Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)

My nine-year-old son and I have been working our way through the Percy Jackson series since the beginning of the summer.  We just finished reading The Sea of Monsters and found it to be just as entertaining as the first book in the series.  

This book starts out with Percy getting into an altercation at school.  Just when he thinks he will finally complete a full year without getting expelled...the monsters attack.  Percy and his friend Tyson flee to Camp Half Blood just in time to discover that Chiron has been relieved of his duties at the camp and Thalia's tree is dying.  This means the protective barrier around the camp is failing and it will no longer be a safe haven for the demigods.  The only way to save the camp is to retrieve the Golden Fleece and bring it to the camp, but time is running out.   

Once Tyson was allowed into Camp Half Blood it didn't take Percy long to discover his friend is actually his half brother and a son of Poseidon.  Tyson is a very friendly 8 year-old cyclops.  The two brothers and Annabeth set out on an unauthorized quest to save the camp and rescue Grover, who is being held captive in The Sea of Monsters by a nearly blind cyclops that wants to marry him.  It will take a son of Poseidon to find the island and Percy's connection with Grover to locate the satyr, but Clarisse is selected to complete the quest.  Rather than working together, the two groups set out on their own.  

This is a captivating story with a ton of action.  My son often loses interest in a story, but that has not been the case with Percy Jackson.  He even wanted to be Percy for Halloween this year, but unfortunately we couldn't find a costume his size.  Perhaps if we continues reading the series, and he decides earlier that he wants to be Percy, we will have time to make a costume for next year.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review Tour and Giveaway: Shatter Point by Jeff Altabef

Shatter Point


I have been a fan of murder mysteries for a long time.  I'm currently reading the Kay Scarpetta series, The Women's Murder Club, the King and Maxwell series,and a few others.  Shatter Point is very well written and kept me engaged from start to finish.  Very few authors write stand-alone mysteries, so that in and of itself is note worthy.  It is nice to be able to read a book and not feel like I'm on the hook for the next several years.

The book bounces between a few different stories which converge about two thirds of the way through.  I found this to be a little confusing at first.  Once I worked through the first several chapters, I began to connect with the characters and everything fell into place.

The story is set several years into the future in a country that is clearly divided.  There are the extremely wealthy and the poor.  The government is run by the wealthy, so there is very little advancement opportunity for those who are not part of the elite.  Dr. Beck is one of the few exceptions.  He grew up in an orphanage, but his exceptional test scores earned him the opportunity to attend college.  He is on the verge of creating a cure for Alzheimer's, but the government has alternate plans for his research.

Cooper first met Maggie while his family was vacationing at a resort for the summer.  Her parents worked at the resort, but Cooper took an interest in her.  He quickly became obsessed with her, but she could see past his good looks and charming personality.  He had an explosive temper that she couldn't ignore.

When Maggie disappears her two sons, Jack and Tom, turn to the Fourteenth Colony for help.  This is an underground resistance to the over powering government that has taken over the country.  The organization's goal is to restore democracy and the chance for the American dream.  Tom and Jack quickly discover that their great aunt Jackie and mother have been hiding family secrets since well before they were born.  
The link between Dr. Beck, Cooper, Maggie, and the underground resistance was intricately woven throughout the story.  With surprises around every corner, I found this to be a very fast paced story that I simply could not put down.  I would highly recommend this book to any adult who enjoys murder mysteries.  (There is some graphic violence, so this is not for younger readers.)  

I've already added Jeff Altabef's Fourteenth Colony to my to-be-read list.  While Shatter Point is a stand-alone novel, Fourteenth Colony appears to provide the back story.

About the Author:

Jeff AltabefJeff Altabef lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and Charlie the dog. He spends time volunteering at the writing center in the local community college. After years of being accused of "telling stories," he thought he would make it official. He writes in both the thriller and young adult genres. Fourteenth Colony, a political thriller, is his debut novel. Jeff has a blog designed to encourage writing by those that like telling stories. You can find his blog, The Accidental Writers Workshop, on The Patch. Jeff also rights a column for The Examiner under the byline - The Accidental Writer.

Connect with Jeff on his websiteFacebookTwitter,or GoodReads.

Enter to win Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn't love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of Shatter Point! Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE.

The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Shatter Point tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 20, 2014

Marathon Monday: Columbus Half Marathon

On Sunday October 19th I ran my first half marathon.  It was a chilly 45 degrees at the start, but it turned out to be a perfect day for running.  It warmed up into the low to mid 50s and it was clear and sunny.

The Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon/Half Marathon sold out in record time with 18,000 participants.  The event raised 3 million dollars for Children's Hospital and for the most part was a huge success.  From start to finish I felt like the race ran smoothly.  The course was flat and I enjoyed running through downtown Columbus and the surrounding neighborhoods.  Here are a few pictures from the start.

There was an impressive fireworks display and I loved the fireworks above the starting line.

They changed the course this year, so runners went past Children's Hospital.  This was a very nice additional along with the Children's Champions who were at many of the mile markers.  I tried to high five all of the children with the orange hands that I saw along the way.

Marathon Childrens Hospital

Marathon patient champion

There were some minor issues after the finish line, which hopefully they will be able to correct before next year's race.  First, the medals were not at the finish line until close to two and a half hours after the start of the race.  When they did arrive, there were only two volunteers opening boxes and distributing them to a very large number of cold and tired runners.  Every other race I have participated in had dozens of volunteers distributing medals immediately after the finish line....before the food/water distribution area.

The pickup area for the checked gear was immediately after the food distribution (in an area that spectators had access to) so it was VERY crowded.  Fortunately I didn't check any gear, but they decided to pass out the medals (once they arrived) in this same area, which compounded the congestion.  I would move the checked gear into an athlete only area away from where the runners are exiting the course.

Those are the only issues that I experienced, which should be very easy to correct.

Here is a picture of me coming into the finish. (I'm in the pink shorts and blue shirt)

Here is a picture of my son and I after the race with my medal.

Here is a link to me crossing the finish line
(I'm on the right side of the video)

Chip Time: 2:02:23
Average Pace: 9:21
Overall Place: 3356 out of 10411
Female Place: 1600 out of 6827
Age Group Place: 253 out of 1001 Females in the 35-39 age group.

For my first half marathon, I'm very pleased with this result.  My first mile was VERY slow at just over a 10 minute mile.  I spent over half a mile trying to weave my way through a lot of very slow runners/walkers.  Once I got through that, I was just above or below 9 minute miles the rest of the race.

Since a lot of people clearly over stated their pace and started ahead of where they should have, I think I'm going to have to take that strategy the next time.  Without the bottle neck and a little more training, I should be able to finish my next Columbus Half in under 2 hours.

I already registered for the Columbus Half Marathon on May 2, let the training begin!!