Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"The Serpent's Shadow (Kane Chronicles #3)" by Rick Riordan

406 pages

In this thrilling conclusion to the Kane Chronicles, Carter and Sadie are down to their last chance to destroy the chaos snake Apophis. If they can't get rid of him once and for all, he will plunge the world into eternal darkness. The Kanes don't have much help, though, as the magicians of the House of Life are wasting time fighting with each other and the gods are divided by their own squabbles. It's up to Carter, Sadie, and the other young magicians of Brooklyn House to battle Apophis and his forces. Their only hope is an ancient spell that would turn the snake's own shadow into a weapon against him. Problem is, the spell has been lost for centuries...and time is running out.

This was my favorite book in the Kane Chronicles. I had trouble following the others, perhaps due to my lack of knowledge of Egyptian mythology, but I guess I'd learned enough from the previous books to help this story make sense. The action is pretty much nonstop, so I couldn't put the book down. Carter and Sadie both seem to grow up a little, which is good to see as the series concludes. I like the way everything came together for a very satisfying ending. Well done!

Monday, December 10, 2012

"The Leftovers" by Tom Perotta

355 pages

For more than two thousand years Christians have looked forward to the Rapture, believed to take all believers home to heaven before God’s judgment rains onto the Earth. Most believe that in that glorious moment, the physical bodies of the faithful will disappear in an instant, leaving even their clothes behind. In The Leftovers, the Rapture has happened…but it wasn’t like the Christians thought it would be. Some were taken, but plenty weren’t. In fact, the disappearances seem almost random—people of all ages, races, and religions—but they all happened at one instant. And there were millions of them, all over the world. Now, after it has become clear that the scientists can’t explain what happened, the ones left behind—also known as the “survivors” or the “leftovers”—must figure out how to move on. Almost everyone knows someone who disappeared, while some lost their entire families. And everyone is dealing with the question of why this happened and what the future holds. Some use alcohol and drugs to numb the pain and uncertainty. Some join extreme end-of-the-world cults. Some take advantage of the situation and grab power. This book is the story of a few ordinary people trying to make a life in a new world, changed forever in an instant.

I usually don’t like books that leave a lot of questions unanswered, but it didn’t bother me with this one. It’s pretty clear from the beginning that you’re not going to figure everything out and that’s not the point of the story. It’s sort of a character study in how people deal with tragedy, made even more interesting by the fear and uncertainty thrown in as well. Though I am myself a Christian, I like that this book puts quite a spin on the traditional view of the Rapture. Without too much preaching, it makes the point that no one can rightly judge other people because now matter how much someone thinks they know about God, or whatever divine being they believe in, no one can truly know what is going to happen. It’s also interesting that science offers no plausible explanations either. I walked away from the book with the feeling that no matter what we believe, we don’t have all the answers and probably never will. That’s a scary thought, but it’s worth thinking about. I found other aspects of the story pleasing as well. The characters are multidimensional and they feel real. Their reactions to the disappearances are fascinating and made me think about what I would do.  There’s not a lot of action, but I got sucked in just the same. The whole thing is going to stick with me for quite a while, for sure.