Review: Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

athenaAnnabeth is terrified. Just when she’s about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo’s fantastical creation doesn’t appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that’s only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth’s biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he’s now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Putting my thoughts both into comprehensible sentences and not giving any spoilers is going to be exceedingly difficult. Because really, my thoughts are nothing but a bunch of letter gibberish with more exclamation marks than what the internet deems acceptable. And guys, that’s a lot.

While there will be no spoilers for Mark of Athena, there WILL be spoilers for everything up to here. So, Lightning Thief through Son of Neptune. YOU ARE SO WARNED. I mean this is the 8th book here, are you surprised at this? You shouldn’t be. Last warning!

At the end of Son of Neptune, there is set up for this amazingly glorious, running-in-fields-of-flowers reunion and then… it cuts to black. Picture Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean saying “You’re a cruel man, Jack Sparrow” but with me to Rick Riordan. Yeah. So this book starts off with HIGHEST expectation of that running-in-fields-of-flowers reunion. And I gotta say, there were no flowers, but it was pretty stinkin’ perfect.

Now that that’s been resolved we could move on to the actual, you know, book. I have to say, that if you’re worried about your Greeks vs Romans, no worries. This is a Greek book. POVs alternate between Percy, Annabeth, Leo and Piper and after two books with some Greekness, it’s nice to get back to our roots. I do worry that House of Hades will be all Roman, but can it be with the title being “Hades”? Anyway, my nerdiness digresses.

I have to mention the demigod dynamic. So in The Lost Hero we met Jason, Leo and Piper. Then in Son of Neptune, we meet Frank and Hazel and we get our old favorite Percy back. Now add in Annabeth who we’ve known for 5 books previously and you have The Seven. Here’s the weird thing. After two books of set-up and spending time in each one of their heads, it’s like this giant meeting of the Masters of the Universe to see them all sitting at a table, calmly discussing how to save the world. Of course we’ve got Percy and Annabeth, Greek quest-veteran extraordinaires. Then Jason, who’s surprisingly better in this book, but still a bit cardboard-y. Leo who’s kinda like Percy 2.0 with his brash humor but with Hephaestus power. Frank and Hazel who are both awesome and adorable in their own cutely quaint ways. And there’s Piper who I’m still waiting on to shine a little harder than she has so far, but she’s a sweetie regardless.

I’m hesitant to go into the quest details too much, because what I was originally going to say, a friend who pre-read this said it might be too spoilery, so here’s take two. The Mark of Athena (surprise, surprise!) is the main quest and there’s another side quest that I won’t go into but was stressful for poor me. If you liked Battle of the Labyrinth and its whole, quest-falls-on Annabeth’s-shoulders aspect, then you’ll dig this. Very similar in that way AND the Annabeth-Percy sweetness.

Oh, you want me to mention our old favorites, Percabeth? Oh, well there’s really not much to say. You know, they’re together and whatever and they’re PRETTY FREAKING AWESOME! You know that feeling when you see an adorable puppy and think ‘OMG. I DIE OF THE CUTE’? Yeah, no. Puppies ain’t got nothin’ on Percy and Annabeth. They’re like Cory and Topanga cute and if that 90s TV show reference shows my age, so be it.

Speaking of relationships, I have to say that I feel like this is the first real YA-ish book of the serieses (serieii?); definitely a stronger focus on relationships and life and all that good stuff teens have deal with. Even the chapters lose their “episodic” Middle Grade feel and adopt a broader pan over the book. So while Riordan certainly adapts for his original Percy fans’ growth, he still keeps the humor and references to the earlier books so younger readers can still keep up.

Non-spoilery, slightly gibberish thoughts on the ending:
I had a friend who stayed up all night to read the download at midnight and I was warned about the Ultimate Cliffhanger Ending that will leave me in a ball, crying like a little baby. Well, there were no tears, but I think I hyperventilated for the first time ever. That’s a new one even for the serious fan reader such as myself. Because I was SO WORRIED about this epic ending, I prepared myself for The Absolute Worse and even Epically, Insanely Nonsensical Endings. Like, we learn that Percy is actually in a crazy house and these were all massive delusions. Don’t worry, that’s not the end. That’s the end of a Buffy episode.

But because I prepped myself so much, I was shocked and awed that the ending (while completely gut-wrenching) is utterly perfect. I mean, if you’re reading this review, you must be a long term fan and there’s just no way you won’t find this perfect. But it’s also one of those endings where you might as well be put into a coma for a year, because waiting for what happens next is going to be next to impossible. I might be coping with this by listening to the audiobook now.

Guest Post: The Science Behind Ashes by Ilsa Bick

Today, we have a special treat for you guys! As part of the Shadows tour with Egmont and to celebrate the release of her second book, Shadows, Ilsa Bick stopped by give us a science lecture. But not the boring, college kind. Read as she talks about the freaking awesome science behind her books Ashes and Shadows.

The Science Behind the Ashes Trilogy

I’d read a ton of dystopian and post-apocalyptic YA lit going into this, and two things with which I always had trouble: the science (or lack thereof) and the process (that is, you never get to see how things go bad; they just are). In some of these books, people were ridiculously well behaved and altruistic, which—if you’ve paid any attention to history—is the anomaly not the norm. Now, I’m not knocking those books; there are some fine ones. Just saying.

So my idea going into the ASHES trilogy was that I wanted to create something that would bring down civilization in a big hurry, wasn’t a virus or some deadly plague, would let me actually create a setting where you could see/watch the disaster unfolding afterward, and was just credible enough to allow me to play around a bit with just how nasty people, in the aftermath of a disaster, can really be. Having cut my teeth on science fiction as a kid—I mean, it really was the YA lit of my day, which might tell you how ancient I am—the sf I most enjoyed was not . . . hard (really, if I wanted that much physics, give me the textbook) but at least believable. In fact, I once did a college paper on the science in sf. Great way to read a ton of books and get credit, too.

Basically, believability and verisimilitude were big for me. I probably gravitate to this naturally because, you know, I’m a doctor. I studied science. I know a fair bit of physics and astronomy because I am an über-geek and the fun of being a writer is learning new stuff. Since I’m also a shrink . . . the brain is my thing. Human behavior under stress was what I studied and did.


So a lot of the science in the trilogy, I just know because I know, and there wasn’t a ton of research involved, unless you count . . . wait a second . . . yeah, four years of college, four years of medical school, and then five years of a residency. So that’s, what, thirteen years of research? I’m not being cute; I’m just saying. It’s all that background that allowed me to think of the idea in the first place, and then know where to look to see if it was even feasible.

For example, sure, a massive sunspot cycle could decimate all the Earth’s electronics, and I knew that the EMPs from a-bombs are a big problem. Whether you could actually build and then deploy dedicated e-bombs was the research, and it didn’t take me all that long, although I am certain that I’m on Homeland Security’s radar. I have friends who’ve worked in defense systems, too, and having been in the military, I know that people there and in government are worried about this kind of attack. (Congress even held hearings.) The huge irony is that the military has tried to harden its equipment but if the scenario I paint is possible . . . no one’s going to be pumping and refining oil to turn into fuel, so all those military toys aren’t really going anywhere fast and you can kiss manufacturing good-bye.

The really dicey part of the equation—what might happen to people in the event of a massive wave of EMPs—well, that’s the fiction. No one knows because you really can’t do these kinds of experiments (although there is evidence that weird things happen to animals in terms of cumulative exposure to EMPs). But I do know the brain pretty well, including what happens to the traumatized brain, what age groups are most at risk, and all that. I know that the teenage brain is just this seething stew of chemicals and functions that being reset, re-equilibrated, just as I know that the aging brain is much more like a wizened little raisin: not set in stone but in need of a good juice now and again. So morphing my adolescents—whom most adults view as aliens anyway—wasn’t that big a stretch or figuring out what might protect some of my teenage characters. The task was to make all the science work without calling too much attention to it, and leaving just enough ambiguity so you’d have a story and not a textbook.

About Ilsa J. Bick:

Ilsa J. Bick is a child psychiatrist, as well as a film scholar, former Air Force major, and now a full-time author. Her critically acclaimed first YA novel, Draw the Dark, won the 2011 Westchester Fiction Award and was named a Bank Street College 2011 Best Book. Ilsa currently lives with her family and several furry creatures in rural Wisconsin, near a Hebrew cemetery. One thing she loves about the neighbors: they’re very quiet and only come around for sugar once in a blue moon.

You can follow Ilsa on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog to keep up with her.

Cover Reveal: The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray

The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray
Coming October 8th, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press.

Welcome to The Dollhouse Asylum Cover Reveal Tour hosted by Novel Thoughts! The Dollhouse Asylum is Mary Gray’s first novel and will be released October 2013 from Spencer Hill Press. This cover was designed by me (shameless promotion) and I couldn’t be more thrilled to share this cover with you!

Each day this week, we have been revealing bits and pieces of the cover across five different blogs leading up to the official reveal on This Week in YA yesterday. But due to unforeseen circumstances, This Week in YA won’t be posted until Sunday morning. So today, we are happy to share with you the full cover and synopsis! Check them out below:

Full Synopsis:

A virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when seventeen-year-old Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields—a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus—she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.

At first, Elysian Fields,with its beautiful houses and manicured lawns, is perfect. Teo Richardson, the older man who stole Cheyenne’s heart, built it so they could be together. But when Teo tells Cheyenne there are tests that she and seven other couples must pass to be worthy of salvation, Cheyenne begins to question the perfection of his world.

The people they were before are gone. Cheyenne is now “Persephone,” and each couple has been re-named to reflect the most tragic romances ever told. Everyone is fighting to pass the test, to remain in Elysian Fields. Teo dresses them up, tells them when to move and how to act, and in order to pass the test, they must play along.

If they play it right, then they’ll be safe.

But if they play it wrong, they’ll die.

And here is the full cover!

About Mary:

Mary Gray has a fascination with all things creepy. That’s why all her favorite stories usually involve panic attacks and hyperventilating. In real life, she prefers to type away on her computer, ogle over her favorite TV shows, and savor fiction. When she’s not immersed in other worlds, she and her husband get their exercise by chasing after their three children. The Dollhouse Asylum is her first novel.

Be sure to follow Mary Gray on Twitter and her website to keep up to date with her and The Dollhouse Asylum! Be sure to also add this book to your Goodreads and share it with your friends! You don’t want to miss this one!


Big thank you to Girls in the Stacks, Reading Teen, Bookalicious, and Mundie Moms for helping reveal the pieces this past week! And more thanks to everyone helping reveal the cover across the blogosphere today and this week. 
So what do you guys think? Sounds super creepy right?! It’ll be the perfect Halloween book to read next year! Don’t forget to add it on Goodreads and tell others about it!

The Dollhouse Asylum Cover Reveal Tour

Welcome to The Dollhouse Asylum Cover Reveal Tour hosted by Novel Thoughts! Each day we will be revealing a small piece of the cover leading up to the big reveal this Saturday over on This Week in YA. So make sure you check out each of the blogs so you don’t miss a piece of the puzzle!

The tour stops:

October 8th: Novel Thoughts (1st piece)
October 9th: Girls in the Stacks (2nd piece)
October 10th: Reading Teen (3rd piece)
October 11th: Bookalicious (4th piece)
October 12th: Mundie Moms (5th piece)
October 13th: Cover Reveal on This Week in YA

The Dollhouse Asylum is Mary Gray’s first novel and will be released October 2013 from Spencer Hill Press. Check out the piece of the cover and synopsis for a sneak peek! And we even have some questions will author Mary Gray to let you learn a bit more about her and how she came to this story.

This cover was designed by me and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you!

Synopsis Part 1:

 A virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when seventeen-year-old Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields—a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus—she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.

Sounds pretty creepy, right? Just wait til you read more about it tomorrow!

Interview with Mary Gray:

Where did the concept for this book come from?
I couldn’t stop thinking about a girl in a subdivision in the middle of nowhere trapped by the man she loves. I knew she was petrified and blind-sided when she first arrives, and there were seven other couples on the street. I don’t know–these elements were always just there. The idea and voice of the villain was always in my head. I still half believe he exists, and feel guilty about drooling over him, especially when my husband’s around.

When I think of dollhouse, I think of playing house, controlling someone else’s actions. “Asylum” makes me think of crazy people. Is this an accurate portrayal of what may be in the The Dollhouse Asylum?
Control is a huge component in this book. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. A part of me craves control, probably because of my bringing up, but the rebellious side wants to lash out. Everyone in this story is controlled, but in an artsier sense: my villain forces the couples to dress up. Asylum, on the other hand, fits the story twice. Yes, there are crazies, but the villain also claims to provide “asylum,” or “refuge” from the virus outside. Don’t forget the eerie connotation, too.

Be sure to check out Girls in the Stacks tomorrow to see the next piece of the cover and don’t forget to check This Week in YA on Saturday for the full cover reveal!

About Mary:

Mary Gray has a fascination with all things creepy. That’s why all her favorite stories usually involve panic attacks and hyperventilating. In real life, she prefers to type away on her computer, ogle over her favorite TV shows, and savor fiction. When she’s not immersed in other worlds, she and her husband get their exercise by chasing after their three children. The Dollhouse Asylum is her first novel.

Be sure to follow Mary Gray on Twitter and her website to keep up to date with her and The Dollhouse Asylum! Be sure to also add this book to your Goodreads and share it with your friends! you don’t want to miss this one!

The Countdown Begins for Reached by Ally Condie

Today, we’re helping kick off the “Silk & Paper Campaign” for Reached by Ally Condie. As an “Archivist,” Novel Thoughts is teaming up with Penguin Teen and about 30 other blogs to help countdown to the November 13th release date of Reached,the final book in the Matched trilogy.

To kick things off, we want YOU to download the Reached countdown widget right here! Be sure to add the widget to your own blog or website!

Be sure to “like” the Matched Trilogy on Facebook and pre-order your copy of Reached now!

Also, as part of the Campaign, we are proud to be a part of the Matched/Crossed Read Along hosted over by Benji at The Non Reluctant Reader and Enna at Squeaky Books. Be sure to join us and read along, join discussions each week, and enter to win some fantastic prizes!

Header courtesy of Novel Novice.

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