Marshmallow reviews The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book 4 of the Trials of Apollo Series) by Rick Riordan

Marshmallow has already reviewed the first three books in Rick Riordan’s Trials of Apollo series for the book bunnies blog. This week she got her paws on the fourth book, The Tyrant’s Tomb, and read it in lightning speed. Below she shares her thoughts on this 400+-page book, published in paperback only this month.

Marshmallow reviews The Tyrant's Tomb (Book 4 of the Trials of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan.
Marshmallow reviews The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book 4 of the Trials of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you have enjoyed reading Rick Riordan’s other books or if you like mythology, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): In the first book of the Trials of Apollo series, Apollo, the god of music, prophecy, and archery, was transformed into Lester, who is described as the “most worthless of teens,” by a mutual friend in one of the past books. Now he is carrying the body of a deceased friend who was killed in the last book. (I will not say who died. I am not spoiling that much!)

While on the road to Camp Jupiter, a training camp for Roman demigods, or half-bloods as they are also called, Lester and his master Meg McCaffrey are attacked by ghouls. They are rescued by a group of campers from Camp Jupiter, led by a pink-haired girl named Lavinia. They are taken to Camp Jupiter, where they are welcomed by the praetors Frank and Reyna. Lester sees in a dream that an evil Roman emperor is now working with the Triumvirate. (We learned about the Triumvirate earlier. It is made up of Caligula, Commodus, and Nero, three evil Roman emperors who are enemies of Apollo/Lester and his friends.) Now the Triumvirate is working with a new ally, and Apollo has a new deadline: in four days an evil army of undead will be unleashed upon the Camp. 

Marshmallow is reading  The Tyrant's Tomb (Book 4 of the Trials of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan.
Marshmallow is reading The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book 4 of the Trials of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan.

Marshmallow’s Review: The Tyrant’s Tomb is a good book. However, I think that if you want to read The Tyrant’s Tomb, you need to have read the first three books in the Trials of Apollo series. I would also highly recommend reading Riordan’s earlier books in the Heroes of Olympus series and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series to give you the full context of the story and the backstories of the characters.

Rick Riordan does a good job of “interacting” with the reader and being funny. Lester is a hilarious narrator. His haikus are funny and it is always amusing to try to guess what they mean: they are sneak peeks of the chapter they start. Here is a favorite, from page 114:

I now have a plan
To make a plan concerning 
The plan for my plan 

I think that The Tyrant’s Tomb is a good book for almost everyone, though it might be too complicated or scary for younger readers. (It is not really horror. It is scary more around the level of the Harry Potter books, possibly less than the later books of Harry Potter which turn quite dark.) The plot is well thought-out and everything is all tied up at the end, though the next book, The Tower of Nero, is the true end of the series and I can’t wait to read it.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates The Tyrant's Tomb (Book 4 of the Trials of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Tyrant’s Tomb (Book 4 of the Trials of Apollo series) by Rick Riordan 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Today Marshmallow writes about The Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. Marshmallow read the 50th Anniversary Edition of this 1961 classic.

Marshmallow reviews The Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.
Marshmallow reviews The Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you enjoy reading classics or appreciate books that make you think, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Milo is a boy who doesn’t want to do anything. He wants to be in school when he isn’t; when he is in school, he wants to be out of it. Then one day, he receives a large package. Inside is a small tollbooth. As he has nothing to do, he starts to play with the tollbooth and finds himself in a strange land when he drives his toy car through it. Luckily, the tollbooth came with a map of this place, and he was driving around in a small motorized car.

As he drives around in this new land, he goes to many strange places. In one place, he becomes friends with a literal watchdog, Tock, who is a dog with a clock on his side. He goes to the kingdom of Dictionopolis where he meets strange people and learns that Rhyme and Reason, two princesses, have been locked away in a Castle in the Air, because the king of Dictionopolis, Azaz the Unabridged, and the king of Digitopolis, the Mathemagician, who also happens to be Azaz’s brother, disliked one of their verdicts. The Princess of Pure Reason and the Princess of Sweet Rhyme were asked by Azaz the Unabridged and the Mathemagician whether numbers or letters were more important. When Rhyme and Reason said that both were equally important, the two kings banished the princesses.

Milo and Tock, accompanied by the Humbug, who was assigned to be their guide by Azaz, must go and rescue the two princesses. But unfortunately, demons and monsters guard the Castle in the Air. Milo, Tock, and the Humbug will need to journey across the “Land Beyond”, the name of the place Milo is in, to return Rhyme and Reason to their land. 

Marshmallow is reading The Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.
Marshmallow is reading The Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

Marshmallow’s Review: The Phantom Tollbooth is a great read, especially if you like language and wordplay. I really like how the author Norton Juster plays with words, like how one character is a watchdog, that means he is a dog with a watch in its side. Another character, the Which, is sort of like a witch, her real name being Faintly Macabre, meaning faintly gruesome, grim, morbid, hideous, or horrific.

I think that the wordplay must be a very big part of why this book is so widely read. Another reason might be because it is good for all ages, not too complicated or scary, though some of the wordplay might not make sense for younger readers. (I did not get most of them when I read it years ago.) I would highly recommend this book to everyone. In fact, I think I will suggest Caramel to read it too, soon. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates The Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, 100%.
Marshmallow rates The Phantom Tollbooth, written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, 100%.

Marshmallow reviews The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick

Marshmallow and Caramel have reviewed several books about school life for this blog before. Today Marshmallow wanted to talk about another book about school life: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick. Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Marshmallow reviews The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick.
Marshmallow reviews The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow let us start with a quick summary. Can you tell us what this book is about?

Marshmallow: This book is about a kid named Maverick. He is short and people mistreat him at school. He also has some family problems. But when he starts sixth grade, he decides to try and change things. He decides to protect others who are mistreated.

S: That sounds really nice. He is not being treated well himself so he knows it feels terrible. So he decides to stand up for others so they won’t feel so lonely.

M: Yes.

S: So how does it go for him? Can he actually help other people?

M: He ends up being able to help, but at the start, he is always getting in trouble. He tries to stand up for others, but usually those people are not very appreciative or grateful. And there is really a lot going on at home. His mom is single and keeps making poor choices for boyfriends. They hit her and she is not always able to stand up to them and Maverick sees this and feels terrible that he is unable to protect his mom.

S: Yes, Maverick’s life is really hard, right? His mom is also always either working very hard at an unstable job or is out of work. Mom and son love each other and are usually kind to one another, but the home is not safe or comfortable.

M: Maverick does not have too many adults to trust, but he does have his aunt, and then eventually he finds another trusted grownup at school. I’m not telling who because I don’t want to give away all the details.

S: I agree. I think this gives people a good sense of the type of book this is.

M: Yes. Except that the book is also really really funny.

S: Yes, I will agree with that too. I was really really sad at some point while reading and then the next sentence made me laugh out loud. Maverick is a sincere, modest, and hilarious narrator.

M: That is true. His voice reminds me a bit of Percy Jackson.

S: How so?

M: They have the same sense of humor I think.

S: I guess so. I think they both are good at self-deprecating humor. And Percy has a lot of difficulties to fit in at school before he figures out he is a demigod. So maybe there is that too. Both Percy and Maverick are kids who did not start out life with things going easy for them.

M: Yes. I think so.

Marshmallow is reading The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick.
Marshmallow is reading The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick.

S: So what else would you like to say about this book? Did you enjoy reading it?

M: I enjoyed reading it, but I do think it is for older bunnies. Maverick’s life is very hard, and some kids might not be mature enough to read about domestic abuse and alcoholism and such.

S: Of course there are a lot of kids who have to live with these things, so for those kids, there is no way to avoid learning about them at any age.

M: That is true. I think maybe for those kids the book might also be good. There are good things that happen in the book too, and some of the difficulties are overcome.

S: So maybe for kids whose lives are difficult in these ways and in other ways, too, this might be a good book because it shows them that other people also suffer, and maybe kindness, Maverick’s way of trying to handle life, is still an option.

M: Yes.

S: The assistant principal at Maverick’s school has a little reminder in his office, a sentence on his wall:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

page 67

I think it is a good summary of the main message of this book.

M: I think so too.

S: It seems that the author was inspired by a real person while writing this book. There are so many people who have really difficult lives, yet they never lose their kindness. It is hard but those people do it. This book is a good reminder.

M: Yes.

S: So let us wrap things up. How would you rate this book Marshmallow?

M: Hmm, let me see. It gets a bit hard to read sometimes, because it is so sad sometimes. But it is a good book overall. So I rate it 95%.

Marshmallow rates The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick 95%.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Marshmallow began this blog with a review of J.K. Rowling’s The Cursed Child. Recently she began rereading the original Harry Potter series in their illustrated versions, and a couple weeks ago, she reviewed the illustrated edition of the first book in the series: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Today she reviews the second volume, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow reviews Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you are reading the Harry Potter books for the first time, or you are rereading them and really like Harry Potter, then this illustrated edition might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Harry Potter is spending the summer with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Dudley, which is not his idea of a good vacation. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon adore Dudley and dislike Harry. The reason the Dursleys dislike Harry is because Harry is a most unusual boy, and the Dursleys dislike everything that is out of the ordinary. And sadly, there is not anywhere else for him to go, as he is an orphan.

Last year, (in the first book of the series), Harry learned that his parents were both wizards, and that they were killed by an evil wizard named Lord Voldemort, who was so feared that even after his “death”, people still called him “you-know-who”. You-know-who killed Harry’s parents and then attempted to kill Harry. But somehow, Voldemort’s curse rebounded on himself, and he was weakened, and many wizards thought he was killed. Since Harry was only a baby when this terrible event occurred, he did not remember any of this. He did not even know that he was a wizard, that his parents were murdered, that he somehow “defeated” Lord Voldemort, and as a result, was famous and admired in a world that he didn’t even know existed. He thought that he was a poor orphan and that his aunt and uncle had to take him in and that his parents were killed in a car crash. However, as clueless as he was about his past, Harry did know that the Durleys certainly did not like him and simply tolerated him. They even kept him locked up in a cupboard under the stairs.

Luckily, events last year caused the Dursleys to move Harry to Dudley’s second bedroom. Now they want to lock Harry in his bedroom when Uncle Vernon’s guests arrive. But then, a house-elf named Dobby appears and warns/tells Harry that he can’t go back to Hogwarts, Harry’s school and favorite place in the world, because according to Dobby, terrible things are going to happen.

Harry basically ignores Dobby, even though Dobby makes it pretty hard to do that. When he returns to Hogwarts, which is more difficult than usual for a lot of reasons, he finds that listening to Dobby might have been a good idea. 

Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.
Marshmallow is reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay.

Marshmallow’s Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a really good sequel to the first book, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. The book itself is amazing, and with the illustrations, it makes a great choice for readers who are reading the Harry Potter series for the first time, or for readers who love the series and want to reread the books with some new features (like the pictures).

I don’t think that this is a shortened version or a longer version than the original. The whole thing is in here in all its details, and Jim Kay draws beautiful pictures that really bring the story to life. Even in pages that don’t have a ton of drawings, the corners are decorated with related pictures. I found it very interesting to see what Jim Kay thought each character looked like.

Talking about characters, J.K. Rowling is very good at creating characters that are lovable (Dobby), characters that are relatable (Harry), characters that are realistic (Ron, Harry’s friend), characters that are admirable (Hermione, Harry’s friend who is very smart), and characters that are VERY annoying (Lockhart, a professor who comes to teach at Hogwarts).

I think that this is also a great book to read before or after watching the movie version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Here is the trailer for the movie, which I have watched several times already:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Official Trailer.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 100%.

Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.
Marshmallow rates Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets written by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay 100%.