The Forever Man (W.A.R.P., #3) by Eoin Colfer

A Slightly Confusing Ending to Another Fun Colfer Series

the forever manWhere time travel is concerned, things are always going to get a little wibbily wobbly timey wimey, as Doctor Who might say. Colfer does not spend a significant amount of time exploring the details and complexities, which is perhaps why I found myself a little confused by what exactly happened. While it was made clear that changes made to the past can impact the future and alter reality, but in what way or how extensively is never really made clear. On the upside, Colfer knows how to have fun with his writing and with talking dogs, ghostly scientists, and a magician’s assistant, this book does not fail to deliver on that count.

Riley is an orphan raised as the assistant to a magician-turned-assassin Albert Garrick in Victorian London. With the help of of time-traveling FBI agent Chevie Savano, from the 21st century, he was able to free himself from his master and become a famous magician. But now Garrick is back, and thanks to the wormhole he was trapped in, he is stronger and more dangerous than ever. And he wants revenge.

Things seem hopeless when Chevie and Riley find themselves in trapped in the 1600s and Garrick has the run of the town. Thanks to a quirk in the time tunnel that sent them there, Chevie finds herself with cat-eyes and Garrick uses this to accuse her of being a witch. The punishment: death.

With the help of some unlikely allies–the town drunkard, a talking dead, and the ghost of a scientist Riley and Chevie have see die twice–Riley must rescue Chevie before she dies a gruesome death at Garrick’s hands.

Chevie and Riley make for an entertaining, wisecracking pair. Together, they find a sense of family and happiness that they had been missing for most their lives. It is easy to root for their success against the out-of-his-mind villainy of Garrick. This series isn’t quite at the level of Artemis Fowl cleverness, but fans of Colfer will not be disappointed either. I would have liked more on the rules of time travel and the effects of the time tunnel in this particular story because the rules differ in ever series and knowing how they work makes believing the universe of the story easier. Because of this confusion, it was a little unclear to me where Chevie and Riley end up at the very end of the story.

As always, Colfer delivers and I am excited to see what he comes up with next.

5 Books If You Love Norse Mythology

A Trip to Valhalla Has Never Been More Fun

Greek and Roman mythology have been popular in children’s tales for a while now, thanks in no small part to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Other mythology, on the other hand, has been in much sparser supply. But readers who find themselves more interested in Thor and Odin than Zeus and Poseidon can have hope. Norse mythology is on the rise.

1. Valkyrie by Kate O’Hearn

valkyrie

As the youngest of the Valkyries, Freya has always been different. And not just because she was born with jet-black feathers. Where her fellow-Valkyries love their responsibilities, she is anything but thrilled to officially become one of the reapers of the valiant dead. Growing up around battlefields and reveling warriors, it’s no wonder that Freya finds humankind disdainful. But when she reaps her first soldier, he turns out to be nothing like the mead-drinking, fight-loving men she expected. Instead, he is a man desperate to get back to his family and help keep them safe. Freya agrees to find his wife and children, even though it means crossing to Midgard (Earth) without permission and losing her wings if she is discovered. What she finds there is nothing like she expected–the humans remember little about the Norse gods and the world is more than a battlefield. But can she fulfill her mission before she’s missed in Valhalla.

2. Loki’s Wolves (The Blackwell Pages, #1)  by K.L. Armstrong

blackwell

Matt has always known he’s a descendant of the god, Thor. In fact, just about everyone in the town of Blackwell, South Dakota is a descendant of Thor or Loki. But where his brothers are perfect examples of what a Thorsson should be–tough, physical, and competitive–Matt has always felt like the runt of the family. Which is why he’s so surprised to discover that he has been named Thor’s champion. Together with Loki descendants and fellow classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke, Matt must go on a quest to find Thor’s hammer and shield, build a team of god’s descendants, and find a way to prevent the coming Ragnarok–the end of the world. But to succeed, Matt must learn who his friends are, who to trust, and how to use the abilities that being Thor’s champion and descendant grants him. More importantly, he must learn to have faith in himself.

3. The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #1) by Rick Riordan

magnus chase

Following in the vein of Riordan’s Percy Jackson and The Kane Chronicles comes Magnus Chase, a teen who has been living on streets since his mother’s mysterious murder by a pack of wolves. When he is tracked down by his uncle, a man his mother had always said was dangerous, his entire life changes. Or rather, his entire life ends. And starts again. Because it turns out that the Norse myths are very real and Magnus is the son of a Norse god. Upon his death, Magnus finds himself in (Hotel) Valhalla as an einherji, one of the noble dead. There he is in the ways of war and battle in order to fight a coming war for the gods. Magnus must find the Sword of Summer, which hasn’t been seen in generations. As a bonus to fans of his pervious series, Magnus Chase is set in the same universe as Riordan’s Greek-, Roman-, and Egyptian-inspired tales, with a special guest appearance by a key figure in the Percy Jackson series.

4. The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB by Adam Shaughnessy

fib

Prudence “Pru” Potts is mourning the death of her father with hostility and holding everyone at arm’s length. Finding a letter–which no one else seems able to see–with the question “What is the unbelievable FIB?” may be just the distraction she needs. Only one other kid can see the card: new kid ABE. ABE shares Pru’s love of puzzles (which she inherited from her detective father). Together they manage to unravel the clue on the card and meet the mysterious Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox recruits Pru and ABE to help investigate the reason that Norse beings have been sneaking into the town, causing thunderstorms and dark skies. ABE and Pru must track down the Eye of Odin, the source of knowledge, before a dangerous enemy can destroy the realms of both the humans and the gods. But she has to uncover truth and lies about the world around her and learn who she can trust.

5. Frostborn (Thrones and Bones, #1) by Lou Anders

frostbornThe biggest difference between this series and the others on this list is that it is less overtly steeped in Norse mythology. Instead, it is a more subtle, Viking-inspired tale with frost giants, wyverns, and the undead. Karn is destined to take over the family farm in Norrøngard but he is much more interested in playing the strategy game Thrones and Bones, much to his parents’ chagrin. Thianna is a half-human, half-giantess, who at seven feet tall has always felt self-conscious about her height (she’s much too short to be a proper giant). When the two are forced to go on the run due to unexpected drama from their families’ pasts, they are lucky enough to find each other. Relying on each other’s strength, skills, and cleverness, the duo must navigate a world of dangers that includes trolls, dragons, and dwarves while uncovering the truth about their families’ pasts.

 

5 Books If You Love Fairytales

Fairytale Re-Imaginings Up the Ante

Gregory Maguire was my introduction into fairytale re-imaginings. From  The Wizard of Oz to Cinderella, those book re-envisioned how these well known stories came about while keeping the events and beats mostly the same. But where those books felt a little touch to digest, there have been a slew of middle grade and young adults books over the last few years that have gone a different route. These more approachable, fun-spirited tales keep the heart of the well-known tales and completely reimagine how they play out.

Here are the 5 fairytale re-imaginings that offer the most creative, exciting reads:

1. The Ever Afters series by Shelby BachScreen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.31.07 PM

Rory Landon thinks she is different because she’s the daughter of movie stars, but this is nothing compared to what she discovers at her after-school program: fairytales are real and recurring. Rory will one day have to play out one of the famous fairytales she thought were fictional, and if the disasters she must survive are any clue (giants, dragons, and evil queens to name a few), her story is likely to be one of the most dangerous and life-changing of them all. The characters are real and engaging; it is easy to root for Rory and her friends. Their personal problems never feel small compared to the bigger challenges they are facing, a balance that is rarely successfully met, and the blending of fairytale and modern day is seamless.

2. Half Upon a Time trilogy by James Riley

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.50.50 PMJack of Jack and the Beanstalk is an often overlooked fairytale. It isn’t romantic, there are no princesses or knights in shining armor. But though this seems like a small tale compared to some of the more popular tales, there is nothing small about this story. Jack isn’t looking for action and adventure, but that is what he gets when a “princess” falls out of the sky. May, who is from our world, is searching for her grandmother and Jack gets roped into helping her. James Riley has quickly become one of my favorite middle grade authors.He’s not afraid to be fun and creative and you can feel his love of the craft in every book.

3. Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.53.20 PM In most fairytales, the hero is the innocent, brave victims, but Fairy Tale Reform School switches things up. Gilly is the daughter of a cobbler (the one who created Cinderella’s glass slipper). As one of six children, she knows what it means to live a life of poverty-she blames the royal princesses for not crediting her father with the glass slipper-and she is not willing to let her siblings suffer. So she steals food for them to eat and trinkets for them to have nice things. But when she is caught, she is sent to reform school, run by the reformed Evil Stepmother and other fairytale villains, in order to learn how to become a productive member of society. There she uncovers a plot to hurt the royal princesses and must decide if she can truly reform and come to their aid. It’s fun to have a character who isn’t perfectly pure of heart, even though she means well. Throughout the series, we are forced to reconsider our assumptions of good and evil, no easy fete when the base-story is so black and white.

4. A Tale of the Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.56.06 PMPrincess Annie has always been something of a social pariah. It isn’t her fault. Most princesses are blessed with beauty, charm, and talent, but Annie’s blessing was of a different nature: magic can’t touch her. When those with magical enhancements come near, the effects of their blessings fade, so everyone stays as far away from her as possible. But when her sister’s wedding day is disrupted by a sleeping curse, it is up to Annie to save the day. This tale is the ultimate triumph of the underdog. The things that has made her an outcast, shunned even by her family, is the one things that can allow her to break the curse. But while out in the world, Annie realizes that she is stronger and braver than she ever imagined.

5. The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 10.59.02 PM.pngTwins Alex and Bailey find themselves in the land of stories when their grandmother gives them a book of fairytales. But the stories they grew up on are not quite reality-Little Red Riding Hood is the spoiled head of a kingdom, Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive, and their grandmother is the Fairy Godmother. Colfer’s Land of Stories tale was a pleasant surprise and it stands out from the pack because it delves into a theme common in fairytales but rarely explored: the loss of a parent. Alex and Bailey are dealing with the death of their father and that pain plays a central role in the twins’ journey of self-discovery.