The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Reviewed by Brandon
In the third installment of the Heroes of Olympus series, The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan creates a mystifying story yet again. This new thrilling novel intrigued me more than his last few stories. This book should definitely be on the top of any bookworm’s “must read” list.
            Percy Jackson is a not so normal 17 year-old. Over the past 5 years Percy has fought many monsters, gods, and demigods. After being whisked away from his camp, Camp Half-Blood, for 8 months and saving his “new” camp, Camp Jupiter, from new monsters and a Cyclops to regain their War Eagle, he is reunited with his girlfriend, Annabeth, when she comes to rescue him from the Romans. The reunion doesn't last long, though. After they are reunited, one member of the quest party that Annabeth has set up attacks the Romans. This just complicates their journey even more. Now added to the stress of finding Hazel’s brother, Nico, and defeating two giants, they now must get away from the Romans as well. Then something unexpected happens…Annabeth must complete a quest by herself and everyone that has tried before her has met a terrible death. Can Percy let her go, again, if it might mean she will never come back? 
      Riordan uses a complex writing style in which he changes who the story focuses around every couple of chapters. I think this makes the story more fun to read because you get to know different points of view on what is happening within the story. This makes the book more enjoyable to me and makes me want to just read it all at once.  For example, Piper only thinks of Percy as the Son of Poseidon (Neptune), while Annabeth thinks of him as an amazing boyfriend that she can’t live without. This is why I like his writing as much as I do.
            This book had me constantly on the edge of my seat waiting to see what kinds of twists and turns Riordan could throw at me. I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars because it was so intriguing and fast-paced. I cannot wait for the fourth book to be released because I think his writing is very good.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

  Reviewed by Bo
Between Shades of Gray is a novel that is putting author Ruta Septys on the literary map. It hooked me from the very beginning. I randomly picked up this book to pass time, but once I started reading I couldn’t stop. If you are looking for a love/survival book then this is the one for you.
            Lina, who is 15 years old, is residing in Lithuania, June 1941. Lina and her family are living right in the middle of a monstrous war. She is planning for a future career in the art world, until her and her family was taken by the Soviet Union. With her art abilities she sends clues in her drawings through many people in different camps, hoping to get back to her father. During this time of tragedy, she desperately fights the Soviets to save her, and the lives around her through the whole book. Can love and the desire to save her family keep her alive?
            Sepetys created characters that are well-developed and dynamic. Her effective and vivid descriptions makes it easy for the reader to imagine the characters and to bring them to life. I could picture Lina and I being friends from her amazing character details.I could literally see myself in their world interacting with them.
            Sepetys skill with words and her ability to effectively use imagery created a raw, gritty movie in my mind. I could easily feel Lina's pain and put myself in the character's horrible environment. The way that she describes the settings is unimaginable. When she describes Lina with her family in the soviets truck looking at the girl coming from the hospital, you can really see it in your brain.  Her ability of doing imagery makes this novel one of my favorites.  
WHEN I WOKE, the car was dark. I moved to the front and hung my head over the side for air. My hair swung away from my neck. A rush of air swirled around my face, and I breathed deeply. Gravel crunched.
This is one of those books you will never want to put down. Sepetys and her book Between Shades of Gray had such an effect on me; this novel and its characters will stay with me for the rest of my life. It made me want to go out and do something about the hardships Stalin created and prevent them from ever repeating themselves in history. I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I did not give it 5 stars, because I think she should have provided more details of what became of the characters and their struggle.  Sepetys could have easily written a second book that would answer the lingering questions that resulted from the very abrupt ending. 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is quickly becoming my favorite YA author.  She’s yet to write anything that I haven’t devoured on sight.  The Raven Boys is her most recent delectable dish which had me lapping up each word in less than three days (bring on the cheese!). It is a book that is refreshingly unique in its plot and characters, and one that should be on the very top of your “to read” list.
Blue Sargent is as unique as her moniker.  Living in a home filled with psychics and mediums only adds to her unusual aura.  Her clairvoyant mother and three gifted aunts each have unique, supernatural abilities to communicate with the dead.  Blue has never had the “second sight” like her family members, and she assumes these gifts have skipped her altogether – until she sees her very first spirit on St. Mark’s Eve.
Traditionally, St. Mark’s Eve is a time when the spirits of the soon-to-be dead travel corpse road – a path that winds through a crumbling, abandoned churchyard outside of Blue’s hometown.  Blue’s mother usually greets these spirits while Blue records their names.  Within 12 months, the people whose spirits traveled this road on this night will be dead, and townspeople pay a pretty penny to see if their name is on the list of the doomed.  Blue usually sits through this night without much to do, other than to assist her mother and write down the names of the spirits passing by. 
This year’s St. Mark’s eve begins like any other, except for Blue’s aunt is doing the other-worldly greetings.  Blue silently observes her aunt speak to the souls Blue can’t see.  Bored and silently wishing for this night to come to a close, Blue is shocked to see a boy her age stumbling through the churchyard.  He is a spirit, but the fact that Blue can see him scares and awes her.  According to her aunt, “there are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve.  Either you’re his true love, …or you killed him.”  Determined to find this boy and warn him about his fate, Blue goes on a quest to change his destiny.  What Blue uncovers about this mysterious boy and the supernatural trouble surrounding him kept me up late at night and unable to stop reading.
            Stiefvater’s writing style and seamless plot development are not the only reasons The Raven Boys is such an enjoyable read.  Her ability to create real, dynamic characters is what makes each of her novels so appealing.  Blue Sargent could easily be a friend of mine due to Stiefvater’s effortless dialogue and subtle descriptions embedded within the dialogue and narration.  Gansey and the rest of the Raven Boys are unique and unlike any other characters I’ve ever met in fiction, but seem too real and alive to be trapped in a book.  They remind me of the gang in The Outsiders.  Sodapop, Darry and Ponyboy are characters that have stuck with me for decades, and I have an inkling that Ronan, Adam, Noah and Gansey will be around for awhile, too.  In this excerpt, Gansey is meeting Blue for the first time, and I love the unconventional way in which Stiefvater describes Gansey and his friends.
There was something annoyingly impressive about him, an impression that he was very tall, although he was no taller than most boys.  “My socially inhibited friend Adam thinks you’re cute, but he’s unwilling to make a move. Over there. Not the smudgy one.  Not the sulky one.”
Blue, largely against her will, glanced to the booth he pointed to.  Three boys sat at it: one was smudgy, just as he said, with a rumpled, faded look about his person, like his body had been laundered too many times.  The one who’d hit the light was handsome and his head was shaved; a soldier in a war where the enemy was everyone else.  And the third was – elegant.  It was not the right word for him, but it was close.  He was fine boned and a little fragile looking, with blue eyes pretty enough for a girl.
I’ve never heard of a character described as “smudgy”, but after you read this book, you’ll understand why this adjective is the PERFECT descriptor of Noah.  Stiefvater’s writing is original and makes it impossible for the narration and dialogue to ever become boring.
            This is one of those magical books that readers hunt for and crave – those rare gems that have you flying through the pages and itching to read at stop lights, under the table at dinner, and during any spare moment you can find.  The Raven Boys IS THAT BOOK for me – the likes of which I haven’t read in a very long time.  Eager to find out when the next book will be released (2013ish), I looked at reviews on the site Good Reads.  Apparently, I’m not alone in my love for the Raven Boys.  It’s average rating is a 4.6 out of 5 stars, and rating which I will also give the book.  I only reserve the ½ star, due to my annoyance with Stiefvater for ending this book with so many unanswered questions, and making me wait entirely too long for the sequel!