Review: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Title: The Red Pyramid
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: The Kane Chronicles
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: hardback
Rating: 4/5
Read for: Amazon Best of 2010 Challenge

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe – a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs. (goodreads.com)

My Thoughts

I cheered. A new series by Mr. Riordan. I loved the first book in the Percy Jackson series, and I was excited to read about a new mythology.

Egyptian mythology is so much different from Greek mythology, and it was a nice change of pace, especially since I read them back-to-back.

The journey the children go on is quite a wild one. It was really fascinating to watch Carter and Sadie become close, since they’ve been separated for so long and are such different people. Carter is the knowledgeable one, in terms of mythology, since he’s spent so much time traveling with his father. Sadie, on the other hand, is a bit of a smart-aleck, and a bit cynical to boot.

In time, they come to learn the truth about their mother’s death, which is something that has plagued them for a long time.

I look forward to reading the next installment of the series, if only to see what happens to the Kane siblings next.

Review: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lost Hero
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: The Heroes of Olympus
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: hardback
Rating: 4/5
Read for: Amazon Best of 2010 Challenge

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god.

My Thoughts

Oh, I think I made a mistake reading this book before finishing the Percy Jackson series.

I didn’t realize, going into this book, that this is a sequel, of sorts, to the Percy series. It blends the Gods and Goddesses of Roman and Greek mythology, showing both their sides, and now we have, essentially, two Camp Half-bloods.

I found myself a little bit at a loss when events from the initial series was discussed, but most of it is mentioned in passing and wasn’t essential to the plot, so I was able to move past it and continue on without much difficulty.

The blending of Roman and Greek mythology was interesting, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I look forward to meeting a more grown-up Percy Jackson, but hopefully I’ll have finished his series before the next book comes out.

Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Title: The Lightning Thief
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, book 1
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: hardback
Rating: 4.5/5
Read for: 2011 Urban Fantasy challenge

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to stay out of trouble. But can he really be expected to stand by and watch while a bully picks on his scrawny best friend? Or not defend himself against his pre-algebra teacher when she turns into a monster and tries to kill him? Of course, no one believes Percy about the monster incident; he’s not even sure he believes himself.
Until the Minotaur chases him to summer camp.
Suddenly, mythical creatures seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. The gods of Mount Olympus, he’s coming to realize, are very much alive in the twenty-first century. And worse, he’s angered a few of them: Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.
Now Percy has just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property, and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. On a daring road trip from their summer camp in New York to the gates of the Underworld in Los Angeles, Percy and his friends–one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena–will face a host of enemies determined to stop them. To succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of failure and betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

My Thoughts

I was SO excited to read this. So excited. I love Greek mythology (seriously–I have Cerberus tattooed on my right shoulder).
The book starts a little slow, but it picks up pretty quickly and by chapter three I was hooked.
The book is a little predictable at times, especially if you know Greek mythology pretty well, so I was able to guess the characters before Percy did, but I was still pretty impressed with it. The whole novel takes Greek mythology and runs with it, and even the encounters with the Big Three (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) are awesome.
I don’t want to say too much about the book, because there are spoilers around every corner and the beginning of the book is tied with the end, thanks to the Oracle’s prophecy, but suffice to say I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to picking up book two as soon as I can.

Review: Midnight’s Daughter by Karen Chance

     Title: Midnight’s Daughter
Author: Karen Chance
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Onyx (Penguin)
Format: paperback
Rating: 4/5
Read for: 2011 Urban Fantasy Challenge

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. So far, Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing.
Now Dory’s vampire father has come back into her life. Her uncle Dracula (yes, the Dracula) infamous even among vampires for his cruelty and murderous ways, has escaped his prison. And her father wants Dory to work with the gorgeous master vampire Louis-Cesare to put him back there.
Vampires and dhampirs are mortal enemies, and Dory prefers to work alone. But Dracula is the only thing on earth that truly scares her, and when Dory has to go up against him, she’ll take all the help she can get…

My Thoughts

As I read the first few pages, I had a lot of hesitations. Dorina, or Dory, seemed like a walking cliche–a hard, tough-talking narrator with nothing to back it up. Fortunately, my hesitations only lasted a few pages, and I flew through the book. I couldn’t put it down.
The book is very fast-paced. There’s not a lot of time for standing around, although Dory does seem to spend a lot of her time injured or disoriented, either from her rages, during which she blacks out, or from simply being beat up during fights.
I really liked Louis-Cesare, and I hope I see a lot more of him in the second novel in this series. I liked the interaction between him and Dory, right from the moment they met.
I’m definitely going to have to pick up the next book in the series… And probably start reading the Cassandra Palmer series, starting with Touch the Dark.

Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: hardback
Rating: 4/5
Read for: 2011 Wish I’d Read That Challenge

Dexter Morgan isn’t exactly the kind of man you’d bring home to Mom. Though he’s playful and has a wonderfully ironic sense of humor, Dexter’s one character flaw (his proclivity for murder) can be off-putting. But at heart Dexter is the perfect gentleman, supportive of his sister, Deb, a Miami cop, and interested in doing away with people who really deserve his special visit. Dex is quite good-looking but totally indifferent to (and, frankly, a bit puzzled by) the attentions paid to him by women. Despite the fact that he can’t stand the sight of blood, he works as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police department, a job that allows him to keep tabs on the latest crimes and keep an eye open for his next quarry.
Dexter’s well-organized life is suddenly disrupted when a second, much more visible serial killer appears in Miami. Dex is intrigued, even delighted, by the fact that the other killer appears to have a style reminiscent of his own. Yet he can’t help but feel that the mysterious new arrival is not merely invading his turf but reaching out to him as well. This new killer seems to be doing more than copying Dexter–he seems to be saying, “Come out and play.” Dexter’s secret life makes for a lonely existence… even a lovable monster can be intrigued by the prospect of finding a friend. (from dust jacket)

My Thoughts

Please forgive me — this review got away from me a bit.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series of books about a sociopath who occasionally helps his cop sister and kills bad people. Oh, and we, as readers, are in his head.
Dexter is short–at only 288 pages, it’s one of the shortest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s a quick read. Dexter is pretty fun, for someone who doesn’t understand or experience emotion. He’s practiced at “being human”, his way of saying he fools people into thinking there’s nothing wrong with him. Even his sister doesn’t really suspect. He is clever and witty, and has no trouble at all telling people how it really is, and even calling people out on their stupidity.
Although the book is really a who-dun-it mystery, Dexter really makes the book. He is entertained by odd things, like a Barbie head hanging from his freezer:

Whee. I had a new hobby. (p. 128)

I will say, however, that the introduction to this character is incredibly unpleasant, and as the book progresses, Dexter’s mind becomes more and more weird. He is fascinated by the moon, and it seems like his “hunting” cycle is dictated by it. He seems to only kill when the moon is full.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes and this question: refrigerated trucks have rear-view mirrors?

If you can’t get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people? (p. 170)

Because, the paper carefully pointed out, how could we believe that two such killers could possibly be on the loose at the same time? (p. 171)

Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. (p. 173)

Review: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Title: Lock & Key
Author: Sarah Dessen
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Viking
Format: hardback
Rating: 4/5
Read for: 2011 Wish I’d Read That Challenge

“Ruby, where is your mother?”
With that question from the social worker, Ruby knows the game is up.
She’s been living alone in the old yellow house, waiting out the months until she turns eighteen and can finally be on her own legally. It certainly wasn’t in her plan to be reunited with Cora, the sister who left ten years before, and brought to live with Cora and her wealthy entrepreneur husband.
Suddenly life is transformed: a luxurious house, private school, new clothes, and even the chance of a future Ruby couldn’t have dreamed of. So why is she wary, unable to be grateful, incapable of letting anyone close. Her old life has been left behind, but where does she fit in this new life? Only Nate, the genial, popular boy next door, seems to understand, perhaps because he’s hiding some secrets of his own. (from dust jacket)

My Thoughts

I’ve never read a Sarah Dessen book before. I see them everywhere I look at books, but I’ve never picked one up, not even to read the back cover. Fortunately, I read the summary for this one and thought it sounded interesting without even seeing the cover. I’m glad I picked this book up. It was touching, and it didn’t come across as cheesy, although it definitely had the potential to do just that.
There was something about Ruby that rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m not sure if I can put my finger on it. Ruby wants to stay in her little yellow house with mildew on her clothes, where half the appliances are broken and where she has to work to pay rent on top of going to school, all because her mother abandons her. Sometimes, I could understand Ruby and her need to stay in her own world–change, especially such a dramatic change, is difficult, and it is compounded by Ruby’s opinion of her sister, Cora. But sometimes, I really didn’t understand why she would rather get black-out drunk above everything else. While she talks a lot about her life with her mom, her life outside her mom, if she had much of one, is a bit more blurry.
Ruby, of course, likes Cora’s husband almost immediately, and I did, too. He’s open and friendly, and I was really glad to see that he had a serious side that went beyond being happy, or serious about business. I was really glad to see that he wasn’t completely one-dimentional.
I had a harder time relating with Nate, probably because I’ve never known anyone in Nate’s situation. It’s a crappy situation, and I love that Ruby wants to help him. I really liked their interactions and that he really seems to like her, despite her need to return to what she knows. I was glad to see that he really wanted to stick by her, and that he was there when she needed him. It really drove home the point that, later in the novel, she wanted him to need her and it hurt her that he didn’t (or, at least, he didn’t want to admit it).
I really liked this book, and I’ll probably be picking up some more books by Sarah Dessen in the future.

Review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Title: Rot & Ruin
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Format: hardback
Rating: 4/5
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation

In the zombie-infested world Benny has grown up in, teenagers must work once they turn fifteen–or they’ll lose their food rations. Benny isn’t interested in taking on the family business, but he reluctantly agrees to train as a zombie killer with his boring big brother, Tom. He expects a dull job, whacking zombies for cash. What he discovers is a vocation that will teach him what it really means to be human.
As his worldview is challenged again and again by the lessons he learns from Tom, Benny is forced to confront another horrifying reality: Sometimes the most terrible monsters are human. (from dust jacket)

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. Although I had a hard time getting around Benny changing his opinion of his brother so quickly, then backing away from it when Nix calls him on it, then going back to thinking highly of his brother, even though at the beginning of the novel he hates his brother and thinks he’s a coward. It was hard for me to flip back and forth so quickly, although I could see the change coming anyway.
The book itself was an interesting take on zombies. So often we don’t think of zombies as anything but shambling monsters, coming to devour your flesh (or just your brain, depending on whether you like scary zombies or cute, animated zombies whose worst enemies are sunflowers and peashooters). Rot & Ruin focuses more on who the zombies used to be, and, to an extent, brings the zombies into focus as more of a protagonist than an antagonist. Or, at the very least, innocent bystanders. I also liked how it touched on the definition of humanity in a world where it becomes easy to lose your humanity and become the monster.
I also liked that Benny didn’t suddenly become superman when he was without his brother. He didn’t magically adopt his brother’s skills, or develop some crazy skills of his own. He keeps his same, crappy skill-set; after all, he hasn’t been working at zombie hunting nearly as long as Tom or Lilah, but once his brother shows him what he really does, Benny shows the same compassion his brother does towards “Zoms”.
Really, I liked the book, and I’m adding it to my “buy” list.