I’m not falling for this “last Percy Jackson”ever stuff. If I wait long enough, they’ll be more

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Understanding that the spin off series was not as good as the original Percy Jackson, let me just say: that was awesome!

Now, maybe it was just the nostalgia kicking in, but I really missed Percy Jackson andh is beautiful, wonderful internal voice in this one. It was a great book, and it’s hard not to find most of the characters and their chapters very compelling and fun, but I still missed Percy’s compelling and hilarious first person.

The big end of the series finale focused a lot on sacrifice, on each character slowly coming around to the idea that they would lose something on the quest – their lives, their friends, themselves, something. Sometimes a literal sacrifice, like Percy and Annabeth bleeding on the Acropolis or Leo’s plan, and sometimes something a little less tangible. This is pretty interesting, given the cultural significance of sacrifice to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

I also really liked that Nico turned out not to be another gay character who got sentenced to a life of misery and loneliness. There’s not point in writing in LGBTQ characters if they never get to be happy, even for a moment, when all the other characters do.

This is a short blog post, but I’m so hesitant to talk about it because of the spoilers.

I’ll just say, it was great and wait for everyone else to read it and agree.

Last movie I watched:

47 Ronin. Awkward, sexist, racially uncomfortable, weirdly paced, zero character development. I regret nothing

Last TV episode I watched:

Shadowhunters. I’m on the fence about this show. I like it but it’s also pretty bad a lot of the time.

 

 

 

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Secret Librarian Fantasy: Rule the World!

Alcatraz and the Shattered Lenses by Brandon Sanderson

The forth in the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series, Shattered Lenses sees Alcatraz, the hero of the story so far, frustrated by the war with the Librarians, and unable to help the Kingdom of Mokia as it is attacked by the Librarians. Until he comes up with a genius plan that will either get him killed or save Mokia – run away from the Knights of Crystallia, who have sworn to protect him and will (hopefully) follow him to Mokia, and turn the tide of the war.

It sounds like an awful plan. It pretty much is an awful plan.

These books are smart and they’re funny, and if kids don’t pick them up on their own, they are still great read-a-loud books for parents who want to get a laugh out of their reading experience. I thought they were hilarious. Somewhere there’s footage of me sitting alone on my couch giggling as I read it. They’ve rich in intertextuality, referring to other famous classics as well as drawing attention to tropes, and are full of funny moments where the author connects to the reader. Normally I would never recommending skipping to the last page, EVER but Sanderson makes it worth your while.

And yet, somehow they aren’t popular. At all. Apparently they were dropped by the original publisher, which is why they’re so hard to find, before the series was even finished and Brandon Sanderson had to buy back the rights to his story to find another publisher who would finish the complete series. Now, my sources for this information aren’t the most reliable but it tracks with my own experience. I tried to buy the first one for a fellow evil librarian, only to find that no book stores have it, or are likely to get it. My copy of the first one came from a thrift store.

So mostly, it is just important that as many people as possible read this book. Because I need the fifth one to come out. And after you read it, you’ll need that too. And the more people who need it, the more likely it is that we’ll actually get it.

So go forth, read Alcatraz and love it.

Last movie I watched:

STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS. AHHHHHH.

That’s all I have to say about that

Last TV episode I watched:

How to Get Away With Murder. Oh it’s good. So good. Very, very good.

My childhood fantasy in a series

Animal Spirits Book 6: Rise and Fall by  Eliot Schrefer

This book is the middle of the popular (and frustrating to shelf) kids series that I haven’t read the rest of. I was very impressed with it.

It’s worth mentioning maybe that since my last post I’ve gotten a job, moved, gotten a better job, got married and moved again, so it’s been a while sine I actually read this book, and it’s only getting worse. Therefore, if I’m fuzzy on the details of say, the next six posts, I’m really, really sorry.

I haven’t read the rest of the books in this series, but I’m pretty sure I’m about to spoil them. Abeke and Meilin are being held prisoner by the Conquerors. Rolland and Connor have no choice but to continue their quest alone. Together with their mentor Tarik they continue their journey to gather the talisman of Cabaro, the great lion, before the Conquerors do. As the girls struggle to learn to trust each other again and form a relationship with Shane, one of their captors, Rolland and Connor are torn between their duty and the war, and how much they want to go after their friends.

This book did a good job of creating a multi cultural cast of characters. It may have been a little token minority feeling to me but really that is way, way better then a whitewashed group of characters in a fantasy world where everyone is white except the bad guys. It was also pretty dark. I’m sometimes suspicious of the emotional impact of serial kids fiction because good writing, surprise twists and lovable characters aren’t always the point, but there were a couple really big moments for me. One was a surprise death (okay, not a complete surprise but SPOILER the mentor usually dies in the second to last book but, even though it shouldn’t have been a surprise, I was still not ready for it) and the twist at the end, involving an epic betrayal and a very clever plot  twist that I did not see coming, at all.

Also, the idea of having an animal best friend who was always with you, either hidden in a tattoo or you know, walking around with you is awesome! Ten year old me would have totally lost her mind with excitement.

A good read indeed. Higher reading level for school aged kids who like adventure, magic and a fast pace. I’d recommend it for sure.

Last Movie I watched:

Hocus Pocus. Because it was Halloween and I was moving and that’s all the festivities I had time for.

Last TV episode I watched:

America’s Funniest Home Videos. It makes me seasick. Does that happen to anyone else?

The surprising death that redeemed it all

The Key Guardians of Time by Marianne Curley

This book had a lot of the things that I didn’t like about the first two in it, but also something that the other two didn’t, which has gone a long way to improving my feelings about the series overall.

Like the first two books, the characterization was flat and the dialogue was simple. Every twist and turn, mostly motivated by love triangles rather then plot could be seen coming for miles, like a slow moving freight train, and in some cases, about as exciting.

The characters slowly paired off with their soul mates, we never heard anything else about some of the genuinely interesting, relatable stories like Ethan’s mom’s mental health or Isabel’s feelings of betrayal from her biological father and Matt’s development is about as complex as turning on a light. His struggles are so perfect and noble, his surprise parentage only adds to that and his love story is nothing if not cheesy.

But the redeeming factor is Rochelle. She’s not as developed as she deserves to be, but really, she’s the best narrator the series ever provided. Her back story, of watching her father beat her mother to death in a drunk rage, the marks the trauma left on her, the feelings of worthlessness that drove her to join the Big Bad, her feelings of isolation from her peers, her feelings for Ethan, her struggles with her new powers and ultimately her reluctant sacrifice to save her friends and the world are all really interesting and complex.

It’s kinda a shame the book isn’t entirely about her.

The beautifully moving ending really makes up for the lack of good storytelling.

And of course, it is a kid’s series. I’m a snob who wants good writing, good characters and good plots but lots of people, including kids, including me from time to time, enjoy something that’s not exactly of the highest literary merit. And I think that’s okay.

Last movie I watched:

Justice League Gods and Monsters. Don’t judge me! It was pretty good, although I prefer Bruce Wayne universes

Last TV show I watched:

Random Dark Angel. That was a good show guys. Why do all the good shows get canceled?

Comic book lapse

Robin: Violent Tendencies by Chuck Dixon, Chris Batista, Cam Smith and a bunch of talented pencillers, inkers, colourists and letters

It has been a very long time since I’ve read a superhero graphic novel. I miss them actually because I’m a huge nerd, but on the other hand, my year long audio book binge was pretty wonderful too. Apparently comics make bad audio books for some weird reason.

Anyway,  it was a really good ease in. This is a Tim Drake Robin story. I love all the Robins equally (obviously), but Tim Drake gets overlooked generally, because of his quiet awesomeness, so it was nice see him in top form. On top of that, this was a good story.

Robin strikes out on his own investigation after he runs into a mysterious, purple clad vigilante who is robbing criminals and reminds him just a little too much of Stephanie, his dead ex-girlfriend (and the only female Robin who’s brutal murder raised some pretty serious questions about DC and it’s handling of women) aka the Spoiler. Only (spoiler!) Stephanie isn’t dead (because DC comics) and before Tim knows it, he’s got two butt kicking ladies to keep track of.

The story is pretty solid, with Tim struggling to balance his personal life and regular school girlfriend with his crime fighting and his grief and guilt and affection for Steph, and she gets a good back story too. Bruce is hardly featured at all, which is kinda sad, but also helps the story to be a little lighter, more fun and gives Tim the chance to shine. Honestly, this one is an all around win.

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Actually, I fell asleep, but that’s not a reflection on the movie, it’s a reflection on my life.

Last TV episode I watched:

Big Bang Theory. Hahahaha. That is all I have to say about that.

Steam punk! I think. I’m pretty sure.

The Hunchback Assignments but Arthur Slade

In Victorian London Mr Socrates, as part of the Permanent Association, goes to France to see a monstrous child he’s heard rumours of. As part of a traveling show, he finds a toddler in a cage. But not just any toddler. His hump and disfigured face make him look barely human, but his ability to shift his face into other people’s faces makes him more than a demon; it makes him useful. So Mr Socrates adopts the boy and brings him to England, raises him to be the perfect agent. And when Modo is old enough, he is thrown into the streets of London, alone, with a mission to stop the greatest threat the British Empire has ever seen.

This book was super readable (or in my case listenable). It’s fun, fast paced and the characters are great. Modo is a sympathetic character, who makes mistakes and recovers from them as best he can, who is loyal (possibly too loyal) and struggling with his first crush. In a super cute way. He gets home sick, he gets sad, he gets tired just like most people. His supporting characters are great. Olivia is a strong willed, wonderful young woman, who also makes mistakes out of compassion. Tharpa, Modo’s martial arts teacher, despite some troubling colonial undercurrents, is a great mentor figure, even as he doesn’t quite belong in with English world of London any more than Modo does. Mr Socrates is a semi-father figure, who is both distant and cold and genuinely fond of Modo. I guess just a regular Englishman, or at least the stereotype of one. And I love them all.

The bad guys were evil (and also kind of scary). The plot was clever and twisting and very driven. But the really interesting thing, for a nerd like me anyway, is Modo himself. He is marked as different because of his disfigured body and I think it’s important. Slade does a good job of weaving Modo’s awareness of his face into the story, a constant reminder of his own self loathing and, no matter what he’s doing and how happy he is, he can’t quite separate himself from his face. And this is important I think, particularly because there are kids who have to live in a reality where they feel like they’re someone other than they appear to be, but they can’t detach from their own physical selves, even when it’s painful. That matters.

There are a bunch of them out there, so I’m looking forward to that, you know, whenever that happens.

Last movie I watched:

I have no idea. Maybe Mockingjay Part 1. Wasn’t that good.

Last TV episode I watched:

How I Met Your Mother. And now I know.

The grim and the moral: the not quite forgotten bits of fairy tales and fables

Wolves on the Beyond: Book 4: Frost Wolf by Kathryn Lasky

Fairy tales and fables are kind of old, classic things. Sure every once in a while someone retells them in a new, accessible way (which I’m totally for) but it’s not like the Brothers Grimm of Aesop is still churning those out. Which is probably okay too. Lots of people forget how grim they can actually be (Remember Cinderella’s sisters cutting parts of their feet off to fit them in the shoes? Yeah, I wish I didn’t) or how boring (the fox is one trait, that is it, that is all. He is crafty and that’s all you’ll ever need to know about him). But I feel like, just because they’re a little longer now, doesn’t mean these elements aren’t still finding their way into kid’s lives.

See Wolves of the Beyond.

As usual, I grabbed what I hoped was the first one (it wasn’t) and read that one. Therefore there are spoilers for the first three books here (I assume, since I haven’t actually read them). The Wolves of the Beyond have a complicated social structure, ancient customs and preform everything with great dignity. They also have the rather depressing practice of abandoning pups that are in any way physically imperfect. Most die, but some, like the heroes of this story, survive and join packs as the lowest members of society. When snowstorms in summer bring famine and fear to the wolves, one wolf seizes the opportunity to start a terrible cult, that ends with wolves dancing themselves to death.

First off, I would just like to say, this book terrified me. The reader had an amazing voice, and was so good at creating atmosphere that the scenes where the wolves killed themselves were truly horrifying. And that comes around to my earlier point. It’s not exactly a fairy tale, but it is dark and grim, doesn’t sugar coat death or pain or survival. I’m not sure why children need that, but it’s so prevalent that there must be something. Children love the grotesque and the horrible, I would guess because it gives them a lens to view their own realities, where gross and scary things to actually happen all the time, but really, I have no idea. I could totally be making that up.

There’s also a heavy moral component to the story. The big baddie (here there be spoilers, although really it was so predictable it hardly counts) is a wolf who inherits his role as leader of the pack, has no natural instinct for leading and quickly falls into despair. Then he abandons the dignity of his clan, his species and leads his people to their deaths. Really, the moral is obvious – don’t let go of who you are when faced the challenges. So we have a story told with a moral, using animals as the mouth piece. That’s a fable right?

I would probably read this whole series, although I expect that it would get pretty repetitive after a while. The coolest bit by far is the amazing complexity of the wolves’ world and social order. If you can get the audiobook, even better. That gentleman can read a book. And that’s about all I’ve got.

Last movie I watched:

3 Ninjas! So cute. So funny.

Last TV episode I watched:

Smallville. Oh yes, that happened.