And the winner of the “The House of Hades” giveaway is…?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to Andrea M. for winning a paperback copy of “The House of Hades” from Fully Booked! Please DM me your shipping address so that I can send you the book ASAP. Congratulations again!

Thanks so much to everyone who joined the giveaway. I hope you had as much fun joining as I had hosting it. A big THANK YOU also to Fully Booked for being awesome and sponsoring this special prize! Guys, show them some love over on Facebook and Twitter 😀


Book review: “The Mark of Athena” by Rick Riordan (might contain spoilers!)

The Mark of Athena, the third book in Rick Riordan’s bestselling Heroes of Olympus series, came out a few days ago – a year after The Son of Neptune .

The official book summary:
Annabeth is terrified. Just when she’s about to be reunited with Percy – after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera – it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t help the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon figurehead, Leo’s fantastical creation doesn’t appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that’s only one of her worries. In her pocket, Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving command: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to fins – and close – the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth’s biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he’s now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? as the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader – but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare…

I finished the book yesterday and I wanted to write this while my thoughts are still fresh. As such, please pardon the potential jumble of thoughts.

My overall verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The good:

  • We finally learn more about Annabeth as a person. All of her characterization so far has come from Percy’s point of view and he’s crazy in love with her so he’s biased. It was nice to see why she’s kickass instead of just accepting it as is.
  • More Leo. YAY! I can never get enough of him. He’s my favorite of the seven (except for Percy of course). He finally becomes an important part of the team instead of just being the add-on to the Jason-Piper saga. No, I don’t care about what Nemesis said.
  • Less Frank and Hazel. Hurrah!
  • The Sammy-Leo connection is finally revealed and it’s the less painful of the two theories floating around (see my review of The Son of Neptune to refresh your memory).
  • MOA is fast-paced with lots of action. As with all of Riordan’s books, the entire story takes place over a very limited amount of time. There’s always something happening.
  • It was nice to see Percy and Jason developing a bromance.

The bad:

  • We learn more about Annabeth, right? As it turns out, Annabeth is too perfect. Really. She comes off as the female Jason – strong, smart, and a good leader with no discernible flaws. There’s a part where she complains about not being taken seriously as a warrior and strategist because she’s blonde. I would be more sympathetic if this claim were valid. Aren’t ALL children of Athena blonde-haired and gray-eyed? It’s also already established that Athena is the top cabin in Capture the Flag and that Annabeth is practically Percy’s second-in-command.
  • Piper annoyed me to no end. Her character gets lost because of all the Jason-Jason-Jason thoughts. I don’t need to hear about how built he is, or how his golden hair shines in the sunlight, or how he’s practically perfect in every way. There’s no mention of Piper ever examining her feelings for Jason after finding out that all their lovey dovey memories together were planted by Hera. How long have the two of them really known each other? Did they truly love each other or was that something fake? Riordan missed out on a great opportunity by not explaining.
  • Frank and Hazel annoyed me too, but to a lesser degree than Piper. Does Frank think about anything else besides Hazel and how Leo is moving in on his woman? *rolls eyes* Hazel’s also stuck in her Sammy obsession.
  • Dear Leo, there are better girls out there for you than Hazel Levesque. Consider Piper McLean, when she’s not being an idiot.
  • I don’t need constant reminders on who’s dating who. I already got that from the first chapter. On that note, why does everyone in the series have to pair up? I can handle a maximum of two pairings within the group of seven.
  • Why oh why does everyone keep on saying Nico di Angelo is creepy and untrustworthy? Out of all of them, I was most disappointed in Percy for saying that. After the end of the Titan War, I’d have thought that he’d know Nico better than that. But no! Sure Nico didn’t tell them about Camp Jupiter and didn’t tell Percy who he was when he lost his memory, but he should have at least given Nico the benefit of the doubt and waited for him to explain instead of making snap judgments. The only reason Percy didn’t ream Nico out when they rescued him was because Nico was too exhausted and fragile.
  • It looks like Rick Riordan doesn’t do ensemble casts well. All of the previous PJO and HOO books had a maximum of three main characters so each one got their due attention. MOA is the first time he’s had to deal with seven lead characters and unfortunately, some characters are inevitably lost in the shuffle. Sure I don’t like Hazel and Frank all that much but if I did, then I would be disappointed by their absence.

Overall, it was an okay book on the same level as The Son of Neptune. It definitely wasn’t as good as the original PJO series or even The Lost Hero. My wishes for The House of Hades are:

  • Give me more Nico di Angelo! And stop calling him creepy.
  • Less focus on the couples. My dears, saving the world is more important than obsessing over whether your boyfriend is finally going back home or whether this new funny guy is muscling in on your girl.
  • More Rachel Elizabeth Dare. All I’m asking for are a few IMs to the Oracle. I want to know how she’s doing.

Book review: “The Serpent’s Shadow” by Rick Riordan

Finally! We have the The Serpent’s Shadow – the 3rd (but not final?) book in the Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan (he of Percy Jackson fame). The official synopsis:

He’s b-a-a-ack! Despite their best efforts, Carter and Sadie Kane can’t seem to keep Apophis, the Chaos snake, down. Now Apophis is threatening to plunge the world into eternal darkness, and the Kanes are faced with the impossible task of having to destroy him once and for all. Unfortunately, the magicians of the House of Life are on the brink of civil war, the gods are divided, and the young initiates of Brooklyn House stand almost alone against the forces of chaos. The Kanes’ only hope is an ancient spell that might turn the serpent’s own shadow into a weapon, but the magic has been lost for a millennia. To find the answer they need, the Kanes must rely on the murderous ghost of a powerful magician who might be able to lead them to the serpent’s shadow . . . or might lead them to their deaths in the depths of the underworld.

Nothing less than the mortal world is at stake when the Kane family fulfills its destiny in this thrilling conclusion to the Kane Chronicles.

I willingly admit that I’m not as big a fan of the Kane Chronicles compared to PJO because it’s been hit-or-miss. The Red Pyramid was great and got me to look forward to Book 2. Unfortunately, The Throne of Fire was disappointing and forgettable. Because of this, I was hesitant to give The Serpent’s Shadow a chance. I’m glad that I finally did (and that I finally finished Goliath by Scott Westerfeld so that I could move on to this :P) because The Serpent’s Shadow is so much fun!

What I liked:

  • Rick Riordan is funny again! It seems that he tends to be funny when he’s not trying so hard to be funny. I loved getting inside Carter’s head.
  • It’s full of action. So many things are happening all at once that you don’t have the time to be bored.
  • The supporting cast members are fleshed out and real. I liked meeting Walt in Throne of Fire but again, he was forgettable. Just a random background character. This time, he’s fleshed out and has an actual purpose. I also enjoyed finally seeing Zia in action after being relegated to Love Interest.
  • The series is sparking an interest in Egyptian mythology. I love learning new things.

What could have used some work:

  • Same thing that plagued Throne of Fire: Riordan tends to tell, not show. The plot moves because of conversations between the characters. Carter and Sadie find out about about the importance of the sheut (shadow) because Bast tells them. Thoth tells Carter about the evil magician that stole his book. Said evil magician continues to explain things as they go along. I can give it a pass if it’s used sporadically but if done all the time (like in this book!), it can get annoying. For better or worse, the plot moved too fast for me to do some serious pondering.
  • I predicted how Walt’s problem would be solved. It is such a cop-out answer, not to mention mind-boggling.
  • Sadie is so self-centered and annoying! Gah. Frankly, I wanted to reach into the book and smack some sense into her. Good thing that I love Carter so much that I continued reading the book.

Off-topic: Anubis is exactly how I imagined a teenage Nico diAngelo would be like! All dark hair, dark eyes, and black leather jacket with black jeans 😛 I hope there’s more of him and RED in The Mark of Athena.

My overall rating: 4/5. It’s better than Red Pyramid but there are still some things that need fixing. The ending is open-ended so there will always be room for a sequel ala Heroes of Olympus. I don’t know how to feel about the wink-wink-nudge-nudge reference to other gods and magic users in Long Island. I’d prefer it if PJO and KC remained as two separate universes.I shudder to think about the possibilities of a three-way crossover with the Norse mythology series that Riordan is planning to write.

My memorable books of 2011

My memorable books of 2011. Some things to take note of:

  1. These are books I read in 2011 – not necessarily published in 2011 but something I read this year.
  2. The books may or may not be any good but were nevertheless memorable for one reason or another.

The List:

1. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Why it was memorable:

I’m not much of a baseball fan – everything I “know” about baseball comes from watching countless baseball movies growing up, from Angels in the Outfield to Little Big League to Major League. However, I am a big fan of come-from-behind stories, of people who get things done when no one says they can. Moneyball’s human interest angle – chronicling Billy Beane’s rise and fall as a pro baseball player, his transition to the back office, and finally to the “broken” players he must somehow mold into a winning Oakland Athletics – is the glue that holds the book together. Lewis lost me during the all-statistics chapters but got me back when he talked about how a player ended up with the A’s.

2. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Why it was memorable:

This is the book that sparked countless debates spread over hundreds of web pages consisting of thousands of comments on what “proper parenting” really means. While I don’t think I’ll ever employ the “extreme” methods Mrs. Chua used on her daughters – threatening to burn Sophia’s stuffed animals if she didn’t get her piano piece right was really too much – she did say some things that stuck with me and got me thinking.

“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences… Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something – whether it’s math, piano, pitching, or ballet – he or she gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This is turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.”

That excerpt above is my favorite part of the book because it’s so goddamned true. Science was my favorite subject growing up not just because  it was science, but also because I was naturally good at it. I took up Biology in college because I was good at it. Being good at something made me happy, and being happy made me continue doing it.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my other endeavors, such as piano, guitar, ballet, and writing. Being the ambitious and supremely self-confident child that I was (ha!), I expected that I would take to other things the same way I did to science: naturally and quickly. What a wake-up call it was to read my attempts at fiction and think “This sucks. This really, really sucks.” Unused to failing, I saw these as signs that I should give up and move on to something else. It took several years before I wised up and committed myself to learning, reading, and practicing until I finally got it right (starting with writing!). I don’t believe in regretting anything or speculating, but when I was reading the excerpt, I couldn’t help but think of what could have happened if my parents weren’t so lenient with me quitting whatever lessons I signed up for just three months earlier.

3. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Why it was memorable:

As the book I most looked forward to getting my grubby hands on this 2011, including The Son of Neptune in this list was a no-brainer. It definitely wasn’t perfect (Nico and Rachel get shafted again) but I appreciated seeing Percy again, especially Veteran Soldier Percy. I’m just hoping that Nico and Rachel get bigger parts in The Mark of Athena.

4. Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz

Why it was memorable:

Such a fitting end to the long-running Alex Rider series. GAH. This was the best book of the series and, despite the ending, one of my favorites as well. The only things I could wish for is THAT THING to not have happened and an epilogue where we see Alex finally relaxed and safe.

5. Three books of the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn

Why they’re memorable:

No, I’m not cheating by lumping the three together. It just makes things easier 😛 The three of the eight books in the series are:

Confession time: I have a serious soft spot for romance novels, especially Regency romances. What I loved about these three books is the light and funny writing style. There’s the necessary drama of course, but it’s not heavy-handed. My favorite romance novel of all-time is still Until You by Judith McNaught but Romancing Mister Bridgerton and Colin Bridgerton are giving it a run for its money. Unfortunately, the Lady Whistledown plot line went on a bit too long to finally topple Until You from the top spot.

Of the five other books in the series, I’ve read When He Was Wicked and am currently reading The Duke and I. I tried To Sir Phillip, With Love and I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I don’t find Gregory or Hyacinth all that interesting so there’s no incentive to read their stories. Ah well. Maybe one of these days.

This year saw the release of Just Like Heaven, the first book in Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith series. While I liked the premise, Marcus is sick for more than half the book (if it isn’t the case, then it certainly felt that way) so the conclusion was very rushed. Sigh.

Honorable mentions for the list (not listed because of a lack of time):

  • Insight Guides Hong Kong Step-by-Step – my main reference for our Hong Kong trip
  • Trese Volume 4: Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo – AWESOMESAUCE.
  • The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo – bought for $0.99 as a Kindle Daily Deal, was the best $0.99 I ever spent. The wonderful drawings by Yoko Tanaka are a major incentive to get a physical copy.

How about you? Any memorable books from 2011?

Books on the to-read list

I’ve just finished reading Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (review over here) and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah Maclean (YES I have a soft spot for romance novels. Don’t judge me.). So what’s next? Right now, it’s a toss-up between Heat Rises (the third Richard Castle book), Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, and Star Wars: Choices of One. Those who know me well can predict which one I’ll be reading next 😛

Eight days till Hong Kong yeah! 😀

Book review: “The Son of Neptune” by Rick Riordan (spoiler alert!)

The Son of Neptune is the second book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, released here in the Philippines with relatively little fanfare last October 4, 2011.

Camp Jupiter finds itself reluctantly welcoming in Percy Jackson, a 16-year-old amnesiac demigod under Juno’s protection. He’s trained though, in a style that no one’s ever seen before. He meets Hazel and Frank and joins them in the Fifth Cohort AKA the “loser cohort”. They’re sent on a quest to release Thanatos, or Death. Freeing him is a must, as with him chained, no one stays dead, including the monsters that keep on coming back instead of staying dead. And guess who now controls the Doors of Death? Yep, Gaea. The three of them travel to Alaska, the land beyond the gods, to free Thanatos, retrieve the Roman eagle standard, and maybe save the world along the way.

The book is okay overall though I’m not certain I’m going to buy a physical copy anytime soon (I read the Kindle version).

RANKING: 3.5/5 (serviceable but not as good as TLH)

The good:

I liked how he described Camp Jupiter. I’m not that familiar with Roman mythology and history compared to Greek so I appreciated the background information.

The action in SON comes hard and fast, with the book taking place over only a week. Percy is the veteran this time around and it shows. Even with his memory gone, he’s every inch a leader and a warrior. Hazel and Frank are decent characters and get to do some cool things too.

I love Iris and her R.O.F.L.! It was good to see minor gods getting more attention.

The not-so-good (SPOILER WARNING!): Continue reading “Book review: “The Son of Neptune” by Rick Riordan (spoiler alert!)”