Sam O.'s blog

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Winner of the 2017 Stonewall Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor marks Rick Riordan’s return to the world of Asgard. Picking up right after their triumph at the end of the previous story, Magnus Chase and company must now retrieve Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, before the giants invade and destroy Earth. So overall, just your average day really. Filled with Riordan’s trademark research, interpretative genius, and wit, The Hammer of Thor will satisfy die-hard fans and likely make some new ones, as he tackles issues of race, religion, representation, and gender.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Winner of the 2017 Newberry Medal, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a must read for any fans of fairy tales and fantasy. Barnhill weaves together pieces of many genres, creating a story reminiscent of classic fairy tales, yet at the same time all its own. The many elements this story explores are difficult to adequately explain, but let it suffice to say that at its heart, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a story about the power of love and family (both born and chosen) and illustrates the very best that fairy tale and fantasy storytelling has to offer.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Death has been defeated and world peace achieved. With the guidance of Artificial Intelligence, humanity has ushered in a utopia…. mostly. In Scythe, Neal Shusterman posits that AI has evolved into an omniscient (and omnibenevolent) force called the Thunderhead, through which the world has achieved a true and lasting peace. The Thunderhead controls everything, but unlike many dystopian works, this is a miraculous and profoundly beneficial event. The only power that the Thunderhead does not possess is the ability to take life. That responsibility is assigned to Scythes, who roam the world utilizing quotas to randomly glean (aka kill) in order to keep earth’s population in check.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Sherlock has finally returned to television, so what better time to read a new interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic sleuth? A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro, posits that Holmes and Watson each had families and children who followed in their famous ancestors footsteps all the way to modern times. Cavallaro creates a history for the families of Holmes and Watson, transforming them into semi-dynastic clans that often pursue the ideals set forth by the family founder. Against this backdrop, the reader is introduced to James Watson, the great-great-great grandson of the famous chronicler John Watson, as he moves, unhappily, from England to Connecticut to start his semester on a rugby scholarship at an expensive and elite private school near his estranged father. There he meets the great-great-great granddaughter of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte, who takes after her famous ancestor to a troubling degree, including his substance abuse issues.

Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening

A dark fantasy that heralds the start of a thrilling new series, Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda is a stunningly beautiful graphic novel that tells a heartrending and epic story. The story utilizes a mix of Asian mythologies and ancient Egyptian motifs to create a rich and layered world that Takeda’s art brings to beautiful life. The world is matriarchal and the bulk of the characters, heroes, villians, and those in between, are powerful and deadly women, often with rich and layered backstories. Monstress imagines a world that is at once completely different from our own, yet still hauntingly familiar. The power of this graphic novel is difficult to convey as both the story and artwork contain multitudes of layers that enrich the story and add complexity. Monstress is a tale of vengeance, redemption, horror, tragedy, friendship, shattered gods, magic, myth, and monsters all braided together into an exquisite graphic novel.

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard is a fun and beautiful graphic novel that will appeal to children who enjoy humor, fantasy, and adventure. Told in a whimsical artistic style utilizing varying shades of brown and black, this story focuses on the impact one person can have through kindness as well as the transformative power of adventure.

When our story starts, Bera has lived a happy, secluded life tending pumpkins for the Troll King on a remote island. That all changes when a human child washes ashore. To keep the baby safe, Bera decides she must leave her island and take it to the human kingdom. On her journey, Bera seeks the help of famous troll heroes and heroines as she battles goblins, trolls with multiple heads, deals with diapers, and fends off the witch Cloote. All in all, Bera the One-Headed Troll is a sweet and often humorous story that will keep readers rooting for our one-headed heroine throughout. Suggested for ages 8 and up.

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater is a charming and silly story set in a world where magical creatures are part of everyday life. Our heroine, the aforementioned Pip Bartlett, is completely capable of talking with and taking care of magical creatures - it’s people she has problems with. Everything changes after an incident involving unicorns at her school and she is sent to spend the summer with her aunt, who is a veterinarian for magical creatures. Pip is having a great time caring for the animals, learning from her aunt, and generally staying out of trouble, until the Fuzzles arrive. Now, while these little balls of fluff may sound cute, their response to any fear or stress is to burst into flame. As more and more flood in the town, it becomes a serious fire hazard and Pip has to help find a solution, not only to save the town, but also to save the Fuzzles from being exterminated by the town government. 

Paper Girls by Brian Vaughan

If you liked Stranger Things, read Paper Girls by Brian Vaughan. Vaughan, author of Saga, utilizes many of the same elements as Stranger Things: independent children, other worlds, absent parents (seriously, where are the parents?), and otherworldly monsters. The story begins as several twelve year-old paper girls bike their evening route on Halloween, 1988. What starts as a normal shift grows stranger and more supernatural by the hour. The main character, Erin, is delivering papers, when she is accosted by strange boys in Halloween costumes. Another group of paper girls rescues her and they agree to travel together for safety, but along the way they realize that people in town have started to disappear.

Darth Vader Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen

Star Wars Darth Vader: Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen fills in a necessary gap in the Star Wars canon, and could help fill the time before Star Wars: Rogue One arrives in theaters. Gillen’s Vader is trying to learn the identity of the young pilot who destroyed the Death Star, as well as regain the favor of Emperor Palpatine after failing to stop the Rebel Alliance. As Vader goes on these dual missions, he is forced to hire agents who can act as his public face. Navigating all of these situations and relationships, as well as his personal quest for vengeance against the Rebellion and suspicions about secrets in the Empire, create a world of intrigue and violence for this story to play out. Gillen balances all of these elements superbly and also unleashes Vader, using battle sequences and displays of the Force to remind readers why Vader is one of the most feared individuals in the galaxy.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke is a funny fantasy story that flips the classic hero dynamic on its head. Hatke tells the story of a goblin in a dungeon who enjoys a pleasant life counting treasure and spending time with the Skeleton King, when a band of ‘heroes’ barge into the dungeon, pillage his treasure and take his friend. This event sparks the goblin’s odyssey as he leaves the comfort of his dungeon to search for his friend, braving danger and fleeing pitchfork wielding farmers at every step. Eventually, the goblin ends up in a cave far from home, where he finds out that there are in fact, people who like goblins and want to help him on his quest.

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