The Lightning Thief


I had orginally checked out, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) by Rick Riordan at my son’s request.  As often happens at my house, I end up reading these books as I read most things that cross our doorstep. This one I did enjoy.

In this fantastic world, mythical gods still exist and still sire children.  To keep these children safe, they are sent to a weird sort of camp. Percy, the main character, discovers he is the son of a god when his mother drops him at the camp right before her death. Then, a series of threats to the world force him to embark on an epic adventure.

Certain parts of this books were glib the way children’s books sometimes are, for example, the death of his mother causes no tears, only a sort of befuddlement.  The book plays into our cultures current fasination with fatherhood, much as that is a evolving role.  In this case, the father is awesome and great, but distant and perhaps indifferent.  Many young people can relate with this as well as his parents’ separation.

The book moves rapidly and stays true to its imaginative space. There is a variety of creatures yet the author is able to incorporate them into the modern world either with disguises or explained away by tabloids.

It’s interesting how well this is played out here, especially after just seeing Wrath of the Titans. The story line was exactly the same: a son of a god on quest to save the world.  Mars was even the enemy in both.  Yet while the special effects of Wrath of the Titans were spectacular- the story was hard to follow.  I was indifferent to the characters.  Percy Jackson and his friends are solidly human, full of the awkward bravado and insecurities of a young teen.  They make mistakes, and they build relationships between each other, and those friendships are very real.

Fantasy Life

I read Fantasy Life a long time ago when I first discovered Kristin Kathryn Rusch.  It is a wonderful book, full of magical creatures and extraordinary people with unusual powers.  She begins by introducing us to four generations of women with special powers who are protecting a very unusual sanctuary.  While there are magical elements to the book, there is a central mystery that is only revealed at the very end.

The author has a surprising way of weaving the magical creatures into the modern world that is believable and relevent.  The central theme of the book: the oil spills that cause havok on the environment, is woven into this fantasy. The book moves between the fantastical and “real” world without seams- and when the two conflict – it is interesting.

a few more books

Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms Eugenia Bone, 2011, Rodale Books, non-fiction. Steve saw this book  in the Star Tribune.  He got it from the library, and then, of course, I read it as well.  We both really liked it and got it as a shared Christmas gift.  I found the chapter about the future of truffle cultivation really interesting, but really this book goes into every aspect about fungi – except identification.

That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life by Ana Homayoun, 2010, Penguin Group, non-fiction.   Hmm, I wonder why I checked out this book from the library.  Is there a particular person I was thinking of? Anyway, this is fairly helpful book.  Some things I had already figured out, like limiting electronics while my kids studied.  If you don’t have a lot of time, most of the information I was interested was in Chapter 5: organizing binders and planners. The first few chapters deal with anecdotes and the last few with special circumstances, which fortunately we don’t have.  It is an easy book to read and I will reread Chapter 4, 5 and 8 again to solidify what I read in my mind.

The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters by Timothy Schaffert, 2002, Penguin Putman Inc., fiction.  I read the first few chapters of this book on the chapter a day emails I get.  The first few chapters were very engaging and the premise was nice.  He does maintain that sort engaging style through the whole book.  He also captures the feeling of  the feckless late adolescence – early 20s time in life.  However, although things happen in this book, they don’t seem to affect the characters.  The two main characters seem unchanged by the one meeting her mother after a long period of abandonment and the other one being separated from her sister for the first time.  There is a lack of stake in this book that I think is its failing.

The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been . . . and Where We’re Going by George Friedman, 2011, Random House.   His basic premise is the United States is a global empire and the president is the emperor. He defines what he means by an empire, and his reasons for believing the United States is one. Then he goes on to make deep detailed predictions on how the United States will be interacting with the world in the next decade.  He goes through every important country in the world, and several that I didn’t even realize their importance.  He talks about historical influences on modern situations that I had not considered such as the triad of power of Russia, France and Germany, and how that affects modern foreign affairs. He talks about cultural and economic pressures. All in all, it is a comprehensive study of geopolitical pressures in the next decade.

The language of flowers


In The Language of Flowers: A Novel, a girl who ages out of the foster care system, finds her family after many years. This is very sweetly written, and actually is surprisingly positive for all the challenges that this group of people face.  There is a certain feeling of destiny as the main character falls back into the family she bonded with most strongly.  Yet, she is still unable to make a family.

What I found the most surprising was the idea that being a part of a family takes skills, and if these skills are not taught, the next generation won’t have any idea how to make a family.

I love the layering of meaning that the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, creates with the flower meanings.  She is very kind to her characters, giving them space to find their way, but not making them perfect, just true.

Because of Winn-Dixie


I don’t usually like books about dogs.  However, I must say that not since Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, have I enjoyed a dog book this as much as Because of Winn-Dixie.  It is a children’s book, and one that I can recommend freely, since it is without even a touch of violence or sexually.  Even children that are not old enough to actually read this book, can hear it without any parental cringing (or as I used to do sometimes when reading to my kids – editing).  It is told from the lead character’s perspective as she finds her pet in her new home town, then the pet leads her to build her own little community of odd people.  The characters are unique, small town characters, each with wonderful stories to tell.

If you chose to listen to this book on tape, the actress who reads, Cherry Jones is wonderful.  She has a southern little girl’s voice that is expressive and sweet.

Because of Winn-Dixie Signature Edition, DiCarmillo, Kate and Jones, Cherry

The Winters in Bloom


The Winters in Bloom: A Novel is a book about secrets.  It is also about parents’ biggest fear: that their child will be kidnapped.  As these parents find themselves in that circumstance, the novel examines their lives for possible suspects.  As each of those suspects emerges, we get a better picture of each parent.  While a mystery, this book is not violent or mean.  Rather it gently follows each character through a description, a history and then along his or her logical path to a surprisingly agreeable ending.

Lisa Tucker, September 2011, Atria Books

Earthborn


It has been a while since I reviewed an Orson Scott Card book, mainly because I have read them all and now have to anxiously wait for a new one to come out. I am on the author alert at the library and they sent me an email saying a new novel from him had been released: Earthborn (Homecoming).  Now I thought that I had read the whole Homecoming series, but since I couldn’t remember for sure, I got it again.  Sure enough I had read it (the library had bought a new addition), but I didn’t remember it fully so I sat down and read it again.

This series is wonderful, but I would recommend reading it from the beginning. The Memory of Earth is the first in this five-part series and by far the most interesting to read.  In this future world, humans have left Earth to settle in Harmony and Earth is such a distant memory it is a myth. A powerful computer manipulates the settlers towards its goal: to return to the lost home planet. While as a Christian, I grapple a little bit with his idea of a computer as a semi-god; manipulating lives. However, I love the feminist society that he creates in the first book (unfortunately, this society decays in the next few books, but women remain complex and important characters) .  The characters with their special powers are complex and interesting to imagine.

In Earthborn (Homecoming), the original characters are so far in the distant past they have become almost gods.  The new cast has some of the same special abilities as the originals yet they deal with the abilities in different ways.  However, their issues are not returning to a distant home planet, rather how to get along with the new creatures who have populated Earth, creatures far different from humans.  The resulting conflicts resonate with the racism that we still deal with in our world, and with what it really means to be human.