The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu (Chronus Chronicles, Book 1)

November is Messing With Mythology
This month's titles deal with mythology. What does that mean, you may ask? Mythology relates to the study of myths as they relate to a culture. Frequently this means gods, goddesses, creation stories...and the like. It's a rising trend in YA lit, and I am a fan. Several of these take traditional mythology and turn it on its head. All promise to entertain.
Charlotte doesn't quite know what to think about this latest news. Her cousin (who lives in London) is moving to the States. While she had hoped to use his prime location as a jumping point to pursue her dream of living in France as a photographer, that was also her only aspiration involving said cousin. Plus, since she found Mew (Bartholomew, Mew for short), her new kitten, very little upsets her. Of course, the fact that her best friend seems to have contracted a mysterious illness is upsetting, now that she thinks about it.

Zee (Zachary, Zee for short)'s story starts a bit earlier. He planned to spend the summer in Exeter with Grandmother Winter, just like every year, and he would play on the club football team (that's soccer, for you Yanks), and maybe - just maybe - get to see Samantha sometimes. Everything started out okay; when he arrived, Grandmother had been baking up a storm! He even sees his crush Samantha, and makes plans to hang out. That's when disaster strikes: Grandmother Winter is dead. With her dying breath, she whispers "Metos." Zee is left with a hole where she used to be. Of course, he's supposed to meet up with Samantha not long after. He goes to tell her he can't make it, but she's come down with a mysterious illness...just like almost every other kid in Exeter - except him. Zee is starting to get weirded out.

When they go back to London, Zee starts to think maybe it was all in his head. That is, until all his friends in London start succumbing to the same mysterious illness. When he tries to tell his parents that he feels like it may be following him...they ship him off to a therapist, and then to the States. *sigh*

When he arrives, Charlotte and Zee have a very crazy conversation, in which he outlines how he feels somewhat responsible for the weird illness. More pieces start to fall into place when they are chased by creepy tall faceless men in tuxedos. They are rescued by none other than Mr. Metos, Charlotte's substitute English teacher, who has most recently been teaching Greek mythology (a subject she knows rather well). It isn't until he tells them the real story that they begin to put the pieces together. Philonecron is a disgruntled demigod: born in the Underworld, and desperate for power. After his last play for the throne, Hades banished him (did I mention that the Greek Underworld is a real thing? Well, it is...), but now he's hatched another crazy plan. This one involves Zee and Charlotte. This one involves stealing the shadows of the children of the world, enchanting them with a drop of Zee's blood, and using them to overthrow Hades, King of the Underworld.

Whew. Sounds complicated. Good thing Mr. Metos is going to take care of it...except then they get a note saying that he's captured, and everything is up to the two of them! A bird guides them to some weird corridor in the Mall, and they make their way down. Only at the point of no return do they realize that Mr. Metos didn't summon them after all, Philonecron did! Can they find a way to stop him before the Underworld is in chaos? Can they save the shadows of the children whom they've been stolen from? Can they stop the power-hungry demigod before it's too late?

Well written, and told in a slightly non-sequential way, this is a story that keeps you interested. It holds some of the draw of Riordan, and some of the whimsy of Rowling. I enjoyed the wordplay, and the inner dialog. I may even read the others in this series!
"The man-like men were extremely tall, extremely think, and extremely pale. They were wearing old-fashioned tuxedos, and their skin looked like dirty plaster. One of the man-like men was holding the boy, the other was reaching into the boy's chest, which was giving way like jelly. The boy was screaming. Zee stood, absolutely unable to move, while the second man-like man started pulling something long and black and flimsy from the boy's chest. And then the boy stopped screaming and seemed to collapse on the spot. The second man-like man took the bladck thing and folded it up like fabric, while the first picked up a shiny black physician's bag and held it open with an accomodating nod. The second smiled graciously and carefully tucked the black thing away, while the first tapped the boy on the forehead three times. The second took the bag, latched it, and gave his partner a satisfied nod, and they both brushed off their hands," (Ursu pg. 159, 2006).

If you liked this, check out:

Ursu, Anna. (2006). The Shadow Thieves. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

The best part of Alice's day is watching "Skateboard Guy" cruise past her window, every day at 9:30 am. The rest of the day is devoted to hiding out, keeping her mother's secret, taking care of herself and her mother's business, and pretending that everything is ok. No one can know that Belinda Amorous, "Queen of Romance," suffers from bipolar disorder. No one can know that she's been practically comatose for the past three months. No one can know that Alice dropped out of boarding school to come home and take care of all the business that her mother isn't capable of handling...because then everything would fall apart.

At 16, Alice has been doing this for most of her life: taking responsibility for her mother's illness. She has been answering emails, and fielding phone calls. Today, she's standing in for her mother at a book signing (which she forged beforehand), and assuring everyone that Belinda is overseas, researching her next book. If her fans knew the truth...but Alice doesn't have time to think about that. While there, something weird happens. An alarming cute guy in a black hoodie (Errol) comes up to her, and insists that she write his book. Not sure what to do after he shoves a smelly envelope of notes at her, she gets stuck holding it. Great, all she needs is some weirdo trying to get his book published.

At home, there's a new problem: the publishing company is threatening to reclaim the $100,000 advance unless they receive a new book. In addition to not having $100 grand, Alice needs the royalty checks to pay the bills. In-patient care is far from reasonably priced...especially for a facility that offers massages and manicures. The hospital is threatening to kick her mother out if she can't pay by the due date. Mom's not exactly up to writing the next Hunger of the Heart.

Maybe she can kill two birds with one stone...write Errol's story and submit it to Heartstrings Publishing! Did I mention that Errol thinks he's Cupid, the real Cupid, and his story is about his love affair with Psyche? He insists that the true story needs to be told. She doesn't believe him until he flings something at her, and she can't stop thinking about him. Find Errol are the only two words that seem to fit inside her head. When she does find him, he's moved into her building, and forces her to drink Craig's Clam Juice...which he alleges is the only thing that can cure the love-sickness his arrows inspire. Yeah, you read that right: he is saying he shot Alice with an arrow of love. She must admit, it doesn't really make sense that one minute she can't stop thinking about Tony (cute skateboarding guy), and the next she's crazy for Errol...whom she thinks is creepy and crazy. Could there be any truth to his story?
"I wanted, more than anything, to be near Errol. Yes, that demanding, handsome guy in the black hoodie who believed he was Cupid and who had thrown something at me. That guy.
When I reached out, I wanted to find him standing there. When I listened, I wanted to hear his voice. When I inhaled, I wanted to inhale his scent. I didn't ask myself why I felt that way, didn't wonder why my thoughts had moved from Tony - who was clearly obsession-worthy - to Errol, who was clearly...weird," (Selfors pg. 98, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors
Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman
Temping Fate by Esther Friesner

Selfors, Suzanne. ((2011). Mad Love. New York: Walker.

Temping Fate by Esther Friesner

Ilana is reaching the last of the last chances to land a summer job. If she can't, her parents have "promised to figure something out"...which pretty much translates into something horrible (like band camp *shudder*). This last interview is actually a shot in the dark. She found a business card for D.R. Temps in her sister's room.

All the other prospective employers have been turned off by That Attitude Thing, or maybe her "ORC: the other green meat" shirt. She's determined to behave herself this time. The only thing that really has her worried is the small skull she drew on her cheek that won't come off...shouldn't have used permanent ink I guess? The temp agency is...not what she expected. First she has to jimmy her way in the door, then the crazy woman in charge berates her for everything about her appearance but the tiny cheek skull! Maybe this job won't be so bad after all? That's when Mrs. Atatosk starts in with the "We love your sister" bit, just like everyone else. How can she possibly live up to perfect Dyllin expectations? Just when Ilana is about to say forget it, she is handed an envelope containing $500. In advance. For a job she hasn't even tried to do.

Friday morning arrives, and so does she, at Tabby Fabricant Textiles. Let's just say it isn't what she was expecting: what with the proprietors actually being the Fates and all. You know, the women in charge of your life line? The ones who make (Clotho), measure (Lachesis), and cut (Atropos) the span of your life?!?!?! This cannot be happening. There cannot be a temp agency for the gods, can there? The weekly temp meeting that afternoon convinces her that she isn't losing it, and actually calms her down a bit. It turns out Dyllin actually did this for years, and (outside of being a complete psychotic Bridezilla lately) doesn't seem worse for wear. She could get used to this...

The summer is progressing nicely: she's made friends with Arachne, as well as with some of the other temps. While there have been a few bumps in the road (manipulating life threads can be very entertaining), overall she's having a great time. With the end of summer - and Dyllin's wedding - approaching, it seems she might survive after all! It's not like one of the other temps will steal power from a god to try and wreck the wedding...that wouldn't happen...nah...

Light-hearted and funny, this is a great quick read. Friesner weaves in mythology effortlessly. Recommended for middle school and up.
"'Like it?' The spider lounged in the empty tray, idly paging through a small booklet with the title So, You're Going to Control the Destiny of the World. "Aren't you glad you stopped whining about 'Ooh, I wouldn't, I couldn't, I shouldn't, what if the Fates found out?' and just tried it? See? Nothing bad happened. In fact, I'd say you are definitely having a major educational experience here.'
'This is just...awesome.' Ilana wasn't really listening to the spider anymore. She was too fascinated by the wonders passing before her eyes to remind Arachne that she'd been the one who'd been so upset at the thought of a newbie temp being given spindle-sitting duty," (Friesner pg. 104, 2006).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner
The Wee Free Men by Terry Prachett
Pandora Gets Jealous by Carolyn Hennesy

Friesner, Esther. (2006). Temping fate. New York: Dutton Children's Books.

The Warlock by Michael Scott (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Book 5)

Sophie and Josh are back in this much anticipated fifth installment. The twins are still with their respective immortals: Sophie with Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel, and Josh with John Dee. After the thwarted rise of the Archon Coatlicue, the twins are both upset by the other's behavior. As the Flamels and their supporters continue to try and stop the return of the Dark Elders into our world, John Dee, Virgina Dare, and company move forward with their plan to release the monsters on Alcatraz onto the unsuspecting residents of San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Scathach, Saint Germain, Palamedes, Shakespeare, and Joan of Arc are whisked off to the distant past by Marethyu, the hook-handed man. He tells them they have returned to the fall of Danu Talis (aka Atlantis). They must ensure the fall of the island if they hope to save their own present. Whoa.

Back in the present, Mars Ultor is freed by his wife, the Witch of Endor. Along with the unlikely group of Odin, Hel, and Black Hawk, they meet Prometheus, Niten, the Flamels, and Tsagaglalal (aka Aunt Agnes) to receive ancient tablets prepared by Abraham the Mage 10,000 years previously (in anticipation of this meeting! He had some serious powers of prophecy...)! Confused yet?

The Necromancer's plans continue to spiral out of control. He begins to plot to overthrow all the Elders, and take control of all the shadow realms for himself. Machiavelli begins to doubt his choice to follow his elder without regard to the consequences. He tries to convince Josh, with the help of Billy the Kid. Josh continues to be poisoned by the cursed sword Clarent, and influenced by the evil aspirations of Dee.

Can Sophie bring Josh back to reality? Will the world be destroyed by monsters? Will the entire universe be destroyed by Dee and his nefarious plans? Who is this Marethyu character...and why does everyone refer to him as "Death"? Talk about cliff hanger ending...I can't wait until May!

I love the way Scott weaves all the different mythological characters into an extended family, seamlessly connecting unrelated times and tales into a continuous stream. This series is a great opportunity to link in a study of mythological figures (as I have done here). Highly recommended, especially for Riordan fans! As always, I prefer the audio version. Boehmer does a masterful job of keeping all the characters separate with subtle accents and tones.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand," (Scott, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Enchantress by Michael Scott (Secrets, Book 6) May 2012
The Thirteen Hollows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman Dec. 2011
Magyk by Angie Sage (Septimus Heap, Book 1)
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (Kane Chronicles, Book 1)

Scott, Michael. (2011). The Warlock. New York: Delacorte Press.

Scott, Michael & Boehmer, Paul. (2011). The Warlock: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. New York: Random House/Listening Library.

Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher

Raffi doesn't quite know what to think, now that Galen has lost his power as a Relic Master. While he is still only an apprentice, Raffi must act as the guide and guard for both of them. They are sought out by a man claiming to be from a village where a relic has been found. Recklessly, as he has acted since the accident, Galen decides to follow the man. Raffi knows they must be cautious. The Watch is looking for them, hoping to gain their secrets of the Order. With the Makers gone, the followers of the Order have been hunted and exploited for their relics. It will be up to him to monitor their progress and guard against possible traps.

They make their way to the castle of Alberic, and quickly learn they have been tricked. This is a camp of thieves who only want to exploit Galen for his powers, and use him to recover something stolen from them. In the ensuing scuffle, one of their relics is taken. Galen begrudgingly agrees to search for the Sekoi responsible, while secretly pursuing his own motives. There are tales that the Crow is alive! The messenger of the Makers may still exist in Tasceron, and there may lie their only hope of recovering Galen's lost power, and fighting back against the Watch. The Crow may be the last hope for Anara.

On their journey, they encounter Carys: readers know she is a spy for the Watch. She claims to have lost her father to the Watch, and falls in with them. She has Raffi fooled for sure, but she is wary of Galen. On their trip, her faith is tested. She was always told that the Order's magic was trickery...but the things she has seen prove otherwise.

They finally arrive at Tasceron, the ruined city of the Makers. The city is shrouded in darkness, and fires still burn deep below the city, covering the whole expanse in smoke...and worse. There are creatures in the dark. The Sekoi they are searching for finds them, and leads them into the heart of Tasceron, to others of the Order. Will they find a way to restore Galen's powers before they are captured? Could the Crow still exist? Will everything fall apart under Carys' treachery?

Fisher had me at Incarceron, and I couldn't wait to pick up this series. There is a deep story here, the first book only scratches the surface. Get sucked into the world of Anara. Highly recommended for fantasy fans! Appropriate for middle school or high school, great recommend for fans of Percy Jackson.
"Carefully, he sifted the tiny scraps that had fallen, trying to find more.
'The Crow!' Raffi breathed the words in awe. 'Still alive!'
'Tesk died twenty years ago. That dates it.'
But Raffi could see the news had shaken Galen, stirred him deep. He wanted to ask more, about what it meant, but instead he picked up the ball carefully....'Once I saw an image of the Crow carrying such a glass ball in his mouth. A most secret sign," (Fisher pg. 100-101, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher (Relic Master, Book #2)
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (Ranger's Apprentice, Book #1)

Fisher, Catherine. (2011). The Dark City. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 2)

Percy is back! Well, back is a strong word...more like less lost? He can't remember anything from before the wolves found him...except for Annabeth. He's pretty sure she's his girlfriend. At least Lupa and her wolves found him, and put him on the path to Camp Jupiter. He almost doesn't make it to their front door! After being chased relentlessly by some gorgons who just *refuse* to die, he manages to make it to the camp relatively unharmed, with the help of some new friends: Frank and Hazel.

Once inside, he learns that all demigods are found by Lupa, trained, and sent to Camp Jupiter for 10 years of service fighting monsters and defending the camp. After that, many choose to enter the real world, or move into the city, where they can grow up and build families in the relative safety of Rome. (Wait...demigods can grow up? Something about that seems odd to Percy.)

He is assigned to the 12 Legion (aptly named Lightning), 5th Regiment. They aren't exactly known for their winning streak, but things get a little crazy after dinner at War Games. Frank comes up with a plan that just might give them the upper hand! It even gets him noticed by his dad. After a personal visit from a god, the three are charged with a quest to stop Gaea and her sons the Giants.They must act quickly, because Gaea's army is already approaching Camp Jupiter. If they can't return successful in three days, the entire city is doomed.

Along the way, Percy starts to get bits and pieces of his memory back. Some are bigger than others, and leave him in less than fighting condition. Without Frank and Hazel, there's no telling what could have happened. The three work together, stopping for help along the way. Frank must discover what his family secret is if they are ever to stop the Giants, let alone Gaea. They run into Isis, the Amazons, some Laestrygonians, and much worse...will they ever defeat Alcyoneus and rescue Thanatos?
“ that thing tame?" Frank said.
The horse whinnied angrily.
"I don't think so," Percy guessed. "He just said, 'I will trample you to death, silly Chinese Canadian baby man',” (Riordan, 2011).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) Fall 2012
Eon by Alison Goodman (Eon, Book 1)
The Power of 4 by Pittacus Lore (Lorian Legacy, Book 1)
The Ruins of Gorlan by (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1)

Riordan, Rick. (2011). The Son of Neptune. New York, NY: Disney/Hyperion Books.