The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

The Sword of Summer

Magus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1

author : rick riordan

pages : [hardcover] 528

favorite characters : sam & magnus

memorable quote “I hate this plan,” I said. “Let’s do it.”

summary :

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 . . .

review :

On the day it was released, I picked up The Sword of Summer and started reading it because I’ve been waiting so long for this new series by Rick Riordan. I was pretty worried; I tried the Kane Chronicles by him and didn’t love it as much as I did his Percy Jackson series. But, honestly, Rick really blew all of my worries away with this awesome first book to what I’m sure will be an incredible series–and incredibly frustrating because of the long wait I’m going to have between books.

Magnus Chase has never known his father but that has never bothered him because he was incredibly close to his mother . . until she was attacked by freakishly huge wolves, killed, and he was left to live on the streets for two years. Once his uncle finds him–suspiciously keen to keep him safe after he’s lived mere blocks from Magnus’ homeless hot spots–everything changes for Magnus. His life as he knows it is ended, literally. You find out on page one that he ends up dead.

Except a lot can happen after you die, apparently, and I loved the adventure that Magnus takes us on. Already I can see how this series is going to be different from the ever famous Percy Jackson; there’s no one certain threat here. Magnus is trying to prevent the end of the world, yes, but there are two-faced gods, monsters, supposed allies, family members–all potentially working against him. All with their own motives. All with particularly witty lines and phrases that had me laughing out loud.

Other than the changing villains, I loved the supporting characters. Riordan is one of the few authors I’ve read a lot of that I know puts a lot of diversity into his books. And I don’t just mean including elves and dwarves as characters. It’s refreshingly realistic, to see characters of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and backgrounds, settled into this fantastical concept.

If you’ve been a fan of Rick Riordan, you’ll notice little nods to his other books in this novel which I LOVED. In no way do you need to read anything else before picking up The Sword of Summer. But, come on. Once you love this book, you’ll be itching to read more of Rick’s work.

5/5 stars

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

The Wonder of All Things

author : jason mott

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite characters : ava & wash

summary :

From critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author Jason Mott comes a spellbinding tale of love, sacrifice and the power of miracles.

On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators, killing and injuring dozens. But when the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds miraculously disappear. Ava has a unique gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. But now the whole world knows, and suddenly Ava is thrust into the spotlight. People from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to glimpse the wonder of a miracle. But Ava’s unusual ability comes at a great cost, her own health, and as she grows weaker with each healing, Ava begins searching for an escape. Wash agrees to help Ava, but little does she know he has his own secret he’s been harboring, and soon Ava finds herself having to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save the one she loves most.

review :

I was fortunate enough to be approved to read this book on NetGalley a long time ago and finally got around to reading this one. I realized after requesting it, because it sounded incredibly interesting, that the author–Jason Mott–also wrote the novel The Returned. That book was turned into a TV series and, I have to admit, wasn’t a great read for me, so I was wary going into this one.

In the end, I did like it a lot more. The Returned bothered me mostly because I failed to connect with the writing style. The Wonder of All Things didn’t give me such problems. I loved the choppy way the story was told because the multiple perspectives added suspense, increased the aura of mystery, and gave a broader view of how the world reacted after Ava helped Wash.

Ava and Wash’s relationship was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. In the murk of political talks, philosophical hypotheses, and crazy people trying to get to Ava, their childhood friendship was so incredibly normal and sweet. They’re best friends and clearly made for each other. I loved seeing how they so fiercely tried to protect one another while not thinking of themselves. For thirteen year olds, they’re incredibly unselfish.

What didn’t captivate me about the book was the lack of a conclusion. It felt like the novel was building up to something, carefully setting up the pieces of a puzzle involving Ava’s mother and the glimpses we get of her through Ava’s memories. Many characters have their own tiny plots that never see a resolution. The end of the book, while enjoyable, was less than satisfying when set in combination with all of the other things we don’t get to find out about these characters.

I do think that I’ll pick up Jason Mott’s next novel, whenever it comes out and whatever it might be. I have to admit that he’s a skilled writer, though I’ve yet to try one of his books that I’ve really loved!

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Alias Hook

author : lisa jensen

pages : [paperback] 368

memorable quote Children must find not only their happiest fantasies, but their most violent and terrible nightmares. They must face their demons and laugh at them. That is the key to growing up.

favorite character : hook

summary :

“Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.”

Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.

review :

 Fairy tale retellings are my weakness; every time I spot one or hear about a new one, I need to get my hands on it. Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories so when I first learned about Alias Hook I ordered it for myself.

As soon as I opened Alias Hook and read the prologue I knew that I was going to be hooked (ha, ha) in at least one way because the prose was gorgeous. I’ve never read anything by Lisa Jensen before but now I’m incredibly tempted to follow her (I saw that she has another retelling coming but it isn’t until 2017. How am I supposed to wait that long???). Hook is rather old-fashioned as a character, having lived for centuries, and I think Jensen did a fabulous job of capturing his old-timey prose combined with a slight tinge of modernism that Hook gains from the new pirates coming to fill his ship every time Peter Pan slaughters his crew.

That’s all that Hook knows, fighting Pan, and the boy always wins. Hook can’t count the number of crew members he’s lost since he was cursed into Neverland. Trapped, he’s certain his only escape will come when Pan is killed, but after centuries of Lost Boys returning as pirates to populate his ship, Hook is losing hope. He’s grown cruel, mad, and everything sinister is twisting and thriving inside of him. In the real world, Hook was not always a gentleman, but Neverland takes everything that is inside of a person and makes it that much stronger. Throw in a grown woman, when Pan doesn’t allow such Mothers into Neverland, and Hook has a real choice to make: His love or his love of the fight?

Although some portions of Alias Hook are predictable, that’s only to be expected when we already know the outcome of the original story. What I liked most were the supplemental facts and smaller plotlines scattered throughout the novel. Hook’s past, why Stella was drawn to Neverland, the role of the mysterious fairies–all of these things and more captivated me and brought a darker, more adult tinge to this fairy tale world of Neverland. I’m sure that everyone who can appreciate a good adult novel will love this retelling that really takes something purportedly aimed at children and shapes it into something scarily recognizable.

Honestly, this book was extremely easy to read and impossible to put down. I haven’t had a good book draw me in like this for a while. When I was reading for bed, I didn’t know whether to hope or dread that I’d dream about Neverland, because this is one version of that place I wouldn’t want to be pulled into.

I’ll be recommending this book to everyone. If you like fairy tale retellings, adventure, or romance, you’ll love Alias Hook.

5/5 stars

Placebo Junkies by J. C. Carleson

Placebo Junkies

author : j.c. carleson

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : dylan

summary :

Going Bovine meets Trainspotting in this gritty portrait of at-risk teens gaming the prescription drug trial system.

Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.
Sure, there’s the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie’s got things under control. If Monday’s pill causes a rash, Tuesday’s ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday’s injection soothes the sting from Tuesday’s “cure,” and Thursday’s procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday’s headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there’s plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He’s turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.
No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide….

Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.

review :

 Placebo Junkies was nothing like I thought it would be, in some good ways and some bad.

J.C. Carleson can definitely write. I’ll be checking out more by this author to see if there’s another book that might appeal to me a little more. With this novel, the premise is what really made me pick it up, because it’s so unusual. People who make their living testing dangerous, unknown drugs? Audie is involved in so many trials that she often can’t even remember what the drugs she’s taking (or lies about taking) are supposed to be doing for her. It isn’t like she’s really sick and needs help with something; she just needs the money. It’s business, simple and clean.

Throughout the novel, things are pretty dark. Audie is very open about her experiences, the ups and downs she has with the side effects of her medication, and it seems like everyone who was supposed to care for her in the world has abandoned her. Things are bleak for the others in her apartment, too. A bunch of people in the testing business all live in the same apartment and seem to understand her like no one else will ever be able to. Her boyfriend, Dylan, who’s now cancer-free and not part of the drug trials, doesn’t seem to relate to her testing fixation.

And then things took a turn that I wasn’t expecting and didn’t know if I would enjoy. Around halfway through the novel, something changes that will make you want to go back and reread the entire book from the start again through this new perspective. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed Placebo Junkiesmore without this twist (which I would never spoil for you) but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t as satisfying and intriguing as the perceived idea and original characters had been.

I think this is one that most people would need to read for themselves to see if they’d enjoy this type of novel. It’s the kind that appears to be one thing and ends up something else entirely. Both sides of it were well-written and I did like the ending, apart from it being a little ambiguous. Audie wasn’t exactly relatable, and I didn’t so much sympathize her as want to understand her, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her story.

I’d recommend this book to people interested in a gritty look at the world of clinical drug trials, a great plot twist you’ll never expect, and complicated characters.

3/5 stars

Cover Reveal: Shanti and the Magic Mandala

Shanti and the Magic Mandala is an adventure in which fantasy and reality are mingled. The book tells the story of six teenagers, from different religious and cultural origins and different parts of the world, who are mystically recruited to form two groups – one in the Northern Hemisphere, and one in the Southern. They eventually gather in Peru, and through a single alliance, begin a frantic chase for the sacred object that can stop the black magician’s final plan.

Awards & Recognition for the Book

– Winner of 2014 London Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards: Bronze Medal at “Young Adult Fiction – Spirituality” category
– 2014 New England Book Festival in Boston:  Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.
– Winner of 2015 Paris Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
– Winner of 2015 International Book Awards in the category “Fiction / Young Adult”.
– Winner of 2015 New York Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2015 Los Angeles Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2015 San Francisco Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
– 2015 DIY Book Festival in Los Angeles: Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.

About the Author

F. T. Camargo is an Italian Brazilian living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An award winning architect and author, he also studied Arts and Media and has a post degree in Economics and MBA in e-commerce. He is a vegetarian because of his love for all animals and has been deeply involved in causes for their protection and freedom. He is a world traveler adventurer, outdoor sports lover, speaks 4 languages and has published a travel book “Rio, Maravilha!”
For many years he has been practicing yoga and meditation and studying the Kabbalah. His exploration of spiritual teachings motivated a commitment to self-development which in turn created a new path and goal in life. Shanti and the Magic Mandala was born from his inner journey.

Contact the Author

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception

The Remnant Chronicles #1

author : mary e. pearson

pages : [paperback] 512

memorable quote It can take years to mold a dream. It takes only a fraction of a second for it to be shattered.

favorite character : pauline

summary :

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia’s life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight–but she doesn’t–and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom–to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive–and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets–even as she finds herself falling in love.
The Kiss of Deception is the first book in Mary E. Pearson’s Remnant Chronicles.

review :

I wanted to read The Kiss of Deception even before I realized that I loved The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which is also written by Mary E. Pearson. It’s been a while since I’ve read that book so I was hoping that her writing would live up to what expectations I could muster from my vague memories of really enjoying that read (and prompting me to crave rereading it and finishing the trilogy). Unfortunately, while The Kiss of Deception was extremely well-written, I didn’t care for the try-hard love triangle in it that overtook most of the plot.

From page one, I was hooked. Lia is her kingdom’s First Daughter–a princess valuable in marriage because she’s supposed to have “the gift”. This gift is ambiguous, for the most part, and seems to be some well to tell the future. I’m not sure if it’s only her future or the kingdom’s. In either case, Lia doesn’t have this gift but she’s being married off to a neighboring kingdom anyway to solidify an alliance between the two. But she decides that she wants to control her own future. This is what made me love Lia. She’s so strong, and stubborn, but over all of that she’d sacrifice all of her hopes and dreams for a chance that the people she loves will be safe and happy. Some of her decisions appear to be selfish but they’re anything but that.

Enter the love triangle and things got tricky for me. It’s obvious who she’s going to interact with and the bad boy/perfect prince angle going in this tumultuous group of relationships. There’s a twist in here, though, that I didn’t catch onto and confused me somuch before I realized what had happened. And it was brilliant, honestly. I’d recommend someone pick up the book for that alone–and obviously, I won’t say anything about what it was, for fear of spoiling people.

Still, after that, the book seemed very different from then on. Lia is still developing as a characters, as young woman and princess, and I was interested to see where she’d end up at the conclusion of the novel. I did like the place where it ended and I know book two is already out now so I wouldn’t need to wait ages to read it, but . . . I’m not certain that I’ll bother picking it up. While there were pieces of this book that I adored, the love triangle and the amount of time spent concentrating on it was annoying enough to make me think that I’ll just assume where the story might end from here. If I see great reviews . . I might be convinced otherwise.

I do think that this is a fantasy novel that a lot of people will love. The world-building and Lia’s character are fantastic and I’m assuming more people will love, well, the love in this one.

4/5 stars

The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason

The Chess Queen Enigma

Stoker & Holmes #3
Book 1: The Clockwork Scarab
Book 2: The Spiritglass Charade

expected publication: october 6th
author : colleen gleason

pages : [hardcover] 360

favorite characters : . . . all of them?

summary :

Evaline Stoker & Mina Holmes are back for a third adventure. They have to locate a missing chess queen before their nemesis, The Ankh, gets there first!

Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes have reluctantly agreed to act as social chaperones and undercover bodyguards for Princess Lurelia of Betrovia, who has arrived in London to deliver a letter that details the secret location of an ancient chess queen that’s been missing for centuries. But when the letter—which will heal a centuries-old rift between England and the Betrovians—is stolen out from under Evaline and Mina’s watchful eyes, the two girls are forced into a high-stakes race to ensure they find the chess queen before anyone else does. The Stoker and Holmes series is as culturally popular and compulsively readable as the Sherlock Holmes stories and Dracula were in the Victorian era.

review :

I LOVE this series so much and think it’s a shame that I know no one who reads it. Stoker & Holmes are two fierce ladies who kick ass and take names, all in the constricting fashions of the Victorian era. I honestly can’t decide which of them I love more because Mina is entirely hopeless and adorable in social situations, Evaline can’t stop eating and, y’know, staking vampires, and then there are a host of supporting characters that are just . . charming and captivating and also very frustrating. Particularly regarding the gentlemen I can’t decide should be deserving of these two.

It’s an interesting clash as always, with an investigation occurring while there’s also the threat of vampires. Those two worlds are steadily beginning to merge into the bigger picture that has been hinted at throughout the series. So, what does that mean? It means that I’m craving the next book already when there’s NO RELEASE DATE, no name for it, nothing. How am I supposed to survive on an ending like this one? What?!?!

Maybe I’ll talk about something that makes me a little less frustrated and incoherent. Mina and Evaline are developing so nicely, not only in their relationship but as individuals. I love how they continue to endlessly frustrate one another but remain a team, steadfast and now easily able to predict what one another will do. It’s fascinating to read and I can’t wait to see how things will be the next time we see them. Hopefully spending more time with one another outside of investigations and life or death situations!

I can’t recommend this series enough, to be honest. If you read it, let me know! I need to discuss these books with someone.

5/5 stars