Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Report Monday: The Son of Neptune

TitleThe Son of Neptune, The Heroes of Olympus Book Two

AuthorRick Riordan

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy-Adventure

SynopsisPercy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem - when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery - although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely - enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven. (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?:  I am a fan of Greek and Roman mythology and I love Percy Jackson. I devour Riordan's books like they were blue chocolate chip cookies. 

Favorite Line: "Then Frank and Percy burst into the open and began to massacre every source of fiber they could find."

My Review: First, can I just say how much I missed Percy? The first book of this series, The Lost Hero, follows Jason Grace at Camp Half-Blood. While the camp and most of the characters are familiar in The Lost Hero, I kept waiting for my favorite demigod to show up. Finally, in The Son of Neptune, he does. Only now he is at the Roman, Camp Jupiter.

At the beginning of the book, Percy has no memory of his life except that he is a demigod. He battles gorgons as he works his way to Camp Jupiter where he befriends Hazel and Frank. Both of whom have their own secret histories. This book seemed to have a lot more popular culture references. I think that is because of Hazel, who was born 70 years ago and is amazed at all the technology. Seriously though how can you not love that the Amazon warriors are the ones who run It's so simple it's genius. 

The book was a fast, fun read as all Riordan's books are. The ending surprised me with some twists which I did not see coming, Then it ended with a cliffhanger. Now I have to wait a year to get the next installment, The Mark of Athena, which I imagine has Annabeth as a main pov character. Can't wait!

Recommendation: This book is really for those who have read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and The Lost Hero. Riordan explains enough of the back story that it could be read as a stand alone, but it would not be as entertaining.

Next Week: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Double Shot of Disaster

This was originally posted a year ago on my now defunct Wordpress. I was over there deleting my former blog when I realized a few of my posts were really pretty funny. Here is one about a fateful morning at the end of last November.

I was up early to take a friend to the airport. When I got home it was 6:45 that is earlier than I normally would be awake, alert and dressed. But alert and dressed I was. Well whether I was alert, is to be decided. I chose to be productive. My plan was to do yoga, make espresso, have a healthy breakfast, walk the dog, shower and be on time for work. That sounds uneventful, I know. Really it was supposed to be uneventful, it was Tuesday morning. 

At first my plan was going well. Plans are deceitful that way. I love doing yoga in the morning. My mind is cleared, my body is energized and I feel wonderful. By 7:02 the espresso was on the stove and I was just moving from downward dog into some abdominal stretches. I had enough time to think, “This is nice, isn’t it?” when it happened. There was a sound like rapid fire. A steamy, sputtering, dangerous sound. My first thought was that the espresso was ready but it was too soon and far, far too loud for simple percolation.

My dog was in the dining room. From where I stood I saw him glance at the kitchen warily and then run away with his tail between his legs.

I entered the kitchen and first I only saw the stove, covered in coffee. My first thought was that the espresso overflowed and the sound I heard was the excess espresso burning on the gas flame. I was wrong.

My second thought was that I failed to properly tighten the espresso percolator and that some leaked out of the sides and into the flame. This turned out to also be not only wrong, but a gross underestimation of the catastrophe. Once I allowed myself to take stock of the whole kitchen, I realized something. I should not be allowed to make espresso. But we will get back to that.

It turned out that I forgot an important piece of the espresso maker. The piece which would have prevented the catastrophe from happening is a small round filter. It holds down the coffee grinds when the water and steam are forced up through the espresso. Without the filter, the grinds had free range to be literally blown out of the sides and top of the espresso maker.

It was as if an espresso bomb went off in the kitchen. Please note: I am not exaggerating. Several tablespoons of espresso were now stuck to my walls. Also, several tablespoons of coffee will make a gargantuan mess.

I felt like a member of CSI examining the scene. “Based on the grind splatter here and here, I would say that the majority, 80-90 percent, of the coffee came out through the sides of the machine in question. Somebody really had it in for that kitchen.”

Rather than spending my morning focusing on my breathing and tightening my abs which would be beneficial in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the two most fattening holidays, I spent it scrubbing chunks of espresso from the white walls, cabinets, stove, floor, refrigerator, blender, oh and the half-dozen boxes of Christmas decorations that I was going to take to storage after work.

I also spent that time contemplating the health and safety benefits of herbal tea. Most of Britain survives on tea. I wondered if I could make the switch. Unfortunately, I am a hopeless case. Even as I loathed the mess on my walls and my utter lack of ability to make coffee I still loved the smell of the grinds and I knew I’d never be able to give them up.

 Please note (again): I know I have a tendency to exaggerate and that is why these pictures are so important. I am in no way exaggerating. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to get the walls, fridge, table, floor, and stove clean. Under the microwave still needs more attention as does the top of the fridge. I knew if I came home from work and saw coffee on the wall I would have a fit. It was very overwhelming. Everywhere I turned there were more grinds in more places. However, I began cleaning one section at a time and soon it wasn’t as hopeless. Soon it began to look like a kitchen again.
I had to clean coffee splatter from espresso cups, coffee containers and a large framed poster for what? Why, espresso, of course! This is hilarious, I haven't laughed yet, but I am sure I will. The situation is still too close. It hasn’t yet made the leap from stressful ridiculousness to pure comedy. But I guess that’s partially because I didn’t get to have my coffee this morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On My Writing Playlist: Florence & the Machine

No matter how genius our characters are they always manage to overlook something. My main character is a little too cocky about his endeavours. He makes decisions first and thinks them through later. He realizes someone is going to pay for his mistakes and is left wondering who is the lamb and who is the knife.

This is the theme in this week's song " Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" by Florence & the Machine.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Report Monday: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Title: Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century #1)

Author: Cherie Priest

Genre: Steampunk

Synopsis: Cherie Priest's much-anticipated steampunk debut has finally arrived in the form of a paperback original. Its plot features the sort of calibrated suspense that readers of her Four and Twenty Blackbirds would expect. Boneshaker derives its title from the Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, a device designed to give Russian prospectors a leg up in the race for Klondike gold. Unfortunately, there was one hitch: On its trial run, the Boneshaker went haywire and, long story short, turned much of Seattle into a city of the dead. Now, 16 years later, a teenage boy decides to find out what is behind that mysterious wall. Can his mother save him in time? Zombie lit of the first order. (from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: A friend who is a steampunk fan passed the book along to me. Oh and there are zombies.

My review: Really this is a Steampunk-Zombie mashup, but I need to stop inventing genres when I post my reviews.

When a test run for a new drilling machine goes awry much of Seattle is damaged but even more harmful is the noxious yellow gas that begins seeping up from the ground at the site where the Boneshaker drilled. The thick gas called "Blight" is worse than deadly as it first kills and then turns its victims into zombies. I was grateful to have an explanation for the zombie outbreak. It made for an interesting twist since there are two ways the characters could be turned into the undead. They could be bitten or they could breathe in too much of the Blight that has filled the walled up city.

Briar Wilkes risks her life when she enters the zombie-packed city in search of her son, Zeke. There are also dastardly villains, henchman, a wild west style saloon, unlikely heroes and airship pirates.

I enjoyed seeing how people survived within the remains of Seattle. Primarily living underground and maintaining pockets of fresh air where they could breathe freely without the use of masks. The story is divided between Zeke and Briar, which makes for a lot of suspense as you know how close or far they are from finding one another making it hard to put the book down.

Priest's zombies were pretty fast moving and able to climb which confused me at first. But even the characters who had been living in Seattle for the last 16 years seemed surprised at their speed. I think it has something to do with the concentration of the Blight which continues to fill the city. I hope this gets addressed in a later book in the Clockwork Century series.
One thing that got me hooked right away were the names. Leviticus Blue, Jeremiah Swakhammer, and Alistair Mayhem Osterude are just a few that I loved. Fortunately Priest's characters have personalities that live up to their names.

Recommendation: This was my first foray into the Steampunk Genre and I loved it. So I would suggest this for anyone looking to try out Steampunk or anyone who already loves steampunk and/or zombie fiction.

Next Week: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Friday, October 14, 2011

And You Guys Thought I Was A Dork

In every social circle that I am a part of, I proudly hold the title of biggest Harry Potter fan. Even at work everyone knows who the Harry Potter expert is. Which explains why I came into the office this morning and found this newspaper on my desk.

Of course, I already knew about the upcoming Wizarding Weekend taking place in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. They are going to transform downtown into Hogsmeade. There will be Quidditch, butterbeer, ghost tours, costume contests, a pub crawl, and wizard chess.

Aside from being totally amazing, it makes me wonder, if I am a huge dork for all things HP then what are the people participating in these events? This year is the 2nd Annual Philadelphia Brotherly Love Cup, a Quidditch tournament. Who plays in this tournament? Are they just your average Potter fans who are really into sports? Or are they (gasp!) dorkier than me? I think I will have to go to find out.

Being the go-to Potter source for my friends, family, and coworkers is a serious source of pride for me.  So, I won't pretend that being out-Pottered isn't a concern. Unfortunately, there is not a quizzo or trivia contest scheduled for this weekend for me to prove myself. Though for the record, if all my wizarding dreams came true and I was a student at Hogwart's I would not be trying out for my house team.

Ashley-Gryffindor, Jess-Hufflepuff and Me-Ravenclaw

I would be found in the library doing Arithmancy in between my shifts at the school radio, which if they don't have I'd spearhead to get up and running. Bring on that sweet Wizard Rock.

Watching muggles play Quidditch does seem entertaining. I have yet to see it live but I hear the golden snitch is played by someone who runs around the field with the "snitch" hanging from their belt à la flag football in gym class. 

Have any of you seen or participated in a Quidditch match?

 These events are not confined to Philadelphia, you can check with The International Quidditch Association and see if there are any teams near you. A lot of folks are getting ready for the Quidditch World Cup taking place in NYC the weekend of November 12th.