Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
381 pages

The final book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is a wonderfully paced, satisfying conclusion to the epic children's fantasy series. In the first chapter Percy is hanging out with his friend Rachel Elizabeth Dare when his friend, demigod Charles Beckendorf, riding on the pegasus Blackjack, interrupts and announces that it is time for them to embark on the dangerous mission they had been planning for weeks. Percy tells Rachel goodbye and leaves with Charles on Blackjack. They fly to the Princess Andromeda, a stolen cruise ship Luke has been using for his monster army, where Kronos and his henchmen are sailing to New York. Percy and Charles land on board and head straight to the engine room to plant explosives. Percy leaves to distract a group of telkhines from entering the engine room. As Percy runs across the ship he fights a giant monster crab and reaches Kronos. Kronos announces that he'd been expecting Percy and reveals that there is a spy at Camp Half-Blood. Charles is captured by giants and tricks them into believing he didn't set the explosives. Although Percy tries to fight Kronos his attempts are futile. Charles tells Percy to jump off the ship and presses the detonator on his wrist. Shortly after Percy lands in the ocean the cruise ship explodes and Percy loses consciousness.

Percy is woken by his brother Tyson in Poseidon's underwater palace. Tyson tells Percy that he did not find Charles and Percy realizes that Charles sacrificed himself to take down the ship of monsters. Tyson takes Percy to Poseidon who informs Percy that the war against the Titan Oceanus is not going well and he is exhausting all his resources. Percy wants to stay and help his dad fight, but Poseidon commands Percy to return to Camp Half-Blood and tell Chiron it is time for him to hear "The Great Prophecy" in its entirety. When Percy returns to Camp everyone is distraught over the news about Charles, especially his girlfriend Silena Beauregard. Annabeth leads Percy into the attic to show him "The Great Prophecy" from a slip of paper in a pouch on the Oracle's neck. When he reads the prophecy in front of the campers, he is dismayed that it reveals a single choice will lead to the end of his days. Chiron shows Percy that all the gods of Olympus are fighting the formidable monster Typhon. Percy is disturbed by the thought of no one guarding Olympus, but Chiron states that if Typhon reaches New York it won't matter if anyone defends Mount Olympus. The war council is chaotic because Clarisse is angry that the Apollo cabin took a flying chariot from her cabin in a previous battle. The next day Annabeth calls Percy a coward after he asks her for advice about their next strategy to fight Kronos. Percy goes to visit Mrs. O'Leary and they take a walk in the woods. There Percy sees the overweight satyr, Council Elder Leneus, and forcefully asks him to help him find Grover, who Percy hasn't been able to contact in months. Leneus runs away saying that Grover will die an outcast. Nico Di Angelo, who witnesses the scene asks Percy if he's ready to do what he suggested to him on his fifteenth birthday. Percy is reluctant, but then agrees when he thinks about what is going on at camp. Percy uses Mrs. O'Leary to shadow travel to Connecticut for the first part of their task.

When Percy, Mrs. O'Leary, and Nico arrive at Connecticut they are near the home of May Castellan, Luke's mother. Percy and Nico enter her home and discover that Luke's mother is an insane woman who thinks Luke is going to come home and makes sandwiches for him every day. She mistakes Percy for Luke and Percy plays along. Nico confirms that Luke received his mother's blessing before he did what Percy has agreed to do also. They leave May Castellan's home and go to Percy's mother's apartment in New York. She gives Percy her blessing to carry out Nico's plan, but she asks for a sign to know that he is okay when the war with Kronos is over. Percy promises to give her a blue sign to show he is safe. Nico then leads Percy to the Underworld entrance in New York City. Percy finds Grover who has been sleeping in Central Park for two months. He told Percy that Morpheus, the God of Dreams, knocked him out. Grover plays his reed pipes to open the Door of Orpheus to the Underworld for Nico, Percy, and Mrs. O'Leary. Grover goes to rally the nature spirits in the park to prepare for the battle against Kronos. When Percy reaches the River Styx Nico tells Percy they need to go to Hades' palace first. Percy realizes that Nico tricked him into going to Hades, who imprisons him. Nico claims that he didn't know what Hades was going to do when he rescues Percy from his prison, only that he was trying to get information about his family and that Hades wanted to see Percy in exchange. Mrs. O'Leary takes them back to the River Styx and Percy is warned by the ghost of Achilles not to go in the river like he warned Luke before him. Percy goes into the river and feels like he is burning and drowning. He is about to succumb when he imagines Annabeth helping him to reach the surface again. When Percy emerges from the river with the power of invincibility Nico is surprised. Hades arrives with an army of skeletons. Percy fights and swiftly destroys all of them and pins Hades to the ground. He demands to know what the trap is that Kronos is planning, but Hades disappears. Percy tells Nico to stay in the Underworld and convince his dad to fight against Kronos. Percy arranges for all the demigods at Camp Half-Blood, except for the Ares cabin, to meet him downtown in Manhattan to prepare for the battle to defend Mount Olympus.

The campers go to the Empire State Building and reach Olympus by taking the elevator to the 600th floor. Hermes delivers a message to Annabeth saying that her mother Athena told her to use plan twenty three, one of Daedalus' inventions. Percy receives a vision from Hestia, the Goddess of the Hearth--who he met earlier outside of May Castellan's house, about Luke's earlier days when he first met Annabeth. She tells Percy that she must understand Luke's family to face him in battle. After Hermes leaves the campers learn that Morpheus has put every mortal in Manhattan to sleep. They observe that demons and monsters are beginning to invade Manhattan through bridges and tunnels and rivers. Percy assigns each of the cabins a bridge or tunnel to defend while he goes to defend the rivers. Thalia and the Hunters of Artemis arrive in time to fight at the Lincoln tunnel, which was unguarded. Percy and Annabeth drive around Manhattan on a borrowed motor scooter and activate a statue that is actually an automaton that Daedalus manufactured to defend Manhattan in plan twenty-three. The statue Annabeth wakes up goes to activate the other statues in Manhattan. Percy goes underwater in the New York Harbor and antagonizes two New York river gods. He offers them both half of a sand dollar if they sink the enemy boats that are coming to Manhattan. The river gods take the money and sink the boats. Annabeth tells Percy that the Apollo cabin needs help at Williamsburg Bridge where they are facing an army led by the Minotaur Percy killed four years ago on his way to Camp Half-Blood for the first time. Percy calls Blackjack who flies him and Annabeth to the bridge.

Percy uses his invincibility and super strength to defeat the Minotaur and most of his monster army, while the remaining monsters fled. The victory is brief as Kronos approaches with a new enemy force. The Apollo cabin, Percy, and Annabeth attempt to retreat, but are caught in battle. Ethan Nakamura injures Annabeth when she blocks him from stabbing Percy. Blackjack carries Annabeth away quickly before Kronos can use her to force Percy to surrender. Percy and Kronos exchange blows and Percy creates a chasm in the bridge after Kronos cracks it with his scythe. Kronos withdraws and says "Until this evening, Jackson." Percy goes to the Plaza Hotel to check on Annabeth who is getting treated for her wound. Silena decides to go back to camp to convince Clarisse and the Ares cabin to join the battle. After the surviving campers and Hunters rest they get back into action when a new army led by the Titan Hyperion march through Central Park. Percy uses his water powers to create a hurricane around him and subdue Hyperion until he is trapped in roots and ensconced inside a maple tree created by the woodland magic of the satyrs. Shortly afterwards a monstrous pig, The Clazmonian Sow, is unleashed and threats to destroy everything in its path. Percy tells Grover to keep the troops fighting and retreat if necessary while he takes on the pig. He latches onto the pig with a grappling hook and it flies around Manhattan. Percy manages to attach a Hermes statue to the Sow midflight and Blackjack swoops in to catch Percy as he falls from the hook. Percy activates the Hermes statue and commands two lions in front of the public library to kill the pig. After the statues destroy the Clazmonian Sow Percy returns to his friends to help them battle the rest of the monsters. After over an hour of fighting the demigods and Hunters defenses weaken and are soon surrounded by Kronos and his army. Suddenly Chiron and hundreds of centaurs arrive and attack the enemies in an onslaught that causes Kronos' army to retreat.

Rachel Elizabeth Dares arrives from her vacation after convincing her Dad to let her leave because of a dangerous vision she has. When her helicopter arrives in Manhattan the pilot falls asleep from the enchantment and Annabeth rides a pegasus to prevent the helicopter from crashing. After Annabeth lands the helicopter to safety, Rachel tells Percy that she had to warn him. In her visions she received a message that said "Perseus, you are not the hero." Percy gets frustrated and asks Chiron to speak to Rachel about her ability because it reminds him of Luke's mother May Castellan who went insane after attempting to receive the spirit from the Oracle of Delphi, not knowing Hades cursed her. Percy has a dream the Kronos is going to attack them again right away and he warns Chiron and his troops. They realize that their numbers are dwindled considerably when a drakon comes to attack. Percy, Annabeth, and Mrs. O'Leary fight the drakon until the Ares cabin arrives. Silena tricked the Ares cabin into fighting with her by pretending she was Clarisse. The drakon shoots her with poison and fatally wounds her. The real Clarisse comes in a flying chariot and is so infuriated by Silena's condition that she takes down the drakon by herself. As Silena is dying she discloses that she was the spy and that Luke deceived her saying he would keep Charles safe. Percy, Grover, and Annabeth go to Olympus and Percy sits on his father's throne and asks him to join the gods in their fight against Typhon once they reach New York. Poseidon reluctantly agrees. Kronos army advances again, but this time Hades and an Underworld army have come to fight due to Nico's persuasion. Kronos seals himself inside the Empire State Building and leaves the battle to destroy the gods' seats of power in Olympus. 

When Percy, Annabeth, and Grover reach the throne room, Kronos has already destroyed much of Mount Olympus. Percy fights Kronos, but he is overwhelmed. Kronos tells Percy that he's about to win the war and shows an image of Typhon arriving in New York. Kronos is shocked to see Poseidon and his army of Cyclopes emerge from the sea and beat Typhon down into Tartarus with the rest of the gods. Percy and Kronos fight, then Annabeth intervenes and talks to Luke inside of Kronos' body. She appeals to Luke to remember his promise about family, and Luke regains control of his body. He tells Percy to let him defeat Kronos by using his own blade. Percy chooses to hand the blade that Annabeth gave him to Luke, who then stabs himself in his weak spot. Kronos is expelled from Luke's body, and Luke dies shortly after he asks Percy to make sure demigod children do not go unclaimed. The gods return to Olympus and repair the throne room. Zeus makes a blue sign for Percy's mother over the Empire State Building. The surviving campers and Hunters are medically treated. Dionysus rewards Grover by making him a member of the Council of Cloven Elders. Athena names Annabeth the official architect of the rebuilding of Olympus. Zeus offers Percy one gift from the gods, the chance to become a god. Percy turns down the offer and instead makes them swear on the River Styx that they will claim all their children from now on and acknowledge the children of minor gods as well. The gods agree and the demigods leave Olympus and return to Camp Half-Blood. At camp they learn that Rachel is destined to be the next Oracle of Delphi. She is allowed to take the spirit because Hades curse is lifted. Chiron is recuperating from his injuries while the campers burn shrouds for their fellow fallen campers. Percy tries to explain to Annabeth his feelings for her and she laughs and kisses him. Clarisse interrupts them and other campers carry them off to throw them in the lake. Over the last few weeks of summer the campers build new cabins, including one for Hades, for all the new claimed demigods. Chiron remarks that a lot of great changes are being made at Camp Half-Blood. Percy packs up to attend Goode High School for sophomore year, the first time he's going to attend the same school for consecutive years. Annabeth is going to stay in New York to work on the architecture for Olympus. Although they worry a bit about Rachel's first prophecy, they leave camp feeling happier than they ever have before.

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
361 pages

The fourth installment of Percy Jackson & The Olympians is not as engaging as the previous books in the series, however, the rise of the titan Lord Kronos at the end sets the stage for the conclusion of this saga. The Battle of the Labyrinth opens with Percy attending freshman orientation at Goode High School. He is shocked to see Rachel Elizabeth Dare, a mortal girl who helped him escape zombies in The Titan's Curse. As he tries to avoid her he ends up being cornered by two demon cheerleaders named Tammi and Kelli. Percy fights them off in the school band room, but Kelli bursts into flames and sets Percy up to look like the culprit. Percy and Rachel flee the scene and run into Annabeth who is waiting for Percy. After Rachel demands Percy call her to tell her about the immortal world, Annabeth tells Percy they have to return to Camp Half-Blood.

Percy arrives at Camp Half-Blood and meets Quintus the new sword instructor and his hellhound Mrs. O'Leary. Percy learns that Grover is in trouble with the Council of Cloven Elders for announcing that Pan awaits him. Grover only has a week to find Pan or his searcher's license will be revoked. That evening when Percy tries to sleep he receives an Iris message that shows Nico talking to the ghost king Minos. Minos tells Nico that he can get his sister Bianca back by exchanging a soul for a soul. Percy assumes Nico is going to come after him. The next day it is revealed that Luke's army has been exploring the Labyrinth. Annabeth suggests to Grover that he should go in the Labyrinth to find Pan. While Percy and Annabeth are partners for a camp challenge they find an entrance that leads to the Labyrinth. They determine that Luke is trying to find Daedalus' workshop in order to navigate through the Labyrinth and invade Camp Half-Blood. Annabeth is chosen to lead the quest to prevent Luke's army from finding Daedalus and visits the Oracle. Annabeth is not forthcoming about the entire prophecy and other campers are worried that the quest may be too dangerous. Nevertheless, Percy, Grover, and Tyson agree to go with Annabeth into the Labyrinth. Grover's girlfriend Juniper warns Percy to be wary of Quintus because she saw him surveying the Labyrinth entrance before they found out about it. When Quintus gives Percy a dog whistle to call for Mrs. O'Leary to help on his quest, Percy keeps Juniper's warning in mind. That night Percy has a vision of Kronos telling Luke that he will finally rise from Tartarus and destroy Camp Half-Blood.

Annabeth, Percy, Grover, and Tyson enter the Labyrinth the next morning. Early in their search they encounter the god Janus and Queen Hera who try to manipulate Annabeth into making decisions she's not ready to make. When they get further inside the Labyrinth they reach a large prison. In one of the cells is the legendary Briares, a Hundred-Handed One who is being tortured by a dragon monster named Kampe. They help Briares escape and Kampe tries to kill them, but Tyson risks his life to get them to safety. Tyson tries to encourage Briares to join them in their fight against the Titan's army, but Briares is too cowardly and flees. That night Percy has a vision of Daedalus and his son Icarus while he sleeps in the Labyrinth. He learns that Daedalus feels responsible for his son's death. Annabeth leads the group to a cattle ranch that a monster named Geryon is in charge of. Geryon captures Tyson, Grover and Annabeth. Percy makes a deal to clean his extremely filthy flesh-eating horses' stables so that Geryon would release them. Although Percy miraculously cleans the stables, Geryon reneges on the deal and Percy duels him to the death. Percy releases his friends and they go back to the Labyrinth. Annabeth has to be a contestant on a game show with a Sphinx and refuses to answer all the questions so they have to flee the room before the Sphinx kills them. The next place they reach is the god Hephaestus' work room. He agrees to help the quest members find Daedalus after they helped him figure out who has been trespassing on his forges in Mount St. Helens.

As they enter into Mount St. Helens Grover and Tyson split off to take a path that Grover believes will lead him to Pan. Percy and Annabeth continue into the volcano. They discover that monster creatures named telkhines are in the forges making a powerful Titan weapon. Percy causes the mountain to erupt as he uses all his strength to channel water to escape from the telkhines. The force is so great that he lands on a phantom island called Ogygia with Calypso. She restores him to health and falls in love with him. Percy begins to fall in love with her too, but he knows he has to return to the real world to finish his quest. Hephaestus visits Percy in Ogygia and tells him that he can navigate the Labyrinth with a mortal who can see through the Mist. Percy realizes he must ask Rachel Elizabeth Dare to guide them on the rest of the quest. After saying a painful goodbye to Calypso Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood where he sees the campers holding a memorial for him. Annabeth is crying and saying a farewell speech when she notices Percy is alive behind her. Chiron informs Percy that he was missing for two weeks so they assumed he did not survive the volcanic eruption. Percy tells Annabeth that they need a mortal guide to help them through the Labyrinth and she reluctantly agrees to hire Rachel to continue the quest. Rachel accepts their offer when Percy calls and tells them that there is an entrance to the Labyrinth in a hotel she works near. Rachel clearly sees the right path in the Labyrinth and effortlessly directs Percy and Annabeth through the maze until they are caught by the demon Kelli and two monsters.

Kelli leads them to an arena where Luke and his army are watching opponents battle each other to death on a center stage. Percy is forced to fight in the arena and battles a half-blood traitor named Ethan Nakamura, but he lets him live. Then Percy challenges Antaeus, a formidable evil son of Poseidon who is in charge of the arena, to fight him under the condition that if he wins then Antaeus would have to let Percy and his friends go free. Percy uses his mental acuity to defeat Antaeus, but Luke's army tries to kill him so he uses the dog whistle to call Mrs. O'Leary. The hellhound comes to the rescue and Rachel, Annabeth and Percy escape the arena. They reach Daedalus' workshop and are shocked to discover that the sword instructor Quintus is actually Daedalus in his fifth automaton body. Daedalus explains that he made a deal with Luke and Camp Half-Blood is doomed. While Annabeth and Percy are outraged, the demon Kelli enters the workshop holding Nico hostage and the ghost king Minos announces he'll finally have his revenge on Daedalus. Daedalus learns that he's been betrayed and sold over to Minos. As fighting breaks out, Annabeth, Percy, Rachel, and Nico use mechanical wings to fly out of the workshop. They take another entrance into the Labyrinth to get back to Camp Half-Blood. Percy sees a tunnel that leads to the Titan palace on Mount Othrys and follows it. When Percy enters the dark palace he reaches the golden coffin that he's seen in many of his visions. He is stunned to see Luke's body in the coffin. Kronos rises after Ethan Nakamura pledges his service to him. Percy can't fight Kronos because he is too strong. Rachel throws a hairbrush at Kronos to help Percy escape and Nico makes stalagmites to block the palace entrance after they run away. Annabeth weeps over the fact that Luke's body is possessed by Kronos.

 On their way back to camp they find Grover and Tyson in front of the cave of Pan. They go inside and see Pan who is fading away. Pan tells Grover to announce to the satyrs that he is dead and that they must all carry on his work to save the wild. Pan blesses each of them except for Nico and passes on. After this they get back to New York City and Rachel says goodbye because she cannot go to Camp Half-Blood. Blackjack and his pegasi friends fly the others back to Camp Half-Blood. When they return to camp it is prepared for battle. Grover tells the Council that Pan is dead, but they do not believe him. Luke's army exits the Labyrinth into the camp and the battle begins. The campers fight with everything they have and keep the enemies at bay until Kampe comes out along with several giants. Annabeth and Percy try to fight Kampe, but they realize they're about to lose as Kampe surrounds them with her poisonous swords. Suddenly Briares, Daedalus, and Mrs. O' Leary exit the Labyrinth and join the campers side. Briares throws hundreds of boulders at Kampe and buries her alive. The battle ends when Grover roars with the spirit of Pan causing the enemies to flee. After they tend to the wounded Daedalus decides to pass on to end the Labyrinth which is tied to his life force. He leaves Mrs. O'Leary to Percy and his body disintegrates. The campers mourns the loss of fallen soldiers and recuperate over the next few days. The Council is outvoted by Chiron and Dionysus on Grover's verdict about the Pan story. Dionysus informs Percy that things are getting worse in the immortal world and that Kronos' army is getting larger and stronger. On Percy's 15th birthday Poseidon visits and tells Percy that many of the minor gods are joining Kronos and a war is coming. Nico shows up to Percy's birthday party and tells Percy that he knows how to beat Luke. Nico makes Percy an offer saying that if he's right "it's the only way you'll stand a chance."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
312 pages

The Titan's Curse is the third epic installment of the Percy Jackson series. The book opens with Percy's mom driving Annabeth, Thalia and Percy to a boarding school in Maine after Grover sends a distress signal. They arrive at Westover Hall and are confronted by school authorities Dr. Thorn and Ms. Gottschalk who ask them what they're doing here. Thalia uses the Mist to trick them, although Percy is skeptical that it worked on Dr. Thorn. Grover comes and tells them that he's found two new half-blood siblings named Bianca and Nico Di Angelo that he's been trying to contact. They enter the school dance and see Bianca and Nico seated on the benches. Grover and Thalia start dancing together to blend in, while Percy and Annabeth follow suit. Bianca and Nico suddenly disappear causing panic amongst the group. Percy is unable to find his friends after they split up and he decides to find Bianca and Nico by himself.

Percy finds the Di Angelos in the hallway looking petrified. Percy takes out his sword Riptide, but he is shot with a poisoned spike by Dr. Thorn. Dr. Thorn tells Percy and the Di Angelos to follow him. They walk to a mountain cliff where Dr. Thorn turns into his true monster form, a manticore. Thalia, Grover, and Annabeth arrive and they all attempt to fight the manticore. It appears that they are being overwhelmed when the goddess Artemis and her Hunters show up and start shooting the manticore. He jumps over the cliff, but Annabeth is on his back after attacking him in the battle. Percy frantically tries to run after her, but is prevented by Artemis. The Hunters invite Bianca to join them and she accepts. Percy tells Artemis that Dr. Thorn mentioned someone named the General and talked about the Great Stirring and a monster that will bring about the downfall of Olympus. Artemis says she is going to hunt down the monster and that her Hunters must go to Camp Half-Blood until she returns. Artemis calls her twin brother Apollo who lets Percy, Thalia, Grover and the Hunters use his sun chariot as a ride to the camp.
Percy has a dream about Annabeth being in a dark place. She witnesses Luke being crushed by a large object and Luke asks her to take the weight off him or he'll die. Annabeth hesitates, but takes the weight from him. Annabeth gets trapped under the weight and screams in pain. When Percy wakes up he is troubled and goes to see if the Oracle can tell him anything about it. The Oracle remains silent. While the campers play Capture the Flag they are all stunned when they see the mummified body that contains the Oracle approaching them. The Oracle states a prophesy to the Hunters lieutenant Zoe Nightshade. She reveals that five campers will go west to find Artemis, one will perish by a parent's hand, another will be lost in the land without rain, and another must withstand the Titan's curse. After a brief meeting with Chiron and Dionysus, three Hunters including Zoe, Phoebe, and Bianca, and two campers, Thalia and Grover are chosen to go. Percy is furious and anxious to rescue Annabeth, but he is not accepted for the quest. Grover tells Percy that he overheard Zoe tell another Hunter about Artemis being in trouble. Percy has a dream that Artemis takes the weight from Annabeth and is in chains. The General says that Annabeth will be kept prisoner until the winter solstice, then she will be killed.
Just before the quest members set out on their journey Percy is informed by the pegasus Blackjack that an ocean friend needs help. Percy goes under the sea to free a baby cow serpent from its trap. He names it Bessie, but the hippocampi tell him that they don't know what it is. When Percy goes back to camp he sees Nico spying on Zoe telling Bianca that Phoebe has been poisoned with the hives by campers and she can't go on the quest. Nico asks Percy to follow them and promise to protect his sister. Percy decides to go and uses Annabeth's invisible cap while flying on Blackjack as he follows the quest vehicle. He sees that  Dr. Thorn and his henchman are trailing them. At a stop in Washington D.C. Percy sneaks behind Dr. Thorn to spy on him. Percy witnesses a meeting with the General and Luke where they plan to destroy Zoe and her company using indestructible skeleton zombies. Percy intervenes before the skeletons can sniff Zoe's scent from a sash, but his clothing is ripped and his scent is marked instead. He barely escapes in time to warn Zoe and Thalia at the National Air and Space Museum. They are unexpectedly attacked by the giant Nemean lion, which Percy manages to defeat using nasty space food. The group goes on the run with Percy becoming the official fifth member of the quest.
After they reach a sparsely populated ski town with some undercover help from Apollo, Grover is in a daze because he believes he has a brief encounter with the Lord of the Wild, Pan. They subdue a giant wild boar that takes them to the desert. They pass through Hephaestus's junk yard. One of Hephaestus's creations, Talos, comes to life and tries to destroy them after Bianca steals a toy statue of Hades to give to Nico. Bianca goes inside Talos to help the others escape, but Talos falls into pieces.  The rest of the group search for hours for Bianca, but they can't find her. The survivors sullenly proceed west until they reach the Hoover Dam. At the dam Percy is tracked down by the skeleton warriors. They manage to flee with a desperate request to Zeus, who awakens angel statues that fly them to San Francisco. In San Francisco Percy wrestles with the wise man of the sea Nereus to get information. Nereus tells Percy that the dangerous monster that can bring down Olympus is Bessie. Bessie is an ancient mythical creature called the Ophiotaurus. Dr. Thorn arrives with his cronies and is about to kill them, but Dionysus saves them. The quest members go to Annabeth's dad's house and ask him for transportation to get to the Mountain of Despair. Annabeth's dad lets them borrow his car. They reach the mountain, but have to pass a deadly dragon named Ladon to reach Artemis. Once they get past Ladon, they meet the General, who turns out to be Zoe's father. The General is the titan cursed to hold up the sky that Annabeth held and Artemis is holding.
A battle breaks out and Thalia fights with Luke as Percy takes on the General. Percy knows he can't beat the General so he takes the sky from Artemis. Percy suffers from excruciating pain until Artemis sets the General up to get placed under the sky again. Thalia knocks Luke over a cliff and they leave the Mountain of Despair on Annabeth's dad's plane, who comes to rescue them. Zoe is fatally wounded by her father and says goodbye to everyone. Thalia, Annabeth and Grover appear before the gods on Mount Olympus and the gods decide to celebrate the heroes and protect Bessie from Krono's supporters. Thalia joins the Hunters, making Percy the hero of the prophecy about the fate of Olympus. When Percy goes back to camp he has to tell Nico that his sister is gone. Nico is furious and runs away during their confrontation. Percy realizes that Nico is a son of Hades. He tells Grover and Annabeth and they all decide to keep it a secret. The book ends with the cliffhanger of Grover informing campers that he heard the voice of Pan saying to him "I await you."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
279 pages

The Sea of Monsters is the second book in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. It is hilarious, action-packed and has a great message about family and loyalty. Percy is completing his school year at Merriwether College Prep, an experimental school for troubled kids where they don't receive grades, when he has a nightmare about his best friend Grover. In the nightmare Grover is being chased by a monster and runs into a wedding dress boutique. Grover says that he has to warn his friends in the vision. Percy wakes up and instinctively feels something is wrong. His mother tells him that it isn't safe to go to Camp Half-Blood for the summer yet, but she doesn't tell him why. Percy goes to school for the last day and disaster strikes when the school bully leads a game of fiery dodge ball with visiting giant cannibals. Percy is protected by his gangly, outcast friend Tyson, who exhibits superhuman strength and an ability to withstand fire from the dodge balls. Just as Percy and Tyson are about to be killed, Annabeth shows up in her invisible cap and helps them escape from the gymnasium. She tells Percy that Tyson is a young Cyclopes and is immune to fire.

Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson take a taxi cab driven by the Gray Sisters to Camp Half-Blood. The Gray Sisters state three numbers to Percy and say that is where the thing he is looking for is. Percy is perplexed. When they arrive at camp they find Clarisse, Ares' daughter, leading other campers in a fight against large fire breathing metal bulls. The three of them join the fight and Tyson rescues Percy from one of the bulls by pounding its face in. After the bulls are subdued, Percy finds out that someone has poisoned Thalia's tree and the magical protective borders are weakening. The camp will be completely vulnerable unless the tree is somehow revived. Chiron was dismissed from his position as activities director because he is suspected by the gods for being related to Kronos. The new activities director, Tantalus, is excessively harsh and sets curfews and perimeter lines for the campers, threatening death if they break the rules. Percy has to adjust to the rules and to the fact that Tyson is his cabin mate after Poseidon claims Tyson as his son. Percy feels ashamed that Tyson is his half-brother because everyone makes fun of him for it. Percy is telepathically informed by Grover that he is trapped on an island and about to be eaten by a giant Cyclopes. Percy tells Grover that he is going to find a way to rescue him.

One evening Percy is approached by Olympian god Hermes who asks Percy to find his son Luke to see if he can help him change his mind about working for Kronos. Hermes gives Percy gifts such as healing vitamins to help him on this journey. However, no camper is allowed to leave, except for Clarisse who was offered a quest to get the Golden Fleece to heal Thalia's tree. Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson leave camp despite the risk and ride on the backs of hippocampi to the ship Princess Andromeda at Hermes' request. When they board the ship they notice something is wrong with the passengers. They reach a cabin where Luke and his minions, half-bear twins, Oreius and Agrius, take them captive. Luke reveals that Kronos' body is re-forming piece by piece in a sarcophagus. Annabeth calls Luke crazy and Tyson nearly attacks Luke, but the twins bind them. Luke orders the three of them to be fed to the drakon below deck. As they leave Luke's cabin, they escape from the twins and flee from the ship on a lifeboat. Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson reach shore and seek refuge at an old half-blood hiding place. Shortly after Tyson finds a monster donut shop they are attacked by multi-headed Hydra. They are nearly overwhelmed when Clarisse arrives with her ship the CSS Birmingham and blows the Hydra to bits. They climb aboard her ship and sail with her to the sea of monsters.

When the CSS Birmingham reaches the sea of monsters, the ship is destroyed by sea monster sisters, Charybdis and Scylla. Percy and Annabeth are separated on a life boat leaving Percy in agony over Tyson's fate. Percy and Annabeth reach the dock of a spa resort where Percy is turned into a guinea pig by a man-hating sorceress named Circe. Annabeth saves Percy, who takes Hermes' vitamins to turn back to normal. They take a ship from the dock and sail to the coordinates that the Gray Sisters told Percy earlier. The island is the home of Polyphemus, the owner of the Golden Fleece who has been tricking satyrs for centuries into believing his magically enhanced land was the location of the god Pan. Polyphemus would have eaten Grover a long time ago if Grover was not wearing a wedding dress and pretending that he was a female Cyclopes. Percy and Annabeth plan a strategy to trick Polyphemus into freeing Grover, but their plans are slightly derailed when they see that Clarisse has been captured too. Nonetheless, they maneuver their way around the surprise with the help of Tyson, who has emerged in time to save them again. Tyson retrieves the Golden Fleece and they escape the island and the wrath of Polyphemus on hippocampi. The hippocampi swim them to Miami. They give Clarisse the money Hermes gave them to buy a plane ticket back to Camp Half-Blood. While Percy is trying to decide how they'd get back home, Luke confronts them and makes them board Princess Andromeda.

Percy tricks Luke into confessing he poisoned Thalia's tree in front of Camp Half-Blood using a rainbow message. When Luke finds out that Clarisse has left with the Fleece he orders his followers to kill Percy, Tyson, and Annabeth again. Percy stalls by challenging Luke to a duel. As the duel gets deadly Chiron and a gang of fellow centaurs jump aboard and rescue Percy, Tyson, and Annabeth. Chiron explains that he was keeping tabs on Percy and that he was happy Percy cleared his name to return as activities director. They return to camp and find that Clarisse is being honored while they are being ignored, though they don't mind. Percy receives a letter from his father Poseidon to brace himself. Tyson leaves camp to work underwater as a forger and gives Percy a watch that can turn into a shield. Soon afterwards there is a commotion around the Hill. Percy runs to the hill and sees a girl lying in front of Thalia's tree. She gains consciousness and introduces herself as Thalia daughter of Zeus. Percy is shocked and remembers the prophecy about a child of the Big Three that will determine the fate of the Olympians. He knows that Kronos plans to use either him or Thalia in his plan to overthrow the gods, but he doesn't know which one of them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
379 pages

The Lightning Thief is the action-packed first book in the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series. The children's fantasy book is written in first person with a refreshing sense of humor. Percy's adventures begin after he discovers that his abnormal school experiences has more to do with Greek mythology and less to do with his alleged ADHD and dyslexic disorder when his pre-algebra teacher at Yancy Academy turns into a murderous monster on a school field trip in the middle of the school year.

The book opens with Percy's sarcastic, matter-of fact wit "Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. If you're reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now." Percy is a 12 year old boy living in New York City with a history of low academic performance and getting expelled for outlandish incidents. When Percy attends a Yancy Academy field trip halfway through the school year, he comments that bad things tend to happen when he goes on field trips. This trip is no exception. Percy's pre-algebra teacher Mrs. Dodds turns into a monster and tries to kill him. If his Latin teacher Mr. Brunner did not show up and throw Percy a pen-turned-sword upon catching it, Percy would have been sliced to pieces. After that perilous episode Percy is appalled to learn from his classmates that there was never a Mrs. Dodds at Yancy Academy though he suspects his best friend Grover is lying due to his hesitation when responding about it.

On the night before his final exams Percy overhears Mr. Brunner and Grover discussing Percy's safety and referencing Greek mythology as if it were real. After Percy flunks his classes he is expelled from Yancy and returns home. Grover accompanies Percy on the bus ride home and Percy notices Grover is oddly protective and furtive. Percy goes home after ditching Grover at a bus stop. He is surprised at his mother's announcement that they are going on a three day trip to a cabin in Long Island. They borrow his stepfather's car, who Percy calls "smelly Gabe", and leave for the trip immediately. Percy notices his mother is acting strange, but doesn't say anything. While they are in their cabin on the beach, the trip is cut short when Grover arrives and tells them they have to leave. Percy's mom drives them through a thunderstorm and Percy finds out that Grover is a satyr. He also sees that they are being chased by a Minotaur. The Minotaur attacks and tries to kill them after their car crashes. Percy manages to kill the Minotaur, but he is unable to save his mother who disappears in a golden flash of light. Percy loses consciousness and wakes up in Camp Half-Blood.

When Percy wakes up he meets Annabeth, a demigod, daughter of Athena, and he finds out that Mr. Brunner is actually Chiron, an ancient centaur from the Greek myths. Percy does not know who his father is and stays at the cabin with Hermes children. Percy becomes friends with Annabeth and Luke, who support him in his troubles with other campers, especially Clarisse, a vicious daughter of the war god Ares. Percy has nightmares and hears a cold voice from the depths of the Underworld taunting him and realizes something is amiss with the gods. Percy is eventually claimed as the son of Poseidon, one of the "Big Three." Shortly afterwards Percy is offered a quest to find Zeus's master lightning bolt. Zeus believes Percy is responsible for the theft and if the lightning bolt is not returned by the summer solstice a war between the gods would ensue. Annabeth and Grover join him on his quest while Luke gives Percy a pair of flying shoes in case of an emergency. Chiron gives Percy the pen that turns into the sword Riptide, a gift from his father. Percy is told by the Oracle at camp that he would have to travel west to find the lightning bolt and that he would be betrayed by a friend. Percy, Grover and Annabeth take a bus out of the city when they are attacked by The Furies. The bus crashes and they escape the attackers. Percy, Grover, and Annabeth wander into Aunty Em's Garden Emporium that is full of statues. Aunty Em offers them food and they eat it, but they soon discover that Aunty Em is Medusa. Percy cuts off her head with Riptide and they continue on their journey.

On their way west they visit the arc in St. Louis, where Percy is attacked by another monster at the top of the arc and jumps down into a river to escape. A sea naiad gives Percy three pearls to protect himself in the future. Annabeth and Grover find Percy and they start traveling again. They stop in Denver and meet the war god Ares who asks them to get his shield for him that he lost in a water park. They reluctantly agree and are nearly drowned in a trap from Hephaestus, Aphrodite's jealous husband. Percy and his friends take a truck to Vegas where they are sidetracked at an enchanted hotel where the customers play games forever. After Percy realizes the trick he gets Grover and Annabeth out of Vegas and they take a cab to Los Angeles. They are nearly killed again by another monster selling water beds, but they survive and finally reach the Underworld to talk to Hades.

The three friends manage to pass by the monstrous three-headed dog Cerberus with Annabeth's obedience school skills and are almost sucked downed into Tartarus with the magic flying shoes that Luke gave Percy. They enter Hades palace where the furious god of the Underworld demands his helm of darkness in return for Percy's mother, who Hades took alive as a bargaining chip. Percy tells Hades that he doesn't have the helm and that he didn't take the lightning bolt either. Hades orders his guards to destroy them and Percy gives Grover and Annabeth a pearl to use so they can escape. They wash ashore above land and are confronted by Ares. Ares is revealed to have stolen the lightning bolt and the helm of darkness. Percy tells Ares that he's been manipulated by the cold voice in his nightmares. Percy duels Ares and wins the stolen objects back. The helm is returned to Hades when the Furies confront Percy again. Percy takes a plane to New York and goes to Mount Olympus to return the lightning bolt to Zeus. He meets his father Poisedon in Olympus and is warned by Zeus not to fly another plane. Percy then returns to Camp Half-Blood and is celebrated for succeeding on his quest.

Percy is overjoyed when he learns that his mother has been returned as Hades offered. He gives his mother Medusa's head and tells her she can use it on Gabe if she wants to. Percy's mom later informs his that she has sold a statue of a poker player to the Underworld for a hefty price and enrolled him in a new school. She also put a down payment on their own apartment and her first semester of college. She tells him he must decide whether he wants to stay at Camp Half-Blood or come home at the end of the summer. As the summer session at camp ends, Percy and Luke have a talk in the woods. Luke is revealed to be a traitor who is working for the Titan Kronos and summons a scorpion to kill Percy. Percy kills the scorpion, but is poisoned. Chiron and Annabeth find him and nurse him back to health. Percy tells them about Luke's betrayal and decides to leave Camp Half-Blood for the school year. Grover is granted a license to search for the nature god Pan and Annabeth reunites with her estranged father. Percy is aware that Luke is out there on the move for Kronos and that his troubles as a demigod have just begun.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sun Kissed by Catherine Anderson

Image result for sun kissed catherine andersonSun Kissed by Catherine Anderson
Rating: 1 out 5 stars
480 pages

The last book of the Coulter Family series, Sun Kissed (January 2007), feature Isaiah’s older twin brother Tucker, long considered to be the toughest catch of the Coulter brothers in the previous novels. However, when we meet Tucker in this book he turns out to be quite the nice guy, especially when he meets Samantha Harrigan, a horse breeder who turns to Tucker to help her figure out what is causing the mysterious deaths of her prized quarter horses. The mystery is not really a mystery because the obvious suspect is Samantha’s ex-husband, who was abusive to her and used her for her wealth. After Tucker and Samantha meet at a local rodeo and get arrested for trying to stop a drunk from beating a horse, the plot goes completely downhill.

After reading the first five books in the series, everything sounds very familiar, from the malicious ex-husband to the sick horses to the scenery. Granted the setting is the same because the family lives in the same small town, but the plot isn’t strong enough to carry the sense of ennui and cliché that emerges rather quickly after the main characters are introduced. The love connection is barely palpable, and the whole story is unconvincing for a romance novel. Catherine Anderson offers a rare disappointment with the final novel of The Coulter Family Series, however that does not take away from the sense of completion readers feels when Tucker and Samantha marry in the end. There is satisfaction knowing that all the Coulter siblings have found spouses and it is fascinating to imagine all of their lives before and after the events took place in each book of the series.

Overall, The Coulter Family Series is a classic in the contemporary romance genre. There is something to take away from each book, no matter how hackneyed the plot may feel. Catherine Anderson provides us with a multi-faceted portrait of the human psyche and how people can work to overcome severe psychological misgivings or physical disabilities when they choose to let the right people into their lives and hearts.

The love stories of Bethany and Ryan, Jake and Molly, Zeke and Natalie, Hank and Carly, Isaiah and Laura, and Tucker and Samantha defy a lot of the substandard characteristics found in many of the modern romance novels because it deals with more than just physical attraction or the simple model of meeting, falling in love and marrying. Each of these relationships endures situations that put the characters to test and enable them to create deep spiritual bonds and a strong foundation that the audience can truly believe will last a lifetime. Anderson can really make people feel optimistic about love with the novels in this series, even if they don’t want to.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Sunshine by Catherine Anderson

Image result for bright eyes catherine andersonMy Sunshine by Catherine Anderson
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

432 pages

Catherine Anderson returns to form in the fifth novel of the series My Sunshine (January 2005). The youngest child of the Coulter family, Isaiah, has his life turned upside down when he hires Laura Townsend to work at his veterinary practice. Laura is suffering from a speech disorder named aphasia after hitting her head during a diving accident five years earlier. Although she was unable to continue her career as an environmental scientist, she remained cheerful and decided to start do part-time work taking care of animals. When she applied to work at the Animal Clinic she didn't expect to meet someone as charming and handsome as Isaiah Coulter.

Though Laura has strong feelings for Isaiah she doesn't feel like she is good enough for him because of her disorder. Isaiah doesn't care that Laura has a speech impediment, he sees that she is a beautiful person on the inside and out and is determined to help her realize that they belong together. There is some drama with a jealous co-worker named Belinda that has her eyes set on Isaiah, but it is obvious that she wasn't going to tear Laura and Isaiah apart. This love story is remarkably poignant, sweet, and touching. My Sunshine is a great read because it captures the essence of romance, has great characters and it informs readers of a rare speech disorder. This book is a true gem and a worthy addition to The Coulter Family Series. 

Bright Eyes by Catherine Anderson

Bright Eyes by Catherine Anderson
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars419 pages

Bright Eyes (June 2004) is the next entry in the Coulter Family series. This novel tells the story of Zeke Coulter’s romance with a struggling single mother of two named Natalie Patterson who lives next door. Zeke forms an attachment to Natalie after her son Chad vandalizes his property and he offers the boy an opportunity to work for him to pay off the debt. Natalie is an aspiring singer who develops a relationship with Zeke after seeing how well he handles her son. She has to juggle with her supper club that is soon to be bankrupt, her shady ex-husband, and her growing feelings for Zeke. As the story progresses Zeke becomes more involved with Natalie and her children, including her four year old daughter Rosie, and he even tries to get Natalie back into singing professionally.

The conflict that emerges towards the end seems a bit forced, as if Anderson needed something really dramatic to shake up the relationship between Zeke and Natalie. The romance in this story does not have as much depth as the previous novels in the series and by the end of the book Zeke and Natalie appear to be settling for one another because the chemistry is lacking. The stronger characters in the book are the kids Chad and Rosie, and that speaks to how uninteresting the romance is in Bright Eyes. Anderson stumbles in the fourth book of The Coulter Family Series, not because it’s a bad story overall, but because it pales in comparison to the previous novels.