The Mark of Athena

Spoilers!  If you haven’t read the entire Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian) and the first two books in the Heroes of Olympus series (The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune), turn back now.  If you don’t, reading The Mark of Athena could be more confusing than trying to find a way out of Daedalus’ labyrinth.  (If you didn’t get that reference, it might also be a good idea to stop now.)

So, yesterday I finished reading The Mark of Athena, the third book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series.  Just when I think that things can’t possibly get any worse for Percy Jackson, Annabeth, and their lovely demigod friends, I’m proven horribly wrong.  After reading The Son of Neptune last year, I knew things weren’t going to be all moonlight and roses in this book, but I don’t think I was prepared for just how bad things were going to get…and, if the way The Mark of Athena ended is any indication, the next book won’t be a day at the park either.

The Mark of Athena begins with Annabeth (daughter of Athena), Leo (son of Hephaestus), Jason (son of Jupiter), and Piper (daughter of Aphrodite) descending on Camp Jupiter, the Roman equivalent to Camp Half-Blood.  They’re not sure how welcome they will be, especially since they are literally descending on the camp in what can only be called a Greek warship.  While most of the Roman campers are not exactly thrilled with the presence of the ship (also known as the Argo II), one person at Camp Jupiter is delighted to see it…Percy Jackson.  He hasn’t seen his girlfriend, Annabeth, in what seems like ages, and he’s deliriously happy to be reunited with her.  That is, until his newly arrived friends accidentally start a war with the Romans who have taken him in, and he, Hazel (daughter of Pluto), and Frank (son of Mars) are forced to make a hasty exit with Annabeth and company.

Now, we have seven demigods aboard a Greek trireme heading off on a quest that is likely to kill all of them.  This deadly adventure takes them to such exotic locales as Kansas, Atlanta (specifically the Georgia Aquarium), and Charleston (South Carolina shout-out!).  But these are just pit-stops on the way to their ultimate destination…Rome.  Although the journey is treacherous, these seven demigods must work together to close the Doors of Death, stop Gaea and her giants from destroying the earth, and find some way for Greeks, Romans, and gods to work together.  On top of all that, Annabeth has an additional quest handed down directly from her mother.  She has to follow the Mark of Athena and restore something crucial to her mother.  All other children of Athena have failed (read:  died)  in this quest.  Should be a piece of cake, right?  (If you’ve read any of the previous books, you already know the answer to that question.)

From the very beginning of this quest, things go wrong, and it’s going to take something drastic to turn everything around.  Are these seven demigods up to the task?  What sacrifices will be made to ensure the success of this dangerous crusade?  And are these young people prepared for the fallout of the decisions they will be forced to make?  Discover the answers to these questions and many more when you read The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan.

It should be obvious to all that I loved this book (just like its predecessors).  The Mark of Athena was filled with humor, horror, danger, heavy doses of Greek and Roman mythology, love, giants, disguises, and loads of adventure.  (Kind of sounds like the description Peter Falk gives Fred Savage for The Princess Bride.)  I was enthralled from the very first page, and when I finally finished the book, I had to give myself quite a bit of time to process everything that happened.  (Especially the ending.  That was brutal.)

I can hardly wait to read the next book in this epic series, The House of Hades.  It should be out in the fall of 2013, so wait I must.  There will also be a fifth book in this series.  I’m pretty sure Rick Riordan is trying to kill me with all of this waiting.  (I’m not the most patient of people.)

If you’d like more information about The Mark of Athena and Rick Riordan’s other amazing books, check out his website at http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.  You can also follow the author on Twitter @camphalfblood.

For those who are interested, here is a book trailer for The Mark of Athena from DisneyHyperion.  It tells absolutely nothing about the book, so you don’t really need to concern yourself with spoilers.

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Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel

*Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel is the sequel to Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything.  It’s not absolutely essential that you read the first book before this one, but it would definitely help.  Also, the first book is made of awesome, so you need to read it anyway.*

If there is a perfect summer read for kids who just finished the fifth grade, Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel, written by Steve Cotler and illustrated by Adam McCauley, might just be it.  As a matter of fact, this is an excellent summer read for kids of all ages, especially those of us who have ever been to summer camp!  (It made me fondly recall my own summers at Camp Marietta.)  Everything that made Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything a great read also holds true for this sequel.  Cheesie’s voice is delightful and laugh-out-loud hilarious, and I know my students will love this book as much as they are currently eating up the first one (which is nominated for the 2012-13 South Carolina Children’s Book Award).

In Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel, readers follow Cheesie, his best friend Georgie, and a whole cast of characters to Camp Windward (for boys) and Camp Leeward (for girls) in Maine. (Events in this book pick up right where they left off in the first book.  It’s the summer after fifth grade graduation.)  Cheesie is sure that this will be the best summer ever because he and Georgie will be the oldest of the Little Guys at camp. Unfortunately, thanks to events that occurred in the first book, things don’t quite work out the way Cheesie had hoped. Now, Cheesie and Georgie are the youngest in the Big Guys group at camp. (Not a big deal if you’re already kind of big like Georgie, but it’s bad news if you’re already a little guy like Cheesie.)  This presents a whole new set of problems, and the biggest one is probably Kevin Welch, his sister Goon’s boyfriend.

Camp Windward is not off to a stellar start, but Cheesie comes up with a way that might help him to make the best of things.  He challenges Kevin to a Cool Duel.  Whoever is voted the coolest in their cabin at the end of a week is the coolest guy at camp!  Kevin gets out to an early lead, but Cheesie isn’t a quick-witted kid for nothing.  He comes up with a couple of things that are sure to earn him some votes.  But will he get enough votes to win the Cool Duel?  You should definitely read this book to find out!

Even though the Cool Duel is a big part of this book (hence the title), there’s also a lot of other stuff going on:  a dance with the girls from Camp Leeward, sneaking into the computer lab, snakes, a talent show, and the most epic scary story in the known universe.  Cheesie also introduces readers to exciting new words (only a few of which are made up) and questions to ponder.  Cheesie’s website, http://cheesiemack.com/, also plays a big part in this book.  This wonderful site makes this book, like its predecessor, truly interactive. 

All in all, Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel is the perfect follow-up to the first book, and I can’t wait to see what Cheesie gets up to next!  (FYI, the third book, Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy!, will be out in June of 2013.  I can’t believe I have to wait that long!  Ugh!!!)  I’m working on organizing an author visit with Steve Cotler to Greenville County (South Carolina) elementary schools in February.  I’m so looking forward to having discussions with my students and the author about both of the wonderful Cheesie Mack books and, hopefully, what we can expect in the third!

Taken at Dusk

Warning!  Proceed with caution if you haven’t already read C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series:  Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, the ebook novella Turned at Dark, and the latest installment, Taken at Dusk.  Spoilers ahead!

By now you’ve no doubt gathered that I’ve finished reading Taken at Dusk, C.C. Hunter’s newest Shadow Falls novel.  I was so intrigued by what happened at the end of Awake at Dawn that I had to make Taken at Dusk my next YA read.  (I also made time to read Della’s story in Turned at Dark.  It was very enlightening.)  Anyway, Taken at Dusk picks up immediately where Awake at Dawn left off–which can be a bit jarring if there’s a lot of time in between books.  If it’s been a while since you read Awake at Dawn, you may want to reread the last chapter before picking up the next book.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

Kylie Galen is a mystery, and she’s a little sick of it.  She’s doing her best to find the truth about what she is and where her family came from, but answers are hard to find when everyone–even those closest to her–want to keep some things hidden. 

It doesn’t help matters that Kylie is being haunted by an amnesiac ghost with a cryptic message.  Someone lives, and someone dies.  At first, that’s all Kylie gets from her mysterious visitor.  As time goes on, however, Kylie learns more about the ghost, and what she learns may shake the very foundation of her world and force her to reexamine who should–or shouldn’t–be trusted.

Kylie’s also dealing with something that is the plague of nearly every teenage girl.  Boys.  Two boys, actually.  Lucas, a werewolf, wants to be with Kylie, but his pack may have other ideas.  Derek, who is half-Fae, sort of wants to be with Kylie, but he’s having issues of his own.  Kylie is torn between the both of them, and she doesn’t know how to resolve things so that no one gets hurt.  Is that even possible?

On top of all of this drama, really evil dudes still seem determined to kill Kylie.  Why?  What’s so important about her?  Kylie doesn’t know, but she’s determined to solve the puzzle that her life has become.  Will she be able to find the truth and still save those she loves?  It’s unclear, but one thing is certain…Kylie’s journey is far from over.

Taken at Dusk is a great read for anyone who enjoys great supernatural YA fiction.  I was on the edge of my seat for most of this book, and I’m still a little tense because I’m anticipating what might happen in the next book, Whispers at Moonrise, which is scheduled for an October 2nd release.

I would especially recommend C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls books if you’re a fan of books like Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy trilogy, Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall trilogy, or Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures series.  Each of these series gave me the same kind of vibe that Shadow Falls did, and none of them are to be missed!

Awake at Dawn

Caution:  Read Born at Midnight, the first book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series, before continuing.  (And if it’s been, say, a year and a half since you read book one, you might want to reread a bit to refresh your memory.  Take my word on this.)

If it’s not apparent from the above warning, I read Born at Midnight about a year and a half ago while on a trip with my dad to Indianapolis.  (We were going to see the Colts—namely Peyton Manning—play the Jacksonville Jaguars.  It should go without saying that we are now planning to see the Denver Broncos play somebody.)  Since I was reading an ARC of this first book in the Shadow Falls series, I knew I’d have a long wait before I read book two.  Well, as often happens, life—and other books—got in the way, and I didn’t make time to read book two, Awake at Dawn, until this week.  (Luckily, I don’t have to wait for book three, Taken at Dusk.  It’s already out.)  Anyway, life continued to get in the way this week.  Thanks to meetings, lawn care, and being completely exhausted from dealing with the end of the school year (we only have one week left), it took me the entire week to read Awake at Dawn.  (For those who know me, it is rare for it to take longer than a few days to finish a book.  I read Mockingjay in eleven hours.)  Part of my problem was also that I couldn’t remember what happened in the first book, so I had to spend a little time skimming through Born at Midnight.  Even then, it was hard for me to get immediately invested in what was happening in Awake at Dawn.  Eventually, the story managed to suck me in, and I couldn’t wait to turn the next page.

Kylie Galen doesn’t know what she is, but she does know that her “gifts” are not normal, even among the supernaturals at Shadow Falls Camp.  She communicates with ghosts, which freaks out the other campers—which happen to include witches, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and shapeshifters.  One of the ghosts that visits Kylie is telling her that someone she loves will die if she doesn’t do something, so Kylie has to figure out the ghost’s cryptic messages while dealing with the craziness that has invaded her own life.

In addition to dealing with her father (who is a ghost), her mom and step-dad splitting up, her roommates (a moody vampire and a rather absent-minded witch), a best friend who is growing more distant by the day, and her own insecurities about her supernatural abilities, Kylie also has problems with her love life.  (Doesn’t everyone?)  Derek is part Fairy and has been a calming presence in Kylie’s life while everything else seems to fall apart.  Lucas is a werewolf who skipped town with a she-wolf but still manages to invade Kylie’s dreams.  Kylie’s head is telling her that Derek is the one she should be with, but her heart is a bit more confused.  When she learns that Lucas—and the horrible you-know-what he left with—are returning to Shadow Falls, Kylie is more conflicted than ever.  She knows she must follow her heart, but she doesn’t want to hurt anyone…including herself.

While Kylie’s love life is in turmoil, her actual life may be in danger.  She senses that someone has been watching and following her, but she can’t get a real grasp on why anyone would be interested in harming her…or worse.  When she finally realizes who—or what—is on her trail, it may be too late to save herself or even the people she cares about the most.

Will Kylie be able to save herself and those closest to her?  Will she ever figure out who she is and where she really comes from?  Can Kylie choose between Derek and Lucas, two great guys who both mean so much to her?  Will her life ever be normal again?  Uncover the truth when you read Awake at Dawn, the second book in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls series.

Like I mentioned above, it took me a while to get into this sequel.  In fact, the action didn’t really pick up until I was about halfway through the book.  After that, things positively flew by, and it didn’t take me very long to finish the second half.  And I’m so invested in the characters now that one of my next reads will be book three, Taken at Dusk.  I’m really interested to see where these characters will be taken next…especially considering how things ended with some of them in Awake at Dawn.

For even more from the world of Shadow Falls, you can check out a special eBook short story, Turned at Dark, which tells more about Della Tsang, Kylie’s vampire roommate.  (I just got my very first Nook, so I’ll be adding this one to my library.)  In addition to the third book, Taken at Dusk, which is already out, there will be a fourth book, Whispers at Moonrise, and it’s scheduled for an October 2nd release.

If you’d like to learn more about C.C. Hunter and her Shadow Falls novels, visit http://www.cchunterbooks.com/news.html.

The Son of Neptune

Before I get to my latest read, I’d like to wish everyone who follows this blog a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, wonderful Winter Solstice, and lovely Festivus for the rest of us.  I hope everyone’s holidays are super!  I spent half of today finishing a great book, so my Christmas is off to a great start!

I’ve been meaning to read The Son of Neptune, the second book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, for a couple of months now.  Life (and a few other books) have prevented that from happening, but I finally got around to this book during my much needed winter break.  (Of course, my students had a little to do with this.  They want to talk to me about this book, so I promised them I’d have it read before we returned to school in January.  I am a woman of my word.)  Now that I’ve finished The Son of Neptune, I wish I had read it sooner.  Like all of Rick Riordan’s books, it’s a wonderfully complicated story filled with secrets, tragic heroes, danger, and help in unexpected places.  I was engrossed from the very beginning–especially since the story started off with Percy Jackson–and, now that I’m finished, I’m eager for the next installment.  I hope that you’ll feel the same.  I will warn you, though…if you haven’t read the entire Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian) and The Lost Hero, read those before starting with The Son of Neptune.  All of these books are beautifully connected, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on something important.

In The Son of Neptune, Percy Jackson has just risen from a very long sleep. He doesn’t remember much of anything. He only knows his name and that he’s fighting two gorgons (sisters of Medusa). His only hope of surviving is to get to the camp for demigods that’s nearby. Something about Camp Jupiter seems familiar, but it seems a little off to Percy…and the residents of the camp think there’s something a little off about Percy as well.  He’s not exactly welcome with open arms, especially when it becomes clear that he is a son of Neptune (a bad omen at Camp Jupiter).  In this Roman camp, people seem to recognize that there something a bit Greek about Percy, and Romans and Greeks don’t exactly have a history of getting along.  Percy knows his true place isn’t at Camp Jupiter, but he soon discovers that he has a part to play in helping the camp survive…

Immediately upon arriving at Camp Jupiter, Percy encounters two young demigods who become his instant friends:  Hazel and Frank.  Hazel is a daughter of Pluto who is hiding a bunch of secrets, including where (or when) she came from and her role in Gaea’s war against the Olympus.  Frank is seen as a bit of a loser and is still waiting to learn who his godly parent is.  When the answer he’s always waited for finally arrives, Frank is less than pleased with his father’s identity, for it means that his life is about to get a lot more complicated.  (He’s not wrong.) 

Percy, Hazel, and Frank are sent on a quest to prevent Gaea’s giant Alcyoneus from taking the war against Olympus to the next level.  There’s a bit of a problem, though.  (Isn’t there always?)  The three demigods have just a few days to make it from San Francisco to Alaska, and they have to battle lots of monsters along the way.  They’ve also got to make a few important pit stops to communicate with potential allies (who may or may not have their own agendas).  On top of that, once they deal with Alcyoneus, who cannot be killed in his home, they’ve got to return to Camp Jupiter to help save the camp from the monsters on their way to destroy it.  Easy peasy, right?  Yeah…not so much.  On this journey, secrets will be revealed, old (and new) foes and friends will be encountered, and the young demigods will encounter Death himself.  Will they be able to complete the nearly impossible task before them, or will Gaea find a way to further her cause against Olympus?  Will Percy regain his memory?  If he does, what will it mean for his life at Camp Jupiter?  To find the answers to these questions and more, read The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan!

It should go without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed The Son of Neptune. It is a great book for readers ages 9 to 99.  The things that I loved about Riordan’s previous books also apply to this one:  fully developed characters, an intricate plot, tons of action, friends and enemies in unexpected places, and a liberal dose of humor.  I can’t wait to see where the third book, The Mark of Athena, takes us.  It should be an interesting ride.

By the way, The Mark of Athena is scheduled for a fall 2012 release.  In the meantime, I urge you to read Riordan’s Kane Chronicles series–The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire.  There’s no word yet on when the third book in this series will be released.  Also, I heard recently that Rick Riordan may be writing a series centered around Norse mythology when he’s done tackling Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.  If you’d like more information about Rick Riordan and his amazing books, visit http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.  Happy holidays!

Born at Midnight

I’m back!  After thinking I was going to be stranded in Indianapolis thanks to four inches of snow (which would practically cripple us here in South Carolina), I am finally home and ready to get back to normal.  I did finish one YA novel on my trip, an ARC of C.C. Hunter’s new book, Born at Midnight.  This book isn’t scheduled to be released until March 29th, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance proof of this first book in what is sure to be a wonderful new supernatural series for teen (and adult) readers.

In Born at Midnight, readers are introduced to Kylie Galen.  Kylie is going through some tough stuff.  Her parents are getting divorced, she and her boyfriend just broke up, and she gets caught at a party where drugs and alcohol are prevalent.  (She was innocent, of course.)  After the party incident, Kylie’s cold, distant mother decides to ship her off to Shadow Falls Camp for the summer.  This camp deals with troubled teens…but neither Kylie nor her mom truly realize how troubled these teens may actually be.

Kylie soon learns that Shadow Falls Camp is a refuge for troubled supernatural teens–witches, vampires, werewolves, fairies, and shapeshifters.  At first, Kylie denies she is anything like these “freaks” and does everything she can to make that point clear with anyone who will listen.  Gradually, however, she comes to accept that she may not be all that normal.  She becomes best friends with a witch and a vampire, and she has not one but two love interests.  Derek is a seemingly safe fairy, and Lucas is an anything-but-safe werewolf that Kylie has encountered previously.  While Kylie is dealing with new friendships and love interests, she’s also coming to terms with her own abilities and what this might mean for her future.

Strange things are afoot at Shadow Falls Camp.  Will Kylie embrace who she is and be a part of this new world, or will she do everything she can to return to her so-called “normal” life?  Read Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter to find out!

In this post, I just hit the basics of this awesome book.  Since I’m one of the first to review it, I didn’t want to give too much away.  I will say that the book left a lot of room for sequels, and I hope to see several of them.  There is so much the author can do with the characters at Shadow Falls Camp.  It should be a fun ride!

For more information on C.C. Hunter, Born at Midnight, and the Shadow Falls series, visit http://www.cchunterbooks.com/news.html.

The Lost Hero

Well, Rick Riordan has done it again.  After the travesty that was the movie adaptation of The Lightning Thief, I thought I was done with the antics at Camp Half-Blood.  How wrong I was.  I just finished reading The Lost Hero, the first book in Riordan’s new Heroes of Olympus series, and I am absolutely hooked.  I loved how this new story and these new characters interact with the characters and events of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.  There is a wonderful sense of continuity, but readers are also introduced to a new story line with its own characters and challenges.

In The Lost Hero, we are introduced to three new demigods:  Jason, Piper, and Leo.  At the beginning, they have no idea who they really are or what they can do.  After a treacherous field trip to the Grand Canyon, however, things begin to change–especially when their gym coach turns out to be a somewhat unpredictable satyr.  The three teens are spirited away to Camp Half-Blood where, one by one, they are claimed by their godly parents.  Even this is not without its conflict.  (I won’t tell you who their parents are.  That would really ruin things for you.  You’ll just have to read to find out.)

Shortly after Jason, Piper, and Leo arrive at Camp Half-Blood, they are sent on a quest–and we all know how wonderful those usually turn out, don’t we?  They must stop something truly evil from coming to life and destroying Olympus and the world as they (and we) know it.  This could prove to be a bit difficult, especially since Jason has a touch of amnesia, Piper and Leo are hiding some pretty important details, and all of the gods of Olympus have gone silent.  To sum up, things are bad, and they’re about to get much, much worse.

Can our heroes succeed in their quest?  Why were these three demigods chosen for this all-important task?  Why does Jason constantly refer to the gods and goddesses by their Roman names?  How are these events connected to Percy Jackson and his actions in the Titan War?  What will they have to do–or give up–to defeat the evil that is rising?  Read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan for the answers to these questions and more.  (I will warn you that some of these questions may be answered, but about a million more will pop up to replace them.  Awesome.)

Just like the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Lost Hero (and the rest of the Heroes of Olympus series, I hope) is great for upper elementary, middle, and high school readers.  Adults will enjoy it, too!  I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, The Son of Neptune, due out in the fall of 2011.

For more information on Rick Riordan and his wonderful books, visit http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx.