Book Review: Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess

All of us are born naked, helpless, and defenseless.

Not so Pallas Athena.

I may have mentioned a time or two that my daughter is interested in Greek mythology. Hence, why I checked out Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess by George O’Connor from the library. The book is a collection of stories about Athena, the goddess of war, in graphic novel form.

What I Liked

– O’Connor’s artwork is fantastic. The pictures are clear and crisp; the action is easy to follow. You can see examples of the pictures here.

– The book includes Athena’s origin story (born fully grown and clothed from Zeus’s forehead), how she came to be known as Pallas Athena, another account of how she gained the name Pallas, the story of Medusa (and Perseus), and the story of Arachne. The thread that connects the stories (aside from Athena herself) are how each of Athena’s adventures allows her to add to her aegis, and the framing device is that the Fates are spinning the tale.

– This book is another good primer on Greek mythology. At the end of the book, O’Connor includes an appendix with a list of his resources as well as more information about the characters featured in the story. He also has notes on the story to clarify some plot or word questions that readers may have–and also to subtly advertise/tease upcoming books.

– As someone who just finished the first Percy Jackson book, it was a lot of fun for me to see the elements of Perseus’s story and how Rick Riordan uses/changes it to fit into the narrative of The Lightning Thief.

What I Didn’t Like

My only complaint is that I don’t feel Athena was really developed as a character in her own right–something I didn’t know I was expecting until the story was over. It sounds weird since everything is about her, but in a lot of ways, she is just jealous or a fighter, but with no real depth of character. And let’s be real: that’s why I read retellings.

In conclusion: Nice graphic depiction of the stories of Athena, but it would’ve been nice to get a little extra character stuff about Athena in there, too.

YA Reading Challege: 26/75

Book Review: Pudd’nhead Wilson

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.

A friend of mine said Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson was a good book, so I picked it up at the library book sale, probably for ten cents. It’s the story of two babies who look remarkably alike even though one is a slave and one is his master. Their caretaker (and one of the baby’s mother), a slave, switches the babies’ places so that her son cannot be sold down the river. Her son is then raised as Tom Driscoll and the white baby is raised as Valet de Chambre. The title character, Pudd’nhead Wilson, is the only other person besides Roxana who holds the key to their true identities.

Oh, Mark Twain, you do wear the hat of cleverness! I cannot tell you which part is my favorite, but, ultimately, what I loved is that this is the story of nature vs. nurture and that the white man’s story doesn’t matter. Like, everything is about Tom and his mom and their effects on the town. And then when the opportunity to tell Valet’s story, Twain is basically like, “Eh, who cares?”

****draws sparkly hearts around the story and Mark Twain****

I just wonder how many people get that. I mean, he so emphasizes that Tom is rotten because of the way he is raised and that Valet is insignificant/ineffectual/unable to engage with white society because of the way he is raised. It has nothing to do with their actual races and everything to do with the access to privilege they have.

Mark Twain! I less than three you.  All the way.

POC Challenge: 17/15

Book Review: The Assignment

Go where you are celebrated instead of where you are tolerated…When you are with the right people, the best comes out of you and the worst part of you will die.

A few months ago, I was having an existential crisis. You know the kind. I would frequently wonder what I was doing with my life and what my purpose was. So my mother suggested I read The Assignment (The Dream & the Destiny) Volume 1 by Mike Murdock. It’s an explicitly and specifically Christian look at how God reveals His purpose for your life, using Bible verses and stories for proof.

Overall, I liked this book and can definitely understand why my mom recommended it to me. There’s a lot of talk about understanding how you know if you’re doing the right thing for yourself at any given moment. I had a lot of little aha moments when Murdock talked about the importance of geography and people to determining how successful you are. I especially liked that the purpose he talked about in the book wasn’t only one thing–that God’s grand design doesn’t necessarily point to just one way you’re fulfilling your destiny. Life is indeed a journey with many destinations. (Trite? Maybe.)

Unfortunately, there are two casual instances of homophobia (both with the same message–that you might want to rally against and save people from homosexuality). There are maybe two lines–at max three–of that ilk in the book, but that was enough to give me pause and make me sigh in frustration. It’s very much a “If it weren’t for that, I’d recommend it wholeheartedly,” but, you know, there is that. So.

Book Review: The Wisdom of Your Dreams

We are all dreamers, whether or not we pay conscious attention to these mysterious, spontaneous interior experiences.

As someone who has vivid and often bizarre dreams, I am fascinated with them. While I was on summer vacation, Jeremy Taylor did a workshop on dreams at my church. I was bummed that I missed it, so I did the next best thing:  I checked out his latest book, The Wisdom of Your Dreams: Using Dreams to Tap into Your Unconscious and Transform Your Life, from the library.

When I opened the book, I expected something similar to what I see in most dream books: a discussion of what it means when you dream about x (where x = a specific event or item, such as losing your teeth or teeth). Taylor, however, doesn’t take that route. He talks instead about how dreams operate on several levels to reveal information to us about our deepest selves. According to him, dreams don’t come just to tell us what we already consciously know. Dreams reveal and help us work through our deepest fears, intimate relationships, health, work, place in society, our pasts and our futures.

Taylor even posits that there’s a purpose for bad dreams and nightmares. They are not just to show us horrible images and freak us out. Rather, Taylor says, nightmares are how the unconscious transmits information that needs to be remembered and can’t be forgotten. So nightmares are not just throwaways–they contain valuable content and messages.

In the book, Taylor doesn’t only talk about dreams, but he devotes most of the book to the importance of dreamwork through the safe space of dream groups.

For Taylor, the importance of dreamwork is not just for the dreamer, but for those in the dream group as well. Working the dream benefits everyone because the ownership of the dream through the language of dreamwork helps everyone to tap into his or her own subconscious. The key is that you don’t tell somebody else what his or her dream is about because you don’t and can’t know. You can only say what the dream would mean if you were the one who dreamt it. So instead of saying “well, that means you’re clearly struggling for your mother’s love and acceptance,” in the dream group or in dreamwork, you would say, “If this were my dream, it would mean I’m struggling for my mother’s love and acceptance.”  Doing that may or may not lead the dreamer to what Taylor calls an “aha,” but framing it in that way makes the statements and interpretations less judgmental and less telling somebody else about his or her life.

Although the book doesn’t seek to explain the universal symbols of dreams, Taylor does walk through dream work and explains how to uncover the deeper sense of self and the different layers of the example dream(ers) used in each chapter. He also shows the fundamental effects working on dreams and understanding/uncovering their subconscious messages had on the people featured.

He uses a variety of dreamers: prison inmates, housewives, seminary students, himself. Some are reluctant to engage in the process and some are eager. But the end result for all of them is that the dreamwork offers a profound moment of understanding for them all.

At the end of the book, Taylor offers up a list of resources for further study in the appendix.

I’m in a dream group now that closely follows Taylor’s teachings, and I’m glad I read the book.

Women Unbound?

The other books I’ve read for the Women Unbound challenge have been memoirs and written by women. When I read this book, I didn’t know that it would count for the challenge. But it does. Taylor specifically points out that dreamwork is helpful for understanding the frustrations of groups that live in a patriarchal society. It’s an explicitly feminist text–something else I appreciated about it.

Women Unbound: 9/8

Audiobook Review: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

In the end, you will fail to save that which matters most.

My daughter is a Percy Jackson fangirl. (How big of a fangirl? She was practically inconsolable when the series ended, she won a trivia contest [and collector’s edition of the first book] at our local Borders during their movie kick-off event, she began studying Greek mythology, she was thrilled to get a copy of The Odyssey for Easter, and she was PISSED about the movie version BEFORE IT EVEN CAME OUT. Et cetera. I mean, I could go on.) So after we listened to all of the Harry Potter books, I promised her we would listen to the Percy Jackson books. As always, we started with book one: The Lightning Thief as read by Jesse Bernstein.

What I Liked

– I think the book is a lot of fun. The characters are great, especially the main trio (Percy, Annabeth, and Grover). Percy and his imperfections make the perfect kind of protagonist for reluctant readers, and the fact that he is a reluctant reader himself would probably endear him even more to that particular demographic. Annabeth is smart, snarky, and fearless. And then there’s sweet sidekick Grover.

The best thing about the trio is that they all have their own reasons for going on the quest, and they all have something to prove. Unlike in the Harry Potter books where Ron and Hermione are mostly helping out because Harry is their friend (and for the good of wizard-kind), every member of this trio has his or her own separate, personal, and mostly selfish reasons for joining the quest.

– The reliance on Greek mythology is awesome. As I stated above, it definitely fueled my daughter’s interest in Greek mythology (as well as other mythologies). There’s lots of fun background info given to the readers, and it’s all easily woven into the narrative instead of an obvious attempt to school us about Greek mythology.

– I also love the way Riordan modernizes Olympus and ties the United States and its geography to the gods and goddesses. That the record company is the entrance to the underworld? Awesome. DOA Recording Studios? BRILLIANT. The depiction of the gods and goddesses is also cool. Ares as a motorcycle head, Poseidon as a retired beach dude, and Zeus as a CEO? Nicely done.

What I Didn’t Like

– This is a very male heavy narrative. Annabeth is smart, snarky, fearless, insecure, and has something to prove. Percy’s mom (who is in an abusive relationship) is interesting and nuanced. However, Percy’s mom is absent for most of the narrative and the other female characters that are present (besides Annabeth) are villains and bullies. I hope that changes in the rest of the books.

– As for the audiobookiness of it all, the narrator is really annoying. Percy sounds like a whiny sixteen-year-old rather than a smart alecky twelve-year-old. And Jesse Bernstein narrates THE WHOLE SERIES. Shoot me now. Also, I should point out that my daughter hates the narration as well. It’s a very, very, VERY good thing the story is so compelling because there is nothing remotely appealing about Bernstein’s narration.

Except Ares. I’ll give him Ares. His Ares is very good.

In conclusion: I recommend the book, but not the audiobook version–unless you like your smart alecky twelve-year-old boys to sound like whiny sixteen-year-olds. The story is superfun, and I can see how and why Percy’s story has become so popular.