Wednesday, February 27, 2013

October Mourning A Song for Matthew Shepard

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

Prepare to cry.

If you read this and don't cry, I strongly recommend getting more in touch with your humanity. I SAID IT.

An amazon summary to know where I'm going with this, "WINNER OF A 2013 STONEWALL HONOR!

A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.
On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was LeslĂ©a Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

So, in October of 1998, I was only 9 years old and had no clue about this. I suspect I had already developed my willful ignoring of the news, and again, I was 9. I didn't truly know about this story until someone placed this book into my hands.

I'm so grateful they did.

So this book is about the night Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and the events surrounding it in the form of poetry. There is an explanation in the front of the book and a note from the author about the events of Matthew Shepard's death.

The poems center from different perspective of the people that were there and even from the people whose lives were touched. Of course, it's all poems by the author and what they imagine those people would write and/or were feeling, but it's very powerful.

It really makes me want to tell everyone I know that I love them. (DWAAAA)

This isn't a happy book by any means, and the poem where I finally broke down in tears is titled 'Where Is My Boy?'. If you read this book, I wish that you would share the poem that just touched (not literally, geez) you. What resonated with your person-hood?

I also think this book has an interesting way of exploring hatred, compassion, and love.

Oh, and I enjoy poetry now and then by the by. SURPRISE.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

Amazon summary as I'm a little peeved still from all the prejudice and awful I just read about, "They had the right stuff. They defied the prejudices of the time. And they blazed a trail for generations of women to follow.

What does it take to be an astronaut? Excellence at flying, courage, intelligence, resistance to stress, top physical shape — any checklist would include these. But when America created NASA in 1958, there was another unspoken rule: you had to be a man. Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved that they were not only as tough as the toughest man but also brave enough to challenge the government. They were blocked by prejudice, jealousy, and the scrawled note of one of the most powerful men in Washington. But even though the Mercury 13 women did not make it into space, they did not lose, for their example empowered young women to take their place in the sky, piloting jets and commanding space capsules. ALMOST ASTRONAUTS is the story of thirteen true pioneers of the space age." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE WHICH THESE WOMEN DIDN'T GET

This is a historical non-fiction book. I seem to be working them into my reading repertoire more and more.

Okay first, let me say that I didn't really know about the '13 Mercury Women' at all before this book. After reading this book, I understand why.

When the space race began, 13 women set about going through the rigorous tests, the same as the 'Mercury 7', to prove they were worthy of being an astronaut and to hopefully be included in NASA's space program. They were shut out by white men. They took the rigorous tests in secret for fears that they would be unjustly stopped, and as the public began to know more about these '13 Mercury Women' the political world shut them down essentially. Anyone who had power did not pave their way and only a handful of people seemed to help them take the first round of tests in the first place. This all began in roughly 1958. The first woman to pilot a spacecraft in the NASA program wasn't until 1999. That's 41 YEARS later. It didn't matter how qualified an individual was, if you were female, you were out.

I think that more books like these needs to be placed in the hands of young females just so they can fully know what world they are embarking into, and how they can strive to change it and work within it. Social barriers need to be acknowledged so they can be overcome.

Equality. YES PLEASE.

My blog posts that encounter history are going to tend to be shorter in nature as there's a lot of facts that may or may not be common knowledge. History is ever present and over time, we're discovering new ways in which to present it. This book was a phenomenal read and I feel much more informed about the women's strife to live in a more gender friendly equal environment.

So cheers to a good book!

Happy reading!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Mark of Athena

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Didn't read the first two books in the series? I REVIEWED THEM ALREADY!

If you didn't read the previous series, Percy Jackson and The Olympians, I reviewed all five books from that series as well, and you can find links to all of them in my review of The Lost Hero.

Amazon summary to do this sort of well, "In The Son of Neptune, Percy, Hazel, and Frank met in Camp Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Camp Halfblood, and traveled to the land beyond the gods to complete a dangerous quest. The third book in the Heroes of Olympus series will unite them with Jason, Piper, and Leo. But they number only six--who will complete the Prophecy of Seven?

The Greek and Roman demigods will have to cooperate in order to defeat the giants released by the Earth Mother, Gaea. Then they will have to sail together to the ancient land to find the Doors of Death. What exactly are the Doors of Death? Much of the prophecy remains a mystery. . . .

With old friends and new friends joining forces, a marvelous ship, fearsome foes, and an exotic setting, The Mark of Athena promises to be another unforgettable adventure by master storyteller Rick Riordan." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

So for this review, as this book is relatively current, I will not be giving a blow by blow summary. I'm going to try and keep it to the first third of the book and then give you my reaction about the end. There's a ton of neat stuff that happens in this book, and I'd much rather you read it than have me spoil all of it.

So the book begins with Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo, and Coach Hedge all meeting the populace of Camp Jupiter where Hazel, Percy, and Frank await them. At first, it started out a bit rocky as the God that protects Camp Jupiter exploded onto their ship and demand that they do not enter camp with weapons or the Argo II. So they end up docking the Argo II in the sky and scrambling down some ladders to get to actual camp. Percy and Annabeth have an adorable moment in front of the camp filled with kisses and Annabeth flipping Percy over, but you know, romance is bound to be a little bumpy from time to time.

While they're at camp, Annabeth kind of touches on the whole 'Mark of Athena' thing that isn't delved into without greater detail into later in the book. It plays a big part though, so there's that.

So they kind of have an interesting beginning in camp with the Romans still on edge around them and the few Greek kids trying to get them to trust them. And then Octavian and Leo go up in the Argo II for Leo to give Octavian a tour, and well the Argo II starts to fire upon Camp Jupiter. Octavian is seen screaming and running from the ship with sizzling clothes and such crying that the Greeks are out to get them. The whole camp gets in an uproar and the seven demi-gods for the quest (Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo, Hazel, and Frank) all scramble aboard the Argo II and make a run for it.

The Roman eagles begin pursuit of the Argo II and then things get a bit weirder. Hazel mistakes Leo for Sammy (see The Son of Neptune where Sammy is revealed to be her first love/crush whatever; SHE'S THIRTEEN), and Frank gets a little jealous while Leo is like, "Um...does this mean you like me? I'LL TOTALLY KIND OF TRY TO SHRUG THIS OFF. HA really, do you like me?"

They get chased by the eagles for a long time and set down to find some celestial bronze to repair the ship with since it took some nasty damage while fleeing Camp Jupiter. So Leo and Hazel go with Arion to find the bronze and they come across Narcissus and Echo. That's a hilarious moment. They manage to get the bronze away from Narcissus and get back to the ship to find that everyone else is back on board. Leo and Annabeth rush down to make the repairs and the rest of the crew fend off the nyads that are in love with Narcissus.

They end up making their way to a place that Piper saw in her magic knife only to discover that Dionysus/Bacchus is there. They have an interesting conversation with him before the god figures out it's a trap and vanishes, but Piper, Percy, and Jason are not so lucky. Gaea takes control of Percy and Jason and tries to get Piper to chose which one shall live and which one shall die, and due to her lack of choosing, Gaea gets them to start fighting each other. Jason winds up getting knocked out and Percy is knocked out by Blackjack who he summoned earlier for a ride. Piper manages to get both unconscious boys back to the ship, and when they wake up, they discover that Eidolon spirits had possessed Leo (when he set the Argo II after camp Jupiter), Jason, and Percy. She makes them leave and swear on the River Styx to not possess any of them again and banishes them from the ship.

There are a couple of 'couple' moment strengthening things between Piper/Jason, Annabeth/Percy and then they discover the Nico is being held hostage by the twin giants that were made to take down Dionysus/Bacchus. He has five days left to live since he went into a hibernation kind of mode and is living off of the pomegranate seeds from Persephone's garden.

That's about a third of the way through the book.

My reaction to the ending of the book was lot of cursing, shutting the book, rereading the last chapter, and cursing some more. I WANT the fourth book to come out badly. But I have to wait until this fall. GROAN.

...happy reading!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Didn't read the previous books? I reviewed them all! However, I'm only going to link to THE LOST HERO, which is book one in The Heroes of Olympus series, as that post has links to the previous five books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. ENJOY.

Amazon summary, BA BA BAM "Percy is confused. When he awoke after his long sleep, he didn’t know much more than his name. His brain-fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight. Somehow Percy managed to make it to the camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he had to continually kill monsters that, annoyingly, would not stay dead. But the camp doesn't ring any bells with him.

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn’t do a very good job of it. When the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her “gift” for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn’t say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. 

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother claims he is descended from ancient heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery—although not good enough to help the Fifth Cohort win at war games. His big and bulky physique makes him feel like a clumsy ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely—enough, even, to share the secret he holds close to his heart. 

Beginning at the “other” camp for half-bloods and extending as far north as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment in the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all of whom are destined to play a part in the most important quest of all: the Prophecy of Seven." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

So that summary wasn't half bad, but when it said "Percy is confused" I immediately thought of Percy as a Pokemon and then my brain got away from me with a funny tangent. I'll spare you, don't worry.

One moment for me to fangirl, "OH MY GOSH, I FINISHED THIS BOOK AND NOW I GET TO READ THE MARK OF ATHENA. FINALLY. I'VE HAD THIS BOOK FOR ABOUT A MONTH NOW. MUST READ." It's taking a lot for me not to be overly-excited and finish this blog post before embarking on The Mark of Athena which I'm SUPER HOPING is narrated by Annabeth because besides Tyson, Annabeth is one of my favorite characters. Suck on that Reyna. ...I'll get to Reyna in a moment.

So The Son of Neptune (Poseidon) starts out with Percy being like, "MY NAME'S PERCY. I KNOW SOMEONE NAMED ANNABETH. I THINK I KISSED HER. UHHH....THAT'S ALL FOLKS." He's been on the run for a while being chased by gorgons and trying to find a safe haven. He's been sent on his way by the wolf Lupa who told him, "Go south and follow your gut" which is horrible unclear advice. Like most adults like to give. LOL.

So he gets near Camp Jupiter (Zeus) and meets an old hippie bag lady who asks him to carry her to camp. He's like GEESH but does so. He's escorted in by two guards, Hazel and Frank, and they make it to camp safely with Percy carrying the old hippie bag lady and drowning the gorgons in the river that protects the camp. By crossing the river, he loses his River Styx blessings which he gained in The Last Olympian.

It turns out that the old hippie bag lady was actually Juno (Hera) in disguise and she warns the camp, says Percy is good, before disappearing.

**Disclaimer: I have read the book, but for the sake of my sanity, I'm going to refer to the gods by their Greek names mostly because the Greek Roman thing gets annoying as all crap at points.

We're then introduced to Camp Jupiter (Zeus) and all it's eccentric awesomeness. The camp is actually a city of sorts and a lot of demi-gods serve in the legion for ten years before retiring to the city which is inside the camp. It's like a metropolis onto itself full of cool magic stuff that happens. There's a lot of neat Roman things there, but the main things that happen are we're introduced to our other two narrators: Hazel who is a daughter of Hades , and Frank who we initially don't know who's parent is. (We find out soon enough that his father is Ares (or Mars, WHATEVER)). I'm not going to lie, the first third of the book is a lot of mystery surrounding Hazel's past, a lot of mystery surrounding Frank's heritage, and a lot of Percy being like, "Uh....what?" at people. We do run into Nico while he's here and he does not help Percy at all and plays innocent about knowing who he is. We do find out that Nico returned Hazel from the dead. So there's that. We also find out that Hazel has a curse that precious metals or gems from the Earth appear around her but are cursed; only she can return or touch them without more harm befalling her.

So first third of the book is basically spent building the characters; making sure that Frank and Hazel are alright people and that they're slowly falling in love with each other. Oh, did I mention that now that everyone is a little older, Riordan took it upon himself to make sure everyone fell in love? Does that bother anyone else? Also, Hazel is approximately 13-14 range, Frank is 16, and Percy is 16; but Hazel is often treated as the one with more wisdom and what not. I think it's a little cool that Riordan seems to be dealing out a lot of respect for the female gender, but in weird ways. Maybe more on that later, but probably not.

So the first third of the book winds down with an epic 'capture the flag' type of battle where Percy, Hazel, and Frank all manage to capture the banners (yeah, they use their banners for it) and be all awesome and Mars (Ares) appears and is like HEY FRANK, YO MY SON WHOO!!! NOW DON'T SCREW UP. He also bestows a mysterious spear on Frank until Frank can figure out how to use his inherited powers. They're also sent out on a quest by Mars where he basically tells them go North, stop a giant, all by the Feast of Fortuna which is in five days. Yeah, Ares is a little crazy in his Mars aspect, but he's also a bit more disciplined. He doesn't seem surprised by Percy showing up at Camp Jupiter either, which is odd as Hera (Juno WHATEVER) seems to have kept everyone from knowing her plans. Maybe Ares keeps a closer eye on Percy so he knows what's going on with him already.


Now there's a weird thing going on at Camp Jupiter. Their are two Praetors that run the camp; one is Reyna, but the other one was Jason. As we know from the last book, Jason was plucked from Camp Jupiter, given all the amnesia, and plunked down to be taken to Camp Half-blood. Since that time, there has been a void in the Praetors which weakens the camp. Reyna is awesome in her own right, but the camp needs two praetors. So there's a creepy kid who's a son of Apollo (a legacy as they call it; a son of an original demi-god of Apollo) his name is Octavian. Now Octavian divines messages by sacrificing stuffed animals and reading the stuffing that spills out; they used to do it with actual animals, but they got a little more humane as the centuries wore on. Octavian is the kind of kid who still sorely wishes they used live animals. He's vying to get the other Praetor spot but he's kind of evil and buys people into being on his side. Reyna won't have him. So Reyna is all HEY PERCY, PRAETOR AND MAYBE SOMETHING MORE WITH ME? EH? WINK WINK? and suddenly all the remotely interesting females in the book (besides Hazel) all want into Percy's pants. Just by the by. That will happen for the rest of the book in subtle, kind of gross at times way. Because you know, sixteen is suddenly the time to settle down with someone and make family times happen. Little creepy there. Percy, in response to Reyna is like, "Uh...I'll think about it, but I already have a girlfriend Annabeth from wherever I'm from so...I'm going to go on the quest now." But he's all reluctant to take the spot because it's Jason's who might still be alive somewhere.

So Percy, Hazel, and Frank all depart for their quest to get to Alaska and run into some mishaps on the way.

I'm going to gloss over some stuff and touch on the finer points, or else again, I'd be sitting here trying to write the whole book out.

We learn a lot about how Hazel died initially, what led to her untimely death, and what she gave up for her mother who despite everything, was kind of an awful person all the time.

We learn a lot about Frank and his family history, and there's a lot that's heavily played on the Chinese aspect of Frank's heritage. Now because the last book we had Piper who it was heavily played on about the Native American aspect of her heritage, I wonder if we're going to be following the Gods in their different aspects throughout all the cultures and not just Greek and Roman. What is Riordan up to with this cultural diversity? Hmm???

Percy starts to slowly regain his memories and is less and less like DURR about things and more and more MAD at Hera for being such an awful goddess. We find out that Percy's memories were stolen, he was put to sleep for 8 months, and Hera is basically like, "It's because you're a lose cannon. I couldn't just have you dashing about and foiling everything, BLAH" and Percy is like IMMA SMACK YOU SO HARD. But that comes towards the end of the book.

Okay, brain is getting in order.

So they depart from the camp and get on a boat before heading north. Hazel is seasick all the time and has a flashback to her past life and manages to bring Frank with her somehow. They witness all of her anguish and Frank and her get a closer bond. AWW WUV. They run into Isis who doesn't have a Roman aspect and was being terrorized by one of Gaea's armies that was marching through towards Camp Jupiter. There's some hilarious moments here but the big things are: Frank plants his spear tip into the ground that he got from his Father Mars (Ares) and discovers it makes a skeletal warrior which he sends out to kill the Basilisks. Percy tries to send some Isis messages out but his connection isn't good as his brain is all scrambled from memory loss. Hazel...just Hazel's.

So they leave Isis and search out Phineas who is a seer and knows where the giant is keeping Death (oh, did I mention Death is locked up? His name is Thanatos). They find him fending off a bunch of Harpies with a weed whacker and find out he was raised by Gaea. So they defeat Phineas by killing him with Gorgon's blood and adopt a red harpy by the name of Ella. She reads a lot and says snitches of things and for some reason Phineas thought she was super valuable, so they bring her along.

They run into the Amazons next where they find out that Queen Hylla is Reyna's sister (and Reyna sent them with her ring so that if they ran into the Amazons they would help and hopefully NOT kill them) but here is where we find out that Hylla and Reyla were on Circe's island. If you recall from the previous series, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover managed to disperse Circe and free all the men that had been turned into guinea pigs. Hylla and Reyla had apparently been living very happily on that island and after Percy they went through a lot of crap before Reyla wound up at Camp Jupiter and Hylla wound up with the Amazons. There's a civil war amongst the amazon as the original queen of the amazons has returned and insists on dueling Hylla. Meh. While with the Amazons, they befriend the fastest horse ever, Arion, who helps with their escape and they charge off towards the north. They make ridiculous good time and make it to Canada where they hope to find the Glacier that Death is being held on.

So they wander around Canada, run into monsters here and there, but mostly I feel that a large part of this segment was just appreciating Canada. They also manage to stop by Frank's house where he sees his Father, Mars (Ares) again who is visiting his Grandmother (who had a very strict kindness about her) and Frank finally learns what his family's gift is. There's a hilarious battle scene at the house but they manage to escape to an awaiting pilot who takes them farther into Alaska.

They run into more monsters, blah blah blah, before Arion manages to get them to the Glacier. Again, glossed over a lot of stuff to avoid retelling the whole story. There is a crazy epic battle between the Giant, freeing death, and ghosts while retrieving the Roman eagle (which is a really powerful banner type of thing). They're like WHEW, GLAD THAT'S GOOD. They also manage to get a lot of equipment, a nice chariot, and Arion races them back to camp in like four hours. That's cool.

They have another epic battle at camp where a lot of campers are under siege by a small force of Gaea's army and there's a neat moment where the Amazons swoop in to help them and Percy kills a titan with the help of the bust of a god (the god inhabits the bust) and it's all well and good.

The book ends with Percy being raised as Praetor (which he is still mildly uncomfortable with) and Hazel, Frank, and Percy knowing their part of the 7 in the prophecy. There's a warning about Annabeth coming to camp, Tyson and Mrs. O'Leary have reunited with Percy, and Percy is trying to convince everyone that the Argo II is coming and bearing Greek allies which has Octavian all up in arms and Reyna being like, "WE'LL SEE." Book ends.


Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Indian Chicken

Indian Chicken!

No, I have no idea why it's called that.

I'm feeling especially lazy and this is a recipe that originally came out of one of my mother's very old cook books. So I took a picture of the recipe too.

So what I changed about the recipe: I don't cook the chicken in flour, I cook the chicken like I would normally cook plain chicken. The fastest, most convenient way at the time. I also put the chicken over a bed of rice (usually about an inch to cover the bottom of the 9" x 13" pan - my pan is about four cups of cooked rice).

So I take my 9" x 13" pan, spread the layer of rice over the bottom, place the chicken sporadically on top of the rice (usually not touching each other so there can be clear and easy 'scoop spots'), and then spread the sauce from the frying pan over the entire thing. Sometimes I poked my spoon in to the bottom of the pan to ensure that all the rice gets some sauce, other times I don't. Usually I let the completed dish sit out on the counter top for five minutes or so to ensure the juice seeps into the bottom, then I put it in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees.

That's pretty much it. I will say that this has caused heartburn for a couple folks that I've made it for before, so if you get heartburn easily and hate it and don't want to risk it, you probably shouldn't make this recipe.

Otherwise, enjoy!

Happy cooking!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Amazon summary to get this shin dig going:
"From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Shiver and Linger comes a brand new, heartstopping novel.

Some race to win. Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. 

Some riders live.
Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. 

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition - the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. The Scorpio Races is an unforgettable reading experience." AMAZON LINK OF MEH SUMMARY

Alright, this book is told from two different perspectives; Sean Kendrick and Kate (Puck) Connolly. Sean is nineteen years old and has grown up around the horses or capaill uisce (the lethal water horses) and lost his Father to the races when he was 10. Since he lost his Father, he has worked for Benjamin Malvern whose stable yard turns out some of the best horses. Kate or Puck (Puck is her nickname, I don't recall it being explained in the story, but I assume it refers to Shakespeare's character in A Midsummer Night's Dream, a trickster of sorts) lost her parents when they went out on a boat one day, presumably they were killed by the capaill uisce. She has two brothers, Gabe and Finn. Sean is an only child.

So this book is kind of complicated in delightful ways. It embarks on the journey of explaining what the capaill uisce are, what kind of people and cultural inhabit the island of Thisby, and the spirit of the people who live there. I'd say one of the main themes of the story is determining what you love and what you cannot live without, but to say there is only one main theme would just be silly. There's a lot going on.

So the book begins by illustrating the state of which the Connolly's house has inevitably fallen into due to their parents having died about a year ago. Gabe, the eldest brother announces that he will be leaving the island of Thisby for the mainland which basically breaks Kate's heart. But instead of trying to properly deal with it or sort out why he's doing it, she announces that she will be racing in the Scorpio races.

The Scorpio races is a race in which the man-eating horses, the capaill uisce, are harnessed and raced on by people. It's an island tradition that has the feeling of dating back before anyone can remember first settling onto the island. For some reason, it appears that Thisby is the only island that really is visited by the capaill uisce and it is a novelty for tourists; the capaill uisce begin to appear in October (well, more heavily, it seems that there always there or there year round), and the Scorpio Races take place on November 1.

Alright, so Gabe is like, WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO RACE? and Kate's like YEAH, and Gabe's like CRAP, WELL I'LL STAY UNTIL AFTER THE RACES, BUT I'M LEAVING RIGHT AFTER THAT. So Kate and Finn begin to go through a lot of emotional turmoil over their brother leaving. As the reader, we slowly get to see how Kate sees her brothers and Finn turns out to be a person who tinkers a lot; by tinkers I mean always has to be doing something with his hands, takes things apart and puts them back together, and very observant.

Also, I'm not entirely sure of Kate's exact age. I'm not sure if it was mentioned in the book, but I think she's either 16 or 17 but she could be 18. Her attitude in the beginning of the book originally led me to believe that she was much younger, say 12 or 13 but to enter the races you have to be 14, and there are other clues along the way such as the remark of her transitioning from girl to woman that makes me uncertain as to what her age is. It does bother me to not know her age.

Anyways, the story progresses so that we're introduced to a variety of characters that all in large or small ways, contribute to the shape of our two main characters. Eventually Sean and Kate meet each other and begin to slowly work their way through of acquaintance  to a bond of some sort, to a general uncertainty about the other person.

I'm really not inclined to venture into spoiler land on this one, or to delve too in depth into it as there are a lot of subtle intricacies, metaphors, symbolism, and so much more happening in this book. I suppose it could be read as a straight forward book, but it would be ignoring the heart of the book.

I will say that it took them a long while to get to the actual races, really the races are at the very end of the book, and at points I did struggle with maintaining my attention on the book. It was easy for me to leave and do something else before coming back to it, yet I was still curious enough about the story to come back for it. There does seem to be an unexplained magic about it.'s a very curious book, yet I would say it was worth the read.

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Seize the Day

So a quick news update.

I added some nifty things on the right side of this blog such as a way to search through blog posts for something in particular, an option to join this site or 'follow it' to receive emails of when I post, a way to translate the blog, the google +1 button, and a very short list of blogs that a couple of folks I know do.

If you want to see something over there that isn't, leave a comment. :)

If you have a blog that you would like linked to my blog, leave a comment with the url in it. :)

That is all.

The title is brought to you by Newsies, Seize the Day as I'm having a nostalgic musical day.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Amelia Lost

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amerlia Earhart by Candace Fleming

Amazon summary, "From the acclaimed author of The Great and Only Barnum—as well as The Lincolns, Our Eleanor, and Ben Franklin's Almanac—comes the thrilling story of America's most celebrated flyer, Amelia Earhart. 

In alternating chapters, Fleming deftly moves readers back and forth between Amelia's life (from childhood up until her last flight) and the exhaustive search for her and her missing plane. With incredible photos, maps, and handwritten notes from Amelia herself—plus informative sidebars tackling everything from the history of flight to what Amelia liked to eat while flying (tomato soup)—this unique nonfiction title is tailor-made for middle graders." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

Pop quiz: What's the first thing you think of when you hear 'Amelia Earhart'?


For me, I immediately think of a woman who tried to fly around the world but crashed before she could make it.

There's also some vague association with the Bermuda triangle and her crash. That's a completely false association by the by, I think I just have it because of various fiction books I've read that have fictionally linked them together.

I have to give my spiel about history; I find it a tad boring to learn about history because history has usually been introduced to me through textbooks. Textbooks that are so horrendously boring that I'd rather read a children's cereal box for eight hours than the textbook for ten minutes.

History written in the fashion that this book is written in, well I really wished I had come across this sort of material earlier. The more good historical non-fiction books I've come across, the more I want to see what else is out there. This book was recommended to me by a very good friend, and I loved it.

So, the amazon summary actually did a good job. When I first tried to read this book I was a little put off by having to alternate between the action of losing Amelia Earhart, and learning about her life. As I got more into the book, I found that I wanted to learn much more about the woman herself rather than her disappearance.

Amelia Earhart is kind of inspiring for simply the way she defies the normal expectations of a female, she doesn't go out of her way to do it, she simply does what she wants to do because she wants to do it.

So if you want to learn more about Amelia Earhart, I strongly recommend this book. It doesn't really feel like learning, it feels like reading a good book.

I learned surprising tidbits about her, like how she cared for the sick and wounded returning from war, or that her mother had female pants fashioned for her and her sister when they were just kids. The little things that really paints the complete picture.

After reading this book, I can answer my own pop quiz more effectively: I think of Amelia Earhart as a woman who strove to take on the bits of the world that interested her. She also happened to fall in love with aviation and relentlessly sought out her passion.

Happy reading!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Confused as to why I'm talking about a mildly older book? DON'T BE. THE LINK OF ALMOST DETAILS

Didn't read The Olympians series? That's okay! I read them and reviewed them already! OH MAN, LIST OF LINKS GOOO!

When I post about The Son of Neptune, I'm only going to link back to this post because all these links are getting slightly tedious and obnoxious.

What's that? Amazon summary? BAM. "Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently she’s his girlfriend Piper, his best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on? 
Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god
Rick Riordan, the best-selling author of the Percy Jackson series, pumps up the action and suspense in The Lost Hero, the first book in The Heroes of Olympus series.  Fans of demi-gods, prophesies, and quests will be left breathless--and panting for Book Two." AMAZON LINK OF THAT SUMMARY WASN'T AS BAD AS THE LAST ONEEE

Okay, I know in my last post I said I would take mini break and read two books, but this book was right there, and I knew Percy wasn't the voice in it, and after five books of Percy in an awesome world, I wanted some awesome world sans Percy. So I read it. Don't get me wrong, I normally like Percy, but I was a little overwhelmed by the Percy perspective about everything. So there. I read the book. NYAH.

So this book definitely mixes everything up a little bit. One, there's no Percy narration (small sigh of relief). Two, there's three different narrators (and they're all NEW characters! OOO). Three, the new characters react appropriately to being introduced to all the different stuff at camp and don't dwell too long on stuff we already know from the previous books. So refreshing. Again, I really did enjoy the last series, but awesome world sans Percy Jackson! I'm ready for Percy to be in the next book, but a little break, just a little one was nice.


So the book begins with Jason narrating in his very amnesia riddled state. He becomes aware while holding Piper's hand and with Leo cracking jokes nearby. He's like, "Uh...what? WHAT IS THIS?" kind of deal. So he's trying to puzzle everything out and introduced to a school for 'troubled kids' and they're on a field trip to the grand canyon. Alright that's cool.

So Jason meanders around asking questions, being weird, and everyone else kind of giving him a little space and giving him weird looks since they're all under the impression that's been there all semester. Then Coach Hedge gives it away. Coach Hedge is their gruff teacher who is leading the field trip and asks Jason if he's the special package and reveals that the Mist is making everyone believe he's been there for a while. Then all hell breaks loose. Some angry wind spirits try to come and capture them and Jason reveals he's got a coin that turns into a sword, Coach Hedge reveals he's a satyr while trying to pummel the wind spirits while Piper and Leo are kind of thrown around but are also revealed to be demi-gods. Whew.

So Annabeth and Butch (no we've never met Butch before now, I didn't withhold a fun character on you) swoop in and save them after Coach Hedge is carried off by the wind spirits. They whisk them away to camp half-blood where they start to explain things, like how Percy Jackson is missing. They go through the whole, what is camp? What is demi-god? Who are you? Hello? process.

Leo gets claimed pretty much immediately and we're taken with his narration through the Hephaestus cabin which is allegedly cursed since Beckendorf died and they reveal that a dragon is on the loose in the woods.

With the switching narrations we've learned a few important things about the three characters: Leo believes he accidentally murdered his mother while also possessing the ability to make fire (a very rare gift that Hephaestus kids SOMETIMES get, mostly in times of great peril). Jason is a blank slate, not dumb, just doesn't remember crap, or the stuff he does remember is all in Roman reference instead of Greek; he also speaks Latin. Piper's Dad has been captured by someone or something and she is led to believe that she needs to lead Jason to her Dad's captors in order to get her Dad back, but that might lead to his death.


It's also revealed that Olympus has been closed for a month and even Dionysus has been recalled up to Mount Olympus. None of the God's are answering prayers or anything, but they are still claiming their kids. It's also learned that Hera has been kidnapped and Chiron gets all white-faced and like I SWORE ON THE RIVER STYX HYPERVENTILATE IN MY BRAINNNN. Yeah.

So a quest is born! The prophecy for the quest is: "Child of lightning, beware the earth, The giants' revenge the seven shall birth, The forge and dove shall break the cage, And death unleash through Hera's rage," (Riordan, Page 128, The Lost Hero).

Jason is chosen to lead the quest because it's already known that he's a child of Zeus (did I mention that he can summon lightning and fly via controlling wind? yeah, he did that). Jason asks Leo to go with him as long as Leo can provide a ride (cue psychotic mechanical dragon), and the head counselor of the Aphrodite cabin, Drew, volunteers to go, but Piper gets all up in arms since Drew is awful. (Drew took over after Silena died.) Piper gets claimed by Aphrodite by getting glammed out (amazing hair, make up, clothes etc) and it is also known that she can charmspeak (although she doesn't really have control over it).

So they get all set to go on their quest and Annabeth is like IMMA GO LOOK FOR PERCY. NYEH. DERP. That's pretty much for Annabeth in this book. We also learn that Jason has a sister! Thalia. I know, WHAT? But it's cool.

So Leo immediately took off into the woods to find the mechanical dragon that keeps terrorizing the camp, captures it with an already lain trap, fixes it, and it takes him to bunker 9 where he puts wings on it.


So Leo returns to camp with the dragon, Leo, Piper, and Jason all take off to see the north wind Boreas to get help on their quest. They meet up with Boreas and meet his children of demented integrity (the only one that actually matters right now is Khione as she comes into play later, the other ones seem to be there for comic relief). Boreas is like WHOA JASON, and the element of Greek vs Roman elements of the gods is introduced. It's pretty cool and there's a lot of detail and explanation in the book about it. So you should read it. Eh, eh?

There's a really creepy bit with cyclops, but due to my love of Tyson, I'm just going to gloss over it. There was something really creepy with the cyclops. Moving on.

So they escape the cyclops only to run into Medea. This is the clue that evil mortals are returning due to a more powerful force than Hades. This is the spot of the book where they run into a lot of temptation, testing of loyalties and start to really discover their powers (especially in the case of Piper). It's also kind of a humbling experience for them as well. They kind of have a battle which winds up with Medea getting doused in a whole bunch of different potions and the whole place magically exploding.

They manage to escape, fly/crash land into Midas and Leo gets a visit from his Dad in a dream. They're beginning to notice that monsters don't stay dead, evil mortals are being let out, and the doors of the dead are open so to speak. Again, playing back to the Medea theme. So Festus bit the dust and his head remained but Leo pleaded with his Father to take it to safety and Hephaestus presumably does. Midas turns Leo and Piper into golden statues (because that's kind of his thing) and Jason saves them. They get the heck out of there.

So they seek out Aeolus for help and he's CRAZYYY and they learn the information they need from him before Aeolus received orders from SOMEONE MYSTERIOUS (cue the villain for this series-no it's not Kronos-he got all stabbed last series) and tries to kill them. They're flung out of the dude's castle and Aphrodite makes sure they wind up safely in a diner after having a magic dream chat with Piper. During this dream chat, Piper figures out their big bad foe is actually the Earth itself, Gaea. It's like an 'oh crap, crapped myself' kind of moment for everyone because they're literally going to fight THE EARTH. Yeah, take it in for a moment.

So they proceed to go to the mountain where Piper's Dad is kept, manage to get him free and plummet a Giant (giant is the new titan, easiest explanation) into the earth. It's a pretty cool battle scene, but again, read the book. I'm not going to recount EVERY detail.

Piper's Dad is all delirious and confused and traumatized and they manage to get him to his private plane and give him a potion that Aphrodite gave to Piper to wipe his recent memory (like the week he was captured). Coach Hedge goes with him to protect him and the three heroes go onward to free Hera.

Alright, back to the prophecy. So the line, "The forge and dove shall break the cage" comes into play here as they get into the Wolf Manor where Hera is being imprisoned and Piper with Leo work on breaking the cage. Leo uses a saw, Piper charmspeaks it into going away. Meanwhile, big battle takes place with Leo and the Hunters (YAY HUNTERS! AKA THALIA & CO!) but the main point is, they get Hera free. A big nasty Giant is also summoned in this time, but mostly Hera is free. WHEW.

A lot of things are revealed about the difference between Thalia and Jason and their mutual crazy mother (which is pretty neat) and Hera claims Jason as her champion and takes on a weird bitter hag kind of persona and send them back to camp half-blood sans the Hunters as they still have things to hunt or something. They appear in the middle of dinner with their feet in people's food which is pretty funny.

So they tell them everything that happened and they deduce that there are actually two demi-god camps; one for the Greek aspects of the gods and one for the Roman aspects of the gods. Jason is from the Roman camp, and has been sent in place of Percy, and they believe that Percy has been sent to the Roman camp which is why Annabeth can't find him.

THE END of this book. Essentially.

There are of course a lot of neat little things that happened in this book like Piper randomly spouting Cherokee folklore at the readers and a lot of fun moments from Coach Hedge and Leo. I strongly recommend the book series.

Happy reading!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Confused as to why I'm reviewing this older book? SATIATE YOUR CURIOSITY WITH A LINK OF ALMOST DETAILS

Missed out on the first four books in the series? SAD. DON'T WORRY, I ALREADY REVIEWED THEM!

This is the last book in this series, but the characters continue into The Heroes of Olympus series which I will get to. I will take a brief book break to read two books as they have due dates in which I need to return them, but I will be reading The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, and AT LAST, The Mark of Athena. 

THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THIS ROAD. Although I thought the road was pretty well lit to begin with, but metaphors get weird.


Amazon summary that SUCKS, "All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds are against them. Kronos is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, his power only grows. In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling series, the prophecy surrounding Percy’s sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate." AMAZON LINK OF SUCKAGE

So to get this book review going, I'm going to paraphrase the freaking prophecy that's been held from us for the past four books and finally revealed to us in chapter three. By paraphrase, I mean take that prophecy off of the one page it appears on and ignore the banter that happens around it. YAY!!!

"A half-blood of the eldest gods, shall reach sixteen against all odds, And see the world in endless sleep, The hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap, A single choice shall end his days, Olympus to preserve or raze." (Riordan, Page 55, The Last Olympian).

That's basically the summary of the book that should have been present in the amazon summary, but whatever. Also, I've read the book and I'm still puzzling over how some of the lines could possibly fit into what unfolds in the book. Seriously. What?

Meh. Moving on.

So the book begins with Percy and Beckendorf (who was mentioned in passing in previous books, but the most noteworthy thing about him is that he is a son of Hephaestus, likes to tinker with things, and befriended the Hell Hound Mrs. O'Leary) going on a 'covert' mission to sabotage Luke/Kronos' cruise ship. They get on board and start placing Greek Fire in the boiler room, but some bad guys start coming. So Percy is like, "UH, UH, I GOT THIS! DISTRACTION ACTIVATE! ONWARD!" and basically charges through the ship drawing everyone's attention, but he falls neatly into a trap from Kronos. They fall into some banter, the ship blows up with everyone on it except for Percy, so Beckendorf is killed. That matters. No really it does I promise. It'll come in play in later.

So Percy gets blown off the ship, winds up in 'Daddy's Palace' as Tyson puts it and has a meet and greet with his Dad. He learns that things under the sea are awful, battles are everywhere and Poseidon's palace is slowly being destroyed despite their best efforts. There's a few cool details here and there, but basically Percy is shipped back to camp half-blood where he delivers the news of Beckendorf's death to the camp and also learns the actual prophecy. Now Beckendorf's death is a big deal because he was the head camper of his cabin and also the boyfriend of Silena, who's the head camper of the Aphrodite cabin. That's important.

So Clarisse is throwing a fit (and I'm sorely disappointed that the underlying explanation/brush off from characters is because she's a female (sexist pigs)) about her cabin not getting glory when glory is deserved. Blah. That's important. She and Silena are best friends and Clarisse has gone way too mother hen at Silena. It's a little creepy. Annabeth and Clarisse still have an understanding of sorts (seriously, there's a lot more FEMALES ARE MYSTERIOUS AND MAN SAYS WHAAAATTT at them kind of attitude in this book which is excessively obnoxious).

Percy and Annabeth are kind of at odds because she's miffed that he's been spending time with Rachel Elizabeth Dare to escape from camp.

OH HOLD UP. I SHOULD SMACK MYSELF. But I won't, don't worry.

This book takes place AFTER most of summer has happened and I think about five days before Percy's birthday. Let's ignore that this book basically takes place in five days. And the whole summer which is where the adventures usually happen. And that we basically know next to nothing about what truly happened during the summer except implied training and the recruiting of some half-bloods. ....yeah that happened. None of the school year was really addressed, Percy has kind of a 'sigh' statement about it but that's it. A little annoyed by that. The writing of this book seems like Riordan has been waiting to WRITE THIS BOOK FOREVER so he ignores small details that he never failed to mention in previous books. It's mildly annoying.

Alright whatever.

So Nico has been in touch with Percy (allegedly, I mean we KIND of saw at the end of The Battle of the Labyrinth but not really), and has this plan to dunk him in the River Styx like Achilles and what he suspects that Luke did in order to be able to hold Kronos essence being thingy. Percy is like NO THAT'S WEIRD HEEBIE GEEBIES (but he doesn't really explain his misgivings very well). So Nico convinces him and they take a weird adventure into the history of Luke and it's creepy. You can read the book to find that out.

This is about a third of the way through the book, so OFF TO SPOILER LAND WE GO. WHEEE.

So then Nico and Percy go see Percy's Mom and get her blessings before adventuring into the Underworld. I'm glossing over some stuff but with this one I'm going from memory about the book instead of constantly referring to it as I did in my previous ones. Sometimes it's just tedious to hunt for quotes or points in a book.

ANYWAYS. So they get to the Underworld and Percy is like MAN THIS IS CREEPY, SUP HADES, WAIT, HADES? and Hades is all BAHAHAHAHAHA, NO I WILL NOT HELP, SCREW MY BRETHREN TO THE STICKING PLACE and we get to see Persephone and her mother Demeter be like, "Ugh mortals, what's over there?" essentially. Very uncool. So Hades is like PERCY, IMMA TRAP YOU, Nico is like NOOOOO.....NOOOOOO and Percy is like WELL SCREW THIS NOISE and books it. Nico and Percy make it to the River Styx and Percy is like JUMP INTO THE WATERRR and gets his blessing and Annabeth is the thing he clings to as his mortal chain or some nonsense. Meh. So now he's all invincible except for one spot on the small of his back. Whoo.

They go back to camp, where they essentially rally the troops and run off to go defend Mount Olympus from Kronos' army that he's assembled there. There's a big battle, everyone gets wounded, someone gets killed, it's all fascinating. This spans for probably 7-8 chapters. And yeah, it's a BIG EPIC BATTLE with lots of COOL LITTLE THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN IT, but it's gets boring telling you who killed what and whatever. It was very exciting to read, and a lot of moments happened where I went YEAH! GET 'EM! at the book, but I would recount all the chapters before I felt satisfied, and no one REALLY WANTS THAT.

So the battle winds down to a scuffle between Luke and Kronos as Luke is like NOT ANNABETH, NO, MY BODY DANG IT, Kronos is like STUPID MORTAL HURK and Percy is like QUICK, STAB YOURSELF and Luke is like I'LL DIE WITH HONOR AND NOT ANNABETH BEING DEAD and stabs himself. It's pretty climatic and awesome. So they get rewards from the Gods and Percy's request is that all the gods/goddesses claim their sons/daughters that are spread around the world by the time the half-blood is thirteen. AND that they all get cabins as well so they stop cramming into Hermes' cabin.

So Rachel Elizabeth Dare was there for the battle and she hijacks a pegasus and goes to camp half-blood (which mortals are NOT supposed to be able to enter). She does a weird thing and becomes the Oracle of Delphi, effectively replacing the creepy mummy. Then she goes to live her life normally. I don't know either. She basically dumps Percy because the Oracle must remain a virgin (yeah, I got a little weirded out too). So Percy and Annabeth get together with all the kissing and the scene basically fades out all whimsical like, as if their troubles are over (AS IF).

Alright, I'm just done here. It's been a wonderful journey. I'm going to take a breather from Percy Jackson and read other things before getting back to it. I will post about The Heroes of Olympus series this month, so don't despair! :)

HURK. HURKKKK. I almost forgot to go over Percy's prophecy from the beginning of this post/book whatever, and the new prophecy we get! OOO PROPHECY COOKIES. Let's break the first prophecy down.

"A half-blood of the eldest gods"-This could have been someone other than the brothers (Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus) so I'm not entirely sure why that's SO important.
"shall reach sixteen against all odds" -Yeah, that happened sure.
" And see the world in endless sleep"- We did see Manhattan was put to sleep by Morpheus for Kronos' army, but that wasn't the WORLD. I'm a little miffed about that line.
"The hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap," -When this happened in the book (Luke stabbing himself) they explain why the blade he stabs himself is cursed, so that was fine.
"A single choice shall end his days"-ALRIGHT, THIS I DRAW ISSUE WITH. This line implies that the half-blood first spoken of will be the one to end, not the hero whose soul is reaped. So it really wants you to believe that PERCY should be dead and NOT Luke. SHAME ON YOU PROPHECY.
"Olympus to preserve or raze."- This line seems to imply again, the half-blood referred to in the first line will be the one to preserve or raze Olympus, but really it was all up to Luke pretty much. He made the ultimate choice to kill himself, Percy just gave him the blade to stab himself with. What the heck.

Alright, fine fine. Have a different interpretation? Comments people. Comments.

Grover has a weird EVERYTHING WORKED OUT FOR ME BECAUSE ONE SILLY SATYR DIED. WHEE. Which I hate. I hate that's how he set up for the next series. It just irks me that he seemed to be like, "I need Grover to get from Point A to Point B, but how....I KNOW. MURDER. HAHAHAHAHA." ...yeah.

New prophecy! Which spawns the next series, kind of. Well, basically yeah. Meh. GRAY AREA.

"Seven half-bloods shall answer the call. To storm or fire, the world must fall. An oath to keep with a final breath, And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death," (Riordan, Page 368, The Last Olympian).

It's so nicely vague for him. Or maybe he's trying to provide a very loose structure to the next series. Fine Riordan, give yourself some vague wiggle room. I'll read it anyways. I already have (except for The Mark of Athena).

Yes, I really do like these books a lot. I've just been dragging my feet about this review for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe because there's so much snow to play in outside. That's probably it. Hmmm...Snowman time? EXCELLENT.


Happy reading!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pork and Mushrooms

So I love the dish in most Chinese restaurants that is called "Pork and Mushrooms". I am a little mad that there doesn't seem to be any concrete recipe out there that I can find to make such a dish, so I took it upon myself to try to make it. THIS IS AN EXPERIMENTAL DISH THAT I HAVEN'T MASTERED MAKING YET. THERE. DISCLAIMER.

It was good, it wasn't quite the same, but I still enjoyed it.

So here's what I did.

-2 lbs Boneless pork chops
-16 ounces of fresh mushrooms
-2 little bundles of green onions
-10 ounces of plum duck sauce
-1 tablespoon of olive oil - I'm only putting this on here because that's what I would use to cook with if I didn't have a super duper non-stick pan of justice. If you have an AMAZING non-stick pan of justice, then omit olive oil.


Ingredients! ASSEMBLE! There's actually twenty ounces of plum duck sauce here, but I only used 10 ounces. I just like to be cautious and get two.

This is what I meant by two little bundles, I don't know EXACTLY how much this is, but this is the idea.

So I started by cutting up my green onions like so; omitting the base where it's white/light green in color.

Then I took the cap off of the stems of the mushrooms. I personally don't really like the stems, so I just tossed them out. I also broke the mushroom heads in half. If you have an unsavory looking mushroom head, just toss it out.

How the pork chop started (left), after the fat was trimmed (middle), and after it was cut up into bite sized pieces.

I put the cut up pork and cut up green onions in the pan to cook.

A blurry picture of it cooking. I cooked it on medium-low heat to ensure that the pork was cooked.

Mmmm...cook that pork.

So my pork cooked. I added the mushrooms and 10 ounces of plum duck sauce at the same time.

I covered it to cook it, stirring occasionally for about ten minutes. I kept it on a scale of 1-8, between 2 & 3. I checked it and it got kind of stupid watery looking. I freaked out a little and threw some salt in. Probably a quarter of a teaspoon's worth.

It was still pretty watery when I finished, so my advice if you don't want it watery, cook the pork and drain it before adding the mushrooms and sauce. Pork tends to be a watery meat. My end dish looked a little like soup, and for some reason that picture did NOT upload. *grumpy noises*.

I solved my soup problem just by using a strained spatula to get it into my bowl. It was pretty delicious. I added a little extra plum duck sauce to my strained bowl for a little extra flavor. Because I'm cool like that.

My end results from this experimental dish is that cook the pork longer next time, drain any water after pork is cooked before adding mushrooms and sauce, and then maybe sauce it a little extra at the end.

Cooking isn't an exact science to me. I like to dabble to see what makes it taste better (or sometimes horribly taste worse), and then go from there. LIFE EXPERIENCE. WHOO.

Try this recipe and made it differently? Let me know in a comment! COMMENTS ARE COOL. Eh? Eh?
OR. If you know the REAL recipe on how to make the chinese food dish commonly referred to as "Pork and Mushrooms", PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I will try to make it and post my results here.

Happy cooking!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Battle of the Labyrinth

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Confused as to why I'm reviewing this older book? WONDER NO MORE! CLICK THE LINK OF MOSTLY DETAILS

Missed the first three books in the series? YOU DON'T HAVE TO! I REVIEWED THEM AS WELL!!!

...alright, business done. TIME FOR REVIEWING ANTICS.

Amazon summary to get this going, "Percy Jackson isn’t expecting freshman orientation to be any fun.  But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears on campus, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to diabolical. 

In this latest installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos’s army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop them, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth—a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn. Full of humor and heart-pounding action, this fourth book promises to be their most thrilling adventure yet." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE

Alright, something I'm going to shame face about that I didn't touch on in my last review of The Titan's Curse, is that Percy was saved by a mortal while he was at the Hoover Dam (I didn't even mention the Hoover Dam in my last review because it's such a 'nothing super important happens here, but look! Historical monument!'). The mortal's name is Rachel Elizabeth Dare (which is spelled out for us numerous times in this book, probably once or twice in the last book) and she has a rare mortal ability; she has clear vision. Clear vision is when she can see through the mist regardless of how much mist is used. Percy asked his mother about it at one point who admitted to have much stronger clear vision when she was younger, but it has faded over the years.

That will come into play later.

I was going to do this by chapter to make it more thorough, but then I felt like it was writing a college paper for a class, and that's NOT what I want to do. So have some random meanderings again. :)

So the book begins with Percy attending an orientation for his new school that he'll start in the fall; it just happens to be the school that his mom's boyfriend Paul runs. At orientation, his hackles are up as if he's suspicious he's in danger and he runs into Rachel Elizabeth Dare. As I said above, she was in the last book for a five second scene but helped him escape the Hoover Dam. During orientation, some cheerleaders come out, Rachel gets all white in the face and basically books it. Percy follows and they get cornered in the band room by a couple of cheerleaders who turn out to be Empousai, servants of Hecate.

Now this doesn't seem like a big deal, but it reveals a major clue about the political battle in Olympus. Hecate is a minor goddess, and she's probably siding with Kronos if her servants are attacking Percy, and a mortal. This kind of makes you wonder, what other minor gods/goddesses are siding with Kronos? Who exactly is sizing up for battle here?

So, Percy and Rachel manage to escape and meet up with Annabeth who was supposed to meet Percy to go see a movie. With the whole fleeing thing, and Percy fleeing with a girl, Annabeth isn't too happy with him. Percy is a mass confusion of 'boy becoming man, what is romance?' and kind of tries to be nicer to Annabeth who is angry for some reason he can't discern. Rachel stayed behind at the school to try and explain things and why Percy fled.

They make it to camp Half-blood where the dragon guarding the golden fleece gets a little scene of Annabeth scratching it's chin and Percy remarking, MY HOW BIG IT'S GOTTEN in his brain. This might be relevant in the next book, but it's just a red herring in this book.

So Percy and Annabeth make their way around camp, Annabeth left Percy to his own devices and Percy meets a giant hell hound by the name of Mrs. O'Leary. Quintus, a son of Ares is the master of the hell hound and a surprise to Percy as he never considered being an adult and a half-blood. Tyson is back, Grover is given a week deadline to find the lost God of the Wilds, Pan, and Percy received an Iris message from someone depicting Nico speaking with a ghost. Camp is wonderful as usual.

So it turns out that Annabeth and Clarisse have been working together to investigate the Labyrinth; the place that Daedalus originally kept the Minotaur for King Minos; the King of Crete. Backstory on Daedalus; he's the guy who invents a lot of really nifty things and while trying to escape King Minos, he crafted wings for his son Icarus and himself, but the wax didn't hold and Icarus died during the escape attempt. Tragedy for everyone!

Anyways, so Clarisse went on a secret mission for Chiron last year into the Labyrinth and discovered that the Kronos army is planning on using it. The Labyrinth has just kept building itself since it's incarnation and moves with Olympus; so it's under the United States and links to anywhere in the United States. It's basically an express highway from anywhere to anywhere as long as you don't fall prey to the traps and monsters that lurk in the Labyrinth. Also, the Labyrinth can read your thoughts and try to trick you. People go insane down there. More tragedy for everyone! YAY!!!!....wait, no. ...NOOOO.

Annabeth believes that Daedalus can help them against Kronos, and that Pan is underground. We're going to speed ahead a little bit to boil it down that Annabeth, Tyson, Grover, and Percy all go on the quest into the Labyrinth. Annabeth reveals only pieces of the prophecy she received from the Oracle about her quest and she's very reluctant to give up one line of it. That will come into play later.

NOW, this is a third of the way through the book. These 'little' books pack a lot in such a short amount of time. SO OFF TO SPOILER LAND WE GO!!!


Alright, so the first chunk of Labyrinth adventures actually falls in the first third of the book, but I didn't want to deal with it before spoiler land was declared. BLOO HOO HOO, whatever.

So the quest undertakers get a visit from Hera who grants one wish and spews advice at them. She has a high and mighty attitude because, she's a goddess, but also because she seems to feel very serene in the fact that she is the only Olympian God that doesn't have a bunch of half-mortal children running around. Some of Hera's advice includes: seek out Hephaestus, beware of the minor gods, and the wish requested, she told them that Percy already knew the answer (which any reader would know if they were paying attention COUCH RACHEL ELIZABETH DARE COUGH COUGH) but Percy is like LOL WHAT? BOY NOISES. DERP.

Another tidbit about the Labyrinth adventure, is they managed to free a hundred handed one; the last one left, Briarers. Briares is Tyson's Hero, capital H just for Tyson, but he's lost faith in himself. They manage to escape his jailer and get back into the labyrinth, but Briares has lost himself, and so loses himself in the Labyrinth. No, that's not a whimsical metaphor, I mean he literally has a moment of, "I'M NOT GOOD FOR ANYONE ANYMORE, YOU CAN'T CONVINCE ME *leaves down a random Labyrinth corridor*". Really Briarers? Four beings just risked their lives for you, and you're going to run away. GENIUS.

A cool little background story device that Riordan keeps using is to make Percy dream of things that have passed, things that are happening right now, and sometimes dreams where he is communicated with or can communicate with someone. There are many of these infrequently throughout the book and I don't find them tedious at all, I kind of wished we were shown his dreams more.

ANYWAYS, so they cruise through the Labyrinth some more and they wander out onto a ranch where a lot of unsavory creatures are kept (such as flesh eating horses, and sacred cattle among others). They meet up with Nico again who's still kind of half-crazy from listening to the ghost of King Minos, and the dudes who run the ranch basically threaten to have none of their crap and take them to Kronos. Percy is like, WAIT WAIT, BARTER? and agrees to clean up all of the horse poop in the flesh eating horse pen if they let all of them go (including Nico). The dude is like BAHAHA SUREEEEE and gives him till sunset. Now Hercules already solved this once by using a river to clean out all the muck, but the river naiad is like GET AWAY FROM MY RIVER, YOU GONNA DAMAGE MY ECO-SYSTEM. RADSAFADFDFH. Percy is like, geez, okay okay, and then the naiad tells him that the water is within him (essentially and complete with metaphors and blah). Percy goes, "Hmmm...." and kind of digs up some sea shells that were in the ground and throws them in the pen. Sea water erupts from the seashells and starts to just take the poop underground in a sense. So Percy throws all the seashells all over the pen, makes the horses upset because they don't like baths, and clears out the pen. He also mentions a weird tugging sensation in his stomach.

So he goes back just in time, tells him he succeeded, the evil guy who runs the ranch is like, "Sweet, but I didn't swear on the River Styx, so sucks to be you" and tries to capture Percy. Percy and the evil ranch guy's henchmen are like DUDE, NOT COOL and kill him. Henchmen kind of sees the light, agrees to let Nico stay, and the quest undertakers are on their way again. They summon Bianca while at the ranch, but she basically tells Nico to stop trying to resurrect her and that Percy is a good dude so stop being a brat towards him.

So they go through the Labyrinth, Percy has some more dreams about Luke, they make their way to Hephaestus (which I can never spell right on the first try for some reason, damn you tricky god name!) who tells them to gain his favor they need to figure out who's using his forge in Mount St. Helens (a big mountain in the United States). They're like SURE, WHATEVER, WON'T BE TOO HARD. They go, Tyson and Grover go off on their own because they scented Pan, and so Percy and Annabeth go on to the forge. There they discover that the creatures that made weapons before the cyclops, the telkhines (they're like black sea serpent dog things), who are all mad because the Olympian gods use their weapons but then cast them out for using MAGIC. On a sidenote, I'm not entirely sure what the difference between magic and godly power is; magic seems to be godly power that the immortals don't want being used, but they can use it whenever they want. Um. I don't know.

Percy summons the water within, basically blows everything up because water+lava=BADDDD. Typhon, the most feared being besides Kronos was sleeping under their and might be awake now. Whoops. So Percy is dumped on Calypso's island where he's like MAN SHE'S PRETTY, OH GOD EVERYTHING HURTS, decides to leave and hates to make Calypso all sad because she fell in love with him for the two weeks he was there recooperating. Now the main reason I mention Calypso is because she brings up the point that she was banished for supporting her family (ATLAS, BECAUSE ZOE NIGHTSHADE LAST BOOK WAS ALSO DAUGHTER OF ATLAS, NURRR) but she didn't do much or something and the gods kind of took pity on her and imprisoned her on a beautiful island where their are nice creatures and a garden for her to tend. And also invisible servants. Her curse is that the only visitors she'll get (besides gods) are heroes she'll fall in love with but who will leave her. The island is also cursed to never accept a man twice onto the island, he can only travel their once. (In my opinion she should start a book club with the minor goddesses, but whatever, moving on.) Basically Percy is like, "Yeah, I fight for my Dad because he's my Dad...and I guess he's right. But Olympus kind of sucks as a whole, but my Dad *quaffles*". He leaves the island, goes back to camp and everyone there is like OMGWTF PERCY YOU'RE ALIVE? BLOO HOO HOO YAY!

I feel like this is going on for forever so let's wrap up the last section of the book.

Major battle happens at camp, some of the campers die, Briares gets some faith in himself and helps them win the battle, Quintus turns out to be Daedalus, doesn't really help them much, helps them more by dying and collapsing the labyrinth. Briares goes down to help in Poseidon's forges where the other cyclops are, Grover, Tyson, Percy, Annabeth, and Nico found Pan (before the Labyrinth collapsed whoops) and Pan was like I'M DYING, LET ME DIE DAMN YOU and tells them that it's up to everyone else to protect the wild places. Grover gets all WAH but delivers the message to the other Satyrs, the elders are like BLASPHEMY but the others ones are like ALRIGHT, LET'S DO THIS, and get down to business. Rachel Elizabeth Dare came back into play and led them through the labyrinth with her clear vision and escaped with them and she's fine.

Also, it turns out that Luke sacrificed himself to Kronos essentially and became a living vessel for him. So now Kronos is in charge of Luke's body, and Luke is still questionably there. Annabeth hasn't given up hope on Luke yet.

At the very end of the book, Percy's Mom throws a birthday party for him and Tyson, Paul Blofis (the mom's boyfriend) all attend and play games. I want to quote the book because I laughed out loud at this, "We ate blue cake and ice cream until we couldn't eat anymore. Then we played a bunch of cheesy party games like charades and Monopoly. Tyson didn't get charades. He kept shouting the answer he was trying to mime, but it turned out he was really good at Monopoly. He knocked me out in the game in the first five rounds and started bankrupting my mom and Paul," (Riordan, Pages 358-359; The Battle of the Labyrinth). I love that paragraph simply because it seems so REAL and family-like. It was rather touching and FUNNY. So there you go. (Percy has turned fifteen now in case you're keeping tabs.)

Poseidon visits during the party, hears Percy's whole story and gives him a sand dollar as a birthday present. He also mentions that the war came to him first at sea and he's giving it all he's got to protect the land from typhoons and hurricanes and what not. So they're already at war.

The party winds down, Percy sequesters a piece of cake to his room, roots around in his pocket and finds that Calypso left him a flower to plant his own garden with. He plants the flower and Nico scares the crap out of him as Nico is chilling out on his fire escape. Nico is like "I HAVE IMPORTANT THINGS TO TELL YOU-Is that birthday cake?" Percy is like, "Whoa, dude, come inside, eat the cake and let's talk."

Book ends.

So things we know so far...
Kronos is actually in a biped form now via Luke's body.
We STILL don't know the exact prophecy about the child of the big three and when they turn sixteen.
Annabeth revealed her full prophecy which I'm going to paraphrase, "You shall delve into darkness of the endless maze, The dead, the traitor, and the lost one raise. You shall rise or fall by the ghost king's hand, And the child of Athena's final stand, Destroy with a hero's final breath, And lose a love to worse than death." Percy and Annabeth spend pages 348 and 349 talking about it and dissect the entire prophecy for you. Now the line we care about right now is "And lose a love to worse than death" which Annabeth thinks is about Luke.
Dionysus confirmed that the minor gods/goddesses are indeed switching over to Kronos's side.
Nico and Percy are becoming friends? Eh?
Annabeth and Percy might have a romantic relationship trying to blossom (she kissed him at one point this book).

Everyone might die.

The end.

JUST KIDDING. There's another book in this series, and then there's another series after this series. EXCELLENT.

On a side note, this is probably my favorite book in this series. There's a lot of stuff that happens, some great characterization, and a lot of coming together of things mentioned in the previous books, and things mentioned now that will into play later. As an aspiring writer, I find this book rather inspiring.

Happy reading!