Blood books!  We follow Magnus as he is brought to Valhalla, learns of his godly parentage, and goes rogue on a quest to prevent Ragnarok, or the apocalypse.  I think Riordan is even more clever in how he winds Norse myth into a young adult fantasy adventure, and most of all this book is funny as Helheim.

Magnus travels with a great team including the Muslim Valkyrie Samirah “Sam” al-Abbas from Dorchester, Blitzen, a dwarf with a great sense of fashion, and the deaf and magical elf Hearthstone.  I’m definitely biased, but I love how Boston is set as the “hub” of the Norse worlds and that many scenes are set in Boston, or in an alternate version of the city.  Although it should be noted that Eben Norton Horsford’s discredited theory of  Norse navigators sailing up the Charles River were rooted in the white supremacist belief that an Italian like Christopher Columbus was unworthy to be the person who “discovered” the Americas.

I think this is my favorite Riordan book yet, and I look forward to continuing the trilogy of Magnus’ adventures.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Last Olympian: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5
Publication Info: New York : Disney/Hyperion Books, 2011.
Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s CurseThe Battle of the Labyrinth
Summary/Review:

The final book of the series leads to the culminating battle to save Olympus from the Titans in the streets of Manhattan. The book builds well to get to that point with a natural ebb and flow in the narrative between fightin’ and more contemplative stuff. Themes that have been building across all five books play out hre and Percy, Thalia, Grover, Annabeth, Tyson, Clarisse, and Nico all show great character development.  I particularly like how Percy plays his reward from the gods.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Battle of the Labyrinth: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2008.

Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse
Summary/Review:

The Battle of the Labyrinth is another great quest story, this time primarily underground in the mysterious labyrinthe.  Annabeth leads the quest with Grover, Percy, and Tyson with an angry and dangerous Nico playing a part as well.  The book is well constructed as each characters has a role to play that leads to a specific goal.  The war with the Titans begins in earnest with a battle at Camp Half-Blood that concludes the novel.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Titan’s Curse: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 3
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: New York : Random House/Listening Library, [2007]

Previously Read by the Same AuthorThe Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters 
Summary/Review:

Book 3 of the series once again features a coast-to-coast quest (literally Bar Harbor, Maine to the Bay Area of California) as Percy Jackson seeks to find his friend Annabeth and the goddess Artemis.  The book introduces half-bloods Nico and Bianca di Angelo, features Zeus’ daughter Thalia for the first time, and brings in Zoë Nightshade and the Hunters of Artemis.  All of these characters will be significant to the course of the narrative in the ensuing novels.  But I feel The Titan’s Curse doesn’t work as well as a stand-alone adventure and feels a bit formulaic.  It’s still clever and fun, though.

Rating: ***

Book Review: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title:The Sea of Monsters: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2006.
Previously Read by the Same Author: The Lightning Thief
Summary/Review:

The second book of ancient Greek mythology adapted as American teenager adventure and drama is just as it’s fun as its predecessor.  In this book, Percy and his friends have to travel to the Sea of Monsters (now in the Bermuda Triangle) to rescue Grover and find the Golden Fleece.  Adventures include dodgeball with cannibal giants, a ship full of dead Confederates, escaping Circe with the help of Blackbeard’s pirates, and Grover trying to escape marrying the cyclops Polyphemus.  This book also introduces the dim but brave and kind Tyson, one of my favorite characters in the series.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan


Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1
Narrator: Jesse Bernstein
Publication Info: Listening Library (2005)
Summary/Review:

Percy Jackson is a troubled preteen whose life is turned upside down when he learns that not only are the pantheon of Greek gods are real, but that he is a demigod (or Half-Blood).  The premise is similar to the Harry Potter series but Riordan comes up with some creative adventures and clever worldbuilding.  This is also my daughter’s new favorite series.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson


Author: Brandon Sanderson
TitleAlcatraz Versus the Dark Talent
Narrator: Ramon de Ocampo
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2016)

Previously Read By the Same Author:  Alcatraz Versus the Evil LibrariansAlcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones, Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia and Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Summary/Review:

The fifth and possibly final Alcatraz book picks up where the previous one ended with Alcatraz having destroyed all of his family’s talents.  Now he must ally with his mother – an evil librarian – to stop his father, a Free Kingdomer whose desire to give every one on Earth a Smedry Talent which could have disastrous consequences.  Smedry and his team go to the Evil Librarian’s Highbrary – a.k.a The Library of Congress in an alternate universe version of Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, Smedry’s friend and defender, Bastille remains in stasis for the better part of the book.  Smedry and Bastille’s love/hate chemistry when they are together is one of the best part of the series and this book suffers from its absence (although when Bastille finally makes her entrance, it’s spectacular).  The book has the usual clever wordplay – including a chapter of delicious puns – but it feels like Sanderson’s heart is not really in it anymore, and it is the weakest book in the series.  Or it could be Alcatraz, who obstinately states this is the last part of his biography after an uncharacteristically dark ending to the book.  But Alcatraz is an unreliable narrator who has lied to us before, and there are clues that this is all just a big cliffhanger leading to yet another book.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson


AuthorTiffany D. Jackson
Title: Allegedly
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2017)
Summary/Review:

Mary is a teenager living in a group home in Brooklyn after several year of serving time for murdering a baby when she was 9-years-old. Allegedly, as is Mary’s frequent refrain.  When she falls in love with a man at the nursing home where she volunteers and becomes pregnant, she begins to reevaluate her past so that she can have a future with her baby and boyfriend.  The incidents of the night of the murder and her mother’s role in it as well as other facet’s of Mary’s past are slowly revealed while in the present time Mary has to deal with case workers, psychiatrists, and her hostile companions in the group home.  The book is good at showing the horrors of the modern day carceral state and Jackson does a great job at developing Mary’s voice.  However, the twists in the story seem unnaturally injected into the narrative to build suspense, especially the biggest twist at the end of the book, make it hard to recommend this book.

Rating: **1/2