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Book Reviews

Beauty, Book Reviews, Books, Ethical

There’s Lead in Your Lipstick – Gillian Deacon | REVIEW

July 13, 2017

There's Lead In Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon

While I am an avid label reader and science nerd, trying to understand the confusing words on packaging is hard. Enter There’s Lead in Your Lipstick, which serves as a perfect entrance into figuring out what is actually in the products your using and how to avoid the toxins.

Would you ever imagine that there are harmful chemicals in the products you rub on your face every day, the things you wash with, what you brush your teeth with, or fix your hair with? I think the majority of people, including myself, probably wouldn’t. You would assume that there is some kind of governing body somewhere ensuring harmful toxins are not put in things we use. Unfortunately, it isn’t really the case (while there are bodies, they’re not as protective as you would hope) and the biggest lesson you will learn from There’s Lead in Your Lipstick is that you have to be your own advocate.

Of course, there are some chemicals banned for use in cosmetics but that doesn’t mean that what’s allowed in cosmetics is perfectly safe. Far from it. Luckily for those living in the EU, we appear to have stricter regulations that those in the US and Canada, but again it still doesn’t mean we are actually being protected from things that can cause us harm. (And with the whole Brexit debacle, who knows what kind of laws products will or won’t have to comply with.)

We have no way to measure the impact of an ingredient combined with every other chemical you encounter day after dayAdditionally, the ease of internet shopping might mean that by buying from abroad you’re exposing yourself to ingredients which are banned in your own country. Coal tar is one example. The known carcinogen is banned in the EU but is still allowed in products in the US, where it might be found in anti-dandruff shampoo, hair dye, and soaps.

I have found switching to a toxin-free lifestyle quite overwhelming, but Deacon’s book is the ideal accomplice. She explains the issues with each toxin and what it might also be referred to as on the label, in a really easy to understand way. I was half expecting There’s Lead in Your Lipstick to be a bit of a dry, textbook-style, read but it was far from it; it was equal parts interesting and horrifying. Her writing style is quite conversational, and I finished it off on my flight home because I just could not put it down.

As well as explaining some of the key ingredients to avoid (and giving a handy list of 20 things you really need to avoid), Deacon explains how to avoid them by including DIY recipes and lists of companies and products which are toxin free. Knowing what to do instead definitely takes away from some of the feeling of being overwhelmed because you feel like you’re armed with solutions and starting points. (And believe me, you will feel a little overwhelmed and want to throw away a large chunk of the stuff in your bathroom.) Note that this book does not detail every single ingredient you shouldn’t avoid, though I’d kinda like that book.

The book is split up into sections dealing with different kinds of products, such as hair, face, hands and feet. Two of the best sections are definitely the ones which teach you how to understand labels and deals with the issues with companies being able to use the words “natural” or “organic” pretty liberally without very strict guidelines.

It is sad that it’s surprisingly difficult to buy toxin free products in on the high street (how did the world come to this?). I have a few recipes or products saved on Pinterest but it can be tricky to keep going back to different pages and trying to remember where I saved something, so I like knowing I can pick up this book and flick to the section I need easily.

I wish books like this didn’t need to exist, but with the plethora of chemicals we’re exposed to every day without really realising it, and no one knowing the accumulative and combined issues they can cause over time, books like this are important. If you read one non-fiction book this summer, heck even this year, let it be There’s Lead in Your Lipstick.

I would like to point out that the products in the main photograph are not all toxin free, and NARS are no longer cruelty free either.

If you’ve read this, what did you think of it? Do you have any recommendations?

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Book Reviews, Books, Young Adult

Did I Mention I Need You – Estelle Maskame* | YES! I got my book mojo back.

February 19, 2016

Did I Mention I Need You - Estelle Maskame

Yes! That’s what I’m talking about; I got my reading mojo back and really sunk my teeth into Did I Mention I Need You?

Towards the end of last year I read Did I Mention I Love You; the first book in the DIMLY series. You may remember that I had mixed feelings about the book because I really liked the main characters, but had some other niggles. However, I’m pleased to report that I flat out loved Did I Mention I Need You and my previous annoyances are no longer.

We pick up a year after the end of DIMILY (I know I could copy and paste, but I’m being lazy and abbreviating) and Eden is excited about the prospect of heading to New York for a few weeks because:

  • A: it’s New-freaking-York (I doubt that’s correct use of hyphens)
  • B: Tyler is living there

From the get go, you know there’s only one way this is going to go:

  1. Eden will cheat on Dean, and Eden and Tyler will get back together
  2. The whole stepsiblings thing will be an issue (a non-issue for me)
  3. Family and friends will probably find out

Aaaaand that’s exactly what happens. DIMINY was never going to be anything but predictable due to the storyline, but that doesn’t make it a bad story at all. Don’t get me wrong, a predictable book can be a bad book, but that just wasn’t the case here. Estelle Maskame sucked me into Eden and Tyler’s lives and I feel like I actually know both of them. I am unequivocally hooked on their lives.

It was nice to explore New York through Eden’s eyes, and it’s made me really want to go back. I must also add that my shoe-envy over Eden’s white Converse finally gave me something to spend a gift card on. (Thank you Estelle, you terrible enabler, you.)

Some characters from the first book make an appearance, though no where near as much as in the first book. We also meet two new characters, who I really grew to love and I think they’re stronger and more interesting supporting characters than the supporting characters were in the first book.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler for me to tell you that Eden and Tyler end up getting back together, and there are mixed reactions to their relationship when people find out. Of course, Dean is less than thrilled and despite that I couldn’t help but want Tyler and Eden to be happy.

For me, the step sibling thing hasn’t really been an issue because they weren’t raised together and don’t live together as siblings. Of course, both in real life and in the book, there are mixed reactions to that and it was interesting to see how it unfolded.

And the ending. THE ENDING! Estelle is a cruel lady. I re-read it a couple of times because I couldn’t believe what happened. I need to know when the third book is coming out because it is one of the cruellest cliffhangers I have ever encountered.

Did I Mention I Need You is exactly what I needed after the past couple of books I read didn’t really do much for me. Estelle had me hooked from the first page and I kept turning the page to find out what would happen next. It was one of those books that you groan about having to put down, and end up thinking about the characters in between reading and after you’ve read the final word.

In short: A gripping forbidden romance-fueled angst-fest set in New York.

What was the last book you read that had you absolutely hooked?

*I received a free copy of Did I Mention I Need You in exchange for an honest review – this does not affect my opinion and I would never fangirl about something I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Did I Mention I Need You - Estelle Maskame book rating - new favourite

 

Did I Mention I Need You Book Cover Did I Mention I Need You
Did I Mention I Love You
Estelle Maskame
Young adult, contemporary, romance

It's been a year since eighteen-year-old Eden Munro last saw Tyler Bruce: her stepbrother… and her secret love. Although they called time on their forbidden relationship for the sake of their family, Eden can't help but feel excited when Tyler invites her to join him in New York City for the summer.

Anyway, Eden is happy with her boyfriend Dean, and surely Tyler has moved on too. But as they spend a long, hot summer in the excitement of the city that never sleeps, it soon becomes obvious that they aren't over each other. But can they resist temptation?

Book Reviews, Young Adult

All The Rage – Courtney Summers* | The book I should have raged about

February 5, 2016

All The Rage - Courtney Summers book review

I cannot get enough of authors pushing the boat with heavy topics in young adult, and I wanted to read All The Rage as soon as I read the description.

Trigger warning: All The Rage discusses rape and sexual assault.

All The Rage follows the story of our protagonist, Romy, who is trying to deal with the aftermath of being raped. She has become an outcast from her friendship group, is regularly bullied, and it’s quickly clear that no one believes that she was raped.

The blurb focuses heavily on her attack and a link to a girl who goes missing, but the blurb is quite a poor representation of the book. I do take blurbs with a pinch of salt because their job is to pull you in, but I went into All The Rage expecting one thing and got something very different.

For starters, the attacker, who is referenced in the blurb, is only mentioned in passing in the actual book. I was expecting that maybe they were at school together and she might have to deal with that, but nope. I also thought that maybe we would see a lot more of a back and forth between people who didn’t believe her (as her attacker is labelled a ‘golden boy’), but that didn’t happen either.

I must admit that the timeline baffled me to begin with. It jumps back and forth quite confusingly (despite being labelled…) and I found it a little tricky to figure out what was happening and when. On top of that, despite the horrible things Romy was going through and having to deal with, I didn’t connect with her.

Now, I have two thoughts about why that might be:

  • I just didn’t connect with Romy
  • Romy has been through an extremely difficult time and has become very withdrawn, so maybe that’s the whole point of why I couldn’t connect?

I should have felt angry that Romy was the victim of a horrific attack and victim blaming. My blood should have been boiling because her attacker got away with it. I wanted to feel for her so badly, but it just didn’t happened. Believe me when I say I tried.

Additionally, some of her actions didn’t make sense to me and felt a little forced as a way to add something into the plot. Again, I feel like this could also be due to her mental state but I’m not entirely convinced that that’s why.

The pacing wasn’t bad, though it felt a little slow at times, but the plot didn’t do much for me as a whole; I didn’t ever feel that I could really figure out what the focus was on. A former friend going missing seemed like a bit of a distraction and I felt that the ‘resolution’ was very rushed and not particularly satisfactory for me.

In general, it felt quite directionless the majority of the time and perhaps that was the whole point, but if it was it wasn’t made clear enough. I would have preferred the book to focus on Romy coming to terms with what happened and people finally believing her.

On paper, All The Rage should have been a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I like reading about difficult topics and as Louise O’Neill proved to me in Only Ever Yours, a book about dark topics doesn’t need a happy ending, or to be nice to read in any way, to be gripping or powerful.

I’ve said mostly negative things about this book so far, but I cannot deny that it did keep me gripped. Though, some of that was me waiting to see when this book would live up to the blurb. Courtney’s writing style was beautiful also, very poetic at times.

“You know all the ways you can kill a girl?
God, there are so many.”

I also really liked the relationship between Romy, her mother and stepfather, and her boyfriend. That gave me an insight into what it must be like for parents to feel so helpless when their child is suffering. The relationship with her boyfriend made me think about something I’d never really thought about before; how do you move forward and have a relationship after going through something like that? I commend Courtney for opening my eyes there.

Now, it does seem that I’m not in the vast majority with this book because there are so many four and five star reviews for All The Rage on Goodreads. It was definitely one of those books where I read the reviews and asked myself if I was reading the same book as everyone else.

With all of the above said, I’m not going to tell you not to read it because you might read it and love it. I also think it’s really important to read about heavy topics that open our eyes to other people’s experiences and give us some kind of understanding of what it’s like to go through something like this.

I see victim blaming being challenged more and more and I think books like this can go a long way towards helping people understand what it’s like to not only have to deal with sexual assault, but to then have people think you’re a liar and / or blame you for it.

*I received a copy of All The Rage in exchange for an honest review. As nice as free books are, it does not affect my opinion of a book at all because you guys are too awesome for me to lie.

Rating for All The Rage by Courtney Summers - Meh

All The Rage Book Cover All The Rage
Courtney Summers
Young adult, contemporary
Pan Macmillan
January 28th, 2016
eBook

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous.But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

Book Reviews, Young Adult

How To Be Brave – E. Katherine Kottaras *

November 6, 2015

How to be brave e. katherine kottaras

I love lists, so the idea of a book that sees a character ticking off things on a list was all I needed to pick up How To Be Brave.

The basic premise is that Georgia, who is trying to work through her mother’s death, makes a list of 15 things she wants to do but has never plucked up the courage to do. They aren’t all ridiculous huge tasks, they’re smaller and more achievable things that perhaps a lot of us can relate to because we talk ourselves out of it, like take a tribal dancing class.

It might sound like it’s fairly light-hearted, and it is to some degree, but there are some much heavier themes explored. The most obvious ones being the death of Georgia’s mother and not only how she deals with it, but how her father deals with it and where it leaves them as father and daughter. On top of that, Georgia also makes a new friend, who is clearly suffering from a mental illness. How To Be Brave is more than just an easy, breezy read.

E. Katherine Kottaras has written, what I feel, to be a realistic portrayal of being a teenager. There’s insecurity issues, romances, swearing, bullying, and getting high. Those things are all realistic during your teenage years, and I think it’s good that an author isn’t afraid to show that. Yes, some teenagers make smoke week, and yes it’s illegal, but let’s not act like it doesn’t happen.

Overall, the book carried some good messages about staying positive, being brave, and dealing with grief, which I liked.

The plot was well-paced, and I didn’t find it to be too fast or too slow. The only issue I had was connecting with Georgia. She was a fairly well-developed character, and she had a likeable and snarky personality, but I couldn’t quite connect to her. I’m not sure why, but I struggled to, and that meant this book lacked a bit of punch for me.

Had I connected with Georgia, I would have felt for her more and I’m sure this would have been a really heart-wrenching story in places.

As I didn’t connect with Georgia, I found this to be a fairly forgettable read. That’s not to say that I don’t recommend it though, because it was a good read, it dealt with some big issues and was a realistic coming of age story. And just because I didn’t connect, doesn’t mean that you won’t.

What was the last thing you tried that made you feel brave?

*I received a copy of How To Be Brave in exchange for an honest review.

How To Be Brave Book Cover How To Be Brave
E. Katherine Kottaras
Young adult, contemporary
3rd November, 2015

An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

Book Reviews, Crime, Thriller

The Girl On The Train – Paul Hawkins – I get the hype!

October 16, 2015

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

I'll be doing a spoiler-filled discussion of The Girl On The Train for The Olive Fox Book Club at the end of the month, but for now, here's my spoiler-free review.

I was so happy when I saw that The Olive Fox readers had picked The Girl On The Train for the October book club. Over the summer, I heard so many good things about this book, and I honestly feel that it does live up to all the hype.

Do you ever see people and wonder what their life is like? I do. I like people watching and making up my stories about what they might be doing, or what their life might be like, so I instantly connected with this book.

The Girl On The Train is told from the point of view of three women: Rachael, Megan, and Anna, who are all connected by a street in a small town. Their lives end up tangled up (or even more tangled up, in some cases), and things get messy fairly quickly.

I've seen a lot of comparisons to Gone Girl, and I can definitely see why people are making those comparisons:

  • We've got unreliable narrators
  • It's not a straight forward whodunit - I didn't figure it out until just before it was revealed
  • Nothing is quite what you're first led to believe
  • Some other stuff that I won't mention because of spoilers

Paula Hawkins had me hooked from the very first page, and I ended up staying up much later than I should have on a couple of evenings to finish this off. When I wasn't reading it, my brain was ticking over wondering what would happen next. By the end of the book, I felt like I actually knew these people.

Our three main characters are incredibly well developed, and they're not perfect either which is perhaps what I love best. They're not easy characters to love; there were a handful of times where I found myself mentally shouting at a character and telling them to get their sh*t together.

I am a sucker for a character with imperfections though. I read so many books where we have your typical good character, whose flaws are very minor, so it's refreshing to read from the point of view of someone who is not necessarily a good person.

The pacing was just perfect, and the plot kept me on my toes at all times. There were a few times where I felt I was sure I knew who had done it, only to be proven wrong. I didn't get it right until just before it was revealed, and I love that. I enjoy it when a book makes me think and try to figure things out. I like it when a book lies to me and sweeps the rug from under my feet.

In short: A gripping read that will keep you on your toes and up past your bed time.

If you're interested, The Olive Fox are holding a Twitter book chat on Wednesday 21st October 19:30 - 20:30 UK time to talk about The Girl On The Train (as spoiler free as possible). If you want to take part in the book club in November, keep your eyes peeled on The Olive Fox as voting for November's book will begin in the last week of October.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins book rating - new favourite

Have you read The Girl On The Train?

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Book Reviews, Horror, Thriller

Sleepless – Lou Morgan

October 7, 2015

Sleepless - Lou Morgan book review

I must admit that I’m not much of a horror \ scary fan, but Sleepless was a gripping and thrilling read.

I met Lou Morgan at the start of the year at the UKYA Extravaganza, and after she told me about Sleepless I had to pick it up.

With the pressure to succeed in their exams, Izzy and her friends are encouraged to take pills one of her friends got off the internet which are supposed to improve your focus. Izzy is unsure, but does it because the rest of her friends are taking them and she can’t fail and get kicked out. Well that was never going to end well was it?

It turns out that the pills are much more than pills that just help your focus, and the side effects are horrifying.

Because I was ridiculously busy when I first started reading Sleepless, it took me a while to really get into it and get to grips with all of the characters. Once I had time to sit down and read a good chunk of it, I couldn’t put it down and finished it off in a couple of hours straight.

Our main character is Izzy, who has recently moved to Clerkenwell. Throughout the book she makes some references to an incident at her previous school and her leaving, but it’s never explained which seemed a bit strange. Come the end of the book, I was still curious to know what had happened.

For me, Sleepless was exactly the right amount of horror. As I said earlier, I’m not a massive horror fan – I’m pretty sure I’d struggle to sleep for weeks (pun!) if I read anything by Stephen King.

It was thrilling, and I had to find out what happened next. It was well-written, there was plenty to keep you interested and trying to figure out what happened next, and it was enjoyable.

The ending was a but abrupt and unclear for my liking. I’m not a fan of uncertain endings, I like to know exactly how it happened with no questions left.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable, and gripping horror (that’s not too terrifying) then Sleepless is well worth a read.

Sleepless Lou Morgan book rating

Do you like horror books?

Sleepless Book Cover Sleepless
Lou Morgan
Horror, young adult,
January 5th, 2015
Paperback
352

Young, rich and good-looking, Izzy and her friends lead seemingly perfect lives. But exams are looming, and at a school like Clerkenwell, failure is not an option. Luckily, Tigs has a solution. A small pill that will make revision a breeze and help them get the results they need. Desperate to succeed, the group begin taking the study drug. It doesn’t take long before they realize there are far worse things than failing a few exams.

Book Reviews, Fairy Tales

The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris

September 30, 2015

The Gospel of Loki - Joanne M. Harris

The Gospel of Loki is a retelling of the stories of the Norse Gods from the point of view of Loki, everyone’s favourite trickster.

Reading it from Loki’s point of view really puts a different perspective on it, and you can’t help but feel sorry for him because he gets screwed over several times.

Before reading this my knowledge of the Norse Gods wasn’t great, and was pretty much limited to the Thor movies, so I actually learned a lot about Norse mythology and some of the things that happened in Thor made a little more sense. 

Talking of Thor, if you’re expecting Marvel Loki, it’s not quite the same. Of course, he’s still a trickster and likes to have fun at the expense of others, but he’s much darker in this book and you soon find out why. It’s not the Marvel universe, so don’t expect a hilarious Thor either.

It’s a bit of a rollercoaster of a book; you follow Loki from his first steps in to Asgard, as he forms tumultuous relationships, to battle scenes right at the end.

At the start of each chapter, there’s a lesson from Loki and the pages that follow explain why he learned that ‘lesson’.

It was a pretty fast read, I got through it quite quickly when I was in Sweden, and it wasn’t the most gripping book I’ve read this year. I think because of the way the chapters are split into lessons, it makes it a book that you’d feel happy reading quite casually, picking it up and putting it down whenever you felt like it.

That said, The Gospel of Loki was a really enjoyable read, and I did learn a lot about Norse mythology, so I’m glad this was recommended to me.

Do you enjoy retellings?

The Gospel of Loki book rating

 

 

The Gospel of Loki Book Cover The Gospel of Loki
Joanne M. Harris
Fantasy, mythology, retelling, adventure
Paperback

The novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods - retold from the point of view of the world's ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki's recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself. Using her life-long passion for the Norse myths, Joanne Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel.

Loki, that’s me.

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.

So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.

Now it’s my turn to take the stage.

With his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

Adventure, Book Reviews, Fantasy

Percy Jackson: The Battle of the Labyrinth – Rick Riordan

September 14, 2015

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan brought it again. The Battle of the Labyrinth is an action-packed, fast-paced, fun installment to the Percy Jackson series. 

I found the third book, Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse, to be lacking but there are no such issues in The Battle of the Labyrinth. 

The action kicks off in the first couple of pages and doesn’t let up until just before the end. It’s very fast-paced which works well to keep your interest. However, there were a couple of times where there was so much going on and it was so fast that I had to re-read a couple of bits. 

Like the previous books, The Battle of the Labyrinth involves a quest specific to this book which relates to the main storyline running through the series. I won’t say too much more about the plot as it may spoil previous books if you haven’t read them. 

We see a slightly more mature Percy in this book, which makes sense as he’s aged four years since the first book, and we see him agonising over decisions which might result in his friends being injured. 

A couple of new characters pop up in this book, along with a few monsters we’ve never seen before. Some of these monsters are ridiculous (I mean that in a good way), I can’t even begin to picture some of them in my head because they’re just so random. 

Despite the fact that I knew the main characters are going to survive, as there’s a fifth book, I couldn’t help but worry about them. I think that making you worry about a character that you know is going to survive is a sign of a really good author.

Once again, the world building is excellent and the series continues to blend mythology with the real world, making you believe that it might just be real. That’s one of my favourite writing mechanisms, I love it when authors blend fantasy with the real world. It immerses you a little bit more, and makes the world so much easier to imagine.  

I’m a little sad that the fifth book, The Last Olympian, is the final book in this series. I know there’s another series, The Heroes of Olympus, which some of the characters from this series feature in, so I’m glad it’s not the end of the Percy Jackson world.

This is a really popular series, and I see so many people talking about Percabeth. When is that supposed to happen? There’s been a couple of things in this book, but nothing major to make me really ship Percabeth. Does it all happen in the last book? Or is it just one of those things where something has been made from very little? Or does it happen in the next series?

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth book rating

Have you read the Percy Jackson series?

The Battle of the Labyrinth (#4) Book Cover The Battle of the Labyrinth (#4)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Rick Riordan
Fantasy, mythology, greek mythology, adventure, children's,
6th March 2008
Kindle

When demonic cheerleaders invade his high school, Percy Jackson hurries to Camp Half Blood, from whence he and his demigod friends set out on a quest through the Labyrinth, while the war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near.