Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE LIGHTNING THIEF: PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS

Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old boy who seems to be always in trouble at school. He has dyslexia and ADHD, and he has been in six different schools within six years. Once while on a class field trip, he had a very strange experience. His pre-Algebra teacher, Mrs. Dodds, turned into a winged lady and attacked him inside a museum, but thanks to his Latin teacher, Mr. Brunner, who came to his help. Percy ended up accidentally vaporizing Mrs. Dodds with a sword-transforming pen courtesy of Mr. Brunner. It became more strange when after what happened, no one from his class apparently knows or remembers Mrs. Dodds - not even his bestfriend, Grover, nor Mr. Brunner himself. Percy was almost convinced that he had just imagined Mrs. Dodds and what had happened at the museum that day, but when he overhears Mr. Brunner and Grover talking about The Kindly Ones and something that was stolen and needs to be returned by summer solstice, that's when he knew that all that had happened was indeed real. What Percy didn't expect to know following that encounter is that he is a demigod - a half-blood - a hero, and Mrs. Dodds is just the first of the many monsters he is destined to face and that the fate of an impending World War III depends on him and his quest to retrieve Zeus' lightning bolt.

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I decided to take a short break from the crime/thriller genre, and add variety to my reading scope. I chose to go the fantasy route and embark on a journey with Rick Riordan's famous hero, Percy Jackson.

The Lightning Thief is the first in the five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Readers who are into mythology will definitely enjoy this book. I thought my scant knowledge of Greek gods and godesses and their entangled mythical affairs would make it hard for me to follow the story, however, that was not the case. Mr. Riordan made it a point to always give descriptions and background details whenever a mythological character is presented in the story, which I found very helpful in appreciating and understanding the characters. I know that some people find mythology boring but this book has enough story in it to be far from boring. Being adolescents and young adults as main target readers of this book, the author's writing style makes this book an easy read and overall wholesome. I like the humor interjected every now and then in the story especially the chapter titles. I also like how the author depicted Greek mythology in a modern setting making it more relatable for young readers. I have to say though that I was a little disappointed when one of the key points in this book turned out to be quite predictable (at least for me). At one point in the story, Percy Jackson was told of his future by the Oracle. I believe the intention was for the oracle to be elusive and to add suspense particularly to its ending, however, I think it didn't have enough mystery component in it. It didn't take me far in the book to figure out and decipher the oracle, so the ending was kind of a little ruined for me that way. Nevertheless, I still believe it is a good book and I'd surely recommend it.

Below are a few excerpts:

"They're --- myths, to explain lightning and the seasons and stuff. They're what people believed before there was science."

"Science!" Mr. D scoffed. "And tell me, Perseus Jackson"—I flinched when he said my real name, which I never told anybody—"what will people think of your 'science' two thousand years from now?" Mr. D continued. "Hmm? They will call it primitive mumbo jumbo. That's what. Oh, I love mortals—they have absolutely no sense of perspective. They think they've come so-o-o far. And have they, Chiron? Look at this boy and tell me."

"Exactly," Chiron agreed. "If you were a god, how would you like being called a myth, an old story to explain lightning? What if I told you, Perseus Jackson, that someday people would call you a myth, just created to explain how little boys can get over losing their mothers?"

"I gained much from that wish ... and I gave up much. But I'm still here, so I can only assume I'm still needed."

"We were three adolescents hanging out at a car wash without a car; any cop worth his doughnuts would figure we were up to no good."

"The dead aren't scary. They're just sad."

"I was also barefoot, because I'd given my shoes to Grover. Better the Coast Guard wonder why one of us was barefoot than wonder why one of us had hooves."

"It's funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their version of reality." 

"He was reading a huge book with a picture of a wizard on the front. I wasn't much into fantasy, but the book must've been good, because the guard took a while to look up."

"A steely look of anger flared in my mother's eyes, and I thought, just maybe, I was leaving her in good hands after all. Her own."

"The real world is where the monsters are. That's where you learn whether you're any good or not."

"All the heroics—being pawns of the gods. They should've been overthrown thousands of years ago, but they've hung on, thanks to us half-bloods."

"I won't go looking for trouble. I usually don't have to."

"The sea does not like to be restrained."

When I was reading The Lightning Thief, certain parts reminded me of the Harry Potter series. Even Rick Riordan made a reference to a huge book with a picture of a wizard on the front -- ehem! I know it's not fair to compare Percy Jackson with The Boy Who Lived but JK Rowling set quite a standard in terms of fantasy fiction. Ms. Rowlings' Harry Potter series pushed my imagination to a different level, and tickled and played with my senses throughout. Unfortunately, Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief failed to induce in me that kind of reading euphoria. I did enjoy The Lightning Thief, please don't get me wrong, but I honestly don't think I'll read it once again, as opposed to the Harry Potter series which I read more than twice - some of the books I read three times! Also, I remember being hardly able to wait for the next book after finishing one in the Harry Potter series. However, with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, eeehhh, not so much. Although I definitely would still love to read the rest of the books. I give Rick Riordan the credit for adding a modern twist to Greek mythology to create a story, entertaining and apt for young readers, however, overall The Lightning Thief is still lackluster when compared to Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. With that said and JK Rowling fangirl aside, I give The Lightning Thief 3.75 stars. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

TELL ME YOUR DREAMS

Ashley Patterson is an attractive yet introvert lady in her late 20s. Toni Prescott is an outgoing lady who loves to dance and sing. She also loves spending her private time chatting in the Internet. She is six years younger than Ashley and she is of English descent. Alette Peters, the youngest of the three, is of Italian descent and has a very good talent in painting. They all work in a computer graphic company in Silicon Valley, but they do not get along well because of their differences. Toni despises Ashley for being "Miss Goody Two Shoes" but mingles with Alette as Toni somehow enjoys Alette's calm attitude. When a series of murders happened involving male victims who were brutally killed and castrated, all three ladies become suspects. The ensuing investigation and trial led to shocking revelations tying these three unique characters and eventually bringing them together.

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Years ago when I read Sidney Sheldon's Master of The Game, I concluded that was my favorite of his books by far. Now that I've read Tell Me Your Dreams, I'm torn!

>>SPOILER ALERT<< If like me, you were fascinated by John Cusack's movie, Identity, then you'll flip over Tell Me Your Dreams as well. I love how fast paced the story is and quickly develops into ultimately revealing that Ashley Patterson is suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder, and Toni Prescott and Alette Peters are her alters. It's smart of the author to only reveal Toni's real name, Antoinette, later in the book when a psychiatrist was explaining that alters usually take a pattern, and in Ashley's case, she and her alters share the same initials, AP. I like that part in an early chapter when Alette says an exact line which Ashley also said in the beginning of the book. Although that was a key clue to where the story was going, the following chapters remained to be interesting and intriguing keeping the suspense all throughout. And when I said, all throughout, I meant like up till the last page! My jaw fell on the floor when I finished the book. Have you seen Leonardo di Caprio's movie, Inception? You know that last scene when he twirled his totem object which left viewers' mouth gaping and then debating whether the totem did stop or not? Same feeling you'll get with Tell Me Your Dreams. You could formulate as much as you'd want with how you'd like the story to end but the never ending what if's would never satisfy your curiousity. Sometimes open endings are annoying but sometimes they can be hauntingly beautiful, and Tell Me Your Dreams is one of the latter. Oh, the mystery of unknown!

Let's look at excerpts from the book:

"There's something you're going to learn about me, honey. I don't give up. Ever."

"How does it feel to have a famous father?"

"She had forgotten how savage her father's temper was. He had once punched an intern during an operation for making an error in judgment."

"...but try as she might, Ashley could not remember what it was. She had blocked it from her mind."

"I hate cold weather. Even with gloves, my fingers get numb."

"Toni thought about the terrible accident in which her mother had died. Toni could still hear her screams for help. The memory of it made Toni smile."

"She could see colors, smell colors and hear colors. Her father's voice was blue and sometimes red. Her mother's voice was dark brown. Her teacher's voice was yellow. The grocer's voice was purple. The sound of the wind in the trees was green. The sound of the running water was gray."

"She could  be plain-looking, attractive or stunningly beautiful, depending on her mood or how she was feeling about herself. But she was never simply pretty. Part of her charm was that she was completely unaware of her looks."

"Toni had a solution for everything, and it was usually: 'Let's go and have some fun.'"

"The only thing that solved her happiness was the knowledge that the darkness would come down on her again, and she would be lost in it."

"...buying things they would have no use for the next day."

"The past is the past."

"Hometowns were supposed to look smaller when a native returned years later..."

"It was amazing how much people could change in ten years. They were fatter and thinner... prosperous and downtrodden. They were married and divorced... parents and parentless..."

"...a virago with a tongue sharp enough to fell the forests of Oregon."

"...when a murder goes unsolved, I don't think it means that criminals were that smart. I think it means that the police weren't smart enough."

"'Of course, I will. We'll go out and celebrate.' And the words reverberated in his mind. Years ago, he had said to someone else, 'We'll go out and celebrate.' And he had killed her."

"It's a condition where there are several completely different personalities in one body. It's also known as dissociative identity disorder. It's been in the psychiatric literature for more than two hundred years. It usually starts because of a childhood trauma. The victim shuts out the trauma by creating another identity. Sometimes a person will have dozens of different personalities or alters."

"Alters are created because the host can't stand the pain of the trauma. It's a way of escape. Every time a fresh shock occurs, a new alter can be born. The psychiatric literature on the subject shows that alters can be totally different from one another. Some alters are stupid, while others are brilliant. They can speak different languages. The have varied tastes and personalities."

"What idiot said that pregnant women weren't beautiful?"

"They made an unlikely couple, but the marriage worked because they were deeply in love with each other."

Sidney Sheldon is one brilliant author. He captivates his readers with his genius and his books are really hard to put down. You have to be prepared with the roller coaster ride you've put yourself into once you start reading his book. The unpredictable loops and twists are jaw dropping and stomach turning. Just one bravo after another - that's the kind of author he was. That being said, I rate this book 4.5 stars, with half-point deduction once again for very few typo errors.

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