Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fablehaven, Brandon Mull

I am reading this series for the first time reading aloud to my 3rd grader. I have heard fabulous things about this series, although it was kind of slow for me. But then, the first couple Harry Potter books were slow for me too when I first started. So I'm not going to judge them as stand alone novels, I'm looking at them as what they'll contribute to the whole.

#1, I like Kendra. Because she is like me, I was and am not much of a rule breaker or bender. I liked how there were absolutely critical positive consequences for her actions of following the rules.

#2 Seth annoys me. Because no matter how many times he SAYS he gets it, I don't believe that he is truly capable of staying out of trouble. His attitude to me is baffling (and continues to baffle me in the second book we are currently reading). However, I do like the portrayal of negative consequences for rule breaking and I also like the fact that some rules are not 100% black and white and that sometimes you have to live the "spirit of the law" instead of the "letter of the law."

#3 I am really, REALLY hoping to get more and more back stories into Grandpa and Grandma Sorenson. I know one story is revealed in book 2, which I found extremely interesting and I hope I keep learning more!

#4 I like the more traditional, less Disney-esque portrayal of magical creatures. I like that it makes my daughter think that not all ideas of Fairies are identical. There's Disney fairies, Harry Potter's pixies, and Fabelhaven's Fairies and Imps and they all act differently. I think it helps her to open her mind more to exploring the different dimensions of not only fantastical creatures but people as well. At least I hope so...

The Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan

Book 3

Again, a nice fun team work story. I love how much more the Roman/Greek divide is dissolving among the 7 questers. I have high hopes for the divide to dissolve on a much larger scale once Gaea is defeated. Because let's face it, Rick Riordan finds a way for his heroes to succeed. Even when they probably shouldn't, they do. Classic!

I especially liked learning more of Hazel's past history, more into Leo's identity, and getting inside Annabeth's head more. From Percy's perspective, she's always been super confident and sure of herself with solutions to anything given enough time to figure it out. But as always, what we show to people is not usually what's going on inside. Annabeth had a LOT more self doubt that I would have suspected. But it makes total sense. I once got a teacher of the year nomination essay that mentioned that I was always happy and cheerful. I read that and though, "I am? I don't FEEL like I'm happy all the time, but if that's what the students are seeing, I'm at least portraying it right!" And to have the revelation that she feels like all of her comrades have special powers (Jason-controlling air, lighting, Percy-water, Hazel-the ground, Frank-shape shifting, Leo-generating fire, Piper-charmspeak) and she has nothing special. Her talent for having wisdom and knowing how to find and exploit the weaknesses of her enemies is quite impressive to me. But then, everyone else's strong points are impressive to me, usually because their STRONG points are my WEAK points. Which is why we can't compare ourselves to others and be confident in our own abilities, just like Annabeth does. She decides that she KNOWS her strength and to USE it to the best of her ability. And that's my favorite lesson out of this particular book :-)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Son of Neptune, Rick Riordan

Book 2 in the Heroes of Olympus. Finally, Percy is back in the picture. He has been sleeping for 8 months, under the spell of Juno (Hera) to be taken and plopped down at the Wolf House to be trained up and go to the camp for Roman demigods; Camp Jupiter. It is VERY different from Camp-Half Blood. Where Greek demigods are told they would be lucky to reach adulthood, Camp Jupiter is home to retired warriors who have since gone to college, gotten married, had families. Not all of the warriors are demigods either-sometimes they are descendants of a demigod. Percy finds it mind boggling and very appealing. Of course, his memory had been erased as well, just like Jason's, but some things are more clear to him from the get go, such as remembering Annabeth and that she is his girlfriend. He meets two unlikely heroes (I love the underdogs in Riordan's books) in Frank and Hazel who both harbor secrets they are scared to share.

The catastrophe of this book is that Thanatos (Death) has been chained and is no longer able to keep souls from returning to Earth once dead. This includes monsters. Where they used to dissolve and not come back for at least a few weeks, now they materialize almost instantly as soon as they disintegrate. In addition to that, the Doors of Death (which will be the quest of Book 3) have been opened and are being guarded by Gaea, who prohibits anyone who would help the cause of the Gods to come through and only allows the souls of evil spirits to have another chance at life-in the service of Gaea of course.

On their quest together, Percy, Frank and Hazel find a harpy named Ella who has this amazing ability to read at an insanely fast pace and retain ALL the knowledge AND understand what she's read. She's really a very valuable friend and asset. I think she will have a role to play in future novels.

In this book you realize just how bad the rift between the Roman and Greek demigods is, although I still don't quite understand WHY. But the root of it is way back when the Greeks tricked the Romans, we're talking Trojan Horse way back. And they STILL won't get over it.

You also are introduced to another group, Amazons. Yes, the warrior women of South America, only they have moved (much like the Gods of Olympus move to wherever the world's power is) to Seattle. And they run How funny is that? I know that some of Riordan's humor is kind of lame, but it DOES make me chuckle and I know that my 8 year old would find it hilarious. Which shows Riordan knows his audience's funny bone. That tween age is FULL of cheesy lame humor.

More friendship, adventure, page turning fun. And it was extra fun to have Percy, Frank and Hazel travel up the west coast and into Portland, OR via the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, which is near where I grew up and walk down Glisan St. which I've been on myself, incidentally. Makes me want to go back and picture the scene from the book now :-) I love when author's put real places into their stories.

The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan

Book 1 in the Heroes of Olyumpus series, a continuation of the Percy Jackson series. In this book, Riordan introduces the Greek Gods in their Roman aspect. Some have different names, they all have a different personalities.

Along with their different aspects, their children are also either Roman or Greek. Before this, we were rather unaware of Roman Demigods. Jason Grace is the newest demigod and is a son of Jupiter (Zeus) who has had his memory erased. He ends up in Camp Half Blood with two new Greek demigods, Piper and Leo and going on a quest with them. Then his memory slowly is given back to him. The last battle of the Percy Jackson series put the Titan king Kronos back to Tartarus, but unfortunatley, Gaea (mother earth) is not the friendly caring being we tend to think of her as in Western culture. She is the most evil of them all. Mother of the Titans, Mother to the giants she wants to help her wake fully so she can eradicate every living creature and start fresh with her tyrannical reign of power. This would mean an end to the Gods. And unfortunately, Jupiter/Zeus is very prideful. Only a demigod and God working together can overcome such enemies. But the Gods would never admit that they NEED their demigod children. Oh, and Percy has gone missing from Camp Half-Blood. Just disappeared in the night, around the same time Jason Grace turned up at the Wilderness School Piper and Leo were attending when they got picked up and taken to camp Half-Blood.

Another fun page flipping tale of mythological creatures, friendship, bravery, and loyalty.