Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Lightening Thief-Rick Riordan

You know when you see a movie and then read the book and you are so happy you saw the movie first?

“After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There's little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.”

I am so glad I saw the movie first before starting to read the first book of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympian series. Because, if I read The Lightening Thief before seeing the movie, well, I would have been mad. But we are not here to talk about the movie; we are here to talk about the book.
My husband read the entire series so I felt obligated to read it too. He was so excited describing all the action scenes and telling me all the stuff the movie left out. And, I totally have to agree: action packed with a hint of pre-teen snark. Percy is what we Mortal call a troubled kid, but all those Mortal problems equal to him being a demi-god, or what the book calls them, half-blood. To me, Riordan wrote Percy older than a twelve year old kid. He handled himself more like a teenager, moody and impulsive. Riordan’s descriptions of all the things that were happening to Percy drew me into the story: The Minotaur attacking him, his mom and Grover, The fight on the bus with the Furies. Percy hanging out at the bottom of the Mississippi, Percy and Annabeth being tricked into a trap that was meant for the god Ares. (FYI: None of these awesome scenes were in the movie.) All these action scenes were rich and well developed that it made it easy to forgot that Percy is just a kid battling huge monsters and on a quest to retrieve Zeus’s master Lightening Bolt.

But, unlike in the movie, we find out that there is not only did Zeus get jacked, so did Hades.  BUM BUM BUM!! That’s right. Hade’s Helm of Darkness (which make the wearer invisible) is stolen, there for allowing the thief to also get away with the stealing from Zeus. The chapters where Percy, Annabeth and Grover were in the Underworld were probably one of my favorite parts of the book. Not just for the plot twists and turns, but also for how the Underworld is described. The toll booths funneling in people to be judged for the kind of life they lived was an interesting take on how the afterlife might look. The guards around Hades’ stronghold were probably my favorite touch, in that they were dead soldiers from throughout time. The darkness that Riordan is able to inject into what is suppose to be a children’s book is the right amount of scare and action.


Percy and his pals are successful in returning the stolen items to Zeus and Hades and they return to Camp Half-Blood victorious heroes. But, when leaving camp do they find that who they thought was their ally and friend, someone close to them, is a traitor and working for the Olympian’s father, Kronos: Luke. Yeah, Luke did it. Well he is the son of Hermes.
Now this little bit here is movie versus book discussion. Having read the book, I’m kind of sad they cut so much out that they weren’t able to put in the whole theft of the Helm of Darkness and Kronos rising to kill the Olympians. Which means no big final scene at camp with Percy and Luke . I felt in the movie, that they didn’t really capture the anguish and anger that consumed Luke.  He is for sure going to be a formidable enemy for Percy in the rest of the books. At least, that’s what I am told.
This is a great book for kids. It introduces Greek mythology to a younger audience  without it being well, boring. I know when I was in school, as much as I loved learning about Greek mythology, I always found it kind of dull. But even now, as an adult, I learned so much. I can’t wait till my nephew reads this book. He’s like a sponge and I know he’ll just gobble this story up.

It’s always awesome when you can do a bit of learning while being totally entertained at the same time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Flip That Zombie-Jesse Petersen

Our favorite married couple surviving the zombie apocalypse are back…and they are open or business.

“The Zombie Apocalypse has been good to Sarah and David. Their marriage is better than ever. They communicate well, share responsibilities, and now, they’re sharing a business. ZombieBusters-for all your zombie extermination needs. There are lots of zombies and that means lots of customers…except one of them doesn’t want the zombies dead, he wants them alive and ready for experimentation. Mad scientists make for difficult clients and this time, Sarah and David might have bitten off more than they can chew.”

So in this sequel to Married with Zombies, it’s been four months since Seattle feel to zombies, and David and Sarah have gone south to Phoenix, AZ for the winter. All forms of the modern civilization have disappeared. We see that they have decided to open up a zombie extermination business. They hear rumors of “bionic zombies” and people are disappearing. However, when they meet a good doctor working in a secret bunker, Sarah is sucked into the hope of maybe finding a cure, while David doesn’t trust the doctor as far as he can throw them. Sarah is still sort of calling all the shots and though it seems to drive David nuts, he goes along with it. When they take a job to capture zombies versus killing them, it goes all down-hill from there.  Zombie hunts and truths revealed, and a close call for David, this book goes through the gamete of emotions. Where does this book leave us? David and Sarah head east with hopes that the zombie disease hasn’t reached that far.
I enjoyed the journey that Sarah and David take to further test their relationship. The book was funny, and there was action, but I feel that maybe Jesse Petersen couldn’t decide how to write this book. Is it a comedy? Is it action? Drama perhaps? It was a little all over the place. I felt that David was the only character that developed and changed. Sarah, as our narrator, stayed the same, which is good and bad. Good because we already know what she is like. She is the same snarky and sailor-mouthed zombie killing machine. Bad? She is the same snarky and sailor-mouthed zombie killing machine. She is the constant observer, describing the sadness of the refugee camps, the orphans, and the ragged and raw hope of the survivors. But I don’t see anywhere in the book where she really changes and grows. She just kind of the same. Which sadly, makes reading along with her a little boring.

My main issue with the book is the last big action stand-off scene. It’s like a scene from Resident Evil was laid in over David and Sarah. I have found that to be the case with some zombie books I’ve been reading lately that they have this Resident Evil feel to it: Evil Corporation/Mad Scientists, tough slightly snarky female hero, strong males that bend under the will of said tough female. Not that I don’t enjoy the Resident Evil franchise, I’m just always looking for a twist on an old favorite.

Though I found this book a little lacking and not as good as Married with Zombies, I am totally vested in this series and I must know what happens in book three, Eat Slay Love. I still love Sarah and David, but I feel that she may have gone a little off the track with this book. So let’s hope that I get what I want from the next book.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Working Stiff-Rachel Caine

So there’s an evil corporation that makes drug that brings people back from the dead. Unsuspecting women gets caught up in the middle of, well, everything. Hmm. Feels like I’ve seen this story before…

“Bryn Davis knows working at Fairview Mortuary isn't the most glamorous career choice, but at least it offers stable employment--until she discovers her bosses using a drug that resurrects the clientele as part of an extortion racket. Now, Bryn faces being terminated--literally, and with extreme prejudice.
With the help of corporate double-agent Patrick McCallister, Bryn has a chance to take down the bigger problem--pharmaceutical company Pharmadene, which treats death as the ultimate corporate loyalty program. She'd better do it fast, before she becomes a zombie slave--a real working stiff. She'd be better off dead…”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Rachel Caine’s first book in her new series is good. Really good. Well written. Easy to read. Nice developed characters. An interesting story line. My main issue with this book is that it is being marketed as a “zombie” book. And I suppose, technically, it is a zombie book. Bryn Davis is killed and then injected with the magic drug that brings her back to life. And then, for me, that is where the whole zombie thing ends. To me, this book is more of a suspense thriller that borderlines on being something similar to Resident Evil. Yeah. I said it. I’m sure some of you how read this had the words “Umbrella” and “Alice” pop into your mind. The idea of a drug being developed by a very powerful company is strikingly familiar. At least for me anyway.

I did enjoy the idea of Bryn having the worst first day of work ever. First day as a Funeral Director and then sees her boss selling zombie drug to desperate families. She is of course caught and then that’s when, well, she dies. Thanks to Joe, who is basically a mercenary working for Evil Corp (that’s not the name of the company, that’s just what I call all faceless corporations that are betrayed as evil), she is brought back to life. She is then put into servitude for the pharmaceutical company in trying to sniff out who old boss’s supplier. Crazy action and suspense in sews and we are left at the end of the book thinking what will happen to Bryn and Patrick McAllister, the double agent working for said pharmaceutical company.

Here was my major issue with the book: Bryn. I had an issue with the main character. I loved her at the beginning of the book. There is some background information revealed about her time spent in the army and how she did a tour in Iraq. Great, I thought, a strong female character that is going to kickass and take names. But hell no. Instead of taking control of things for herself, she allows Joe and McAllister, two men she has absolutely no reason to trust, to take her by the hand and lead her down the deadly path. I felt Caine just kind of crapped on the back story that she built up at the beginning of the book. Now I get it, Joe and McAllister are the ones who give her the shots, blah blah blah. But to me, there was kind of the build up of her being tough and resilient that didn’t really appear. And I don’t mean physically. Bryn does get her ass beat quite a few time. Hell, she even gets shot up, but I didn’t feel like there was any struggle on her part to take control of the situation herself.

But, even despite that, this book was very entertaining and I totally enjoyed myself. It’s a nice departure for Rachel Caine from her Weather Warden and Morganville Vampire series. It shows that she was range to write in a different style and genre. The book had great dark humor and action and I loved the whole funeral home angle of the story because I have never read a book where there was a drug hustler using a funeral home as a front for his extra monetary income.

I have to say, I was hoping that Mr. Fairview, the owner of the funeral home and seller of the zombie drug, would still be around. I felt that Caine put a quite a bit of time in making him only to be killed off kind of lame. He was an interesting character for sure. Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll reappear, though I’m really not getting my hopes up.

So do I suggest this book? Yes. I do. But don’t start reading this book like it’s a tradition zombie book, because it isn’t. But I will say, it is defiantly a new look at what it means to be a zombie. : )

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Second Grave on the Left-Darynda Jones

Oh Charley Davidson, you are one bad ass chick! Can we be friends?

“When Charley is rudely awakened in the middle of the night by her best friend who tells her to get dressed quickly and tosses clothes out of the closet at her, she can’t help but wonder what Cookie’s up to. Leather scrunch boots with a floral miniskirt? Together? Seriously? Cookie explains that a friend of hers named Mimi disappeared five days earlier and that she just got a text from her setting up a meet at a coffee shop downtown. They show up at the coffee shop, but no Mimi. But Charley finds a message on the bathroom wall. Mimi left a clue, a woman’s name. Mimi’s husband explains that his wife had been acting strange since she found out an old friend of hers from high school had been found murdered a couple weeks prior. The same woman Mimi had named in her message. Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He’s left his body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Will Cookie ever get a true fashion sense? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel them as they do?”

So I believe I have found a new book series to add to my “Keeps Getting Better and Better” list. Truly. I believe Jones has developed a character and a series that could go on for a long while, like Kim Harrison’s The Hallows and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Charley is still so much fun to read and she is still always getting her butt kicked in some form or another.

In this installment, we see Charley trying to locate two bodies: Mimi, Cookies missing friend and Reyes. It should be said, that in the first book I had an issue with Charley allowing herself to fall prey to Reyes sexiness. I mean I get it: Satan’s gift to hotness and well, being the son of Satan, it makes it very difficult to resist. I felt that Jones’ made Charley kind of a slut around Reyes in the first book. But, I have to say I was super pleasantly surprised that Charley held her ground in this book and told him no. Good for you!

The two plots flowed really well, each story getting equal face time for the reader. I felt that Mimi’s story of why she hid was well executed. Kind of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" kind of thing but like 1000 times better written and characters you actually care about. Though honestly, I didn’t see the political intrigue side which was a nice little twist.

The Reyes story, of course, is part of a much bigger plot that is going to carry on through out the series. I can tell. We find out many truths about Reyes growing up, but we also learn more about Charley’s ability as a Grim Reaper that even she didn’t know through her interaction with Reyes and his past. I enjoyed the part at the end of the book where she finds Reyes’ body and to beat off demons she amplifies her aura and burns the demons away. The way it’s written makes it easy to visualize her ghostly side kick, Angel, running so not to be caught in the blast of her light, and the way the demons surround her and then BOOM! They are turned to demon dust, sent back to the depths of Hell. Pretty awesome stuff.

Now, I won’t spoil anything for you fine folks by telling you what happens to Reyes and his body, but lets just say this: poor, poor Charley. She made a choice and now she’s gonna have to live with it.

The end of the book left me screaming, “What? Aggh!” Truly, that is a sign of a good cliffhanger. When trying to find the location of Reyes’ body, Charley and Cookie stumble across a psychic’s website that seems to be a little too interesting if you know what I mean. The psychic is searching for a grim reaper. And wouldn’t you know, Charley is a grim reaper. So trying to figure out what the hell this pyschic’s deal is, Cookie sets up a fake email account for Charley for her to contact the medium. The final scene in the book ends with checking the fake email and we see a response that is (and I’ll sum up here) pretty much telling her about time you sent me an email. And that’s how is ends! Aggh! I love to hate cliffhangers!

This book has left me waiting with baited breath for the third installment Third Grave Dead Ahead because, well, I have to know what happens!!

Darynda Jones: damn you for creating a kick ass story that I am totally addicted to know. You have written a book series that is original and fun and sassy and sexy and all those wonderful adjectives that I can't help but love you're creation, Charley Davidson.