Son of Neptune – Review

Review of the second book in the Heroes of Olympus series – Son of Neptune – By Rick Riordan

Greetings all! A long time ago I did a few book reviews, and since I’d like to mix things up here on the blog, I’ll continue to do some more during this summer. In addition, read through to the bottom of the story to see a special offer to self-published and indie-published authors.

The Son of Neptune is the second novel in Rick Riordan‘s The Heroes of Olympus series. It also happens to be one of my favorite of Rick Riordan’s novels. Personally, I’m a fan of Roman mythology and culture (As evidenced by my own novel!), so this ‘flip side’ of the Percy Jackson world was a long time coming. (Warning, the story contains some spoilers, but then again, you already knew that.)

Percy Jackson has amnesia. On the run from monsters who don’t seem to stay killed, and armed only with his own wits, skills, and trusty pen/blade Riptide, he follows the directions of Lupa, guardian she-wolf of Rome, towards safety. In his rush to reach a safehaven, he makes a fateful choice – Carrying the goddess Juno (i.e. Hera from the Greek Mythological World) in a archetypical ‘journey’ into the lands of Camp Jupiter, Rome incarnate in the Western Hemisphere.

In this strange new world, Percy seems out of place. Everything is neat and tidy and organized down to the last component. There are daily roll calls and official inductions for new recruits. Another big change – while readers of the rest of the Percy Jackson series will understand that only demigods can stay at Camp Half-Blood (With a few exceptions), Camp Jupiter is open to all with demigod blood or ancestors. Indeed, a vibrant community with ‘Roman’ citizens of all ages exists alongside Camp Jupiter in “Little Rome”.

I really liked this component, as it opens up a whole new range of possibilities for the characters. Before this, the reader was left to wonder – what do demigods do when they grow up? How do they get married and where do they live? Riordan provides the answer. So Percy gets his tour of the camp and the city, joins the 12th legion – the last official Roman legion that has existed unbroken since the time of the empire.

With his new friends, Frank, son of Mars (not Ares, but the roman aspect of Ares, Mars Ultor) and Hazel, daughter of Pluto and ‘sister’ of Nico Di Angelo – yes, that Nico from the other books – Percy is assigned to assist Frank on a quest after some judicious Roman head bashing in their version of capture the flag.

Setting north to rescue Death (capital D) from the clutches of Gaea, earth goddess with a major case of revenge, and her supremely powerful giant children, they demigods encounter a world where death is reversing itself, and once eliminated enemies are returning. Oh, and they find time to rescue a foretelling harpy, a rainbow goddess with a penchant for organic food, and discover the truth behind internet seller Amazon (Think literal), as well as a nice stop at Frank’s own house in Canada. We learn about Frank’s gift, but also his curse, throughout the book. No longer does Riordan focus on the naivety of his characters as in his earlier novels, but rather on their challenges forced upon them. Every hero has a weakness, but we learn our character’s weaknesses off the bat, and they must strive to find their strengths.

Finally blasting through these challenges, they arrive to find that rescuing death is about more than simply bashing down the front door, but must take sacrifice on one member’s part to bring balance to the situation.

I have to give the book five stars. I really enjoyed it and loved the characters, although Hazel should probably be on some meds for all the blacking out she does. The plot and follow through with the action and humor that Riordan twists into mythology helps younger readers blend the gap between fantasy and realism. It also helps us get past such incredibly tough names to pronounce (Say Laistrygonians three times fast – and that’s an easy one!). I truly enjoyed the book and can’t wait for Mark of Athena, the conclusion to the series, to come out this fall!

How the Hunger Games Movie Stacks Up to the Book

Greetings to all my returning and all my new subscribers!

Today I wanted to briefly look at how movies inspired by books compare to the books themselves. A bit of background on me, I can be nitpicky about my movies, but I consider myself a fair assessor of accuracy in most regards.

I was fortunate enough to catch The Hunger Games last weekend as I was coming back from a weekend trip. We were able to see it in EFX – Enhanced Movie Experience – not sure how much of a difference it made, but no matter. The theater was packed. Entirely. Good thing we got there a bit early! While waiting for the movie to start, I got a chance to see many, many previews. Nothing memorable (at this time), but I do remember that it took the movie nearly 20 minutes to start! argh!

Regardless, I was struck by the background and scenery done for the movie. It really fit perfectly in to the idea of Appalachia being the basis for District 13. Actually having been to many parts of Appalachia myself, I can attest to the authenticity of the depiction (if government and social services cared not at all for the populace) in the older, run down, and more rugged parts.

Setting? – Check

Rue, played by Amandla Stenberg, during a training scene in the movie.

Characters – Did they match the characters invented by my imagination? That’s hard to say, but also not fair to judge. I think that every reader creates an image of what they are reading in their own minds, characters, setting, etc. Some people dislike seeing movies based on books because the characters in the movie won’t be their own (Or even having characters illustrated in their story! See the Illustration Conundrum post for that discussion)

I thought the actors/actresses playing the parts did an excellent job, and (Spoiler if you haven’t read the book) Rue’s character and subsequent death scene were very touching. I read the book a while ago, so that part stood out vividly to me because I hadn’t remembered it much from the book. Goes to show you how emphasis on certain parts can change the perception of the audience. (On a side note, there were tons of people insulted at the number of African Americans portrayed in the movie, which is not only ridiculous that some people still harbor these feelings, but also stupid because that’s exactly how Suzanne Collins described the characters in the book itself!)

I thought the director did a good job trying to bring life into the world and move the story along without eliminating too much of the story. That being said, I thought the first part of the movie dragged on…and on… and on. But it was still interesting to see the world of such a well loved book come to life. There were other movies that have done a worse job of transferring from book to movie (Read the actual ‘Man on Fire‘ book at some point. You’ll be really confused!)

Loved the movie, loved the books too. Would give it an 8/10 stars because of the slow pacing at points. Also, got to sit through an entire movie with a talkative two-year old in front of us. Not the movie’s fault, but just saying! Check it out, totally worth seeing!

The Realities of a Steampunk World

A quick look at making your story match the technology and things within it.

So I went to see the move John Carter yesterday. We shelled out the extra money to see it in IMAX, not because we really wanted to see it in IMAX, but because our local movie theater doesn’t like to show movies starting around 9 pm (It likes 8pm and 11 pm, but little in between) After being deafened and blinded in the previews, we were treated to a real spectacle of a movie. But I digress, this post isn’t a movie review, but rather how I saw a ton of amazing ideas that I COULD use in my novel, but will most likely choose not to.

The most challenging thing about a steampunk world is that you have to remain true to your specific subgenre. For example, Boneshaker (Sci Fi Essential Books) includes undead, guns, airships, etc. But it stays true to roots without using ray guys, rocketpacks, or technology that is beyond what the locals *could* realistically have designed.

When I saw John Carter, the thing that stood out to me the most was this…

Yes, one of the coolest designed airships I’ve ever seen. And I would have loved to somehow make mine (in Brass Legionnaire) as cool as those. But I won’t for a few reasons.

1.) Believability – My Romans are still running around using steam power. Those are definitely not running off steam power.

2.) I don’t want to copy someone else’s idea. Could I take a few pointers from how they look and add descriptions to my story? Sure, but I don’t want to just blatantly take an idea and throw it into my story because it’s cool. That’s a bit too crude for me. Ideas and a story have to match.

3.) It would take my story in an entirely different direction than where I want it to go. I want my books to show technological process and advancement book by book. I don’t want it to be a ‘oh, look, in the last two months we developed this awesome airship that doesn’t rely on hydrogen, helium, or steam power and it works perfectly. By the way, we armed it with these artillery pieces.’

I guess the point of this post is simply to make sure that your technology matches your story. I’m not saying you can’t – or shouldn’t! – be outlandish, but I’m one of those people who get’s thrown out of the story when the main character pulls out a weapon that doesn’t match the rest of the world or story and just pulverizes the enemy.

It’s like the green skinned aliens in John carter who run around with spears, swords, and projectile guns, but aren’t lugging around the alien equivalent of the RPG – they aren’t up to that yet. If your steampunk story has guns, then give them guns, but they shouldn’t have an M16 while everyone else has a muzzle-loading rifle. Technological progress doesn’t move in that way. If one country or place has it, soon enough everyone else will beg/borrow/steal/take by force that technology.

A good book to read is Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Great read on a topic of technology among cultures.


PS – book editing is halfway done, hopefully it will be ready to go by May!

The Illustration Conundrum

To Illustrate or not to Illustrate, that is the (expensive) question!

To begin, I’ve always loved chapter books with illustrations. They breathe life and culture and feeling into a story. Sometimes, I wish to high heavens that Harry Potter books had come with full page illustrations every couple of pages. Not every page mind you, even just one per chapter would have been awesome. Obviously, the style of your book has to lend itself to illustrations. Personally, I think all books could use them in one form or another.

But Wait! You cry. “I have my own created image of what this world looks like, why should someone else make it for me?”

Someone else already has, if the book you are reading has cover art. From the moment you open a book, your mind is building the world that you are reading. The cover (to me) is like the section in a library – Does it have dragons on the cover? Trigger the fantasy imagination component of your mind. Man waving a french flag with a musket? Activate the Three Musketeers and Napoleon memory centers! Illustrations in a book are a way of guiding the reader’s imagination, like mileposts or markers on an old trail. The trail is laid out for you, but you are making the journey. The markers guide you, even shape some of the world for you. But illustrations are expensive, and only the most well paid authors or those with a great amount of extra money to use, those who have won the family/friend lottery (Hey, wanna illustrate my book? I’ll pay you in pizza!) can truly fill a novel book with illustrations. Even Scott Westerfeld of steampunk fame doesn’t have illustrations on every page.


So what is a new/upcoming author to do if they want illustrations. There are a few options.

1.) Sell your firstborn (Just kidding!)

2.) Compromise – Have only a few illustrations that are super critical.

3.) Never have any illustrations and pour that extra money into cover art or extra promotional things.

Of these, option two is the best, and really the only option, that makes the best sense if you have the money for illustrations. As a visual person myself, I love having maps in my book. If your story is going somewhere, have a map! They make great interior covers, and can break up a story neatly into chunks if that is what you need. In my book, I have plans for two maps – one of the entire continent of Europe, and the other of my semi-fictional city of Brittenburg.

My plan for Brass Legionnaire is to have two illustrations that are critical to the story and really tie into the theme and idea of my world. Not only can I have them in the book, but I can get enlarged ones as posters and other things to use as freebies and contest prizes. Theoretically I could sell them eventually too, but I like the idea of having control of a limited number of them in really nice form. Those in the book would be black and white, while the promo ones would be full color.

I suppose I could lay down a pretty penny for one illustration per chapter, but maybe I’ll save that for the omnibus (in the far, far future!) Of course, if you want to make it happen, check out my Kickstarter project and donate. I don’t have much time left on it, and I’m sort of sad that it won’t likely happen, but I’m excited to still have the chance to share the book with you guys regardless!



Brass Legionnaire: Update

So I’ve finally managed to finish the entire Brass Legionnaire Novel! Hurray! It’s about 60k words, and it’s going to the editor come February! Found some great people at Scripta Editing Services to help out and others at Streetlight Graphics to help me format it and make it look beautiful. I’ve also found some help for funding these at Kickstarter, something that I hope will pan out!


For those of you who missed it, download the PDF of the first chapter (Edited, revised, and wonderful!) below!


Warmest Regards


– Daniel


Brass Legionnaire Chapter 1

New Steampunk story is almost halfway done.

Hey all, so my story is roughly halfway done, got over 33 thousand words. I’m anticipating completion by the end of September, with a few months then for editing, revising, and cover art. Just for a few sneak peeks at the ideas inside the story.


Julius is just looking for adventure and a paycheck.

Constantine is looking to move out from under the thumb of his controlling father.

Corbus is one of the most dangerous assassins, and he happens to work for the wrong side.

When a series of unconnected events brings one of Imperial Rome’s grandest industrial cities to its knees, there is only one unit close enough to respond. Join the 13th of the XIII legion as they become the first aerial assault legion in Roman (and steampunk) history. Check out the first chapter in Daniel Ottalini’s new novel Brass Legionnaire today!

Sneak Peak at Chapter 1 – Brass Legionnaire

Here is a sneak peak at chapter 1 of Brass Legionnaire, my new novel!




Daniel Ottalini’s new novel – Brass Legionnaire


Chapter 1

Julius Brutus Caesar used his wrench to tighten the bolt on the sprocket. When connected to the rest of the engine, the engineers could begin the final assembly of yet another mechaniphant. Not for the first time in his life did Julius wonder why on earth someone had the desire to invent such a mechanical monstrosity in the first place. Although, he did have to admit, it was impressive, standing over fifteen imperial feet tall, with a protected driver’s seat and razor sharp chain tusks. Perfect for crashing through the center of an enemy’s battle line, especially when combined with other mechaniphants. Julius shook his head to clear his wandering mind and returned to the situation at hand. Gas lanterns burned all around the factory. Steam pipes crossed haphazardly near the ceiling, matched by spindly gantry ways and support struts. The whole factory would have been a safety inspector’s nightmare. Of course, the inspector was bribed, so the whole situation was swept under the rug, so to speak. Far above Julius’ head, large windows were open to let in the sounds and smells of Brittenburg, otherwise known as Majoris Brittenburgia, factory city and capital of the Imperial Roman Province of Germania Inferior. Julius picked up his wrench, carefully cleaning it with a dirty rag pulled from his utility belt. Continue reading “Sneak Peak at Chapter 1 – Brass Legionnaire”

New Story Idea

Hey all, so I’ve been considering a new story based on several of my favorite genres. Alternative History + Steampunk + Historical Fiction. Read the prologue to my story idea below. I won’t give away the actual story, but maybe the prologue will tweak your interest. PLEASE offer feedback. Let me know what you think! But keep it constructive peoples 🙂

In the year 1856 A.D., the most powerful and glorious empire ever to grace the world of Earth sat like a giant amoeba over the mountains, rivers, and plains of Europe. The Imperial Roman Empire had continued it’s slow spread over the various barbarian tribes of Europe for more than the past two millennia, from the founding of the Republic to it’s transformation into the Imperial Roman Empire with the crowning of Julius Caesar as Emperor. Despite initial attempts to prevent the transformation into an empire, solid Roman citizens with their eye on the future ensured the success of the first Emperor. The most important, Marcus Brutus, close friend and savoir of the Emperor during an assassination attempt in 44 B.C. is now venerated as a deified member of the Roman Pantheon.

Continue reading “New Story Idea”

Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

In Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic world, once a year 24 children are sacrificed to compete to the death in the Hunger Games. The country known as Panem is composed of 12 Districts that encircle the power center known as the Capitol. Every year each District must send one randomly selected boy and girl to the Arena where their battle for survival and glory is broadcasted reality TV-style for all of Panem to see.  (Warning: following review contains some spoilers). Continue reading “Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy”

Four Children vs an Evil Mastermind: Round 1

The Mysterious St. Benedict Society is the suspenseful and entertaining story of four youngsters – Reynie (unknowing leadership material), Kate (gadget girl with an unusual twist), Sticky (Bookworm/Intelligence Figure), and Constance (the youngest and most stubborn member of the team) – on a quest to save the world. Although it doesn’t appear that way at first, this is actually, in my view, a more heartwarming story demonstrating great morals for young adults. Written in a similar method to A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The Mysterious St. Benedict Society is a New York Times Bestseller, and author Trenton Lee Stewart has done an admirable job creating a believable world in which some quite unbelievable things happen. Definitely a must read for those children who loved the Lemony Snicket books, Society, is a bit more mature in some ways, with more interesting, and less obvious, methods of evil infiltrating the story and plot. Continue reading “Four Children vs an Evil Mastermind: Round 1”

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