The Sea of Monsters

Percy Jackson and the Olympians # 2: The Sea of MonstersThe Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians # 2
Miramax, 279 pages

Percy Jackson’s seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get . . . well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of Percy’s friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.

In this fresh, funny, and hugely anticipated follow up to The Lightning Thief, Percy and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their beloved camp. But first, Percy will discover a stunning new secret about his family — one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

It’s been ages since I read the first Percy Jackson book. I should have picked the next one up immediately, but I guess I was waiting until I acquired all the books before I do. Unfortunately, though, I only got to buy up to the third book, and then books 2 and 3 sat pretty on my shelf, wondering if I would ever get around to reading them.

And so I finally did. I was kind of wary because I couldn’t remember much of what was in The Lightning Thief, but I had no time to reread it. I figured Wikipedia should be enough, right? Well, Wikipedia did help me a lot, but I don’t think it was that hard for me to get into the second book since I still had memories (albeit vague) of the important details in the first book.

In The Sea of Monsters, we find Percy almost done with the school year in a new prep school. It was the first time he’s gotten through a year without expulsion, and he was very much looking forward to spending another summer in the only place where he truly felt home, Camp Half Blood. But of course things don’t go the way he planned — an innocent game of dodge ball becomes a game of life and death against fierce cannibalistic giants which ended up with his friend Annabeth’s unexpected arrival. Together with Percy’s seemingly slow friend Tyson, they travel to Camp Half Blood and realize that things are not so fine and dandy: someone has poisoned the magical borders that protect the camp, and the safety of the campers are at stake. As if that wasn’t enough, Percy keeps getting dreams of Grover being in trouble, and he knows he has to find a way to save him, too.

I absolutely forgot how much fun I had reading the first book in the series. Which was just as well, because the second book was also so much fun as — maybe even more than — the first one. As the first one, the Greek mythology elements were woven cleverly into the plot. There was still the feeling of impending doom, of course, but it was lightened up with the wittiness of the dialogues. I loved the idea of the Sea of Monsters, too, and their journey to get there. Some of my favorite scenes include the sirens and Annabeth’s encounter with them, as well as the entire saving Grover scene. Somehow, it reminded me of a scene from that Nickelodeon show, ChalkZone. Anybody familiar?

The new revelations to the overall story arc was also very interesting, and it definitely opened another bunch of possibilities for the next book. It wasn’t exactly surprising because I somehow had an inkling that their quest is not what it seems. Still, it was interesting enough, and I’m curious to know what would happen in the next book. Which probably means I should get to it sooner than later.

Oh, and you know what who I really loved in this book? Tyson! He’s such a loyal and darling “friend” (and I use quotation marks because there’s a revelation for his character in this book, too) to Percy, and he just made me go “awww” several times. :) I sure hope there’s more of him in the future books?

I really enjoyed reading The Sea of Monsters. It’s fun and witty and magical and I think it’s a good follow up in the Percy Jackson series.

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
Required Reading – September

My copy: paperback from Fully Booked

Cover and blurb: Goodreads

Other reviews:
Blogcritics
Literature Young Adult Fiction

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces by C.S. LewisTill We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Number of pages: 324
My copy: paperback, borrowed from RE

In this timeless tale of two mortal princesses- one beautiful and one unattractive- C.S. Lewis reworks the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction. This is the story of Orual, Psyche’s embittered and ugly older sister, who posessively and harmfully loves Psyche. Much to Orual’s frustration, Psyche is loved by Cupid, the god of love himself, setting the troubled Orual on a path of moral development.

Set against the backdrop of Glome, a barbaric, pre-Christian world, the struggles between sacred and profane love are illuminated as Orual learns that we cannot understand the intent of the gods “till we have faces” and sincerity in our souls and selves.

* * *

One of my favorite (and probably the most popular) Bible verses other than John 3:16 and the multitude of verses that I’ve highlighted in my Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I’m pretty sure you’ve read these verses at one point in your life, too:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

These verses reminds me of those days in my Catholic community, as well as days of reading and re-reading Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember and crying as Landon read these passages to Jamie. I’ve heard them said so many times during wedding videos that my brother makes, and quoted so many times in blogs and posts about love. These verses have the power to make me feel all tingly and good inside as well as convict me of the times when I’m not as loving as I should be.

I remember during one of my heads in my Catholic community tell us that these verses on love sets the standard on what love really and truly is, and if I can replace “love” with my name, that means I am somehow living this. I’ve never really tried that because halfway through, I’d feel guilty because I know I’m not what love is. I’m not always patient, I’m not always kind. I am proud, I envy, I boast, I am self-seeking, I am easily angered, I keep records of wrong. As much as I’d like to believe that I can be what these verses say, I am only human and I fail way too many times.

It took me a while to write a review for C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces because I wasn’t sure what to write about it. I had to mull it over for two weeks until I remember what Paul said to the Corinthians and realized that this is what the novel is all about. Till We Have Faces is told by Princess Orual of Glome, the unattractive daughter of a tyrannical king, who loved her half-sister Psyche so much that she couldn’t see past her love that she thought was the only thing right. It was a bad time in Glome when Orual was at her highest, loving and caring for Psyche not just as a sister but as a mother that they never had. Orual’s world is shattered when the priests of the goddess Ungit tells their father that they need to offer Psyche as a sacrifice to the fearsome ShadowBrute to appease the goddess. Orual thought it would be the end of Psyche, but to her surprise, she finds that a god has fallen in love with Psyche and made her his wife. As Orual wrestles with the turn of events, her heart and the gods themselves, she finds that there was more to love that she needed to learn and unlearn for her to truly understand what love really is.

This is unlike any other C.S. Lewis novel I’ve read, but I’m no authority since I haven’t really read them all. I probably wouldn’t have heard of this book if it weren’t for my friend RE, and I wouldn’t know that this is known to be C.S. Lewis’ best work. Till We Have Faces is rough, almost brutal, but there is a beauty in the story that satiated my need for very good fantasy. It’s deep, but not so much that you wouldn’t understand the story or the writing as you read it. It almost didn’t feel like it was a Lewis novel, with all the gods and goddesses and pagan practices in it. But Till We Have Faces creeps up on you slowly, taking over your mind as you try and mull over the ideas and thoughts it presented. Well, that’s what it did to me, anyway. It was hard to review the book because I didn’t know how to approach it. I wasn’t sure which character I related to, and I didn’t know how to discuss the story without giving away or missing the important points. I enjoyed reading it, but I think this is the type of book that needs re-reading every now and then to fully understand it all.

I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy it — I did, very much. It’s just…deep. And like I said, its depth forced me to think and to see how similar I am to Orual. I wonder what Orual would have thought of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about love. I wonder if I would act the same way as she did when she found out about Psyche being a wife of a god that I cannot comprehend, of how the person I loved the most longed for something else and how my love cannot satisfy her. I wonder if the love I give is as possessive as Orual’s, and if this would eventually cause the death of the people and the relationships around me. I wonder if I will ever be able to know and see love as Psyche did, and if my name would ever be worthy enough to replace that word in Paul’s epistle.

I think that’s the real strength of C.S. Lewis’ works: not only do they entertain, but they make the readers really think. Till We Have Faces is a beautiful novel, definitely one that needs to be present in a reader’s collection and revisited every now and then. I’m buying my own copy after Lent for sure.

I end this review with the last line of the book — not a spoiler, don’t worry, but definitely one of the best last lines I’ve ever read:

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?

Rating:

Other reviews:
Awake in the Pages of an Endless Library
Claw of the Conciliator

Into the Wardrobe – a C.S. Lewis Site

Percy and Harry

ALTERNATE TITLE: How I tried to separate Percy Jackson from Harry Potter ;)

PThe Lightning Thiefercy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’s stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

One of my favorite topics in Science when I was a kid were the planets. I love naming all the planets and describing each of them and their properties. If you think that’s geeky, wait until you hear this: I was so enamored by them that I cracked the encyclopedias open to read about Greek and Roman mythology.

See, geeky. :-B

I didn’t really pick up the Percy Jackson series immediately as soon as they came out. I had no idea they were out, anyway, until a friend told me about it. I wasn’t interested in it until I saw the trailer of the movie. Children of gods and goddesses? Okay, I’m in!

The only problem? I couldn’t find a copy of the first book anywhere. There’s always book # 2, 3, 4 and 5, but never book # 1. Oh dear. Where to find Percy now?

Well, I already wrote the story of how I found the book, so now let’s go to the actual review.

So let me get it out now: Percy Jackson reminded me a lot of Harry Potter.

Let me count the ways:

  • Protagonist are both males
  • Both have dark hair and green eyes
  • Both found out that they were “special” and had to go through some weird stuff before they arrive at a place they can be safe
  • Both had to go through some kind of quest or else things will fall apart and there will be chaos all over
  • Both had two friends — a smart girl and a sort of bumbling guy — to support him and help him during his adventure
  • The story of the first book both had to deal with three-headed dogs.

I think I may have forgotten some similarities, but yes, they are quite similar. I’m not saying that Percy copied Harry all the way, but there’s just the similarities in the main character and in the story. Of course, anyone who hasn’t read Harry Potter will not think of that, so maybe it is just me.

But don’t get me wrong — the first book of Percy Jackson was a very good read. :) The story was written in first person, so it was fun being inside Percy’s head. I personally think Annabeth is more feisty and stronger than Hermione, and Grover is not exactly human. It was fun reading through the story and trying to figure out whose son or daughter was who, and getting to know the gods and goddesses as they were portrayed in the book.

I like the Harry Potter series a lot, but I was able to absorb Percy Jackson far easier than the latter, most probably because of my interest in mythology. :) I can’t wait to read the rest of the series (so I hope the fifth book’s paperback version would be released soon!).

Rating:
→ Pretty fun and interesting take on Greek mythology. Has a bit of similarities to HP, but not so much that it’s a rip-off. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series. :)

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 5 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 3 out of 20 Fantasy books for 2010

→ Get The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan on Amazon.com
→ Percy Jackson and the Olympians website
→ Rick Riordan’s website