Thursday, June 23, 2011


From Goodreads:
How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she is—no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it's getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she's haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they're destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas together—and trying to tear them apart.

 Loved this book! It's original (nobody else has done a YA retelling of the Iliad - at least that I've heard of) and so well-written. Josephine Angelini was able to strike a good balance between giving me enough information to stay invested in the mythology and the story and allowing me to figure things out along with Helen. Helen is a fantastic character - I loved her from the start. I connect with shy people because I've always been one. Also, this is no cliche love at first sight story. Helen and Lucas hate each other for a good portion of the book and try to kill each other, actually. This changes gradually, based on friendship and other cool plot elements I can't mention because I'm anti-spoiler and I ended up loving their relationship.

The other thing I loved about this book is that there is sooo much more to this story than romance. I was completely into the plot and the mythology and the twists and turns. The secondary characters were all awesome and I felt like I got to know them well, which really added to my enjoyment of this book. I can definitely say I recommend this book. Check it out this summer if you get a chance!

The Goddess Test

From Goodreads: 
It's always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.

Another Persephone myth retelling (what can I say, I can't resist them!), although this was plenty different enough from Meg Cabot's Abandon to not feel like just a repeat. I have mixed feelings on this. Despite loving the subject matter, the execution just wasn't what I wanted it to be. I'm not saying this isn't a good book or that other people won't enjoy it, but it didn't quite work for me (until the very end - which I'll explain later). First off, I did like Kate. I liked her determination to save her mother and she had an obvious inner goodness that made her likable. Henry was boring. There's really no other word for it. Sheesh, I have never met a more insipid Lord of the Underworld. I didn't think it was possibly to make Hades so tame and dull and bland. Also, the tests were not what I was expecting. I can't say any more than that, but they were a disappointment. 

I judge books like these on how easy it is for me to suspend my disbelief and dive right in. Constantly throughout the first 3/4 of this book I felt myself on the outburst of crying out "That would never happen!" "This is soooo not Greek mythology" etc... Unexpectedly, there was a huge twist at the end that solved most of my disbelief problems. It was so cool that it makes this book weigh in closer to the 'good book' side of my scale than the 'bad book' side. I'm thinking that if the sequel, Goddess Interrupted, can do anything to make Henry more interesting it will be fabulous. We'll see. I don't think I'll have the willpower to stay away from it, even if I hear that it's bad. I think it's safe to say that I have an addition to greek mythology based fiction. :D


In a word - terrifying. Ok, two words: disturbing.

I've been on a dystopian kick lately, and I figured that I ought to at least read the original dystopian novel. I'm so glad I did, but I can't deny that it's given me nightmares. I think the thing that's most interesting about this novel is that, though it was written in 1948, it manages to still be relevant. And prophetic. The really disturbing part is how prophetic it is (scratch that - the most disturbing thing is the ending, but the prophetic stuff is pretty freaky too). It makes me want to question the world around me a bit more. Is history really as accurate as I think? What about current news media? How much information about me does the government know? I tell ya, this novel is enough to make a person permanently paranoid. I think it's good and important to question the world around us, though.

This novel will speak to different people in different ways and I'm curious: have you read it? What did you make of it? For me it felt like less of a novel and more of an essay sometimes (especially when part of the book was Winston reading pages and pages of a novel written by a rebel leader). That doesn't mean I don't think this is an incredible novel, but it certainly didn't read like I was expecting it to.

One warning - there is some sexual content in 1984. Nothing horribly explicit or drawn out, but in case you start reading it on my recommendation and find yourself shocked - you've been warned.

Oh, and I find myself just needing to say this because I can:

2 + 2 = 4.

Not 5.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces

From the inside jacket:
Since its release in 1949, The Hero With a Thousand Faces has influenced millions of readers by combining the insightsof modern psychology with Joseph Campbell's revolutionary understanding of comparative mythology. In these pages, Campbell outlines the Hero's Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world's mythic traditions. He also explores the Cosmogonic Cycle, the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.

As relevant today as when it was first published, The Hero With a Thousand Faces continues to find new audiences in fields ranging from religion and anthropology to literature and film studies. The book has also profoundly influenced creative artists - including authors, songwriters, game designers, and filmmakers - and continues to inspire all those interested in the inherent human need to tell stories.

I have been reading this book for probably three months now and I finally finished it because I couldn't renew it from the library any more times and I figured it would be ridiculous for me to check it in, only to check it right back out. Just because it took me forever, though, doesn't mean that this isn't an awesome book. It is. I loved it so much. I started reading it because I took a class last semester that examined the Hero's Journey (in art, film, music, and literature) and I have been fascinated with the subject ever since. I love the idea of the monomyth (that there's just one universal story and that all myths, tales, and adventures fit into it) and I love all the psychology I learned about in this book. I thought Campbell gave Freud a bit too much credit sometimes, but it was still interesting to read. I personally love Jung and archetypes and the fact that certain stories and elements will always ring true in the human soul because they are part of us and part of what we all go through on our own heroic journeys.

Joseph Campbell is a genius. He compares myths from all different cultures in this book to show how they all fit into the monomyth. I love that he didn't just use greek and egyptian myths; this book is full of stories from native american tales, religious texts (of all different religions), medieval european stories, indigenous folk tales, chinese stories, african, south american, Indian, and on and on. I think this book is an incredible resource and I plan on buying it. I think it works better as a resource than a for-fun read. I really did have a hard time reading this straight through.

The reason for that is that Joseph Campbell speaks with a pretty heavy academic dialog. He throws out massive words like the people reading them should be walking dictionaries (things like "obfuscation" and I can't remember what else but I do remember having to look that one up). I have a good vocab, but it can be hard to cut through this kind of book - like whacking bush to get through the jungle. Anyway. The other thing is that Joseph Campbell is too smart. Have you ever had a college professor who you could tell got their job because they were super smart and not because they had amazing teaching skills? That's what reading this book is like. Genius brains like that tend to jump from subject to subject, without regard for the fact that people of lesser intelligence are scrambling to keep up. I found myself wishing that this book could have been edited a bit better; I didn't think it flowed very well. Like I said, it makes an awesome resource, but it's not so easy to just sit down and read it cover to cover.

I discovered so many things while reading this book. I love archetypes. I love mythology. I can tell why so many people have been influenced by this book, particularly storytellers (George Lucas cites this novel as a MAJOR influence for Star Wars). Disney has also admitted to relying on Hero With a Thousand Faces while writing scripts for several movies: Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast. I think this book is genius. Fascinating. Revelatory. If you can make it through, it's well worth it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ranger's Apprentice (books 1&2)

Goodreads: He had always wanted to be a warrior. The Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways, made him nervous. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now fifteen year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger's apprentice. What he doesn't realize yet is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied .

I've been hearing about the Ranger's Apprentice books for a while. I kept getting them recommended to me, but never took the time to add them to my to-read list. While we were in Utah, I borrowed a couple of them from Jon's family and brought them back, deciding it was high time I found out for myself whether or not they really were as good as everyone said. They were. They are. :D VERY GOOD!

There are some similarities to familiar series (Chronicles of Prydain, Lord of the Rings), but somehow despite all the 'been done' elements, these books felt original, fresh, and very entertaining. I'd say these are very good boy books, but not only for boys because they are a series the whole family can enjoy. I've added them to my to-buy list for our home library. I'd pretty much call them essential at this point, actually.

My biggest disappointment was realizing that the second book has a terrible ending point! I immediately put the next few books on hold at the library and I'm hoping to get them read very soon.

Vespers Rising

From Goodreads:
The Cahills thought they were the most powerful family the world had ever known. They thought they were the only ones who knew about Gideon Cahill and his Clues. The Cahills were wrong.
Powerful enemies — the Vespers — have been waiting in the shadows. Now it’s their time to rise and the world will never be the same. In Vespers Rising, a brand new 39 Clues novel, bestselling authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson take on the hidden history of the Cahills and the Vespers, and the last, terrible legacy Grace Cahill leaves for Amy and Dan.

The 39 Clues continues! I'll admit that I've been looking forward to this, and the section written by Rick Riordan was really, very good. Emotional and heartbreaking even. All the other authors did a good job too. This is a bridge book between the last series and the new one that's starting soon. Leave it to scholastic to milk this for all it's worth. I'm pretty sure there will be another 10 books coming out for this new series. I love everything about these books: the mystery, the clues, the historical stuff, the travel, the family dynamics, all of it. I'd like to own this whole series, but for heaven's sake it would eat up my entire budget if I bought them all. Series like this make me very, very grateful for the library. :D I'll be checking out The Medusa Plot soon, hopefully! (Medusa!!! Will it have greek mythology in it?? I'm so excited!)

The Lightning Thief (Graphic Novel)

I wasn't planning to read this, but walking through the library last week it caught my eye on a shelf, so I picked up and decided to see how one of my favorites turned out in the graphic novel format. I tried it and liked it with Twilight, so I had high hopes. And you know, it was kind of fun. It didn't take long for me to read this and all the important key plot points were there (unlike the horrible, horrible movie which we will not discuss) with some fun illustrations. Rick Riordan's wit didn't quite translate over, which is why this graphic novel didn't totally click with me. Reducing this story to just the major plot moments got rid of Riordan's funny chapter titles, hilarious dialogue, and awesome action scenes - which wasn't a good thing for this book.

Jon took a look at it after I was done and wasn't very impressed either. So far, he's read the Lightning Thief graphic novel and seen the movie and he's just not understanding why I love the original book so much. I tell him he never will until he reads the book... There's really no replacement for Rick Riordan's unique storytelling style in its original format.

Reading this made me sooooo excited, though, because look what's coming out this fall...

I am such a fangirl when it comes to mythology in books!!! And really, I'm just a major fangirl for Rick Riordan. I have loved, loved, loved everything he's written.

Just One Wish

Goodreads summary: Seventeen-year-old Annika Truman knows about the power of positive thinking. With a little brother who has cancer, it's all she ever hears about. And in order to help Jeremy, she will go to the ends of the earth (or at least as far as Hollywood) to help him believe he can survive his upcoming surgery.

But Annika's plan to convince Jeremy that a magic genie will grant him any wish throws her a curveball when he unexpectedly wishes that his television idol would visit him. Annika suddenly finds herself in the desperate predicament of getting access to a hunky star actor and convincing him to come home with her. Piece of cake, right?

Janette Rallison's proven talent for laugh-out-loud humor, teen romance, and deep-hearted storytelling shines in a novel that will have readers laughing and crying at the same time.

Another foray into the oeuvre (there's your vocab word forf the day) of Janette Rallison, and once again she doesn't disappoint. It's light, fluff, chick-lit that at times requires a lot of work to suspend my disbelief, but somehow I just love it. Janette Rallison has a gift for empathy and reality and while the scenarios may seem very teenage-ish, I always find something to take away from her books. What more can I say? She's quickly climbing the ranks of my top favorite authors.

Where She Went

This is the sequel to If I Stay, which is kind of ironic because the fact that there even IS a sequel is a major spoiler for the end of If I Stay. I feel guilty posting spoilers, but it's not my fault that just because a book exists it's a spoiler. :D

I thought If I Stay was beautiful and poetic, and this sequel really lives up to that. I wanted to know more about Adam and Mia because the ending of If I Stay is so sudden. I just really loved the theme behind these two books - life, mortality, love, family, grief, adversity. It's really nothing like so many of the other YA books out there. It's serious, but funny. Clever but not in an irritatingly over-the-top way. There's something simple and attractive about these that I just love. The story is told very similarly to If I Stay, with a lot of flashbacks. There's so much character depth in this book. I love Mia's family and how they're still a big part of this book, despite, well... things. Anyway, Adam is the narrator of this book and (being a songwriter) his lyrics are at the beginning of each chapter. I've seen this device tried in other novels (Timeless by Alexandra Monir comes to mind - she includes lyrics written by her characters... oh, and so does Maggie Stiefvater in her Linger series), but none of them succeed like Gayle Forman. She really is a poet. Just a breathtaking use of words.

The only drawback to this book is the language. There's some serious swearing in here, including several casual uses of the "F" bomb. I so wish these could have been left out! It's the only drawback I can find to this lovely series.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Throne of Fire

I love Rick Riordan.

Here's the official blurb for this second book in the Kane Chronicles:

Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven't given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians.

And now their most threatening enemy yet - the chaos snake Apophis - is rising. If they don't prevent him from breaking free in a few days' time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it's a typical week for the Kane family.

To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished.

First they have to search the world for the three sections of the Book of Ra, then they have to learn how to chant its spells. Oh, and did we mention that no one knows where Ra is exactly?

Narrated in two different wisecracking voices, featuring a large cast of new and unforgettable characters, and with adventures spanning the globe, this second installment in the Kane Chronicles is nothing short of a thrill ride.

I was a little 'iffy' after the first book, because I didn't feel like it had quite the same wow-factor as the Percy Jackson books, but after this sequel I'm completely sold. I enjoyed the whole ride and felt the characters were better developed and the story more engrossing. There's really no matching Rick Riordan for writer's voice. He keeps the story moving along, his dialogue is amazing, his word-choice is clever and witty, and his chapter titles always make me laugh. He's definitely on my top 10 favorite author list. Maybe in the top 5. At least the top 7. :D

It's genius the way he merges mythology with modern story-telling. I learned so much about Egyptian mythology, but it never felt dry, boring, or lecture-y. Everything he's written is just so much fun. I loved all the new characters in this book. I laughed out loud several times. Anyway, I'll probably be buying everything Rick Riordan releases for the rest of his life. I'm a fan, and I recommend you check out something by him this summer. His books are perfect summer reading.

My Double Life

Well, I told you I was going to read everything Janette Rallison's ever written, didn't I? Here's the goodreads summary:

Her whole life, Alexia Garcia has been told that she looks just like pop star Kari Kingsley, and one day when Alexia's photo filters through the Internet, she's offered a job to be Kari's double. This would seem like the opportunity of a lifetime, but Alexia's mother has always warned her against celebrities.

Rebelliously, Alexia flies off to L.A. and gets immersed in a celebrity life. Not only does she have to get used to getting anything she wants, she romances the hottest lead singer on the charts, and finds out that her own father is a singing legend. Through it all, Alexia must stay true to herself, which is hard to do when you are pretending to be somebody else!

This is Janette's second most recent release (it came out right in between the Fair Godmother books), so I figured this would be a pretty safe one to check out next. It's not quite as high school-y as her earlier titles. So LOVED it. Janette Rallison may not be an exact fit for everyone, but her writing style just clicks with me. She's just so funny!!! I'd put in quotes to prove it to you, but I'm not sure if they would be quite as uproariously funny not in context. Also, Janette Rallison really has a way of putting pure human heart into her stories. Even if they are about teenagers, I come away feeling like they were written just for me and I learned something new about myself. There's real emotion in these stories and I even teared up during one scene at the end. So, was it a bit formulaic maybe? Yes. Was it easily predictable? Also yes. Was the ending a bit too perfectly happy? Maybe, but I wouldn't change it. None of these problems matter because I loved every minute of my reading experience with this book and was a happier person for reading it.

On a side note, I was reading a past entry on Janette Rallison's blog (funny reading in itself) and she was addressing readers' complaints that this story just isn't plausible. Well, she apparently discovered that Liv Tyler discovered Aerosmith was her father in the same way Lexia discovers in My Double Life. Check it out here. Crazy, no?


This is Aprilynne Pike's third book, sequel to Wings and Spells. I was a little disappointed to find out that it wasn't the last book in the series, though. Apparently it will be a four book series. Better be. I hate waiting to find out what happens in a series. This is why I loved Gone With the Wind. Have a long story to tell? Put it all in one massive book! Nobody does that anymore, no doubt because it's far more lucrative to release four books than one 1,000+ page book.

Now that I'm done complaining, I will tell you that I actually really enjoyed this book. I really wasn't impressed by the second, so this came as a surprise to me. I think I was just in exactly the right mood when I picked this up. I wanted something light and fluff and magical and that's what this is. I also really love that Aprilynne Pike is an LDS author and keeps her books really clean. I won't say much more about the plot because I don't want to give you any spoilers. My only other comment on this book is that I still wish Aprilynne Pike would flesh out her mythology more instead of focusing so much on that wretched love triangle. There are some really interesting magical elements in this book and I find Laurel's powers fascinating. Hopefully there's much more of that in the final book, which I'm wishing I could already read because this book has a nasty cliffhanger. Mean, mean, mean. Why do they do that to me?

Cleopatra's Daughter and Lily of the Nile

I'm reviewing these books together because, in essence, they tell the exact same story. I didn't exactly realize that when I got them both from the library, or I think I wouldn't have read them back-to-back. All the same, it was kind of interesting to read two different historical fiction accounts about the same person: Cleopatra's daughter Selene.

Here's a summary of Lily of the Nile:

"Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?"

And for Cleopatra's Daughter:

"The death of Cleopatra was only the beginning...

Follows the incredible life of Cleopatra's surviving children with Marc Antony -- twins, named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and a younger son named Ptolemy. All three were taken to Rome and paraded through the streets, then sent off to be raised by Octavia (the wife whom Marc Antony left for Cleopatra). Raised in one of the most fascinating courts of all time, Cleopatra's children would have met Ovid, Seneca, Vitruvius (who inspired the Vitruvian man), Agrippa (who built the Pantheon), Herod, his sister Salome, and the poets Virgil, Horace, and Maecenas."

I thought both books were very interesting historically. I loved reading about ancient Rome (horrifying though it may be). Selene starts both stories at age 10 and we see her grow from that point into a young adult, so there's some great character development. One of my biggest complaints about both of these books is that they seemed to have a modern agenda when it came to homosexuality. Yes, there were people who lived that way in ancient Rome, but (and I did a bit of outside research after reading these books) there's no evidence that any of the main characters were. Both books make main characters homosexual (which characters constantly complain about prejudices against and rights for homosexuals) and that pretty much ruined the reading experience for me. Lily of the Nile detours away from history by adding a fair dose of magic to the story, which I was never convinced by. It just didn't seem to fit or work for me. I liked it quite a bit less as a story. Cleopatra's Daughter flowed better as a novel and was more strictly historical. It was my favorite story of the two, but that problem that I mentioned earlier.... yeah. It was much worse in Cleopatra's Daughter. Without that element I'm sure I would have liked these books much better. Even so, I felt like I learned a ton from them and I enjoyed the history. It's just too bad.

Twilight Official Guide and Graphic Novel

I am a Twilight fan. I don't know why I feel so defensive about that. :D There's nothing wrong with the fact that I like Twilight. I'm not like all the screaming, crazy fans out there. I HATE the movies. I've seen them all, but that's just because I like the series. Are they fluffy, escapist novels? Yes. There's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I wish I go back in time several years and just be me, the lone Twilight fan that I knew, along with my two sisters-in-law who introduced it to me. Now, I feel like labeling myself as a Twilight fan puts me in a cramped, massive room full of shouting, manic people. If that makes sense. Anyway, I've never claimed that Twilight is brilliant, genius literature. It's just that it's the kind of book I like to read sometimes. I love to get sucked into Stephenie Meyer's world. It's a bit magic, a bit suspense, a bit romance, and plenty of fun.

Anyway. So I checked out the new Official Guide from the library so I could decide if I wanted to buy it. I probably won't, unless I'm feeling particularly rich someday, but it was still fun to peruse. I mainly wanted to read it because of the 63, yes 63, page interview Stephenie Meyer did with Shannon Hale. Two of my favorite authors! I loved reading their conversation and felt like I could have been sitting right there, talking with friends. They discussed things I am really interested in too, not just obscure details about the series. I loved hearing more about their thoughts on writing and creating worlds.

Other than the interview, I wasn't much interested in the rest. I liked the fan art section and it was interesting to get a few more details on a few characters. Overall, I was glad I read it, but it's definitely not a necessity.

I also checked out part 1 of the Twilight graphic novel, just for fun:

It surprised me! I enjoyed it way more than I thought it would and it has gone on my to-buy list. It really visualized the story for me the way I imagined it while reading the book. Sooooooo much better than the movies. Infinitely better. The art was just gorgeous. My biggest complaint is that it splits the book into two parts. The second half won't be coming out until October. The cover will match up with the cover on the first book, which I thought was kind of cool.

So, if you're a Twilight fan too, I'd recommend the graphic novel and I'd recommend checking out the Offical Guide from the library to read an awesome long interview with Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer.