Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

I finally had the chance to read The House of Hades! Ever since I’ve read the first book of the Percy Jackson series, I knew right then that Rick Riordan earned his place in my auto-buy list. The first series has proven its worth as one of the best stories I’ve read. Why would I stop with just that? As I became a Percy Jackson series fan, I wanted to read more about it. And now, with the second series nearing its end, the story just gets more exciting.

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

The House of Hades coverHazel stands at a crossroads.  She and the remaining crew of the Argo II 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 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, and prevent monsters form being reincarnated in the mortal 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.

Annabeth and Percy are overwhelmed.  How will the two of them make it through Tartarus?  Starving, thirsty, and in pain, they are barely able to stumble on in the dark and poisonous landscape that holds new horrors at every turn.  They have no way of locating the Doors of Death.  Even if they did, a legion of Gaea’s strongest monsters guards the Doors on the Tartarus side.  Annabeth and Percy can’t exactly launch a frontal assault.

Despite the terrible odds, Hazel, Annabeth, Percy, and the other demigods of the prophecy know that there is only one choice:  to attempt the impossible.  Not just for themselves, but for everyone they love.  Even though love can be the riskiest choice of all.

In the previous book, we already know that Percy and Annabeth fall into Tartarus after retrieving the Athena Parthenos. Hence, evident in the title of this book, the story continues on with the other demigods seeking the House of Hades to open the Doors of Death in order to rescue Percy and Annabeth. Along the way, they encounter obstacles that would challenge their skills and talents and perhaps also discover new abilities which would help in defeating Gaea.

It’s nice to see some big changes in the characterization of some of the protagonists. The book is told in the point of views of all the seven demigods – a good strategy which maximizes the dynamism in the characters. Some of them have actually become more developed as compared to the previous books.

For one, I believe the biggest change is seen in the characterizations of Frank, Leo, and Hazel. I wouldn’t give out details to avoid spoilers. Second, it also gives the readers a sense that things that happen to people aren’t always good no matter how powerful they seem to be. This is evident in the vulnerability shown by Percy and Annabeth as they traverse the dark world of Tartarus. On the other hand, while Tartarus is described as a place of all things bad, you might be surprised that good might still come from it. Moreover, humility and acceptance of change is also seen in Jason’s decision of the path he shall take. The list doesn’t end here as there would also be an unexpected revelation which would shock the readers.

Once again, The House of Hades does not disappoint. Rick Riordan’s prose compels me to turn page after page, eager to find out what happens next to the protagonists. As always, I’m immediately drawn to Rick Riordan’s narration. The story will keep readers guessing with all those unexpected twists and surprising turn of events. There’s no way I could predict the future events or even the fates of the chosen demigods in the prophecy. I truly enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Percy Jackson fans will definitely love this book. I can’t wait for the final book of The Heroes of Olympus series. Nine more months to go!


The Lorien Legacies, Book Four: The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore

I finally read the fourth installment of The Lorien Legacies! It’s been such a long wait and my patience has been tested, but it’s all worth it. My eyes are already itching to read what happens to the remaining Garde after their ill-fated confrontation with Setrákus Ra from the previous book. (P.S. This review may contain spoilers, so do not proceed if you have not read the book yet.)

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

The Fall of Five coverI thought things would change when I found the others. We would stop running. We would fight the Mogadorians. And we would win.

But I was wrong. Even though we have come together, we barely escaped from the Mogadorians with our lives. And now we’re in hiding, trying to figure out our next move.

The six of us are powerful – but we’re not yet strong enough to take on their entire army. We haven’t discovered the full extent of our Legacies. We haven’t learned to work together. And there’s still so much that we don’t know about the Elders or their plan for us. Time is running out, and there’s only one thing we know for certain: We need to find Number Five before they do.

They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. I am Number Four. I was supposed to be next. But I’m still alive.

This battle is far from over.

The Fall of Five. When the title was first announced, it already depicted a lot of possible meanings of what the story would be about. Would five members of the Garde be captured in the hands of the Mogadorians? Would they get killed? Would number Five die? Evidently, the title was so intriguing that it raised a lot of speculations in the minds of the fans, mine especially. And of course, I wouldn’t know which one of my guesses would come true until I read the book.

After reading the book, I think it’s safe to say that none of my predictions have come true. LOL. So much for overanalyzing the title. Anyway, the story continues on from where The Rise of Nine left off. The gap between the previous and current book has been long so it takes me a while to refresh my memory or remember what has happened. On the other hand, I’m glad I get to read the novellas of I Am Number Four during the process of waiting. Because somehow, readers are given the opportunity to find out and learn some information not mentioned in the main series. Moreover, they actually help in regaining some important details as I read through The Fall of Five.

One thing I can say about this series is that as it progresses, the story gets more intense. Similar to the previous books, The Fall of Five is told in different point of views. In this case, Sam, Marina (Seven), and John’s (Four). Readers will not get confused because aside from the distinct fonts per POV, the author is also able to manifest the unique, recognizable personalities of each character. Even I cannot choose who I like best. Furthermore, the author crafts the storyline interestingly that he leaves no room for predictability. He makes a twist out of some details readers think would remain true throughout the series. The only disturbing thing I read is the foreshadowing of a future scenario and the fate of all members of the Garde at that time.

As always, the book ends with a cliffhanger. On the brighter side, The Fall of Five does not disappoint. It lives up to my expectations and I certainly cannot wait for the next book to come out. I’m eager to find out what will be in store for the characters. I surely hope Adam will play a significant role in the fifth book. This series has definitely been one of the best Sci-Fi books I’ve read. I’m not an avid fan of science fiction novels, but it’s quite surprising that I find myself enjoying this series more than I expected.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

After reading Trish Doller’s debut novel, Something Like Normal, I knew right then that she has to be included in my auto-buy author list. Hence, when I found out that she wrote a second book, I immediately added it to my wish list and patiently waited for its release date. I didn’t even bother calling our local bookstores to ask for the availability once it was released. I just directly ordered the book online from The Book Depository.

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

Where the Stars Still Shine coverStolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from Laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely.

But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

By turns heartbreaking and hopeful, this sweet and sexy romance offers a whole new take on happily ever after…

First of all, I love the font style of the title and it fits the cover design of the book. The colors used in the background are brighter than the first book and they seem to sparkle, making the book more attractive and appealing to the readers. The new look definitely deviates from the first book and it’s nice to see them exploring more creative designs than merely using real people as the book cover.

Moving on, at a glance, the premise of the book might have already given us an idea of how Callie spends her childhood life. At the same time, it also provides the readers a negative impression on the mother. One might wonder: why would a mother kidnap her own child? But then again, there’s more to it than what is told. I’ve decided not to immediately judge the mother, but instead, to give her the benefit of the doubt. And I’m glad to make that decision.

The reason behind the mother’s actions is soon justified as the cause is slowly revealed not just to Callie, but to the readers as well. Unfortunately, this surprising revelation affects Callie’s life negatively. Imagine a life on the run with no permanent ground to stay or a place to call home. Despite her father saving her, Callie’s past constantly creeps into the present and haunts her. It significantly shapes her personality that eventually challenged her relationship with her friends and family.

Trish Doller succeeds in narrating the story in Callie’s point of view. Readers are given a chance to witness Callie’s deepest thoughts and feelings, as well as her struggles. This way, it’s easier to understand her actions – from the shock as she faces new, stable environment, to slowly adapting and accepting her new life. Her characterization comes out as unexpected for me. As I am reading, I expect her to be this rebellious girl who does all kinds of vices and breaks all the rules imposed by her father. People from the outside might think of her as that, but deep down, she’s this sweet and caring type of girl. Going further through the book, I come to love her character. Her interest in books just makes me like her more. And it’s evident that she grows to be more mature, proven by her decisions towards the end. On the other hand, my admiration is not limited to Callie’s character, but to the other characters as well. Basically, I like all of them. Each has unique personalities and it’s fun to see them having a significant role in Callie’s life.

Overall, Where the Stars Still Shine is one heck of a read. I enjoyed reading this book from start to end. Trish Doller surely narrates the story well that it kept me glued to the seat until the end. The characters are loveable and the storyline is equally entertaining and bittersweet. I love that romance is not mainly focused on this book and that Trish Doller also manages to weigh in the importance of family, the hope for the possibility, and Callie’s journey of self discovery. This is a story worth returning to. At the end of the day, Where the Stars Still Shine convinced me enough to want to visit Tarpon Springs in the future. This book definitely does not disappoint.

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

I very much enjoyed reading Carolyn Turgeon’s works such as Mermaid and The Next Full Moon that ever since then, I’ve decided to buy her succeeding books, knowing that she will not let me down. Hence, when The Fairest of Them All was released, I immediately bought a copy from The Book Depository.

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

The Fairest of Them All coverIn this kingdom, only one fairy tale can end with happily ever after.

In an enchanted forest, the maiden Rapunzel’s beautiful voice captivates a young prince hunting nearby. Overcome, he climbs her long golden hair to her tower and they spend an afternoon of passion together, but by nightfall the prince must return to his kingdom, and his betrothed.

Now king, he weds his intended and the kingdom rejoices when a daughter named Snow White is born. Beyond the castle walls, Rapunzel waits in her crumbling tower, gathering news of her beloved from those who come to her seeking wisdom. She tries to mend her broken heart but her love lingers, pulsing in the magic tendrils of her hair.

The king, too, is haunted by his memories, but after his queen’s mysterious death, he is finally able to follow his heart into the darkness of the forest. But can Rapunzel trade the shadows of the forest for the castle and be the innocent beauty he remembers?

Before anything else, let me talk about the cover first. Three words: I love it! The background color and the character on it with her flowing golden hair complement one another which make the cover design look more attractive and eye-catching. Moreover, readers could immediately tell from the cover that it emphasizes on the hair. With that said, Rapunzel would come into mind. However, the title depicts otherwise – it doesn’t have any relation to Rapunzel’s story, but evidently to Snow White’s instead. But fear not, the blurb would help clear things up on what the story is about. Even after reading the blurb, I got intrigued with the story more. I’m curious how Carolyn Turgeon would merge the story of Rapunzel and Snow White altogether.

Moving on, I’m right about what I said earlier that Carolyn Turgeon would not let me down. Just a few pages in and I’m already hooked on the story. Imagine, all my childhood life I’ve known these characters as the damsels in distress, being saved by their knights in shining armor. And now, as a retelling, I hear that one of the princesses has become the evil queen. It’s unimaginable and yet Carolyn Turgeon is able to do so. She surely knows how to craft a fairy tale retelling – adding her own special ingredient that the outcome turns out to be quite impressive.

Told in first person point of view, the book centers on Rapunzel’s life – how she falls in love with the prince to becoming the infamous evil queen. Rapunzel’s character in this book greatly reminds me of Rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled. I guess it’s because of the magic their hair holds that strikes the similarity, although the magic capability differs from one another, as well as their personalities. Furthermore, even their “mothers” surprisingly share the same name: Gothel.

I’m glad that Carolyn Turgeon writes the story with Rapunzel in the spotlight. I haven’t seen any good Rapunzel retellings aside from Tangled. And I love that this book is written in first person point of view. In a way, readers get to understand Rapunzel’s thoughts and feelings more. How she reacts and handles her surroundings somehow justifies the things she could secretly feel and hear people’s thoughts. Magic greatly influences her life and it is because of it that she has the capability to literally empathize with people more. But as we all know, magic also has a downside. The more you get attached to it, the more it will destroy you. This is evidently shown in her attachment to the magic mirror.

Despite Rapunzel being the evil queen, I do not blame her for becoming one. The transition from magic to religion during this period negatively affects the lives of those who practice magic or sorcery. And Mathena Gothel and Rapunzel are not able to escape this fate, hence their isolation from the palace. With this said, it’s no doubt that people will now allow such outsiders to enter the kingdom and be a part of it. So when Rapunzel becomes queen, Mathena Gothel gives her the magic mirror as a reminder of the unforgotten magic and also as a way to make Rapunzel feel she’s not alone. On the other hand, the mirror has drastically shaped Rapunzel’s growing obsession for beauty and youth.

Feminism is also strongly portrayed in the story, evident in the way Rapunzel, Mathena Gothel, and Snow White are characterized, while men are described possessing unattractive qualities. It’s really impressive to see that Carolyn Turgeon factors in the complexity and harshness of reality into the book, making the story more relatable to the readers. Her descriptive narration is perfect as the plotline is written uniquely with the originality of a retelling. She even utilizes parts of the original story from both fairy tales and makes a twist out of it. The story combines innocence and naivety with darkness, adding to the never-ending surprise the book unveils. Overall, I love this book! I would definitely recommend this to fans of fairy tale retellings. After reading this book, I don’t think I would look at fairy tale villains the same way ever again. I definitely can’t wait for Carolyn Turgeon’s future works.