The Sea of Monsters | Book Review

Title: The Sea of Monsters
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2
Author: Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publish Date: April 1, 2006
Genre: Young Reader – Fantasy/Adventure, Mythology
Pages: 288
Format: Kindle Books

After a year spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson–a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any “normal” friends.

But things don’t stay quiet for long. Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: The magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters–the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millenia–only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name…the Bermuda Triangle.

Now Percy and his friends–Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson–must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family–one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

This book picks up a full school year after the first. In fact, it’s Percy’s last day at his new school when everything kind of goes to crap and hits the fan and he, you know, almost dies. It’s fine. And he and another kid at the school – a homeless boy named Tyson who the school took on as a community service project, of sorts – are whisked away and helped by Annabeth to go back to Camp Half-Blood.

But, of course, there’s something wrong at Camp Half-Blood. The tree that protects the camp is dying, and they don’t know who could have poisoned the tree, but Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson set off to save the tree and the camp. And Grover. Because Grover is currently being held by a cyclops to become his bride and… yeah, he’s a mess.

I thought this second installment was just as fun as the last, and we’re learning a lot more about Percy and the gods around him, as well as who is for him and against him. I love seeing how mythology comes into play in these novels and how the world just continues to expand. It plays on a lot of legends and myths that don’t just center around the Greek gods (such as the Bermuda Triangle), and I think that it ties in well with what’s happening to Percy and his friends.

I also found it interesting when the reveal of his family happened to also learn more about Poseidon and to see how Percy reacts and grows from it. He learns a lot in this adventure about family and how you can’t necessarily choose who is your family – at least not by blood, anyway. And I think that that lesson is a great one for a young teenage boy to learn.

The action and adventure that he and his friends take is a long one, and it was nice to see him working alongside someone who he (still) doesn’t get along with to get through some trials that he and the others might not have been able to win on their own. I liked seeing how different monsters came into play, how different islands in the Bermuda Triangle attacked or affected them, and how they were able to overcome those trials.

I thought that Percy and Annabeth did really well planning together on how to take down the cyclops – at least temporarily – so that they could escape. And there were several moments where I was cheering because of events that happened on the island with the cyclops. Like I was literally sitting there and going, “YAY!” Probably clapping my hands, too. It’s fine.

Overall, this next installment was a fun one, and I can definitely see some growth in Percy and Annabeth as they’re slowly getting older. The lessons that they’re learning are also expanding, too.

I’m definitely interested to see how Luke’s role plays out in this and how the possibility of releasing Kronos might happen. It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to continue and see what happens next at Camp Half-Blood!

★★★★☆

A Monster Calls | Book Review

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Candlewick
Publish Date: September 27, 2011
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Fiction, Horror
Pages: 224
Format: Kindle eBooks

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

This book follows a preteen named Conor during a time when his mother is fighting cancer, and his anger and grief takes the form of a monster that he sees outside of his window one night: an ancient tree that came to life. The tree tells him four stories – well, only three, as Conor has to tell him the fourth – and with each Conor learns something, or something happens in his environment as a result of each story.

I thought that this novel was a great exploration into grief and how it can manifest itself into something entirely different if it’s not dealt with properly. The book didn’t make it something that could easily be covered up, it didn’t make light of it, but rather the story focused on how, over time, grief can become a catalyst for events to happen and take place. It can be dangerous, destructive, wild, or it can be very lonely and heartbreaking. I personally felt a connection to this due to circumstances with my own family and my own grief and how my own grief manifested, but that’s another story for another day. Delving into grief as a topic is one that I don’t often see in the books I read, so it was refreshing to see.

I personally thought that the way the monster was represented by this ancient tree that Conor’s mother always pointed out was clever. The monster would come at the same time every night – 12:06AM – and after every encounter it would leave a mess behind to show that it had, in fact, been there and been real (such as leaves or branches).

I kind of expected Conor to act a bit more…surprised or scared at the fact that, you know, a giant walking tree was at his window, but he wasn’t as wary as I was expecting him to be. Of course, the more the monster came, the less he was afraid, which makes sense.

The relationship between Conor and his mother was super sweet, and I love to see how close a mother and son could be. Even though his parents are divorced (and the interaction between him and his father was awkward), it was nice to see parental units that actually loved and cared for their son. Though, Conor’s relationship with his grandmother was very much strained until the end, I thought that it was all very realistic as far as familial relationships go.

As far as relationships at Conor’s school went, I thought that it was all very interesting to see. If it’s a small school, I could understand why everyone was acting especially careful around Conor, and even the bullies were interesting. By this I mean I found the head bully to be… almost like a monster himself. I don’t know for sure if he was really real or what. But I also think he got what he deserved in the book, so that’s that. I did appreciate the one friend that tried to reconcile and help Conor, but of course, grief can make you say and do things – and avoid things – that may otherwise be of help to you.

The story ended in a way that had me crying at 2AM for several reasons, and I loved it. It was a heart-wrenching dive into what happens when you’re losing someone whom you love more than you could ever express, and how, if handled poorly, grief can manifest into a monster.

★★★★☆