Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Demigod Diaries by Rick Riordan

As I anticipate the release of The Mark of Athena, I’m glad that The Demigod Diaries was published a few weeks ago. At least I have this book to set my mind to, instead of the agony I feel while waiting for the release date of The Mark of Athena. It’s just that the more excited I get, the more time passes by so slowly.

Anyway, moving on, here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Young Demigods,

Your Destiny Awaits!

You must prepare yourself for a difficult future: fighting monsters, adventuring across the globe, and dealing with temperamental Greek and Roman gods. In this top secret collection of four never-before-told stories, character portraits and interviews, maps, diagrams, and puzzles from Camp Half-Blood Senior Scribe Rick Riordan, you’ll join your favorite demigods from the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series as they face dangerous foes and perilous tasks. What you learn from their experiences could very well save your life!

The Demigod Diaries consists of four different stories, with the first three written by Rick Riordan, while the last story written by his son, Haley Riordan. I will be reviewing this book by discussing each story.

Entitled The Diary of Luke Castellan, the first story takes place before the Percy Jackson series. It talks about one of the significant adventures of Luke and Thalia and how they encounter Annabeth. In this story, Luke and Thalia happen to meet one of Apollo’s sons, Halcyon Green, a demigod who has a gift of foretelling the future. With this said, the futures of Thalia and Luke are disclosed which are connected to the major series of Percy Jackson. Some Greek creatures we’ve never encountered in the previous books before appear on this one, too. Moreover, it is evident that the feeling of anguish is prominent among the characters due to their failed family relationship which made them feel unwanted. It’s nice to read something that uses Luke’s POV because readers get to understand his feelings and thoughts.

The second story, Percy Jackson and the Staff of Hermes, is about Percy and Annabeth’s quest to retrieve Hermes’ staff, the caduceus, which got stolen by Cacus, a small giant. This story happens during the time between The Last Olympian and The Lost Hero. Percy and Annabeth are now dating and officially together, and they actually make a good couple. Percy still has his humoristic attribute and I find myself rooting for them. l like how their relationship moves to the next level where they become romantic towards each other. This is one side of Percy and Annabeth’s story I’d definitely love to read about. One way or another, at least they get to experience what normal teenagers do as they go through dates and the likes. But then again, normal is not likely to be part of their everyday life permanently.

Moving on to the third story entitled Leo Valdez and the Quest for Buford, it’s now about Leo, Jason, and Piper’s adventure to search for Buford (Leo’s walking table) for a limited time as it holds an important item that will determine the fate of Bunker 9. Leo is also in the middle of building the Argo II which will eventually play a major role in the Heroes of Olympus series. But of course, in every story, there’s a conflict and Rick Riordan is not kind enough to give the demigods a petty conflict. Who knew that they would encounter the dangerous maenads? Will they make it? It’s for you to find out.

And lastly, the fourth and final story, The Son of Magic, is written by Rick Riordan’s son, Haley Riordan. It’s different from the first three stories as it centers on different characters we’ve never known before. Dr. Claymore is a normal person who happens to meet a demigod named Alabaster. He also meets Lamia, who is in search for Alabaster in order to kill him. The struggle Dr. Claymore faces is definitely evident since he’s witnessing something that he thought never existed. The twist on this one will certainly surprise the readers.

Overall, the combined spin-off stories for this book and how they’re amazingly created make it interesting to read. Rick Riordan still maintains the excitement of the story as I turn page after page. Those who enjoy reading Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympus series will surely love this one. With games and illustrations included, the book is able to reveal who the seven demigods are that are mentioned in the prophecy. Now I definitely can’t wait for The Mark of Athena.

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The BFG by Roald Dahl

Here we are again. I’ve caught up with another of Roald Dahl’s works and this time, I read The BFG.

Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

Captured by a giant!

The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It’s lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bonecruncher, or any of the other giants — rather than the BFG — she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that they are flush-bunking off to England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. And the BFG is going to help her!

The BFG, also known as Big Friendly Giant, and the orphan girl Sophie happen to cross paths one evening which eventually change their lives. Despite their differences in size and kind, this does not stop them from being friends with one another and treating each other as a family.

Taking a closer look at the characters, I find both of them loveable to any reader’s eyes. The BFG shows how to break from the status quo and be different in his own way. He himself might seem a weakling in the group of giants, but he holds a unique talent that separates him from the other hideous giants. Plus, the relationship he had with Sophie is remarkably lovely. It shows how the BFG proves to be a good friend like no other to Sophie.

One of the things I would like to talk about is the giant language the BFG uses. He may be illiterate; thus the confusion of words I get myself into while I read through some parts, but I find the conversations between Sophie and the BFG entertaining, humorous, and somewhat philosophical. The topics being discussed have certain depth in it. Among this is the comparison between the nature of giants and humans. The book mentions the evident reality of humanity where people kill each other. On the other hand, the BFG explains that giants don’t kill their fellow species. This makes one wonder if humans are really better and more civilized than giants.

Another one is about the nature of mystery. The world is full of mysteries and the BFG is not naïve about it, as opposed to human beings. With this said, the giant is filling Sophie with such knowledge that she cannot easily comprehend. And this is the part where the argumentative statement “seeing is believing” comes in, which I think that up to know, is still debatable.

Moving on, it’s amazing how Roald Dahl has created an idea that’s intangible and make it tangible. In this book’s case, dreams can be caught. Moreover, the concept of good and bad dreams the BFG catches, and how they’re capable of being mixed together, gives readers an understanding that dreams have no limitations. Dreams go on as long as our imaginations are at work.

I pretty much enjoy this book. It’s not just meant for children, but instead, the book is also for those who would want to relive their childhood and walk down that memory lane again. The BFG is surely a light and fun read. Lessons can be picked out from this book, and who knows, it might open our minds that perhaps giants are real. Besides, believing is not constricted to just seeing, right?

 

 

 


James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

And so, I have spent my time reading another one of Roald Dahl’s works again. This time, I read James and the Giant Peach. I’ve only known recently that a movie was based on the book, but I haven’t watched its film adaptation yet. One day, perhaps.

Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

When James accidentally drops some magic crystals by the old peach tree, strange things start to happen. The peach at the top of the tree begins to grow, and before long it’s as big as a house. Then James discovers a secret entranceway into the fruit, and when he crawls inside, he meets a bunch of marvelous oversized friends–Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more. After years of feeling like an outsider in his aunts’ house, James has finally found a place where he belongs. With a snip of the stem, the peach starts rolling away, and the exciting adventure begins!

Just as the title suggest, this is the story of James Henry Totter’s adventures while in the giant peach. James’s parents were caught in an accident, so his aunts were sort of forced to look after him. The downside of this was that he was treated badly and cruelly, like Cinderella and Cosette from Les Misérables. I pitied James for his mishap life, of course, but his world turned upside down with the help of the magical seeds from an old man.

With this said, a giant peach grew, together with some other insects. At first, readers might find it creepy and scary having to see insects as big as a normal person, but this feeling will soon subside because of the insects’ amusing personalities. I, myself, hate insects, and yet I come to admire the characters in the book. Roald Dahl did not fail to portray the insects’ value in the world while most of us often take them for granted. I cannot imagine myself to be in James’s position, but I learned to appreciate the small things and the advantages they bring in life.

Roald Dahl’s stories are perfect for children and those who are young at heart. Aside from the weirdness of it, I find it funny that the names are easy to remember. For example, James’s aunts’ names perfectly reflect their physical characteristics – Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. Moreover, the original poems/songs in the book are entertaining to read. The author captures the mood and feeling and adds humorous lines here and there, too. The combination of these elements is what makes the story unique and more fun to read.

Indeed, James and the Giant Peach is full of weirdness and magic. The things that happened have been very peculiar – leading one thing to another – and they seem unbelievable, but in Roald Dahl’s world of stories, anything is possible. The book definitely allows enough room for readers to explore their imaginations. They just have to have an open and imaginative mind.


Messenger by Lois Lowry

After reading Gathering Blue, I immediately moved on to Messenger. This book is also a companion novel to The Giver.

Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:

For the past six years, Matty has lived in Village and flourished under the guidance of Seer, a blind man known for his special sight. Village was once a place that welcomed newcomers, but something sinister has seeped into Village and the people have voted to close it to outsiders. Matty has been invaluable as a messenger. Now he must make one last journey through the treacherous Forest with his only weapon, a power he unexpectedly discovers within himself.

It’s nice to know the other side of the Village – somewhere beyond the Forest – that’s different from where Kira lives. It’s ruled by the Leader, a place where the neglected and pained ones gather and form their own community. In spite of the physical flaws and imperfections some acquire, they are still valued and treated equally, unlike in their previous home.

This book now centers on Matty, or Matt from Gathering Blue, playing a more significant role in the story. From being a mischievous child in the previous book, he changes into someone more tamed, educated, and mature. In other words, he becomes a better person. The title mainly has a lot to do with him, but as readers further read through the story, Matty has a lot more to offer and possesses a unique gift. I like how fate has brought Jonas, Kira, and Matty together and connected their lives. It’s fun to come across characters from the previous books. Kira’s father also appears and has an important role in Matty’s life, too.

In addition to this, we are also introduced to the true nature of the Forest. It seems to be alive, moving on its own to give Warnings to those who cross the path and sometimes, harms them. As the story progresses, we have seen how it changes, from being fresh, bright, and alive, it has turned darker, more dangerous, and wicked.

At first, I was kind of disappointed when Jonas and Gabe did not appear in Gathering Blue. However, in this book, as I have said mentioned earlier, they appeared! Jonas, surprisingly, is the Leader. I thought that the setting happens years after Jonas’ time, but it isn’t. Reading this enlightens my knowledge more, that the community where Jonas and Gabe lived exists at the same time as with Kira and Matty’s village. They just happen to be in two separate places, born in different times. On the other hand, it cannot be overlooked that the communities where they originated exhibit some similarities between one another which resulted to their escape and their search for a better one. One thing’s for certain, though – not everything is perfect no matter where one goes and tries to build.

The story brings readers to see the whole situation in a different light. All three books combined bring about a new and better understanding about the complex reality of life in a society. We aim for perfection, yet there will always be a time when a single act will destroy everything. It’s like slowly building a house made of cards where one slight mistake or movement will ruin the whole structure. And more often than not, sacrifice has to be made in order to change everything to the way it’s supposed to be.

Deprivation of something will be inevitable, but complete transparency and freedom is not the answer, too. The Forest’s condition, evidently, reflects and symbolizes the deepest desires of people. It changes throughout the course of time, and more often than not, due to this fact, certain measures must be made to regulate it.

All three books can serve as stand-alone novels, but Messenger is more of a sequel to Gathering Blue, so if one decides to read the three books, it’s more encouraged to read them in chronological order to better understand the story.

Despite the bittersweet ending, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It’s full of suspense as I turn page after page, that’s why I was able to finish the book in two days. The depth of the story certainly gives me a wider perspective about life and pushes me further to reflect upon it.

 

 

 


Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

I didn’t know that The Giver has companion novels, not until recently. After looking at the synopses of the two companion novels closely, I found the stories promising enough to convince me to buy the books.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Kira, an orphan with a twisted leg, lives in a world where the weak are cast aside. She fears for her future until she is spared by the all-powerful Council of Guardians. Kira is a gifted weaver and is given a task that no other community member can carry out. While her talent keeps her alive and brings certain privileges, Kira soon realizes that she is surrounded by many mysteries and secrets. No one must know of her plans to uncover the truth about her world—and to find out what exists beyond it.

The setting in this book is far different from The Giver. I think the story happens several years after Jonas’ time. The people are now capable of seeing colors and feelings, whereas in The Giver, these things are non-existent. There are still some aspects, though, that remain the same, such as the naming of the citizens and the way the society is still controlled by the authority. But looking at it from a distance, the community this time is more complex than during Jonas’ time. Readers cannot overlook the fact that there’s an emergence of social class inequality already.

Moving on, the protagonists of the book are young and gifted. Kira and Thomas possess great and unique talent, waiting to be fully realized. We get to have glimpses of this when we are told of their first masterpiece. And in return, their works hold mysterious power – it somehow connects with them much to their surprise. It’s like the object has a mind and body of its own, but only so during dire situations, when they need guidance and reassurance. It is in this aspect where readers can distinguish how a work created from one’s heart can bring life as compared to one that is merely forced.

I really like how Kira, Thomas, and Matt’s friendship develops and strengthens. Their diverse personalities balanced out when they’re together, like three different puzzle pieces forming a perfect picture when fit together. Even at their age, it can be seen that they have each other’s backs, helping with what the other is incapable of doing.

Furthermore, the message the book tries to reveal definitely has depth in it. The story allows room for readers to discuss certain issues presented. Evidently, we can see the reality of injustice of those who are stronger and physically “perfect” over those who are imperfect, taking advantage and manipulating the weak. On the surface, it may seem that the society is regulated, when in fact, it’s merely a fabricated society, hiding the flawed reality. Oppression and discrimination has become prevalent among people. I believe this is what Kira has experienced and this discovery of eye-opening truth about freedom and true value of talent will affect her decision in life and in her future.

Lois Lowry has done it again. I enjoy reading her works because the books make me ponder the deeper meanings the author tries to portray. This story is very relatable to the people because it happens in real life. Plus, readers can easily empathize with the characters because that’s how true and honest the characters are with their feelings. The only downside I have, though, of this book is that I would have wanted to know more about what will happen next, especially to Kira, Thomas, Matt, and Jo’s lives. Oh well, time to move on. Can’t wait to read the next book!