Book Review: The Mark of Athena

Seriously, these monsters and gods were thousands of years old. Couldn’t they take a few decades off and let Percy live his life?

Mark of Athena by Rick RiordanI’m saying, though. Poor Percy. Finally reunited with Annabeth and, of course, the stupid gods and monsters are ruining everything. Typical.

So, Mark of Athena! Third book in The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan! In list form!

  1. The title is an obvious tip-off that this book would heavily feature Annabeth and feature her it did. It was so, so nice to get a glimpse inside of her head. I love Annabeth. She’s so great.
  2. LEO! Leo is one of the point of view characters. As has been well-established, I love Leo. A lot. He’s underage, but since he’s fictional, I am upgrading him from cute adorable kid whose cheeks I want to pinch to literary boyfriend. Because if I were a 15/16-year-old girl, I would be so in love with Leo. Therefore, he is now a literary boyfriend.
  3. Leo’s interactions with Annabeth are A+. First, he thinks of her as the scary blond girl, which is just fantastic. Because we all know you don’t want to mess with Annabeth. Second, they get along well with their love of gadgetry and figuring things out. So even though Annabeth is the scary blond girl, they are actually friends.
  4. I liked the focus on the gifts the kids have that aren’t superpowers. I mean, yes, Jason can fly, Percy can manipulate water, Leo, Frank, Hazel, etc. But Annabeth’s mother is the goddess of wisdom and military victory. Sooooo, no superpowers there. Same with Piper. Her mom is the goddess of love and beauty. Sure, she can charmspeak, but she can’t talk her way out of everything. So Riordan shows how Annabeth and Piper can use their gifts (wisdom and love, respectively) to their advantage in battle. A nice touch and a way to remind kids that you don’t have to have superpowers to win or be effective.
  5. Okay I had a whole bunch written up about how annoying Piper is but WordPress ATE IT, and I don’t have it in me to recreate all that awesome commentary. So suffice it to say that Piper is still annoying, and my daughter and her friend agree with me.

In conclusion, this book is a solid entry in the series. I’m interested to see what happens next.

Book Review: 8th Grade Superzero

“Think about it. You don’t have to do something BIG. Just something right.”

8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is about Reggie Garvey McKnight, a kid who has been spending his days trying not to draw attention to himself. Mostly because of the embarrassing incident that happened on the first day of school (he threw up all over the stage in front of everyone–the book hints at this for a long time, but it’s pretty obvious what happened) but also because he doesn’t know how to stand up for himself. That is, until the principal announces the school’s presidential race could net some money for the school.

What I Liked
– Ruthie is my favorite. Ever. She’s smart, she’s militant, and her fashion sense speaks to me (mostly message t-shirts and skirts). Basically, she’s the Hermione of the group.

– The discussion of faith that threads itself throughout the narrative is well-handled. Reggie spends a lot of time questioning why God lets bad things happen, especially as he and his youth group start a project at a local homeless shelter.

I am trying to think of other things in the narrative I liked, but I’m having a really hard time. I’m trying to figure out why, and I guess the biggest reason is that What I Didn’t Like boils down to the fact that none of the elements really hung together for me in a cohesive or compelling narrative. There were so many things I liked about the book individually. Aside from the aforementioned I also dug the family relationship, the look at unemployment, Reggie’s relationship with his big sister Monica, a lot of the stuff with his little buddy Charlie, and some of the other questions of cowardice, involvement, and change.

Maybe it’s a case of a book trying to do too much?

I also wasn’t a fan of the narrative style. The book is in first person present tense, but almost every section ends with Reggie neatly tying up what happened with what the occurrence means. I dig that the kids are smart (I mean, Ruthie could seriously be one of my daughter’s peers), but that kind of reflection or neat wrapping up would only happen with reflection–not in the moment. Or, at least, that’s my experience/expectation. (Sidenote: This is a pet peeve of mine in general. It’s one of the huge problems I had with the third Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book.)

Also, I hate, hate, hate, HATED the ending. Flames on the side of my face levels of hate. (a) It seemed suited to an older book/character. (b) It’s the exact same problem I had with the end of Why We Broke Up. I am trying to be spoiler-free, but, people. Seriously. Stop it. Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it.

In conclusion:  Some good stuff, but the book didn’t quite work for me.

Source: Library

Books mentioned in this book: City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Book Review: The President’s Daughter

The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson WhiteMy friend Jasmine loves Ellen Emerson White‘s The President’s Daughter. Buoyed by Jasmine’s enthusiasm, I put in a request through ILL. When the book came in, I texted her, all excited about it.

Which is why I’m really, really bummed that I didn’t like it that much. Oh, I liked elements of it just fine. But I never really connected with the story. Mostly because Meg didn’t do anything except react (mostly internally) to her mom running for President and then becoming President. And she spent most of that time moping.

I feel like the story would’ve been better told from Steven’s point of view because he was actually involved in activities that conflicted with the campaign.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t some nice moments in the book. It was well-written and an interesting look at life on the campaign trail. I loved every single exchange Meg had with her best friend Beth. White also does some nice things with the mother/daughter relationship.

But, really, this was a bathroom book. And now Jasmine hates me. (She’s mean that way.)

Source: ILL

Book Review: Why We Broke Up

I love like a fool, like a Z-grade off-brand romantic comedy…

Why We Broke Up by Daniel HandlerI really wanted to love Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and illustrated by Maira Kalman. Really. For one thing, the book itself is gorgeous. The artwork is amazing, and the pages are nice and weighted. For another, I love the idea of stories told through mementos (see Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall) because the significance of each object or the chosen objects tend to be so, well, random. Finally, a story of relationship headed to a break-up and having that fact acknowledged up front works for me–especially because the finality of the title means no third act turnaround.

Also, I really, really love Ed. I know part of the point of the book is his charm and his adorableness, so that we see why Min fell for him. But that same charm and cuteness made me really upset at how predictable and cliché their break up was. I mean, I was super disappointed in why they broke up. And, yes, the reason was forecast way, way back in the beginning. But I kept holding out hope that maybe–just maybe–they broke up for another reason. Alas.

That said, I did like that the objects were so random and their significance wasn’t quite so predictable. I loved Ed (obviously). I enjoyed watching Min and Ed’s relationship develop. One of the conflicts in their relationship is that their friend groups are entirely different. Ed is co-captain of the basketball team, and Min hangs out on the fringes with her decidedly not as popular friends. So I liked seeing how they navigated both groups.

As I said, though, the reason for the break up was disappointing. The fact that Ed was not, in fact, Nathan Scott, but a typical boneheaded jock hurt my heart.

I would also put the book down and forget to pick it back up, so even though I enjoyed it fine while reading, I never felt that compelled to go back to it.

And, OH MY GOD, I hated the ending so so so so much. Just…it was the worst. Okay, maybe not the worst. I mean, nobody DIED. But it was pretty terrible.

And that is why I could not love this book.

Source: Library

Book Review: The Drama of the Gifted Child

I sometimes ask myself whether it will ever be possible for us to grasp the extent of the loneliness and desertion to which we were exposed as children.

The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice MillerAs I continue exploring the issues related to my childhood, I keep turning to my favorite medium to do so: books. This time I read The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self by Alice Miller, a childhood trauma classic.

First, gifted doesn’t mean what you probably think it means. For Miller, a gifted child is one who is highly sensitive to the wants/need of others at the expense of his or her own. The biggest issue gifted children have then is repressed emotion which becomes stored in the body and expresses itself as depression.

This book, while fascinating, was difficult for me to get through. For one thing, the language is a little prohibitive. Though Miller’s ideas are relatively clear, the book is not written for the general public, but addressed to therapists (though the afterword hints that the book was revised with the broader audience in mind). Also, because the book is a classic, it’s a touchstone for a lot of other works, which means I’ve read some of these ideas before. (For example, Healing Rage talks about repressed emotion being stored in the body.)

That said, she does present some great ideas. Aside from defining giftedness as being highly sensitive, she also notes that narcissism is the obsession with the idealized image instead of an obsession with self. She describes depression as a separation from the true self, which I think is accurate. She also says the following about depression, which particularly struck me:

The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality—the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings.

Experiencing spontaneous feelings! What a concept! So moments like that help me identify how/why I am so deeply affected by my inability to recognize and, yes, even feel my feelings.

I often joke that I don’t always understand my daughter because she FEELS things so DEEPLY. I recognize now that that’s a good thing, but also, as Miller says:

It is precisely because a child’s feelings are so strong that they cannot be repressed without serious consequences.

I know from observing my daughter and her friends that they do have very strong feelings. And my daughter who is allowed to freely express her feelings without being overly sensitive to the needs of others doesn’t hold on to anger or sadness very long. She feels them, she gets them out, and then she moves on. I mean, yes, she is a little dramatic, but she also has access to her emotions in a way that I never have. Which is part of why I find it so dramatic. I didn’t “perform” my emotions even a little bit.

for a child can experience her feelings only when there is somebody there who accepts her fully, understands her, and supports her

So, yes, I get what Miller is saying. I understand her argument, and I see why it has so much resonance. I certainly related to a lot of it, and I’m sure that other adult children of alcoholics (or adult children of other dysfunction) would probably also identify with what’s discussed in the book.

Source: Library