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Shaun has commented on (4) products.

The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #01) by Rick Riordan
The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus #01)

Shaun, January 1, 2011

Rick Riordan has not ceased to amaze me. Ever since I picked up a copy of THE LIGHTNING THIEF in 2008 and read the PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS straight through, I have loved everything Riordan has put out. From his Egyptian offshoot, THE KANE CHRONICLES, to even his entry in THE 39 CLUES, THE MAZE OF BONES, I am always shocked and in awe of his story-telling. And the first outing in the new HEROES OF OLYMPUS series, THE LOST HERO, is no exception.

I debated for quite a while as I read THE LOST HERO whether a new-comer to Riordan could pick up this book and just start in, and I came to the conclusion that if someone hasn't read anything by him, it would be best to go back to THE LIGHTNING THIEF and start there. Otherwise, THE LOST HERO would contain too many references to events and characters which wouldn't make sense to someone who hasn't read the books yet. So if you haven't finished Riordan's first series, PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS, I would say stop reading this review now and go back to THE LIGHTNING THIEF.

The story begins with a boy named Jason, who suddenly appears in a school bus in the middle of the desert sitting beside Piper and Leo, two classmates that he's supposedly been friends with for the past few months at Wilderness School. But Jason can't remember any of that. In fact, he can't even remember his own name or how he got there. I really don't want to say much more than that, because diving too deeply into the storyline will only ruin the experience.

Per usual, the story is action-packed, and coming in at a hefty 576 pages, THE LOST HERO, starts and doesn't slow down until the very last page. As I read, I couldn't help myself from gasping out loud. There was a new plot twist to almost every page I turned. At first, I kept wondering what on earth can Riordan do with the whole concept of Greek gods and mythology that he didn't accomplish in the first five books - and I will admit part of me was a bit afraid that THE LOST HERO was going to fizzle out and not live up to my favorite, THE LAST OLYMPIAN. But Riordan pulls out some unexpected ideas that meld seamlessly with the mythology he's crafted throughout the first series.

The book is told in third-person, which is a bit of a switch from either THE KANE CHRONICLES or PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS, which were both written first-person. THE LOST HERO switches off between Jason, Piper, and Leo, each getting two chapters and then switching to the next. This aids in the character development, which is stronger here than in other novels from Riordan. The things that Piper and especially Leo grow through in the book felt real and done in a way that made sense with the story. The author searched out a lot of the issues that face students today, including abandonment in its various forms. In a way, I think THE LOST HERO is one of his more serious books, and while there was definitely humor to lighten things up here and there, this one definitely came across as a much weightier story, for the characters and the plot.

While the story does center around Jason, Piper, and Leo, there are plenty of familiar faces around to tie things back to the first series. Cameos from people such as Chiron, Clarisse, Annabeth and others definitely were fun and added an interesting dimension to the storyline. Riordan also mines some lesser known myths in the Greek works and gives us some exciting battles with old foes that are just as deadly as anything Percy, Grover, and Annabeth faced - and sometimes, much, much worse.

THE LOST HERO ends up rising above and beyond anything I expected from Riordan, and will definitely get readers excited to revisit Camp Half-Blood and its demigods. And now, we only have to wait until Fall of 2011 for the next volume, THE SON OF NEPTUNE.
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The Viper's Nest: The 39 Clues #07 by Peter Lerangis
The Viper's Nest: The 39 Clues #07

Shaun, February 12, 2010

Another day in the life of Dan and Amy Cahill and their au pair Nellie Gomez? Well, that might include daring escapes, rescues, wretchedly nefarious family reunions, explosions, snakes, and the odd clue or two to the mysterious Cahill family secret. Peter Lerangis delivers another epic installment in THE 39 CLUES series, and this time, the stakes are higher than before, and the clue hunt is beginning to wear the siblings down: who can they trust anymore? Can they even trust each other? Or Grace, their beloved grandmother? More and more secrets keep cropping up in book seven: THE VIPER'S NEST.

The plot continues on straightaway from book six, and I would recommend going back and re-reading the last chapter of IN TOO DEEP before you set foot into book seven -- just to re-orient yourself in the Cahill world. I don't want to delve too deeply into the plot here, but rest assured, there is plenty more action, intrigue, and the final revelation of Dan and Amy's family branch.

This is the second installment in the series from Lerangis, and I remember really enjoying book three -- THE SWORD THIEF -- by him. The plot moves along swiftly, and he reminds us of just enough without seeming like he's dumping previous information down our throats. A lot of the typical CLUES staples are here as well -- a reigning family nemesis throughout the book, more mysteries and twists -- and the final page is one that made me sit back and say, "WHAT!" I will definitely be eagerly waiting for the next book coming out in a few months.

THE 39 CLUES continues to be a fairly solid book series perfect for the 3rd to 7th grade set (and beyond). Definitely one to have on your bookshelf.
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Burn by Ted Dekker

Shaun, January 26, 2010

I've been waiting a while for a Dekker book that I really enjoyed. I started hitting on that when I read a pre-release copy of his upcoming book THE BRIDE COLLECTOR, which releases in April. But I also hit on that a bit with his newest outting with co-author Erin Healy, BURN. Healy explains in an interview at the back of the book that they were trying to shoot more for a few like Dekker's BLINK or THR3E, which captured more of a female audience than Dekker's fantasy books. And the feel is definitely more like Dekker's older books, which will be a welcome to some fans and maybe not to some others.

The plot centers around a gypsy kumpania in New Mexico, where the daughter of the rom baro, Janeal Mikkado lives. She soon is caught up in something much bigger than she had ever anticipated when a mysterious stranger appears in camp. What ensues is a desperate chase for Janeal to discover who she really is and where her life has headed -- and in all goes up in typical Dekker fashion -- blazing right to the very end.

The writing here is pretty solid, although some readers may reach the middle of the book and think that the plot is over and done with. I reached about halfway after being amazed by the first 150 pages, and started to wonder where the plot went. It suddenly seemed like there was nothing much left for the characters to discover or achieve. But then Dekker and Healy pull a pretty good twist that I never saw coming -- and definitely kept me going to the very end.

I would say that BURN is one of the more solid Dekker books. Not as amazing in my mind as SAINT or ADAM or even THE BRIDE COLLECTOR, but definitely up there on my list of favorites from him. Definitely one to check out for sure.
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Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself by Austin Gutwein
Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself

Shaun, November 16, 2009

The moment I cracked open the first few pages of Austin Gutwein's TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT, I knew I was in for something all right. I had heard vague stories about a kid who had done something with basketball to help the AIDS crisis, and I knew that this book talked all about that. I'll be honest, charity stories always hit me with a slight bit of cynicism -- wondering if the money is really going to the place they say. So I went in wondering if this was going to be one of those books that makes me feel guilty for not sponsoring a child or for not living in the depths of Africa feeding starving people. But I was wrong. This book didn't make me feel guilty at all -- it made me feel hope.

Austin, only 14 years old at the time of this review, started with a deep desire to want to change the world -- in some way, somehow. And that started his organization Hoops of Hope -- which raises funds for kids in Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS. In TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT, Austin tells his story of visiting Africa, starting out with Hoops of Hope, and what all of it means for us as people living our day to day lives with the things we need: food, shelter, clothing.

Each chapter focuses in on different aspects of Austin's personal journey, and tying it into the larger picture -- taking the reader through almost a devotional-like atmosphere with thoughts from Austin, famous and non-famous people, the Bible, and personal stories from Africa. At the end of the chapters are a few questions to keep you thinking about the topic of the chapter, which makes it ideal for working through as a daily sort of devotional.

Teens who have read books like DO HARD THINGS by the Harris brothers or DON'T WASTE YOUR LIFE by John Piper, would really enjoy reading Austin's story of hope and encouragement to get out in the world, do something to change it -- it doesn't have to be big, all you have to do is what Austin encourages from the outset: just take your best shot at it.
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