Thursday, January 30, 2014

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Book Review

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Published: March 21, 2006
Synopsis: Percy has been in six schools in six years and is being expelled again. It's not his fault strange things keep happening when he's around like his math teacher turning into a mythological fury and trying to kill him. However, he soon finds out that he is no ordinary 12 year old. He is a demi-god, son of Poseidon, and evidently the thief who stole Zeus' master lightning bolt. Percy and his newfound friends from Camp Half-Blood find themselves going on an adventure to prove his innocence and stop the gods from going to war.
My rating: 3.5/5 stars
First off, let me just say, that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would have enjoyed this book much more if I were twelve and reading it. However, given the fact that I am not twelve, it was still a fun, quick read. And, of course, it was ten times better than the movie which I saw when it first come out on DVD.
I'm jumping on the Percy Jackson bandwagon really late as this book has been on my TBR list for years. I've been meaning to read it ever since I found out that the movie was very different (which most book-to-movie adaptations are of course). I was slightly hesitant because this, along with all of Rick Riordan's books, have been closely paralleled in hype and as a super popular middle grade series to Harry Potter. Walk into any Barnes and Noble and you'll see what I mean; I should know, I work in one. Now, I grew up with Harry Potter. I read the first book when I was 8, I think, about a year or so after it was published and I remember being completely saddened when I found out that the third book wasn't out yet. I've read and reread all the Harry Potter books several times since the series ended and they'll always be special to me. Now, while reading The Lightning Thief I couldn't help but make the comparisons between the two: brave protagonist who didn't know he was special - Harry/Percy, know it all girl best friend - Hermione/Annabeth, bumbling boy best friend - Ron/Grover, Dumbledore/Chiron, Voldemort/Kronos (don't say his name!), Snape/Mr. D, Hogwarts/Camp Half-Blood, etc. etc. etc. I could go on. However, regardless of any of that, I still very much enjoyed this book. It had great action sequences, likeable characters, and bits of well placed humor.
My favorite part of the book, of course, is it's take on Greek mythology. I loved that Rick Riordan modernized the myths and even poked fun at a few of the gods. For example, I thought it was great that Dionysus, god of wine, was being punished for his lush habits and I liked the idea that Olympus moves with wherever the heart of Western Civilization lies. I thought that was particularly clever. Although having prior knowledge of Greek myths makes the reading more fun - as it becomes a fun guessing game to figure out along with Percy which god you're dealing with - it's not absolutely necessary. Names, places, and beasts are adequately described so the reader doesn't feel lost if they're not familiar with the myth.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I wish I hadn't waited so long to read it. I'd definitely recommend this anyone interested in Greek mythology, fantasy, or adventure or to parents who want a stepping stone to get their kids into classical mythology.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Legend Trilogy Book Review

Legend, Prodigy, and Champion by Marie Lu
Published: November 2011, January 2013, and November 2013 (respectively)
Synopsis: Set in post-apocalyptic North America where the United States has been separated into two warring counties, The Republic of America and The Colonies of America, Republic prodigy June finds herself working together with Day, the Republic's most wanted criminal, to uncover the secrets their country is keeping from its people.
When I first started reading Legend, I admittedly had a hard time getting into the story. The pacing was a little slow and I felt like I was slightly spoiled by reading the inside book flap and discovering June's brother was going to die. I also felt slightly put off by Day's use of unfamiliar slang in his narration and my initial fear that the plague was going to be another zombie virus. However, all that was soon forgotten and I found I couldn't put the series down. Thankfully, I had been given the entire box set (complete with the Life Before Legend novella) for Christmas so my marathoning needs were entirely fulfilled. And I was wrong about the zombie plague, thank god.
To start, let's talk about world building. I've found in other YA dystopian series, the world building is a little lacking and leaves a lot of questions as to how the whole dystopian apocalypse began or instead blurs over particular details instead of explaining them. That was easily not the case in the Legend trilogy. Unlike other YA authors, I feel like Marie Lu had a complete sense of the why, when, how, and where her world began. She had a complete understanding of her world and that, in turn, reflected in her writing. I also give her extra points for taking topics like GMO farming/ meat industries and global warming which are relevant for us today and incorporating them seamlessly into her world.


Marie Lu's writing got better and better with each book and the characters she created were so developed that each one was amazing in their own way. Aside from the main protagonists of the story, there were so many great supporting characters that helped bring this story to life. First, there's the older brothers, Metias and John, who essentially both sacrificed themselves for the greater cause and to save their families. I truly wish both had more time in the books. Tess and Eden are both pure innocence but each have a strength and an endurance to them that kept them going. Kaede is just a pure kick-ass character whose death broke me and I loved Pascao's combination of playful, fun, seriousness. I really liked Anden too and I'm glad that he and June got some time together in the epilogue and I hope that somewhere beyond the pages of the books he got his own happy ending as well. 
On the villainous side, Thomas was a great character. I hated him right along with June and Day though I was always suspicious of him from the beginning once June said his uniform was always perfect. He was the perfect soldier and followed all of his orders even if that meant throwing his morals out of the window. (I vaguely remember reading something about that in one of my college psych classes though I can't remember what that theory was called - something to do with the Holocaust.) I liked how he was a Republic soldier right up until his death - which I thought was very fitting for him and made sense for his character. Commander Jameson, though, I feel was not as developed as she could have been. By Prodigy and Champion, she was pegged to be June's main enemy to the point where she warned June that she could end up like her. Somehow felt that was rushed. She didn't have enough development time throughout Legend to hold such a high place on the antagonist scale. I didn't see the correlation between herself and June and therefore, didn't see how June could have such a paralyzing fear of her.
Now onto our protagonists. I have to say, I loved Day and June and I loved each of their narrations. Unlike most dual narrator novels, I think both were separate enough to have their own distinct voices. Day was clearly influenced mostly by his emotions. He did everything for the love of his family and to keep them safe. In the beginning of Legend, he ignored Tess' warnings that they should leave LA for a while in favor of just being able to be close to his family's home. Everything he did, he did because to protect the ones he loved - first his family then Tess then June then the people of the Republic. June was influenced by logic and calculations and had a very black and white way of thinking until of course she met Day and she had to learn that what's the most logical isn't always what's right. Granted, I did find it slightly annoying that she counted seconds all the time and did calculations of how many seconds per minutes per blocks it would take to get from point A to point B. However, that was completely in character for her and therefore, I ignored my annoyance and continued reading. Plus, I'm not a math person to begin with so calculations just aren't my thing. Major credit to June for doing mental math under extreme pressure because goodness knows, I couldn't do it.
There were only two things that I didn't like about Day and June. First, their relationship spawned basically from nothing. They fell in love instantly without knowing each other, practically without even knowing each other's names. I understand that there's a mutual trust and a bond that builds when two people are fighting together for the same cause but in this case, I didn't feel like there was enough of a foundation between the two of them for them to be so wholehearted in love by the time Prodigy began. However, I was willing to accept that this is a YA novel and, as such, love at first sight is always an option. Second, theirs but particularly Day's relationship to the people. I know in the beginning of Legend it was mentioned that a lot of Day's crimes against the Republic had been for the benefit of the people. However, I didn't feel like there was enough precedence in the books for the people to be protesting Day's execution with red in their hair. He was made out to be a Robin Hood-like character but I felt as if I needed to be shown more of that rather then having just been told it. (Day's novella goes into a little more depth on this but still, I would have liked to have been shown more.) Again, however, this didn't take anything away from my experience in reading and fully enjoying the books.
As for plot and story arcs, again it really showed how well the author had an understanding of her world and how everything functioned. Nothing was without purpose even if it seemed pointless at first. For example, while I was reading Prodigy I thought June getting sick right as the assassination attempt was going to happen and right when the Patriots were chasing after them was just a way to add drama into the story. June kept saying her brother always said she was particularly prone to sickness so I thought to myself, 'Well then of course she'd get sick at the worst possible moment.' By the end of Champion, I was clearly proven wrong because even her sickness had a purpose and it turned out she unknowingly was the missing piece to the cure that the lab technicians needed. 
As a whole, I really love this series and I can completely understand why the movie rights were bought to it even before Legend was published. As I was reading, everything was just so epic in my head that it was already playing out like a movie - particularly the action sequences which were very well written. And the ending! It was so bittersweet but perfect! I'm glad they found each other again and I'm glad Day kept June's ring even if he didn't know who it was from. I'd most definitely recommend this to anyone who likes dystopian YA, romance, and action.
Final side note: Thank goodness Ollie was okay! I was mad at June for leaving him behind in Legend and when she got him back, I found myself flipping ahead literally just to make sure he was okay. I know he died in the end but at least it was from old age and not from being shot or something. I'm glad no dogs (fictional or not) were harmed in the writing of this trilogy. =)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Birthday and Christmas Book Haul

I have the lovely experience of having my birthday and Christmas fall within three days of each other and what that means is LOTS of bookish presents!! I know, normal people who get a book for Christmas are probably like, "Ick, a book? Really?" but not me! I love getting books as gifts. So today, I'll be listing out all the books I received this past holiday season - all of which I've really been wanting to read - and some of which have been sitting on my to-read list for quite a while. Let's start with the two awesome box sets I got:

The Legend Trilogy box set (with the novella Life before Legend) by Marie Lu - Legend has been a book I've been wanting to read since I heard about it. Honestly, I didn't know much about it except that it was a trilogy set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic America. I've really begun to love the action and quick pace of dystopian (YA only - I haven't yet read any adult dystopians) novels ever since I read The Hunger Games. I was hoping that this series would be just as fun and exciting. I'm halfway through Prodigy now and so far it's pretty good but I'll do a full series review when I'm done with Champion.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series box set by Rick Riordan - These books have been on my reading list for so incredibly long - basically ever since I first saw the first movie. (I've yet to see Sea of Monsters). However, from what I've read from reviews, the books are completely different from the movie. I enjoyed the movie for what it was but I'm really excited to see how much more exciting the books are because of course, the books are always  better. Plus, it involves Greek mythology - that's practically a guarantee right there that I'll love them.

Now for the non-box set books I received:

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld - I first heard about this book a really, really long time ago. I've never read anything by Scott Westerfeld before, but after reading a non-spoiler review of this book, I really wanted to start this series. It's set in alternate-history World War I where the opposing sides are the Clankers versus the Darwinists. The Clankers use technological warfare while the Darwinists' weapon of choice is of a biological nature. When I first heard about this book, I had just finished reading The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Clare so I had been eager to get my hands on another steampunk-ish type of book. This one seems really good and hopefully, once I read it, I'll be picking up the rest of the trilogy.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Honestly, I have no idea what this book is about. My interest in it came from a high recommendation from a co-worker. I know it's set in World War II but I'm not too clear on the plot exactly. All I know is my co-worker liked it and Rick Riordan gave it five stars on Goodreads - therefore, it has to be good.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - This is another post-apocalyptic book that I've been hoping to read for a while now. It's set in a world where you're either a Dweller living in government controlled cities or an Outsider living in the Wastelands. The main character, Aria, is a Dweller who becomes exiled and meets Perry, an Outsider. I was initially curious about this book for a couple of reasons excluding the hype of it actually being pretty good considering it's a debut novel. First, it's in third person, which is different from the trend of first person POV books that has been dominating the YA shelves recently. Second, from what I've heard, the love interest in this story isn't instantaneous like most YA books. I'm interested to read about how this develops because insta-love has become a really big pet peeve of mine.

Seeing Redd and Archenemy by Frank Beddor - I read The Looking Glass Wars in the middle of last December and I absolutely loved it. I loved the way the author twisted the classic Alice story, embedded it into history, and completely made it his own. I loved Wonderland as Frank Beddor created it, especially the way he used the imagination and gave it tangible (that's not quite the word I'm going for) rather than just hypothetical or metaphoric power. It's definitely not a  sequel to Carrol's Alice stories in any way but it was never intended to be that. I can't wait to read further about Alyss, Dodge, Hatter Madigan, and General Doppelgänger. And, for next Christmas, I want Hatter's hat.

So there they are, the last thirteen books I received in 2013! Here's to hoping they live up to my expectations! Cheers!

- Jazzie Kings aka The Book Dancer

Currently reading: Prodigy by Marie Lu
Progress: page 291
Thoughts so far: So far, I'm really enjoying this series. There's a few points that I think could have been developed further to be more believable including the Day and June's relationship (again, the whole insta-love thing doesn't work quite right) and the public's decision that Day is their hero. Putting those aside, however, it's definitely been a fun reading experience so far.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hello 2014!

It's three days into the new year. I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions but this year I'm making some (and hopefully sticking to them). There's just something very promising about a new year that makes the inner dreamer in me particularly optimistic.

Now, I don't know if I can call my resolutions "resolutions" per say because none of them are really things that need to be resolved. Maybe "goals" is a better word for them. Resolute goals. We'll go with that.

#1 - THIS BLOG - Blogging is something that I've considered doing for a while now but have never actually done. However, recently, my considering has turned into a definitive want as I've started following different blogs and vlogs of people who have the same interests in reading as I do. So with that said, my first goal of the new year is to blog. This blog will be used for book reviews, thoughts, and general comments about the wonderful worlds of books, reading, and writing. For the most part, I'll probably be posting reviews of books I'm reading but it will probably also include tidbits about authors I like, quotes on reading and writing, notes on any book-a-thons I enter, and other things of that nature.

#2 - READ - Clearly, I love books otherwise I wouldn't be starting a book blog. I typically read a lot of YA fiction with a focus on fantasy, adventure, dystopia - those sorts of genres. I'm going to try the 100 book challenge this year and see how far I get. According to my Goodreads profile I only read 26 books in 2013 but I have a feeling that I left a few out. Still, rounding up to 30-35ish books, that's a long way off from 100 but that's my goal. Read 100 books. Read new authors of which I have plenty in mind including John Green who I've never read. (I know! That's practically YA blasphemy.) And maybe even read more adult fiction just to change it up.

#3 - WRITE - Now, of course, I can't blog about writing until I actually start writing. Therefore, my second goal for the year is to write more. I need to stop passively saying I want to be a writer and actively actually write something. Who cares if what I write is crap? That's what revisions are for... and second revisions and thirds and fourths. If every writer's first draft was immediately published... well, there'd be a lot of bad books out there. Plus, I have too many ideas floating around in my head that I need to do something with instead of just making mental notes to write down. Maybe, just maybe, I'll even be able to wrap up the year with a complete manuscript. Blogging-wise, I plan on posting at least twice a week to start with and maybe more as I fall into the flow of blogging.

#4 -  BE MORE SPONTANEOUS - Now I don't mean, random bursts of craziness that are likely to get my already klutzy, accident-prone self hurt. (Good god, I just thought of myself doing an extreme sport and envisioned the painful ending that would likely ensue.) I mean, live life to the fullest. Go out more. Have more fun. Do more things. I live less than 10 minutes from New York City for goodness sakes and I never go there! There's a logical reason for that though - the thought of traversing the subways gives me anxiety. Put me in London on the tube and I'll be fine; places and directions are labeled clearly. But put me in New York with subways named only with letters that crisscross directions everywhere and we'll have problems. Maybe I should add that to my goals.
Sub-goal: Conquer fear of the New York subway system.

That's it for now. Those are my resolute goals for the year. Thanks for reading and welcome to my blog!

- Jazzie Kings aka The Book Dancer

Currently reading: Legend by Marie Lu
Progress: page 87
Thoughts so far: A bit slow on the uptake. I could have gone without knowing beforehand from reading the inside flap that Metias was going to die. All in all, I'm liking it though I'm not at the point of loving it yet. I like reading from June's POV more than Day's but that's only because Day's habit of using terms like 'goddy' or 'cousin' seem very stilted and are off-putting to me. Probably, because I've never heard anyone using those terms - ever.
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