The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan

apollo1_riordanApollo Haikus
Uncle Rick can do no wrong
Camp Half-Blood Part 3

After the battle with Gaea, Zeus put all the blame on Apollo. Why, you might ask? Because Gaea duped Octavian, a half-blood son of Apollo, and Zeus’ logic dictates Apollo should be punished by casting him out of Olympus and turning him into a teenage boy with acne. For the sun god, there is no worse punishment.

One of the primary characteristics of Apollo is his constant need to complain. Which, in the first few chapters in understandable. He has lost everything that defined him. His godly powers are pretty nonexistent. He is entirely mortal, even weaker than his demigod descendants. Eating ambrosia or drinking nectar won’t help him ease his pain. It’s rough for the sun god to no longer be the center of attention. It does get annoying at times, but I think it will work in showcasing Apollo’s growth over the series.

Just like Magnus Chase had cameos from his cousin Annabeth Chase, the Apollo Trials has cameos from Percy Jackson. Plus, learn about what all the rest of the half-blood gang through dialogue! Most of them are in college or preparing to do so. Even the storyline with a certain boy-who-lights-himself-on-fire’s storyline gets continued. It lets other characters like Will and Nico and other new friends get a chance to shine.

The best new face brought to this story is Meg. Don’t even think about calling her Margaret. She lives off the streets of New York and is one of the first demigods Apollo encounters. She’s a tough twelve-year-old but still is pretty naive. She’s unaware of what happened in the previous books, as would readers who haven’t finished The Blood of Olympus. There are some pretty major spoilers in this book about that one. As for her godly parent … I always find it fun to try to figure that part. But as a hint, it’s a god or goddess we haven’t heard much about. Meg has claimed Apollo to her service, the person he has to serve to prove to Zeus he’s learned his lesson. But Zeus has turned Apollo mortal twice before. Hopefully, his third strike doesn’t mean Apollo has struck out.

Filled with the great humor we have come to expect from Rick Riordan as well as hilarious haikus to open each chapter. Back at camp, everything isn’t going great. The oracle isn’t giving prophecies which makes it impossible to go on a quest to figure out why the oracle isn’t giving out prophecies. Communication isn’t working, campers are going missing, and no one knows what to do. It’s up to Apollo, Meg, and their friends to uncover and stop a conspiracy to rid the world of Olympians once and for all.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

The Hidden Oracle, the first book in the new Trials of Apollo series, is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

hereandnow_annbrasharesMeet your every day immigrant Prenna. She comes from a place very different than our own. Because it isn’t where she came from – but when. Her future is an awful place so she, along with other like minded time travelers, take refuge in present day. But along the way, they must never try to rewrite history or worse, fall in love. Through the course of the story, Preena will break both of these rules.

All because of her long time friend Ethan who is able to see who came from the future. He helps Preena adapt to card games and other things she isn’t used to while she eventually tells him about how different the future is. When a mysterious stranger tells her to change a single event that could change the world, Preena delves deeper into a greater conspiracy she didn’t know existed. Going against every rule her society created, Preena must figure out what to do before time runs out.

As far as time travel books go, this book purely goes one direction and stays in the present day. As the title suggests, there is a seize the day/ don’t just survive but live themes going on, but they don’t make much of an impact. The characters are fairly generic and corrupt society Preena runs from is really one dimensional. The main focus is the romance, which somehow feels a bit like insta-love despite Preena knowing him for years. Preena and Ethan have their cute moments, but other times their chemistry felt forced. Not a bad book, but not spectacular either. It’s great as a light reading book to pass the time.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

The Here and Now is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

janeeyre_charlottebronteImagine a young orphan, taken in by dear uncle and aunt only to be beaten regularly by their cousin and is forced to live in a small room. They is sent away to school and inherits a fortune from a dead relative. Sound familiar? If you guess Harry Potter, that is close, but someone else also qualifies.

Imagine a girl living in a mansion. She is forbidden from a certain section of the house. The man who owns the mansion asks her to marry him. It is only after she leaves and returns that she says yes. Did you guess Beauty and the Beast? It may share similar qualities, but this isn’t dear old Belle.

Now picture a girl. Now make her the plainest girl you can think of. Plainer. Not an ounce of beauty. But smart, passionate, and a strong need for independence. Now that’s Jane Eyre.

There are so many fairy tale elements in Jane Eyre that it’s hard to keep track. But the one Jane doesn’t follow directly is that of Cinderella. Sure, Mr. Rochester loves her and showers Jane with more jewels than she knows what to do with, but this Prince Charming has a secret hiding in the west wing of the third story of his mansion. As his secret is reveal, Jane doesn’t choose love, instead choosing to be true to herself. She left the ball and the charming Rochester never found the maiden who fit the shoe.

Instead, something only a fairy tale could explain. She heard him cry out for her miles and miles away. She came back in her own good time when she was ready and Rochester’s secret had been dealt with. Is it really a spoiler when this book is such a classic? I may have read this book for school, but that didn’t stop me from loving this fairy tale of a book.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

Jane Eyre is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library

Solstice by P.J. Hoover

solstice_pjhooverDo you like dystopias or mythology books? What about books that are both?

Solstice combines a dystopian-end-of-the-world atmosphere with a core plot that connects to mythology. Meet Piper. She’s just your average teenage girl with an overprotective mother living in a world that hasn’t seen winter for as long as she’s been alive. The heat waves that threaten the world are getting worse, which makes Piper’s mom more protective causing Piper to rebel all the more. She gets a tattoo with her friend and plans on moving away as soon as she finishes high school.

When Piper’s mom goes out of town, Piper finds herself pulled towards freedom and romance. But will it be with Reece who breaks rules for fun or Shane who makes her heart beat faster when she sees him? As she learns more about gods and the battle for the underworld, it’s hard for Piper to know who to trust. But whoever she is with, Piper can tell everyone is keeping secrets. Will she find a way to stop the world from dying and even find out who she is?

The romance here is a bit cliche with the insta-love-triangle. It isn’t bad per say, just nothing that new or special. I think I enjoyed more of the idea of the plot, how the mythology and dystopia blended together more than the characters. If the premise seems interesting enough, give it a read because it’s an interesting take of gods dealing with the end of the world.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

Solstice is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Soundless by Richelle Mead

soundless_richellemeadHave you ever read a book where none of the characters speak to one another? In Soundless, no one speaks in a little village atop of a mountain because everyone has gone deaf from mining operations.

There are only three social classes on the mountain: artists, servants, and miners. If you don’t do your job, you won’t get meals. The only way the village survives is from food provided by zipline. There used to be a path that went down the side of the mountain, but that is impassable because of falling rocks no one can hear. To make things worse, the villagers are going blind as well, which can be dangerous in the mines.

Then one day, an artist girl named Fei suddenly develops the ability to hear. With the zipline providing less and less food, the village is desperate for a miracle. The artist girl and a miner boy take a trip down to the bottom of the mountain, but what they find will change life in their little village forever.

This book begins with a slight dystopian feel presented by its social class hierarchy. People are not allowed to marry out of their career choice, but this isn’t the main conflict of the story. As Fei and her friend climb down the mountain, there is a sense of adventure seen in fantasy novels with some romance mixed in.

The ending felt a little out of place, but on the whole, it was just felt like a different book, incorporating Chinese folklore as well as how everyone communicated using sign language. A very interesting read.

-Nicole G.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

carryon_rainbowrowellMost books are about fictional characters. Not many books, I feel, are about fictional-fictional characters. The story for Carry On follows the magical world of Simon Snow – the source of fanfiction for Cath in Rowell’s previous novel, Fangirl (which is also very good, you should read that). The whole thing sounds a bit complicated and I haven’t even begun talking about the plot.

The book takes place in Simon’s last year at his magical boarding school. It feels as though this is the last book in the series as if there could have been a book following each of Simon’s years at the Watford, but Rowell does an amazing job of giving the reader enough information while still maintaining a layer of mystery. Besides the beautiful storytelling, it would be impossible to read this book and not compare it, at least a little, to Harry Potter. The main character is the chosen one brought up in the normal world, prophesized to appear when the world needed him most, and goes to a magical boarding school during the year only to be forced to live in the normal world during the summer holiday. Oh, and both take place in England. But beyond that circumstantial similarities, Carry On really stands out as its own book.

The plot is rich, the characters all very distinct (Penny is my personal favorite) and not everything goes as expected. The magic world of mages is weird and different, but with just enough familiarity (the use of electronics for instance) to not make it seem too otherworldly. The story’s main antagonist, the Insidious Humdrum, is a pretty good villain despite the ridiculous name.

I don’t want to say much more because this is a book you want to go into without any spoilers. I got completely sucked into the story. There are some changes in perspective, all in the first person, but I never had trouble discerning who was who. If you are looking for a new magical boarding school book that is truly amazing, keep calm look no further than Carry On.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

Carry On is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

Teen Read Week: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

swordofsummer_rickriordanWhen I first heard about this book, my brain zeroed in on the last name Chase. Related to Annabeth Chase, perhaps? Rick Riordan doesn’t fail to disappoint. Magnus Chase is her cousin (first cousins on their human side) and she is spotted immediately in the first chapter. I got so hyped about a new series from Riordan that ignored a minor oversight: I had little to no knowledge about Norse Mythology.

Fortunately, Uncle Rick understands. There are some clues leading up to the reveal of which god Magnus is the son of. (Here’s a hint: it isn’t Thor) I just didn’t see it because I don’t speak runes. Most of the mythology stuff is explained to go with the plot and never seems like a history lesson. I’m not sure how accurate it is by saying dwarves listen to Taylor Swift, but I’m sure other ideas like the nine worlds is there.

Expect some of the great humor that you know and love. The renaming of a sword to Jack. Ancient gods or goddesses referencing pop culture. First person internal dialogue with just a bit of sass. And the chapter titles. If I wanted to explain what the book was about, I would just display the table of contents because even though they seem random and bizarre, the chapter titles accurately describe an aspect in what happens next.

I really don’t want to spoil any of it, but don’t expect another Percy. No one will ever live up to him anyway. This is a new kid, with a new personality, and a new story to tell. Is it better than Percy Jackson? No. But is it still worth the read? Absolutely.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

testing_joellecharbonneauDo you like standardized testing filled with hours of questions you have to fill out with a number two pencil? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if wrong answers resulted in your death? Welcome to The Testing.

Set in a dystopian future, this is the life of Cia as she is chosen for the testing. She’s from a small town, but is very smart and wants to be a mechanical engineer. There are several stages of testing, the first few standard things that you’d expect: math, history, etc. A question about categorizing plants between poisonous and nonpoisonous really showcases the intensity of the testing. Everyone had to eat the plants that they categorized and nonpoisonous. If they were wrong, well, death ensued.

What I found disappointing was that this book did not feel original to me. Maybe I’ve just read too many dystopian novels at this point, or this book borrowed too many similar ideas (aside from written standardized testing as far as I know) to feel new to me. There is a mostly average girl from an underrated location who goes somewhere new to survive and prove her worth. The underestimated idea from district twelve as well as a physical aspect of wilderness survival reminded me of The Hunger Games. The idea of a test where anyone can die at any time felt like Divergent. And the ominous government hiding everything from the public can go back to almost any dystopian work.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t a good book. Cia is a strong female character who uses her brains and even weapons when the events call on her to defend herself. She has a love interest, but he’s not really the focus. I didn’t really feel that Cia was really interested in him too much either because the situation she’s in took precedence in the plot. If you aren’t sick of dystopias at this point and don’t mind a few repeated themes, go ahead and give The Testing a try.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

The Testing is available for download from Overdrive.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

daybefore_lisaschroederToday is different
For Amber,
Running away
To be alone.

She needs a day
For herself
That isn’t filled
With tears.
This is her last day

Of her before.

The day before it all changes.

Amber expected
To be alone
With her drumsticks,
Just because;
Her camera,
Just for fun;
And a box jelly beans,
Just like always.

She takes a limo
To the beach.
Today is not
About holding back.

She goes to the
Aquarium where
She meets
A boy
By the jellyfish tank.

They connect
Instantly
“Did you see that movie?” he asks,
And Amber knows
What he’s talking about.

They see the sharks
And the sea stars,
Not exchanging many words,
Not at first.

Cade, the boy,
Thought he
Was alone today, too,
But they decide to spend
Today together.

He has a condition for today,
Not to ask
Why the other is
At the beach, by themselves.

The have fun
Building sandcastle,
Climbing lighthouses,
Enjoying the day.

Both Amber and Cade
Are hiding a secret.

Tomorrow will
Never
Be the same again.

Cade.
Loves the ocean so much.
Writes songs everywhere he goes.
Lives today like its his last.

What secret is he hiding?

Cade told her
Not to ask.

Yet she wants
To know.

Written in verse
Amber’s day
Is told.

Th secrets
The style
The story.

It’s beautiful.

-Nicole G., 11th Grade

The Day Before is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Every Last Word, by Tamara Ireland Stone

everylastword_tamarastoneSamantha has friends that she’s known forever. She’s also one of the popular girls in her junior year of high school. She wears make-up with all the right clothes and pretends that everything is all right inside. It’s not.

Samantha thinks. A lot. She can’t turn off her mind that fills with paranoia and second guesses. It keeps her up at night and distracted during the day. Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD (though she isn’t a neat freak, common misconception). She has a thing for the number three. She always swims in lane three. When she pushes a button, she likes to do it three times. The odometer has to end in three before she can park. And when she listens to music she likes to remember the best three words to describe the song.

Even though Sam has had the same clique of friends since kindergarten, they sometimes seem more of a hassle than they are worth. There is girl drama and the need to conform on how they expect Samantha to act. That’s another thing. They will only call her Samantha. Sam is just a person in the summer who is free to swim. Sam is just temporary. That is until she meets Caroline.

With Caroline as her new friend, Sam’s life is different but better. Sam discovers the Poet’s Corner and finds a place with supportive people who make her feel almost normal. With her newfound love of poetry, it almost seems too good to be true. Maybe it is as Sam makes a discovery that puts her sanity into question on an entirely new level.

I love when a book has plot twists that you don’t see coming, but looking back there were clues that add up to something odd. The poetry in the Poet’s Corner ranges from deep to glorifying fast food. It’s a beautifully written book that deal with the Sam’s disorder, friendship, romance, poetry, and whatever clever saying is on Caroline’s t-shirts (They are pretty awesome). The only annoying parts were with Sam’s friends since childhood. Deal with them a few chapters, just like Sam has been doing her whole life and move on to better friendships and poetry readings.

-Nicole G., 12th Grade

Every Last Word is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library