I adore the times spent with my fellow members of the Paige Turner Book Club...but I have a literary appetite that simply cannot be sated with just one book a month. This blog is a place for me to talk about more of my reading adventures. Reviews, summaries, highlights, warnings, praises and quotes. Because after all, it can be a jungle...er...savannah...out there.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Somehow in the blur that was my week, I managed to find time to read the latest House of Night novel.  On one hand, I'm glad that I'm all caught up.  On the other, now I have to wait for the new books to come out.  The wait will be terrible!

This one was probably my favorite of the series.  The theme of "choice" is front and center.  It reminded me of the sage words of Albus Dumbledore:  "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."  There are several major characters that face the choice for good or evil.  Another type of choice was also there -- to follow stereotypes and expectations, or to be true to yourself.  Not an easy stand, but one that's worth making.

So in the middle of the fun and the fluff, I keep finding a lot of great stuff in this series.  Tempted keeps the high pace and the teenage drama.  But it held some new twists that really changed the game.  After a cliffhanger ending, it will be a long wait for the next chapter!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jane Austen's Guide to Good Manners by Josephine Ross

This book is a must-read (or peruse) for any Jane Austen fan. It goes behind the scenes of Austen's world to give insight into the "Compliments Charades and Horrible Blunders" of her day -- from "Forms of Introduction" to "Calling and Conversation" to "The Subject of Matrimony." It's written as if to members of the Regency Era, and it mixes lightheartedness and wit in a perfect blend.

I loved that it had one of those built in ribbon bookmarks -- the kind that you would find in a Hymnal.  I imagine it comes in handy if you want to mark your favorite page.  Maybe this one from "Calling and Conversation" (it made me laugh out loud): "It was an awkward ceremony at any time to be receiving wedding-visits, and a man had need be all grace to acquit himself well through it.  The woman was better off; she might have...the privilege of bashfulness."  Haha!  Poor men.  They get to weather the awkward moment all by themselves.

However, my favorite part of the book was the watercolor illustrations of Henrietta Webb. They're beautiful and charming and a treasure all their own.

The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers

I picked up this little gem on a walk around the library.  I thought it would be memoir-like, but instead I was happily surprised with a colleciton of quotes and excerpts from Mister Rogers writings.

"A timeless collection of wisdom on love, friendship, respect, individuality, and honesty from teh man who has been a friend and neighbor to generations of Americans"

Here's a taste from each section of the book:

  • The Courage to Be Yourself - "The values we care about the deepest, and the movements within society that support those values, command our love.  When those things that we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged.  And what a healthy thing that is!  Without it, we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe."
  • Understanding Love - "In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers."
  • The Challenges of Inner Discipline - "I hope you're proud of yourself for the times you've said "yes," when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else."
  • We Are All Neighbors - "The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings.  Some people have many blessings and hoard them.  Some have few and give everything away."  Bonus: "'L'essential est invisible pour les yeux.' (What is essential is invisible to the eyes.) The closer we get to know the truth of that sentence, the closer I feel we get to wisdom."

I grew up watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and this kindhearted man is one of my heroes.  With every page turn, I could almost hear his voice, and picture him in his foyer dolling out his final thought of the day while donning his outdoor coat.  

When I was doing a lot of paper-writing in college, I collected books like these to augment and inspire my writing.  I'll be adding this one my little shelf of treasures.  It's not one that you read cover to cover, but one that you come back to when you need encouragement or a little reminder about what's really important.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

**Spoilers this time**

This may be considered as cheating in book-blog land, but I want to talk about all five Percy Jackson books together. Because to me, there really is one big story arc that ties them altogether. They’re broken down into very digestible pieces (which is good considering they are young adult adventure fiction), but to me, once you get going it’s hard to stop until the resolution in book 5.

I watched the movie before I embarked on the journey though the books. Because of that, in some ways The Lightning Thief was ruined for me. The movie changes quite a number of things from the book, and I was pretty distracted by them. Instead of being able to sit back and enjoy the extra characters (some of them quite important) and the different circumstances (some of them quite pivotal), I found myself impatient to get through to events I knew were coming. Probably not the books fault. If I had read it first, I’m sure I would have had a different experience.

One of things I really enjoyed about this series is that Percy Jackson isn’t the only hero. For example, in The Sea of Monsters, he isn’t chosen to lead (or even go on) the quest to recover the Golden Fleece. So for me, the Percy Jackson series shares more with Lord of the Rings than it does with Harry Potter. Why? Because each member of the Fellowship had moments of glory, and things that made them heroes in their own right. Frodo had to carry the ring, Aragorn had to claim the throne of Gondor, Glorfindel saved the day at Helm’s Deep, etc. I really like that in this series lots of the demigod children get the chance to shine and have their moment. Getting back to book 2. I love the character Tyson -- Percy’s cyclops half-brother. He can seem a little simple at times, but appearances are deceiving. He’s got the heart of a lion, and is constantly proving that a person doesn’t have to follow the stereotype. What a great character! And I adored the final line of the book. It was a game changer, and makes you want to pick up the next book and keep right on going. (That’s exactly what I did).

The final three books really string together. The big bad guy remains the same, and some key characters face challenges that span through the rest of the story arc to the end of the saga.

I think The Titan’s Curse was the first book I really truly enjoyed. Percy is off on another rescue mission (a common occurrence in the series). And for some reason, things started hitting their stride for me -- from the different characters to the pacing to the humor. I also love it because you get to meet Nico. He’s one of my favorite characters in the series. I really liked the way he grows and develops. He doesn’t walk an easy path, and I enjoyed watching his choices and character unfold.

The Battle of the Labyrinth gets heavier and darker in tone. Much more time is spent in the realm of the Underworld, so there are more eerie and spooky things. I didn’t notice at first because I was firmly in Rick Riordan land. But I found out that a friend’s daughter had started with the fourth installment, and was strongly discouraged from reading the others. That changed my perspective a bit, and I started seeing how it could be quite scary for younger readers.

After another cliffhanger ending, the fast paced plot that started in Titan’s Curse carries through the end of The Last Olympian. And while I liked the 3rd book a lot, I think the finale is my favorite. You learn a lot of back-story of Luke, Annabeth, and Thalia. And the theme of “family” comes full circle. **Big spoiler** I loved the theme of family that concludes in The Last Olympian. The love of family, even if it’s a family of choice and not of blood, is what helps Luke to make an important decision. The importance of family is a major bargaining chip in confrontations between Percy and several of the gods. And there is a strong message for parental support, attention, and involvement in the last book (really in the whole series). i.e. If the Greek gods had been more involved in their children’s lives, many things could have turned out differently. And I think Percy’s last big choice (and his reasons behind it) in the book would make for wonderful discussion with one’s own child.

Overall: I thought it was a satisfying series. True, it is a little juvenile in tone. But I think that’s completely appropriate since it’s meant for a younger audience. I liked the contemporary spin Riordan gives to classic Greek mythology. It was fun to remember (and learn more of) the tangled web of roles and relationships held by the Titans and Olympians.

One other thing I really liked: Each of the main characters has a “fatal flaw,” and each are given the chance to overcome it. As I mentioned before, I found Nico’s journey the most dramatic. But all the major characters – Percy, Annabeth, Thalia, Nico, Clarisse, Grover, Tyson, Luke – are given the chance to face their flaws and triumph (or fail *wink*) in turn.

And it will be redundant, but I love good message of love, family, loyalty, and selflessness. All are included in the Percy Jackson series. Add in the constant stream humor and action, and I think it makes for a wonderful literary adventure. It’s just plain fun…with a lot of heart to boot.