Trials of Apollo: The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

Summery

At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here! Will the Greek god Apollo, cast down to earth in the pathetic moral form of a teenager named Lester Papadopoulos, finally regain his place on Mount Olympus? Lester’s demigod friends at Camp Jupiter just helped him survive attacks from bloodthirsty ghouls, an evil Roman king and his army of the undead, and the lethal emperors Caligula and Commodus. Now the former god and his demigod master Meg must follow a prophecy uncovered by Ella the harpy. Lester’s final challenge will be at the Tower of Nero, back in New York. Will Meg have a last showdown with her father? Will this helpless form of Apollo have to face his arch nemesis, Python? Who will be on hand at Camp Half-Blood to assist? These questions and more will be answered in this book that all demigods are eagerly awaiting.

Thoughts

It has been a real hot minute since I wrote a review, so this one may be short and how just how rusty I am.

The Trials of Apollo series is one that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and I genuinely sad to see come to an end. The way that Rick Riordan writes Apollo aka Lester Papadopoulos makes me laugh every time and is filled while such entertaining and consistent wit. It feels true to how the god would of been in all the myths.

Throughout the series we have seen characters from across the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series grow and evolve getting glimpses into where their lives have headed since the end of their respective stories. As a reader that thrives on character connection this is something that I absolutely love seeing.

The overall plot of ‘The Tower of Nero’ ties together all the loose ends from the previous 4 books of the ‘Trials of Apollo’ series. Allowing characters, readers and listeners the closure that is needed after such a saga of events.

I am honestly sad to see the end of this series and really hope for more Lester Papadopoulos in the future.

What are your thoughts on the series?

The Gender Secret by Bella Forrest

The Gender Secret
by Bella Forrest
#2 in the Gender Game Series

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Date: 2016
Pages: 411
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Dystopian
Days to Read: 2
Purchase Locations: Amazon and Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia

Gliding over the treacherous Green in a shaky aircraft that she has no idea how to land, Violet Bates is still in shock. The harrowing events of the previous night play over in her mind as she asks herself question after question.

Why did Lee Desmond Bertrand behave the way he did?

What is the truth about the mysterious silver egg stowed beneath her seat?

What happened to Viggo and where is her brother? Is either of them still alive?

When Violet manages to reach the toxic ground alive, she has landed in a world of unimaginable danger. She has barely time to catch her breath before she is sucked into a perilous journey at breakneck speed – to uncover secrets guarded for centuries and find the only two people that matter.

The Gender Secret follows the events that occured at the end of The Gender Game. We follow Viggo and Violet in the wake of the dramatic cliffhanger we were left on at the end of the first book as well as unravelling some epic betrayals.

The ideas that are examined throughout the the first two books explore gender diferentiation, stereotypes and how the world would look if we it were divided into two cities/countries run by each gender. It was interesting to see how the prejudice grow throughout the stories and how they are ingrained in each culture.

Violet and Viggo as characters are both morally questionable and as a reader I can say that it definitely made them more interesting to read about. They have already developed so much from the events in the first book that I felt more interested in where their stories we heading.

The Setting of The Green, Matrus and Patrus – which I take to be a post apocolyptic USA – allows the reader to really exeperience the dystopian nature. The Greens descriptions of toxicity and the creatures affected by it gives ‘The Wilder Girls’ and ‘Annihilation’ vibes that allows the reader to see the severity of being out there and experiencing that wilderness.

The developments in the plot of the Gender Secret develop the world exponentially from the Gender Game. We begin to see the implications of a world divided by gender.

There are many ethical questions that are raised throughout be beginning of this series that cause questions about what it would mean for our world if something became more evident. This gives readers an experience that fuels many feelings and thoughts as well as promoting discussion.

Plot: 6.5/10
Ease of reading: 5/10
Character Development: 6/10
World Building: 6.5/10
Quality of Writing: 6/10
Overall: 3.5/5

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale
by Katherine Arden
#1 in the Winternight Trilogy

Publisher: Del Rey Books
Date: 2017
Pages: 323
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Histoical Fiction
Days to Read: 11
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Bear and the Nightingale follows Vasilisa a young girl living in on the brink of the wilderness in a fantasy version of Medieval Russia. She lives in a town that believes in both the christian church and the stories of old. After her mother passes away Vasilisa’s father heads to Moscow and brings home a new wife. 

Vasilisa soon discovers what happens when a truly devout woman decides that within the town household spirits will no longer be honoured and is backed by the new town priest. From the moment they arrive things begin to go downhill, from freezing winters to failing crops Vasilisa becomes highly worried about her family’s ability to survive the harsh winters. 

So, this book has A Lot going on. Vasilisa is a fantastic main character. She is wild and brave and not afraid to stand up to the norms of medieval Russia where she is oppressed and expected to be obedient. I really liked how she was wild at heart and cared deeply for the household spirits, even when it caused her to be labeled as a witch. 

The story as a whole was interesting and definitely something I hadn’t read before. Russian myth is not something I am familiar with however it is definitely mythology I would be interested in finding out more about. The story definitely had some magic woven into the hardships of winter described. 

Katherine Adren’s writing lends itself to the historical fiction fantasy genre. There were some beautiful description of the settings. Even being in the midst of summer here in Australia it was like I could feel the bitter cold Russian Winter being described. I find that particularly important to a book with such depth and detail as this. Without a greatly detailed and engaging setting I can end up feeling like the story is to dense and I am unable to get past the denseness to the beauty behind it. 

As I listened to the story on Audiobook I found it a bit hard to keep track of all the names they were definitely not super complicated but I did find that I muddled them up quite a lot. I don’t know if that is necessarily a critique of the book or just my listening skills. 

There were a few characters that I really disliked throughout the story. Vasalia’s stepmother Ana was one of them. I found her totally irrational and completely unfair to Vasalisa to the point where she was clearly treating her poorly. 

I also absolutely despise and I mean despise Constantine the priest who comes to the village. It has absolutely nothing to do with him being the religious figurehead and everything to do with him being the worst person ever. The fact that he blatantly blames a child for his actions and thoughts is something that bothers me to no end. He is also quick to sacrifice anyone but himself -even his more devout follower – when given the option to protect himself by doing so. I would get so outraged while I was reading. Especially when he wouldn’t let Vasilisa run away and the only answer for him was for her to go to a convent, even though running away would culminate in the same result. 

The beginning of the story is slow. It was a bit difficult to get into. There are so many events that happen in quick succession that are necessary for the story but also happen way too fast. I also found some moments unnecessary. While in Moscow one of Vasilisa’s brothers decides to become a monk. I don’t know if I missed something or if this will become important to the next two books but for ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ there seemed to be no reason that we spent so much time with him coming to the decision. 

The first book in this beginning to a Historical fiction trilogy that weaves the stories of Russian mythology. It follows a wild hearted protagonist who was definitely a trailblazer born into the wrong century. 

Plot: 6/10
Ease of reading: 7/10
Character Development: 6/10
World Building: 6/10
Quality of Writing: 6/10
Overall: 3/5

The Pretenders by Rebecca Hanover

The Pretenders
by Rebecca Hanover
#2 in the Similars duology

In this conclusion to The Similars duology, Emma must figure out who she really is, decide between two boys with the same face, and stop a dangerous plan based on revenge.

Emma is still reeling from the events of her junior year at Darkwood. Not only is her best friend, Oliver, shockingly alive, but the boy she loves—his Similar, Levi—is still on the island where he grew up, stranded with his deranged creator.

More importantly, she is grappling with who she really is. Emma can’t accept the hard truths she learned last year and refuses to share her secrets with anyone, isolating herself from her friends and Ollie.

But when more of the Similars’ creator’s plot is revealed, Emma and her friends will have to try to stop him from putting a plan into motion that could destroy everyone she loves. 

Throughout The Similars Duology we follow Emmaline as she attends the prestigious Darkwood Academy, where 6 clones have been enrolled. This enrollment fules huge human right debates and the schools dark histoty begins to come to light.

The Science Fiction nature of the series lends itself well to the discussion of human rights and whether cones carry the same rights as the originals. Looking at the different sides is interesting however the story doen’t really allow the reader to make up their own mind as to whether cloning and clones are right. There would have been a richer depth to the stoy if this had been the case.

None the less, the story of Emmaline and the clones is one that as a reader I found interesting. Emma’s development as a character within the second book was critical to the story and to making her a protagonist that readers have some connection with. The personal growth was minimal but the science fictional changes were imense, giving her the edge she needed to become a more dynamic lead.

The scientific elements were probably my most favourite part of the story. It was interesting to learn how the cloning began and the extent to which it runs. It could definitely make for an interesting human right debate. The clones were represented well with thoughts and ideas that were their own and an experience that would make anyone hope for better for them.

The plot twists that are thrown into this story definitely fit the science fiction genre. They added a much needed layer

Overall the story examines relationships, choice and serious human right issues all within the compass of a Young Adult story. Its a great start to what will surely be a wider debate in the future.

Plot: 7/10
Ease of reading: 7.5/10
Character Development: 6/10
World Building: 5/10
Quality of Writing: 7/10
Overall: 3.5/5

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Date: 2018
Pages: 984
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Fantasy
Days to Read: 14
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD

The final battle is here.

Aelin Galathynius has vowed to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unraveling with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, friends and allies are scattered to different fates. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever. As destinies weave together at last, all must fight if Erilea is to have any hope of salvation.

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an explosive conclusion as Aelin fights to save herself―and the promise of a better world.

Kingdom of Ash is the final book in the Throne of Glass series. We follow multiple perspectives throughout the story and travel throughout the lands of Arellia and beyond. The basics of the story (so you won’t be spoiled, dear reader) is that Aelin and her friends must go to war against Erawan, the demon lord who is taking over the continent.

Aelin has developed as a dynamic and kick ass character, she continues her growth throguhout Kingdom of Ash, becoming a beacon of strength, resiliance and empathy. I love Aelin as our leading lady. She shows what a main character should be, flawed and oh so human but willing to change. She also shows a passion for equailty among her peers and her people.

Our support cast is full of magical and mighty players in this hectic and chaotic war provide additions of much needed humor as well as showing us what is happening in other parts of this vast, expansive world.

The conclusion to this 7 book (plus one prequel book) series is in a word, epic. The setting of Arillia has changed so much over the course of the seven stories that it becomes almost like the reader is experiencing a whole new world. The description and detail really adds to this experience.

To say that Kingdom of Ash is a Tome is an understatement. The sheer mass of this books is something that I found off putting when it came to finally reading the conclusion to a series I was deeply emersed it. It was a commitment that I was anxious about making, however is not one I regret.

The Throne of Glass series as a whole includes so many great tropes. Competition is rife, Fae are many and the detail in back story and connection between past and present is made so semlessly and effectively.

Plot: 8.5/10
Ease of reading: 4/10
Character Development: 7.5/10
World Building: 5/10
Quality of Writing: 8/10
Overall: 4.5/5

The Odyssey: Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

The Odyssey
By Gareth Hinds

Publisher: Candlewick
Date: 2010
Pages: 256
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Classic
Days to Read: 2
Purchase Locations: Amazon and Kindle Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD

With bold imagery and an ear tuned to the music of Homer’s epic poem, Gareth Hinds reinterprets the ancient classic as it’s never been told before.

“Gareth Hinds brings THE ODYSSEY to life in a masterful blend of art and storytelling. Vivid and exciting, this graphic novel is a worthy new interpretation of Homer’s epic.”
—Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series

Fresh from his triumphs in the Trojan War, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, wants nothing more than to return home to his family. Instead, he offends the sea god, Poseidon, who dooms him to years of shipwreck and wandering. Battling man-eating monsters, violent storms, and the supernatural seductions of sirens and sorceresses, Odysseus will need all his strength and cunning—and a little help from Mount Olympus—to make his way home and seize his kingdom from the schemers who seek to wed his queen and usurp his throne. Award-winning graphic artist Gareth Hinds masterfully reinterprets a story of heroism, adventure, and high action that has been told and retold for more than 2,500 years—though never quite like this.

Gareth Hinds adaptation of The Odyssey is one the brings colour, vibrance and richness to a classic Homer tale. Both the Illiad and The Odyssey are stories I have expereienced in their ‘classic’ form and both are rich stories that had such an impact on my love of Greek history, culture and mythology.

In the Odyssey we follow Odysseus’ son ________, as he attempts to protect his mother from the hoard of men who wish to marry her after Odysseus is thought dead after the Trojian war. _____ is informed by the gods that his father is traped and that is why he is yet to return. Armed with this knowledge he attempts to find his father and bring him home.

The graphic novel reimagining of this story was one that provided vibrance to a story that can get bogged down in the homeric language that is used. I definitely found the story more entertaining in this format. The colors were muted which added to the story even more, with an art style that impacted me as a reader.

I enjoyed the combination of authors adaptation in dialogue form with the artwork for each character and scene. It felt very transportive and engaging, I found myself eager to continue reading the text.

At some moments through out the story I did find myself confusing some characters and forgetting their relation or importance to the story. The sheer magnitute of The Odyssy really can be overwhelming at times.

This adaptation of a classic Greek story is one that fits Gareth Hinds adaptation and art style. They complement eachother in a way that enriches historical and classical liturature and makes it accessible to all readers.

Plot: 7/10
Ease of reading: 6/10
Character Development: 7/10
World Building: 6/10
Quality of Writing: 8/10
Overall: 4/5

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This is Where it Ends
by Marieke Nijkamp

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Date: 2016
Pages: 286
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Realistic Fiction
Days to Read: 2
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.

Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Man oh man ‘This is Where it Ends’ is one hell of a realistic fiction story. Even prior to reading it I was thankful to live in Australia where in general this isn’t an issue. I was however interested in seeing how something as serious as a school shooting is portrayed in a fiction story.

I was definitely gripped by the story and began to feel invested in the characters. As a reader I found myself getting frustrated with out shooter. His irattionality and deperation to have everyone do as he says was something that made me really angry, assuming this was the authors intention it was done beautifully. I doubt a reader could pick up this book without having the same viseral dislike for the shooter.

This book definitely took my on a ride. For such a sort read I went through so many different emotions. I was saddened by the deaths of some characters as well as having the addition of tweets and texts between family members… utter heartbreak. I also felt a ton of anger towards the shooter (as we’ve noted).

‘This is Where it Ends’ is a fasyt paced read that has the reader engaged as well as educting some about the expereinces of high school students where active shooter situations are a real issue. I think this very serious topic was approched well and at an approiate level for its target audiance.

Plot: 8/10
Ease of reading: 8.5/10
Character Development: 6/10
World Building: 6/10
Quality of Writing: 7/10
Overall: 4/5

Chasing River by K.A. Tucker

Chasing River
by K.A. Tucker
#3 Burying Water

Publisher: Atria Books
Date: 2015
Pages: 336
Fiction/Non-Fiction: Fiction
Genre:  Romance
Days to Read: 27
Purchase Locations: Amazon & Kindle Audible Book Depository Booktopia Dymocks QBD Scribd

Armed with two years’ worth of savings and the need to experience life outside the bubble of her Oregon small town, twenty-five-year old Amber Welles is prepared for anything. Except dying in Dublin. Had it not been for the bravery of a stranger, she might have. But he takes off before she has the chance to offer her gratitude.

Twenty-four-year-old River Delaney is rattled. No one was supposed to get hurt. But then that American tourist showed up. He couldn’t let her die, but he also couldn’t risk being identified at the scene—so, he ran. Back to his everyday life of running his family’s pub. Only, everyday life is getting more and more complicated, thanks to his brother, Aengus, and his criminal associations. When the American girl tracks River down, he quickly realises how much he likes her, how wrong she is for him. And how dangerous it is to have her around. Chasing her off would be the smart move.

Maybe it’s because he saved her life, or maybe it’s because he’s completely different from everything she’s left behind, but Amber finds herself chasing after River Delaney. Amber isn’t the kind of girl to chase after anyone.

And River isn’t the kind of guy she’d want to catch.

Chasing River follows our main character Amber as she is embarking on an epic trip around Europe. We pick up with her in Ireland as she runs to make a tour. She runs through The Green – a park in Ireland – when a pipe bomb goes off and she is saved by a mysterious stranger. This is where our romance begins…

When it comes to romance protagonists as much as I liked the story I didn’t enjoy Amber. I felt as though she was just a random person with no real distinctive personality. I felt as though she got super attached super quickly.

I found the examination of the gangs in Ireland and how the impact on family of its members fascinating as a sub plot to the story, as well as the deep connection in the Delaney family.

‘Chasing River’ is the third book in a collection of K.A. Tucker ‘Burying Water’ from what I’ve gathered these books don’t all need to be read and each book can be read individually. As this is how I read the book this could of impacted my opinion of Amber as I did not read any of her back story.

Overall I enjoyed reading ‘Chasing River’. I chose to listen to the Audiobook which had a fantastic narrator who changed between an american accent for Amber as well as an Irish accent for River. The romance was one that I enjoyed, even though it was a bit insta-lovey.

Plot: 6/10
Ease of reading: 
7/10
Character Development: 
7/10
World Building: 
5/10
Quality of Writing
7/10
Overall:
3.5/5