Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Weekly Geeks: Best of 2008 so far, Read-a-thon coming up and a big THANK YOU!

This week WG is about our favourite books published in 2008. I've just checked and honestly, I haven't read that many new books. That's because my ever-growing pile of books is, of course, ever-growing and I always tend to delay the reading of new books in a miserable attempt to diminish that leaning tower...but the ones I've read I liked, mostly. I would definitely recommend the following to any book lover.
Also I love the idea of having a end-of-the-year book bloggers favourites. I'm really curious to know what's gonna make the list, I'm sure I'll find some to add to my wish list:)

Ok, The first I have here is Confessions of a fallen angel by Ronan O'Brien. It's an Irish novel, and it's a debut. It was surprisingly gripping, and totally heartbreaking, but funny too. It's coming out in paperback in October with a brand new cover, completely different from the hardback, have a look!

The second is Odd and the Frost Giant by Neil Gaiman.
How can you not love this little book. It was published for the World Book Day, so it's tiny and short. It makes a perfect bedtime story, and it introduces children to Norse Mythology, which is always good. Cosy and adventurous at the same time. Great Fun!

The third and last, for now hopefully, is The Book of a thousand days by Shannon Hale.
It's the first Shannon Hale's book I've read. Everyone raves about The Goose Girl, which I haven't read yet, but this was a fantastic read for me to start with. It has everything: humour, smart heroine, non-sappy romance, great writing, original development of a fairy-tale. Go read it!

Also, how can I not mention my wonderful picture books? I adore very single picture book I've reviewed, but I have two favourites:
The odd egg by Emily Gravett.
The girl in the castle inside the museum by Kate Bernheimer and Nicoletta Ceccoli.

I've been meaning to post about the Read-a-thon for a while now, but I've still haven't made out my mind yet. I'd love to read, just to take a day off from everything else and read till I'm sick of it. Only, I don't know if I can bring myself to do it. I'm worried I'll feel horribly guilty for not doing all the other things I should/want to do. I haven't written anything in ages, and that would be my biggest guilty feeling. Wouldn't it be great to have a writ-a-thon as well? That way I could join the readers happily if I knew I would write another day for 24 hours!!! Just an idea...Anyway, I'm more for the yes than for the no, but still very undecided.
If you don't have a clue what I'm talking about (which I doubt) go read about it HERE!

And finally, but not less importantly, I have to give a BIG hug to Melody and Darla
for saying such nice things about my blog, I love their blogs just as much.
Thanks girls, you rock!

Hugs Graphic #10

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Fingersmith - Sarah Waters

This book was exhausting. It kept me turning its pages frenetically, impatiently, just to know what happens to its heroines.
I loved it because it never let go, and shot one plot twist after the other, keeping me always in tension, waiting for the next surprise.
I hated it for the same reasons. For making me suffer with and for its heroines, waiting for an happy resolution to arrive, which instead kept eluding them, finding endless ways of slipping away. It was an emotional roller coaster. And to this day, I'm still not sure if I enjoyed it more than I hated it for that. One day I basically did nothing but reading it, and I didn't put it down till I finished it. Was I satisfied at the end? I don't know! It was a great piece of storytelling and it must have been pretty well-crafted to manage to keep my attention for so long. Still, at the end I was like, is this it? Can I have some more, please?

I can't tell you much about the plot, for obvious reasons. If Angela's Ashes had no plot, this is all about it. I can't tell you much about the writing style either, because, to be honest, I didn't stop enough to notice it, so much I was gripped by the story.
I can tell you it's set in Victorian London. 1862, to be precise. And it's about two young women, whose destinies interlock at some point in their lives.
Sue is an orphan, her mother was hanged for murder, and grows up among petty thieves.
Maud is also an orphan, but grows up in a dark mansion in the countryside, brought up as a secretary for her uncle.
When Sue accepts to take part to a fraud that will make her richer than she has ever imagined, she becomes involved in a series of events that bring up old secrets, treachery and lies. But also unexpected love and desire.

The first book by Sarah Waters I read is Tipping the Velvet. It was also set in Victorian London but it was much more daring and decadent in its portrait of lesbian love. I loved it, but I can see why it's not for everyone. Fingersmith instead, seems to be more suitable for a broader audience. It's far more focused on the fast-paced action and on its unravelling of hidden truths, than on the romance side of the story. I wouldn't have minded, though, if the romance had been developed a bit more. Actually, that's the main issue I have with it. But other than that, an absolute winner. If you want gripping historical drama to keep you awake at night, try this.

Other blog reviews:
Books I done read
Among the Jumbled Heap
A work in progress
Dear Reader
Tammy's Book Nook

Did you review it too? let me know and I'll add it here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt

I had no intention to read this. It had been sitting on the pile for more than a year, until I had enough and chose it for the non-fiction challenge. See, I moan about the restrictions of challenges, but sometimes they help overcome some unreasonable blocks about some books we've had for ages. Like Angela's Ashes. In my head I had the notion that it was gonna be an immensely depressive read. I've seen the movie a while ago, and it was, immensely depressive. All the blog reviews I had read agreed. Very sad, unbearable, even boring.
But they must have read a different book, because I ended up enjoying it very much, I even found myself laughing and smiling quite often. It must be because of the language. Even when it recounts the most incredible hardship, it always has its very Irish way of telling it.
You have to get used to it, though. Especially because the prose doesn't use any quotation marks, which I didn't find confusing, but might require some adjusting at the beginning. I thought it added to the musicality and the flow of the narration.
So, the book, as many of you might know, is about Frank McCourt's childhood:

When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, ot course, a mirerable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood
Forget about plot. This is hardship after hardship, in Limerick in the 1930's. Drunk father, depressed mother, constant hunger. While I was reading it I kept thinking how lucky I was that I could eat anytime I wanted! Not something I will take for granted again.
The story recalls Frank's memories from when he was 3 and still in America, to the Limerick years of poverty and rain. McCourt's memories are incredibly detailed, even during the early years. Indeed, you could wonder how he knew that much at only 3. So, I just assumed that at least these early memories were partially fictionalised to fit the story.
I understand that reading about what it is about doesn't sound very appealing. Who wants to read about endless sufferance, dirty rags, cold winters and rainy summers? About queues at the dole, dead babies, stinky alleys and broken shoes? I wouldn't. But again, it's how you say it that counts, not what you say. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece of writing, but it was certainly entertaining.
Few examples: Grandam is a grumpy, hard soul, who never stops going on against protestants. But she managed to make me laugh when Frank's mother had just had yet another baby and there were fears it will die without being baptized.
Grandma is there to help and she says, That's right, no hope in heaven for the infant that's not baptized.
Bridey says it would be a hard God that would do the likes of that.
He has to be hard, says Grandma, otherwise you'd have all kinds of babies clamorin' to get into heaven. Protestants an' everything, an' why should they get in after what they did to us for eight hundread years?
The babies didn't do it, says Bridey. They're too small.
They would if they got the chance, says Grandma. They're trained for it.

Another favourite part of mine was Frank's composition called "Jesus and the Weather" which its last paragraph was:
It's a good thing Jesus decided to be born Jewish in that warm place because if he was born in Limerick he'd catch the consumption and be dead in a month and there wouldn't be any Catholic Church and there wouldn't be any Communion or Confirmation and we wouldn't have to learn the catechism and write compositions about Him. The end.

The conditions in which Frank's family managed to survive were unbelievable. I'm not surprised he left the country as soon as he could and never wanted to come back. If even half of what he tells is true, it would have been enough to drive anyone insane, or bitter at least.
But there was often a comic side of their miseries. Once their house was so cold that Frank and his little brothers Malachy and Michael run out of wood and decided to burn the wall that divided the two rooms in it. When the rent man saw what happened he wasn't pleased:
He says , Great God in Heaven, where's the other room?
Grandma says, what room?
I rented ye two rooms up here and now there's one. And what happened to the wall? There was a wall. Now there's no wall. I distinctly remember a wall because I distinctly remember a room. Now, where is that wall? Where is that room?
Grandma says, I don't remember a wall and if I don't remember a wall, how can I remember a room?
Ye don't remember?Well, I remember. Forty years a landlord's agent and I never seen the likes of this. By God, 'tis a desperate situation altogether when you can't turn your back but tenants are not paying their rent and making walls and rooms disappear on top of it. I want to know where that wall is and what ye did with the room, so I do.
Mam turns to us. Do any of ye remember a wall?
Michael pulls at her hand. Is that the wall we burned in the fire?

I can't help but laugh. The book is full of these tragicomic situations, which make the unbearable even funny, sometimes.
Ok, I didn't find it impossible to put down, but when I did pick it up I enjoyed it. i didn't expect it to, so it was a very pleasant surprise, which should teach me something about prejudices and expectations. Only, I know I would make the same mistake again. It's just too good to be surprised sometimes.

other blog reviews:

Peruse Peach
Well above average
Trish's Reading Nook

Let me know if you've reviewed it too and I'll add it to the list!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Picture Book Monday: Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Lauren Child (words), Polly Borland (photos) and Emily Jenkins (set)

I've been neglecting Picture Book Mondays lately. Not because I've lost interest in picture book. I'm still very much in awe of them. But lately nothing has blown me away enough to dedicate them a post. Till I saw this.

This version of the beloved classic fairy tale is a book that could be either completely charming or absolutely creepy, depending on how much you like porcelain dolls and hand-made puppet bears. Either way, you've got to hand it to these three women, for delivering such a great piece of work.
Lauren Child, award-winning author of so many great books, creator of Charlie and Lola, illustrator of the wonderful new translation of Pippi Longstocking...(I could go on and on about her, but let's just stop here) wrote the text. You could tell immediately, simply by the way she physically shapes the text and fonts to play along with the story.
The story itself has been added new details, such as the role of Goldilocks' lovely red shoes (there weren't any red shoes to be taken care of in the original fairy tale, right?), and, I think, a stronger emphasis on the cheekiness of Goldilocks' behaviour. Lauren Child's light humour is always present, poking fun at Goldilocks' distractions more than once. I particularly loved the new twist at the end, when Small Bear gets to keep the red shoes. And her comments: You think she would have learned by now...after Goldilocks starts on trying the big bear's bed.
However, the text still retains its fairy tale-ish feel, regardless of the new twists or additions. It's the perfect bed-time story!

Ok, to be honest with you, this has never been a big favourite of mine. What did the trick is the technique used. The entire illustrations are real photographs of dolls and settings, shot by Polly Borland and created by Emily Jenkins. Penguin's website explains it much better than I could, so there you go:

The sets for the book took over a year to make. The doll-sized cottage, complete with winding staircase, stands about a metre tall. Real turf was grown for the roof. Special wallpaper and fabrics were designed and printed, featuring woodland motifs. Exquisite miniature furniture, including the three bears' beds, chairs and porridge bowls, were carved, crafted and painted by Emily and her team of designers. Tiny slippers were sewn, cushions stuffed and bed linen edged and folded. The tiny spoons were carved specially – even the porridge is real!The cast of characters were made by world-famous doll maker, R. John Wright, whose dolls and bears sell to collectors all over the world.

Goldilocks is 30 centimetres tall and made of soft felt with hand-painted features; her golden locks are made of the softest mohair. She arrived from America complete with a tiny hand-woven basket of felt daisies, which you can see her carrying in the book. Mother, Father and Baby Bear are all made from the softest fur and have tiny resin claws. Father Bear arrived with a hand-carved wooden pipe, which, if you look very closely, you can spot in the pictures, warming by the fire.

You have to see it yourself, to appreciate the results! I can show you the doll used for Goldilocks. It's been made by R. John Wright, famous for producing dolls of Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter's animals, Disney classic characters etc. I didn't know this company but their dolls look amazing!
This is Goldilocks:

"Remember these three things.
Do not stray from the path
Be back in time for breakfast
whatever you do - make sure you look after your little red shoes"

and this is Small Bear:

A large tear welled up in Small Bear's eye and rolled down his little face. He was a sensitive type and also very fond of porridge.

The setting is equally gorgeous. The inside is like my dream country-house. Cosy and welcoming, and warm. The outside really look like an authentic wood. The bears are lovely too, (except for Father Bear, who actually looks a bit scary) and in the end, you actually feel sorry for them. Especially for poor Small Bear :D

This would be an awesome Christmas gift. I would certainly keep it in mind, if I were you.

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Brothers Lionheart - Astrid Lindgren

This was one of the most unsettling and bizarre books I've ever read, and I don't really know what to make of it. It's one of those books for children that have you thinking "would I be able to recommend it to any kid?" and the answer is probably no. But I know people who absolutely loved this story when they were children and they weren't disturbed by it at all. That's probably because when you're a child you see things differently and what is disturbing for me as an adult, might appear innocent, or even brave to a child's eye.
So, what's so strange about this book?

It's the story of two brothers. Rusty is the youngest and is ill. Jonathan is the older, he is handsome and kind and brave like a hero in a saga. When Rusty finds out he will die soon, his older brother Jonathan reassures him. When he'll die he will have a marvellous time, in a place called Nangiyala, somewhere on the other side of the stars. Nangiyala, Jonathan tells Rusty, is where all the sagas take place, there he will have incredible adventures from morning till evening, and he won't have to lie down on the sofa and cough all day.
One day, though, a fire sweeps through their building, and Jonathan is killed in the attempt of saving his little brother.
Then Rusty is left alone, waiting to die, so that he can be with his brother again in Nangiyala. When this happens Rusty is transported magically into this mythical and idyllic world. There he meets his brother, who lives in a lovely white cottage with a stable, in a place called Cherry Valley. He gets his own horse and eat delicious food and think that he has everything he ever wished for. Soon though, he learns that the valley next to theirs, Wild Rose Valley, are oppressed by an evil tyrant, called Tengil, and Jonathan, who's being fighting with the rebels, is the hero of the resistance against him.
The whole book is the story of how Jonathan, with a little help from his brother, manages to defeat ruthless Tengil and bring peace into Nangiyala again.
Which is all nice and good. Nothing highly original or earth-shattering. It did bother me a bit that the Big Bad was completely one-dimensional. He was just evil, full stop.
The good were good and the bad were bad, with nothing else in between. Which I guess it's ok in a story that wants to evoke the days of camp-fires and sagas.
It's the ending that brings on the unsettling feelings, but I can't talk about it without giving it away....
So here it goes. Jonathan saves the day by killing the evil dragon, but he gets hit by her poisonous fire, paralising him irreversibly. Then he tells his brother about another world called Nangilima, where everyone's happy and there's no cruel ruler to fight. And all they have to do to get there is die. So what's the final, brave thing that Rusty does? He grabs his brother and let himself fall with him into the abyss.
He kills himself, and his brother! How creepy is that?

Now, I'm all for the right to euthanasia, when there's obviously nothing else to do. I'm also not religious, so I don't want to criticise the book's reincarnation ideas from that point of view. I might even welcome the idea of another life after this, it's not that. But to show children that the way to have an adventurous life is to die, either waiting for death to come, or even going towards it by basically committing suicide, is something that makes me feel very uncomfortable.
And I'm not happy to say this because I love Astrid Lindgren, or at least I loved Pippi Longstocking. It's still one of my all-time childhood favourite. So I was very excited when I found this in Bookworms' Heaven a.k.a. Hay-on-Wye, because I had never heard of it. I was prepared to love it too. But this suicide thing was just too much to accept.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

There's an egg in my soup...and other adventures of an Irishman in Poland - Tom Galvin

Up until two years ago I had no idea that so many polish people were in Ireland. I think I was in living on the moon. There's polish shops, polish newspapers, polish restaurants, polish signs in the banks, polish adds in the streets. An estimated 300.000 polish people are currently living and working across the country.
And I had no clue! Typical.
But anyway, when this book came out, it looked too funny not to give it a try. And it was, funny. Without being disrespectful or snobbish. No, this guy really loved Poland, so much that he stayed there for five years!
Tom Galvin went to Poland in the mid '90s to teach English in a State School for a year, and he ended up staying for four more, and marrying a polish woman in the meantime. So, it's less of a "travel" writing book, and more of a "stay-and-mingle-with-the-locals" kind of book. Which is essentially what I did. I meant to come to Ireland for a year, and I'm still here after four...
What I liked most about this book was its readability. I didn't expect a non-fiction book, about someone living abroad for few years, to be gripping. But it mostly was. It was a very quick and enjoyable read, which I would definitely recommend, even if you don't plan to travel to Poland anytime soon.
Some of the funniest parts were at the beginning, during his acclimatization stage, where he describes his struggling attempts to:
- buy food
- enjoy a cooked polish meal in a restaurant.
- hide empty bottles of beer in his coat.
- avoid the canteen meals.

One of my favourite part was his description of the butchers in his town: Butcher Nice, Butcher Nasty, Butcher Nervy and Butcher Nephritis. All women and all scary, except for Butcher Nice, of course. Here are my highlights:

Butcher Nasty is to animals what Satan in to God-fearing Christians. Mean and tight and with a stare that would stop a cuckoo emerging from its clock, she cuts cold meats using cheese-wire and a ruler.

Butcher Nervy is a schizophrenic. Although she works alone, I distinctly heard her talking to her 'assistant' one day when I asked for a pound of sausages...The type of character that would have floated around the mind of Hitchcock...

Butcher Nephritis's shop looks and smell like a leper's graveyard. But Butcher Nephritis is really a kind old soul, a typical country butcher, and perhaps only for this have the tools of her trade not been confiscated and herself locked away in a walk-in freezer for a minimum sentence of ten years.

I also laughed out loud when I read about his first night out in a proper restaurant:

The second course is "tatar", a serious disappointment, having starved all day for it. Tatar, I'm told proudly, is a typical 'delicacy', consisting of raw, minced beef mashed with raw onion and crowned with the yoke of a raw egg. It strikes the fear of God in me. I later learned that God was right to have struck his fear in me, as I'm told of a man who got a tapeworm from the stuff.


But the best part must be the "customised" buses. I don't know if they still exist,but I wish I could go to Poland just to experience a ride on them:D
Unlike most public transport systems, in which a driver might travel different routes and on different buses, Polish drivers usually have the one bus for the duration of their careers. They tend to customise it according to their tastes, with stickers, pendants, crosses, picture of Jesus and the Pope, and of course, their own stereo and music collection. In the majority of cases, the music is a brand known as "Disco Polo", a poorly produced imitation of nineties continental disco with a hint of Polish folk thrown in. The result is unsettling.

Now, except for the customised buses, I'm not sure I would want to spend such a long time in east Poland as Tom Galvin did (you see, now I even know that the west of Poland is reacher than the east!). I understand now why so people left as soon as they could. It didn't sound like a place that offered a future for young people,especially in the rural areas. But I really wish one day to go as a tourist, at least now I have a slight idea of what to expect!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Me and Challenges...

... don't seem to get along. I love the idea of joining and to set a goal and then share your experience with others... but when it comes to actually pick a book up, I haven't been much in the mood for any of those books I "should" read. Is it because I should? Or because I'm just too fickle and can't be bothered with following a schedule or a deadline? I don't know. The thing is I don't think I'll manage to finish any of the challenges I joined this year, except for the Once upon a time. And I'm torn because I know that I might love a lot of the books I chose to read, but right now, I'm not pushed to read any of those. So the point of this post is:
1) Looking for sympathy. I know I'm not the only one :D
2) Looking for incentives to read those books. Maybe if I get you to encourage me to read them, I will overcome this impasse and I won't think about ALL those books that I'd rather read first.
So here is the list of the books I should read before the end of the year. Which one should I absolutely read?:

YA challenge:
A swift pure cry by Siobhan Dowd (I had actually started to read this one, but then I saw that the sequel to The Declaration had come out and that HAD to have the priority!)
Epic by Conor Kostick
Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Over Sea,Under Stone by Susan Cooper

What's in a name challenge:

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Non-fiction challenge:

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan
Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy
No Logo by Naomi Klein

(Actually I only need to choose two out of these three. It ends in September so I guess I should give them the priority, but I'm SO not in the mood for them...I can change them though. So I'm thinking of replacing one with "Bury me Standing - the gypsies and their journey", something I'm very interested in at the moment).

tl;dr challenge:

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (I thought I was gonna get a free copy from a rep, that's why it's in the list. But I didn't)
Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye

(This ends at the end of November, but I should only read two more).

The Classics Challenge:

The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (I kinda read this,but I couldn't finish it. I thought I would have gone back to it, but it looks unlikely so I should just cross it off. But I feel guilty cause I think it was probably my fault not the book's.)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
bonus book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

That's it!

Now, when I sat down and did my usual "What am I gonna read next" list, scrolling down
my TBR tag on Lybrarything, this is what I came up instead:

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
High Fidelity by Nick Horby (challenge book)
In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
Poppy by Avi
Come dio Comanda by Niccolò Ammaniti (his latest book which won the most prestigious literary prize in Italy)
A Swift pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd (challenge book)

I decided for the latter, but then, as I said, I abandoned it for The Resistance.
I know what you're thinking. Just stop moaning and go read the two you chose, which are actually part of a challenge! But I know that when I'm finished with the book I'm reading, my mood will have changed already, so I need encouragements!

Yes, I know how to complicate my life with useless problems :D

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Holes - Louis Sachar

This was such a great read that I feel I could recommend it to anybody. Children, teenagers, adults, men or women. It’s a very quick read, but unlike some other short novels I read, it left quite a big impression on me. It’s probably because it can’t be categorised into anything I’ve read before and because it was so beautifully crafted. Its theme is unusual and it would be hard to convince someone to read it by simply telling them what it is about:

A clumsy and unlucky boy gets sent to a detention camp by mistake, where everyday, together with other “troubled” boys, he is made to dig a hole in the hard ground. Five feet deep, five feet across. Apparently this exercise is supposed to build their character and make them better boys, but there's something their warden is not telling them…

The truth is this is not just Stanley’s story at Camp Green Lake. It’s about Stanley’s ancestors, and about Stanley’s camp-mates. It’s about the weird connections that life lays ahead of us and how they affect our destiny one way or the other. It’s about lethal lizards and about onions. There’s also a hearth-breaking love story and a gypsy curse. And there’s friendship. Powerful and selfless friendship. That’s all I can say about it. More would spoil the plot, which is far more interesting than it sounds.

What I loved about it was the rewarding feeling that it gave me when all the threads came together in the end. All the different layers and the details in the story became one neat pattern of a jigsaw, which felt so satisfying. I love when the authors know exactly where they’re going and how they’re going to get there, even though it’s intimidating from an aspiring writer’s perspective.
I’m sure I will re-read it one day, which is saying a lot, since I don’t usually reread books.
Besides being a great piece of storytelling, it triggered many emotions. It was humorous, tragic and even heroic at some point. It was pure comfort reading. A book to keep for those reading slump sometimes people fall into. I can guarantee a speedy recovery!

Other blog reviews:
The Hidden side of a leaf
Courtney Rebecca
All Curled Up
In the Tower
Did u write a review of this book too? Let me know and I'll add your link.

Monday, 8 September 2008

I've been nominated for an award!

Thanks so much to Aloi for nominating me for the Brillante Weblog Award!(*happy dance*)

That's great, I feel really honored. Now I can have an "awards" tag :P
So the rules to accept the nomination are as follows:
1. The award may be displayed on a winner’s blog. Check
2. Add a link to the person you received the award from. check
3. Nominate up to seven other blogs. I'll do that now.
4. Add their links to your blog. Check.
5. Add a message to each person that you have passed the award on in the comments section of their blog. will do that too.

The thing is that I haven't been blogging that much lately, and I haven't been reading that many blogs either (*hides under the screen*), but that won't stop me from bestowing this nomination to some wonderful bloggers out there, who I've been reading for a while now, even if not daily...

I'd like to nominate:

1) Raych at Books I done read
Because even if I don't always agree with her, she always makes me laugh, and that's always a good thing. Totally hilarious.

2) Darla at Books and other thoughts.
Because she's another grown up who read as much kids books as me (actually, definitely more than me!) and her blog is an endless source of great books to choose from. Also she posts a lot, and I can't keep up with her reviews, and that makes her brilliant to my eye.

3) Carl at Stainless Steel droppings
Because of the care he puts in all his posts, because he hosts the best challenge around (Once upon a time) and because he introduces his readers to so many talented artists I would hardly come across myself. and not to mention all those giveaways!

4) Nymeth at Things mean a lot.
Because she's Nymeth. 'nuff said.

5) Melody's reading corner because she's lovely and thoughtful and because she gave me Blogging Friends Forever Gold Card Award and I never officially thank her for that on this blog.

Also, speaking of awards, I've seen the nominations for the BBAW Awards 2008 are up at My Friend Amy. Of course, I don't know the majority of all those blogs, so I have a lot of blogging ahead of me before casting my vote!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

This is was an exciting, fast-paced, action-packed adventure, which could be a perfect post Harry Potterish read. The story of Percy Jackson, who all of a sudden finds himself thrown into a spiral of events beyond his controls, discover his real self, which happens to be half-divine and half-human, and then is sent to Half-Blood Camp, where he learns about his powers and meets other kids who are also half-bloods, is very easily compared to the story of Harry Potter.

It was fun, it was clever, and it had me reading till the end, but… how do I say this without sounding too fussy? I was never comfortable with its idea of the Gods being where the Power is. Political, strategic, economic Power. And with the Western Civilisation being a living force that the Gods follow. According to what Percy’s mentor Chiron says The fire started in Greece, then…the heart of the fire moved to Rome, and so did the Gods…Like it or not, and believe me, plenty of people weren’t very fond of Rome either – America is now the heart of the flame. It is the great power of the West. And so Olympus is here.
It’s fascinating thought, and it kind of makes sense. But it stills makes me uncomfortable because of the way the world West is used. When Percy is trying to save the day, he doesn’t think about the whole world like your usual hero. No, he’s thinking about saving the Western Civilisation. No mention is ever made about other great cultures of the world and their own gods. Are they not worth existing because they are not “Western”? What about Chinese, Norse, Celtic, Egyptian deities? Weren’t they powerful enough to survive, or even to be mentioned?
It’s great that kids are drawn to Greek mythology after reading this, and that they want to know more about it, but it makes me angry that Rick Riordan deliberately chose to exalt one single culture, and to completely ignore the rest.
I reckon it wouldn’t have been so irritating if this idea were simply the setting for Percy’s adventure and self-discovery. Unfortunately the importance of the survival of the magnificent western civilisation is repeated countless of times. I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed if I read this as a child. Now, all it makes me think about is war, world hunger, climate change, unfair trade…for which the oh-so-wonderful western civilisation is largely responsible.
Now, I didn’t mean to go all political and rhetorical there, but I couldn’t help it. I know it’s a kids’ book. Yet, if I had children I would probably let them read it, because it’s fun. Then afterwards, I would talk to them about the rest of the gods that might still exist, even if they don’t hold the so-called power the Olympians have. And I would try to explain to them what that Power means and why it shouldn’t be worshipped.
I’m afraid to say that I won’t try and read the rest of the series, unless someone assure me that the tone radically changes, or that some other pantheon is acknowledged, or that it starts to be even slightly critical of America’s use of its power.

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