Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Percy Jackson's Greek Gods

Percy Jackson's Greek GodsPercy Jackson's Greek Gods (Percy Jackson companion book)
Rick Riordan 
Greek Mythology

A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week. 

So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that."Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume--a must for home, library, and classroom shelves--as stunning as it is entertaining.

I really don't know how I managed since The Last Olympian. In Percy Jackson's Greek Gods we get a HUMONGOUS coffee table-sized book filled with GORGEOUS illustrations and HILARIOUS chapter titles and the one thing we missed most of all- PERCY JACKSON'S VOICE. 

Only Rick Riordan could take rape, incest, adultery, murder, and cannibalism and make it all PG. Here you have it, ladies and gentlemen. A Beginner's Guide to the Greek Gods suitable for your 5th grader. And for you. Everyone really. 

Back when Percy was my life (no, wait. That's all the time. So I mean like, grades 4 through 6) I devoured anything I could find about the myths and thought I knew it all. As Percy would say, HAHAHAHA. No. Just goes to show you what a vast wealth of stories there are. With every Riordan publication I read, I learn more about mythology and what influence it has even today.

Ahhhh, Percy. How I have missed you. Please keep writing. You only covered the Olympians. We need to know about the minor gods, the monsters, and of course the tales of famous demigods like Hercules and Perseus and Orpheus and Jason. COME BACK!!!

People, prepare yourselves. The last volume featuring our dear Percy approaches (Bloods of Olympus, this October). We'll get through this. Hopefully. And there's the Magnus Chase series coming up. (our long-promised Norse series by the one and only Rick Riordan. Click the link to read more) 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm (Grisha #2)
Leigh Bardugo

Spoilers for both books.

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

You can read my fangirling review of Shadow and Bone here.  I realize now it wasn't really coherent and contained many grammar mistakes. In my defense, I was so blown away by the book I couldn't have been bothered. *apologies* I also kept most of my thoughts to myself wanting to keep the review spoiler-free. There is absolutely no point in that, therefore this review will be nice and spoilery(;

So, after the whirlwind of OH MY GOODNESS in Shadow and Bone, needless to say I had expectations for Siege and Storm. Dearest Leigh Bardugo, I applaud you for exceeding them.

I'll start with the fact that this book was HILARIOUS. Mal's and Alina's familiar banter had me laughing out loud and generated many a concerned glance from my roommates. You could just tell that they grew up together and loved each other, and that their love is now taking on a new romantic shape. It was truly beautiful to read.

After being SEVERELY MISLEAD in the last installment about the Darkling (I'm still reeling over that. One minute he's the resident hot guy, and the next he was the villain.  I was like, "IS SHE ALLOWED TO DO THIS?"- in regards to the author.) I thought I was prepared for anything. Ha ha.

When Sturmhond was introduced, I thought he was so great. At one point I was like, OMG THIS GUY SHOULD TOTALLY BE KING. Later, I thought, 'when they overthrow the Darkling and the king, I bet he'll be in charge.'

Then they get caught and he strips and viola, he's the prince.
Me: shut up
Me: You're actually serious

See. I told you I was prepared for anything.

The love triangle- took on a whole new dynamic. Now there's Nikolai in the picture, and tension and frustration in Alina's relationship with Mal. Not to mention the well-hidden but ever-present attraction to the Darkling. I'M SO CONFUSED. I LOVE IT. 

SO MANY NEW DEVELOPMENTS. Genya. The Apparat. Vasily. Mal going nuts. Three amplifiers. Plot-wise, Siege and Storm is a feast.

I can't wait to order Ruin and Rising and The Tailor. This series has quickly become one of those that I shove in the face of everyone I know. I suggest you do the same.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book- to-Movie Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner 
Directed by Wes Ball
Book by James Dashner

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they're all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow "runners" for a shot at escape. (IMDb)

So many movie adaptations of our favorite books recently!! Unfortunately, neither The Giver nor If I Stay has reached my local theaters. But I'm OVERJOYED that The Maze Runner did. Talk about an excellent film and adaptation!

The setting- done beyond beautifully. The Glade fully came to life, as did the Gladers' whole predicament. 

The action: fast- paced and breathtaking, while all the long staying realistic and true to the book. 

The acting: Dylan. O'. Brien.  Enough said.
Just kidding. 
These guys were just perfect!
Newt, Gally, Alby, Minho, Chuck and all the rest just came alive on the screen. It was an incredible thing to watch. Theresa not as much, but her role was a more subdued one so she didn't really get the opportunity. (Maybe in The Scorch Trials? *hopes*)

What was remarkble about this film was that it was, regardless of the book, a really great movie on its own. Sometimes adaptations are liked only by the fans of the novel, or on the flip side liked only by the people who haven't read it. I've noticed more lately that filmmakers are succeeding on that front more and more- giving us our favorite stories on the big screen without taking away from the book or the movie. Kudos!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Through the Ever Night

Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky, #2)Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky #2)
Veronica Rossi 

It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

You can read my review of Under the Never Sky hereAs you can see from the above review, the first time I read Under the Never Sky I liked it but wasn't overly impressed. I recently reread it and I thought it was AWESOME! Why the change of opinion? I HAVE NO IDEA. 

And then I read Through the Ever Night and for the first time like, EVER, book #2 was not only on par with book #1, it was BETTER. Veronica Rossi? KUDOS. You succeeded where even JK Rowling failed.

The plot: THICKENS. Delightfully complex. The story continues through Aria's and Perry's POVs but in this installment they spend time in different places, so you have two things going on at once and delicious tantalizing cliffhangers at the ends of chapters.

Characters: Aria becomes BADASS and Perry makes me drool. Need I say more?

Pacing and writing were perfect. Marron and Delphi are STILL not explained, but other things are. 

THE FEELS. Dear God, I was laughing and crying and dying and freaking out for the majority of the novel. 

Cover comments: You have no idea how much self control I had to exercise to not enlarge this picture to the maximum Blogger allows. Yum. Hello, sexy. 

No. Get me Roar and Liv (book 1.5) right now. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Author Interview: Shane Burcaw!

Laughing at My NightmareLaughing at My Nightmare
Shane Burcaw
Hilarious Memoir

With acerbic wit and a hilarious voice, Shane Burcaw describes the challenges he faces as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to having a girlfriend and everything in between, Shane handles his situation with humor and a "you-only-live-once" perspective on life. While he does talk about everyday issues that are relatable to teens, he also offers an eye-opening perspective on what it is like to have a life threatening disease.

Where have you seen this before? Maybe Shane's blog, or my review of the book. For those who don't know, Laughing at My Nightmare is a soon-to-be-released memoir of Shane Burcaw, who lives with a disease called SMA. He started a nonprofit organization that promotes laughter as a way to deal with diseases and difficulties. 

Today I have an extra special something for you- a personal interview of Shane! First off, I have to shout him out for agreeing to do this and taking the time to answer my questions. Thanks so much! 

At the end of LAMN (the book) you're on tour. How has that been going? Can you share any funny/interesting stories or conversations you had during that time?

The tour is over. It was an absolutely amazing experience, truly life-changing, but it was also nice to come home to my own bed. So much happened on that trip. It's hard to pick out the best moments. I was invited to be on Katie Couric a few days after the tour, so that was pretty cool. They sent us a car to bring us to NYC and everything, super legit. 

What is your nonprofit doing currently, and what are your plans for its future?

We are currently developing a program called No More Nightmares, which is going to help families affected by muscular dystrophy. I belong to many communities of people affected by muscular dystrophy, and it appalls me how few of them have all the things they need to live comfortable lives. Kids go for years without proper wheelchair adaptations. People are often stuck in their homes because van conversions are just too expensive. Common tasks like using the bathroom or getting into bed are made extremely difficult without the proper equipment. We are setting out to change that. 

What can your readers do to help?

Tell everyone you know about Laughing At My Nightmare! And if you wanna help us financially, grab some of our awesome merchandise on

What (if any) good experiences has SMA prevented you from having, what positive experiences have you had because of it?

I mean there's lots of physical stuff that I wish I could do: skateboard, surf, swim, skydive, crazy stuff like that. But for the most part I'm very content with what I can do. All of this stuff that's happened over the last few years, from the blog to the nonprofit to the book, never would've happened if I wasn't born with SMA.   

What do you see for yourself in the future, on the personal level?

I'm going to get married and have 27 children so I can start my own football team. 

Shane Burcaw
Shane Burcaw grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and recently graduated from Moravian College with an English degree. He is the president of Laughing At My Nightmare, Inc. where he works to teach people that humor and positivity can be used to overcome adversity. He has written a young adult memoir and writes as a freelancer for The Morning Call. He also writes a blog called Laughing At My Nightmare about the humor of living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

In his free time he enjoys running people over in his wheelchair, hanging out with his brother and friends, and traveling. His favorite food is mashed potatoes, and one time when he was a kid he stole thirty popsicles from the school cafeteria because a friend told him it was allowed. The popsicles melted in his book bag, and he was sent to the principal’s office. A life of crime just didn’t suit him.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: If I Stay

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)If I Stay
Gayle Forman

On a day that started like any other, Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

So. #LastOnTheBandwagon. 

Yeah, it took me awhile to read this, but not because I didn't want to. I just wasn't able to get my hands on it. 

Anyway, I read this on the plane, and boy, it helped make my journey enjoyable. The only reason I DON'T recommend reading this on a flight is because you'll try not to cry. 

If I Stay is a truly a story of breathtaking beauty. The un-romanticized pieces of real-life awkwardness, passion, family and friends make this story real and ironically, romantic. It paints a picture of life ended so abruptly its hits home hard, making it a must read. 

The plot is unique in that it's told over the course of one day: what Mia's seeing now peppered with memories of her life. It's a brilliant strategy- it allows you to experience the tragedy at first in a detached way, like you would if you heard about it in the news. And then, slowly at first but then faster, you began to live and love these people- feel their pain as what happened to them impacts you only after the fact. 

The characters are simple people who are endlessly complex. That's a complicated way of saying REAL. 

The cover is stunning. Looking forward to catching this movie sometime soon.