Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: The House of Hades by Rick Riordian

This was the book we were all waiting for to come out. (If I was writing this a month or two ago, I'd probably have been mobbed by fans screaming "WHERE ARE YOU HIDING IT?" by now.) And not just because they want the series to continue. The previous book, the Mark of Athena, contained one of the worst cliffhangers of all time (I know, I just reviewed it). Now that it's safely published, let's take another look at it, shall we?

Jason, Piper, Frank, Hazel and Leo are the only ones left on the Argo II with the 40-foot-tall Athena Parthenos after Annabeth and Percy have fallen to the place where, quite literally, all monsters go to die: Tartarus.

Now that they have plunged into hell and need to survive long enough to navigate it to find the Doors of Death, the rest of the team (plus Hazel's brother, Nico di Angelo) is headed for a temple in Greece, the House of Hades, to find the mortal-world side of the very same gate. And while sailing through the clouds over modern Europe doesn't sound too bad as compared to trudging through the eternal pit of all things evil, it turns out to not be that easy.

Many of Gaea's forces are, unlike the earth mother herself, very much alive and wanting to slow the Argo II's progress, with the giants, old vengeful heroes, minor gods, and monkey dwarfs (don't ask). And there's still the Prophecy of Seven to untangle. To storm or fire the world must fall. An oath to keep with a final breath. Speculations fly, and most of them don't bode well. 

The giants, more powerful than both the gods and the Titans, have sided with Gaea, and their might is growing still. Even if the gods could help, they're still stuck on Olympus, suffering from severe Greek/Roman schizophrenia as the rift between Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter grows deeper. The only ones left to face Gaea are the Seven, and what chance do a bunch of teenage demigods have against literally the most powerful being, Earth herself?

To add on top of all this, the Romans are closing in on Camp Half-Blood, led by the power-hungry auger Octavian. War is brewing everywhere. Percy and Annabeth, the anchors of the Argo II, are trying to survive in a place designed so that survival is almost impossible. The mission of those still left on the trireme seems equally hopeless. The heroes have faced some of the worst, but how are they going to get out of this alive?


Well, they do. (Duh.) And to be honest, the constant danger was actually kind of nice. That meant that the couples didn't have as much time to fawn over each other (sorry, but I really didn't like that in MoA—*coughPiper McLean, Annabeth Chase, I'm looking at you). 

And even though no chapters are from his point of view, for once you can really start to understand Nico in this book (as well as learn some very surprising things about him, which may help explain why he's still so bitter). That was definitely a plus. 

(And about Leo...just read it and find out. You'll see. *wink wink*)

One problem with this book—it may have just been the copy I read, but either Riordan was really rushing to get this off the press (which he probably was—see the first paragraph) or he has one of the worst editors I've ever seen. There were blatantly obvious tense and grammar errors all over the place. I mean, I'm only 13, and I could've easily edited it way better than Disney Hyperion did. (Even my little sister, who's nine, caught them all.) COME ON, PEOPLE! (Also, one thing that really bugs me about every single Riordan book I've read—he uses "said" constantly in place of much better words that I could probably think of off the top of my head. Constantly.)

Still, this one was one of the better books. (Well, it's not like I don't like any of the books...honestly, I love them all.) Like before, very good plot, good writing, delving more into the characters so you really get to know them. This one's a 5.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Gilda Joyce, Psychic Invesitgator by Jennifer Alison

Wow, I really seem to like ghosts, don't I?

Of course, our protagonist for which this series is named isn't much different...

When spunky, smart, headstrong Gilda Joyce's father died of cancer, she was left with her annoyingly nerdy older brother, her now-single mother, an inherited typewriter, and a firm goal. From now on, she would type up crazy stories on her father's aforementioned typewriter, pore over books on the subject of spiritual communication, conduct séances, spy on random people with her friend Wendy, and generally do anything--and everything--she could to come to her goal. 

Yes, she wanted to be--and may already be--not just Gilda Joyce, but 13-year-old Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator.

So when given the opportunity, she jumps on a chance: she takes a break from her spy work and visit her uncle in San Francisco. 

But this isn't a casual vacation. When it comes to Gilda, there's no such thing. No, she's a girl with a purpose. And that purpose happens to be very specific.

Stories of her aunt Melanie Splinter, her uncle's sister, surround the wealthy, old California mansion. More specifically, of her aunt's death by falling from the mansion roof. Or was it her alleged suicide? Did she jump off? Whichever it was, Gilda's curious, and wants to find out.

However, there are some problems to deal with. For one, her uncle is quick to clam up once anyone starts digging into this mystery, making investigation more difficult. For another, Gilda's cousin Juliet may have the life other girls her age dream for, but that dampened considerably when an attempted séance at a sleepover years ago lost her all her friends and made her life actually quite miserable. In fact, just before Gilda arrives at the Splinter mansion, Juliet almost went the way of Melanie--that is to say, suicide--and would likely have followed through if not for the sight of a ghost.

It turns out Gilda has a lot more to investigate than she originally thought. And as she delves deeper into this mystery, the danger doesn't seem to be getting better. Will she be able to convince Juliet to help solve the case with her, or even to bring Melanie's spirit to rest?

Okay, to be honest, I hate scary books. I'm extremely (extremely) paranoid about the paranormal, and anything else moderately creepy. (Like Doctor Who, for instance. Amazing show, but terrifying.) I don't need help imagining these things. (I can only hope this wears off before I start reading Stephen King.)

Still, Gilda's headstrong, wacky, almost goofy attitude makes the whole series hard to resist. She keeps going on with the investigation no matter what, so you can't help but want to finish the case with her. And while the later books (such as Dead Drop and The Ghost Sonata) do tend to be a little creepier, the charm remains (although it does wear off a little as Gilda gets older).

The introduction is a little choppy and rushed, but you pick up the rhythm pretty quickly (I'm guessing this is Alison's first book) and from my experience, you can read them out of order without a problem (This was the third book I read in the series; I started with my now-favorite, the Ghost Sonata.)

This book, as well as all of its sequels (The Ladies of the Lake, The Ghost Sonata, The Dead Drop, etc.) are all worth a read.