Friday, October 19, 2012

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 1

It felt good to get back into some YA fiction, especially when it didn't involve vampires or dystopia. This is the real world as we know it today with the tiny difference being that all the Greek gods are actually real and still thriving...and still creating demigods.

Percy Jackson is just a normal "troubled" kid; severe ADHD, frequently getting kicked out of school, struggling with an unhappy home life, but strange things start to happen as he becomes a teenager. He can read ancient Greek, a monster posing as his math teacher attacks, a pen turns into a sword. All the strangeness leads up to the discovery that he's a Demigod with a serious problem: Zeus has accused him of stealing his lightning bolt. With the help of Grover, a satyr, and Annabeth, a fellow Demigod, Percy is charged with the quest of traveling to the Underworld to retrieve the bolt from Hades and prove his innocence. He's prepared for his quest at Camp Half Blood where Demigods are trained to be Greek heroes. Of course, the quest is more than Percy bargained for, but he's given the many chances to show off the heroic stuff he's made of.

There's no shortage of mythological Greeks in the story either - the part I liked the most about the story. Medusa runs a garden shop/statuary, Ares is an angry biker, Charon, the boatman across the River Styx, has a think for expensive Italian suits, etc. The mix of Greek myth with a modern adventure is so perfectly done in these characters, you real feel like that how these ancient gods and creatures would have evolved. And, I like Percy. He's confronted with these outlandish truths about himself with no time to process them and just accepts that change in his reality. He takes all the doubt that's perfectly normal to have and faces it head-on. It's obvious from that start that Percy is a real hero.

On a side note, I checked this book out from the library which I've rediscovered taking Olivia to story time each week. I forgot how much I loved the crinkle of the cellophane book cover on a library book. I found myself adjusting the book in my hands more often than I really needed in order to hear that sound. Of course, the drawback of the library is that now I have to wait for the second book to be back on the shelves.

Percy goes on four more adventures in his series and I'm looking forward to reading Book 2. It's so much fun getting caught up on Greek mythology without having to "travel" back in time to ancient Greece.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shades of Grey #1 by Jasper Fforde

There is just a hint of Vonnegut in Shades of Grey paired with the newly popular theme of, "our future society is hiding something that happened in the past that would prove the people currently in power are evil." It's pretty great.

Let me first preface this biased review by telling you Jasper Fforde is one of my favorite authors. His stories are smart, funny, and very in-depth. His characters are witting, awkward, and treacherous. His stories are the complete package and his worlds are always fully imagined.

Shades of Grey takes place in a society pretty far into our future. Humanity has mutated so their eyes no longer dilate to see at night. They also can only see one hue of color and in varying percentages of fullness. If a person's bloodline stays relatively pure - marrying those of like color - offspring have a high percentage of visibility in their specific color. If two people who have visibility in different primary colors marry, their children will see a secondary color. If too much mixing between colors occurs offspring will eventually see no color and become a grey.

Edward Russett (a red) and Jane Grey (guess what color she sees) are our leads in a small town on the fringes of society. Russett (I love that Fforde gives all these characters last names that relate to how much of their color they can see) has come to town with his something-of-a-doctor-father who uses color samples to ignite physical reactions in people and keep them healthy. Eddie meets Jane who, after threatening to kill him a few times begins to open his eyes to the cover-ups and corruption taking place in their world. The impression this enlightenment leaves on Eddie is pretty severe due to his strict moral compass and his blossoming love for Jane. He joins the "resistance" and gears up to infiltrate The Collective.

We don't really find out much about the resistance but I can tell you honestly that society created after the "Something that Happened" has issues. When your motto is, "Apart. We are together," you know things are being covered up.

After a few deaths, plenty of secrecy, and lots of subterfuge we arrive at the end of a very exciting and unusual story that's really just the beginning of what I'll assume is going to be a great adventure.