The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

You know the Greek myths? The Roman myths? The Gods, Hercules, etc. Well, what if they were all real? Percy Jackson discovers that all the strange things in his life can be traced back to those supposedly mythical beings. Not only that but his father is none other than Poseidon, one of the Big Three. There’s a problem though: The Big Three had agreed not to have any children due to a prophecy. Percy was born illegally! Meaning, the other Gods want him destroyed. When Zeus’s master lightning bolt is stolen, Zeus thinks that Poseidon is to blame. Percy, in an attempt to clear his father’s name and prevent a war (and find his mother) accepts a quest to the Underworld where he uncovers a much greater danger than imagined.

My friend recommended this book to me. He and I enjoy Terry Brooks books, which is actually how we became friends in the first place, so every so often we swap new books that we’re reading. This was one of his better recommendations.

Riordan does a lot of great things in this book. For one, each character is distinct and believable. You get a sense of who each one is and each one feels real and sympathetic. Riordan’s plot is well thought out with hints along the way that allow the alert reader to discover the truth while leaving a few surprises within. While he isn’t as clever as J.K.Rowling (there just isn’t the same depth and detail) this is a more than enjoyable read, worth the time. It’s also just come out as a movie and I generally find that the book is better.

I can’t wait to get the next book in the series.

UPDATE: I’ve now read the entire series. It keeps getting better from book one through to the end. I can’t wait for Riordan’s next book to come out in his newest series but I hope he comes back to Percy eventually.

Buy the series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-3), The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 4), and The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book 5)

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50 Jobs Worse Than Yours by Justin Racz

Do you have a friend who complains about their job all the time? (Though in this economy they should just be thankful to have a job…) Do you want them to stop complaining? Well, have I found the fun/gag gift for you. 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours is a short but fun book that could make anybody feel good about what they do for a living. Unless of course, their job is on the list.

Ranging from common jobs like data entry to the truly bizarre such as Chick Sexer (if you want to know what that is, buy the book to find out), this book is a great way to boost your friend’s ego. Or shut them up. Along with each job there is a picture, dress code, education, job description, pay, skills, benefits, and drawbacks (many of which are obvious). A few jobs listed don’t seem to bad though who knew that being “The Before Guy” was a job? Kind of sad really…

I found this book at work and spent a good amount of time laughing through it. Great way to lift your spirits.

Get the book: 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours

Knockout Entrepeneur by George Foreman

The truth is I don’t like non-fiction all that much. For me to like non-fiction, particularly the self-help/how to style books, it’s got to be really well written and really different. Reading things that are blatantly common sense or cliche feels like a waste of time to me, no matter how good the advice within may be. The only reason I read Knockout Entrepreneur because the book was free (courtesy of the Book Review Bloggers at Thomas Nelson) and I have been trying to expand on what genres I read.  In regards to this book, sometimes it met those requirements and other times it didn’t.

George Foreman clearly knows what he’s doing in the business world and on top of that, he seems like a genuinely nice guy. (Though he is most well-known for the George Foreman grill, he has had many other successes in the business arena.) He uses his own boxing and business experiences to exemplify each of his points as well as includes interesting bits about other large chains and corporations (Walgreens, Walmart, LearJet, FedEx…). The book is well organized and clear, each chapter separated into subtopics and ended with questions to think about.

The parts about his boxing in particular was really interesting but at points it felt preachy (or like a sales pitch) and the book itself felt a little too much like every other book about succeeding. At points it felt redundant, the same few points being hammered in repeatedly throughout the course of the book.

While I won’t be running out to read another of Foreman’s (ten) books I don’t regret having read this one.

Buy it here: Knockout Entrepreneur (Nelsonfree)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Wealthy gentlemen of the world beware, Lorelei Lee has arrived! She charms her way into men’s hearts—and your wallets—before you can say “I’m married!” Anita Loos’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes tells the story of “a society girl from Little Rock, Arkansas” who takes the gentlemen of New York, and then Europe, by storm on her journey “to get educated.”

Blond though she may be, Lorelei Lee reveals that she is not nearly as dumb, or innocent, as she presents herself to the world. Throughout the novel, written in the form of Lorelei’s diary, we watch her talk various gentlemen into giving her dozens of flowers, a trip to Europe, at least two marriage proposals, and a diamond tiara worth seventy five thousand dollars, with no regard to their marital status. Watching Lorelei successfully juggle the different men in her life is both entertaining and ridiculous.

At times, the novel seems to drag on with very little happening or changing, but Lorelei’s voice helps keep the pace. There are many moments to laugh at the way Lorelei attracts wealthy gentlemen, even managing to reel in the prosecutor from her murder trial.

Love her or hate her for her manipulative, gold-digging ways, one can’t help but cheer Lorelei on as she shamelessly maneuvers her way into getting everything she has ever wanted.

Lorelei’s misspelled prose shows us that “when a girl has a lot of fate in her life it is sure to keep on happening” and the reader can’t help but wonder what fate will bring her way.

It’s not my type of book but if you like girly comic novels, this is the book for you.

Buy it here: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares

Brashares has found a way to expand the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants story without actually writing another Sisterhood book. Instead, she turns to the high school The Septembers attended and follows three teenage girls as they approach their freshmen year.

Polly feels like she is being left behind by her friends Ama and Jo. In an attempt to move ahead, she sets her sights on Modeling. Ama, meanwhile, has received a scholarship which lands her in a wilderness camp. Not the outdoorsy type, Ama wants to go home, but when she gets lost during a hike she has a lot of time to re-evaluate her life. Jo, the blossoming cool girl, spends her time bussing tables in while staying at her family’s beach home. While there, she meets a hot new guy, only to discover that he has a girlfriend, non other than Effie Kaligaris, Lena’s younger sister.

Like with the sisterhood series, Brashares introduces realistic characters, each dealing with their own personal troubles while discovering why their friendship is so important. However, the fun quotes scattered throughout the Sisterhood books are not quite so charming in this book. The tree metaphor feels forced and overdone (and unnecessary). One thing that particularly bothered me was the portrayal of Effie who went from a fierce but still nice girl to an obnoxious, sort of evil teen. Granted she was a very secondary character in the other series so we didn’t see much about her and she would behave differently around her sister’s friends, but even so, the dramatic character change rings untrue.

She does throw in a number of really charming moments (most of them related to the Sisterhood series). For one thing, The Novembers are apparently famous in their high school, leading many girls to attempt to emulate them with a pair of their own magical pants. On the one hand this is really fun (because, let’s face it, tons of girls really did that after the books), but the fact is it’s not something that would really happen within the girls’ high school. More likely they’d be considered pretty strange. But that’s ok, it’s still funny. Also nice are the various ways that the Sisterhood girls are woven into the book without ever really being present. They’re mentioned or in the background of scenes here and there to remember just how big of an imprint they’ve left behind as they moved on to their own worlds. (This is more something that is appreciated by a fan of the other books though it would likely be confusing for a new reader.)

All in all, I would say this book is more fun for the nostalgia it brings of the Sisterhood series than for its ability to stand on its own.

Buy the book:
3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows (3 Willows (Hardback))

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Who didn’t fall in love with these books? As with most books made into movies, the books are definitely better, in no small part because the movies leave out some of the best story lines and don’t handle the character development well, which is part of the key to the series.

The books are about four best friends, “The Novembers,” who have known each other forever (their mothers became friends while pregnant) and have never been separated for long. But the first summer that they will all spend apart arrives and they worry that they will grow apart. But not to worry, as they discover a pair of jeans (The Traveling Pants) that magically fit each of them despite their different sizes and heights. They agree to share the pants, establishing set rules and passing the jeans back and forth amongst them to ensure that they keep in touch. With te help of the pants and each other, the girls manage to overcome the various personal struggles and tragedies that they experience, ending up closer than ever despite being farther apart than ever before.

The books rest on the stories of he four main characters, each dealing with their own personal stories:

Lena Kaligaris- Lena is the gorgeous but supremely shy girl with the exotic beauty of her Greek roots. In book one Lena visits her relatives in Greece and falls in love with Kostos, the hot neighbor whose parents are in a fight with Lena’s grandparents. In book two, Lena has her heart broken when she discovers that Kostos has gotten another girl pregnant. In book 3, Lena’s grandmother comes to stay after her husband dies. Lena fights with her parents about her taking art classes (which involve painting nude models, something her father is morally opposed to). Finally, in book 4, Lena takes extra art classes and falls for Leo a guy in her class, only to have Kostos return.

Tibby Rollins- Tibby is the rebellious, film type. In book 1, while her friends are off on their summer adventures, Tibby is stuck at home, working at Wallman’s while trying to get her documentary film going. While working their she befriends 12 year old Bailey a precocious kid who has leukemia and helps Tibby work on her “suckumentary.” In book 2, Tibby goes off to take classes at a film school and finds herself being mean to the people she cares about in order to fit in with a couple of cool kids at the school. In book 3, Tibby’s sister Katherine falls out of a window while Tibby is supposed to be watching her. Although Katherine is fine, Tibby blames herself for the accident and withdraws from those closest to her. In book 4, Tibby and her boyfriend have sex for the first time and after a subsequent pregnancy scare, she pushes her boyfriend away.

Bridget Vreeland- to me, the most interesting character in the group, Bridget is the free-spirited, impulsive, wild-child athlete. (Bridget also comes from a family where her mother killed herself due to her depression, her father is detached from his kids, and her twin brother turns to video games as a means of comfort.) In book 1 Bridget heads to soccer camp where she quickly becomes the star. Not content to just be the best, she sets her sights on a hot male coach and, as always, gets so focused on her goal that she forgets to think about the consequences. In book 2, still reeling from her reckless behavior from the year before, Bridget is on the verge of losing herself. When she discovers that her father had withheld letters from her grandmother for many years, she decides to go see her grandmother. She tries to reconnect with her grandmother while pretending to be someone else and learns about her mother. In book 3, Bidget returns to soccer camp, this time as a coach, only to discover that one of her fellow coaches is the hot male coaches from her first summer at the camp. The two work to form a real friendship instead of the lustful one they began with. In book 4, Bridget heads to an archaeological dig in Turkey where she falls for a married professor. After learning some important lessons on the dig, Bridget returns home and begins to rebuild her broken family.

Carmen Lowell- the loudmouthed, mommy and daddy’s girl from the divorced family. In book 1, Carmen is THRILLED to be spending the summer with her father only to discover that he has a new “perfect, blond” family. In book 2, Carmen must deal with her mother’s new boyfriend. As her mother and the boyfriend get closer, Carmen gets jealous and fears that she will be forgotten. For book 3, Carmen spends her summer taking care of Lena’s grandmother Valia and her very pregnant mother. And she manages to find time for a hot new guy in her life. In book 4, Carmen has gone off to college and, in a desperate attempt to fit in, she loses herself while trying to cater to theater darling. But when she gets chosen for a part in a play, the theater darling is none-to-pleased with her.

Sometimes it amazes me how little actually happened in each book. Because we’re following all four girls (though sometimes I wished it otherwise) we don’t dwell on any one of them too long so while big things happen in each one’s lives, very little ACTUALLY happens. But that’s ok, as Ann Brashares maintains a nice pace and keeps you interested. As I’ve said, Bridget’s story line is the most interesting to me, perhaps because hers is the saddest story and it’s hard to compare the death of your mother to being upset that your mother has found a guy who makes her happy. But Brashares has written four very different, very real girls and everyone can see themselves in at least one of the characters.

Sometimes, when I need a break from one of the long books I’ve been reading (most of the books I’ve been reading lately have been 700-1,000 pages), I like to go back and read this series. Normally, I pick one girl and just read her story, skipping all the others so that I can finish in an hour or so, but it’s a series I’ve revisited many times and it has yet to lose its charm.

Own the books now:

Buy the movies: