Riordan, Rick. The Throne of Fire.
Whew! There may be spoilers here-- there was so much to keep track of that I had to take notes! I'll try to outline the story without giving too much away!
The giant snake Apophis is set to escape on the spring equinox, so Carter and Sadie Kane, along with the trainee magicians, intelligent baboon and Uncle Amos have decided to free the god Ra to get his help. Thwarting them is the chief lector of the House of Life, Desjardin, and his evil henchman Menshikov. Sadie tries to go to her birthday party in London, but no sooner does she get there than she realizes that her grandparents have been possessed by evil gods. She is saved by Bes, the god of dwarves, who is watching over her as a favor to Bast. The two take off to Russia to get a scroll of the Book of Ra from Menshikov, and manages to free Set in the process. He directs her to the next scroll, but also tells her the location of Zia, Carter's lost love. In order to retrieve both, the siblings split up, Carter taking off with Bes, and Sadie enlisting the help of Walt.
Carter finds Zia, who has a bigger role in freeing Ra than was previously thought. Of course, Desjardins and Menshikov show up, wanting to execute the Kanes, and so imprison Carter and Bes. Meanwhile, Sadie travels into the tomb of the golden mummies and runs into the spirit of a Roman priest who is very unhappy that his people have never been able to have their souls freed because they were caught between traditions. After Sadie retrieves the scroll, she and Walt are able to put the mummies to rest in a spectacular, and somewhat messy, fashion. In doing so, the two are saved by the god Ptah, who sends her to help free Carter. The portal he uses frees Bes to temporarily blast Desjardins and Menshikov back home, allowing the group to follow Ra's traditional path along the River of Night and through the twelve houses, in hopes of finding the god there.
In each house, they must complete a task, from naming one of Ra's personalities to crossing a river of fire. They find Ra in the House of Rest, where he is attended by Tawaret, a hippo goddess who has a past history with Bes. With the senile god in tow, they meet their parents in the seventh house, and enlist in the help of Khonsu, the Moon God, to let them into the closed eighth house. This favor comes with a huge price.
From here on out, the book was so filled with marvelous action that I stopped taking notes, not wanting to spoil the conclusion. We'll just end by saying that there is an epic battle, and things are sort of okay; the Kane's have Ra, but still need to fight Apophis. Will this happen in the next book? We'll just have to see.
Strengths: Riordan's use of language is as brilliant as ever. I want to go out to dinner with him and Jordan Sonnenblick and just listen to the two of them string words together. Wow. Every couple of pages I would have to stop and quote sentences that just struck me as hilarious. If that weren't enough, Riordan does a hugely impressive amount of research in order to incorporate mythology into his stories, and writes fabulous action scenes. How does he know so much about blowing things up and things crashing into each other? I find action impossible to write, so this always impresses me.
Weaknesses: Well, I had to take notes to keep things straight, but I read books too quickly. I'm also not a fan of alternate view points, and even though Riordan does a good job at switching from Carter to Sadie, it sometimes slows down the story. I understand why he chose to do this, though, and its more of a personal preference.
Myracle, Lauren. Ten.
Winnie is back, but this time younger than she was in the last book. We meet Winnie on her tenth birthday, when she is trying to decide who she wants to be, and how she feels about her two best friends. Dinah is still the friend you're not quite sure about, and Amanda is changing before Winnie's eyes from someone fun to someone concerned about her appearance and BOYS, whom Winnie still continues to think are icky. (Although we get a glance of a young Lars at her summer camp!) The most important part of the book is a long battle with Mindy and her "mean secret club". Winnie just doesn't get why Mindy has such power over her friends, and is crushed when they side with Mindy over her. This is such a huge part of elementary school that middle school girls will still identify with the angst. Luckily, Winnie manages to be true to herself, and find a way to thwart Mindy's plans.
Strengths: Myracle certainly understands all of the embarrasing details of being this age, and portrays them in a straight forward but humorous way.
Weaknesses: While this will be a huge hit with girls who are this age, it may not work quite as well for my 8th graders. But there will be a couple of die-hard fans who pick it up anyway, but they will be happier when Fourteen finally comes out!
Accomplished so far this summer:
1. 3 miles 2. 4 books 3. 2 quilt tops
(and only the tops; I used to quilt them, but that involved going into the fabric store to obtain batting, putting me in dangerous proximity to the pretty fabric which I am NOT allowed to buy! You can see the tops I'm making at