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The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan {5 Stars}

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan {5 Stars}

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (The Trials of Apollo #1)
Published by Disney Hyperion on May 3, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, MG, YA
Page Length: 376 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
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How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus's favour.

But Apollo has many enemies—gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go... an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

5 Stars

Strengths:
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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton ARC {DNF}

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton ARC {DNF}

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles #1)
Published by Disney Hyperion on Feb. 20th, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 512 pages
How I got my copy: Borrowed
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Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Belles from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Thoughts:
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The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan {4.5 Stars}

Here we go again …. Seems like Magnus Chase’s afterlife is going to be spent chasing (yes, I went there) down magical weapons that the Norse gods have somehow misplaced.  First, it was his father’s sword; now it is Thor’s great hammer, which, in this universe, can be picked up by the (very) unworthy.   Fortunately, Magnus has friends throughout the Nine Worlds who can help him on this quest, and we are treated yet again to Samira, Heath, Blitz, and new friends as the intrepid band of heroes do their best to twart Loki’s attempts to bring on Ragnarok.

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan  {4.5 Stars}

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard)
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 4, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 480 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon--the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. If Magnus Chase and his friends can't retrieve the hammer quickly, the mortal worlds will be defenseless against an onslaught of giants. Ragnarok will begin. The Nine Worlds will burn. Unfortunately, the only person who can broker a deal for the hammer's return is the gods' worst enemy, Loki--and the price he wants is very high.

4.5 Stars

Strengths:
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Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan ARC {5 Stars}

Anya was tearing through her batch of middle-grade fantasy ARCs so quickly that I wondered if I would have a chance to beat her to Shadow Magic!!  Happily, I won this particular race and had the delightful experience of meeting young Lily Shadow and her unexpected friend Thorn, along with a diverse collection of supporting characters that include a giant bat and a black puppy named Custard.

This engaging story is a page-turner with lots of unexpected twists and turns.  It is certainly easy enough for younger readers to manage, although there are a few episodes that might be upsetting or disturbing to some children.

Note: I received an advanced copy of SHADOW MAGIC from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan ARC {5 Stars}

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
Published by Disney Hyperion on April 12, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 336 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.

Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

5 Stars

Strengths:
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Waybound by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz ARC {3.5 Stars}

Waybound by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz is the second Book of Ore and continues the adventures of two kids in a world of living metal that has been used to make all the technology of their world. This story gets pretty dark and scary for a middle grade, but the world and magic are so freaking cool that I definitely recommend it as long as the reader can handle darker elements. If you’d rather check out my review for book one, here it is.

Note: I received an advanced copy of Waybound from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Waybound by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz ARC {3.5 Stars}

Waybound by Benny Zelkowicz, Cam Baity (The Books of Ore #2)
Published by Disney Hyperion on April 12th, 2016
Genres: MG, Steampunk
Page Length: 352 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Phoebe Plumm and Micah Tanner are a long way from home and entrenched in a struggle with no end in sight. The Foundry, an all-powerful company that profits off the living metal creatures of Mehk, is unleashing a wave of devastating attacks to crush the rebel army of mehkans known as the Covenant and capture Phoebe and Micah, dead or alive.

But the Covenant believes that their ancient god, Makina, has chosen Phoebe for a sacred task: to seek the Occulyth, a mysterious object they hope can turn the tide against the Foundry. With her father gone, Phoebe's once unshakable determination is broken, and while Micah tries to uphold the vow he made to protect her no matter the cost, their enemies are closing in and time is running out.

3.5 Stars

Strengths:
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Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner Audiobook {4 Stars}

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner is the final companion book of the Starbound trilogy and finally answers a lot of questions that we’ve all been pondering! I’ve been hooked on this trilogy right from the start with the crazy of Their Broken Stars, so I was excited to try the audiobook of Their Fractured Light to squeeze it in. I’m very glad I did since the audiobook has some really fun sound effects that add atmosphere to the story, definitely a recommended format. There will be vague spoilers for the overall trilogy plot revealed in the first two books below, but otherwise pretty safe.

Note: I received an audiobook copy of Their Fractured Light from the publisher. Listening to a book changes my reading experience.

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner Audiobook {4 Stars}

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner
Narrated by Abby Craden, Cynthia Holloway, Kim Mai Guest, MacLeod Andrews
(Starbound #3)
Published by Disney Hyperion on Dec. 1st, 2015
Genres: Sci-fi, YA
Page Length: 432 pages
Audio Length: 15 hrs and 6 mins
How I got my copy: Publisher
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A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn’s a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck—now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world’s gaze.

Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker—a whiz kid and an urban warrior. He’ll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don’t dare touch.

Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you’re done noticing it, she’s got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost.

When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia’s separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they’re forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan {4.5 Stars}

Sword of Summer is the first book in a new series taking place in Rick Riordan’s universe of gods, demigods and heroes.  While it follows the same ideas as Percy Jackson & the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus, this series is set in the worlds of Norse mythology, featuring the gods of Asgard and the numerous creatures that run through the stories of Northern European myths and folklore.

This series follows the formula of the prior series, but it adds some interesting twists of its own.  The main character is a demigod, born of a moral woman and a visiting god, but he ends up being more than that, and his companions on the epic quest (there must always be an epic quest to avoid the end of the world) include adults from various species (human, dwarf, and elf) as well as another teen …. who has a complex life, to say the least.  The Norse gods, like their Roman and Greek peers, have strengths, weaknesses, and definite idiosyncrasies.  They rely upon their offspring to act in the world on their behalf, in part because past actions and choices have limited their ability to act directly.  But in this book, that reliance is also revealed to be a calculated choice.

As much as I enjoyed Riordan’s other series, this one seems to be a bit more mature – and hence more interesting.  Norse mythology, with multiple worlds and competing races of gods, is more complex than Greco-Roman myths.  The characters can also be drawn from a wider swath of races as well as from adult soldiers from many centuries who died heroically in battles and were taken to Valhalla to prepare for the eventual end of the worlds.  But the villain (in this case, Loki) is also a bit scarier with his ability to scheme and manipulate the paths and plans of gods.  Like the Harry Potter series, in which the later books were best read by the older end of the age group, the Magnus Chase series might be better suited to older middle grade readers.

Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan {4.5 Stars}

Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 6, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 528 pages
How I got my copy: Purchased
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Purchases made support this blog

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

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

4.5 Stars

Strengths:
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Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl ARC {4 Stars}

The Avengers movies have shown us the backstory or family situation of many of the major S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but finding anything about Natasha Romanov, aka The Black Widow, is about as difficult as locating an action figure of her in the toy section.  Admittedly, a lack of past or family has always been a hallmark of fictional spies since James Bond, but since the Winter Soldier graced the big screen, I found myself craving some more about my favorite Avenger.  If Bucky gets a backstory, then why not Tasha??

Well, Forever Red by Margaret Stohl goes a long way toward filling in the gap.  At the end, there are still plenty of things we do not know about Romanov, but this short novel provides her origin story and points toward the future of the Avengers as new candidates surface to join The Black Widow in this fun, fast-paced romp through the Marvel world.

Note: I received an advanced copy of Forever Red from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl ARC {4 Stars}

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl
Published by Marvel Press on Oct. 13th, 2015
Genres: Superheroes, YA
Page Length: 401 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Natasha Romanoff is one of the world's most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow's infamous academy for operatives.

Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments-until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn't really the big sister type.

Until now.

When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned-and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava's dreams. . . .

4 Stars

Strengths:
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The Second Guard by J.D. Vaughn {Just Hatched}

Just Hatched Book Feature

Just Hatched is a feature where I share my first impressions of a book after the first chapter. Check out the announcement post for more information.

The Second Guard by J. D. Vaughn is a middle grade fantasy that has apparently flown under the radar of the book blogging community. It started out really promising and I was anticipating really enjoy The Second Guard, but I made it to 50% before realizing that I just didn’t want to pick it up again, so I figured I’d tell you about it here :).

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Second Guard from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Second Guard by J.D. Vaughn {Just Hatched}

The Second Guard by J. D. Vaughn (Second Guard #1)
Published by Disney Hyperion on April 14th, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley
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Purchases made support this blog

In the peaceful realm of Tequende, all second-born children at the age of fifteen must journey to the Alcazar to fulfill the mandate of the Oath of Guilds. There they train to earn a place among the Queen’s guard, or work as indentured servants.

For Sun Guilder Talimendra of the Magda River Traders, joining the Second Guard will not only bring honor to her family, it will be a chance to uphold her mother’s legacy. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears will be spent to bear the weight of this prestigious title, and Tali is prepared to make that sacrifice even as she competes against hundreds of other pledges.

But her loyalty will be tested when she uncovers a secret that could drag Tequende into all-out war.

The enemy is close.

With very little time and too many unanswered questions, Tali must trust her instincts—even if it means betraying the very guard she’s fighting to join.

2 Stars

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The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud {Guest Post!}

This week the lovely Katie from I Will Write With It has stopped by to review a classic comedic fantasy that is now of course being added to my TBR! Thanks Katie :D.

The Amulet of Samarkand is the first of four books by Jonathan Stroud featuring Bartimaeus. I would encourage anyone to give them a go because Bartimaeus is an excellent character. He is a ‘djinni’ with a wicked sense of humour and if you lean towards the dry and sarcastic in your comedy then you are on to a winner. There are two stand-out features in Stroud’s writing. Firstly, the narrative switches between first person (from the point of view of Bartimaeus) and third person, which follows the young magician who summons him. Secondly, Stroud uses footnotes in Bartimaeus’ chapters to add funny extras to the story. It was these that kept me reading more than the actual story which was, admittedly, less memorable.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud {Guest Post!}

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus Sequence #1)
Published by Disney Hyperion on Sept. 30th, 2003
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 462 pages
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
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Nathanial is a young magician’s apprentice who lives under the rule of his strict and miserable master. Tired of the slow pace of his magical lessons and his master’s lack of faith in him Nathanial teaches himself magic far beyond his years. He secretly summons Bartimaeus, a 5,000 year old djinni with a reputation for trouble and finds that events fast spiral of his control. Soon he and the grudging Bartimaeus are caught up in a world of political corruption, magical intrigue, rebellion and murder.

 

Strengths:
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