“The House of Hades” by Rick Riordan book review and giveaway

THE REVIEW

house-of-hades-us-coverIt’s finally here! After a year of waiting after The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan treats his avid readers to another round of Greek and Roman mythological madness with Percy Jackson and his cohorts in the form of The House of Hades.

The official book description:
The demigod crew of the Argo II is standing at a crossroads. They could return home with the Athena Parthenos statue and try to stop Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter from going to war. Or they could continue on their quest to find the House of Hades, where they might be able to open the Doors of Death, rescue their friends Percy and Annabeth from Tartarus (if they have survived), and prevent monsters from being reincarnated in the moral world. Whichever road they decide to take, they have to hurry, because time is running out. Gaea, the bloodthirsty Earth Mother, has set the date of August 1 for her rise to power.

Overall verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

The good:

  • It’s a MUCH better book compared to The Mark of Athena. Better writing, better plot, and better characterization all around. More action too.
  • Riordan has a better handle on his ensemble cast. Yes the POVs are still divided among the main seven (Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo, Frank, and Hazel) but he manages to give each character their time to shine.
  • Each POV feels like a complete mini story. The transitions also aren’t as clunky as before.
  • Even more Greek history and mythology. Riordan’s delving into the less well-known stories and that’s always good. More Greek mythology for everyone!
  • Β I loved Percy’s character development in Tartarus. It was great to see him be more introspective.
  • Β More Nico di Angelo!

The not-so-good:

  • While it’s true that each ensemble character gets their special moment, the special moments are repetitive in structure. Character A starts doubting himself/herself and their purpose on this mission, Bad Guy A shows up and starts threatening everybody, all the other characters are somehow absent/trapped/incapacitated so that Character A has to do all the saving, Character A overcomes their self-doubt and saves everybody. Rinse and repeat for Hazel, Leo, Frank, and Piper. Jason as a different issue but his share of the story has the same structure.
  • As always, the romance. Personally, I feel that there was too much focus on the pairings. It would have been great to see everyone develop as individuals and not just as part of a pair.
  • And last but certainly not least: Nico’s big reveal. What the heck was that?! There’s not much I can say that wouldn’t be spoilerific but my issues boil down to 1) this reveal coming out of left field, and 2) my fangirl hopes and dreams being sunk into oblivion. It felt like a cop-out of sorts, considering that Nico has had minimal character development prior to this. If you want to discuss this further, DM me!

As the penultimate book in the Heroes of Olympus series, The House of Hades does a good job of setting up the last book in the series (due October next year). Part of me is eagerly waiting for the last book, but another part isn’t quite ready for Heroes of Olympus to end just yet.

THE GIVEAWAY

fullybooked bannerAnd now, what you’ve been waiting for: Fully BookedΒ (my favorite, totally kick-ass bookstore!), in cooperation with theislandergirl.com, is giving away a copy of The House of Hades to a lucky reader!

How to enter:
1. It’s simple! Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to earn entries for the electronic raffle. Ways to earn entries include:

  • Like the Fully Booked Facebook page (2 points)
  • Follow @_FullyBooked on Twitter (2 points)
  • Subscribe to my blog via email (5 points)
  • Tweet about the giveaway with the hashtag #hadesgiveaway, mentioning @_FullyBooked and @theislandergirl, and linking to this blog post (1 point per tweet, can be done once a day for the duration of the giveaway
  • Leave a comment answering the question “If you fell into Tartarus, what would you see there?” (2 points)
  • Follow @theislandergirl on Twitter (2 points)

TOTAL – 20 points

2. The giveaway will run from October 10, 2013 12am to October 17, 2013 12am. All entries must be in by October 17 at 12 am.

3. The Rafflecopter widget will choose a winner randomly. The chosen winner will be announced on this blog and will be contacted via email, Facebook, and/or Twitter.Β The winner will be contacted via email and/or Twitter and must respond to the notification within 3 days. If the winner doesn’t reply within 3 days, a new winner will be chosen.

The Fine Print:

  • The House of Hades giveaway is open to Philippine residents only.
  • The House of Hades will be shipped to the winner via courier. The shipping fee will be covered by me. If the winner is in Metro Manila, maybe we can meet up too.
  • I reserve the right to disqualify raffle entries from Twitter accounts that have no content and were only opened specifically for joining contests.
  • If you’re the lucky winner, Fully Booked and I would greatly appreciate it if you tweeted or posted a photo on Facebook of yourself with the book and tagged us. You’re NOT required to do so but it would be awesome if you did πŸ™‚

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book review: “Born of Illusion” by Teri Brown

born of illusion coverIs 1920’s New York the new “in” thing in Young Adult publishing? Not that I’m complaining, but Born of Illusion by Teri Brown is the second book this year I’ve read that’s set in 1920’s New York and features a girl with unusual powers (see: The Diviners by Libba Bray). The good thing is that’s where the similarities end.

Born of Illusion centers around Anna Van Housen, a gifted teenage stage magician working with her mother, the “medium” Marguerite Van Housen. Her father (or so her mother says) is the most famous magician of the time: Harry Houdini. But while her mother’s powers are fake, Anna’s powers are not. Behind her illusions and tricks lies a real power: the ability to feel other people’s emotions, to see the future, and to communicate with the dead.

From the back cover:

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there’s more to life than keeping secrets.

As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

What I enjoyed:

I actually liked Anna. Compared to Evie O’Neill of The Diviners, Anna is a likeable person who’s unfortunately stuck in the unenviable position of trying to “parent” her mother. She’s talented, works hard, and keeps her and her mother’s lives from falling apart. In short, she’s easy to root for.

It has a good ensemble cast. There are only a few characters so everyone gets fleshed out to some degree.

The mother-daughter dynamics are notable. You can feel Anna’s frustration at having to constantly look after her mother and stopping herself from shining just to keep her mother happy. Anna and Marguerite are so different, I’m surprised their big blow-up came so late in the book. Marguerite does redeem herself somewhat but it felt a bit fake and out of the blue.

What could have used some work:

The book suffers from a thin plot. It was interesting enough but “Born of Illusion” felt like it was only the first half of a novel. Sigh. I guess that’s what sequels are for.

The so-called “red herrings” are hardly misleading. It’s pretty obvious who the villain is right of the bat and who between the two guys chasing after Anna is the good guy.

The long and dragging exposition. “Born of Illusion” is told from Anna’s point of view and we suffer through continuous exposition and info dumps as the other characters tell Anna what’s happening in order to move the story forward.

Overall verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to love this book the same way I loved The Diviners but it just wasn’t possible. Born of Illusion isn’t bad per se, but it’s not extraordinary either. I’m hoping that Book 2 will have a more substantial plot.

 

P.S. Huge thanks to Fully Booked, who gave me a free copy of this book during Lucy’s Birthday Party last July 27 in Fully Booked-Bonifacio High Street! Here’s to more years of making booklovers happy! πŸ˜€

Book review: “Libriomancer” by Jim Hines (spoilers ahoy!)

It’s not often that a book makes me laugh out loud, but there’s something about Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer that got me from the beginning. The official description:

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror, he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic.

At its heart, Libriomancer is a love letter to every bookworm who ever imagined reaching into their favorite book and becoming part of the story. It’s funny, sad, and exciting all at once.

My overall rating: 4.5/5 stars.

SPOILERS INCLUDED IN THE REVIEW!

Continue reading “Book review: “Libriomancer” by Jim Hines (spoilers ahoy!)”

Book review: “The Mark of Athena” by Rick Riordan (might contain spoilers!)

The Mark of Athena, the third book in Rick Riordan’s bestselling Heroes of Olympus series, came out a few days ago – a year after The Son of Neptune .

The official book summary:
Annabeth is terrified. Just when she’s about to be reunited with Percy – after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera – it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t help the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon figurehead, Leo’s fantastical creation doesn’t appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that’s only one of her worries. In her pocket, Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving command: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to fins – and close – the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth’s biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he’s now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? as the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader – but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare…

I finished the book yesterday and I wanted to write this while my thoughts are still fresh. As such, please pardon the potential jumble of thoughts.

My overall verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The good:

  • We finally learn more about Annabeth as a person. All of her characterization so far has come from Percy’s point of view and he’s crazy in love with her so he’s biased. It was nice to see why she’s kickass instead of just accepting it as is.
  • More Leo. YAY! I can never get enough of him. He’s my favorite of the seven (except for Percy of course). He finally becomes an important part of the team instead of just being the add-on to the Jason-Piper saga. No, I don’t care about what Nemesis said.
  • Less Frank and Hazel. Hurrah!
  • The Sammy-Leo connection is finally revealed and it’s the less painful of the two theories floating around (see my review of The Son of Neptune to refresh your memory).
  • MOA is fast-paced with lots of action. As with all of Riordan’s books, the entire story takes place over a very limited amount of time. There’s always something happening.
  • It was nice to see Percy and Jason developing a bromance.

The bad:

  • We learn more about Annabeth, right? As it turns out, Annabeth is too perfect. Really. She comes off as the female Jason – strong, smart, and a good leader with no discernible flaws. There’s a part where she complains about not being taken seriously as a warrior and strategist because she’s blonde. I would be more sympathetic if this claim were valid. Aren’t ALL children of Athena blonde-haired and gray-eyed? It’s also already established that Athena is the top cabin in Capture the Flag and that Annabeth is practically Percy’s second-in-command.
  • Piper annoyed me to no end. Her character gets lost because of all the Jason-Jason-Jason thoughts. I don’t need to hear about how built he is, or how his golden hair shines in the sunlight, or how he’s practically perfect in every way. There’s no mention of Piper ever examining her feelings for Jason after finding out that all their lovey dovey memories together were planted by Hera. How long have the two of them really known each other? Did they truly love each other or was that something fake? Riordan missed out on a great opportunity by not explaining.
  • Frank and Hazel annoyed me too, but to a lesser degree than Piper. Does Frank think about anything else besides Hazel and how Leo is moving in on his woman? *rolls eyes* Hazel’s also stuck in her Sammy obsession.
  • Dear Leo, there are better girls out there for you than Hazel Levesque. Consider Piper McLean, when she’s not being an idiot.
  • I don’t need constant reminders on who’s dating who. I already got that from the first chapter. On that note, why does everyone in the series have to pair up? I can handle a maximum of two pairings within the group of seven.
  • Why oh why does everyone keep on saying Nico di Angelo is creepy and untrustworthy? Out of all of them, I was most disappointed in Percy for saying that. After the end of the Titan War, I’d have thought that he’d know Nico better than that. But no! Sure Nico didn’t tell them about Camp Jupiter and didn’t tell Percy who he was when he lost his memory, but he should have at least given Nico the benefit of the doubt and waited for him to explain instead of making snap judgments. The only reason Percy didn’t ream Nico out when they rescued him was because Nico was too exhausted and fragile.
  • It looks like Rick Riordan doesn’t do ensemble casts well. All of the previous PJO and HOO books had a maximum of three main characters so each one got their due attention. MOA is the first time he’s had to deal with seven lead characters and unfortunately, some characters are inevitably lost in the shuffle. Sure I don’t like Hazel and Frank all that much but if I did, then I would be disappointed by their absence.

Overall, it was an okay book on the same level as The Son of Neptune. It definitely wasn’t as good as the original PJO series or even The Lost Hero. My wishes for The House of Hades are:

  • Give me more Nico di Angelo! And stop calling him creepy.
  • Less focus on the couples. My dears, saving the world is more important than obsessing over whether your boyfriend is finally going back home or whether this new funny guy is muscling in on your girl.
  • More Rachel Elizabeth Dare. All I’m asking for are a few IMs to the Oracle. I want to know how she’s doing.

Book review: “The Rise of Nine” by Pittacus Lore

The Rise of Nine is the third book in the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore (the pseudonym of authors Jobie Hughes and James Frey, although only James Frey finished this book). At the end of The Power of Six, Four and Nine escaped from the Mogadorian base but had to leave Sam behind, while Six met up with Seven (Marina), Ten (Ella), Hector (Marina’s friend), and Crayton (Ella’s unofficial Cepan) in Spain. Hector dies during the escape attempt. The Rise of Nine features Six and her group traveling to India to find Number Eight, while Four and Nine travel to Nine’s base in Chicago to regroup and set a course of action.

In general, The Rise of Nine is so much better compared to The Power of Six (thank goodness!). The plot moves faster and more interesting (yay conspiracies!) and the increased focus on the other Garde.

The plot finally picks up. In one book, we get government conspiracies, intercontinental travel using Loric relics, a prophecy that may or may not come true, and a big showdown with SetrΓ‘kus Ra, the big bad Mogadorian. Hurrah! The faster pace means lots and lots of expository dialogue but I’m willing to forgive just to get the plot moving. The conspiracies were an interesting revelation, one that I hope will be explored more in the next books. I also appreciated the further evidence of the Loric visiting Earth even before the destruction of Lorien.

Another thing I appreciated was the increased prominence of the other Garde in the narrative. The Rise of Nine is told from the point of view of Four, Six, and Seven. It was difficult at times to separate the different voices – it doesn’t help that the sections aren’t labeled with the narrator’s name and the fonts used for the different sections are practically the same – but you get used to it. The three voices made Rise more tolerable to me because it features more Seven in general (she’s turning out to be my favorite), more Six being a badass and less hung up on Four, and less Four whining about Sarah.

What I didn’t like:

  • Four is still whining about Sarah. Sarah is never going away, is she?
  • Seven is suddenly obsessed with how cute Eight is. I’m giving her a a pass though because she’s a teenage girl who was raised in a convent and was confronted with her first cute guy.
  • The general telling and not showing. I forgave this but it needs to be mentioned again.

The verdict: 3/5 stars. It’s on the same level as I am Number Four and definitely better than The Power of Six (which I disliked so much I didn’t bother to write a review). It’s a fun read that’s best enjoyed when you just want to rest your brain.

As an early birthday event of sorts, I decided to host a giveaway for a copy of The Rise of Nine. Join here!

Book review: “Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian” by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl’s magical journey that spans eight novels and one short story collection comes to an end with Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian. The official description:

Artemis Fowl’s archenemy Opal Koboi has masterminded a way to simultaneously secure her release from prison and bring the human and fairy worlds to their knees. And, unless Artemis can stop her, the evil pixie’s next move will destroy all human life on Earth.

Ground zero is the Fowl Estate, where Opal has reanimated fairy warriors who were buried there thousands of years ago. Their spirits have possessed any vessels they can find – corpses, Artemis’ little brothers, assorted wildlife – and they are bound to obey Opal’s every command. Defeating the motley troops and their diabolical leader will require all of Artemis’ cleverness, as well as Butler’s bravery, Holly’s skill, and Foaly’s gadgetry. But if their best efforts aren’t enough, Armageddon will surely follow.

I’ll admit it: I teared up as I started to read The Last Guardian. Imagine: Artemis Fowl came out in 2001 and here we are, 11 years later, with Artemis, Holly, and Butler’s last adventure. They’ve battled each other, the Russian mafia, a genius-insane pixie and her LEP stooge, a pansy tech genius, a genius-insane pixie (again), a demon, Artemis’ younger self and the genius-insane pixie (again), and a nasty elf. Reformation notwithstanding, Artemis has become my favorite anti-hero.

So. How’s the book?

I’m parts satisfied, saddened and “That’s it? There’s no epilogue?!”. I’m satisfied because it was a good end to Artemis’ brilliant run. He is at his most selfless, something that would have been unthinkable in the first book. I was so happy to see Artemis and Holly as BFFs again. Butler is the same steadfast presence. Juliet trying to wrangle Myles and Beckett Fowl was adorable. We see Foaly’s more sensitive side and (finally!) his kick-ass wife.

I’m probably in the minority of AF fans when I say that Opal Koboi is not my favorite villain. I was satisfied with how The Opal Deception ended and thought that her inclusion in The Time Paradox was unnecessary, so you can imagine my worry when I found out that Opal was returning yet again. From a certain point of view, Opal is the perfect foil for Artemis because she is so much like what Artemis was before: intelligent to the point of megalomania and uncaring. It’s always nice to see Artemis stumped. But after several appearances, Opal seems to have become an exaggeration of her former self (though that could also be due to her growing insanity with each book). Luckily, The Last Guardian is a good exit point for our deranged pixie.

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Book review: “Dark Frost” by Jennifer Estep

Dark Frost is the third book in the Mythos Academy series by Jennifer Estep (my reviews of the first two books are over here). The series follows the adventures of Gwen Frost as she struggles with her destiny as Nike’s chosen Champion, fights against the forces of Chaos, and deals with the never-ending drama that is high school.

The official book description:

I’ve seen so many freaky things since I started attending Mythos Academy last fall. I know I’m supposed to be a fearless warrior, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just waiting for the next Bad, Bad Thing to happen. Like someone trying to kill me–again.

Everyone at Mythos Academy knows me as Gwen Frost, the Gypsy girl who uses her psychometry magic to find lost objects–and who just may be dating Logan Quinn, the hottest guy in school. But I’m also the girl the Reapers of Chaos want dead in the worst way. The Reapers are the baddest of the bad, the people who murdered my mom. So why do they have it in for me? It turns out my mom hid a powerful artifact called the Helheim Dagger before she died. Now, the Reapers will do anything to get it back. They think I know where the dagger is hidden, but this is one thing I can’t use my magic to find. All I do know is that the Reapers are coming for me–and I’m in for the fight of my life.

“Dark Frost” picks up a few weeks after ” Kiss of Frost” ends, with Gwen, Daphne, Carson, and Logan visiting a museum to finish homework they were supposed to do over Christmas. Aside from weapons, armor, and artifacts, they find themselves at the center of a Reaper attack headed by Loki’s Champion.

The good:

  • The museum and the battle in the museum. I’m a mythology nut so I enjoyed the descriptions of the artifacts on display.
  • The showdown between Gwen, Loki’s Champion, and *****. It saved the book and showed just how badass Gwen could be. She has so much potential!
  • Logan and Daphne being the kick-ass people that they are.

The horrible:

  • Gwen’s entire quest to find the Helheim Dagger. Seriously? It took her that long to figure out where the dagger was hidden?
  • Gwen being surprised with who Loki’s Champion turned out to be. I figured it out the moment the character was introduced.
  • Gwen not realizing how Loki’s Champion was playing her.
  • Gwen being an overemotional idiot over Logan. She must have spent at least half the book moaning about how she couldn’t be with Logan because of her magic. This is the girl who’s supposed to save the world?

The annoying:

  • The reveal about Nickamedes. So. Typical.
  • The author’s continuous use and reuse of the same adjectives.
  • The author’s constant shifting between referring to people by their name or their warrior type. This wouldn’t be annoying if the book weren’t written in Gwen’s voice. Why would Gwen’s inner voice refer to Daphne as “the Valkyrie” after they became best friends? It would be like Harry referring to Hermione as “the Gryffindor”. It doesn’t make sense.

Overall score: 3 out of 5 stars. It’s an improvement over the first two books but not by much. I’m still hoping that it’ll get better with “Crimson Frost”.